Clean Sheets and Favourite Keepers!

Recalling some of the men who have kept goal for the Hammers over the years.

West Ham KeepersWhen West Ham play Accrington Stanley in the next round of the League Cup (or whatever it’s called these days) it will be the first encounter between the two clubs. Someone who did once play against Stanley though was legendary goalkeeper Willie ‘Fatty’ Foulke; at the time plying his trade with Bradford City. When Accrington visited Bradford for an FA Cup tie in February 1907 it was discovered that Foulke, who stood 6ft 3in and weighed in at circa 22 stone, was wearing a jersey that clashed with the red shirts of the visitors. After a fruitless search for a suitably large replacement Foulke was wrapped in a sheet borrowed from a neighbouring house. The game ended in a Bradford victory by the only goal and with Foulke barely called into action his makeshift attire was as pristine as it had been at the outset.  Thus, the origin of “keeping a clean sheet”. [Incidentally, it is also claimed that the chant “Who ate all the pies?” was originally directed at Foulke.]

Our own erstwhile manager, and fellow ‘Fatty’, was a great proponent of the clean sheet as a tool in ‘respecting the point’.  Until recently it was unusual to hear people talking about number of clean sheets but with dawning of the age of soccer statistics anything that can be counted will be counted.  Now you will see the clean sheet cited as one of the measures in comparing the relative merits of Premier League goalkeepers.

Given that this article is meant to be about West Ham keepers I took a look at the record of all our keepers that I could think of who had played more than 50 games and this is how they ranked in terms of clean sheets:

Player Appearances Clean sheets %
Ludek Miklosko 373 125 33.51
Jussi Jaaskelainen 60 20 33.33
Phil Parkes 440 146 33.18
George Kitchen 205 67 32.68
Stephen Bywater 68 22 32.35
Shaka Hislop 157 50 31.85
Edward Hufton 402 113 28.11
Robert Green 241 62 25.73
Bobby Ferguson 277 70 25.27
Mervyn Day 237 59 24.89
Peter Grotier 54 12 22.22
Ernie Gregory 422 89 21.09
Lawrie Leslie 61 12 19.67
Jim Standen 236 45 19.07
Tom McAlister 100 18 18.00
Brian Rhodes 71 7 9.86

The obvious conclusion from the clean sheet stats is that, and we probably knew this already, the game has become more defensive in the later years.  It is certainly not an absolute measure that can realistically be used to compare keepers over the years.  The records of both George Kitchen and Edward (Ted) Hufton, however, look most commendable since they belong to a more adventurous bygone age;  or perhaps West Ham had better defenders back then.  It was Hufton who appeared in the 1923 White Horse Cup Final and was the first West Ham keeper to represent England.  George Kitchen who played for West Ham from 1905 to 1912 is our only keeper ever to score a goal.  As a regular penalty taker he notched 6 in total including the only goal of the game on his debut against Swindon Town.  The other point of interest being that at the time a goalkeeper was allowed to handle the ball anywhere in his own half; this rule was abolished in 1912.

A total of 73 goalkeepers have played in league matches for West Ham since 1898.  The keeper in the first game I saw live at Upton Park was Brian Rhodes but I couldn’t tell you anything about his custodian prowess.  A further 34 keepers have appeared between the sticks since Rhodes although 13 of these only made a handful of appearances.  The first keeper I do remember with any certainty is Lawrie Leslie; a fearless competitor his trademark was rushing out to throw himself at the feet of onrushing forwards with the inevitable resulting injuries.  In pre-substitute days I can recall him finishing the match on the wing after injuring his arm and it was a subsequent broken leg, sustained at home to Bolton, that led to Jim Standen joining the club as an emergency replacement.

Continue reading for my list of Top 5 Hammer’s keepers.

Transfer Deadline Day

Oh What A Circus! (with apologies to Andrew Lloyd Webber)

Oh what a circus, oh what a show
Sky Sports has gone to town
Over the transfer of footballer David Luiz
They’ve all gone crazy
Reporting all day and rumours all night
Falling over themselves to get helicopters in sight

Transfer WindowOh What A Circus is a song from the 1976 musical Evita, written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. David Essex (a West Ham fan, but more famous as a pop idol of the 1970’s, and very recently an actor on Eastenders) later recorded the song, which uses the same tune as the more well-known Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. It was a commercial success for him going close to the top of the UK singles chart in 1978 at a time when his career and teenybopper appeal appeared to be on the wane. The song compares the life of Eva Peron to a circus. I make the same comparison with Sky Sports coverage of transfer deadline day to a circus. Some might call it a pantomime.

The circus comes to town twice a year when Sky Sports cancels leave for all reporters and sends them to stand outside training grounds, hiding behind bins, to be attacked by sex toys, to be drowned out by excitable teenagers keen to show themselves up on TV, whilst trying to grab interviews through car windows with players and managers or indeed anyone driving past them.

Jim White, rumoured to be soon taking over the prestigious 10am morning slot on Talk Sport from Colin Murray, wearing his bright yellow transfer day tie, anchors the infamous evening shift in the Sky Sports studio as the clock in the corner of the screen ticks down second by second. You’d think a rocket would be taking off for the moon, but no, it’s just the countdown to the window slamming shut at 11 pm. The window is open for the whole of the summer, but come the last day of August it has to be slammed shut as the cooler nights of Autumn approach. And even though they’ve had three months or so to conduct their business, the clubs have to go mad in the last few hours, panic buying and frequently paying over the odds for any player they can lay their hands on, hoping they’ve got a bargain, but unable to return any goods that turn out to be faulty or unfit for purpose.

To be quite frank just watching for a few minutes can drive you mad, as reporters in front of cameras confirm what “Sky Sources” ticker-tape says running across the bottom of the screen, and then breaking news highlights what everybody has just been going on about for the last couple of hours. And then a sidebar on the screen tells you exactly the same thing. So much repetition and for what? You can look on the internet later in the evening or in tomorrow’s newspapers and see all the transfers listed there.

But apart from the window slamming shut we get all the final day drama with all the usual jargon, last minute dramatic swoops, pictures of helicopters that may or may not contain David Luiz, phones buzzing, alleged sightings at motorway service stations or petrol stations anywhere, Ronaldo or Messi shopping at the Westfield shopping centre, Valencia in the back of a cab in Swansea or Liverpool (or putting his feet up in Ecuador), everyone with their sources, players spotted at training grounds, Jack Wilshere driving his car to Bournemouth, last minute intervention by Daniel Levy who suddenly decides he wants Sissoko, and descriptions of transfers or done deals or rumours using words like amazing, dramatic, sensational, shocking, exciting, impressive or incredible. How Sky Sports and the media in general can make so much out of nothing is amazing / sensational / incredible! And of course we have the usual social media where people in their millions are reacting (mostly in the most negative way you could imagine with expletives galore about transfers that may, or more likely may not, happen)

Poyet is going but Payet is staying (was there ever really any doubt?). World Cup winning, 33 year old, ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid right back Arbeloa has apparently signed. I started to follow him on Twitter and noticed he has 4.5 million followers! Wow that must more than the rest of the West Ham squad combined! It was reported that the move was instigated by David Sullivan who wanted to buy anyone who has ever worn a number 2 shirt to be absolutely certain that Michail Antonio never has to play in this position ever again.

And what’s this? 10.45pm – it is being reported that Valencia has signed for Everton on loan with a view to a permanent deal. £14.5 million? Have they watched him lately? Plenty of new blind alleys for him to find in Liverpool.

Oh what a circus, oh what a show!