Tuesday, September 18, 2007

History of West Ham United F.C.

Pre-history - Old Castle Swifts F.C.
Thames Ironworks, and thereby West Ham Utd, are commonly thought to have originated from the remains of the bankrupt Old Castle Swifts F.C. in 1895. Old Castle Swifts had formed in 1892 at the behest of Castle Shipping Line employer Donald Currie and played their football opposite what is now the West Ham Police station. The club was the first professional football team in Essex, with players drawn from his predominantly Scottish work force paid extra in addition to their works wages when they made appearances for the team.

The team won the 1892-1893 West Ham Charity Cup against Barking Woodville;
"After the match the crowd made a rush to the Grand Stand where the Mayor presented the large silver cup to the captain of the Castle Swifts and Mr. Comerford of the Cup Committee announced that ‘the medals had not yet come to hand, but they would be forwarded to the winners as soon as possible’. With that the captain was lifted on to the shoulders of several of his followers and carried from the ground."

In 1895 Currie allowed the team to go bankrupt when he refused to further bankroll the team. With both the club, and their tenancy at Hermit Road now up for grabs, the philanthropic Arnold Hills (a local business owner, keen amateur sportsman, and well known enthusiast for sports, healthy living, tee-totalling, works and community orientated functions) stepped in to take up the lease and absorb some of the players into his new club including former Woolwich Arsenal player Robert Stevenson the clubs first captain and player of note.

1895-1900 - Thames Ironworks F.C. and the legacy of Arnold Hills
The club was founded in 1895 as the works side Thames Ironworks F.C. by Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Co. Ltd company chairman Arnold Hills and works foreman Dave Taylor (who also worked as a local league referee).[3] It was announced in the Thames Ironworks Gazette in the June of 1895 under the heading "The importance of co-operation between workers and management" in an effort to "wipe away the bitterness left by the recent strike":
"Mr. Taylor, who is working in the shipbuilding department, has undertaken to get up a football club for next winter and I learn that quoits and bowls will also be added to the attractions."

Arnold Hills had joined the board of the company in 1880 at the age of twenty three, and eventually progressed to the position of Managing Director. During this time the company had grown producing ironclads and steam ships (such as HMS Albion) and already had a fine history of working government contracts (producing [[HMS Warrior (1860)|HMS Warrior]) in 1860 for instance). Unfortunately they also suffered through a period of unionised dock strikes (1889, 1890, 1891) that stretched from the boilermakers to engineers, joiners and labourers on issues of pay, working hours and safety. The use of scab labour further lowered the workforces opinion of Hills and in 1892 he faced considerable pressure from management and workforce alike to find some recourse.

In response to this he began a series of initiatives that (little to his knowledge) would have further reaching consequences than improving workplace morale. Hills sponsored cricket, running, rowing and cycling teams and went on to add a full works brass band, operatic society, ambulance corps and even a debating society in an attempt to improve works relations after these several years of tense stand-offs and strike action, all as part of his "Good Fellowship system" and "Profit Sharing scheme" that also featured bonus pay on top of wages and reduced working hours.[3][2] After a serious strike in 1897 he took it upon himself to negotiate directly with his workers, circumventing the Unions and cutting their power and influence off at the root. The works still experienced strike action despite his best efforts in the years after but never to the same extent.
"Thank God this midsummer madness is passed and gone; inequities and anomalies have been done away with and now, under the Good Fellowship system and Profit Sharing Scheme, every worker knows that his individual and social rights are absolutely secured."
—Arnold Hills, 29th June 1895, Ironworks Gazette

Following the success of the 1895 F.A. Cup Final between West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa F.C., the growth of local sides and the success of competitions such as the London League and the West Ham Cup he took more readily to the suggestion of a true works football team as a method of further improving morale. There had been for some years a Thames Ironworks Juniors side (formed in 1892) that had racked up 75 victories from 81 matches providing a solid grounding of young talent, along with those former Castle Swift players that were employed at the Ironworks (such as Johnny Stewart, George Sage and Walter Parks) to create a starting eleven.

Hills made enough funds available for the formation of the team, posting flyers and leaflet to the shop floor as well as the Ironworks Gazette, and saw a fine opportunity to take up the ground rent of the recently dissolved Old Castle Swifts at Hermit Road.

Not content with just that Mr Hills, as a former Oxford Blue in cricket, association football (earning a Corinthians cap for England against Scotland) and running, also contributed the clubs first kit - an all navy blue strip. Also as determined vegetarian, good Christian and member of the temperance movement, he regularly preached the evils of alcohol, at least initially some players were "tee-totallers" and the team was reported as such in several journals (and pushed by Mr Hills in society as such a thing)as a result Hills is also the origin of the club and players first 'nickname'. As an aside; some years later Hills, after his influence had waned, was to offer to clear the clubs debts if each player swore temperance.

Dave Taylor went back to refereeing prior to the start of the season after sorting out the initial round of friendlies, so for the first season the clubs first coach was company employee A. T. (Ted) Harsent, with the Francis Payne(secretary of Thames Ironworks company) taking up the role of Chairman and Chief Director. Tom Robinson took up the role of trainer and physio, a position he had held with Old Castle Swifts.

Mr. Hills initial concept was for a purely amateur team for the benefit of works employees. Each who wished to take part paid an initial annual stipend of 2s/6d (12.5p) and attracted fifty would-be players for the first season alone. Such was the response that a dual schedule of games was arranged to cater for the number of players, with often entirely different line-ups taking to the field at the same time. Training took place on Tuesday and Thursday nights in a gas-lit schoolroom at Trinity Church School in Barking Road. Training mainly consisted of Army physical training exercises led by Tom Robinson. They also went for runs along the Turnpike Road now known as Beckton Road. The state of amateurism was to become a bone of contention between Arnold Hills and directors due to the growing professionalism of football as espoused by future manager Syd King in 1904:
"In the summer of 1895, when the clanging of "hammers" was heard on the banks of Father Thames and the great warships were rearing their heads above the Victoria Dock Road, a few enthusiasts, with the love of football within them, were talking about the grand old game and the formation of a club for the workers of the Thames Iron Works Limited. There were platers and riveters in the Limited who had chased the big ball in the north country. There were men among them who had learned to give the subtle pass and to urge the leather goalwards. No thought of professionalism, I may say, was ever contemplated by the founders. They meant to run their club on amateur lines and their first principal was to choose their team from men in the works."

