Part Two Of The Top Ten West Ham Sick-Notes

Concluding our look at the unfortunate West Ham players whose careers have been blighted by injury.

Today we conclude our look at the top ten players whose potentially sparkling careers at West Ham were cut short, curtailed or stopped before they even really started by the Hammer’s injury curse.  Part One Of The Top Ten Sick-Notes can be found here.

5          Paulo Futre

When he signed for West Ham on a one year deal in the summer of 1996, Paulo Futre was nearing the end of a distinguished career that included a man-of-the-match European Cup win with Porto in 1987.  Originally scheduled to make his debut in the season opener at Highbury he withdrew from the squad at the last minute upon discovering that he had been allocated the number ‘16’ shirt rather than the coveted number ‘10’ that his contract apparently stipulated.  Some days later a swap deal had been arranged with John Moncur; the number ‘10’ for free use of Futre’s villa in the Algarve.  Futre made a substitute appearance (as number ‘16’) at home to Coventry and then his full number ‘10’ debut in an enthralling home game against Southampton at Upyon Park where the Hammers came from behind to win 2-1.  Futre showed same wonderful touches in a West Ham side that included Bilic, Raducioiu and Dumitrescu.  His introduction to English football was completed on the day by a trademark Benali tackle which earned the Saint’s full-back a red card.  Sadly Futre’s dodgy knees got the better of him with his West Ham career fizzling out by November 1996, having played only a handful of games.

4          Diafro Sakho

Signed from French Ligue 2 side Metz, most believed that Diafra Sakho was yet another in a long line of cut price strikers who would be passing through West Ham.  To everyone’s surprise he hit the ground running with a return of eight goals from his first ten appearances, including six from his first six starts.  Sakho then started to experience a run of problems with his back (which may have been a pre-existing condition when he signed) and which led to a dispute between the club and the Senegal national team; this followed his withdrawal from the African Cup of Nations and his subsequent involvement in a cup tie at Bristol City for the Hammers.  He finished the 2014/15 season as top scorer with twelve goals from twenty six appearances.  The following season repeated the pattern with an encouraging start interrupted by injuries, limiting his participation to twenty four matches amid rumours of a fall-out with the management.  Further injuries in 2016/17, whether to his body or his pride, resulted in Sakho turning out on just occasions.  With a relatively creditable twenty goals from his fifty or so appearances it is unlikely that he will be seen in a West Ham shirt again.

3          Dale Gordon

Allegedly the love child of Flash Gordon and Dale Arden, Dale Gordon (or Disco Dale) joined West Ham for a fee of £750,000 in the summer of 1993 as West Ham’s prepared for their inaugural season in the Premier League.  Gordon started his career at Norwich before a big money move took him to Glasgow Rangers where he experienced mixed fortunes with injury limited his contribution to a brace of Scottish Championships and several cup wins.  On joining West Ham he claimed that his injury woes were behind him and secured a place in the record books by scoring the Hammer’s first ever Premier League goal, in a one-all drawn game against Coventry.  Best known for his moustache and fancy step-overs, Gordon played in a run of ten games at the start of the 1993/94 season until injury stepped-in.  In his autobiography, Stevie Bacon claims that although Gordon’s injury was reported as a ‘training incident’ it actually happened when he overturned a buggy on the golf course.  Regardless, Gordon spent most of the next two years on crutches missing the whole of 1994/95 and playing just twice the season after.  He retired from football in February 1997 having played just eleven times in three seasons.

2          Andy Carroll

Until recently West Ham’s most expensive signing, Andy Carroll initially joined West Ham on a season long loan at the start of the 2012/13 season.  Carroll made an immediate impact on his debut, against Fulham, setting up two goals before having to leave the field due to injury.  There was a further long injury lay-off over the winter months and he finished his loan spell with seven goals from twenty four appearances; despite the fact that he had picked up a heel injury in the final game of the season, this was felt to be sufficient evidence for West Ham to offer him a permanent six year deal.  Carroll missed the first half of the next season, returned to action for the run-in but then suffered an ankle ligament injury during the 2014/15 pre-season, once again restricting his game time.  Groin problems during 2015/16 meant that he was again used sparingly, and usually from the bench, but he was able to feature in a total of thirty two games overall.  In 2016/17 it was the knee’s turn to cause him grief, this time restricting his contribution to eighteen starts.  In total Carroll has appeared for West Ham in 110 games over five seasons scoring thirty goals. Although past performance is not an indicator of future results it would be a brave or foolish man that decided to build a team around Mr. Carroll.

