West Ham seem to have had more than their fair share of injury prone players over the years, something which has been frustrating for both players and supporters alike. Strangely some fans get very angry about players being injured, as if spending most of what should be a glamorous and lucrative career on the sidelines has been a conscious career choice.
Today, we take a look back at the first five of ten Hammer careers that were prematurely ended or seriously curtailed through the misfortune of injury.
10 Jack Collison
An immensely popular player at West Ham, Jack Collison had signed as a seventeen year old from the Cambridge youth setup and made his Hammers debut in a game against Arsenal in January 2008. By the second half of the following season he had established himself in the West Ham midfield until a freak incident during an away game at Wigan in March 2009 saw him dislocate a kneecap when attempting to trap the ball . Despite the horrific nature of the injury he was able to return to action for the final four games of the season. In August of the same year Collison entered West Ham folklore by playing in the infamous Millwall League Cup encounter just a few days after his father’s fatal motorcycle accident. Over the next five seasons he continued to suffer consequences from the injured knee including a long layoff between February 2010 and May 2011. He was, however, able to make a significant contribution during the 2011/12 promotion season, including the successful Play-Off series, but was subsequently limited to occasional substitute appearances before his release and retirement. He is warmly remembered for his poignant farewell letter to fans.
9 John Lyall
Legendary manager, John Lyall began his honourable thirty four year association with West Ham by joining the ground-staff from school in 1955. Part of a talented group of youngsters at Upton Park that included Moore, Hurst, Peters, Boyce and Kirkup, he made his league debut in a 4-2 win over Chelsea in February 1960. In only his second game, however, he suffered a serious knee injury that kept him out for the remainder of the season. Fighting his way back to fitness Lyall had a successful 1960/61 season featuring in twenty five matches before injury struck him down yet again. He was able to play in just four games in each of the next two seasons before being forced to retire aged twenty three. Lyall was awarded a testimonial in April 1964 (West Ham versus All Stars XI) from which he received £3,797 and was given the job of wages clerk in the office at West Ham. From there he developed into possible the finest manager in West Ham’s history.
8 Dean Ashton
The best twenty goals per season striker we never had and the most astute January transfer signing in West Ham history. Dean Ashton was a product of the renowned Crewe Alexandra academy who arrived at West Ham via a year spent at Norwich City. Unusually, West Ham moved first to secure his signature amid stiff competition from other Premier League clubs as Ashton joined the Hammers in January 2006 for a fee of £7 million plus add-ons. Fortunately, he had been left out of the Norwich side beaten by the Hammers in the third round of the FA Cup and became an important part of the run that took the club all the way to the final in Cardiff; scoring two goals in the 6th round tie against Manchester City as well as West Ham’s second goal in the final. Success at West Ham earned Ashton a call-up to an England training camp in August 2006 where a tackle by Shaun Wright-Phillips broke his ankle and kept him out for the whole of the 2006/07 (Great Escape) season. He had a moderately successful come-back season in 2007/08 and looked to be on-form at start of the following season before the injury curse struck again. He made no appearances between September 2008 and December 2009 when he announced his retirement aged twenty six.
7 Mauricio Taricco
A player whose West Ham career lasted precisely twenty seven minutes, Taricco was the first Argentine to turn out for the Hammers following his arrival in November 2004. I’m not sure how Taricco originally joined Ipswich Town, from Argentinos Juniors, in 1994 (maybe he had an Italian passport) but he went on to play the majority of his footballing career in England; first with the Tractor Boys and then with Tottenham, where he became George Graham’s first signing on becoming manager. Taricco was a fans favourite at both clubs, respected for his attacking prowess and his typical Latin robustness in the tackle. He spent five years at White Hart Lane where, in typical Tottenham style, he played under a succession of managers including Graham, Hoddle, Pleat (caretaker on two occasions), Santini and Jol before being allowed to leave on a free transfer. Taricco was signed by Alan Pardew as the answer to a problematic full-back shortage (plus ça change) and made his debut at The Den against Millwall shortly afterwards. A torn hamstring midway through the first half ended his involvement and with the injury predicted to keep him out for eight weeks he gave the club the opportunity to cancel his contract; “one of the most honest things I have known a player to do” according to Pardew.
6 Richard Hall
One of a gaggle of players bought by Harry Redknapp in the summer of 1996, Richard Hall was a highly rated central defender on the fringes of the England national team. Hall had begun his career at Scunthorpe but was soon on the move to Southampton where he made his debut in May 1991 as a substitute for Neil Ruddock. He stayed on the south coast for five years making over 150 appearances and scoring sixteen goals. Hall signed for West Ham in a £1.4 million deal to strengthen a defence that included current manager Slaven Bilic and Marc Rieper. True to form a pre-season injury saw Hall sidelined for most of the season before finally making his debut in April 1997 and playing in a run of the games that finally saw the Hammers through to Premier League survival. Injury kept him out for the whole of the 1997/98 season and he managed just one further appearance in 1998/99; as a second half substitute for Tim Breacker in the third round cup defeat by third division Swansea. Hall retired from football in May 1999.
To be continued…….