10 Best West Ham Players of All Time 

West Ham has long been associated with developing outstanding soccer players, supplying some of the best soccer players in the English leagues.

Renowned for their superb youth teams, West Ham has always produced technically superb players, with many home-grown youngsters making their way into the England team. 

Several members of the only England team to win the World Cup in 1966 had players in the squad playing their league soccer for West Ham. Despite consistently performing well in the Premier League, the club has often seen its best players move on to bigger teams, winning trophies, and titles. 

Due to losing many of their stand-out players, the Hammers have struggled to reach the heights their youth policy perhaps deserves.

Let’s have a look at the 10 best West Ham players of all time to see what sort of superstars the London club has produced. 

10. Frank Lampard Sr. 

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  • Position: Left-Back

While he is probably (and understandably) known more for his famous soccer player son of the same name, Frank Lampard sr is a part of West Ham folklore. A member of the team that included Harry Redknapp and Bobby Moore, Lampard played his career as a left-back.

He was known for his hard work over 18 years at West Ham, playing 660 games for his beloved Hammers, and became a much-loved part of the club. 

Ironically, early in his career with West Ham, Lampard looked set to leave as his manager at the time, Ron Greenwood, didn’t feel he was up to the standard required. When he queried what he was missing from his game, the manager advised Lampard wasn’t quick enough in a sprint. 

The determined player then went away alone and, for months, trained himself to be a sprinter, eventually keeping his place in the team and earning his fellow players’ admiration. This kind of determination saw Lampard in good stead over his nearly 20 seasons as a professional soccer player. 

9. Billy Bonds

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  • Position: Defensive Midfield

Billy Bonds was not only a player for West Ham for 21 years in a row, but he also went on to manage the club for four seasons after he retired.

Early in his career with West Ham, Bonds quickly became an integral player, making 124 consecutive appearances for the club at one stage. Over his 21 seasons as a player there, Bonds amassed an eye-watering 663 league appearances for the club. 

Eventually moving into management with his beloved Hammers in 1990, he managed to get the club promoted in his first season as a manager.

He stayed at the helm for a further three seasons, suffering relegation and then an immediate promotion. One of West Ham’s most celebrated players, Bonds remains a club legend to this day. 

8. Paolo Di Canio 

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  • Position: Centre-Forward

One of the most enigmatic and unpredictable players of his era, Paolo Di Canio was an extroverted Italian with a penchant for the spectacular. A controversial purchase from Sheffield Wednesday in 1999 after the fiery Italian had been banned for pushing over a referee and Di Canio seemed like a risky buy initially. 

Four years later, the Italian left West ham a club hero, having scored 50 goals in 138 appearances. It wasn’t just his exceptional strike rate that endeared Di Canio to the fans; it was his flair for spectacular goals, his incredible soccer brain, and his raging temper when things went against him. 

Brilliant with or without the ball, Di Canio transformed West ham into a real attacking force in the Premier League, quickly becoming an integral part of the team, and despite being a fierce competitor, Di Canio also demanded that soccer be played the correct way. 

Upon seeing an opposing player go down injured in one game, Di Canio caught the ball rather than head a cross into an open net. This sportsmanship display had every stadium fan on their feet in applause, and his manager, Harry Redknapp, on the floor with his head in his hands. 

7. Joe Cole 

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  • Position: Attacking Midfield

Joe Cole is often cited as the best English player to be produced in England since Duncan Edwards, the Busby Babe who tragically passed away in the Munich Air Disaster in 1958.

One of the most technically gifted players ever to come through the West Ham youth ranks, and that’s some claim. Cole was tipped for stardom at 13 and duly obliged.

The most prominent teams in England were trying to buy Cole from West Ham while he was still a schoolboy, but the player decided to stay in London and learn his trade in a team that often gave chances to young players.

Joining the Hammers in 1990 as a youth player, Cole made his debut in 1998 and played 126 times for West Ham before a big-money move to Chelsea in 2003 when West Ham was unexpectedly relegated. 

Cole is probably more well known for his time at Chelsea, but it was at West Ham that the player was turned into the cultured and talented player that eventually went on to win three Premier League titles with Chelsea.

Injuries and a loss of form at times meant Cole didn’t live up to his true potential, but for pure skill, there have been very few players of his like in the Premier League. 

6. Jermain Defoe 

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  • Position: Centre-Forward

Goalscorers are worth their weight in gold at the top level of soccer. As defenses get tighter, the margins of success get even smaller, and Jermain Defoe has forged a career out of being lethal in front of goal.

In a career that started at Charlton as a youth player, Defoe moved to West Ham at 16 and has amassed an incredible 624 league games in a 23-year career. 

A quick, lethal finisher that rarely misses the target, Defoe relied on his pace and accuracy rather than physical strength and is regarded as one of the best strikers produced by West Ham.

Defoe has played for many clubs in his long career and has often been brought into teams struggling for goals, regularly rescuing them from relegation. 

While he has scored goals wherever he has played, it could be argued that Defoe has never really had the opportunity to play for a really top team, especially in European competitions.

Given a chance, and with players behind his supplying the opportunities, there is every reason to believe Jermain Defoe could have been one of the best strikers of his generation. 

5. Frank Lampard 

  • Position: Central Midfield

Frank Lampard forged a career as one of the most complete midfielders of his generation, becoming a three-time Premier League winner with Chelsea and a Champions League to his name. Lampard became Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer after moving across London from West Ham in 2001. 

