Tuesday, September 18, 2007

History of Blackburn Rovers F.C.

The early years
The club Blackburn Rovers was the idea of John Lewis and Arthur Constantine during a seventeen-man meeting at the Leger Hotel, Blackburn in November 1875. The club's first secretary was Walter Duckworth, and Lewis was its first treasurer. Many of the initial members were wealthy and well-connected, and this helped the club survive and rise beyond the large number of other local teams around at the time. Blackburn has had a particular strong history of football, Rovers weren't the town's only side in the 19th Century; other rivals included Blackburn Olympic F.C. (1883 winners of the FA Cup) and Blackburn Park Road F.C., among others.

The first match played by Blackburn Rovers took place in Church, Lancashire on 18 December, 1875 -- and was a 1-1 draw. Although the make-up of the team was not recorded it is generally thought to be: Thomas Greenwood (goal), Jack Baldwin, Fred Birtwistle, (full-backs), Arthur Thomas, J. T. Sycelmore (half-backs), Walter Duckworth, John Lewis, Thomas Dean, Arthur Constantine, Harry Greenwood, Richard Birtwistle (forwards), in a 2-2-6 formation.

At the time, the club had no ground of its own and no gate receipts. The only income came from members' subscriptions, which totalled £2 8s 0d during the first season.

During the 1876-77 season, Rovers finally gained a ground of its own by renting a piece of farmland at Oozehead, on the west side of town facing Preston New Road. The ground was little more than a meadow with a pool in the middle that had to be covered with planks and turf when playing, but it did allow the club to collect gate receipts totalling 6s 6d for the season. Occasional games were also played at Pleasington Cricket Ground.

Subsequently Blackburn Rovers rented Alexandra Meadows, the home of the East Lancashire Cricket Club , for their matches. The inaugural game at Alexandra Meadows was played against Partick Thistle, the most prestigious club Rovers had played until then. The result was a 2-1 win for Blackburn, with two goals from Richard Birtwistle.

On 28 September, 1878, Blackburn Rovers became one of 23 clubs to form the Lancashire Football Association. On 1 November, 1879 the club played in the F.A. Cup for the first time, beating the Tyne Association Football Club 5-1. Rovers were eventually put out of the competition in the third round after suffering a heavy 6-0 defeat by Nottingham Forest.

Controversy erupted during 1880 when the club used players not from Blackburn to fill in for unavailable team members — this violated what, at the time, was considered an important principle of the LFA. The situation became worse at the start of the 1881 season when a Darwen player transferred to Blackburn Rovers. The move caused a great deal of bitterness between the clubs and local populations. Accusations of professionalism began to fly, with Darwen accusing Blackburn Rovers of offering the player in question, Fergie Suter, improved terms. However, Suter had initially moved to Darwen from Scotland and given up his trade as stonemason to play for the club. So the professional/amateur divide was already blurred. Nevertheless, subsequent matches between Blackburn Rovers and Darwen were fractious affairs both on and off the pitch. The teams were drawn against each other in the fourth round of the Lancashire Cup, and the clubs refused to agree on a date for the match. As a result the LFA ejected both teams from the competition. This type of controversy would only be resolved five years later in 1885 with the legalisation of professionalism.

During the 1881-82 season, the club continued to rent the facilities at Alexandra Meadows, but began to look towards a move elsewhere. As the leading club in the area, it was felt that Rovers needed its own ground. A ground was leased at Leamington Street and £500 was spent on a new grandstand capable of seating 600-700 spectators. Boards were placed around the pitch to help prevent a repeat of the crowd troubles with Darwen, and a large ornate entrance arch was erected bearing the name of the club and ground.

On 25 March, 1882 the club won through to the final of the F.A. Cup against the Old Etonians. Blackburn Rovers was the first provincial team to reach the final, but the result was a 1-0 defeat by the Old Etonians. There was no repeat of the previous season's success during the 1882-1883 season, when Rovers suffered a bitter defeat 1-0 at the hands of Darwen in the second-round. Local rivals Blackburn Olympic went on to be the first provincial team to actually win the F.A. Cup. Rovers finally won the F.A. Cup on 29 March 1884 at the Kennington Oval, with a 2-1 victory over the Scottish team Queen's Park F.C. Had it not been for this cup success the club would have folded leaving Blackburn Olympic the primary team in Blackburn. The same teams played the F.A. Cup final again the next season, with Blackburn Rovers again emerging victorious, with a 2-0 score. Rovers repeated this success yet again the next season, winning the final against West Bromwich Albion. For this three-in-a-row of F.A. Cup victories, the club was awarded a specially commissioned silver shield and given the unique privilege of displaying the club crest on its corner flags.