1          Kieron Dyer

One of the many players to arrive during the mad Icelandic spending spree in the summer of 2007, Kieron Dyer made his debut for West Ham in an away win at Birmingham before featuring for England against Germany at Wembley just a few days later.  Unfortunately, his West Ham career had peaked very early as a double break to the leg, following a bad tackle in a League Cup tie against Bristol Rovers, kept him out for the remainder of the season.  Rehabilitation was slow and it was not until January 2009, after seventeen months out, that Dyer featured again as a substitute in an FA Cup tie against Barnsley.  A series of hamstring injuries continued to plague Dyer during both the 2008/09 and 2009/10 seasons where he made a combined total of nineteen appearances but failed to play an entire ninety minutes at any time.  It was more of the same in the 2010/11 although he did finally get to play a full game once more; a two-two draw with West Bromwich Albion in which he earned the penalty, converted by Piquionne, to give the Hammers a temporary lead.  Dyer was finally released in June 2011 at end of a four year spell at Upton Park, where he was reportedly the top earner at around £80k per week, having appeared in thirty five games with no goals.

Top Ten West Ham Sick-Notes Part One

Part One of a retrospective on players whose careers at West Ham were or have been blighted by injury.

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…….

Five Favourite Unsung Hammer’s Heroes

A personal selection of West Ham players who barely get a mention in the litany of misty-eyed nostalgia.

By definition this is a very subjective list in that it relies on two assumptions;  one, that these were good players and two, that their efforts went largely unnoticed by the majority of West Ham fans.  In fact their status as unsung in largely in an historic context rather than during their time spent in a Hammer’s shirt.  Thus, none would likely ever feature in, or be anywhere near, any supporter’s all time favourite West Ham team.  Technically, I guess, to be truly unsung there shouldn’t be a terrace song about you either and, as far as I know, this is the case for each of my selections.

Using the accepted convention in such matters, in reverse order my nominations are:

5              Paul Goddard

Goddard’s inclusion in the list stems mainly from the fact that he was ultimately over-shadowed by the McAvennie/ Cottee partnership in the 1985/86 season that led to his inconspicuous and premature departure from the club the following season.  When he was signed in the aftermath of the 1980 FA Cup win, as a replacement for Stuart Pearson, it was for a club record fee of £800,000 and he quickly formed a lethal partnership with (the original Psycho) David Cross; which terrorised Division Two defences during that all-conquering promotion season of 1980/81.  Between them Goddard and Cross found the net fifty-six times in all competitions including a memorable run to the League Cup final against Liverpool, where Goddard opened the scoring in the replay at Villa Park.  A classy striker, who was excellent on the ball, a cool and clinical finisher and who would have featured highly in the assist tables had they existed at the time, Goddard made just over 200 appearances for West Ham between August 1980 and November 1986, scoring 71 times.  Injury curtailed his involvement in 1983/84 and then struck again at the start of 1985/86 when his absence inspired the pairing together of McAvennie and Cottee upfront.  In 1982 Goddard earned his solitary international appearance scoring the equalising goal for Ron Greenwood’s England in a Word Cup warm-up game against Iceland.  Unfortunately he did not make the cut for the Finals and was never to feature for his country again.  When transferred to Newcastle in 1986 it also set a new transfer record (£415,000) for his new club.