The team played on a strictly amateur basis for 1895 at least, with a team featuring a number of works employees including Thomas Freeman (ships fireman), Walter Parks (clerk), Johnny Stewart, Walter Tranter[18] and James Lindsay (all boilermakers), William Chapman, George Sage, and William Chamberlain and apprentice riveter Charlie Dove who was to have a massive influence on the clubs future at a later date.
"As an old footballer myself, I would say, get into good condition at the beginning of the season, keep on the ball, play an unselfish game, pay heed to your captain, and whatever the fortunes of the first half of the game, never despair of winning, and never give up doing your very best to the last minute of the match. That is the way to play football, and better still, that is the way to make yourselves men."
—Arnold Hills letter to players, 16th March 1896

They won the West Ham Charity Cup in their first year and competed only in friendlies and one off exhibition games for their first season. Their first ever game was against Chatham Town F.C. on 12th October in front of a crowd of 3,000 and saw Chatham run out 5-0 winners.

They joined the London League in 1896, finishing runners up after only gaining entrance due to the withdrawal of Royal Ordnance. They sported the earliest known example of floodlights (utilising docking equipment and a ball dipped in whitewash) in a game against Arsenal and several games thereafter (including a match against the aptly named "Vampires"). In 1896 the team were evicted from their ground after the council revoked their groundrent and as a result spent over a year playing their home games on the home grounds of other local sides including those of Milwall and Tottenham. Arnold Hills, at great personal cost, proposed, secured the land, then funded the development of what became the Memorial Grounds. The venue would not merely be a playing ground for the football team (indeed Hills himself described it foremostly as "the largest cycle track in London") but would incoporate all Thames Ironworks societies as well as open access for the community at large. The team celebrated by winning the London League at the first attempt at their new home, pipping the amateur precursor of Brentford F.C. by a single point.

Thames Ironworks turned professional upon entering the Southern League Second Division (the bottom level in those days) in 1898. The idea of the club as a 'works' team had gradually become less plausible with the growing professionalism in the game, and gradually the team drifted away from its original conception (though works men could still sign up and take part in training and trials).[12] In 1898 Francis Payne had been given a sum of £1000 by Arnold Hills to find the players required to push the team on as a result of which an approach was made to a player from Birmingham that ultimately resulted in Payne being suspended from football for 'tapping up' in 1899, but not before signing Charlie Craig, Syd King (two of the best fullbacks in the league), and David Lloyd (who scored close to a goal a game in his time with the club).

The team won the Southern League title at the first attempt and were promoted to First Division proper.[26] The following year they came second from bottom, but had established themselves as a fully fledged competitive team. They comfortably fended off the challenge of local rivals Fulham F.C. in a relegation play-off, 5-1 in late April 1900 and retained their First Division status.

In June 1900, Thames Ironworks was wound up but was immediately relaunched on July 5, 1900 as West Ham United Football Club with former player Syd King installed officially as club director, but acting as 'manager', and Charlie Paynter as assistant trainer. Club secretary was L. M . Bowen. Despite the shift in team name the club (and its fans) are to this day referred to as "The Irons" and "The Hammers" due to the original connection and still retains many rivalries (both friendly, and competitive) and community associations from these formative years. In particular they are perceived to have retained many 'working class' values even with the rapid changes in the footballing climate.

The reborn club played their games at the Memorial Ground in Plaistow (funded by Arnold Hills) but moved to a pitch in the Upton Park area when the team officially severed ties with the company (losing their works provisioned offices in the process). The new ground was originally named "The Castle", for the 1904-05 season (a local pub in Plaistow to this day is called "The Castle") sited on a plot of land near Green Street House. The original gates to the ground, with the original Hammers crest (now painted in claret and blue), can be seen in Grange Road, London E13.

Funded through local collections, sponsorship and breweries the club eventually constructed a 20,000 capacity stadium with 2000 seats. The stadium was eventually named The Boleyn Ground (in honour of being constructed upon the grounds of a former residence of Anne Boleyn, Green Street House) it is, however, generally known as Upton Park in popular media. Their first game in their new home was against local rivals Millwall F.C. (themselves an Ironworks team, albeit for a rival company) drawing a crowd of 10,000 and with West Ham running out 3-0 winners[12], and as the Daily Mirror wrote on September 2, 1904:
"Favoured by the weather turning fine after heavy rains of the morning, West Ham United began their season most auspiciously yesterday evening; when they beat Milwall by 3 goals to 0 on their new enclosure at Upton Park."

The early history of both clubs are intertwined, with West Ham initially coming out on top in a number of meetings between the two teams as part of a budding and friendly local rivaly (even momentarily ground sharing when made homeless the following year) but eventually resulting in West Ham bring promoted at the expense of Millwall. Millwall later turned down joining the fledgling Football League only to see West Ham go on to the top division and an F.A. Cup final. Later in the 1920s (rumoured to be 1926) the rivalry was supposedly spiced up during strike action made by East End companies (perceived to be West Ham fans) that Isle Of Dogs based companies (i.e. Millwall fans) refused to support breeding ill will between the two camps. The rivalry remains pronounced to this day.

West Ham Utd F.C. had joined the Western League for the 1901 season in addition to continuing playing in the Southern Division 1. In 1907 West Ham were crowned the Western League Division 1B Champions, and then defeated 1A champions Fulham 1-0 to become the Western Leagues Overall Champions.