The 1885-86 season was the birth of the legal professional footballer, and Blackburn Rovers spent £615 on player wages for the season. Despite the new professionalism, it was a disappointing season for the club — an unusually high number of defeats would culminate in Rovers losing its three-year grip on the F.A. Cup when it lost 2-0 in the second round to the Scottish club Renton on 4 December 1886 at the Leamington Street ground. Further defeats followed in the other major cups that season.

The Football League and Ewood Park
On 2 March 1888, William McGregor, a Birmingham shopkeeper and a committee member of Aston Villa Football Club, sent a letter to five clubs — Blackburn Rovers among them — suggesting that twelve of the leading clubs should organise a series of home and away matches between themselves. With the introduction of professional players, it seemed natural that better organisation should be brought to the complex and chaotic system of friendly and competitive matches prevalent at the time. On 22 March 1888 John Birtwistle represented Blackburn Rovers at a meeting of a number of clubs at the Anderton Hotel in London. This meeting, and subsequent ones, led to the creation of the Football League, with Blackburn Rovers as part of it. Rovers finished the inaugural season of the league in fourth place, and unbeaten at home.

Blackburn Rovers again reached the F.A. Cup final on 29 March 1890 at the Kennington Oval. The club claimed the trophy, for the fourth time, by beating Sheffield Wednesday a hefty 6-1 — with left forward William Townley scoring three goals and becoming the first player to achieve a hat-trick in the F.A. Cup final. The summer of 1890 brought yet another significant event in the history of Blackburn Rovers with the decision to move again. The choice of new home was Ewood Park, and it remained the club's home for the next century or more.

Ewood Park was built in 1882, the idea of four local businessmen, and it had hosted a number of sporting events. In 1890 Blackburn Rovers purchased the ground and spent a further £1000 on refurbishments to bring it up to standard. The first match was played on 13 September 1890 against Accrington, with a 0-0 draw result.

The 1890-1891 season saw Blackburn Rovers win the F.A. Cup for fifth time against Notts County F.C. with a 3-1 victory — but this success marked beginning of a downturn in the fortunes of the club, and a long lean period would follow. During the 1896-1897 season the club stayed in the first division only as the result of a decision to increase the number of teams. The season did, however, mark the beginning of Bob Crompton's 50-year association with the club, both as a player and eventually as an F.A. Cup winning manager.

The final years of the 19th century brought little success for Blackburn Rovers and several narrow escapes from relegation.

Early 20th century
Blackburn Rovers continued to struggle during the early years of the 20th century, but the results began a gradual improvement. Major renovations were made to Ewood Park: in 1905 the Darwen End was covered at a cost of £1680 and the new Nuttall Stand was opened on New Year's Day 1907. During the first three decades of the 20th century, Blackburn Rovers were still considered a top side in the English league. They were league champions in 1912 and 1914, and F.A Cup winners in 1928, but the F.A Cup win was their last major trophy for nearly 70 years.

Mid 20th century
Blackburn Rovers maintained a respectable mid-table position in the First Division until they were finally relegated from the top flight (for the first time since the foundation of the league) in the 1935-36 season. They struggled in the second division for the next two seasons, until winning the Second Division title in the final season before the war.

When the league resumed after the war, Blackburn Rovers were relegated in their second season (1947-48) and remained in the second division for the following ten years. After promotion in 1958, they again returned to the mid-table position they had occupied in the earlier part of the century. During this time, they seldom made a serious challenge for a major trophy - although they did reach the 1960 FA Cup final, losing 3-0 to Wolverhampton after playing most of the game with only 10 men on the field, having lost full back Dave Whelan to a broken leg, the game being played in the days before substitutes were allowed. During the 1960s Blackburn Rovers had several players who made it into national teams. They were again relegated from the First Division in 1966 and began a 26-year exile from the top division.

1970s and 1980s: More frustration
During the 1970s, Blackburn Rovers bounced between the Second and Third Divisions, winning the Third Division title in 1975, but never mounted a challenge for promotion to the First Division despite the efforts of successive managers to put the club back on track. They went up as runners up in the Third Division in 1980 and have remained in the upper two tiers of the English league ever since. In 1988-89 they mounted their first serious promotion challenge for many years, and reached the Second Division playoff final in its last-ever season of the home-away two-legged format - but lost to Crystal Palace. A defeat in the 1989-90 Second Division playoff semi-finals brought more frustration to Ewood Park, but the following season saw the club taken over by local steelworks owner and lifelong supporter Jack Walker (1929-2000).

