Nostalgia

On This Day, 19th April: Southampton & Watford Beaten, Birthdays For Behrami & Hart

West Ham 4-0 Southampton, 19th April 1952

19th April 1952 – Nat King Cole was number one with ‘Unforgettable’ and Ted Fenton’s mid-table West Ham United beat George Roughton’s Southampton 4-0 in a Second Division encounter in front of 18,119 at The Boleyn Ground.

This match was the Hammers’ last home game, and final victory, of the 1951/52 campaign – they would close the season with two away draws, at Brentford and Sheffield Wednesday. They came up against a side containing future Chelsea and England right-back Peter Sillett, while fellow full-back Bill Ellerington had already been capped by the Three Lions.

West Ham’s goals in this victory 68 years ago came courtesy of a brace from 32-year-old East Ham-born outside-right Terry Woodgate (pictured) and strikes from 21-year-old inside-right Jim Barrett Junior (the son of Hammers legend and England international ‘Big Jim’ Barrett) and 24-year-old Irish centre-forward Fred Kearns.

John Terence (‘Terry’) Woodgate had made his Hammers debut before the Second World War, on 7th April 1939 in a 2-0 Good Friday home defeat to Bradford Park Avenue. He won a regular place in the first team after the conflict having served for more than six years with the Essex Regiment and Royal Artillery. He scored a seven-minute hat-trick against Plymouth in a Football League South fixture at Upton Park on 16th February 1946. He bagged a total of 74 goals in 355 appearances in the claret and blue, making his final appearance in a 5-1 Essex Professional Cup defeat at Colchester on 22nd October 1953 before transferring to Peterborough in March 1954 following the emergence of Harry Hooper and Malcolm Musgrove as regular first-team contenders. He later played for March Town United, and went on to be the landlord of the Cock Inn pub in the Cambridgeshire town of March after his retirement from playing. Terry Woodgate died in the town of March, aged 65, on 26th April 1985.

West Ham went on to finish the 1951/52 season in 12th position. Bert Hawkins was the club’s top goalscorer with 15 goals from 37 matches. Southampton finished 13th, Sheffield Wednesday won the Second Division title, Manchester United won the league and Newcastle won the FA Cup.

West Ham United: Ernie Gregory, George Wright, Harry Kinsell, Derek Parker, Malcolm Allison, Frank O’Farrell, Terry Woodgate, Jim Barrett Junior, Fred Kearns, Gerry Gazzard, Jimmy Andrews.

Southampton: Fred Kiernan, Peter Sillett, Billy Ellerington, Bryn Elliott, Stan Clements, Joe Mallett, Eric Day, Ted Bates, Walter Judd, Jimmy McGowan, Tom Lowder.

Watford 0-2 West Ham, 19th April 1986

John Lyall’s West Ham United arrived at Vicarage Road, the home of Watford, for a First Division fixture on 19th April 1986 in front of 16,696 while en route to a record-breaking third-place finish. George Michael was number one with ‘A Different Corner’ and Fright Night topped the UK box office.

The Hammers took the lead after 59 minutes when Alan Devonshire embarked on a run deep into Watford territory before playing a pass into the path of the on-rushing Tony Cottee who struck his 23rd goal of the season. The Hornets fell further behind when captain Alvin Martin’s ball forward found Scottish striker Frank McAvennie who rounded the goalkeeper before slotting into the net. The goals from this match can be viewed on the WHTID social media pages.

Embed from Getty Images

Lyall’s West Ham would end the season in third position, while Graham Taylor’s Watford would finish 12th. Liverpool won a league and FA Cup Double and Cottee was voted Hammer of the Year, with McAvennie runner-up.

West Ham United: Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart, Tony Gale, Alvin Martin, George Parris, Mark Ward, Alan Dickens, Neil Orr, Alan Devonshire, Tony Cottee, Frank McAvennie.

Happy 35th Birthday Valon Behrami

Valon Behrami was born in Mitrovica, Yugoslavia (now Kosovo) on 19th April 1985 but moved to an Italian-speaking village in Switzerland when he was five. He began his career with Lugano in 2002 before moving to Italy a year later, signing for Genoa. An all-action midfielder who could also play at right-back, he spent the 2004/05 season on loan at Verona before joining Lazio permanently in 2005, initially in a co-ownership deal which was made outright in January 2006. Behrami also made his first appearance for Switzerland in 2005.

