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Not many youth sides can claim to have included not one but two future captains of the full England team. One such club can, West Ham United’s class of 1996.
From the club’s successful 1995-96 under-18s the careers of two Hammers progressed to reach the pinnacle of English football. Who would have foreseen in 1996 that the careers of midfielder Frank Lampard and central defender Rio Ferdinand would progress to such a high stage?
FA Youth Cup Final & South East Counties League Title
The springboard to Frank Lampard’s and Rio Ferdinand’s illustrious careers was West Ham United’s academy. As youth team players they were members of manager Tony Carr’s 1995-96 squad which was one of the best in the country and arguably the best in the south. A side which was bursting with talent reached the final of the FA Youth Cup and won the South East Counties League, a league for the youth teams from the southern based football league clubs.
Carr must have been proud of his 1995-96 squad and was quoted in the programme of the FA Youth Cup final’s first leg as saying “This must be our best ever Youth season…... Our success has put the youth system back on the map….. There’s no real secret of our success. Every now and again you get a side that just knits together. Although they are not all quality, flair players, there is not a weakness in the present team.”
FA Youth Cup Final
For the 6th time in the club’s history the Hammers under-18s reached the two-legged final of the FA Youth Cup. Their opponents were the same as when West Ham won the cup for the first time in 1963: Liverpool. Only this time there was no fairy tale ending as the Reds won 4-1 on aggregate.
Going into the final the claret and blues were possibly favourites on the strength of their current impressive form. They were on a 24 match unbeaten run covering South East Counties League and FA Youth Cup games. This unbeaten run included 18 consecutive victories. The last defeat was over five months previously when Coventry City beat the Hammers in the Southern Junior Floodlight Cup on November 6, 1995.
Upton Park - 1st Leg
Tuesday April 30, 1996
West Ham United 0 – 2 Liverpool (HT 0 - 1)
Liverpool scorers: Newby (23 mins), Larmour (84 mins)
Despite their record of supremacy, the team didn’t click on the evening of the first leg and it was Liverpool who took a deserved lead back to Anfield for the second leg 18 days later. This turned out to be the Hammers’ first defeat in 25 matches and the first time they had failed to score since November 4, 1995. Manager Tony Carr admitted that the team did appear nervous in front of the large crowd and the Sky TV cameras.
The Liverpool side for the first leg included future Premiership and England star, defender Jamie Carragher. Team mate and future world class striker Michael Owen missed the first leg due to England Under 16 commitments, and unfortunately for the Hammers he returned in time for the Anfield leg.
West Ham United:
Neil Finn, Jason Moore, Joe Keith, Chris Coyne, Rio Ferdinand, David Partridge, Emmanuel Omoyinmi, Frank Lampard, Anthony McFarlane, Lee Boylan, Lee Hodges.
Non-playing Subs: Chris Sains, Justin Bowen, Danny Sweeting.
Roy Naylor, Lee Prior, Gareth Roberts, Phil Brazier, Jamie Carragher, Mark Quinn, Stuart Quinn, David Thompson, Andy Parkinson, John Newby (David Lamour 73 mins), Jamie Cassidy.
Non-playing Subs: Ian Dunbabin, Sean Friars.
Extracts from Stratford Express’ match report:
Liverpool looked much more relaxed, settled quicker and after 23 minutes John Newby slammed home their first goal.
Resurgent West Ham laid siege to Liverpool’s goal after the interval and created several scoring opportunities. None was better than when Manny Omoyinmi raced into the penalty area but opted to shoot into a sea of legs instead of sliding the ball to an unmarked Lee Hodges.
Rio Ferdinand, West Ham’s exciting England Under 18 defender, was then pushed into an attacking role and, during an intense five-minute spell of pressure, he headed just over the crossbar.
But seven minutes from time Liverpool’s substitute striker David Larmour killed off the Hammers’ resistance with the second goal.