4              Trevor Morley

Mention Trevor Morley and most people immediately think of the infamous stabbing incident and lurid but unfounded ‘three in a bed’ stories involving team-mate Ian Bishop.  Morley and Bishop arrived at West Ham together in a December 1989 swap deal with Manchester City that saw winger Mark Ward head back north.  Despite scoring ten goals from his first eighteen games it was not enough to fire the Hammers back into the top flight at the first time of asking but promotion came a year later when he contributed a further twelve goals.  Morley was little used back in Division One partly because manager Billy Bonds preferred the Clive Allen/ Mike Small partnership and partly due to him missing two months of the season after being stabbed by his wife.  It turned out to be a unsatisfactory season all round as West Ham finished rock bottom and became one of the few clubs ever to be relegated from Division One to Division One.  The following season was Morley’s most successful with a 20 league goal tally that helped West Ham to earn promotion to the Premier League.  Thirteen goals in 1993/94 saw West Ham to a creditable mid-table finish while Morley was crowned as Hammer of the Year.    No goals from ten outings the following season ended his stay at Upton Park resulting in a free transfer to Reading at the conclusion of the 1994/95 season.  His last appearance being the Ludo Miklosko inspired home draw with Manchester United to deny them the title.

3              Peter Butler

Most often described as a journeyman footballer Butler strutted his stuff with nine different teams in all four divisions in a career that stretched from 1984 to 2000.  Essentially an inhabitant of unfashionable footballing locations such as Huddersfield, Bury, Notts County, Southend and Halifax, the call came in 1992 from the east-end of London to help newly demoted West Ham find their way back to the top, a feat which was successfully achieved.  Almost the stereotypical gritty northerner, Butler brought a no-nonsense, tough tackling, hard as nails attitude to the West Ham midfield, exactly what was needed in the slog that is the lengthy second tier season.  Butler had few pretensions regarding his own capabilities but demonstrated an economy in passing that involved winning the ball and giving it quickly and simply to the more creative players in the side.  Butler was a regular in the Hammer’s first Premier League campaign playing twenty six of forty two games and weighing in with one goal, scored in a 3-2 home win against Coventry City.  Although he kept his place for the opening games of the 1994/95 season he quickly fell out of favour and, with the arrival of Don Hutchison, he was sold to Notts County in October 1994 – for twice his original signing fee.  After his playing days Butler has had an eclectic and nomadic career as a coach in various Asian and African countries and is currently manager of the Botswana national team.

2              Tim Breacker

With a name that always reminded me of the ‘Breaker Breaker’ slang from the contemporaneous Citizen Band radio craze, Breacker is also the only Tim ever to have played for West Ham.  Signed from Luton Town in October 1990 he was the Hammer’s first choice right back (back in the days when we had one of those) for the best part of eight seasons.  He made just short of 300 appearances for West Ham (putting him at number thirty eight in the all-time rankings) in which he scored eight goals.   It is probably fair to say that during that time he was mostly unspectacular and yet you knew that he would always give his all.  He would bomb up and down the touchline for the entire duration of the game and although there was nothing flashy about his game he would run and tackle and run and put in crosses all afternoon.  The 1993/94 season was arguably his most successful playing forty times in the Hammer’s Premier League campaign and scoring three goals including the only goal of the game in a rare win at Goodison Park.  He also featured in every round of a promising FA Cup run which finally ended in a sixth round replay defeat to his old club, Luton Town of Division One; a match best remembered for a hat-trick by Scott Oakes, son of Showaddywaddy guitarist Trevor, and an uncharacteristic Steve Potts slip.  Since retirement from playing Breacker has had a variety of coaching jobs and is currently Chief Scout at Bolton Wanderers.

1              Ronnie Boyce

Ticker Boyce probably only qualifies as an unsung hero because he was from an era of West Ham history that was dominated by Moore, Hurst and Peters and supported by other headline makers such as Byrne and Sissons.  Affectionately known as ‘Ticker’ in recognition of his place as the heartbeat of the side Boyce spent a total of 37 years associated with West Ham in various capacities.  He possessed great work rate, covered every blade of grass but was also an astute passer of the ball.  Boyce made his league debut as a 17 year old in October 1960 and was still only 21 when he scored the winning goal in the 1964 FA Cup Final against Preston North End.  He only scored twenty nine goals in over 340 appearances (twenty sixth in the all-time rankings) for West Ham but was on fire in 1964 cup run having also scored two in the semi-final victory over Manchester United.  There was another winner’s medal the following year in the European Cup Winner’s Cup and it was another Boyce goal that kicked off the Hammer’s European adventure with the only goal of the game against La Gantoise in Belgium.  A one club man Boyce was rewarded with a testimonial in November 1972 against a Manchester United side featuring Bobby Charlton and George Best and although (unusually) Boyce did not score, West Ham ran out 5-2 victors on the night.  After his playing days Boyce had various roles coaching and scouting for the club right up until 1995.  He had one game as caretaker manager in 1990 after Lou Macari’s departure; a 2-2 draw away to Swindon Town.

