It can be tempting for club and manager to sign the occasional free transfer experienced professional when their time at the very top of the game is coming to end. The signing of Pablo Zabaleta has been received very positively over the weekend but it is not the first time that West Ham have followed this route. We take the opportunity to look back at some of the illustrious names who had been there, done that, taken the open-top bus parade and recall how they measured up during their time in East London.
10 Alvaro Arbeloa
Boasting a hatful of honours including one World Cup, two Euros, two Champion’s League and one La Liga, Arbeloa joined West Ham on a one year deal, aged 33, in August 2016; his signing seen as a temporary solution to long running right back problem. Arbeloa made his debut against Accrington Stanley in the EFL Cup followed by his solitary Premier League start, against Southampton, where he played the whole game at left back in a 3-0 defeat. He made two more substitute appearances as early replacements for the injured Byram and Collins respectively before permanently entering the twilight zone along with Gokhan Tore. He was booked in each of his Premier League appearances. There has been much unconfirmed speculation of a rift with manager Slaven Bilic over training methods and Arbeloa’s release was recently announced by the club; his pockets stuffed with reported £65k per week takings (close to a cool £3 million in total).
9 John Radford
The first of a former Arsenal quintet in our top ten list, Radford, a 1971 double winner, signed for West Ham in December 1976 as a relatively youthful 29 year old. Radford had enjoyed a profitable career at Highbury and at the time of his departure was their second most prolific goal scorer of all time with 149 goals; since surpassed by both Ian Wright and Thierry Henry. He joined a struggling West Ham side which had spent most of the season stuck in the relegation zone before finally pulling clear at the very last moment. In his first season he played 19 games with no goals and drew a further blank from 11 games during the first half of the subsequent season. He was transferred to second division Blackburn Rovers in late 1977 where he partially rediscovered his shooting boots to net 10 times from 38 starts.
8 Lee Chapman
A League Cup winner with Nottingham Forest and League Title winner with Leeds United, Chapman became a Hammer, aged 33, in September 1993 as West Ham competed in the Premier League for the first time. Chapman made his debut in an away fixture against Blackburn Rovers alongside fellow new signings Mike Marsh and David Burrows who had arrived as part of the deal that took Julian Dicks to Anfield. Goals form Chapman himself and Trevor Morley earned the Hammers a surprise win that lifted them out of the relegation places and set them on course for an eventual thirteenth place finish. Chapman contributed 7 league goals from 30 appearances to the campaign. The following season he opened the season with no goals from 10 games before losing his place to the returning Tony Cottee and being transferred to Ipswich. It was Chapman who Harry Redknapp famously substituted for a fan in a pre-season friendly at Oxford City.
7 Freddie Ljungberg
With a sackful of league and cup medals earned during his time at Arsenal, Ljungberg moved to West Ham on a four year contract, aged 30, as part of the Icelandic cash splashing revolution in the summer of 2007; a period that also heralded the arrival of Craig Bellamy, Kieron Dier, Scott Parker and Nobby Solano to Upton Park. Ljungberg made his debut, as captain, in the season opener against Manchester City but a series of niggling injuries limited his contribution and it was not until February 2008 that he scored the first of his two West Ham goals. Broken ribs in a game at Newcastle prematurely ended his season in April 2008 and he was not seen in a West Ham shirt again; the club paying off the remaining years of his contract in the summer (for a reported £6 million) while Ljungberg declared that he “had given his all for West Ham”. Equally well known for his Calvin Klein modelling work, Ljungberg became something of a footballing nomad turning out in the US, Scotland, Japan and India before finally retiring in 2014.
6 Jimmy Greaves
Greaves was 30 years old when he signed for West Ham in March 1970 as a makeweight in Martin Peter’s transfer to Tottenham. The previous season (1968/69) he had finished as the First Division’s leading scorer with 27 goals but had already lost his place in the Tottenham team before his move to Upton Park at the tail end of the 1969/70 season. Greaves marked his West Ham debut with two goals in a 5-1 win at Manchester City and then scored on the opening day of the following season against his old club in a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane. His did not continue such a rich vein of form, however, and in a largely disappointing season he scored just 9 goals in 30 appearances. His time at West Ham is perhaps best remembered for the Blackpool nightclub incident and his increasing dependence on alcohol; as he became disillusioned with both his own game and the abilities of the majority of his West Ham teammates. He left the club at the end of the 1970/71 season and did not play professionally again.