Playing the West Ham way - Nine Claret and Blue creators

Joe Cole


West Ham United have a fine tradition of flair players thrilling the Claret and Blue Army down the years.

From Jimmy Ruffell through to Sir Trevor Brooking and Paolo Di Canio, every era of Hammers history is blessed by the talents of these creators.

Said Benrahma is set to become the latest on the long list of gifted attackers to light up east London and here we take a look at nine of the best to pull on the famous shirt…


Jimmy Ruffell

Jimmy Ruffell
Years at West Ham: 1920-37
Appearances: 548
Goals: 166

The seventh West Ham United player to represent England, outside left Jimmy Ruffell spent 16 seasons in Claret and Blue between the two World Wars.

Born in Doncaster in August 1900, Ruffell moved south and played for a series of local east London clubs, before West Ham signed him from the works team of the Ilford Electricity Board in March 1920.

By the time he departed for a short spell at Aldershot in 1937, he had amassed a club-record 548 appearances - a record not broken until Bobby Moore did so in 1973 - and scored 166 goals.

Sir Trevor Brooking

Sir Trevor Brooking
Years at West Ham: 1966-84
Appearances: 643
Goals: 102

Sir Trevor Brooking is a true icon of West Ham United.

Few men in the history of the Club can match his longevity, impact and success, which saw him win two FA Cups, a promotion and an incredible five Hammer of the Year awards.

Already the holder of one FA Cup winners’ medal after the Hammers defeated Fulham 2-0 in 1975, Brooking scored the only goal of the game when West Ham – then a Division Two club – defeated Arsenal to lift the famous trophy again.

Alan Devonshire

Alan Devonshire
Years at West Ham: 1976-90
Appearances: 448
Goals: 32

When West Ham United paid just £5,000 to pluck Alan Devonshire from non-league Southall in September 1976, nobody could have known just how good a deal the Hammers were getting.

For that modest outlay, the Hammers secured a player who would spend 14 years in east London and go on to establish himself as one of the most talented players ever to wear the Claret and Blue.

Devonshire struck up a telepathic partnership with Trevor Brooking which would play such a pivotal role in those successes of the early 1980s.

Liam Brady

Liam Brady
Years at West Ham: 1987-90
Appearances: 119
Goals: 10

Whenever any pundit or supporter is asked to name the greatest Irish footballers in history, it seldom takes too long for them to mention Liam Brady’s name.

A left-footed playmaker with outstanding technical ability and vision, Brady might have joined the Hammers in the twilight of his career, but he still left a lasting impact.

His career memorably ended with a long-range strike in a 4-0 Upton Park victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers in his 532nd and last league game as a professional. It was a fitting send-off for one of the greatest Irish footballers of all-time.

Joe Cole

Joe Cole
Years at West Ham: 1998-2003, 2013-14
Appearances: 187
Goals: 18

Joe Cole is possibly the most talented player to have emerged from the Academy of Football in the last 25 years.

The precocious attacking midfielder joined West Ham United at the age of eight in 1990 and was immediately earmarked for greatness by Academy Director Tony Carr and his staff.

Skilful, quick, determined and never one to back down from a challenge, Cole was fast-tracked into the first team for his debut, aged 17 years and two months.

Trevor Sinclair

Trevor Sinclair
Years at West Ham: 1998-2003
Appearances: 206
Goals: 38

Few players have made better starts to their West Ham United career than Trevor Sinclair.

The Dulwich-born winger had already made his mark with a selection of spectacular goals for Queens Park Rangers when he arrived at the Boleyn Ground in January 1998.

Sinclair announced his arrival with two goals on debut at home to Everton, heralding a fine five-year spell in east London

Paolo Di Canio

Paolo Di Canio
Years at West Ham: 1999-2003
Appearances: 141
Goals: 51

Perhaps the most beloved West Ham United player of the last 20 years, Paolo Di Canio excited and excelled, frustrated and, at times, overheated during his three-and-a-half seasons in Claret and Blue.

The passionate Italian always wore his heart on his sleeve whenever he pulled on a Hammers shirt, having joined Harry Redknapp’s squad after being banned for pushing referee Paul Alcock while playing for previous club Sheffield Wednesday.

However, the gamble paid off as Di Canio inspired West Ham to a fifth-place Premier League finish in his first few months in east London.

Alessandro Diamanti

Alessandro Diamanti
Years at West Ham: 2009-10
Appearances: 30
Goals: 8

The talented Alessandro Diamanti arrived at West Ham United as a virtual unknown to English football supporters in August 2009.

However, it would not be long before the Italian's outrageous hairstyles and unique playing style endeared him to the Boleyn Ground faithful.

His time at the Club may have been brief, but with an eye for the spectacular and a real talent from dead balls, the Tuscan-born player more than made his mark.

Dimitri Payet

Paolo Di Canio
Years at West Ham: 2015-2017
Appearances: 60
Goals: 15

From the moment Dimitri Payet made his West Ham United debut, supporters knew they were watching a special player. 

A summer 2015 signing from French side Marseille, Payet immediately endeared himself to the Claret and Blue faithful, providing an assist for Cheikhou Kouyate’s opening goal in the first game of the season at Arsenal. It was a sign of the good times to come. 

That debut-day assist was followed up by a first goal, on his maiden home appearance, against Leicester City. As Payet rose, so did West Ham, ending their 112-year tenure at the Boleyn Ground with an unforgettable season.