West Ham and the Loan Arranger

Will dreams of big signings dissolve into a series of hasty loan deals? And does sending young players out on loan always make good sense?

As much a part of summer as flood alerts, hosepipe bans and angry wasps, close season recruitment at West Ham begins with an improbable anticipation of marquee signings; but, as the nights draw in, inevitably transforms to a resigned acceptance of season long loan deals. As was so perfectly illustrated in yesterday’s article, 48 Hours in the Life of West Ham Transfer Speculation, we are now firmly in that positive upswing phase of gratuitous optimism, where you could easily be forgiven for thinking that players are falling over themselves (and not in the simulation sense) to earn a move to the London Stadium.

If history has taught us anything, however, a more likely reality is a series of high profile snubs and rejections, generating a heightened level of desperation that culminates in an eleventh hour appeal to the loan system. The forlorn hope being that, somewhere, a club is inexplicably prepared to lend us that twenty goals per season striker that has proved to be so elusive for so long.

It seems incongruous to me that one of the top 20 richest clubs in the world (in terms of revenue) and one that boasts how it is in the top 10 of highest attendances in Europe should so regularly find itself scrabbling around in the bargain basement of the loan market.  If you are confident about what you need and have thorough and professional scouting arrangements there should be no need to consider a try before you buy policy. Even in those circumstances where a loan proves successful, and there is right to buy clause, it will eat a large hole in the transfer kitty for the following summer, for a player that you already have, leaving no option but for the cycle to repeat next time around when further improvement is required. Such deferred payment deals simply have the whiff of an over cautious short-term approach about them.

Of course, there are examples of successful loans, such as our own Manuel Lanzini or Lukaku at Everton, but these are exceptions rather than any form of justification. You could argue that without loans we could have been lumbered with Zaza and Tore as permanent signings but, really, these were just shocking misguided decisions in the first place. A club with a sound recruitment policy would not need to hedge its bets in this way.

On the flip side of the coin is the topic of sending young players out on loan; the theory being that loans give a young player experience and that they will return a better player. Recently we have seen David Gold tweeting that young players cannot make it in the Premier League without first going out on loan and then there were reports that West Ham were looking to send two of their hottest prospects, Reece Oxford and Domingos Quina, out on season long loans next season. Further it was reported that it was hoped these loans could be arranged early so that the players had a full pre-season with their new clubs.

Contrast this approach with the more progessive club managers (Pochettino and Klopp, for example) who prefer to keep their young stars close-by in order to oversee development and to ensure that they are schooled in the club’s philosophy and style of play. Even though Klopp has softened his stance he has ensured that players are only loaned to clubs with managers that he knows and trusts, such as Wagner at Huddersfield.  Last season West Ham loaned out ten t twelve players, largely to struggling Championship and League 1 sides and it is debatable, in those circumstances where they got a regular game, what development resulted from the experience; a possible exception being Josh Cullen at Bradford City.

Looking back to the days when the West Ham academy was actually prolific and you will see a preference for short term loans with each of Rio Ferdinand, Lampard Junior, Carrick and Johnson only playing ten games or so away from the club. Joe Cole did not go out on loan and only Defoe, who spent the best part of a season at Bournemouth, was subject to a longer deal. Even in more recent times both Noble and Tomkins only spent brief periods away from the club. With the Hammers now competing in the top tier of Premier League 2 young players should encounter more accomplished opponents than at the bottom of League 1. Maybe short loans can be seen as toughening up exercises or a way to get used to larger crowds but it need not be seen as a mandatory rite of passage.  If there are wider development needs in our young players then this suggests deficiencies in the academy.   Experience off the bench, not just sitting on it, would be far more useful in my eyes.