West Ham’s star man: Rio Ferdinand
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Anfield - 2nd Leg
Friday May 17, 1996
Liverpool 2 – 1 West Ham United (HT 1- 1)
West Ham: Lampard (51 seconds)
Liverpool: Owen (40 mins), Stuart Quinn (55 mins)
Extracts from the Liverpool Echo’s match report:
West Ham’s goal (1 min): After the 1st leg’s 2-0 defeat the Hammers had the best possible start in the 2nd leg, by scoring after just 51 seconds. Manny Omoyinmi crossed from the left, and although Jamie Cassidy got his head to the centre it fell to Frank Lampard to thump unstoppably into the Kop goal.
Liverpool’s equaliser (40 mins): Quinn’s fierce shot was well parried by Neil Finn. Owen again demonstrated his uncanny knack of surfacing in the right place at the right time to notch his 11th goal in five FA Youth Cup games.
Liverpool’s second (55 mins): Owen shrugged off two firm challenges as he wrestled his way into the box before lashing in his shot. Finn did supremely well to claw the shot away, but Owen was, as ever, first to the loose ball. This time his effort flew back off the woodwork, but only to Stuart Quinn and the right winger calmly fired home through a forest of defenders.
West Ham United:
Neil Finn, Jason Moore, Joe Keith, Chris Coyne, Rio Ferdinand, David Partridge (Justin Bowen 58 mins), Manny Omoyinmi, Frank Lampard, Anthony McFarlane, Lee Boylan (Chris Sains 89 mins), Lee Hodges.
Non-playing Sub: Alex O’Reilly (Goalkeeper)
Roy Naylor, Lee Prior, Phil Brazier, Jamie Carragher, Gareth Roberts, Stuart Quinn, David Thompson, Mark Quinn, Jamie Cassidy (Eddie Turkington 89 mins), John Newby (Andy Parkinson 79 mins), Michael Owen.
Non-Playing Sub: Ian Dunbabin
Route to FA Youth Cup Final
West Ham United did not have an easy path to the two-legged final. For three of the first four rounds they were drawn away from home. After their first tie, at home to Aston Villa, they had to wait for the two-legged semi-final against Wimbledon for their second Upton Park game. Prior to the semi-final, victories over Aston Villa, Woking, Queens Park Rangers and Oldham Athletic saw the team net 12 goals and concede just two.
Unchanged Side after 3rd Round
Tony Carr fielded a solid and consistent side for the campaign. After the campaign’s opening two ties, West Ham’s side was unchanged. Eight players were ever present (Neil Finn, Jason Moore, Joe Keith, Rio Ferdinand, David Partridge, Manny Omoyinmi, Lee Boylan and Anthony McFarlane). And another three were close to ever-present: Frank Lampard missed the first match, and Lee Hodges and Chris Coyne were absent for the first two.
Several other players also contributed to the successful run. Including substitute appearances, 20 players were called on. Notable contributions from two squad members not normally in the limelight were from Danny Fearnley and Stephen Purches in the opening tie away at Villa Park. Danny’s solitary cup appearance was as a sub and he marked it by scoring in the Hammers’ 3-0 win. Another goal was netted by Stephen Purches in what was his only starting game.
1995-96 FA Youth Cup Campaign
Seven Graduate to West Ham Football League Debuts
Without any doubt the 1996 FA Youth Cup final side was one of the best ever claret and blue youth sides in the club’s history. If they had lifted the FA Youth Cup they would be directly compared with the club’s 1963, 1981 and 1999 successful sides.
Probably one of the best measures of a successful youth side is how many graduate to a full Football League debut and make an impact at senior level. The ’96 Class stands out well. Seven progressed to make claret and blue senior debuts and another five made the grade with another club.
The seven who reached the senior ranks with West Ham United, in order of making their Football League debuts were: Neil Finn, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Manny Omoyinmi, Lee Boylan, Lee Hodges and Chris Coyne. Finn, Lampard and Ferdinand’s debuts were all in the same season as their FA Youth Cup final.
