West Ham’s Not Yet Settled Squad and the Homegrown Player Dilemma

With the season starting before the transfer window closes, West Ham have a few extra weeks to get their squad in order.

It seems an oddity to me that the transfer window stays open for a further two weeks after the season has started.  It would be far tidier if they slammed it shut on the eve of the new season so that all of our predictions could be based on the precise knowledge of which players are in each particular team’s squad.  A last minute sensational rabbit out of the hat signing or a bewildering ‘too good an offer to refuse’ departure could well define the season for some clubs, including our own.

As it is, clubs have until the day after the window closes on 31 August to name their twenty five man squads, which, of course, must include eight homegrown players; or to put it another way can only have seventeen foreign players.  The make-up of the actual West Ham squad for the start of the 2017/18 remains pure speculation but, for the sake of argument, I will use that currently listed on Wikipedia (as at 7 August 2017) with the names of the homegrown players underlined:

Reid, Cresswell, Zabaleta, Feghouli, Kouyaté, Carroll, Lanzini, Snodgrass, Adrián, Obiang, Sakho, Noble, Hernández, Collins, Ayew, Ogbonna, Byram, Fonte, Hart, Masuaku, Antonio, Fernandes, Arnautović and Hakšabanović

The Homegrown rule is an odd one as for a player to be qualify he must, regardless of nationality have been registered with any club affiliated to the Football Association or the Welsh FA for a period of three seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday.  According to my interpretation of the rule the above squad (which, by the way, only includes twenty four players) has just seven that qualify as homegrown.  More interestingly, many supporters preferred starting eleven would probably include just one or two homegrown players.

We can reasonably expect there to be changes to the squad before the end of the month with the potential (fingers crossed) departures of Feghouli and Snodgrass, leaving a few extra places available in a squad that remains thin in all key areas; striker, central midfield and centre back.  There have been a few potential recruits linked (Gray, Wilshire) that would qualify as homegrown but the majority of the names mentioned continue to be johnny foreigners. Any shortfall would need to be made up by including at least one qualifying academy player in the named squad, even though technically any number of players under twenty one can be included in the squad without actually being part of the named twenty five.


The signing of Sead Hakšabanović was a surprise addition to the ranks this week and has all the hallmarks of a Tony Henry signing.  Hakšabanović has only recently turned eighteen but has almost fifty appearances under his belt in the top tier of the Swedish league, as well as being a full international for Montenegro.  An attacking midfielder he could, in theory, provide backup to Manuel Lanzini but time will tell whether his youth will once again prove a barrier to selection by manager Slaven Bilic.


Just a few days to go before the 26th Premier League season gets underway.  For the first time there will be three south coast clubs in the competition (it is probably the first time ever in the top flight).  There will be five London clubs, three from the Midlands, five from the North West, one each from Wales and the North East plus two others (Watford and Huddersfield).  In total only nine of the twenty teams are from north of Watford (Professor Google assures me that Swansea is slightly south of Watford) and so the need to travel well to cold and desolate northern wastelands is not as acute as it has been in previous seasons.

For amusement only, here is a selection of cumulative all-time statistics from West Ham’s previous twenty one seasons in the Premier League.

10th in Number of Victories (265; 1st = Manchester United, 604)
3rd in Number of Defeats (332; Everton, 336)
8th in Number of Draws (209; Everton, 277)
10th in Goals Scored (964; Manchester United, 1856)
4th in Goals Conceded (1004; Tottenham, 1231)
12th in Number of Own Goals (32; Everton, 47)
6th in Number of Red Cards (69; Everton, 86)
7th in Number of Yellow Cards (1321; Chelsea, 1536)
10th in Number of Clean Sheets (216; Manchester United, 418)
1st in Number of Penalties Saved (13)
2nd in Clearances Off The Line (63; Sunderland, 66)

West Ham: Arrivals, Lineups, Formations and Substitutions

With our new arrivals, what is the best West Ham team for the coming season? Have we now got enough quality players to use impact substitutions to change a game if necessary?

