One of the great virtues of supporting a club like West Ham is the history, culture and tradition that goes with it.
The bond that develops comes not only from the current crop of players who turn out on a Saturday, but from those who played in bygone eras, achieved success, and represented a brand that was entrenched in the community from which it grew.
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It was back in the 1960s that West Ham was first termed the ‘Academy of Football’. Many accept that it was a tribute designed to praise the philosophy and overall culture of the club, developed at that time by Ron Greenwood.
Home-grown players included the greats such as Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst. But more than just the players, it was the style and artistry that went with the performances which won such affection from observers.
Over the years, ‘The Academy’ has referenced more the youth set-up at the club, which nurtures the best talent, capable of playing ‘the West Ham way’ at the very highest level.
That youth mechanism working through the club has been somewhat maligned recently, and to some extent it is justified.
The departure of Rob Hall this summer further pressed the question about when the next student is going to graduate from the East London schooling onto the world stage.
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I wrote the other week about the dearth of top class talent coming through the ranks. But it was pointed out to me that the classes of the 60s and early 00s cannot be expected to come through on a wholly regular basis.
Many clubs across the board are showing a shortage of high-class, young, talent. The reality can be seen in the majority of recent England international line-ups.
The fact West Ham is not currently quite the production machine and feeder club it has been in the past, does not detract from the glowing reports it has achieved in the past.
A reputation is forged from many years of dedication to a method, a way of thinking and playing, that is not wiped away by a more barren period. It is not something one manager, or one group of players, can change in just a few seasons of the modern game.
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The honourable branding as the ‘Academy of Football’ should not be forgotten by wider football fans in general, as it has given so much to the sport.
Therefore, it is certainly not something the club should stop calling themselves. We as fans are rightly proud of our heritage, and here in Australia, it is that reputation which distinguishes our supporters from those apparent glory hunters with allegiances the ‘powerhouses’ of the modern game.
‘The Academy’ values are ingrained in the claret and blue, and there are enough true Hammers fans who remain associated with the club to never allow them to be forgotten.