Still under the leadership of Syd King and growing influence of Charlie Paynter they won election to the the Football League Second division proper in 1919 for the first post-war football season. They were first promoted to the top division in 1923 as runners-up to Notts County (on goal average ahead of Leicester City F.C.) and subsequently enjoyed 11 top flight seasons, though regularly in the lower half and only twice broaching the top ten (in 1926/27 and 1929/30). Syd eventually built an attractive footballing side built around the skills of players such as Vic Watson, Jimmy Ruffell and Syd Puddefoot, and the goalkeeping of Ted Hufton.

Also in 1923 the club took part in the first ever FA Cup to be held at the newly constructed Empire Stadium[35] more popularly known as 'Wembley' against Bolton Wanderers. The event is notable, aside from the football, for its record attendance far in excess of the organisers' expectations or stadium capacity, and the presence of 'Billie' (a horse) ridden by PC G.A. Scorey (sometimes given as "Storey") that was required to clear the pitch in order for play to start. As a result the final is commonly referred to as "The White Horse Final". The team lost 2-0 on the day in what became the marquee event for Football.

I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.
They fly so high, nearly reach the sky,
And like my dreams they fade and die.
Fortune's always hiding,
I've looked everywhere...
I'm forever blowing bubbles,
pretty bubbles in the air.
—original lyrics to "Bubbles", from John Helliar

Sometime during the late twenties the club acquired one of its other longstanding monikers. At the time a Pears soap commercial featuring the curly haired child in the Millais "Bubbles" painting who resembled a player in a local schoolboy team for whom the headmaster coined singing the tune "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" with amended lyrics. Through this contrivance of association the clubs fans took it upon themselves to begin singing the popular music hall tune before home games, sometimes reinforced by the presence of a house band requested to play the refrain by Charlie Paynter.

1932 and the war years
The Syd King and Charlie Paynter partnership was dissolved acrimoniously in 1932 after the clubs 9th straight defeat, and with allegations of alcoholism and belligerence towards the Directors from King. King died a few months later, taking his own life in an alcohol fuelled depression, at the age of fifty-nine.

Long term servant Charlie Paynter, now nearly fifty and having spent more than 35 years at the club in a variety of roles, was installed as the clubs manager and immediately oversaw the club's relegation to Division 2. West Ham weren't to see the top flight again before WW2 broke out.

He oversaw the redevelopment of the team, investing heavily in a youth policy and shunning for the most part signings from other teams in an effort to usher in an entirely new public image. His plans were in tatters soon enough as the war call-up stripped the club of practically all its starting squad and several in the administration. Paynter himself was exempt due to his age. With the government insisting life carried on as normal as possible, the team (often utilising visiting players as 'guests', and a number of foreigners from the armed forces) continued to play regularly. In the League Cup however no such guests were allowed, and West Ham secured the first trophy with a 1-0 win over Blackburn Rovers in 1940 whilst watched by survivors of the Dunkirk evacuation.

The club spent the majority of its next 30 years in Division 2 under the leadership of first Charlie Paynter, and later Ted Fenton who began the process of bringing in notable names, as well as developing the first crop of young talent culminating in achieving promotion to the top division again in 1958 thanks to the goals of John Dick and defensive talent of Malcolm Allison.

Ron Greenwood: Early achievement
West Ham United first established themselves in 1964, when manager Ron Greenwood guided the club to their first major trophy in the shape of an FA Cup final victory over Preston North End. Ronnie Boyce scoring a last minute goal to secure a 3-2 victory, with striker Sissons becoming the youngest ever scorer in a cup final. The success of 1964 was repeated a year later, this time with a 2-0 European Cup Winners Cup triumph over 1860 Munich at Wembley.

The team was built upon the England international trio of Club and International Captain Bobby Moore in defence, Martin Peters in midfield and Geoff Hurst up front (all promoted through the youth system during Fenton's tenure) but also sported the likes of long time club servants John Bond and England international Ken Brown (father of Kenny Brown, who went on to play for the club in the 1990s), talented wing half Eddie Bovington, midfielder and forward Ronnie Boyce, leftback Jack Burkett (the first man to ever be substituted for the club) and rightback Joe Kirkup. Up front were the prolific striker Johnny Byrne and the slightly less prolific Brian Dear. Future manager Harry Redknapp played on the wing, the goalkeeper was Jim Standen; about this time, the club hired its first black player John Charles.

Over the next few seasons Greenwood added some of the clubs best known, and long serving, youth products. 20 year servant, and future manager, Billy Bonds, fellow (almost) 20 year servants Trevor Brooking (who also had spells managing the club) and Frank Lampard Sr. (assistant manager during Redknapp's tenure), Clyde Best and John McDowell. In addition the team acquired Bobby Ferguson as goalkeeper.

The moves ultimately helped to guide West Ham to another FA Cup success in 1975, this time against Fulham. Ron Greenwood subsequently was appointed England Manager as replacement for Don Revie after his unsuccessful premiership.

John Lyall: Continuing the tradition
He was succeeded as team manager by John Lyall (a former youth product who retired through injury), who guided West Ham to another UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final in his second season in charge (1975-76). But this time West Ham were on the losing side, going 4-2 down against Anderlecht. Two years later in 1978 and the club were relegated to the Second Division but the manager was not replaced; in addition, many players were retained long enough enjoy a second FA Cup victory under Lyall's leadership whilst still in Division 2 in 1980, a feat no side outside the top division has since achieved. This time the win was over another London club, the much-fancied Arsenal. In his time Lyall had added Phil Parkes as goalkeeper, and had the fortune of having Alvin Martin, Geoff Pike and Paul Allen emerge through the ranks to add to the defence and midfield. In addition he had captured skilful winger Alan Devonshire from non-league football, penalty taking fullback Ray Stewart from Scotland and Stuart Pearson from Cup winners Manchester United.

The game ended 1-0, with Brooking stooping to head home a goal he would have probably more easily scored with his feet as the second division side more than held its own. Young Paul Allen became the youngest player to appear in a cup final, and at one point looked set to score what would have been a goal by the youngest player also - until a professional foul from Willie Young brought him down whilst clean through in behind the defence. This 1980 FA Cup is still West Ham's most recent major trophy.

