Monday, December 20, 2010

Club Spotlight : West Ham United Official Story

West Ham United rightly have a proud tradition in English football for playing entertaining, attacking football. It is an approach that has thrilled millions since the east London club was formed in 1900, five years after the inception of our forerunners, Thames Ironworks. It is enshrined in Hammers' history that regardless of their status at any given time, whether challenging for silverware or fighting relegation, the club has never sacrificed its long-held football principles. Our knowledgeable fans have come to expect nothing less and they are proud of it.

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Throughout the years, West Ham United have invariably employed managers who embody these values, doing much themselves to promote and sustain our footballing philosophy. The majority of them joined the club as youngsters, were brought up through the playing ranks at the Boleyn Ground, so they understood everything the club stands for.

Even Ron Greenwood, the first 'outsider' to be appointed manager when he arrived from Arsenal in 1961, epitomised the West Ham Way. Greenwood continued to build on the excellent foundations laid by his predecessor, Ted Fenton, and the vastly influential skipper, Malcolm Allison, in the 50s which established the club's famed 'Academy'. Allison combined his defensive duties in the then second division side with coaching the schoolboys. He, more than anyone, helped nurture the man who would ultimately replace him in the first team and become arguably the most famous English footballer of all - Bobby Moore.
Allison, with the encouragement of Fenton, inspired progress in all the youngsters who came under his tuition at the coaching sessions he held on the old main forecourt of the Boleyn Ground each Tuesday and Thursday night. He commanded the respect of team-mates young and old and was a tactician ahead of his time.

 At the instigation of Allison, who marvelled at the magnificent Hungary side of the late 50s, West Ham embraced continental ideas and thinking before any of our English rivals. We adopted foreign training methods and were the first to wear new, lightweight boots, smaller shorts and lighter, silk shirts.Allison and his disciples, great club men like Noel Cantwell, Frank O'Farrell, Dave Sexton, Malcolm Musgrove and Jimmy Andrews, would follow daily training sessions by getting together again in the afternoons at Cassettari's Cafe, just a short walk from the ground in Barking Road (it's still there today). There, Allison would hold court and the players would exchange views on the game and make tactical plans around the dinner table, illustrating their ideas with the use of salt and pepper pots.

The culmination of those years of hard work, on and off the field, was the second division championship in 1958 - the springboard to great cup successes at a much higher level in the mid-60s. Those later achievements owed much to the tactical genius of Greenwood and the emergence of quality players like Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, but no one should underestimate the positive influence of Allison's earlier role in Hammers' history.West Ham United's most successful period came in the mid-60s, when the club reached three consecutive cup finals. Although, never been able to sustain a serious challenge on the league championship, we have enjoyed a reputation as a more than useful cup side. Our first taste of the big occasion came in 1923, when United met Bolton Wanderers in the first FA Cup final to be played at Wembley Stadium. On a day remembered more for the extraordinary crowd scenes than the football itself, Syd King's 'Irons' lost 2-0. (

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