New Year’s Day 1996 was a day Neil will never forget. Three days before his 17th birthday he was called up for his Premiership debut away to Manchester City. With the suspension to first-choice keeper Ludek Miklosko after his sending off against Everton and the injury to reserve keeper Les Sealey, Finn stepped up between the sticks to became the then youngest ever player to have appeared in a Premiership game.
The Hammers may have lost the match 2-1 but Neil put in an accomplished performance. Prior to his unexpected Premiership baptism, he had appeared in four reserve team Avon Insurance Combination games. The rookie goalkeeper was the first of the ’96 class to gain first team colours but his appearance at Maine Road in 1996 turned out to be his only one. He left the Irons to continue playing in the non-league ranks with Dorchester Town and Romford.
Lampard’s West Ham first team career lasted six seasons as he clocked 186 league and cup appearances netting 37 goals, before transferring to Chelsea at the end of the 2000-01 season.
His West Ham Premiership debut was as substitute on January 31, 1996 in the 3-2 home win over Coventry City. With the Blues he enjoyed an immaculate career. In 13 seasons he made over 600 appearances and broke Bobby Tambling’s Chelsea goal scoring record with 211 goals in all competitions. In a career littered with honours, the highlights included captaining the Stamford Bridge club to winning the UEFA Champions League (2012) and gaining 104 England caps to add to the two he was awarded with the Hammers.
Similar to team mate Frank Lampard, Rio also left the Hammers in season 2000-01 and is one of the most decorated English footballers of all time. The first of his claret and blue 157 league and cup appearances was as substitute in the last Premiership game of 1995-96 in the home draw with Sheffield Wednesday.
He transferred to Leeds in November 2000 for a club-record £18m fee and two years later moved to Manchester United. Not to be outdone by Lampard, Ferdinand’s trophy cabinet includes a couple of UEFA Champions League winner’s medals and room for his 81 England caps, the first ten as a West Ham player.
Despite Manny’s contributions to the youth team’s 1995-96 success and a promising start to a claret and blue first team career, he will be remembered for the unfortunate Worthington League Cup episode in December 1999.
The pocket-sized striker made his first team bow on March 1, 1997 in the Premiership defeat at Elland Road to Leeds United. A year later his West Ham career peaked when he scored two goals after coming on as substitute in the 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on May 5, 1998. These turned out to be his only two strikes in his nine league and three cup first team appearances.
During his time in east London he made several loan moves and after the Manny Gate affair he was released on a free transfer to Oxford United in July 2000.
Boylan made his single first team appearance a year after the FA Youth Cup final in the 5-1 Premier League home win over Sheffield Wednesday on May 3, 1997. His first team career is on record as one of the very shortest of all West Ham United player’s.
He entered the field of play as an 89th minute substitute! Records do not indicate if he had sufficient time to touch the ball!
His playing career flitted between non-league and league clubs. He did make further Football League appearances when he signed for Exeter City in November 1999 (six games & one goal). Later he had short spells with Football League clubs Stevenage and Cambridge United.
Lee also had the honour of representing the Republic of Ireland Under-18s in the 1997 UEFA European Championships finals in Iceland. And in the following year he gained an Under-21 cap when he made his debut in a 3-0 defeat to the Czech Republic.
Hodges made several Football League appearances whilst on loan with Exeter City, Leyton Orient and Plymouth Argyle before he returned to Upton Park to make his West Ham first team bow.
On January 17, 1998 he came on as a sub in the Premiership defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. In season 1997-98 he registered all of his first team games: three in the Premiership and three in the FA Cup. After playing his final games for the Hammers during 1998-99 he made more loan moves, this time to Ipswich Town and Southend United before transferring to Scunthorpe United for £130,000 in the summer of 1999.
In three years with the Iron he clocked 113 league appearances and netted 20 goals. After leaving the Lincolnshire club in 2002 he had short spells with Rochdale and Bristol Rovers before drifting into the non-league game.
