West Ham is one of the few Premier League clubs that have focused on nurturing and creating players rather than on buying ready-made footballers. There aren’t too many such clubs in other European leagues. Benfica and Ajax run renowned football academies and shape young players into professionals. Barcelona has a famous academy but also buys a lot of talent.
But West Ham is something else – players who come out of the WH Academy of Football – remain Hammers no matter where they play afterward.
One of the longest-lasting careers at Upton Park (and London Stadium) was that of Mark Noble. This central midfielder spent eighteen years under the maroon-blue-yellow banner (2004-2022), having scored 56 goals and remained one of the club’s most memorable personalities. When he closed the playing chapter of his career in football, he stayed loyal to East London and became the sports director.
If you had placed a bet in 2004 that he’d be a one-club guy throughout his career, you’d make a nice stash of cash up to now. Although he’s not currently playing, it’s still not too late to make guesses on the current and future Hammers. According to the sports betting sites featured on an updated list for UK players, they have odds of 7/4 for their upcoming game against Nottingham Forest (8/5), but are currently attracting odds of around 5000/1 to win the title outright this season – so it’s safer to keep an eye on the odds for individual matches and players instead!
Even avid football fans might not know that there are two Franks surnamed Lampard. The younger generations know Frank Lampard Junior, who started his career in West Ham (1995-2001) but skyrocketed as a member of the terrific Chelsea squad throughout the 2000s.
Only those seasoned lovers of British football remember Frank Lampard Senior and his domination in the 1970s and early 1980s – played on the Boleyn Ground from 1967 to 1985.
Frank Junior had to follow in his father’s bootsteps as a young Hammer, but he lived up to the expectations. After 148 games and 24 goals, he moved to Stamford Bridge in 2001 and had one of the most impressive PL careers ever at one of the world’s most valuable football teams.
A member of one of the most powerful centre-back tandems in the history of Premier League (and English football in general) with Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand made his first football steps at West Ham United. After his youth career in the 1992-1995 period, he joined the first team in 1996 and remained a hammer until 2000.
After these solid eight years in the back line of the then-aspiring West Ham team, he had a short stint at (an equally talented) Leeds United lineup. Then in 2002, Sir Alex invited him to Manchester United, where he stayed for 12 years. The paths of glory that led him to success during his career surely had a starting point at West Ham.
One of the current baby stars of English football, Declan Rice had a career kick-off at West Ham United. Having originated from the Chelsea football context, he joined the WH Academy in 2013, only to spend the first eight years of his senior career as a Hammer.
During that period, he had 204 appearances and scored 10 goals. Even though he has recently left the Hammers, he will be remembered as one of the most valuable defensive midfielders who has ever played for this side.
If we close our eyes to the 2009 Mascherano-Tevez controversy, which was a string of unfortunate events, we can say that West Ham remains one of the most local-patriotic Premier League clubs.