Bobby Moore is West Ham’s greatest player. He is also England’s, and arguably international football’s, finest ever defender and captain. As such, his place in his club and country’s history must always be honoured. It is only right that his legacy should be central to both the plans for the development of the Olympic Stadium and redevelopment of a vacated Upton Park. That all goes without saying, but still, an outstanding issue for me is how the club can most appropriately remember the other ‘greats’ that have made invaluable contributions to our history.
For instance, what about our first ever England international, Danny Shea; our first striking superstar Syd Puddefoot; or our all time record goal scorer Vic Watson. Similiarly, one could also point to formidible centre half, Big Jim Barrett Snr; central defensive pivot and captain, George Kaye; goal scoring left-winger Jimmy Ruffell; inside-right Stanley Earle; winger, Stan Foxell; tricky forward Johnny Morton; or the last great amateur player, V.W.T Gibbins. What about the claims of that ‘Prince amongst Inside Forwards,’ Len Goulden, a genuine contender for the title of the club’s greatest ever creative midfielder. Then amongst our past goal keepers, there are such great shot stoppers as Ted Hufton, Ernie Gregory, Phil Parkes and Ludo Miklosko. Unquestionably four of the best custodians to appear for any English club.
Nearer our own time, there is the prolific 1957-58 striking partnership of Vic Keeble and John Dick; the exciting attacking full-back partnership of John Bond and Noel Cantwell; the deadly McAvennie-Cottee combination that nearly fired us to the 1st Division title in 1985-86; the rock solid defensive midfielder, Andy Malcolm; and, of course, the skillful and deadly Johnny Byrne. And this leads us to a group of players, who are second only to Bobby Moore in receiving official recognition from the club for their achievements. These include, Sir Geoff Hurst; Martin Peters; Sir Trevor Brooking, Billy Bonds and Paolo Di Canio. While there are others such as Alan Devonshire, Ronnie Boyce, Alvin martin, Ray Stewart, Tony Gale, Julian Dicks, Pop Robson, Graham Paddon and David Cross who arguably deserve more recognition.
Then there is a unique category of player whose contributions to the history of the club are directly linked to a single famous victory. Amongst these are included: Alan Taylor’s goal scoring a feats in winning the1975 FA Cup; Alan Sealey’s famous double in the 1965 ECWC Final; Sam Small’s winning goal in the 1940 War League Cup Final; and Bobby Zamora and Richardo Vaz Te’s, respective, winning goals in the 2005 and 2012 Championship Play-off Finals. Similiarly there needs to be recognition of the ‘international Hammers.’ who have been capped by their countries whilst with the club; as well as the great/best Hammers sides. In this latter category are the 1923 and 2006 FA Cup Finalists; the 1940 League War Cup winners; the 1964, 1975 and 1980 FA Cup winners; the 1965 ECWC winners and 1976 ECWC Finalists; the 1985-86 title challenging side; the 1966 and 1981 League Cup Finalists; the 1957-58 and 1980-81 2nd Division Championship winners; the the 2005 and 2012 Play-off Championship winners.
There must be further recognition of the greatest Hammers managers, principally Ron Greenwood and Johnny Lyall, but also the others based on their achievements. Plus there might also be acknowledgement of influential figures, such as Arnold Hills, Billy Moore. Wally St pier, Tony Carr, Ernie Gregory and Eddie Bailey who have made a unique individual contribution to the club on a number of different levels. What about the famous and original concept of the ‘Academy of Football,’ centred around Malcolm Allison and all those 1950s Hammers players who went on to manage leading clubs and introduce innovative ideas and tactics?
The above summary of the clubs ‘greats’ is by definition personal and subjective. I am sure that every fan will have their own views and will both agree/disagree with my choices and put forward other excellent names for inclusion. That is fair enough, because it is the nature of the exercise. So, what is the best possible way of recognising the contributions of all our ‘greats?’ Well, firstly I would like to float the idea that the club launch a ‘Hammers Hall of Fame’ and a set up nominating body composed of supporters, ex-players and other stakeholders, who would be formally charged with deciding who/what should be inducted. This would be reviewed and names added annually. The ‘Hall of Fame’ can cover the above categories and establish a baseline for the offical recognition of the club greats.There could also be an online website and travelling exhibition, dedicated to the Hall of Fame, to help engage with youngsters/supporters and promote the history of the club in the community.
At the redeveloped Upton Park, each of the residential blocks should be named after most famous Hammers elected to the Hall of Fame. Also the street names could commemorate great Hammers cup victories. At the centre of the re-development should be the proposed Bobby moore statute. But around it could also be installed stone plaques celebrating the most famous Hammers sides to play at Upton Park and their achievements, again nominated by the Hall of Fame.
Finally, the stands of the OS will be presumably named after Hammers greats, but what about the main approach road leading up to the OS being transformed in to an ‘Avenue of Hammers Legends,’ with projected images/display boards celebrating famous players on one side and achievements/events on the other. It may be that this Avenue will need to be in a format which can be disassembled out of season and re-assembled in close season, depending on the existing agreement with the authorities running the OS and Park. Or, alternatively, perhaps it can be left in situ permanently? This ‘Avenue’ will lead up to a re-situated ‘Champions’ statute, which would have pride of place at the main entrance.
Through these mechanisms/proposals the history of the club could be celebrated in its broadest sense, with some of our greatest names honoured. Moreover, it could be used to engage and educate youngsters and the community about their club. To be inducted in to the Hall of Fame would be a great club honour and ensure that our best players are formally recognized. Plus, the beauty of a ‘Hall of Fame’ is that is not closed or exclusively rooted in the distant past, new heroes, perceived greats and future honours can be nominated and added. The ‘Avenue of legends’ would inspire fans before each match and project the history of the club in a very visible and positive way.
I know that following the announcement of the sale and redevelopment of Upton Park, there was to be a call for suggestions about what could be included at the future site. This goes one step further by extending it to the OS and under-pinning it all with the defining concept of an Hall of Fame. It is placed in the public sphere to obtain fellow fans views and perhaps get it considered by the club. I am sure that the proposals could be highly effective and adopted with minmium cost to the club. Perhaps they might even attract commercial sponsorship to fund them?