Some of the biggest names in English football started at West Ham United’s Youth Academy. Established in the 1950s by then-manager Ted Fenton, it was later nicknamed “The Academy of Football” due to its unremitting success at producing long-lasting talent.

Reputation | The West Ham United Academy has produced scores of talented footballers over the years. (Image | West Ham World)

Reputation | “The Academy of Football” has produced scores of talented players over the years. (Image | West Ham World)

West Ham have long since been the parent club behind the greats, and are currently nurturing a second generation of legacies on their training ground.

England’s historic World Cup victory in 1966 was headlined “West Ham 4 – West Germany 2” by the British media, as Hammers legends Bobby MooreMartin Peters and Geoff Hurst played a major role in bringing the Jules Rimet trophy home.

Moore was one of the first great success stories of the West Ham academy, followed by Trevor Brooking several years later, who also went on to play international football for the Three Lions.

Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe, John Terry and Glen Johnson are a few of the players to have earned their vocation at the Academy and gone on to enjoy hugely successful careers at the highest level of English football.

Manchester United defender Ferdinand and other notable figures returned to Upton Park in 2010 as part of the “Academy All-Stars v West Ham United” charity match, in which they beat Gianfranco Zola’s Premier League side 5-1.

After a rare dry spell of fresh Academy graduates in the early 2000s, Freddie Sears came off the bench in 2007 and scored for West Ham on his debut at the age of 17.

Now at Colchester United, Sears was one of the more promising hopefuls to graduate from the Academy and fall victim to the club’s financial maladies, which have lost them a great many of their auspicious youth talents over recent years.

Homecoming | Former Hammers Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and John Terry at the Boleyn Ground in 2010 to pay tribute to youth development director Tony Carr. (Image | BBC)

Homecoming | Former Hammers Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and John Terry visited the Boleyn Ground in 2010 to pay tribute to youth development director Tony Carr. (Image | BBC)

Ever the family-orientated club, blood is thicker than water in the ranks of the Academy even today.

Harry Redknapp played for West Ham alongside Bobby Moore at the age of 15, then went on to manage the club in later years.

His nephew, Frank Lampard, also enjoyed success at with the Hammers after being trained at the Academy, and went on to become of the all-time greats at European champions Chelsea.

His father, Frank Lampard Snr, spent 18 years at Upton Park and was part of both the 1975 and 1980 FA Cup-winning teams.

Familiar surnames on the West Ham books no longer begin and end with Lampard, as a new crop of youngsters signing for the club bring about a certain sense of déjà vu.

Steve Potts’ son Danny rose through the youth ranks and has put in several notable performances for West Ham to date.

John Moncur, who played for the Hammers for nine years as a successful midfielder from 1994 to 2003, has also seen his son and fellow midfielder George follow in his footsteps.

Since the FA introduced a new academy system in 1998 to encourage the development of local youth talent, the West Ham academy has no longer been standing alone in its mission.

However, it remains as important as ever in leading by example, at a time when professional football in this country has never been more of an international business affair.

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