The son of the legendary West Ham player of the same name, Frank Lampard sr, the young Lampard was often accused of being in the West Ham team thanks to his family name.

These accusations were roundly dismissed by his manager (and uncle) Harry Redknapp, who claimed Lampard Jr was the first player at training and the last to leave every evening.

Stories of a young Lampard having to be told to go home in the evening, preferring to stay and train alone to improve his skills, give us an insight into just how determined the player was to succeed.

In his six years with West Ham, Lampard played 175 games, scoring 33 goals. His move to Chelsea in 2001 turned Lampard into the complete midfielder. 

The only midfielder to have scored over 150 Premier League goals, and with a trophy cabinet full of awards, it is difficult to leave Frank Lampard off any Premier League list.

He certainly deserves his place in the greatest West Ham team, a phenomenally consistent and successful career by one of the best players of any generation. 

4. Rio Ferdinand 

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  • Position: Centre-Back

Appearing on the scene as a gangly teenager in 1995, Rio Ferdinand would go on to be one of the finest defenders of his generation, winning every domestic trophy around, as well as becoming a Champions League winner, all with Manchester United. 

His five years with West Ham quickly showed Ferdinand to be an excellent reader of the game, with a burst of speed that could quickly get him out of trouble. Every big team in Europe soon came calling for the talented defender, and it was to Leeds United that he would eventually be sold in 2000. 

The young player quickly became a favorite at Elland Road, but only two seasons passed before he was sold to Manchester United. Leeds had been overspending for several years, and Ferdinand was an asset that was too valuable to keep.

The move to Manchester was the making of Ferdinand, though, as, under manager Alex Ferguson, he became a more cultured and imposing player. 

In the heart of one of the meanest defenses in England, Ferdinand dominated in the air and on the ground and became integral to both Manchester United and England.

A 20-year career, only blighted by a suspension for missing a drugs test and over 500 league appearances later, Ferdinand remains a yardstick for defenders everywhere. 

3. Martin Peters 

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  • Position: Left Midfield

Martin peters may not be as well known as Bobby Moore or Geoff Hurst, but he too won a World Cup with England in 1966 and was described by England manager Alf Ramsey as “the complete midfielder”.

Ramsey would alter also proclaim that Peters was a decade ahead of his time, hardly surprising praise, given the player’s versatility.

Peters was so accomplished as a player that he could and literally did, play in every position on the soccer field, including as a goalkeeper. Feared for his incredible free-kicks, Peters scored a remarkable 178 goals in his career, a career that spanned 24 years, 11 of them with West Ham. 

While he was regarded as an exceptional player, Peters possibly felt he was overshadowed by peers like Moore and Hurst (given they are both above him on this list, it’s hard to disagree), so he requested a transfer in 1970.

Tottenham paid a record transfer fee, and Peters left behind his childhood club with a remarkable legacy. 

2. Geoff Hurst 

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  • Position: Centre-Forward

Scoring the winning goal in a World Cup Final gives a player a certain gravitas, but when it’s the winning goal in the only World Cup Final England has ever been in, that player achieves cult status. And Sir Geoff Hurst qualifies as a legend for club and country. 

In his 14 years at West Ham, Hurst scored 248 goals in just 499 first-team appearances, statistics that quickly brought him to the attention of England manager Alf Ramsey.

Winning the World Cup with England in 1966, as well as the FA Cup with West Ham in 1964, and the European Cup Winner’s Cup in 1965, the mid-1960s were very good for the striker, who is a household name in England. 

Internationally, Hurst scored almost a goal every two games for England, with 24 goals in 49 appearances. However, World Cup aside, it is his incredible form for West Ham that Londoners will fondly remember the player for. 

1. Bobby Moore 

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  • Position: Centre-Back

Many articles try to remain neutral when writing about soccer players, especially ones that rank a player’s importance. Words like arguably and potentially are thrown in to stress neutrality.

Not so with Bobby Moore, the greatest West Ham player of all time and, dare we say it, arguably the greatest defender of all time. 

Moore was captain of West Ham for over a decade and the only England captain to lift a World Cup in a career spanning two continents and 25 years of soccer. Admired by men and adored by women, Bobby Moore was the complete defender and captain.

Calm under pressure and with an elegance about his game that made him glide effortlessly around the field, the West Ham hero became an icon of British soccer.

Wembley Stadium has a statue of Moore at the entrance to England’s national stadium; so important a player was he for both club and country. Moore played for West Ham for 16 seasons, amassing 544 league games for his beloved Hammers.

On the field, Moore had a positional sense that was second to none, being able to read opponents’ movements to allow him to always be in the right place at the right time. 

Regarded by Pele as the most outstanding player he had ever faced, fellow players revered Moore, and upon his passing away in 1993 at the young age of 51, the soccer world mourned the loss of one of its greatest players.

Tributes poured in, and Moore memorabilia was strewn around the ground at the next West ham home game. 

Moore will be remembered as a gentleman, always immaculately dressed, who helped fellow players and showed respect to opponents. One of the classiest players ever to play the game, stating Bobby Moore was a great player is comparable to saying water is wet.

Connor Smith

I'm Connor, the guy behind SoccerPrime. I'm a former NCAA Div 1 college player that retired at the age of 21 due to injuries - which led me into a new career as a soccer coach.

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