1990s: The Jack Walker revolution

Back at the top (1991-1994)
Jack Walker's takeover was too late to save Blackburn from finishing a dismal 19th in the Second Division at the end of the 1990-91 season, but the new owner had made millions of pounds available to spend on new players. Blackburn began the 1991-92 season with Don Mackay still manager, but he was soon sacked to make way for Kenny Dalglish - who had resigned as Liverpool manager some months earlier, after a six-year spell in charge had yielded five major trophies. Dalglish made several substantial signings during the season. After his appointment Rovers climbed the league, eventually opening up a significant gap at the top of the table. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Rovers would win the Second Division title, but an unexpected twist followed. Rovers lost six games in a row, causing them to fall out of the play-off places, but Rovers fought back and a 3-1 victory at Plymouth got Rovers to the final play off place. The club had got to the play-offs three times previously without success. The semi-final was against Derby County but Blackburn got off to a bad start as Derby went into a two nil lead. Blackburn recovered strongly in the second half to win 4-2. A 2-1 Derby win in the second leg couldn't stop Blackburn reaching the play-off final at Wembley where they beat Leicester City 1-0 thanks to a Mike Newell penalty. Newell, a former Leicester striker, had missed most of the 1991-92 season due to a broken leg, but his stylish comeback was enough to book Blackburn's place in the new Premier League for 1992-93 - ending 26 years outside the top flight.

Blackburn made headlines in the summer of 1992 by paying an English record fee of £3.5million for the 22-year-old Southampton and England centre forward Alan Shearer. Other expensive signings during the 1992-93 season included Chelsea defender Graeme Le Saux, Middlesbrough winger Stuart Ripley and Coventry striker Kevin Gallacher. An impressive Blackburn side remained in the title challenge for most of the season before finishing fourth in the final table, that season not quite enough for UEFA Cup place. Still, it was a remarkable comeback in the top flight after an absence of almost 30 years. Leeds midfielder David Batty and Southampton goalkeeper Tim Flowers were two key signings who helped Blackburn progress in 1993-94 and finish Premiership runners-up to arch rivals Manchester United. Blackburn broke the English transfer fee record again a few weeks later when paying Norwich City £5million for 21-year-old striker Chris Sutton. Sutton's prolific striking partnership with Alan Shearer would be dubbed the "SAS", a pun on "Sutton and Shearer" and the elite British special forces unit the SAS.

Premiership Champions (1994-1995)
Early exits from the UEFA Cup, F.A Cup and League Cup were frustrating for Blackburn in 1994-95, but turned out for the best as they could concentrate on the league and the challenge with arch rivals Manchester United for the Premiership title. During the season Blackburn suffered 2 highly controversial defeats to Manchester United. Firstly Henning Berg was wrongly sent off at Ewood Park with Blackburn leading 1-0 as TV replays clearly showed he had won the ball from Lee Sharpe, with Eric Cantona equalising with the resulting penalty and Manchester United going on to win 4-2, and secondly an equaliser from captain Tim Sherwood was disallowed controversially at Old Trafford when Alan Shearer was ruled to have fouled Roy Keane in the build up, with United taking the game 1-0. Blackburn led for most of the season but a 2-1 defeat at Dalglish's old club Liverpool on the final day of the season looked to have blown the club's dreams to pieces. But the news came through that their arch rivals Manchester United could only manage a 1-1 draw at West Ham United and the league title was back at Blackburn Rovers for the first time since 1914. Jack Walker's dream had come true: within five years of buying the club, he had taken them from strugglers in the old Second Division to champions of the Premier League.

Ray Harford era (1995-1997)
Kenny Dalglish moved upstairs to the position of Director of Football at the end of the championship season, and handed over the reins to his assistant Ray Harford (1945-2003).

Blackburn made a poor start to the 1995-96 season, and found themselves in the bottom half for most of the first half of the season. Rovers also struggled in the Champions League and finished bottom of their group with just 4 points. A 7-0 victory over Nottingham Forest on the day of the official opening of the redeveloped Ewood Park and a 4-1 win over Rosenborg (including a 9 minute Mike Newell hattrick) were two highlights of an otherwise disappointing season. Alan Shearer was instrumental again, becoming the first striker to score more than 30 Premiership goals in three successive season. Blackburn improved as the season went on, finishing seventh in the Premiership and narrowly missing out on a UEFA Cup place. Shearer was sold to hometown club Newcastle United for a then world record fee of £15million in the summer of 1996, and Blackburn were unable to find a suitable replacement.

A terrible start to the 1996-97 Premiership campaign saw Harford resign in late October with the club bottom of the division, having failed to win any of their first ten games. Relegation looked a real possibility, just two seasons after winning the league. But caretaker manager Tony Parkes turned the club's fortunes around and they eventually finished in a secure 13th place in the final table.

On 16 December 1996 with Rovers hovering above the relegation zone, it was announced at an Ewood Park press conference that Sven-Göran Eriksson had signed an "unconditional contract" with Rovers to take over as manager at the end of the season on 1 July 1997 when his contract with Italian Serie A club U.C. Sampdoria expired. The Swede had already visited Ewood Park and the club training facilities at Brockhall as well as sending representatives to watch Rovers' Premiership clashes on his behalf.
I am pleased and honoured to be coming to Blackburn Rovers next July but I am not in a position to give interviews about the next club I will be working with. I can only comment on the club I am currently employed by and that, of course, is Sampdoria.

