On Thursday night, West Ham United will officially begin a new chapter by playing their first ever match at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. While a match against Slovenian outfit NK Domzale might not provide the glamour of Sunday’s headline friendly against Juventus, the Europa Leauge qualifier will signify a huge moment in the club’s history.
But before Slaven Bilic’s men embark and a new and exciting era, let’s look back at Upton Park's most memorable moments and some of the greats that have worn the claret and blue. Here is our run down of eight Hammers heroes:
8. Carlos Tevez
The arrival of Argentine duo of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano on transfer deadline day 2006 left the entire football world, including Hammers boss Alan Pardew, absolutely gobsmacked. A decade later, it is still regarded as one of the most mind-blowing deals in history. For West Ham, it was arguably one of the most important.
Life at Upton Park didn’t start too brightly for either player, which resulted in Mascherano being shipped out to Liverpool in January while Tevez still hadn’t scored heading into March. However, his first goal in England would be one of the Boleyn Ground’s iconic moments as he free-kick sent the relegation-threatened en route to a crucial 4-3 derby day win over fierce rivals Tottenham; following the Man of the Match display, which also included two assists, the bullish Argentinian never looked back.
Tevez was phenomenal throughout the closing weeks, and his goals single-handedly dragged Pardew’s men towards safety. However, the Hammers still needed a result at Old Trafford to retain their top flight status. In what would prove to be his final game for the club, the No.32 scored the game’s only goal to seal one of the division’s most memorable survival stories ever.
Disputes regarding the controversial registration would roll on for years. Most importantly, though, the club’s Hammer of the Year had kept West Ham up. Tevez’s time in east London was brief and, while whispers over a potential return this summer never materialised, he will forever be regarded a club legend.
7. Alan Devonshire
As far as the West Ham faithful are concerned, entertainment is a crucial part of the football experience; through the late 1970s and entire 1980s, winger Alan Devonshire dazzled the Boleyn with an array of mazy dribbles and astute crosses. Quite simply, he was one of the key figures in one of the club’s most decorated periods.
Devonshire racked up over 400 competitive appearances, playing a crucial role in the club’s run to the FA Cup in 1980, scoring in the semi-final replay against Everton before providing Trevor Brooking’s winner in the final.
Those triumphs were followed by a string of impressive displays during the following season’s run to the League Cup final while Devonshire was additionally a key player in the 1985-86 league campaign, which saw the club register it’s all-time highest position of third.
The Boys of ‘86 were one of West Ham’s golden generations, with the likes of Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie offering fans plenty to shout out about. However, Devonshire was arguably the pick of the bunch, and certainly provided the excitement that E13 craved. Combined with his other achievements for the club, his place amongst the West Ham immortals is assured.
6. Geoff Hurst
The provider of England’s greatest hour might be best known for being the only man in history to score a hat-trick in the World Cup final. Around East London, however, Sir Geoff Hurst is remembered for so much more.
Over the course of 13 seasons, the Lancashire-born striker would score 252 competitive goals for West Ham, becoming the club’s leading scoring in the post-WW2 era. Meanwhile, Hurst claimed the coveted Hammer of the Year award on no less than three occasions during his London stay.
As an integral part of the squad which lifted the 1964 FA Cup and 1965 European Cup Winners’ Cup too, Hurst is regarded as one of the very best in Hammers’ history. His likeness was seen by Upton Park visitors on a bi-weekly basis for decades thanks to the iconic Champions sculpture on the corner of Green Street and Barking Road.
The statue has now followed the club to Stratford, but the memories of Hurst scoring goals will forever remain part of Upton Park folklore.
5. Paolo Di Canio
If any player of the Premier League era embraced the West Ham way more than any other, it was Paolo Di Canio. The fiery Italian was as brilliant as he was unpredictable, and the Upton Park crowd loved every single second.
A few eyebrows were raised when, in January 1999, Harry Redknapp signed the man who had last been seen pushing a referee over after being sent off in his final Sheffield Wednesday appearance. But Di Canio would become a West Ham icon over the next three-and-a-half seasons, scoring some of the club’s greatest ever goals; a sublime volley against Wimbledon is still regarded as one of the all-time Premier League classics.