Embed from Getty Images

In July 2008, the 23-year-old Behrami was signed in a £5m deal by Alan Curbishley as West Ham’s main summer purchase. He made his debut at right-back in a 2-1 home win against Wigan on 16th August 2008, the opening day of the 2008/09 season. Curbishley left the club just four matches into the campaign and was replaced by Gianfranco Zola – Behrami, now a fixture in midfield, scored his first goal under the Italian’s tutelage in a 1-0 win at Sunderland on 23rd November 2008. His only other goal in his first campaign came in a 2-0 FA Cup fourth round win at Hartlepool on 24th January 2009. His season was ended in March 2009 when he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in a home match against Manchester City – the injury would keep him out for six months.

Embed from Getty Images

The Hammers struggled against relegation in 2009/10 with Behrami scoring just one goal, a crucial early strike in a 3-0 home win over Hull on 20th February 2010. Behrami was part of the Switzerland squad which exited the 2010 World Cup in South Africa at the group stage – he was sent off in a 1-0 defeat to Chile. He made just eight appearances in the first half of the 2010/11 season under Avram Grant but scored two goals – the first in a 2-2 draw at Birmingham on 6th November 2010, with his final goal for the club coming three weeks later in a 3-1 home win over Wigan. Behrami made his last appearance in claret and blue in a 5-0 defeat at Newcastle on 5th January 2011 – he had scored five goals in 60 appearances for West Ham United. These five goals can be viewed in my video below.

Behrami left West Ham for Fiorentina in late January 2011 but departed for Napoli the following year. He moved to Germany, joining Hamburg in 2014, before returning to the Premier League with Watford in 2015. He returned to Italian football in 2017, signing for Udinese. Behrami, who turns 35 today, signed for Genoa in January of this year, rejoining the club that first brought him to Italian football back in 2003. He has won 83 caps for his country, scoring twice.

Happy 33rd Birthday Joe Hart

Joe Hart was born in Shrewsbury on 19th April 1987 and was Head Boy at his school, Meole Brace, in his final year there. He was a competent cricketer, briefly playing for Shrewsbury CC in the Birmingham and District Premier League and also spending two years in Worcestershire’s youth squads. Hart represented his hometown football club though, making his full debut for non-league Shrewsbury in April 2004, a day after his 17th birthday. He played for the club in League Two in the following two seasons and earned international recognition, winning six caps at Under-19 level for England. He was voted into the 2005/06 PFA League Two Team of the Season by his fellow professionals and he moved to Premier League Manchester City at the end of that season.

Hart spent January 2007 on loan at Tranmere in League One and joined Blackpool in a similar short-term deal in April that year. He became first-choice goalkeeper at Manchester City under Sven-Goran Eriksson in 2007/08 – he had, by this point, also made his England Under-21 debut under the tutelage of former Hammer Stuart Pearce. Hart made his senior England debut under Fabio Capello in a 3-0 away win over Trinidad and Tobago on 1st June 2008, a match which also saw West Ham’s Dean Ashton win his only senior England cap. Hart was a half-time replacement for another former Hammer, David James, in that match. January 2009 saw Hart lose his starting place at City to new signing Shay Given, although he would go on to represent England Under-21s in the 2009 European Championships, a tournament which saw Mark Noble captain the Young Lions. Hart saved, and scored, a penalty in the semi-final shoot-out against Sweden but was booked for leaving his goalline during the shoot-out and was suspended for the Final, which England lost 4-0 to Germany. Hart won 21 caps for England at Under-21 level.

Embed from Getty Images

Hart joined Birmingham on loan for the 2009/10 season and was named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Season at the end of the campaign. He was named in Capello’s England squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, alongside former Hammer James and then-West Ham custodian Robert Green. Hart was chosen ahead of Given for the 2010/11 season by Roberto Mancini; he won the FA Cup at the end of the season and was again voted into the PFA Team of the Season as City won the Premier League title in 2011/12. Hart helped England to the quarter-finals of the European Championships under Roy Hodgson in 2012 and kept the highest number of Premier League clean sheets for the third consecutive season in 2012/13, a campaign which again saw him play in the FA Cup Final. Hart again won the Premier League under current Hammers manager Manuel Pellegrini in 2013/14 and was England’s first-choice goalkeeper at the 2014 World Cup, a tournament which saw the Three Lions exit at the group stage.