The signing of such a high-profile manager (Eriksson had won the UEFA Cup, Portuguese Championship and Coppa Italia with previous clubs) was seen as a coup for Rovers. "We set out our stall to bring in a top man with experience of football on the continent if possible and we believe we have done just that" commented club chairman Robert Coar, "Sven's reputation is widely acknowledged across Europe and it is a major coup for him to agree to come to Blackburn from Serie A in Italy".

It was hoped that the signing of Eriksson would usher in a new era of success after the continuing difficulties following Ray Harford's disappointing tenure as manager. "Not only do I want us to be a top club in this country, I want European football to be the norm for us", said club owner Jack Walker. "If we get support as high as we want it and the public back us in every way they can then we could even consider the Walkersteel Stand".

Eriksson's move to Lancashire would not come to fruition, however. The Swede later opted to stay in Italy to enable him to spend time with his children following a divorce. He would instead go on to join Lazio in 1997, with whom he would later win the Italian Championship and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

Downfall (1997-1999)
Roy Hodgson was named as Blackburn's new manager in the summer of 1997, and appeared to have had a positive effect on the club as they qualified for the UEFA Cup at the end of his first season in charge. Indeed, Blackburn were one of the league's most entertaining sides, scoring 57 goals in 38 games, including 7 in one game against Sheffield Wednesday at Ewood Park. Chris Sutton and Kevin Gallacher led a prolific attack, and were able to help the team overcome the disappointing form of new signing Martin Dahlin. But Hodgson was sacked the following December with Rovers struggling near the foot of the Premiership, with key players injured for long periods and new signings struggling to settle. The £7.5m signing of young Southampton striker Kevin Davies was a disaster, with Davies only netting once in 24 games. Brian Kidd, the hugely successful Manchester United assistant manager, was named as his replacement but was unable to stave off relegation and their fate was confirmed in the penultimate game of the season - they drew 0-0 at home to Kidd's old club and did United a favour in their treble glory. Blackburn became the first (and so far, only) modern day former Premier League champions to be relegated.

The new millennium

Fighting for a comeback
1999-00 was a difficult season for Blackburn, who began the season as promotion favourites. Brian Kidd was sacked in October with the club hovering just above the Division One relegation zone, and first-team coach Tony Parkes was named caretaker manager once again. Parkes was eventually given the job on full-time time basis until the end of the season, but only remained in charge until March when the club appointed Graeme Souness as their new manager. Jack Walker died just after the start of the 2000-01 season, and the club dedicated its promotion challenge in memory of their benefactor. Promotion was achieved at the end of 2000-01, as Division One runners-up, behind Fulham F.C. Blackburn relied on the form of their young stars Matt Jansen, Damien Duff and David Dunn. They returned to the Premiership with a strong team and hopes of returning to their best.

Cup glory and European adventures
In 2001-02, the club marked their first season back in the Premiership with a tenth-place finish and their record signing, an £8m swoop for Manchester United's Andy Cole. More significantly, Blackburn won their first-ever League Cup by beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff - where Cole proved his worth by scoring the winning goal in the 69th minute after Matt Jansen had put Blackburn in front. Blackburn's progress under Souness continued in 2002-03 when they finished sixth on the last day, with a 4-0 win away at Tottenham, to qualify for the UEFA Cup for the second season running. During this time they signed a number of high profile players, such as Hakan Sukur and Dwight Yorke, proving they were a big club once again.

Souness's job was put on the line by a disappointing 15th-place finish in 2003-04, which saw the club go through an awful sequence of results and left the club needing a late turnaround, inspired by little known striker Jonathan Stead, to avoid relegation back to the English first division. Souness left just after the start of the following season to take charge at Newcastle. Rovers appointed Welsh national coach Mark Hughes as his successor, a key player in the club's promotion and League Cup successes a few seasons earlier. Hughes secured Blackburn's Premiership survival for the 2004-05 season as well as an FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, with Rovers finishing 15th once again, with Hughes's arrival coinciding with the team becoming one of the most solid teams in the league, thanks to astute signings such as Ryan Nelsen and Aaron Mokoena, and good motivational skills. He was able to strengthen the setup for 2005-06 with the £3.2 million transfer of much sought-after Wales international striker Craig Bellamy from Newcastle United.

