With the return of Joe Cole, Sam Hodges looks at the team we might have had if we had kept our youngsters

Bywater is now playing his at Sheffield Wednesday.

Stephen Bywater

Bywater is now playing his at Sheffield Wednesday. He is the best keeper West Ham have brought through their youth ranks in recent times. He was signed from Rochdale as a 16-year-old and made his debut against Bradford after Shaka Hislop went off injured with a broken leg. The match finished 5-4 to West Ham. In 2006 he signed for Derby for £225,000

Glen Johnson

Johnson is now playing for Liverpool and has been one of their best performers of this season. He came right through the West Ham youth system and made his debut for the club against Charlton in 2003. After West Ham’s relegation that season Johnson was sold to Chelsea for a fee worth £6 million. It was rumoured that he didn’t want to leave after he had recently signed a four year deal at the club. He has got 45 caps for England.

Rio Ferdinand

Rio joined West Ham’s youth system in 1992 after being touted around a number of other clubs. He progressed through the youth teams and made his debut for the first team in May 1996 against Sheffield Wednesday. At the age of just 19 he won the Hammer of the Year award for the season 97/98. In November 2000 he was sold to Leeds United for £18m which was then a British transfer record fee and he also became the World’s most expensive defender. In 2002 he left Leeds for Manchester United for a fee worth around £30m. Ferdinand has made 81 appearances for England.

John Terry

Terry was in the West Ham youth system between 1991 and 1995 where he then left for Chelsea. It was rumoured that Terry wanted to play centre midfield but the coaching staff were convinced he we was a centre back. He left for Chelsea as they offered to play him in midfield. He has now made 380 appearances for Chelsea and got 78 caps for England playing at centre half. I think it is safe to say that Tony Carr and the rest of the West Ham coaching team were right.

Kieran Richardson

He has gone under the radar about him being at West Ham. He was in the clubs youth system for a while before Man Utd signed him in 2001. He never made a first team appearance for the Hammers. He now plays his football at Fulham after signing for them from Sunderland in the Summer.

Michael Carrick

Carrick joined West Ham’s youth academy in 1997. While in the youth team and playing alongside Joe Cole he won the F.A. Youth Cup. He made is debut for West Ham in August 2000 and went on to make over 150 appearances for he Hammers. He left West Ham for Tottenham in 2004 for £3.5m after staying with West Ham for another season following their relegation. He then moved to Man Utd in 2006 for £18m. He still has regular place in the Man Utd team. Carrick has made 26 England appearances.

Frank Lampard

Lampard joined the West Ham youth team in 1994 and made his debut for the club in January 1996 against Coventry after returning from a loan spell at Swansea. Lampard made 148 appearances for the club and scored 24 goals before being sold to once again Chelsea for £11m. He has got 93 England caps.

Mark Noble

He is the current longest serving player at the club and is the vice-captain to Kevin Nolan. He made his debut against in August 2004 at the age of just 17 and gone on to make 205 appearances so far. In the future he will become a West Ham legend.

Jack Collison

Collison joined West Ham as a 16-year-old boy when he was offered a trial at the club following the disbanding of Cambridge’s youth set up . He made his debut for West Ham in January 2008 away to Arsenal. He has played 81 times for West Ham and scored nine goals.

Joe Cole

Joe Cole has just rejoined West Ham from Liverpool on a 18 month contract but Cole came through the youth ranks at West Ham. Cole received a lot of press attention as a school boy and in one England youth match he scored seven of the eight goals against Spain and it was reported that Man utd offered £10m for him when he was just 16. Cole was part of the West Ham team that won the F.A. Youth Cup. He made his debut for West Ham in January 1999 at just 17 against Swansea. He made 126 appearances for West Ham scoring 10 goals before he was sold to Chelsea in 2003 for £6.6m following West Ham’s relegation from the Premier League. He has also got 56 England caps.

Jermain Defoe

West Ham signed Defoe from Charlton Athletic when he was 16 years old. He made his debut against Walsall in September 2000 in the League Cup. West Ham won 1-0 with Defoe getting the goal. When West Ham were relegated Defoe handed in a transfer request just 24 hours after which was quickly rejected by the club. He joined Tottenham in January 2004 for an initial £6m after making 105 appearances for West Ham and scored 41 goals. Defoe has got 52 caps for England and has scored 17 goals.

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