In 1981, the Hammers finished runners-up in the League Cup. Between 1982 and 1985 West Ham achieved three consecutive top ten finishes. Lyall helped them achieve their highest league finish of third in 1986, but was sacked three years later as they suffered relegation to the Second Division.

Billy Bonds era: Up and down
Lyall was replaced by Lou Macari for the 1989-90 season, but Macari resigned after less than one season as manager to concentrate on clearing his name in connection with financial irregularities at his previous club Swindon Town. The next manager to occupy the hot seat at West Ham was Billy Bonds, whose first season at the helm (1990-91) ended with runners-up spot in the Second Division and a place back in the top division. But West Ham struggled throughout the 1991-92 season and were relegated in bottom place, missing the first season of the new Premier League.

West Ham regained their top flight status at the first attempt, finishing Division One runners-up in 1992-93 and securing promotion to the Premiership. They survived relegation by a comfortable margin in 1993-94, but Bonds was informed that Harry Redknapp would take charge of the side for the next season, and to either accept the position of director of football or be sacked. Instead, Bonds resigned from the club.

Harry Redknapp era: Consolidation
One of Harry Redknapp's first actions as West Ham manager was to re-sign striker Tony Cottee from Everton. He also signed Liverpool's Don Hutchison and Mike Marsh and brought back Julian Dicks, as well as re-signing striker Iain Dowie from Southampton. Redknapp also attempted to bring young talent to the side, signing Joey Beauchamp from Oxford United and bringing through the young talent of Matthew Rush, Steve Jones and Matty Holmes. Cottee started the second spell of his West Ham career well, and formed a solid partnership with Trevor Morley aided by the Ian Bishop, Dale Gordon and the aggressive Martin Allen in midfield. The team defied the popular belief that they would return to the First Division by finishing thirteenth. In addition John Moncur was added from relegated Swindon Town.

West Ham avoided relegation again in 1994-95 and played their part in the final-day drama of the season, holding Manchester United to a 1-1 draw at Upton Park and denying them a third successive Premiership title. On paper the team was routinely outclassed by opposition, but on grass put in a series of superb performances[42]. Old hand Alvin Martin partnered Steve Potts, Tim Breacker and Dicks with longterm custodian Luděk Mikloško in goal to form a stout defence that made up for the deficiencies elsewhere in midfield and up front which had seen a number of players move on - including fan favourite Matthew Holmes, to newly christened league champions Blackburn Rovers, for £1.5m.

Redknapp spent the summer adding to the teams defence. He had previously captured Danish International centrehalf Marc Rieper in one coup and quickly followed this up by signing another international, this time the Croatian Slaven Bilić in January of 1996 for a then club record £1.65m. West Ham progressed to 10th place in 1995-96.

Crucially at this point the Jean-Marc Bosman case finally came to an end resulting in the Bosman ruling. This meant no longer would Redknapp have to balance his team based upon nationality - a problem the previous year when Mikloško, Rieper and were all classed as 'Foreign', thus leaving only one slot open for Irish/Welsh and English players. The change in ruling opened the door for a number of foreign internationals, and at the same time had seen a great number of established players within the team being shown the door (Hutchison, Burrows, Morley, Marsh, Holmes, Boere and Gordon were all released or sold on).

The following summer, going into the historic 1996-97 season, Redknapp continued looking abroad and made two of the most ambitious but perhaps least productive signings in the club's history - the Romanian national team's striker Florin Răducioiu and Portuguese winger Paulo Futre (formerly a £10m man) from AC Milan. The deals failed to work out; Răducioiu left after six months at the club and returned to Romania after falling out with the manager (famously being christened a "tart, a fairy, a little girl" by Redknapp in his autobiography for complaining about the physical nature of the English game), while Futre played just one first-team game before being beaten by a long-term knee injury and announcing his retirement (and equally famously storming out after being denied the number 10 shirt for a friendly). Coupled with the equally disastrous Marco Boogers affair, the drawn out Work Permit wrangle involving Răducioiu's compatriot Dumitrescu who had been signed 6 months earlier from Tottenham Hotspur (but had failed to play the required number of games whilst at Spurs) and the lack of a quality second striker West Ham struggled.

The 1996-97 Hammer campaign nosedived towards disaster after starting in an average fashion. Injuries to key and back-up players were critical (losing Lazaridis to a broken leg for instance, and what turned out to be the career ending injury to the promising Richard Hall signed only months before for £1.5m from Southampton), but so were the failed signings and some poor performances. The form of Michael Hughes (signed permanently after 2 years on loan from RC Strasbourg) and performances of loan signing Hugo Porfirio were a rare bright spot, as was the emergence of future England teammates Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard. Răducioiu's chief contribution - a curling left footed shot around a full stretch Schmeichel in a 2-2 draw - was considered by some[attribution needed] to be almost worth the transfer in itself. At Christmas the team sat low in midtable with only 5 wins and 7 draws from 19 games at which point they added only 1 point from the next 6 games sending the team to the bottom of the table.

Faced with relegation the board financed two key acquisitions. Firstly young Arsenal striker John Hartson in a £3.3m move (again breaking the clubs transfer record) and in addition the signing of Newcastle United forward Paul Kitson in a £1.2m move and battling Manchester City midfielder Steve Lomas for £1.6m. The strike pair were an instant hit, scoring 13 goals between them in 12 games as a pairing including those in a vital 4-3 win against close rivals Tottenham, a 3-2 against Chelsea and a hat-trick for Kitson and brace for Hartson in a 5-1 rout of Sheffield Wednesday in the next to last game confirming the club's survival and saving Redknapp's job.

Despite the close shave the hopes for the following 1997-98 season were high. Hartson and Kitson gave the team an exciting frontline, whilst in the midfield Redknapp added Eyal Berkovic from Southampton and Trevor Sinclair and Andy Impey from QPR. The team unfortunately had to contend with the season-long loss of captain Julian Dicks (who had played on the previous year despite needing urgent knee surgery) and the sale of Marc Rieper to Celtic, and Slaven Bilić to Everton. The profit from the sale went to acquire former England under-21s David Unsworth and Ian Pearce from Everton and Blackburn respectively.