Return to Europe
Following a 1-0 victory over league champions Chelsea F.C., Blackburn secured the 6th place in the league and a spot in the UEFA Cup for the 2006-07 season - their third European qualification in five years, and their sixth foray into Europe since 1994. Striker Craig Bellamy repaid the faith shown in him by Hughes, as he scored 17 goals, 13 in the league in only 22 starts, including vital goals in the 3-2 wins over Middlesbrough and the 2-2 draw at Portsmouth. Morten Gamst Pedersen, who was signed by Graeme Souness but nurtured by Hughes to become a star, shined and attracted interest from a number of big teams for his performances and set pieces, including his two goals that won the game in a historic 2-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

After qualifying for Europe, Blackburn signed South African striker Benni McCarthy from Porto as a replacement for the departed Craig Bellamy. Blackburn suffered a disappointing start to the season with just one point picked up from a possible nine. On 25 August 2006 the UEFA Cup draw pitted Blackburn against Red Bull Salzburg. The return leg saw Blackburn advance to the next round, courtesy of a 2-0 victory (a 4-2 aggregate win) with a goal from McCarthy and a spectacular 30-yard volley from David Bentley. Blackburn were then drawn into Group E of the UEFA Cup group stages alongside Wisla Krakow, FC Basel, Feyenoord Rotterdam, and AS Nancy. Blackburn finished top of their group and were drawn against Bayer Leverkusen; they suffered a narrow 3-2 defeat in the first leg of their tie against Bayer Leverkusen, but a 0-0 draw in the second leg saw them bow out of the competition.

The club was busy during in the January transfer window, signing David Dunn, Stephen Warnock, Christopher Samba and Bruno Berner. Leaving the squad were Dominic Matteo, Andy Taylor (loan), Joe Garner (loan), Lucas Neill and Jay McEveley. In cup competitions, Blackburn were knocked out of the Carling Cup in the Third Round, after a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea on 25 October 2006. They defeated Everton, Luton, Arsenal (after replay) and Manchester City in the FA Cup. Thereafter, they faced Chelsea for a place in the final. The semi-final was a tight affair, with Rovers missing a number of good chances to win in the second half. The team eventually went down 2-1 when Michael Ballack scored Chelsea's winner in extra time.

Rovers finished the season 10th in the league, with McCarthy netting 18 league goals. The club also qualified for the Intertoto Cup and drew Lithuanian side FK Vetra of Vilnius.

To prepare for the 2007-08 season Blackburn invested in three new players, signing Roque Santa Cruz, Maceo Rigters and Gunnar Nielsen.

On 22 July, Blackburn travelled to Vilnius and defeated Vetra 0-2 in the first leg of the tie, goals coming courtesy of Benni McCarthy and Matt Derbyshire. Blackburn won the second leg 4-0.

On 11 August, in their first Premiership game of the season they defeated Middlesbrough 2-1, coming from 1-0 down thanks to goals by Roque Santa Cruz and Matt Derbyshire.

On 16 August, Blackburn won 1-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Cup Second Qualifying Round tie away against MyPa, thanks to another goal by Santa Cruz.

On 19 August, in their first home League game of the season, they gained a 1-1 draw against Arsenal in a very heated match, with 4 yellow cards given to Arsenal players and 3 to Blackburn. Ryan Nelsen was also shown a red card in the latter stages, after picking up his second booking. David Dunn scored his first goal on his Rovers return thanks to sloppy goalkeeping by Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. Robin Van Persie had put Arsenal in front, also due to sloppy goalkeeping, this time from Rovers goalkeeper Brad Friedel. On 8 September David Bentley became the first Rovers player to represent England for five years, with a subsitute appearence against Israel.

History of Everton F.C.

1878 the club was founded
St. Domingo Methodist Church's new chapel was opened in 1871 and six years later, Rev B.S. Chambers was appointed Minister. He was responsible for starting a cricket team for the youngsters in the parish. Because cricket can only be played in the summer, they had to find something to play during the other seasons as well. So a football club called St. Domingo F.C. was formed in 1878.

Many people outside the parish were interested in joining the football club so it was decided that the name should be changed. In November 1879 at a meeting in the Queen's Head Hotel, the team name was changed to Everton Football Club, after the surrounding area.[1] Barker and Dobson, a local sweet manufacturer introduced "Everton Mints" to honour the club. The district is also the location of the team's crest image, an old bridewell known as Prince Rupert's Tower.

Founder members of the Football League, they lost two FA Cup finals, 1-0 against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Fallowfield Stadium on March 26, 1893 and 3-2 against Aston Villa at Crystal Palace on April 10, 1897 before winning at their third attempt on April 20, 1906 again against Newcastle United at Crystal Palace. Their second successive final on April 20, 1907, however, finished in a 2-1 defeat by Sheffield Wednesday.

Interwar years: Dean and co.
Quite simply, "Dixie" Dean was one of the greatest scoring machines that the English game has seen. After averaging a goal a game for Tranmere Rovers, prolific striker Dean was lured across the River Mersey to play for Everton. In his first season for the Toffees, the 1925-26 season, Dean netted 32 league goals in 38 games (getting his first two on his debut), scored 21 in 27 the next year, and made history in 1927-28: in a seasonal performance that is unlikely to ever be bettered, Dean hit 60 league goals in 39 matches, setting a record that has stood ever since and almost single-handedly giving Everton the league title.