Hart also represented Manchester City in the Champions League, being described as a “phenomenon” by Lionel Messi in February 2015 after a performance against Barcelona in which he produced a record-breaking ten saves during the match. Hart’s performances at Euro 2016 played a part in him losing his place under new manager Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and he joined Torino on loan for the 2016/17 season, becoming the first English goalkeeper to sign for a Serie A club since the league’s inception in 1929.

Embed from Getty Images

The 30-year-old Hart joined Slaven Bilic’s West Ham United on a season-long loan in the summer of 2017 and made his debut in a 4-0 defeat at Manchester United on 13th August 2017. He went on to keep six clean sheets in 23 appearances. Hart won four caps for England whilst he was with the Hammers, three in 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia. In October 2017, Hart was targeted in his car by thieves in Romford, who stole his watch, wallet and mobile phone while he was at a petrol station. His most recent England appearance came during his time as a Hammer, in a goalless draw with Brazil at Wembley on 14th November 2017, his 75th senior cap in total for his country (he has also twice captained his country).

Despite this international clean sheet, Hart lost his domestic place to Adrian under new manager David Moyes the following month when the Spaniard came in to replace him against Manchester City, Hart’s parent club. Hart did play in a League Cup quarter-final defeat at Arsenal and played all three of the Irons’ FA Cup matches in 2018, including two ties against hometown club Shrewsbury. He won his starting place in the league back in March 2018 and kept a clean sheet in a crucial 3-0 home win over Southampton; he also particularly impressed in a 1-1 draw at Chelsea the following weekend. Hart’s 23rd and final appearance for West Ham came in a 4-1 loss at Arsenal on 22nd April 2018. He was not named in Gareth Southgate’s 23-man squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. After his season in east London, Hart joined Burnley in a permanent move in the summer of 2018. 33 today, he is currently second-choice behind Nick Pope at Turf Moor.


Nostalgia

On This Day, 18th April: Hartson Brace Beats Blackburn & Happy Birthday Matthew Upson

West Ham 2-1 Blackburn, 18th April 1998

Today we travel back exactly 22 years, to the 18th April 1998 – Titanic topped the UK box office, Run DMC vs Jason Nevins were number one with ‘It’s Like That’, Linda McCartney died the day before and the Good Friday Agreement between the UK and Irish governments had been signed eight days previously. West Ham United, meanwhile, secured a 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers in front of 24,733 at Upton Park.

Former Blackburn defender Ian Pearce was in the hosts’ line-up, as was future Rovers midfielder Eyal Berkovic. Future Hammers coach Billy McKinlay (now assistant manager at Stoke) started in midfield for the visitors. West Ham took the lead after just six minutes, Berkovic carrying the ball into the Blackburn penalty area before cutting back for Super Johnny Hartson (pictured below) to sidefoot home. The Hammers doubled their lead in the 28th minute with Stan Lazaridis the creator, providing the right-wing cross which Hartson cleverly guided into the corner for his second goal of the game and his 24th of the season – these 24 goals from 42 games would see the 23-year-old Welshman end the campaign as the Irons’ top scorer. Blackburn grabbed what turned out to be no more than a consolation just before half-time when Jason Wilcox capitalised on a poor kick by Bernard Lama to fire into the corner. The goals from this match can be viewed on the WHTID social media pages.

Embed from Getty Images

Harry Redknapp’s Hammers would end the 1997/98 Premier League season in eighth position, while Roy Hodgson’s Blackburn would finish sixth. Rio Ferdinand was voted Hammer of the Year with Steve Lomas runner-up and Arsenal won a league and FA Cup Double.

West Ham United: Bernard Lama, Ian Pearce, Rio Ferdinand, David Unsworth, Andy Impey, Frank Lampard Junior, Steve Lomas, Eyal Berkovic (Steve Potts), Stan Lazaridis, Trevor Sinclair, John Hartson.