This season marked a change in Redknapp's tactical approach, the team changing to a 5-3-2 formation for the most part of the season. This allowed Redknapp to blood the young talent of Rio Ferdinand in his preferred role as a sweeper whilst pairing him with two extremely competent defenders. The pacey Lazaridis and Impey took over wingback roles, whilst the centre of midfield was contested by Lampard, Lomas and Berkovic with Moncur preferred over Ian Bishop in reserve and Michael Hughes out in the cold. In goal Mikloško started out but injury curtailed his season (and by the next summer had moved on to QPR) resulting in Craig Forrest stepping in. However, Redknapp also managed to pluck the flamboyant Bernard Lama on loan from Paris St. Germain which helped maintain West Ham's late season push.

The season did not go entirely to plan. Kitson struggled (as he was for the remainder of his West Ham career) with niggling injuries limiting him to only 13 appearances (and 4 goals). Redknapp acquired Samassi Abou for a bargain £250,000 to add depth, and he performed admirably if sometimes lacking in quality. Nonetheless he became a crowd favourite for his languid style, skill and lampooned name (having to have it explained to him that the crowd were not 'booing' him, but in fact 'abouing' him). Hartson however scored consistently, notching 24 in his first season across all competitions, whilst Lampard flowered in midfield. The acquisition of Sinclair at Christmas injected some vital cutting edge and propelled the team for the first time into the upper half of the table resulting in the side finishing an impressive 8th.

For 1998/99 Redknapp again went foreign and signed former French International Marc Keller, exciting Cameroonian midfielder Marc-Vivien Foé and World Cup star Javier Margas. However he did not neglect home-grown talent, adding the experienced Ian Wright and Neil Ruddock, whilst also bringing Scott Minto back from abroad and Shaka Hislop in as goalkeeper on a free from Newcastle. (Hislop went on to win the Hammer of the Year award in his first season.)

West Ham started slowly and by Christmas were facing a crisis. First the club sold Andy Impey under the nose of the manager (literally removing him from a game in which he was tabled to start) and then made it clear to the manager that he would find no further funds forthcoming due to the absenteeism of Javier Margas (which was taken to highlight Redknapp's continued failure with foreign talent).) John Hartson was found to be involved in a training ground incident involving Eyal Berkovic and the owners were forced to act. Hartson was sold to Wimbledon for £7.5m as a result after having an already disappointing start to the year where he did not score until 10 games in and was notably overweight and out of shape.

Redknapp was given a some of the funds to buy in replacements. His first choice was Paolo Di Canio - who famously the previous year had pushed referee Paul Alcock to the ground - and he signed for an initial fee of £1.25m. In addition he also signed former Manchester United target Marc-Vivien Foé for £3.5m to solidify the midfield.

By the end of 1998/99 West Ham had achieved an impressive 5th place finish. But, for the only time in league history, were denied a UEFA Cup place due to new UEFA Coefficients. (The seasons to either side had seen every team down to 7th feature in the UEFA Cup.) The team instead was entered as one of England's Inter-Toto cup competitors (and a place in the UEFA Cup proper up for grabs). A victory over Metz in the two-legged final eventually earned the Hammers a place in the UEFA Cup - ending an absence of almost 20 years from European competition. Redknapp brought in Paulo Wanchope from Derby County to compliment Paolo Di Canio and Igor Štimac to replace the outgoing Unsworth.

In 1999-2000 consolidation was supposed to be the key, but once again plans were interrupted by injury. The Inter Toto and UEFA Cup expedition took a lot out of the players - but the team started the season sharper than the others, resulting in a comfortable upper-midtable position by the halfway point of the season. Tiredness, loss of form, and a build-up of injuries resulted in a slide downwards towards the end of the season, eventually resulting in a 9th place finish and a 3rd consecutive year in the top half (a first for West Ham).

The year was noticeable for the introduction of Joe Cole and Michael Carrick to the first team proper, the ignominious exit in the League Cup to Aston Villa due to an enforced replay after it transpired that last minute substitute Emmanuel Omoyimni had featured in the competition whilst on loan earlier in the season (this event saw the resignation of Martin Aldridge), and the barracking Paulo Wanchope received for the early part of the year. The striker failed to settle despite scoring 12 league goals in 33 games (an above average output). Unfortunately his erratic form and gaffes meant he would move on at the end of the year.

Marc-Vivien Foé was sold at the end of the year (his final act was a plunging tackle from behind that saw him sent off against Arsenal) and Redknapp acquired Frédéric Kanouté with the money.

End of Redknapp
The 2000-01 season was Redknapp's final year. They got off to a dismal start, hampered by further injuries (Sinclair notably, but also Ian Pearce continued absence), a number of failed loan transfers (Christian Bassila and Kaba Diawara) and unimpressive signings (Davor Šuker, reportedly on £50,000 a week[49] who only managed 8 starts, Ragnvald Soma, and the continued absence of Margas who had turned up for half of the previous season). With the team in the doldrums the board eventually accepted a bid for the teams prized asset - Rio Ferdinand - in an £18 million move to Leeds United for both the British transfer record and a world record for a defender. The deal has since been criticised, as the fee was neither upfront, nor was a sell-on bonus included; meaning the club missed out on his later £30m move to United and also a sizeable chunk of the initial transfer.

Redknapp proceeded to spend a chunk of the transfer money on a string of coolly received signings (in addition he was given a £300,000 pound bonus for agreeing not to spend the entire transfer sum and arranging the transfer to Leeds) forcing what was to be the end of his time at the club. Redknapp signed the Liverpool pairing of Rigobert Song (a solid, if erratic and unsuited to the physical Premiership, player with over 60 Caps to his name for £2.6m) and Titi Camara (an exciting attacking player who arrived massively overweight, unfit and devoid of form after being forced out of the Liverpool first team for £2.2m), along with Scottish International Christian Dailly (who had never lived up to his great early promise for £1.75m), for a total of some £8m (including fees and final cost adjustments). These transfers were later used as ammunition against the departing Redknapp, with aspersions cast regarding agent fees and the expensive nature of Camara's alleged Pay-As-You-Play contract that would have seen further monies paid after a relatively small number of games.[51] His only solid moves from a fan's point of view was the loan signing Loan signings of Hannu Tihinen from Viking FK and Svetoslav Todorov did little to improve the paucity in quality of the first team. The team's fortunes improved imperceptibly but survival was ensured thanks to the poor performances of lower sides and the team finished in 15th place, comfortably out of the relegation zone.

