Last Chance

If you haven't got a ticket for Wednesday night's friendly against Colchester United, your only chance to assess Alan Pardew's new-look squad ahead of the season proper will be on Saturday when West Ham face current Belgian champions RSC Anderlecht.

The Brussels-based team have a history that is still the envy of many European clubs, as they have appeared in all the three main European cup competitions in the last 60 years, and in the European Super Cup final, which they won twice in 1976 and 1978.

The Royal Sporting Club [RSC] Anderlechtois, as they are more properly known, formed in 1908, have won their nation's championship on more occasions than any other Belgian team, as well as winning their country's cup competition many times; they have also completed the 'double' in more than one occasion.

More mature supporters will remember the 1976 European Cup Winners' Cup final that saw Anderlecht beat a West Ham side - led by Billy Bonds - 4-2 at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels.

One of the Hammers' opponents on that night of Wednesday 5th May 1976 was a 21-year-old winger called Francois van der Elst, who scored twice that evening for the Belgians, first putting them 2-1 up and then scoring the fourth goal near the end of the 4-2 win.

Five years later Francois joined John Lyall for £400,000, becoming a firm Upton Park favourite during his 70 game-spell before he returned to Belgium.

Following that initial, dramatic meeting with Anderlecht, described by one contemporary journalist as 'as good a final as I have ever seen' the Hammers have since played them on one other occasion.

This was at a preseason competition in Ghent, in La Gantoise Tournament of 1982.

Ironically, La Gantoise had been the Hammers' first ever opponents in the European Cup Winners' Cup - as long ago as 1964 when, after West Ham's one goal win away - thanks to a Ron Boyce header - the Belgian part-timers had surprised Ron Greenwood and his players by earning a 1-1 draw in the second leg.

Beating Anderlecht 1-0 in the semi-final of 1982's La Gantoise competition, West Ham, once more skippered by 'Bonzo', who had alongside him fellow survivor Frank Lampard from the earlier meeting, up against Hadjuk Split of Yugoslavia in the final, which they lost.

Although a solitary second-half strike from Geoff Pike had sealed the win against the Belgians, the margin did not reflect the Hammers' overall superiority in the game.

West Ham first met a Belgian club in a friendly fixture in 1951; the opponents on that occasion were Royal Standard of Liege who were beaten 3-2 in the first of a series of matches at the Boleyn Ground that saw the then Hammers manager, Ted Fenton, introducing foreign - including South American - opponents to the Upton Park crowd.

Other Belgian opponents the Hammers have met in past years have been Thor Waterschei in yet another preseason tournament at Bielefeld, West Germany in 1983, and three years later in a similar tournament at Groningen, in the Netherlands, against KV Mechelen, to whom, in the more recent past, Hayden Foxe was loaned as he awaited a work permit.

* With thanks to club historian John Helliar.