I am old enough to remember the days when football was strictly eleven-a side. Teams would start with 11 players and finish with the same 11 players. If anybody was injured or out of form then that was just tough; there were no substitutes sitting on a bench to replace them. When West Ham won the FA Cup in 1964, the same 11 players started and finished every game in every round, including the Cup Final itself. Those days are long gone.

The ability to use increased numbers of replacements was a gradual one.  In the English leagues in the mid-1960s each side was permitted to use one substitute (just one player was nominated to sit on the bench), but only if a player was injured. This rule was relaxed a couple of years later to allow the substitution for tactical reasons. As time has progressed the number of substitutes that can be used has gradually increased so that now (in competitive matches, as opposed to friendlies) a maximum of three new players can be brought on, out of seven who are sitting waiting for a chance to come on.

As a follower of Rugby Union I have noticed a similar situation, where although 15 players start the game, the squad consists of 23, and I believe all 8 who start on the sidelines can be brought on at some time. If football follows a similar pattern then I can see the day not far off when perhaps five substitutes can be used, and a whole team sits on the side, allowing for tactical substitutions to be made in all positions on the field.

But, even though the game is now 14-a-side, do managers make the best use of the players at their disposal in each game? How can West Ham make better use of players sitting on the bench?

With the new players that have arrived during the current transfer window, many West Ham fans have taken to social media to set out their favoured starting eleven for the new season assuming everybody is fit, which of course is a situation that never seems to happen with our club. I have analysed a number of these, and it would appear that the following 11 players are the ones most nominated (in the manager’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation):

Hart

Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Masuaku

Obiang, Kouyate,

Antonio, Lanzini, Arnautovic,

Hernandez

Of course not everyone is in agreement, (and the manager himself may be one of those!) and the players closest to appearing in the starting eleven not in this team, would appear to be Cresswell, Noble, and Ayew. So our most recently capped England international, our captain, and our (until recently) record signing would be amongst those sitting on the bench. Other contenders for substitute would be Fonte and Collins at centre-back, Byram at right back, Fernandes in midfield, and the (seemingly) perpetually injured Carroll and Sakho up front. Snodgrass, Feghouli and Fletcher would also come into the equation if they remain with us, together with the young players such as Rice, Burke, Cullen, Quina and Martinez and perhaps others, if they are given a chance.

Of course, at times as last season progressed, we stumbled upon a 3-5-2 formation which had some initial success, and if this formation was deployed, who would be the back three? Even though Zabaleta is a full back by trade, he could perhaps be used alongside Reid and Ogbonna, although perhaps Fonte could come in? No doubt Byram or Antonio would be used as the right wing backs, and Cresswell or Masuaku on the left.

Assuming Obiang, Kouyate and Lanzini are picked whatever the formation, this would leave Hernandez and Arnuatovic as the two up front, with Carroll and Sakho (if fit) being more than useful substitutes, especially the former if a tactical variation was used. However, I personally doubt that we would start with a 3-5-2 formation with the players in the squad now, but it would be good to think that the players could adapt to this (mid-game) if necessary.

Most observers and fans seem to agree that this has been a superb transfer window so far (although some will never be happy, of course), and according to various media we haven’t finished yet. But I doubt if there will be more additions unless some go out of the exit door. But whatever your opinion, we now have much greater pace in attacking positions, allowing for a potentially completely different dimension to our forward play. We have a variety of alternative attacking options, and hopefully we will use substitutions wisely to make full use of them. We now seem to have a squad which will allow us to play with a Plan B, C, D, and I hope that we make full use of all the possibilities to enable us to score more goals.

My concerns for the forthcoming season are diminishing, although we will still rely on Lanzini to make us tick in the middle, and I’m not sure we have anyone to fulfil a similar role if he is out. If only we had another £40-£50 million to splash out on a Sigurdsson or Barkley? Similarly, whilst we have four very experienced international centre backs to choose from, I worry about a lack of pace in that area when facing nimble attacking opposition.

