A-Z of West Ham United – R is for…
We continue our alphabetic journey through 125 years of West Ham United history with trips to Romania and Rushden...
West Ham United has a number of historic links with Romania.
Situated at the crossroads of Central and Eastern Europa, Romania is home to nearly 20 million inhabitants and has a long tradition of football.
Three of Romania’s best players have represented the Hammers, but sadly none of them produced their best football in Claret and Blue.
The first, in 1996, was attacking midfielder Ilie Dumitrescu. A product of the famous Steaua Bucharest club in the Romanian capital, Dumitrescu scored at a prolific rate and won the domestic league and cup.
In 1994, his outstanding performances at the FIFA World Cup finals in the United States saw Tottenham Hotspur spend £2.6 million to bring him to London, alongside national team colleague Gheorghe Popescu.
Things did not work out at White Hart Lane and, following a loan spell in Spain with Sevilla, he joined West Ham in February 1996.
Dumitrescu helped the Hammers to wins over Middlesbrough, Manchester City and Southampton in his first four appearances, but his West Ham career lasted just 13 games before he departed for Mexican club America in December of the same year.
A second USA ’94 star, striker Florin Raducioiu, had enjoyed a nomadic career with stops in Romania, Italy and Spain before he arrived at the Boleyn Ground from Spanish side Espanyol to join Dumitrescu in July 1996.
Raducioiu found the net three times in 12 appearances, including a superb finish in a 2-2 Premier League draw with Manchester United in December 1996, but he fell out of favour with Redknapp and returned to Espanyol in January 1997.
The third and final Romanian to play for West Ham was long-time national team captain Răzvan Raț.
Raț played for Rapid Bucharest before enjoying ten trophy-filled seasons with Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk between 2003-13.
At the age of 32, he joined the Irons but found regular starts hard to come by under Sam Allardyce in his single season in east London. He departed for Spanish club Rayo Vallecano in February 2014.
The Irons have also met Romanian opponents in European competition on four occasions down the years.
The first came during the 1980/81 European Cup Winners’ Cup when, after defeating Castilla of Spain in the first round, John Lyall’s side faced Poli Timișoara over two legs.
The first was held at the Boleyn Ground on 22 October 1980 and ended in a comprehensive 4-0 win, with Ray Stewart’s penalty and goals from Billy Bonds, Paul Goddard and David Cross rendering the second leg a formality. As it was, Timișoara won it, 1-0.
Just under 20 years later, the Hammers won the UEFA Intertoto Cup in August 1999 to qualify for the UEFA Cup.
Harry Redknapp’s Hammers beat Osijek of Croatia to set up a two-legged second round tie with Steaua Bucharest. Laurenţiu Roșu and Sabin Ilie scored in front of a 24,514 crowd in Romania to leave the Irons with it all to do at the Boleyn Ground, and the task proved too much as a goalless draw in east London sent the Romanian Cup winners through.
West Ham have travelled to Romania again twice in recent seasons, although Hammers supporters will want to forget both trips.
The Irons reached the UEFA Europa League in 2015/16 via their Fair Play record and, after defeating Lusitans of Andorra and Birkirkara of Malta, faced Astra Giurgiu in the third qualifying round.
Goals from Enner Valencia and Mauro Zárate appeared to put West Ham in control at the Boleyn Ground before James Collins’ red card changed the course of the tie.
Fernando Boldrin and an Angelo Ogbonna own-goal meant the teams travelled to southern Romania level at 2-2. There, Manuel Lanzini marked his debut with a goal inside three minutes, but midfielder Constantin Budescu netted twice in five first-half minutes to secure a 4-3 aggregate win.
After qualifying for the Europa League qualifying rounds again via a seventh-place finish in the Premier League, the Irons defeated Domzale of Slovenia to set up a play-off round meeting with Astra, who had won the Romanian Liga I title.
The first leg was played in Giurgiu and again West Ham took the lead, this time through Mark Noble’s penalty, before Denis Alibec levelled with a powerful finish.
The Hammers dominated the second leg at London Stadium, but could not score, and were knocked out by Filipe Teixeira’s goal on the stroke of half-time.
Perhaps surprisingly, West Ham have never met Romanian opposition for a friendly match.
The Royal Engineers – commonly known as ‘Sappers’ – is the corps of the British Army that provides military engineering and other technical support to the British Armed Forces. They also play football.