Loans are a significant part of the modern game and the way that it is abused by clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City is a separate subject in itself. My hope for West Ham is that the system can be used sparingly and wisely and only where there is compelling benefit.

Top 10 West Ham Has-Been Signings

Been there, done that, taken the open-top bus parade. How has signing experienced pros in the autumn of their careers worked out in the past for West Ham?

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.

Season Report Card: Kouyate to Snodgrass

Handing out the second and final instalment of annual report cards means that packing can now start for the summer holidays.

Report CardWe continue to hand out the end of season report cards in the second and final part of our rear-view mirror assessment of the workers and the shirkers from the recently concluded 2016/17 campaign.

Part one of the Season Report Card: Adrian to Fonte can be found here.

Subject

Remarks

Grade

Cheikhou Kouyate

Having now completed three seasons at the club, Cheikhou continues to bring power and athleticism to the midfield, attributes that are largely lacking elsewhere.  If he possessed a greater ability with the final ball he would undoubtedly be plying his trade on a bigger stage than the London Stadium by now.  One of the players that the manager has parcelled into the versatile category he has also been asked to play as part of a back three and as right back.  Whenever removed from the midfield his strong and forceful running is sorely missed.

B+

Manuel Lanzini

Starting the season as the sorcerer’s apprentice, Manuel has stepped firmly out of the shadows to blossom as the team’s principal play-maker, especially since his release from exile on the wing to a more central role.  Full of energy and always alert he takes up great positions and is excellent when running with the ball.  Some concerns on his decision making; when to shoot or pass but may be more of a reflection of the movement and options around him than a flaw in his own game.  Finished the season with eight league goals and recognition by his national side will likely see him on the radar of predator clubs.

A-

Arthur Masuaku

Initially signed as emergency cover for Cresswell’s early season injury, Arthur has just about thrown off the stigma of the unfathomable double handball incident at The Hawthorns.  Another player who has been blighted by a succession of injuries his mellow playing style has made him something of a burgeoning cult hero despite the limited number of games that he has played.  Looks excellent going forward but potentially vulnerable defensively.  His long term future at the club is likely to rest more on his fitness levels than his playing ability.

B-

Mark Noble

Affectionately known as ‘Mr West Ham’, Mark has experienced an indifferent season at the London Stadium.  Impossible to fault him for effort and is personally known to each and every blade of grass on the pitch. His downfall is that he struggles for pace and is frequently bypassed in hurly-burly of the midfield frenzy particularly when opponents have the ball.  Also has a tendency to slow the game down too much when in possession through a reliance on sideways and backwards passes.  Will obviously remain an important member of the squad but looks to have gone beyond his best before date as far as being a first team regular is concerned.

B-

Havard Nordtveit

Havard has found it difficult to settle in his new environment. Seen as a potential answer to the long running defensive midfield deficiency he failed to make an impact either in that role or when he has been asked to cover elsewhere.  Came with a strong reputation from his time in the Bundesliga but was unable to replicate that form in the Premier League, despite some improved performances at the tail end of the season.  Difficult to know whether he can yet adapt but an absence of pace suggests that it is unlikely.

D-

The Post

An ever present during the season, The Post came to prominence with a match winning performance against Hull City at the London Stadium in December.  Had the result of that match gone the other way it could have resulted in some very squeaky bum moments during the final run-in to the season.

B

Pedro Obiang

Overlooked and apparently out of favour for most of his first season at the club, Pedro was a revelation this term until injury sidelined him in the middle of March.  My personal pick for Hammer of the Year, he displays excellent work rate, outstanding ball-winning ability and a shrewd eye for picking out smart and telling passes.  Showed a lot of patience and made the most of his chance once it came along.  It would be no surprise if he was another on the radar of bigger clubs although injury may have thwarted that concern for the time being.  

 

A

Angelo Ogbonna

A strong left sided centre back who earned a place in West Ham folklore with a last minute headed winner against Liverpool in last season’s FA Cup.  Angelo’s second campaign at the club, however, was disrupted by surgery on a long standing injury.  For the most part a very competent defender although he has occasionally been prone to a loss of concentration or causal play that has had costly consequences.  We will need to wait and see the extent to which injury was impacting performance.