In a turn of events that seems unbelievable today, Everton were relegated into the second division two years later. Predictably, Dean was on top form in the secondary league, hitting 39 goals in 37 games and lifting the Toffees to promotion at the first time of asking. The following season, Dean hit 45 goals and Everton regained the league title. In 1933, they won the FA Cup, Dean becoming Everton's first ever number 9 in the 3-0 final win against Manchester City. The number 9 would become synonymous with commanding and high-scoring strikers at domestic and international level football, something Dean embodied.

The nickname "Dixie" has ambiguous origins, but it is thought that it was given to Dean because his curly hairstyle was similar to that sported by many people of African ethnicity, popularly nicknamed "dixies" at the time. Dean is said to have disliked but reluctantly accepted the tag. He played his last match for Everton on 11 December 1937 and died at a Merseyside derby at Goodison in 1980, leaving behind a legacy of 383 goals in 433 matches overall.

In the 1938-39 season Everton with Joe Mercer, the classy T.G. Jones and Tommy Lawton won the Football League Championship again. Lawton scored 34 goals in this season at the age of 19. Sadly the outbreak of World War II interrupted the careers of this team for six years which otherwise might have dominated for several years.

The 1940s/50s: The barren years
Although the nineties have been regarded as a poor decade, this era was worse. The great pre-war team were quickly split up in 1946. Tommy Lawton was restless and joined Chelsea, Joe Mercer disagreed with the manager Theo Kelly and was sold to Arsenal, and they tried to sell T.G. Jones to A.S. Roma. Soon only Ted Sagar was left.

Under the management of the uninspired and under-financed Cliff Britton, Everton were relegated after the 1950-51 season for only the second time in their history to the Second Division. This time it took three seasons before Everton were promoted in 1954 as the runners-up. The final match of the season decided promotion when the Everton beat Oldham away 4-0.

The era nevertheless had some notable players such as Dave Hickson and Bobby Collins. Memorable matches included ending Manchester United's long unbeaten run at Old Trafford with a 5-2 win in 1956.

Harry Catterick's Era (1961-1974)
The 1960s is regarded by many fans as the golden era of Everton Football Club. After the barren period of the 1950s, Harry Catterick took charge of the Everton in 1961. The team were soon to be dubbed the "School of Science" after their methodical approach in the tradition of the Everton team in the 1920s who were first given this name. Their football was inventive and flowing similar to Tottenham's "Push and Run" style. In Catterick's first full season as manager Everton conceded fewer goals than any other team and finished fourth.

The following season, the Toffees lost just six of their 42 matches and took the title, with the striking partnership of Roy Vernon and Alex Young scoring 46 goals between them (the last time two Everton players have scored more than 20 goals each in one season). Other notable players included Billy Bingham, Jimmy Gabriel, Derek Temple, Bobby Collins and Brian Labone.

In 1966, the same year the English international team won the World Cup, Everton took home the FA Cup after overturning a two-goal deficit against Sheffield Wednesday in the final to win 3-2. Everton went on to reach the 1968 final, but were unable to overcome West Bromwich Albion at Wembley.

A year later in the 1969/70 season, Everton won the Championship again thanks in part to the scoring sensation of one Joe Royle, who would later manage the club to FA Cup success in 1995. The success of the team could be seen from the number of points won (one short of the record) and nine clear of Leeds United. The team won the league in style, playing what was virtually a form of Total Football orchestrated by the "Holy Trinity" midfield of Howard Kendall, Alan Ball and Colin Harvey. With Labone at centre-half and club captain and Royle up front, this is regarded by many fans as the club's finest side ever.

Harry Catterick's team of 1969/70 seemed destined for greatness but declined quickly. The team finished 14th, 15th, 17th and 7th in the following seasons. The stress of an under-performing team was said to be a factor in Harry Catterick's poor health and eventual resignation in 1974.

Mid/late 70s - Billy Bingham and Gordon Lee (1974-1981)
Everton were on course to win the Championship in the 1974/75 season under Billy Bingham (some bookmakers had even stopped taking bets at Easter) but some surprising losses to lowly opposition ended the challenge and they finished 4th. After two relatively poor seasons (11th and 9th), Bingham left in 1977. During the interregnum, Everton reached the League Cup final in 1977 losing late in extra time of the second replay. Bob Latchford scored 30 league goals in the 1977-78 season.

Under Gordon Lee Everton finished third in 1977/78 and fourth in 1978/79 after again looking title contenders for much of these seasons, but expectations were high given the success of Liverpool and so Lee departed in 1981 - by which time Everton had suffered another setback and narrowly avoided relegation to the Second Division.

