7 Of The Best Players to Ever Play for West Ham
West Ham has always been a frustrating club for its fans to support. because it has so little to show in terms of silverware for its great reputation and heritage. This begs the questions as to why it ever gained such a respectful reputation in the first place. One of the reasons is because West Ham United’s story has featured some of football’s most famous figures and this has led to a number of icons emerging in claret and blue.
We will certainly not be mentioning the likes of Kieron Dyer, Titi Camera (yes, that is his first name) and big and very slow Andy Carroll. We will be focusing on the cream of the east end crop, so we will start from 7 and work our way to the best player to ever play for the Hammers. Here we go.
7: Carlos Tevez
It may be debatable as to whether Tevez is worthy of a place on this list, given that he featured just 26 times for West Ham, but his character and ability certainly made him a true West Ham icon.
A move to the biggest clubs in Europe was mooted for the Argentinian international before he was surprisingly transferred to West Ham in one of the most controversial deals of all time. Upon a wave of excitement, Tevez struggled to settle at first, but as the Hammers looked to be sinking into the second tier of English football, his brilliance prevailed.
Tevez scored 7 goals in the last few games of the season to achieve one of the greatest escapes football has ever seen, including a stunning free-kick against Tottenham and a winning goal at Old Trafford on the final day. Although his attitude has been a matter of dispute in recent times, his commitment to West Ham on the pitch was unquestionable.
6: Alan Devonshire
In September 1976 West Ham made one of the best signings in the clubs history. Plucked from non-league Southall for a mere 5,000 pounds, little did we know then what a gem we had bought. Fourteen seasons and over 400 games later Alan Devonshire finally moved on and finished his career with 25 games at Watford. What is astonishing is that he only gained 8 caps for England? One of the most talented players ever to wear the Claret and Blue, his silky and graceful skills were a joy to watch.
He struck up a telepathic relationship in midfield with Trevor Brooking that blessed the glory years that included the FA Cup final win in 1980, the League Cup final defeat a year later and our 3rd placing in the top flight in 1986 – our highest finish in the clubs history. His mazy runs down the left flank will be engraved in fans memories, especially the ones against Arsenal in the Cup Final that led to the only goal of the game and the one that led to his goal against Everton in the preceding semi-final.
5: Billy Bonds
After signing from Charlton as a young full-back, Bonds went on to make a record 793 appearances for the Hammers in a spell at the club stretching over 20 years. Grit and determination is something West Ham supporters have always been fond of, and it is possible that this derives from Bonds.
After Bobby Moore left for Fulham, Bonds’ natural leadership made him the obvious successor to the captain’s armband, and this was an honour he held down for many years to come. His strong and tough nature in midfield enabled the team to cater for the flamboyance of Brooking to provide the creativity which made the dynamics of this West Ham team so effective. Bonds can be compared to the likes of Michael Essien in the modern-day, whose defensive ability is the key to his game and allows the more creative players to flourish. However, Bonds, like Essien, did not operate without the surging runs he became equally famous for and which led to him scoring almost 50 times for West Ham.
To cement his legendary status, Bonds was the club’s manager between 1990 and 1994. He truly resembles the kind of defensive midfielder which has become so popular today.
4: Paolo Di Canio
Di Canio is West Ham’s greatest contemporary icon, resembling the style and skill which has been seen throughout football’s modern age of the Premier League and foreign imports. The Italian was a controversial signing as his eccentric nature, which had previously led to him toppling a referee, made him somewhat of a cult figure in the English game.
However, his skill was undeniable and had been showcased during spells at footballing giants such as Lazio, Juventus and AC Milan. Di Canio’s career at West Ham was a huge success; the passion and emotion which he brought to the team made him a fans’ favourite instantaneously and it appeared he fell in love with the fans just as quickly.
Highlights of Di Canio’s West Ham career include a winner at Old Trafford, the greatest Premier League goal to date and an emotional winner against Chelsea in his last game at Upton Park. There was never a dull moment with Di Canio and many hope that one day he can return as manager.
3: Sir Geoff Hurst
As one of the greatest figures in world football, Sir Geoff Hurst certainly needs no introduction to West Ham United supporters.
While his status as the only man to have scored a hat-trick in a World Cup final earned him global recognition and a deserved knighthood, to Hammers fans he is also the homegrown hero who started life at Upton Park as a hard-working midfielder before becoming the goalscoring spearhead of the Club's greatest era.
A member of both the 1964 FA Cup and 1965 European Cup Winners' Cup-winning sides - before his finest hour a year later completed an unforgettable Wembley trilogy alongside Bobby Moore and Martin Peters - Hurst's crowning as a West Ham United legend was cemented before the age of 25.
After an incredible 249 goals in 503 appearances in the claret and blue, in 1972 he then joined Stoke City, where he continued his prolific form with 30 goals in 108 games during a three-year spell with the Potters.
2: Sir Trevor Brooking
Many good things emerged from West Ham’s golden age in the 1960’s, and Trevor Brooking was certainly one of them. Having graduated through Greenwood’s regime, Brooking was ready to continue the legacy of beautiful football when the stars of the previous era began to leave and retire. Brooking stepped up to become West Ham’s most important player in a similar way to how Cesc Fabregas did when the likes of Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires and Thierry Henry departed.
It is impossible to tell as to whether Brooking’s skill can be compared to the likes of Lionel Messi’s, but his majestic nature was so evident on a playing surface far rougher and muddier than the smooth ground we see today, that it is definitely worth arguing. When the Hammers were relegated, Brooking showed indescribable loyalty by pledging to stay with the team, and he did so for the rest of his career. He has even made a brief comeback as manager on 2 occasions in times of trouble and only lost 1 game. Brooking is certainly the Hammers’ second greatest player.
West Ham United’s greatest ever player: Bobby Moore
There is no doubt that Bobby Moore is West Ham’s, if not English football’s, greatest icon. The image of Moore lofted above the rest of England’s 1966 World Cup winning team at Wembley with the trophy in hand is possibly the most recognisable photo in football history. Moore captained West Ham for more than 10 years and is widely regarded as the best defender who ever lived. Moore gained 108 caps for England and played 544 times for West Ham United and is certainly their most successful player ever having also achieved numerous personal awards such as BBC Sports Personality Of The Year and an O.B.E. You may go as far to say that never again will a West Ham player captain the club to three major trophies, including one in Europe, and lead England to World Cup victory. If you thought David Beckham’s status couldn’t get any greater, imagine if he had led England to a World Cup victory in 2002; that was Bobby Moore, and he did it all with the Hammers on his heart.
If you do not agree with any of my picks and wish to create your own seven of the best hammers players, tweet me @TheFootballHour