At this point Redknapp's relationship with the board, already strained since the Andy Impey incident, fell apart. Redknapp requested a warchest of £12m to get the club back into the top six, with a sizeable portion of this to go towards bringing in Paris St. Germain left-winger Laurent Robert, a client of football agent and close associate of Harry Redknapp Willie McKay.

Slanderous comments soon followed in the direction of the West Ham board as Redknapp gave an interview in the unofficial West Ham fanzine Over Land and Sea, focusing his tirade on the lack of funding. The outburst caused so much friction that his position as manager became untenable, and Redknapp was sacked before the end of the season.

In the aftermath Frank Lampard Sr. left the club, and due to the obvious fall-out his son Frank Lampard was sold off to Chelsea for £11m. The money was subsequently granted to incoming manager Glenn Roeder.

Glenn Roeder era: Down again
Several big names were linked with the vacant manager's job. Former West Ham player Alan Curbishley, who had rebuilt Charlton Athletic F.C. on and off the field since becoming their manager in 1991, instantly became favourite for the job but insisted he wasn't interested. Steve McClaren, who had been assistant manager of Manchester United in three successive title-winning seasons (including the 1999 treble campaign), was also linked with the job, but he was then appointed manager of Middlesbrough. So West Ham turned to youth team manager Glenn Roeder to fill the role. People[52] doubted Roeder's suitability for the job, as his only managerial exploits had been short-lived and perceived to be unsuccessful with Gillingham over 1992-93 and Watford from 1993-96.

West Ham had a slow start to the 2001-02 season, hampered by injuries to key players. New signing David James was injured before he even made an appearance whilst on International duty; Frédéric Kanouté, Michael Carrick and Paolo Di Canio nursed groin and knee problems). The board made money available for strengthening the squad and Glenn acquired respected Czech International defender Tomáš Řepka from ACF Fiorentina, and Don Hutchison for his second term with the Hammers. However, Glenn Roeder was soon under immense pressure from fans who were calling for him to be sacked, especially after witnessing back to back maulings at the hands of Everton (5-0) and Blackburn (7-1). He responded by guiding the club to a seventh-place finish in the final table, just one place short of European qualification - although there was a 12-point gap between West Ham and sixth-placed Chelsea.

The summer of 2002-03 did not bode well for the season ahead. Despite a glaring need for squad reinforcements, only positive transfer activity involved Irish international Gary Breen signing on a free transfer (he was to be later to be reviled as one of the poorest players ever to wear the West Ham shirt). Out the door went a number of experienced pros such as Paul Kitson, and a hatful of youth and fringe players. Another (by now traditional) poor start plagued West Ham United through to 2003, and this time Roeder was unable to turn things round quickly enough. The loss of Kanouté for nearly 1/3rd of the season, and Di Canio at the exact same period resulted in the teenage Jermain Defoe leading the line on his own. The loss of form of key players such as Trevor Sinclair, 2001-02 Hammer of the Year Sebastian Schemmel and Michael Carrick, who was still nursing a groin problem, combined with the absence of a dependable left back or left midfielder merely exacerbated an already difficult situation. The Hammers failed to win a single home game until January and suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Manchester United in the FA Cup. The much attacked Gary Breen was pointedly at fault for a number of errors, but his play was not helped by the lack of any cohesive team.

During the transfer window the club acquired Les Ferdinand and Rufus Brevett, and more importantly got Di Canio and Kanouté both back on the pitch and off the treatment table. The club's form improved and they began to claw their way up the table towards safety. In April Glenn collapsed in his office and was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He was immediately given a leave of absence and 1980 FA Cup final hero Trevor Brooking took over for the final 3 games of the Premiership season. But, despite an upturn in the team's form (winning 2 and drawing 1) they were unable to overhaul Bolton Wanderers F.C. and finished 18th in the final table, 2pts short of the safety zone. West Ham drew early in the season and then lost against Bolton during the run in; a draw against Bolton in their second match would have been sufficient to see West Ham survive. Their 10-year spell in the Premiership was over.

Not since 1994-95 had a club been relegated from the division with more than 40 points (West Ham had 42), but this was no consolation for a disappointed West Ham side filled with some of the most promising young English players, all tipped for international honours. The relegation forced the sale of key players Joe Cole and Glen Johnson (both to Chelsea), Kanouté and later Jermain Defoe to Tottenham Hotspur, Trevor Sinclair to Manchester City later followed by David James in the same direction, in a bid to prevent a financial crisis at Upton Park. Glenn Roeder was sacked soon after the start of the 2003-04 season.

Alan Pardew era: Return to the Premiership
Alan Pardew was the eventual replacement for Roeder, following Brooking's second brief stint as caretaker manager. Pardew was head hunted from fellow Division One rivals (and promotion hopefuls) Reading by West Ham with the objective of promotion back to the FA Premier League. With a team whose talent had become marginalised over the previous 6 months since relegation the task did not appear to be a simple one.

The team saw over 15 new players brought in on both short and long term deals including Rob Lee, David Connolly, Marlon Harewood, Matthew Etherington, Kevin Horlock, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Andy Melville, Bobby Zamora and Brian Deane. The turn-over of players continued however with these and other acquisitions funded by the loss of David James, Jermain Defoe and Ian Pearce. The squad was bolstered with a contingent of loan signings such as Wayne Quinn, Neil Mellor, Matthew Kilgallon, Niclas Alexandersson, Robbie Stockdale and Jon Harley. As a result the team routinely lacked cohesion, and without Defoe for a large part lacked a quality striker in front of goal - though Connolly's immediate impact (5 in the 9 opening league games) and positive attitude coupled with Harewoods form went some way to make up for the loss of the future England International.