80s - Kendall's glory years (1981-1993)
Everton emerged as strong contenders in the 1980s as one of Europe's top footballing sides thanks to the efforts of manager Howard Kendall and his impressive, though cheap, playing squad which included the likes of Neville Southall, Gary Stevens, Trevor Steven, Kevin Sheedy, Andy Gray and Peter Reid. Gary Lineker also graced Goodison for a season and hit 40 goals in all before moving on to Barcelona in 1986.

Domestically, Everton won the FA Cup in 1984 and league title in 1985 and another league title in 1987. They were also league title/FA Cup runners-up to neighbouring Liverpool in 1986 and were again on the losing side to Liverpool in the 1984 League Cup final and the 1989 FA Cup final.

Significantly, European success at last reached Goodison in 1985 in the shape of the European Cup Winners' Cup. After going through two-legged rounds against University College Dublin, Inter Bratislava and Fortuna Sittard, Everton defeated German giants Bayern Munich 3-1 in the semi-finals despite trailing at half time (in a match voted the greatest in Goodison Park history) and recorded the same scoreline against Austrian club Rapid Vienna in the final.

1985 was the year in which Everton almost recorded the "treble". They managed to capture the league title and the Cup Winners' Cup but were defeated by Manchester United in the FA Cup Final thanks to Norman Whiteside's extra-time goal. Nevertheless, it was arguably the club's most successful season since its creation and has not been equalled by future Everton teams since.

Fans contend that the 1980s Everton team could have gone on to win even more European silverware after their 1985 Cup Winners' Cup success were it not for the banning of all English clubs from continental competitions by UEFA after the Heysel Stadium disaster (involving, in dark irony, Liverpool fans). Indeed, a large proportion of the title winning side was broken up following the ban. By the time the ban was lifted, Everton were no longer the team they were in 1985.

Kendall left in 1987 to hand over the reins to assistant Colin Harvey. They finished fourth in 1988 and were F.A Cup runners-up a year later.

90s Harvey, Walker, Royle and Kendall's return (1993-1997)
Harvey was eventually sacked on 1 November 1990 with Everton third from bottom in the league. During his time in charge, Harvey made Tony Cottee the first £2million player to be transferred between British clubs when he signed the 23-year-old striker from West Ham at the start of the 1988-89 season.

By the time of the Premier League's creation in 1992, Everton were no longer one of England's top footballing sides but as a club were considered one of the "big five" and were instrumental in the formation of the breakway league. Although Howard Kendall had returned as manager in November 1990, league performance was underwhelming and the first Premiership season brought an unremarkable 13th place finish which put them below much less established teams such as Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City, and Wimbledon.

Kendall quit as manager halfway through 1993-94 and was replaced by Norwich City's Mike Walker who had done an impressive job with the Canaries and made several expensive new signings in a bid to drag Everton clear of the relegation battle they now found themselves in. They went into the final game of the season needing to beat Wimbledon in order to stay up, and all hope seemed lost when they went 2-0 down in the first half. But Everton pulled off a remarkable comeback to win 3-2 and stay up.

A dreadful start to the 1994-95 season saw Walker sacked after less than a year in charge, and Everton legend Joe Royle was appointed in his place - faced with the task of achieving Premiership survival for a side who had failed to win any of their first 12 league games. His first game in charge was a memorable 2-0 victory over Liverpool. Royle dragged Everton clear of relegation and also led the club to the FA Cup for the fifth time in history, defeating Manchester United 1-0 in the final. The cup triumph was also Everton's passport to the Cup Winners Cup - their first European campaign in the post-Heysel era. Progress under Joe Royle continued in 1995-96 as they climbed to sixth place in the Premiership and were only pipped to a UEFA Cup place on the final day of the season by Arsenal. Injury problems and the sale of star Ukrainian winger Andrei Kanchelskis meant that after a promising start 1996-97 was a tough season for the blues as they slid to a 15th place finish. Royle quit in March and club captain Dave Watson was given the manager's job on a temporary basis and completed the task of Premiership survival.

Howard Kendall was appointed Everton manager for the third time during the summer of 1997, but his final reign at the helm was his least successful. With little financial backing Kendall's main concern was fighting off relegation. Everton went into the final day of the season in the Premiership's relegation places. In the end, to the immense relief of the capacity Goodison Park crowd, a 1-1 draw with Coventry City meant they finished 17th and avoided relegation because they had a greater goal difference than Bolton Wanderers. Kendall resigned soon afterwards, with the heady heights of his first spell in charge a very distant memory.

Recent years - Smith and Moyes (Since 1998)
Successful former Rangers manager Walter Smith took over from Kendall in the summer of 1998 and big things were expected along with some high profile signings but his first season brought an unremarkable 14th place finish. His chances of success were hampered by continuing financial constraints which had also contributed to the club's decline in previous years. 1999-2000 brought an unimpressive 13th place finish and Smith came under increased pressure after Everton finished 16th the following season.