C+

Darren Randolph

A long time understudy for the keeper spot, Darren was called into centre stage following a string of eccentric displays by El Adrian.  Early performances were creditable even though his presence failed to prevent the goals against column clicking up with monotonous regularity.   A very good shot stopper but has never convinced in the air, a failing that instilled a sense of panic throughout the defence.  Had outstayed his welcome by some weeks before the gloves were eventually and rightly handed back to Adrian.

D

Winston Reid

Winston continues to be a stalwart at the heart of the Hammer’s defence even if, as a unit, this was far from impregnable this year.  Demonstrates excellent commitment to the cause, has solid defensive qualities and is never afraid to put himself on the line for the team.  His unremarkable distribution is possibly the one feature of his play that leaves him just outside the cadre of top central defenders in the league; we are very lucky to have him.  Rarely makes critical gaffes and has shown passion and leadership ability during his time as stand-in skipper.

A-

Diafra Sakho

In theory the most complete striker at the club, Diafra unfortunately spent the majority of the season as a regular in the treatment room, clocking up just 2 starts all term.  Together with Andy Carroll it is now impossible to rely on either of this pair for the long term with another breakdown always just around the corner.  Difficult to know with Sakho whether the problems are purely physical and the often reported relationship problems with the management do not auger well.  For one reason or another we may well have seen the last of him in a West Ham shirt.  

D

Robert Snodrass

For a player who has spent most of his career as a journeyman footballer in the limbo land between Premier League and Championship, Robert earned a surprise move to West Ham on the back of an impressive half of a season at Hull.  It should come as no surprise that his performances owed more to his humble past than to that most recent purple patch.  To be fair in his first few appearances he looked full of energy but quickly settled into a state of lethargy that wouldn’t be out of place in a moody teenager.  What anyone was thinking when sanctioning a fee in excess of £10 million for his services is one of the mysteries of the universe.

D-

 

Season Report Card: Adrian to Fonte

It’s that time of year to collect the yearly report before breaking up for the summer holidays.

Report CardNow that the season is finally over we hand out report cards before the players head off to the Med for a well earned rest break from the rigours of the Premier League.  As they sit around the pool sipping Pina Coladas we hope that they can take a little time to think long and hard about their respective performances.

Subject

Remarks

Grade

Adrian

Starting the season as the team’s obvious Number 1 and on the fringes of his national side, Adrian has experienced a turbulent year.  Competent in the air and as a shot stopper his weakness has been in trying to develop flamboyance in the style of Claudio Bravo.  Not as good at ball control or dribbling as he thinks, despite his Mark Noble testimonial goal, he was understandably dropped after conceding a number of poor goals due to a lack of concentration or a rush of blood.  His exile was longer than necessary before eventually reclaiming the gloves and helping stabilise the defence towards the end of the season.  Longer term tenure will depend on competing transfer priorities.

C

Michail Antonio

Michail continued to develop as an important member of the team this season and was a worthy Hammer of the Year winner.  An early flurry of goals looked like it might threaten the current West Ham Premier League record of sixteen set by Paolo Di Canio in 1999/2000.  However, a dip in form, being asked to play in almost every outfield position – sometimes in the same match – and finally a season ending injury put paid to that dream.  Demonstrates energy, pace, power, commitment and adaptability.  Looks most effective playing out wide on the right but the manager appear to have other ideas.

A

Andre Ayew

It is still difficult to pinpoint exactly where Andre’s best position is or how to accommodate him into a team formation.  The club record signing tag is something of a millstone around his neck and may explain his lack of pace.  Still to convince from a value for money standpoint although his early season was badly disrupted by injury.  Has a knack of being in the right place to score the simple tap-in and also to scorn them as witnessed with the stunning double miss against Liverpool.   A panic arrival last summer could he be a panic departure this one?

C-

Sam Byram

Youthful looks and a ‘Beaker’ hairstyle belie Sam’s age and experience and he needs to convert potential to performance some time soon.  With the exception of Alvaro Arbeloa (who spent the majority of his time with the club on the naughty step) Sam was the only specialist right back in the squad and yet was unable to command a regular spot.  A number of factors may have contributed to this lack of game time including injuries, suspensions and managerial stubbornness in addition to his on-field contribution.  With the probable arrival of Zabaleta in the summer options for next season could be limited unless the West Ham injury curse strikes once again.