Di Canio was released after the club’s relegation in 2003, but the Italian’s famous chant remained a firm favourite amongst supporters right up until game number 2398. Whatever way you look at, the Italian genius was easily one of the greatest to ever grace the hallowed turf.
Regulars around the turn of the century may even argue that he was the best.
4. Mark Noble
In an era where the game is almost void of player loyalty, Mark Noble is a breath of fresh air; not only for West Ham, but for football as a whole. The Canning Town-born midfielder has progressed from academy star to club captain, amassing over 350 senior appearances for the club he loves. While there’s still plenty of life left in the 29-year-old’s boots, a place in the Hammers history books is assured.
Noble was the last man to lead a team out in front of the Boleyn Ground, and will become the first man to do so in the club’s new stadium on Thursday night too. The two-time Hammer of the Year has built himself a reputation as one of the Premier League’s most reliable forces, with many baffled by the fact the former England U21 man has never been picked for the senior side.
Despite the lack of international recognition, the current skipper’s longevity and passion ensure that Mr Dependable will be regarded as one of the club’s all-time greats. The only thing missing now is a major honour. With the club starting a new and exciting chapter, he might still have time.
If he can lead the Hammers to a trophy, he could yet break the top three.
3. Billy Bonds
For over two decades, Billy Bonds was a colossal for West Ham United. As both a defender and a midfielder, the four-time Hammer of the Year was one of the game’s most reliable forces. Despite missing the entire 1985-86 campaign through injury, his place amongst the club’s greatest is cemented forever.
With 799 appearances to his name, Bonds has donned the famous claret and blue more often than any other player. In fact, he beats second-placed Frank Lampard Snr by over 100 caps. He was already a star by the time he inherited the captaincy from Sir Bobby Moore in 1974, but truly established his place amongst the immortals by leading the club to the two FA Cups and a League Cup final.
Bonds played his final match for the club aged 41, and additionally managed the club between February 1990 and August 1994. The former skipper was also announced as the recipient of West Ham’s first ever Lifetime Achievement award in 2013, and is still regarded by most as one of the club’s most inspirational figures ever.
As long as the club exists, the name Bonds will be synonymous with success. A guaranteed Hammers’ hero.
2. Trevor Brooking
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium pays homage to a number of club legends, but only two have stands named after them. As was the case at Upton Park, Sir Trevor Brooking is one of them. And there could be no better tribute to a genuine West Ham legend.
Since retiring over 30 years ago, Brooking has continued to play an important role in east London. However, it’s the memories of his playing days that maintain his place as one of the club’s all-time greats. The dominant attacking midfielder registered 643 appearances for the club, winning two FA Cups, a European Cup Winners’ Cup and a Second Division title during his 18-year professional career with the club.
The Barking boy was at his peak between 1975-76 and 1977-78, winning three of his record-breaking five Hammer of the Year awards on the bounce. His name officially donned the Boleyn Ground’s North Bank from 2009, and the transfer to Stratford guarantees that it’ll be remembered for generations to come.
Brooking was one of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of boots in the home team dressing room at Upton Park, and he also enjoyed a positive international career with England. But there was one better
1. Bobby Moore
Only a handful of stars transcend the sport to become genuine national icons; as far as England is concerned, Sir Bobby Moore is that player. Last weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the country’s singular triumph on the biggest stage of all, but he wasn’t only a hero for the Three Lions. The gracious defender was also the greatest player to ever wear the claret and blue.
Moore was more than a footballer, and his elegance on the pitch was surpassed only by his character. In West Ham colours, he would skipper the club to its first major domestic honour and only major European success. His reputation as one of the game’s greatest players would also be rewarded with four Hammer of the Year trophies, the 1970 Ballon d’Or runners-up award, and a place in the World Team of the 20th Century selection.
Accolades and silverware distinguish Moore as one of English football’s all-time greats. However, it’s his mastery of defending that stands him apart from the bet. He turned the rugged parts of football into an art form, always appearing to be two steps ahead of the opposing attacker. Furthermore, his assured ability to pick out a pass made him one of the sport’s best distributors too.
Both England and West Ham have moved to new stadiums since his death, but Moore’s contributions to club and country are remembered courtesy of the statues outside each ground. He also joins Brooking as having a stand named after him at the Olympic Park while the No.6 shirt has also been retired in his memory.
There’ll never be another like him.