The Everton board finally ran out of patience with Smith and he was sacked in March 2002 with Everton in real danger of relegation. The Smith years have come to be regarded by Everton fans as a particularly bleak period in the clubs history, with particular disdain being reserved for the unattractive style of play of the team during this period. The board turned to promising young Preston manager David Moyes with the task of moving Everton forward after years of underachievement. Moyes seemed to have made a positive impact on Everton during his first full season in charge, as they finished seventh in the Premiership and just missed out on a UEFA Cup place, in a season which was dominated by the emergence of brilliant young striker Wayne Rooney. In October 2002, he entered football folklore by scoring a sensational last-minute winner against league champions Arsenal, consigning them to their first league defeat for almost a year. He also became the youngest ever player to play for England, in February 2003 and seven months later became the youngest England goalscorer. The former record was beaten by Theo Walcott in 2006 although Rooney's first impression greatly outshone that of Walcott.

Everton suffered a major setback in 2003-04, finishing 17th and accumulating the lowest points total in the club's history. It was feared that the club's half-century stay in the top level of English football could be over when Rooney handed in a transfer request and was sold to Manchester United in August 2004 for a fee of £23million providing Wayne Rooney remained a Manchester United player until 30 June 2007 and could have potentially risen to £30million due to bonus payments for league positions, trophies, international caps and 25% excess sell on fees. [2].

However, Everton's now-diminutive squad pulled together in the 2004-05 season, thanks greatly to the 4-5-1 tactic of Moyes and the sensational form of Danish midfielder Thomas Gravesen. Despite Gravesen's sale to Real Madrid midway through the season, Everton managed to finish fourth in the table, their highest position for nearly twenty years, and achieve Champions League qualification, ahead of rivals Liverpool. In this amazing season, Everton also recorded their first victory of the new millennium over Liverpool and their first win over Manchester United since the 1995 FA Cup final.

Everton started the 2005-06 season badly, with their Champions League campaign ending in the qualifying stages. They were defeated by Villarreal, after a controversial decision by Italian referee Pierluigi Collina to disallow a seemingly legitimate Everton goal late in the second leg when the score was 3-2. This disheartening defeat had a knock-on effect and the team's form slumped with a humiliating UEFA Cup exit at the hands of Dinamo Bucharest along the way. Poor decisions in the transfer market by Moyes, most notably the signing of Per Krøldrup with many predicting he 'couldn't cut it' in the Barclays Premiership and the failure to find a strike partner for James Beattie also took their toll on a season that began with much promise.

After flailing in the relegation zone up to October 2005, Everton stopped Chelsea's nine match winning run with a 1-1 draw to spark a short revival that saw the team finally start to get regular results to put much needed points on the board. However, this was followed by another dismal run including several 4-0 defeats to sides in the bottom half of the table and a one sided derby match. A 1-0 win at Sunderland on New Year's Eve started a run of five straight Premiership wins and six matches unbeaten including victory against Arsenal- the club's best run of results since the Premiership began which hauled the team away from the relegation zone, and made a top half finish or even Europe a real possibility. This was not to be as the team remained as inconsistent as ever and a disappointing draw on the last day meant an 11th place finish instead of moving into the top half. Inconsistency and a shortage of goals let Everton down in 2005-06.

Everton began the 2006-07 season very strongly. A 2-0 away win at Tottenham, their first league win at White Hart Lane in twenty years, followed by a 3-0 drubbing of Merseyside rivals Liverpool brought great expectations from fans. New signing from Crystal Palace Andrew Johnson took centre stage having scored six goals in his opening seven games. Aside from some lapses in the first half of the season (including a run of 6 defeats in 9 league and cup games), Everton's season proved steady, and after only 2 defeats in their final 11 league games were able to end the season in 6th place, thereby qualifying for the following seasons UEFA Cup competition.

During the summer of 2007, the club announced an exciting new adventure with the addition of a professional basketball team, called the Everton Tigers, to the Community programme[3]. An amalgam with the local Toxteth Tigers community team, the professional team were entered into the top-tier professional British Basketball League as one of three expansion franchises for the 2007-08 season, and the first participant from the city of Liverpool. The club agreed a deal with Greenbank Sports Centre to act as the clubs' home venue for their inaugural season.

Back on the footballing side, the 2007/2008 season started with Everton acquiring 3 new players - Phil Jagielka from relegated Sheffield United, Leighton Baines from Wigan Athletic and Steven Pienaar acquired from Borussia Dortmund on loan. By the 4th game of the season they had bolstered their ranks further with the addition of Yakubu Aiyegbeni in a club record signing from Middlesbrough F.C. for 11.25 million pounds while Thomas Gravesen was recruited on loan from Celtic F.C. just before the transfer deadline.

Everton started the season in impressive form, reaching 3rd position in the league by mid-September.

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