Australian defender Chris Coyne made his solitary claret and blue appearance as substitute in the 5-1 Premiership home defeat to Leeds United on May 1, 1999.
Prior to his Hammers’ debut he had made his Football League debut with Brentford when loaned to the west London club in August 1998. After seven league appearances with the Bees he made a second loan move to Southend United in March 1999 where he played one game.
A year after his West Ham substitute appearance, Chris moved to Dundee on a free transfer (rising to £50,000 based on appearances) in April 2000. Eighteen months later he was on the move again when he transferred to Luton Town.
In six and half years with the Hatters he clocked a respectable 221 league matches scoring 14 goals. His final league club was Colchester United (32 games). Whilst with the U’s he gained the first of seven Australia caps.
Football League Debuts with Other Clubs
The other five who later moved to new clubs to make the transition into Football League club sides were: Joe Keith, David Partridge, Craig Etherington, Stephen Purches and Alex O'Reilly.
Full back Joe Keith joined Colchester United in 1999 to enjoy six seasons with the U’s. He clocked up 247 league and cup appearances with the Essex club netting 28 goals. After a short loan stay with Bristol City Joe moved to Leyton Orient in 2005 for a season and a half. In January 2007 he signed for west Londoners, Brentford. His Football League career covered 283 games and 27 goals.
Career wise one of the most successful of the 1996 Class who didn’t reach the West Ham first team, was central defender David Partridge. After leaving east London in March 1999 David signed for Dundee United for £40,000. Three years later and after 62 Tangerine league games he moved to Leyton Orient for a short loan period.
It was here that Motherwell manager, Terry Butcher, recognised the tough defender’s talent and bought him back to Scotland. Without a doubt this led to Partridge’s career high. His Motherwell performances led to an international call-up to Wales senior squad. His Wales international debut was in February 2005 in a 2-0 win over Hungary. Of his seven full international matches the most memorable was the 2006 World Cup qualifier against England. Nine year’s earlier while with the Hammers David had gained a Wales Under-21 cap for the 1997 international versus Turkey.
After Motherwell (86 league games & two goals) he moved to Bristol City (11 games) and then a series of short loan spells with several clubs including Football League clubs, MK Dons, Leyton Orient and Brentford.
Striker Craig Etherington was loaned out on a couple of occasions. The first to Halifax Town (1999) and later to Plymouth Argyle (2000) where he made four and five Football League appearances respectively before moving into non-league football.
Defender Stephen Purches left the Hammers to join AFC Bournemouth in 2000. In a two spells with the south coast club he made 271 league appearances and scored 15 goals. The two spells were interspersed with three years at Brisbane Road’s, Leyton Orient. With the Hammers’ neighbours he clocked 110 league games with five nets. Stephen retired from playing in 2014 to join Bournemouth’s coaching staff. His AFC Bournemouth service was recognised with a testimonial game where West Ham provided the opposition.
Another international in the youth ranks was goalkeeper Alex O'Reilly. While Alex didn’t make an appearance in the FA Youth Cup campaign he was called-up to the bench for the Anfield leg of the final. Earlier in the season he had taken over from Neil Finn for November 1995’s Southern Junior Floodlit Cup 3-1 defeat away to Coventry City. After the SE Counties League title had been secured, he had the honour of playing in the last SE Counties League match at home to Ipswich Town. On the international front, he represented the Republic of Ireland at Under-19 and 21 level. At the start of 1999-2000 season he joined Northampton Town on loan to make seven appearances between the sticks. After retiring from playing he qualified as a physiotherapist.
England Youth Internationals
Rio Ferdinand : 7 Under-18 caps
Less than a year after the 1996 FA Youth Cup final, Rio was called-up into the England Under-21 squad and made his debut in the friendly international against Switzerland held at the County Ground, Swindon on April 1, 1997.