Blackburn Rovers: Alan Fettis, Patrick Valery (Tim Sherwood), Stephane Henchoz, Colin Hendry, Jeff Kenna, Stuart Ripley (Martin Dahlin), Garry Flitcroft, Billy McKinlay, Jason Wilcox, Chris Sutton, Kevin Gallacher.

Happy 41st Birthday Matthew Upson

Matthew Upson was born in Suffolk on 18th April 1979. Originally at Ipswich’s School of Excellence, Upson joined Luton as a trainee after Ipswich youth coach, and former West Ham United Academy Director, Terry Westley moved to the Hatters. Upson joined Arsenal in 1997 after just one league appearance for Luton. After a year out with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, the centre-half spent a short loan spell with Nottingham Forest.

Upson moved to Alan Smith’s Crystal Palace on loan in the spring of 2001 but spent the 2001/02 season back at Highbury, making 14 Premier League appearances which earnt him a title winners’ medal at the end of the campaign. He broke his leg in February 2002 and joined Reading on loan in September 2002 to aid his recovery and return to action. He signed permanently for David Sullivan and David Gold’s Birmingham in January 2003 and spent four years with the Blues, winning seven England caps during his time at St Andrew’s.

The 27-year-old Upson signed for Alan Curbishley’s West Ham United in January 2007 for an initial fee of £6m, rising to £7.5m depending on appearances. Birmingham boss Steve Bruce later claimed that he was forced to sell Upson by Karren Brady, Birmingham’s managing director at the time. Upson made his debut for the relegation-threatened Hammers at Aston Villa on 3rd February 2007, but had to be withdrawn with a calf injury 30 minutes into the 1-0 defeat. He lasted just 11 minutes of his comeback match a month later against Tottenham before again succumbing to injury in a match the Irons would eventually lose 4-3.

West Ham eventually pulled off the Great Escape without Upson but he was to have a much bigger impact throughout the rest of his career in claret and blue. He made 33 appearances in a 2007/08 season which saw West Ham finish tenth in Curbishley’s only full campaign in charge – his first goal for the Hammers was the winner in a 2-1 triumph over Manchester United at Upton Park on 29th December 2007. Upson also made a return to the England side under Fabio Capello in a 2-1 win over Switzerland in February 2008, becoming the first Hammers centre-half to wear the Three Lions since Rio Ferdinand eight years earlier.

In July 2008, Upson’s squad number of 6 was retired by the club in memory of Bobby Moore, after which he took the number 15 shirt. Gianfranco Zola took over early on in a 2008/09 campaign which saw Upson make 41 appearances in all competitions as the Irons finished ninth – he also won a further seven England caps, becoming a mainstay of Capello’s defence and making five starts. He was named Man of the Match and scored his first goal for his country in a 2-1 win in Germany in November 2008. Upson was linked with a £10m move to Manchester City and Tottenham in the January window of 2009, but Zola and the board opted to cash in on Craig Bellamy instead.

The 2009/10 season began with Upson being appointed captain after the departure of Lucas Neill. Upson scored in the season’s opening match, a 2-0 win at Wolves, but bigger clubs had again been sniffing around, with a £15m bid from Liverpool reportedly rejected, while interest from Fiorentina, Arsenal and Aston Villa was also rebuffed. The club opted to sell James Collins instead. Upson made 35 appearances during the campaign, scoring a further two goals – in a 2-1 defeat at Stoke on 17th October 2009 and in a 1-1 draw at Avram Grant’s Portsmouth on 26th January 2010, which was to prove to be his final goal for the Hammers. The cash-strapped Irons avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth but Upson had still impressed sufficiently to travel to South Africa as part of England’s 2010 World Cup squad – he would end the tournament as the Three Lions’ joint-top goalscorer, thanks to his header in the 4-1 second round defeat to Germany. It was to be Upson’s second goal in his 21st and final cap for his country.

Embed from Getty Images

The 2010/11 season would be an unmitigated disaster for West Ham United. Grant joined the club as manager from Portsmouth, the first appointment by Upson’s former Birmingham employers Sullivan and Gold. He made 35 appearances as the Hammers were relegated in bottom position – his final match in claret and blue came in a 2-1 defeat at Manchester City on 1st May 2011. The 32-year-old Upson left the club on a free transfer later that summer, opting to remain in the Premier League with Stoke. Upson had made 145 appearances for West Ham United, scoring four goals – each of these four goals can be viewed in my video below.

