Team Highlight: West Ham United FC

West Ham United FC 2020 Squad. Photo: WorldFootball

West Ham United FC competes in the English Premier League (EPL), a top tier league of English football. West Ham United FC is one of eight clubs that never fell below the second tier of English Football League. They spent 62 of 94 league seasons in the top tier Football League.

Background and Origin

Based in Stratford, East London, West Ham United FC was founded in 1895 as Thames Ironworks FC, funded by Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company which was co-founded by Dave Taylor and Arnold Hills

Initially, Thames Ironworks FC only played on an amateur basis with a number of work employees: ship’s fireman, Thomas Freeman, clerk, Walter Parks, boilermakers, Johnny Stewart, Walter Tranter and James Lindsay, William Chapman, George Sage and Fred Chamberlain and Charlie Dove. 

Thames Ironworks FC has accumulated several awards in their venture in the amateur football league.

In 1895, they won the West Ham Charity Cup with other football in the West Ham region. They won the London League in 1897. The very next year, Thames Ironworks FC entered the Southern League Second Division, and were promoted to the First Division at the end of the season. 

By 1899, Thames Ironworks FC was a full fledged competitive team despite coming in second from bottom. Thames Ironworks FC retained their First Division status by winning against local rival, Fulham FC, in a 5-1 victory

In 5 July 1900, Thames Ironworks FC was relaunched under a new name, West Ham United FC with Syd King, manager, and Charlie Paynter, assistant manager and later manager. 

West Ham United FC’s “works team” history was represented in their football club’s crest, and was nicknamed “the Irons” or “the Hammers” amongst fans and the media.

West Ham United FC’s logo through the years. Photo: 1000logos 

Early West Ham United FC Years

West Ham United FC entered the 1901 Western League while simultaneously playing in the Southern Division 1. Six years later in 1907, West Ham United FC were crowned the Western League Division 1B Champions. They went ahead and won against rival and then Western League Division 1A champions, Fulham FC, in a 1–0 fashion and were crowned the Western League Overall Champions.

West Ham United FC played their home games at the Memorial Grounds in Plaistow, funded by Arnold Hills, until 1904. The Irons moved to the stadium, now known as Boleyn Ground stadium

The Irons’ debut match in Boleyn Ground Stadium was against their long time rival, Millwall FC, coming from an ironworks background of a rival company. This match drew  a crowd of 10,000. The Irons emerged as winners with the score of 3 – 0.

Under the leadership of Syd King, The Irons took part in the Football League Second Division in 1919. Their first game against Lincoln City FC was a 1-1 draw. 

The Irons were promoted to Division One in 1923. They also made it to their first FA Cup Final that was held at the old Wembley stadium against the Bolton Wanderers FC in the very same year. The finals, also known as the White Horse Final, ended 0–2 loss.

White Horse Finals in 1923. Photo: Wikipedia 

An estimated 200,000 people attended the match causing the spectators to overflow out onto the pitch. “Billie,” a giant white horse, ridden by PC George Scorey was deployed to clear the crowd before the kickoff. The Irons had their fair share of ups and downs  in Division 1 but retained their status for ten years and reached the FA Cup semi-final in 1933.

Syd King was fired ,after serving 30 years as a manager, in 1932 when The Irons was relegated to Division Two. Soon, King suffered mental health problems and committed suicide a month later. His assistant manager, Charlie Paynter who had been with The Irons since 1897, went on to serve the team until 1950,a total of 480 games. 

Under Paynter, and later under former player Ted Fenton, The Irons spent most of the next 30 years in Division 2.

In 1958, The Irons once again got promoted to the top level of English football. Together with inputs from then player Malcolm Allison, Fenton helped develop West Ham’s initial and future batches of stars and approaches to the game.

Glory Years (1961–1978)

Ron Greenwood ,Fenton’s successor, led the Hammers to their first two major trophies in their history, FA Cup in 1964 and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965. 

The 1966 FIFA World Cup winning squad of England consisted of several West Ham United FC players; Captain, Bobby Moore; Martin Peters (who scored in the final); and Geoff Hurst, first and only, hat-trick in a men’s World Cup final. All three players had come through the youth team at West Ham United FC.

“Champions” statue in Barking Road commemorating West Ham’s “three sons” and Everton’s Ray Wilson who were in the 1966 World Cup winning squad. Photo: Dailymail

The 1974-1975 season was off to a rough start. Greenwood promoted himself to become the general manager, without informing the board, and appointed his then assistant, John Lyall, as the team manager. The Hammers proceed to score 20 goals in their first four games. They won 2-0 against Fulham FC, in 1975, to win the FA Cup, becoming the last team to win the FA Cup with an all-English side. In 1976, they were runner ups in the European Cup, losing 4–2 to Royal Sporting Club Anderlecht. 

Present day West Ham United FC

The new millennium was not smooth sailing West Ham United FC with the departure of long-serving manager, Harry Redknapp, and getting in 2001 after a poor performance under caretaker manager Trevor Brooking. Alan Pardew was appointed as the new manager leading the Hammers back to the English Premier League after 1-0 playoff final win over Preston North End. 

By 2005, the team had a good homegrown key players including Marlon Harewood, Bobby Zamora, and Nigel Reo Coker. With these three core players, the Hammers reached the 2006 F.A Cup final but lost to Liverpool on penalties.

West Ham United FC at 2006 FA Finals. Photo: The Mirror

European football helped the Hammers in signing world-class players Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano in August 2006. However, the sacking of Pardew led to poor form until Alan Curbishley took over and managed to secure their English Premier League status for the next few seasons.

Three different managers, Avram Grant and Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola, over the last three seasons did not help the Hammers as they were relegated in 2011.  Under Sam Allardyce’s management, West Ham United FC came back into the top form the next season. Sam was sacked at the end of the 2014-15 season. 

Following Manchester United‘s win in the 2016 FA Cup Final, West Ham United FC qualified for the third qualifying round of the 2016–17 edition. The Hammers finish 11th in their first season at the new London Stadium together with dealing with the departure of star Dimitri Payet. Winning only 2 of 11 opening games and a 4-1 loss to Liverpool at home. The Hammers were on the verge of relegation. Bilić was sacked on 6 November 2017 and replaced by former Sunderland boss David Moyes till the end of the season. Although the Hammers never did enjoy success, they managed to avoid relegation and finish 13th.

On 22 May 2018, the club appointed former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini as the new manager on a three-year deal contract. The Hammers finished 10th under his management. A poor first half to the following season, caused Pellegrini his job in December 2019 with the Hammers narrowly escaping relegation. David Moyes returned for a rerun.