Little did anybody anticipate that West Ham’s play-off final victory against Preston in 2005 would provide the launch pad for one of their most successful seasons ever, with the club securing a top-half Premiership finish and qualifying for Europe thanks to its first FA Cup final appearance in 26 years. Indeed, the thrilling 3–3 draw with Liverpool will be remembered as one of the most dramatic finals of all time.
With a keenly anticipated UEFA Cup campaign and the shock arrival of Argentina World Cup stars Carlos Tévez and Javier Mascherano, the future could hardly have seemed brighter. But storm clouds were gathering on the horizon as the Hammers embarked on what would prove to be the most turbulent and traumatic period in the club’s entire history. (pb)