Once West Ham United's record signing, Alan Stephenson, who joined for £80,000 from Crystal Palace in 1968, would go on to distinguish himself at the Boleyn Ground in 118 outings in claret and blue.

Stephenson's four-year stint with West Ham United saw the Chesham-born defender line up alongside World Cup-winning trio Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters.

Some 40 years on, Stephenson remembers his time in east London with great affection and still holds the club and its Academy in the very highest esteem.

"The club to me means the way to play football," he told whufc.com. "It has always had a tradition of good football and the team at the moment are trying to play some special football. It's just quality that this club stands for and whenever anyone goes to watch West Ham play, they know they're going to get a good game."

Though Stephenson learned his trade as a teenager at Crystal Palace, he is still every bit an admirer of the Hammers' famous Academy, one that he expects will continue to hone some of the game's brightest young talents.

"Academies are very special places to learn the game and over here, no doubt, they have got one of the best there is. You only need to look at the players that have come through. Hopefully some new faces can come through the Youth Team and make their names just as the players did in the 60s, after all, Hurst, Peters and Moore all came through the Academy.

"Hopefully that will continue to happen and I'm sure it will under the management of Tony Carr. I just wish them all success, I wish the club success and mainly the supporters at this club deserve the best."

Looking back upon his own time at the club, Stephenson recalled three particularly memorable outings in claret and blue, while he was effusive in his praise of West Ham United and England legend Bobby Moore.

"The league debut is always special. Though it was only a 0-0 draw at Southampton, it was a very special occasion for me to be signing for a big club in London.

"A game I really enjoyed was the 5-1 away win at Manchester City, when Jimmy Greaves made his league debut. We beat them on a quagmire of a pitch and they had just won the First Division championship prior to that as well. Also, the 8-0 victory over Sunderland, when Geoff Hurst scored six at home, that was another special occasion.

"I have fantastic memories of Bobby Moore. He made the game look so simple. He was never flustered, he never lost his temper. He led by example. It's sad that he went so early in his life. He helped me out as a player. I played over 100 games with him, so I learned a lot from playing with him. He was a very special person and a very special footballer.

"He has left a huge legacy for this club to carry on into the future and hopefully some of the youngsters coming through the club will equal what he achieved in world football and go on to be special players for West Ham United."

As for the current crop, Stephenson is suitably impressed with what he has seen of Sam Allardyce's side in the Barclays Premier League.  

"I'm hoping they can achieve a mid-table finish. Having come up from the Championship last year, this is not an easy league. A lot of clubs are struggling at the moment, even quality clubs, but for West Ham to maintain their Premier League status is the number one criterion. Then hopefully the club can build from that success and go on to even better things next year."

West Bromwich Albion