The teams form had picked up noticeably under Trevor Brooking, rising from 10th in the table to second by mid September. With Pardew installed as manager on the 18th of September the fans didn't have to wait long for their first win with the team taking a 3-0 over Crystal Palace on the 1st of October. A subsequent victory against Derby however was the last for almost a month until title run-away leaders Wigan suffered a 4-0 hammering at Upton Park. By this point the team had slipped to 8th, and were more than 6pts off the pace of the top 6 sides. Form waxed and waned through January, February and March with early fan opinion divided over their new manager but eventually the team settled into the top 6, and barring a late season dip that for a timebeing had Pardew seemingly close to the chop,[citation needed] the team came through strong to run out 4th place overall. In the Play-Off finals the team were defeated by Crystal Palace (who finished 6th that year).

The following year promotion was achieved through the play-offs. The team had only just sealed the last play-off place with a 2-1 win over Watford on the last day of the season. This time having played twice against Ipswich Town, West Ham drew 2-2 at Upton Park and won 2-0 at Portman Road over the two legs to qualify for the final at the Millennium Stadium, they achieved their aim with a 1-0 win against Preston North End, with Bobby Zamora scoring the only goal of the game in the second half.

Following promotion, the club exceeded expectations and achieved the ultimate target of survival for 2005-06 with a top-half place in the 2004-05 Premiership. Pardew claimed that he will not sell the club's best players, and appeared to have the backing of the board on this issue; he in fact spent a club record seven million to bring Dean Ashton to Upton Park. Ashton has been touted as "the next Alan Shearer". In January and February 2006, following a 3-1 home defeat by Chelsea, West Ham embarked on their best sequence of results for twenty years, winning seven games in a row in all competitions (five in the league and two in the FA Cup). The 3-2 win away to Arsenal on February 1, on West Ham's last visit to Highbury Stadium, was the most noteworthy victory during this run, with the Hammers recording their first win over Arsenal at their stadium since 1995.

This seven-game winning streak ended when they drew 0-0 with Bolton Wanderers in the FA Cup Fifth Round, however their unbeaten run continued when they drew 2-2 against Everton in the Premiership, before coming to an abrupt halt with a heavy defeat against Bolton Wanderers, losing 4-1. However Alan Pardew fielded a weakened team in that game in preparation for the FA Cup replay against Bolton again, where they won 2-1 aet with a Marlon Harewood. They then played, on 18 March, their former manager and player Harry Redknapp's club Portsmouth, on his first return to Upton Park. Portsmouth won 4-2 as Pardew rested some key players. However, two days later the Hammers beat Manchester City 2-1 to reach the FA Cup semi-finals. On Sunday 23 April, less than a week following a loss to Middlesbrough in a league fixture, West Ham defeated them 1-0 at Villa Park in the FA Cup semi, with Marlon Harewood again scoring the goal that sent the Hammers through to their first FA Cup final since they beat Arsenal in 1980. This also secured the Hammers a place in the 2006-07 UEFA Cup, as Liverpool, their final opponent, are now assured of no worse than a spot in the final qualifying round of the that season's Champions League. The Hammers, with a place in next year's 2006-07 UEFA Cup and a FA Cup Final, now had to secure a top 10 finish, a position they had held since the start of the campaign. With this in mind and the FA Cup final on May 13, Pardew had a dilemma, whether to stick out his first team and run the risk of injuries and suspensions or hold back. A mock run up of the FA Cup final saw Liverpool beat the Irons 2-1, with a late confrontation involving Mullins and Luis Garcia seeing them both sent off, missing the Final. Mullins, a key to their Premiership success would be dearly missed as he had been a defensive stronghold against many a worthy attacking force.[citation needed] On the back of that troubled match, the Hammers beat an already relegated West Bromwich Albion team 1-0, in which Dean Ashton limped off with a hamstring injury, a huge doubt for the final. This win was the sixth time the Hammers had played on a Monday night and their sixth win was a huge step towards achieving a top ten finish.

West Ham won their final game of the season 2-1 over arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur, cementing 9th place in the Premier League. Tottenham's loss to West Ham on the final day would result in Tottenham being overtaken in the league by Arsenal and therefore missing out on a Champions League place. The match was marred by controversy as many of the Tottenham players were ill on the evening before the match; this was initially believed to be "food poisoning", but was later found to be a virus that had gone round. The FA offered Tottenham a delayed kickoff which they refused. Tottenham ended up losing the match by a final score of 2-1. West Ham scored first when midfielder Carl Fletcher struck past Spurs keeper Paul Robinson. Tottenham then equalised through former Hammer striker Jermain Defoe. The Hammers had a chance to win the game when former Spurs player, Teddy Sheringham took a penalty kick. Sheringham's kick was saved. Israel international Yossi Benayoun was the hero and scored the game winning goal with a stunning strike.

Also this season, two of West Ham's longest serving managers died, Ron Greenwood and John Lyall. Greenwood and Lyall both led West Ham to FA Cup victories in 1964, 1975 and 1980.

If Pardew had guided West Ham to FA Cup glory, he would have been the first English manager to win the trophy since Joe Royle won it with Everton back in 1995. It would also have ended West Ham's 26-year wait for a major trophy which began after their FA Cup triumph in 1980. However, the game ended 3-3, despite West Ham taking a two goal lead early in the match. Eventually West Ham lost 3-1 on penalties, in what was considered by many as the best Cup final in recent years.[citation needed] It is generally accepted[attribution needed] that Pardew has got closer than any manager in a quarter of a century to restoring the glory years back at Upton Park.

During the summer break before the start of the 2006/2007 season, Pardew suffered a huge blow to his team with the loss of Dean Ashton. During training whilst on international duty, Ashton broke his ankle. He was training for England's football match the following day against Greece, which was about to be England's first match under the new manager Steve McClaren.