After a year and a half with Stoke, Upson dropped down to the Championship to sign for Brighton, initially on loan before making the move permanent in the summer of 2013. He returned to the top flight with Leicester a year later before signing for Championship side MK Dons in the summer of 2015. He retired from playing in 2016. 41 today, Upson is currently working as a pundit for the BBC – he has a son, Elijah, with his wife Ellie, a British runner.


Book Review

My Favourite Hammers Goal

Guest Post by John Bayfield

We all have our favourite Hammers goal. Whether they are from way back in the past or from more recent times, a long range hit, a well worked team effort, something means more about that goal than all the others. During our hiatus from football action, I was thinking back to my favourite West Ham United goal. Plenty to choose from, some are more famous than others. So which one meant most to me?

I would have put Andy Carroll’s bicycle kick against Crystal Palace near the top. Brilliant strike. Or Alan Devonshire’s long mazy run at most of Wrexham’s team at the Racecourse Ground in the 2nd division 2-2 draw in 1980 up there as well. Exquisitely executed. Or Sir Trevor’s header to win the 1980 FA Cup Final. The occasion itself, the emotion of the day, our underdogs succeeding when all pundits went for the Gunners. Or David Cross’ third at Spurs in 1981. Superb volley from a great build up for his hat trick. Pedro Obiang’s screamer against Spurs at Wembley? Any from Cottee’s collection?

And where do I start with the next fella? The 2002 Paolo di Canio volley at Chelsea, in stride, flicked it up and sent a left foot football bullet into the net from 25 yards. Paolo again; THAT mid-air volley at home to Wimbledon March 2000. Pure genius. A Tevez special? One from the Payet catalogue? Both the latter had scored great goals at Old Trafford. And it was on this ground where was my favourite Hammers goal was scored.

Manchester United were the media mob’s favourites during the nineties and noughties. Justifiably so, winning most things year on year. Back pages of the papers had United forefront. Headlines and photos galore, you had to turn back a few pages to get much from the rest combined. Match of the Day for starters, I bet if someone could see how many times they came on as first game, it would be a high percentage. At least The Big Match had London teams on it. Mates at work harping on about their continued success. I would turn on the radio on Saturdays and within minutes United had just scored to take the lead. Watched TV, flicked over just to see how they were doing…..great they are behind, kept watching, two minutes later they are level soon followed by winner. I got to the point where if they were on live I wouldn’t watch. Watched the highlights when they lost which was a rarity. April 2000, I called mum from a Florida holiday to find out how we had done at Old Trafford in a league game. Came her reply after a sigh, ‘well West Ham scored first…. but they lost 7-1’. Paulo Wanchope got ours. I wouldn’t have even minded them going through a season unbeaten. Drawing every game would have been ok. Thus 38 points, enough to be battling for relgation! See where this is going?

When we drew the Reds in the FA Cup 4th Round at Old Trafford in January 28th 2001 for me that was our cup run finished. I asked a Reds fan who he would like to get for the 5th Round, I was that confident. We had lost 3-1 comfortably up there in the league four weeks earlier. We hadn’t won there since August 1986.The general feeling from pundits alike was that all the home team had to do was turn up.

Manchester United; Barthez, Irwin, Silvestre, Stam, G Neville, Beckham, Giggs, Keane, Butt, Sheringham and A Cole West Ham United; Hislop. Tihinen, S Pearce, Dailly, Schemmel, Winterburn, Lampard, J Cole, Carrick, Kanoute and di Canio.