I firmly believe that we now have the players that will enable us to comfortably finish in at least eighth place in the Premier League. It would be good to think that we could challenge for a higher finishing position, and we should hopefully be closer to the top teams than we were last season. It will still be difficult to break into the elite six or seven teams at the top, but you never know.

Top Six West Ham Hard-Men

Taking a look back at some of the memorable uncompromising and no-nonsense characters in claret and blue.

There was a time that almost every successful team included an enforcer, a player whose job it was to inject that added element of fear and steel into proceedings.  The hard-man culture reached its peak during the 1970’s and early 1980’s although there were still pockets until recent years, when football became much less of a contact sport.  Now they are finally consigned to the footballing scrapheap alongside muddy pitches and the battering ram centre forward.  Notorious hard-men from over the years have included such names as Dave Mackay, Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, Norman ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Hunter, Billy Bremner, Roy Keane, Graeme Souness, Joe Jordan and Vinnie Jones.

At various stages in West Ham history, there have been managers who would have regarded the more agricultural approach to the beautiful game as a tactic that falls somewhat below that expected at an academy.  However,  that has not prevented a number of notable robust individuals turning out in the claret and blue.  Here I take a look at my top six Hammer’s Hard-men:

5 =    Andy Malcolm and Eddie Bovington

I am cheating a little here by lumping together two players who both fell foul of Ron Greenwood’s reluctance to deploy players with a predominantly destructive or physical element to their game.  Quite possibly, Greenwood’s purist philosophy ultimately restricted the 1960’s West Ham side from achieving as much as they could.

Andy Malcolm was born above a grocer’s shop just around the corner from Upton Park and signed for West Ham in 1948, going on to become the club’s first ever England youth international.  Malcolm made his first team debut in 1953 and developed into a ruthless, tough tackling and tenacious man-marker who was assigned to shadow, shackle and stop opposition star players such Jimmy Greaves, Denis Law and Johnny Haynes; England captain Haynes would later describe Malcolm as ‘a butcher’.    An important part of Ted Fenton’s promotion winning side of 1957/ 58 (which included the likes of John Bond, Noel Cantwell, Malcolm Allison, John Dick and Vic Keeble) Malcolm’s contribution was recognised when he won the fan;s vote for the first ever Hammer of the Year award.  When Greenwood replaced Fenton in 1961 Malcolm’s abrasive style saw him quickly fall out of favour and he lost his wing-half berth to a young Geoff Hurst.  Malcolm left for Chelsea at the end of 1961, in a swap deal involving Ron Tindall, having played over 320 games.

North Londoner, Eddie Bovington joined the West Ham groundstaff in 1957 and received his first taste of first team football in an end of season encounter at Old Trafford in 1961.  Bovington’s progress at Upton Park was very slow, however, and it was only after the Hammers were thrashed 8-2 at home by Blackburn Rovers on Boxing Day, 1963 that he secured a proper run in the side; Bovington for Peters being the only change for the return fixture two days later which saw a 3-1 win for West Ham.  Bovington’s man marking job on Rover’s Bryan Douglas had made a huge difference and he kept his place for the remainder of the season including the run all the way to Wembley for FA Cup success.  The following season again saw Bovington as a regular starter in his man-marker role but in March 1965 he suffered a bad kneecap injury which kept him out for the remainder of the season, including the concluding games of the European Cup Winners Cup campaign.  Bovington never had a great rapport with manager Greenwood and went on to play just two more seasons before hanging up his boots at aged 26 to join his family’s tailoring business.