On the transfer deadline day for the new season, 31 August, West Ham seemed to have surprised world football when speculation mounted that two of the most promising young footballers in the world would be joining on permanent move. Carlos Tévez announced on his website that he and Javier Mascherano would be joining West Ham from Brazilian club Corinthians. West Ham confirmed shortly afterwards that not only had they signed the two Argentinians, but that they had signed on permanent deals. West Ham reportedly had to beat off competition from some major European clubs to sign the two young Argentinians.

West Ham's return to European competition, in the UEFA Cup in 2006, was ultimately short-lived as they lost 4-0 over two legs in the 1st round proper to Italian club, Palermo. This marked a major down turn in form leading to eight losses in succession in all competitions as of October 24, including a shock 2-1 loss away to League 1 side Chesterfield in the third round of the Carling Cup. The Hammers finally stopped the record-breaking run on October 29 at home to Blackburn with a 2-1 win in the Premiership, with goals from Teddy Sheringham, who in the making became the oldest ever goalscorer in the Premier League, and Hayden Mullins getting the winner in the 79th minute. They made it two wins in a row when they beat Arsenal at Upton Park with Marlon Harewood getting an 89th minute winner. The game was overshadowed by the arguments between Arsène Wenger and Alan Pardew in the manager dugouts, both have been charged by the FA. On November 21, the proposed takeover of West Ham United by a consortium headed by Icelandic businessman Eggert Magnusson went through, fuelling speculation over Pardew's future. After just 4 games with Magnusson as the new chairman of West Ham United, Pardew was sacked from the manager's role on December 11, after a 4-0 drubbing at Bolton on the Saturday before. Pardew eventually found work again on 24 December 2006, at Charlton Athletic, ironically where Pardew's replacement Curbishley had spent 15 years of his managerial career, building his reputation.

Magnússon takeover
On 21 November, West Ham announced that they had reached an agreement with a consortium headed by Icelandic businessman Eggert Magnússon for the sale of the club, worth £85m.

On 26 November, The Guardian reported that West Ham may move to the Olympic Stadium in 2012, with the running track left intact.

On 1 September, the Board of West Ham confirmed, following press speculation, that they were in takeover talks with an unnamed party. They announced that there was no link between this prospective takeover bid and the signings of Tévez and Mascherano the day before. Media Sports Investment (MSI), the company which owns the contracts of those two players, and chose to bring them to West Ham, confirmed that it had no interest in investing in European football clubs, thereby ruling itself out of being behind these talks. However, a consortium headed by former MSI frontman Kia Joorabchian entered into talks with the club on 5 September. These talks broke down in early November after further debts that had not been declared by West Ham were revealed in the due diligence process. This was compounded by the announcement that West Ham would be unable to move into the 2012 London Olympic Stadium after the event, which was to be reserved for athletics use.

On 11 December, it was confirmed that Alan Pardew has been sacked from his job as manager of West Ham after a dismal run of results, including a 4-0 loss to Bolton. In the first few days that followed the departure of Pardew it was confirmed that West Ham were in talks with Alan Curbishley, who played for the Hammers between 1975-1979.

Alan Curbishley - The Great Escape
Former West Ham United player and Charlton Athletic manager Alan Curbishley officially took over the vacant West Ham United job on December 13, 2006, just 48 hours after Alan Pardew had been sacked by new chairman Eggert Magnusson. Curbishley had been the odds-on favourite for the West Ham job straight after Pardew's departure, so it came as no surprise that Curbishley was unveiled at a press conference on December 13. Curbishley's managerial CV reads well, as he was manager at local rivals Charlton Athletic for 15 years leading up to May 2006. During that time, he took Charlton from a struggling side languishing in old Second Division to a recognized Premiership side.

Curbishley had been linked with the West Ham job five years earlier, in the summer of 2001 after Harry Redknapp left the club, but decided the time was not right for him and the job went to Glenn Roeder instead. Curbishley made an impressive start with a 1-0 victory over the current Premiership leaders Manchester United, his first ever victory over them in his managerial career, in which he won the game 1-0 with a late 75th minute winner from captain Nigel Reo-Coker.

In January 2007, with West Ham struggling in the bottom three, Curbishly made his first moves in the transfer market as West Ham United manager. His first signing was pacy Portuguese winger Luis Boa Morte from Fulham, soon followed by West Brom's Nigel Quashie. These signings were backed by defensive reinforcements in the form of young Callum Devenport, from Tottenham (who had previously been loaned to West Ham during their Championship years) and Australian captain Lucas Neill from Blackburn Rovers. Neill shunned the chance to sign for Liverpool after reportedly being offered double their proposed wage (£60k/week, compared to £30k - West Ham's highest ever earner). With Carlos Tevez out through injury, along with first choice Dean Ashton still yet to appear this season, Spanish under-21 striker Kepa Blanco was signed on loan from league-leaders Sevilla.

However, recent weeks have seen much improvement in performances and marked strengthening of confidence and self belief in the team. Couple this with crumbling morale at Sheffield United and Fulham and it appears as if the Great Escape is now in the bag.

West Ham have won 6 of their last 8 games, defeating, among others, Blackburn, Everton, Middlesbrough, and Arsenal. With West Ham's recent win over Wigan Athletic, another team struggling for survival, West Ham sure have a battling chance to survive in the Premiership. On May 5, 2007, West Ham United moved out of the relegation zone with a 3-1 win over Bolton and Wigan losing 1-0 to Middlesborough. West Ham currently reside in 17th place in the Premiership, 3 points ahead of Wigan.

Finally, on May 13th, at their last match of the season, West Ham played Manchester United at the Old Trafford. Needing at least a draw to survive in the primeirship, Carlos Tevez sent West Ham ahead 1-0 at the end of the first half injury time (45 + 1"). West Ham were finally victorious, securing a position in 15th, sending Sheffield United tumbling to the second division. After months of suffering, West Ham had survived in the Premiership

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