Name: Alan Stephenson
Date of birth: 26 September 1944, Chesham, England.
Position: Defender
Debut: Division One, Southampton 0-0 West Ham United, 16 March 1968
Final game: Division One, West Ham United 1-0 Southampton, 1 May 1972
Appearances: 118
Goals: 1

Alan Stephenson signed from Crystal Palace in March 1968 in an attempt to fill the void left by centre-back Ken Brown, who had departed to join Torquay United.

Despite moving to another London club in an £80,000 move, the England Under-23 international insists there was no bitterness from Eagles fans.

"I had no grief. It was a good eight years at Palace and I finished as skipper. I joined at 16 and would love to have taken them to the First Division," he recalled.

Having made 12 league appearances in the 1967/68 season, the no-holds-barred defender went on to feature prominently the following season, joining legends Billy Bonds, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst in making the most league appearances that season and coming joint-second for appearances in all competitions - on behind Hurst and Peters and on par with Bonds.

"It's something I am proud of - to play all season was fantastic. There was one occasion where I was badly tackled by Joe Royale. Other than that I was very fortunate to have stayed clear of injury. I had a few knocks about the eyes and teeth as defenders do but I was largely clear of injury."

Stephenson joined a team full of Hammers heroes who had not only earned domestic honours but also made a name for themselves in Europe. Jack Burkett, Brian Dear, Peter Brabrook and the FIFA World Cup-winning trio of Hurst, Peters and Bobby Moore were all cup winners, but the Buckinghamshire-born defender was not intimidated by the illustrious names sharing the dressing room.

"I wasn't a nervous player. It was uplifting to play with those types of players. I always had the ambition to play in the First Division and was fortunate to be able to do that for West Ham. Those sorts of guys were inspiring and helped me maintain my own standard. I settled very quickly. Bobby had his obvious qualities and intellectual way of reading the game and a lot of goals seemed to come from Harry Redknapp. I remember beating Sunderland 8-0 - as I remember a lot of those came from Harry."

The great Ron Greenwood oversaw some fantastic players during his reign at the club and Stephenson had a lot of time for the man who guided his side to the FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup in 1964 and 1965 respectively.

"He was a great tactician. I believe Ron signed me to keep the club up and I had a lot of respect for him. He was a nice guy but maybe a bit too nice sometimes!"

Another managerial hero of the club was Greenwood's successor John Lyall, who was youth-team manager during Stephenson's time at the club.

"John had a mild grit about him - grit and determination. He was a firmer sort of guy."

Someone who Stephenson didn't believe would make it into coaching was team mate Harry Redknapp.

"He's done great things, I'm pleased for him. He used to be the first off from training and although he coached at schools with Frank Lampard, he didn't have too much of an interest in it!"

Prior to joining Portsmouth in 1972 for £32,000, Stephenson had a spell with London neighbours Fulham, having featured only in the reserves under Ernie Gregory. Loaned for ten games, he recalls his time fondly.

"I had a great time. They were struggling but we won more than we lost. Bill Dodgin wanted to sign me but couldn't meet the £40,000 fee Ron wanted."

Not being able to make a regular appearance and still playing reserve football, he found himself suddenly on the move again.

"I was told, 'Ron Tindall's coming up to look at you, I'm putting you in the side.' I couldn't get into the side regularly so opted to play first-team football in the Second Division with Portsmouth."

Coaching was always something that was on the mind of Stephenson and, after coming back from South Africa where he had played for Durban United, he joined Leyton Orient in 1977.

"I got my preliminary badges and was always interested in that side. I went over to Orient to try and get fit and was asked if I would take over Youth Development. I organised scouts and later took over the reserves."

After four years' service to the O's, Stephenson decided to quit football. However, he was only out of it for six years before getting involved once more.

"I had two children and came out of football to settle down. I bought a pub in Colchester and did that for six years. While I was there I coached at grassroots level and after that coached a men's team for ten years. It's nice because I still see people that know me from coaching or playing - meeting so many people, that's one of the greatest things about football."