4       Tomas Repka

Tomas Repka established a new West Ham record transfer fee when he was signed from Fiorentina by Glenn Roeder in September 2001 to embark on a topsy-turvy career at Upton Park.  Sent-off on his debut at Middlesbrough, Repka then put in a man-of-the-match performance in a 3-0 home win against Alan Shearer and Newcastle before being sent-off again the following week in a 7-1 defeat at Blackburn.  Repka spent much of his West Ham career as part of an accident prone central defensive partnership with Christian Dailly or at right back where his performances were typically commited and uncompromising but with a high probability of a rush of blood at any moment.  He was a regular in the side relegated in 2002/03 (one red card at home to Fulham) but stayed around in the second level for two seasons to help steer the Hammers back to the Premier League (one red card at home to Preston).  Repka played a further half a season back in the Premier League before deciding to return to his homeland for family reasons.  By the time of his final game, at home to Fulham, Repka had turned around the widely held liability status of his early Hammers career into one of cult hero.

3       Martin Allen

Martin Allen or ‘Mad Dog’ was one of the players recruited to the club (from QPR) during Lou Macari’s brief spell as manager in the wake of relegation to Division 2 in 1989.  Allen played through an eventful period of West Ham history as the club endured a string of promotions and relegation either side of the transition to the Premier League, Macari’s resignation, the appointment of Bonds to the manager’s seat and his acrimonious replacement by Redknapp.  Allen has described himself as a destructive player and formed an usually, for West Ham, tough tackling midfield partnership with Peter Butler.  It was a period defined by ill-discipline in the West Ham ranks and Allen was never far away from a yellow card or worse.  He was sent off twice in the claret and blue, once for a two footed lunge at home to Derby and once for a foul on Rufus Brevett of QPR.  In a separate incident he was punished by the club, but not by the referee, for a foul on Carlton Palmer just twenty seconds after entering the field as a substitute.  Aside from his tough tackling reputation, Allen notched a respectable thirty five goals during his two hundred games for the Hammers.

2       Billy Bonds

Six feet two, eyes of blue, Billy Bonds was after you for over twenty seasons as a West Ham player.  Originally signed by Ron Greenwood as an energetic, marauding full-back, Bonds was later moved into midfield to play the role of minder for Trevor Brooking and later still to central defence where he formed long term partnerships with Tommy Taylor and Alvin Martin.  Known to be one of the fittest players ever to wear a West Ham shirt, Bonds was the epitome of hard work and commitment and cultivated a swashbuckling, Viking look to accompany it.  He was quoted as saying that he got as much enjoyment from winning a strong tackle as from a great pass or setting up a goal.  Bonds was known to be a tough opponent and as hard as nails but he was not a nasty or niggly player like some of football’s better known hard-men.    Bonds was sent off just twice in his lengthy Hammer’s career; once for spitting in a League Cup tie away at Hull and once for an all-in fight with Colin Todd of Birmingham.  Following the latter expulsion he was fortunate not to miss the 1980 FA Cup Final but escaped with a one match ban.  Bonds holds the all-time appearance record for West Ham, weighed in with over sixty goals and was even leading scorer in 1973/74.

1        Julian Dicks

The Terminator, Julian Dicks was a four times Hammer of the Year winner from his two spells with the club between 1988 and 1999.  Despite having a sweet left foot and a thunderous shot Dicks is best known in the football world for his poor on-field discipline and his shaven head (which anecdotally prevented him receiving an England call-up).  Dicks was sent off five times as a West Ham player, three of which came in the single 1992/93 promotion season and led to him being stripped of the club captaincy.  He first saw red in the infamous League Cup battle of 1989 against Wimbledon; a match which saw regular scuffles, a series of robust challenges and, at one stage, a seventeen man brawl.  Dicks was finally sent packing for a scything tackle on Dennis Wise.  Offences in the 1992/93 season comprised an elbow in the face of Newcastle’s Franz Carr, a run-in with Steve Bull of Wolves and a pair of reckless challenges on Ted McMinn of Derby.  His final red resulted from two yellows in a game at Highbury in 1995; this was a game played just five days after the alleged but disputed ‘stamp’ on the head of Chelsea’s John Spencer leading to a long running dispute with Sky’s Andy Gray.  Dicks played over three hundred games for the Hammers and contributed sixty five goals.

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.