West Ham United L.F.C. - History

History

Whilst the 1970s saw a short lived incarnation of West Ham United Ladies, it was early in 1991 when Roger Morgan, the Football in the Community officer at West Ham United FC, mooted the idea of forming the present ladies section of the club. Following a number of initial coaching sessions to bring in local players and the capture of John Greenacre, who had recently relinquished his managerial posts at Romford Ladies, to help organize the club, the first friendly match was set for 29 March 1992 resulting in a defeat to Barnet Ladies. Undeterred, two teams were entered into the Greater London Regional Women’s Football League for the following season; one in Division 3 and the other in Division 4 and the Hammers opened their first competitive season with a 5-1 victory against Hackney “B” on 27 September 1992 going on to finish the campaign in a respectable fourth place although the second team found life harder and were relegated to the 5th Division.

A third place finish the following season with was sufficient to earn promotion to Division Two and subsequently the next season there was a promotion into Division One following another third place finish.

1995/6 saw a season of consolidation after the two consecutive promotions in two years with a mid table placing, but the season saw the club enter the FA Women's Cup for the first time, having been encouraged by a goalless draw with Arsenal the previous year in the London FA Women's Cup. The club also embarked on its first overseas tour taking in trips to Germany and Holland. International recognition was furthered as Claire Lacey, the Hammers goalkeeper, was awarded an England cap in an away fixture against Portugal to become the club’s first international representative.

Two more season of consolidation as a mid table Division One side in the Greater London League followed as the club went through a difficult period off the pitch, with personnel changes in the backroom staff and ground problems seeing Brampton Manor School, Barking FC and Little Heath all used as home grounds.

The 1998/99 season saw the Hammers fortunes take an upturn reaching their first cup final in the Russell Cup and more importantly gaining the runners up spot in the league and with it promotion into the Greater London League Premier Division. The momentum continued as the Hammers immediately made an impact in the Premier Division coming second behind the semi professional set up at Fulham, before clinching the title the year after, coupled with a run to the 4th round of the FA Women's Cup.

2000/1 saw the introduction of the now highly successful junior section playing in the Essex County Girls League laying the foundations for another period of growth for the club as a second successful Greater London League Premier League campaign this time saw the Hammers winning the promotion play off and allowed the club to start the 2002/3 season in the South East Combination League, where a fourth place finish showed the Hammers ability to hold their own at this level. The promise of being able to step up further emerged when the runners up spot was claimed the year after. Hopes were high the club could go one further for the 2004/5 campaign and in a nail-biting finish the Hammers emerged victorious from a winner takes all final league game with Northampton to win the title, only just missing out on the double following a league cup final defeat to the same opponents.

Just 13 seasons after starting out West Ham United Ladies had now reached the FA Women’s Premier League and achieved a sixth place finish in their opening season at this level despite a shaky start as they got accustomed to the higher standard. There were no such problems for the reserve team though, who were only just pipped to the runners up spot in the Premier League (Reserves) Division Two South. The following season was a disappointment as the team started to slide and the club ended up in a situation were they would be relegated if the teams below were to win their games in hand although by the end of the season results had gone in the Hammers favour. The Reserve team finished rock bottom in their division but amongst the junior sections the club continued to flourish and from the junior ranks both management staff and playing personnel were elevated to get the club back on track.

2007/8 saw Tony Marshall take over as first team manager helped by Alex Bonner as coach. The club switched to play home games at Harlow Town FC and with a massive rebuilding job to be done the Hammers turned to youth with a side featuring many previous junior players from the club, who were more than able to hold their own with a sixth place finish.

The next season saw the improvement continue, from a new base at Thurrock FC, with a highest ever third place finish in the league coupled with the first team lifting their first major silverware following victory in the Essex FA County Cup and the success spread across the whole club with the reserve team ending the season top of the Premier (Reserves) Division Two South and amongst the junior side’s haul of silverware were the London FA Girls Youth Cup and the Southern Region Under 16 FA Tesco Cup.

The Hammers were again amongst the leading sides in the 2009/2010 campaign although too many draws saw them slip to 5th position with the reserve team consolidating following their promotion. Again there was success for the junior sides with the Under 16 team winning the UK Home International Tesco Cup at the Reebok Stadium. 2010/11 saw the side lead the table for much of the winter but were pipped to the promotion spots in the run in eventually finishing in third place. However the Essex FA County Cup was regained and best ever runs in the FA Women's Cup and FA Women's Premier League Cup saw both quarter finals reached.

2011/12 followed a similar pattern with good cup runs taking the club to the Essex FA County Cup final and the FA Women's Premier League Cup quarter final. Again a third place finish was achieved in the FA Women's Premier League Southern Division.

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