Formed in 1863, Royal Engineers AFC is based in Chatham, Kent, and, in the 1870s, was one of the best teams in English football.
The Royal Engineers were known for their outstanding teamplay and slick passing game and used these to great effect in reaching four FA Cup finals in the space of seven years between 1872-78.
In 1875, the Sappers enjoyed their finest hour, beating Old Etonians 2-0 in a replay to win the FA Cup.
Six Engineers players were capped by England, and two more by Scotland. However, the advent of professionalism meant the amateur Engineers, who were of course soldiers first and footballers second, found it difficult to maintain their position at the top of the game.
But they continued to compete, as did the Royal Engineers Training Battalion, in the FA Cup.
Thames Ironworks FC met the Training Battalion in the FA Cup in consecutive seasons in 1897/98 and 1898/99, winning on both occasions.
Edward Hatton and James Reid got the goals in a 2-1 win for the then-London League side at the Memorial Grounds on 25 September 1897.
Rod McEachrane and George Gresham were on target almost exactly a year later as Ironworks, who had graduated to the Southern League, scored a 2-0 success in the first qualifying round on 1 October 1898.
Amazingly, the Ironworks faced Royal Engineers – this time the qualified soldiers – for a third consecutive season in 1899/00.
Again, the Hammers proved too strong, thrashing the Sappers 6-0 in the preliminary round, with William Joyce helping himself to a hat-trick and McEachrane, Kenny McKay and Reid also netting.
Despite that setback, Royal Engineers continued to play, winning the FA Amateur Cup in 1908, while various engineers and battalions within the corps have won the Army FA Challenge Cup on 20 occasions.
The most successful has been the 28 Engineer Regiment, which won the Challenge Cup no fewer than ten times between 1981 and 2002.
Royal Engineers also take part in annual Army Corps tournaments against the Royal Signals, Royal Artillery and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
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 local clubs Essex Road School, Manor Park, Fullers, Chadwell Heath United, Manor Park Albion, East Ham and Wall End United, before West Ham signed him from the works team of the Ilford Electricity Board in March 1920.
A first-team debut arrived two days after Christmas 1921, when he started a 3-2 home win over Bury in the old Second Division.
Ruffell’s first goal for the Club arrived nine months later on 2 September 1922, when he bagged the winner at Bradford City.
The 1922/23 season saw the winger score seven times as West Ham won promotion to the First Division and reached the FA Cup final for the first time, and he would start the so-called ‘White Horse Final’ defeat by Bolton Wanderers in front of an estimated 300,000-strong crowd at the newly-built Wembley.
Ruffell thrived in the top flight, scoring 104 goals over a seven-year span between 1925 and 1932, when the Hammers were relegated, despite his 15 strikes in 39 appearances.
His consistent form earned Ruffell an England call-up in April 1926, when he featured alongside former West Ham teammate Syd Puddefoot in a British Home Championship defeat by Scotland at Old Trafford – the first of six senior caps.
Ruffell remained loyal to the Hammers following their demotion and, 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.
Rushden & Diamonds
Rushden & Diamonds FC existed for just 19 years.
Formed by a merger of Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds by Dr. Martens shoe company owner Max Griggs in 1992, the new club entered the Southern League and won two promotions in three seasons to reach the Conference National.
On 9 August 2000, West Ham United visited the club’s purpose-built Nene Park stadium for a pre-season match, with Paolo Di Canio scoring a hat-trick and Davor Suker also netting in a 4-2 win that also featured current first-team coach Stuart Pearce and youngsters Frank Lampard and Joe Cole.
A title saw the Diamonds win a place in the Football League in 2001, and a successful first season ended with a Play-Off final defeat by Cheltenham Town at the Millennium Stadium in May 2002.
A year later, the Northamptonshire-based club won the Third Division title and, three months later, were drawn to face newly relegated West Ham United in the League Cup first round.
Back then, the first round was played as a one-off tie, rather than over two legs, and Rushden & Diamonds visited the Boleyn Ground on 13 August 2003.
While some might have predicted an upset, Glenn Roeder’s side avoided the potential banana skin and cruised into the second round in front of a relatively small 13,715-strong crowd.
Jermain Defoe put the Irons ahead before David Connolly scored two goals either side of Onandi Lowe’s consolation.
Rushden & Diamonds were relegated come the end of the 2003/04 season, and, after being sold by Griggs to a supporters’ group, fell out of the Football League in 2005/06, never to return.
In July 2011, the club went into administration.