The Former Hammers Now Chelsea Stars: Frank Lampard and Joe Cole

Edward QuinnCorrespondent IMay 2, 2008

Two of the greatest talents of English football, Joe Cole and Frank Lampard. They have set the game alight with their dominant displays from the centre and the wings of midfield. As great as these players are, we have to take a step back to honour the team who nurtured these great talents, although they are a team who I detest far and wide because we have not beaten them in the past 3 matches, West Ham.

Joe Cole was a child prodigy who received national media attention as a schoolboy, he famously scored 7 of the 8 goals the England youth team scored against Spain in one match, and a product of the famed West Ham United youth system. Cole was long touted as the hottest prospect in English football with Manchester United reportedly offering to pay £10 million for his services as a 16-year-old.

Playing in a mould similar to former England favourite Paul Gascoigne, he quickly progressed through the West Ham ranks before making his first-team debut at the age of 17. In 1999 Cole was also part of West Ham's victorious Youth Cup winning squad, defeating Coventry City 9–0 in the final. In January 2003 Glenn Roeder then West Ham United manager gave Cole the club captain's armband at the age of 21.

Sadly, for Cole and for West Ham United, the club was relegated at the end of that season from the Premiership with the highest points total ever recorded by a relegated side, 42. Chelsea brought him for £6.6 million at the start of the 2003-04, and since then, although he has faced competition for his places at most times, he has been integral to Chelsea's rise to the top.

Frank Lampard joined West Ham as an apprentice in 1994 as part of the youth system, and signed professional terms on July 1st 1995. His debut came 6 months later in a game against Coventry City.

Lampard's first goal came during the 1997-98 season in an away game at Barnsley. At this time he was a regular in the West Ham youth team. It wasn't until the 1998-99 that Lampard became a first-team regular at West Ham, not missing a single game as West Ham finished 5th that season.

But after the exodus of Rio Ferdinand, his father and his uncle Harry Redknapp in the 2000-01 season, Lampard also decided to leave and joined Chelsea for £11 million, despite interest from Aston Villa and Leeds United.

Since his move to Chelsea, Frank Lampard has blossomed. He cemented his reputation as one of the finest midfielders in Europe following a string of good seasons as a first-team regular. He has often be called "the best player in the world" by team-mates and managers, but whilst not being right at the top, Lampard is there or there abouts. His move to Chelsea also cementing his place in the England national team.

He is also the highest scoring midfielder in Chelsea's history, with 109 goals in in 366 starts, and the 7th highest goalscorer in Chelsea's history. This is a remarkable feat by a midfielder. Often he is called in to captain the side if John Terry is unavailable. This shows his maturity and above all, class.

So I must say, thank you West Ham United and especially to Harry Redknapp for nurturing two of the greatest talents in English football. Whilst you might not be as good as you were back then, you will be remembered for giving the England national team two of the most talented midfielders in England and indeed Europe.

Hats off to ye Hammers!