EPL Season Preview: West Ham United--Working To Stay Up

Team name: West Ham United Football Club

Nicknames: The Hammers, The Irons (both because the club was once called Thames Ironworks), The Academy of Football/The Academy (reference to the club's successful youth academy)

Location: London (specifically, Upton Park, Newham, East London)

Ground: Boleyn Ground, otherwise known as Upton Park (capacity: 35,303)

Manager: Avram Grant. The Israeli managed Chelsea to a Champions League final before managing Portsmouth to relegation, after which he resigned. To be fair, the relegation of Pompey had little to do with Grant's managerial abilities (they made it to the FA Cup final, after all) and so it will be interesting to see if he is able to bring West Ham out of the relegation zone.

Last year's record:

Premier League: 17th place, the lowest possible finish while avoiding relegation

League Cup: Third Round, lost to Bolton Wanderers in extra time

FA Cup: Third Round Proper, lost to Arsenal (note: Premier League clubs enter the FA Cup in the Third Round Proper)

Brief History: The club formed in 1895 as Thames Ironworks before becoming West Ham United five years later. Throughout their first sixty years, West Ham failed to make much of an impression, spending ten years in the first division and the rest in the second. The Hammers did manage to make the final of the first-ever FA Cup in 1923, which is kinda neat except then they proceeded to lose to Bolton.

West Ham's heyday came in the sixties, when they won the FA Cup in 1964 and the Cup Winners' Cup in 1965. After the team won its European Championship, it sent many of its members to the 1966 World Cup (they didn't have to travel far as England was the host nation) and then built them a pretty little statue after the squad won. In the seventies, West Ham were able to re-claim the FA Cup in 1975, but lost the Cup Winners' final in 1976. Two years later, they went down to Division Two-but managed to win the FA Cup in 1980, something no team outside the first division has done since.

The Hammers have now been in the Premier League since the 2005/2006 season, and in just those few short years have made a few waves. In their first season they went to the FA Cup final, taking Liverpool all the way to a penalty shootout. The shootout was won by the Reds but West Ham earned a place in the UEFA Cup. The next year, the club bought Carlos Tévez and Javier Mascherano, although it turned out their dealings were a little shady and the club earned a £5.5 million fine.

Last season, the Hammers found themselves struggling to stay up, with financial woes stifling their ability to attract any talent. Further, David Gold and David Sullivan, who gained control of the club in January 2010, seemed to enjoy playing mind games and generally undermining Gianfranco Zola, the manager at the time. West Ham just barely managed to avoid relegation. With a few choice signings-Frédéric Piquionne, Thomas Hitzlsperger, and Pablo Barrera-and a decent manager in Grant, these other claret and blues might be a midtable club next season.

Rivalries: London clubs Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea. The East London Derby is played against their oldest rival, Millwall and is historically one of the most violent derbies in English football.

Players to Watch:

Scott Parker: Voted Hammer of the Year for two consecutive seasons, the midfielder has been the subject of much transfer speculation, including rumors of his moving to Aston Villa. Yet West Ham insist their captain is not for sale. Parker made the 30-man roster for England but didn't survive the final cut, although the squad certainly could've made use of a defensive midfielder with an eye for the tackle. While he may not score often, his goals are dramatic, such as his winning goal against Wigan to ensure the Hammers would be staying up.

Robert Green: Insert joke here. No, Green really is interesting to watch because when he's on, it's like hitting balls against a brick wall. The Villa trampled over West Ham's defense last January but couldn't get a ball past Green. His mistakes can be comical, but he's the reason that West Ham don't have one of the infamous 7+ goals scored against scorelines that befell many clubs last season.

Frank Nouble: I like keeping an eye on the young ones, and West Ham's 18-year-old striker is certainly more interesting than Carleton Cole. Nouble spent the second half of last season out on loan to West Brom and Swindon Town, but it looks likely that he'll be back in London this season. Tall, strong, and fast, he can make a quick impression, just as he did in England's recent U-19 match against Austria, in which he bagged a brace to help give the Young Lions a win.

A Villa Fan Says... "Give us back our colors, you thieving thugs."

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