A-Z of West Ham United – V is for

Kacper Wilkins
Kacper Wilkins
11 Min Read

We continue our alphabetical look at West Ham United history, with today taking us to the letter V…



When the London League was launched in 1896, just seven clubs took part in its inaugural season.

With Arnold Hills taking on the role of the league’s President, it was no surprised that Thames Ironworks FC  was one of the seven, along with the wonderfully named Vampires FC, 3rd Grenadier Guards, Barking Woodville, Ilford, Crouch End and London Welsh.

Based in Norbury in south London, Vampires provided the opposition for Thames Ironworks’ first-ever home league match, which was played at Hermit Road stadium in Canning Town on 19 September 1896.

An attendance of 1,260 was present to see Ironworks get off to the best possible start, with left winger George Gresham having the honour of scoring the Club’s first goal in competitive football. Centre-forward Edward Hatton would score two goals of his own as the east London side completed a 3-0 victory.

The reverse fixture was played a little over five months later on 27 February 1897, although the exact venue of Vampires’ home ground has not been recorded.

Thames Ironworks fielded just four of the players who had started the first meeting – Gresham, Frank Dandridge, Charlie Dove and John Morrison – but the result was the same as Morrison and debutant H.Butterworth got the goals in a 2-1 victory.

Ironworks would go on to finish the season in second place behind the soldiers of the 3rd Grenadier Guards, while Vampires would end the campaign in sixth, ahead of only the winless London Welsh.

Vampires FC merged with Crouch End FC in 1897 and, while the new club did not compete in the London League the following season, it continues to compete to this day, 124 years later, in the Southern Amateur League.

For the record, Vampires remain the only opponents we have faced in a competitive fixture whose name begins with the letter ‘V’.


Van der Elst

Francois Van der ElstBorn in Opwijk in Belgium on 1 December 1954, Francois Van der Elst first came to the attention of Hammers fans when he scored two goals against us for Anderlecht in the 1976 European Cup Winners’ Cup final.

His performance alongside the great Robbie Rensenbrink played a key role in a thrilling final that the Belgians won 4-2 on home turf at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels.

He went on to win another Cup Winners’ Cup winners medal with Anderlecht in 1978 and was given the nickname ‘Mister Europe’ by the club’s fans after scoring 20 goals in 43 European appearances.

In January 1982, after a brief spell with New York Cosmos in the United States, Van der Elst arrived at Upton Park in a £400,000 deal.

He made his debut as a substitute for Alan Devonshire in a 1-0 defeat at Brighton on 16 January and went on to make a further 21 appearances that season, scoring five goals.

The following campaign, he became a regular in John Lyall’s team, making 40 appearances and scoring nine First Division goals. A skilful, intelligent forward, Van der Elst became a firm favourite among the Upton Park faithful who appreciated his creativity and eye for goal.

In the summer of 1983, after 70 appearances and 17 goals for West Ham, he returned home to Belgium to sign for Lokeren, where he finished his playing career in 1986.

Van der Elst won 44 caps for the Belgium national team, including an appearance in the 1980 UEFA European Championship final against West Germany. He also appeared at the 1982 FIFA World Cup finals in Spain and scored 14 goals for his country.

In retirement, Van der Elst ran a billiards hall in his home country, where he remained in regular contact with the Belgian Irons supporters’ club.

Sadly, he passed away in January 2017, aged 62.


Vaz Té

Ricardo Vaz Té

The most successful stop of a nomadic career, Ricardo Vaz Tê’s time in a West Ham United shirt was unforgettable for one iconic moment – the 87th-minute goal he scored in the 2012 Championship Play-Off final victory over Blackpool at Wembley Stadium.

Born in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, Vaz Tê spent part of his childhood in the former colony of Guinea-Bissau in West Africa, before returning to Portugal at the age of eleven. There, he began his football career with Real Massamá and Farense as a schoolboy.

At 16, he moved to England, joining Sam Allardyce’s Bolton Wanderers, where he joined the likes of Kevin Nolan in helping the Trotters qualify for Europe on two occasions.

After spells in Greece and Scotland, Vaz Tê joined Barnsley in 2011, where he scored 12 goals in 24 appearances and tempted Allardyce to sign him for a second time, this time for West Ham.

The versatile forward excelled in Claret and Blue, scoring 12 goals in 18 games to inspire the Irons to promotion, including a hat-trick against Brighton & Hove Albion and his famous Play-Off final winner.

Unfortunately, injuries – Vaz Tê had suffered knee problems during his time at Bolton – took their toll and the likeable frontman played just 43 times and scored seven goals over the next two-and-a-half seasons.

In January 2015, he departed for Turkish outfit Akhisar Belediyespor. He then spent a season at Charlton Athletic, returned to Belediyespor, spent three years in China playing for Henan Jinaye and Qingdao Huanghai and was most recently with Portuguese side Portimonense.



Austria Vienna ticket stubWest Ham United have a number of links with the Austrian capital, Vienna.

The Club has sent teams to and hosted teams from the Central European city on a number of occasions down the years.

The first was in May 1923, when the Hammers took on Hakoah Vienna – the city’s historic Jewish sports club – and drew 1-1.

Hakoah then visited the Boleyn Ground for a return friendly fixture in September of the same year and thrashed their English hosts 5-0, with many of the 8,000 fans present drawn from London’s Jewish community.

Hakoah was dissolved before the Second World War when Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany but was reformed in 1945 and is still in existence today.

In December 1935, West Ham welcomed FK Austria to Upton Park and scored their first victory over a team from the city, winning 2-1 courtesy of Jim Barrett’s strike and an own-goal.

Twenty years later, in November 1955, Rapid Vienna visited the Boleyn Ground for a floodlit friendly. The game ended in a 1-1 draw, with Billy Dare on target for the Londoners.

Summer 1959 saw the Irons travel to Vienna for a pre-season tour, where they took on Soviet side Spartak Moscow and Czechoslovakians Bratislava Red Star, both of whom proved too strong for their visitors, running out 5-1 and 3-2 winners respectively.

In October of the same year, Austria Vienna returned for a second fixture in east London, where goals from Malcolm Musgrove and Phil Woosnam saw the Hammers score a 2-1 victory. Three years on, First Vienna were beaten 4-1 under the Boleyn lights, with Geoff Hurst grabbing two of the Hammers’ goals.

August 1964 saw Ron Greenwood’s FA Cup holders head to Vienna for a pre-season meeting with FK Austria, where captain Bobby Moore, Cup final scorer John Sissons and Johnny Byrne all found the net in a 3-0 success at the Prater Stadium.

And, 48 years later, we took on the same opposition for a third time, visiting the Generali Arena for a pre-season match in July 2012. Sam Allardyce’s newly-promoted West Ham took the lead inside four minutes through Sam Baldock’s goal, but the home side came back to win 3-1.

Player-wise, Marko Arnautović was born in the Vienna district of Floridsdorf in April 1989. 

The forward spent time with Floridsdorfer AC, FK Austria, First Vienna and Rapid Vienna as a schoolboy before embarking on a professional career Dutch club Twente at the age of 17.

After spells with Inter Milan, Werder Bremen and Stoke City, Arnautović joined West Ham in summer 2017. He spent two eventful years in east London, thriving after being converted to a centre-forward role by David Moyes in the second half of the 2017/18 season.

Arnautović scored eleven goals in each his two seasons in Claret and Blue, before moving to Chinese club Shanghai SIPG – now Shanghai Port – in July 2019.

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