Founded in 1895 as the Thames Ironworks, the East London club relaunched in 1900 as West Ham United. They reached the first FA Cup final at Wembley, the infamous White Horse Final in 1923, when after some 200,000 spectators had gained access to the stadium, a mounted policeman had to clear people from the pitch so the game could start. The 'Irons' lost that match 2-0 to Bolton, and had to wait until 1964 for their first major domestic trophy, a victory in the same competition.
Playing attractive, passing football under the astute management of Ron Greenwood, the victory heralded the dawn of a golden era for the Hammers. The Upton Park outfit had already been dubbed the Academy Of Football thanks to their outstanding record in spotting and bringing on talented youth, and the youth system bore fruit in spectacular style in the Sixties, with home-grown players such as Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters sweeping all before them.
The trio featured prominently in West Ham's victory in the 1965 European Cup Winners' Cup over TSV 1860 Munchen at Wembley, but it was the following year, 1966, they became football immortals. With Moore, the greatest defender in the world, as captain, Hurst and Peters between them fired in the four goals that swept West Germany aside to win England the World Cup. The trio were instrumental in the 4-2 victory, and indeed it is often said that it was really West Ham who won the World Cup.
Greenwood moved upstairs and it was under new manager John Lyall that the club wrote another chapter in its rich history with an FA Cup victory over Fulham in 1975. Backed by tens of thousands of passionate fans singing the anthem 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles', and led by Hammers legend Billy Bonds, two goals by Alan Taylor brought the trophy back to the Boleyn Ground. It remains the last time that a team of 11 Englishmen has lifted the cup.
The Academy continues to produce a wealth of talent even today; gifted England regulars such as Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Jermain Defoe and Michael Carrick all cut their teeth at Upton Park. Success has eluded the club in recent years, but with Gianfranco Zola making a bright start to his managerial reign, that could be about to change.