The scoreless game was a disappointment for the central defender as early in the second half he suffered ankle ligament damage and had to be substituted. This was the first of Rio’s five England Under-21 caps. A year later he graduated to the full England side when he came on as 38th minute substitute in the 2-0 Wembley friendly win over Cameroon on November 15, 1997. The first of ten caps whilst with West Ham United.
South East Counties League Champions
Including the Spurs match and the previous eight league matches, manager Tony Carr fielded his strongest XI. The same as in the FA Youth Cup final.
But with the South East Counties title safely secured, Tony had the luxury of being able to field a completely different XI for the league’s final fixture, a 1-1 draw at home with Ipswich Town.
West Ham’s under-18s topped the league table with 48 points, four ahead of Tottenham Hotspur and Watford, and five higher than Arsenal.
Liverpool’s John Newby shoots over the West Ham bar
Michael Owen beats keeper Neil Finn but his shot is cleared
Frank Lampard, Harry Redknapp and
Picture: Steve Bacon
Today, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand have both retired after long and highly distinguished careers. Their trophy cabinets brimming over with Premiership and UEFA Champions League winners’ medals, and full England caps from participation at European Championship and FIFA World Cup Final tournaments.
Their full England paths include the honour of being appointed captain of the national side. In Lampard’s case he wore the armband for 23 of his 106 England internationals, and in Ferdinand’s it was on seven of the 81 occasions he stepped out in The Three Lions’ shirt.
1995-96 Youth Team
Back row: Tony Carr (manager), Chris Sains, Lee Goodwin, David Partridge, Chris Coyne, Neil Finn,
Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Justin Bowen, Josh Collins (physio)
Front row: Jason Moore, Lee Hodges, Joe Keith, Emmanuel Omoyinmi, Lee Boylan, Anthony McFarlane
In the first-leg of the semi-final the young Hammers beat Wimbledon in front of 6,149 at Upton Park. Despite the win West Ham didn’t have everything their own way as Wimbledon led with a 50th minute goal. Three minutes later Lee Boylan equalised before Frank Lampard scored an 85th minute winner. A week later in Selhurst Park’s 2nd leg, goals from Manny Omoyinmi (2) and Lee Boylan ensured a 3-2 victory on the night for a 5-3 aggregate win.
Top goalscorer in the 1995-96 FA Youth Cup run was Lee Boylan with five, closely followed by Frank Lampard and Manny Omoyinmi on four.
Neil Finn (Goalkeeper)
Frank Lampard (Midfielder)
Rio Ferdinand (Defender)
Emmanuel 'Manny' Omoyinmi (Forward)
“Manny Gate Article”.
Click the Picture Link above
Lee Boylan (Forward)
Lee Hodges (Midfielder)
Chris Coyne (Defender)
Four days after the FA Youth Cup semi-final triumph over Wimbledon, on Saturday April 20 the young Hammers lined-up against 3rd place Tottenham Hotspur at Chadwell Heath in the match which clinched the South East Counties League title. In front of an estimated 2,000 fans the Under-18s did not disappoint. Despite Spurs taking the lead, it was West Ham who ran out 3-2 winners. A Frank Lampard double (including a penalty) and the third from Manny Omoyinmi gave the home team two points and the league title for the first time since 1984-85 season.
Youth team parade the SECL trophy around the Boleyn Ground
South East Counties League Champions
Picture: Steve Bacon
Newspaper coverage courtesy of Richard Miller, support images Steve Bacon and Richard Austin
Frank Lampard : 1 Under-18 cap
Lampard joined Ferdinand in the Under-21 ranks when he gained the first of his 19 Under-21 caps in a UEFA Championship first-leg play-off defeat to Greece in Crete on November 13, 1997. Frank progressed to the full international side in October 1999 making his debut in the friendly against Belgium at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.
Frank Lampard collects the South East Counties League trophy from a League official
Manny Omoyinmi receives the Young Hammer of the Year trophy from Ian Bishop
Frank Lampard’s 2nd Leg Scorcher after just 51 seconds
Picture: Richard Austin