C

Jonathan Calleri

Sadly Jonathan was way out his depth in the Premier League and possibly even for one or two divisions below that.  Sending Enner Valencia out on loan and then bringing him in as a replacement is one of the great mysteries of the season.  From his early miss against Bournemouth he resembled a startled deer caught in the headlights whenever presented with a goal-scoring opportunity.  To his credit he did work hard during the later stages of the season but effort alone does not cut it in the self-proclaimed best league in the world.  A sad indictment of the club’s organisation and planning is that we had to put up with him as the only striking option for so long.

D-

Andy Carroll

Andy’s attendance has once again let him down this season.  Reputed to be unplayable, this is not supposed to be because he is always in the treatment room.  Undoubted aerial strength in both attack and defence is not matched by an equal ability on the deck and his deployment as a lone striker, with service that generally fails to play to his strengths, invariable leads to a one-dimensional style of play.  A brief spell of fullish fitness did, nonetheless, coincide with the team’s most profitable run of games during which time he scored one of the finest goals of this and many other seasons.    

C+

James Collins

The Welsh Braveheart, James can never be accused of not giving his all, apart from when he let Coutinho waltz past to score a few weeks ago.  Will always offer 100% effort, commitment and determination even if he lacks some of the finer technical skills.  Is also prone to what Harry would call the ‘occasional ricket’.  Famous for his brave last ditch blocks and tackles which, ironically, are often in situations of his own making.  With the ball at his feet there is nothing as final and definitive as a James Collins clearance and he can be relied on for the occasional goal.  Has been and can continue to be a useful emergency replacement but there really should be better, younger alternatives available.  

B-

Aaron Cresswell

It has been a topsy-turvy season for Aaron.  Having missed the early weeks due to injury, his welcome return coincided with a brief uptick in form and resulted in an international call-up, which was ultimately far from convincing.  Has operated as a conventional full back and as a wing back with attacking play usually his major strength.  His best performances came when combining with the now departed Payet and he struggled to regain that form in the later stages of the season.  Nevertheless he has recently once again be called into the England squad.

 

C+

Sofiane Feghouli

The capture of Sofiane against stiff competition was billed as something of a coup by those aiming to sell season tickets.  A lively start to his career in east London was hampered by injury and since then he has adopted a Jekyll and Hyde persona; in that he was shocking all year up until the last two games where he experienced a reawakening.  Overall gave the impression of a winger unable to go past a defender or to deliver a decent cross.  Perhaps there is the prospect of more better to come if only the real Sofiane Feghouli could please stand up.

 

D+

 

Edmilson Fernandes

Potentially the diamond in the rough of what wasthe debacle of last summer’s transfer dealings, Edmilson has the air of a very assured, controlled and intelligent footballer with an excellent range of passing.  Was given relatively few opportunities and was asked to play a number of different roles when he did eventually get onto the pitch.  The challenge will be how and where to enjoy the best of his talents as he is not best suited for the more defensive midfield duties.  May need to work on the physical side of his game in order to continue development in the frenzy of the Premier League.

B

Ashley Fletcher

Ashley has been the ‘nearly man’ of the West Ham squad having spent much of his time on the bench but making only two Premier League starts.  Otherwise it has largely been brief run-outs as an 85th minute substitute. Has shown some very nice touches but there are question-marks over his strength and pace.  Has looked to lack confidence on occasions but then who wouldn’t if overlooked regularly in favour of Jonathan Calleri.

D+

Jose Fonte

January signing Jose came with a big reputation from Southampton but has blown hot and cold during his time in the claret and blue.  Has looked strong and stable (where have I heard that before?) in the air but is exposed by young, pacey forwards.  The rationale for buying a 33 year old was heavily debated and was mitigated to some extent by the news of Angelo Ogbonna’s injury and surgery.  However, alongside James Collins and the imminently arriving Zabaleta the defence has a Dad’s Army feel to it that is more usually associated with Stoke City.  Don’t Panic!

C+