Hislop and Kanoute passed late fitness tests. Shaka got injured early on mis-kicking a through ball so Stuart Pearce took the goal kicks. Not a great start. But I promised myself to watch until we were two down before turning the TV off. To their credit our boys ran their socks off and we rode our luck. Giggs twice went close then Sheringham missed an open goal for a heart stopping moment. Shaka made some good saves and there were two good shouts for handball in our area. As the second half wore on Carrick, Lampard and Cole were holding on to the ball for longer spells and it took a lot of pressure off the defence. The longer it went on I thought we could get a draw and the nerves were really kicking in. In the 76th minute Freddie Kanoute laid on a precise pass to Paulo just outside their area. United’s defenders appealed for offside. No flag, so Di Canio moved further into the box unchallenged. I was thinking we must put this rare chance away. Barthez then copied his defenders by raising his arm for offside which is known as the ‘Taxi for Barthez‘ sign. Di Canio still had to get it in the net. He hit it along the ground with the outside of his right foot. The split second he did I thought he had miskicked the ball. But he had hit it early and cleverly enough, not waiting to use his left foot coming in from the right for Barthez to make any effort to stop the shot. As the ball went in it felt like my feet were nearer the ceiling than the floor. Hot favourites 0 Rank outsiders 1.

Combining all the elements written earlier, the media-Reds love in, Fergie continually blaming refs, the arrogance built up through the seasons and culminating that United only needed to turn up, it was like David pulling Goliath along way back down to earth. And kicking him somewhere very tender for good measure. I looked at the Scot being interviewed later and smugly said to the face on the screen ‘Take that Ferguson’. Not all my words to him, some I couldn’t print but you get my drift.Years of pent up anti –United frustration dissipated (a little) when Paolo Di Canio scored MY favourite West Ham United goal.


Nostalgia

On This Day, 16th April: 40 Years Since 'The Ball Came Over And Frank Fell Over...'

Everton 1-2 West Ham, FA Cup Semi-Final Replay, 16th April 1980

West Ham United met Everton in an FA Cup semi-final replay at Elland Road in front of 40,720 exactly 40 years ago today, on Wednesday the 16th April 1980. The Detroit Spinners were number one with ‘Working My Way Back To You’, Kramer Vs. Kramer topped the UK box office and the Second Division Hammers emerged victorious against the First Division Toffees with a 2-1 win after extra-time. Everton, who went into the match fourth from bottom in the top flight, had beaten Aldershot, Wigan, Wrexham and Ipswich on their way to the semi-final, while West Ham’s league form since knocking out Aston Villa in the quarter-final had seen them pick up just three points from seven matches.

After a goalless 90 minutes West Ham drew first blood four minutes into the extra-time period, Alan Devonshire playing a one-two with Stuart Pearson before breaking into the penalty area and calmly slotting into the net. Bob Latchford equalised for Everton in the 113th minute with a near-post finish and the tie seemed destined for a second replay. With just two minutes to spare though, Trevor Brooking centred, David Cross nodded down and Frank Lampard popped up to send a perfectly-placed diving header wide of Everton goalkeeper Martin Hodge and just inside the post. Lampard raced off to dance round the corner flag, a celebration copied by Frank Junior when scoring on the same ground in 1997.

The Hammers progressed to the final, where they defeated Arsenal 1-0 to win the 1980 FA Cup.

West Ham United: Phil Parkes, Frank Lampard, Ray Stewart, Billy Bonds, Paul Brush, Paul Allen, Geoff Pike, Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire, David Cross, Stuart Pearson.

The 15-minute video below contains the goals from the 1980 semi-final replay, along with interviews with goalscorers Alan Devonshire and Frank Lampard as well as manager John Lyall.

Happy 43rd Birthday Freddie Ljungberg

Freddie Ljungberg was born on 16th April 1977 in Vittsjo, Sweden. The Ljungbergs moved to Halmstad when Freddie was five; he would later attend Sannarpsgymnasiet, the same school fellow former Hammer Niclas Alexandersson attended. Ljungberg began his career with local club Halmstads in 1994 at the age of 17, winning the Swedish Cup in 1995 and the Swedish league title in 1997.

The 21-year-old Ljungberg moved to Arsenal in 1998 for £3m and scored 72 goals in 325 appearances in all competitions for the Gunners before moving across London to West Ham United. Alan Curbishley signed the 30-year-old Ljungberg on a four-year deal for a fee approaching £3m, although then-chairman Eggert Magnusson negotiated the fee and Ljungberg’s contract. Ljungberg made 28 appearances for the Hammers, making his debut as captain in a 2-0 home defeat to Manchester City on 11th August 2007. He scored his first goal for the club on 9th February 2008 in a 1-1 home draw with Birmingham, with his second and final goal for the Hammers coming in a 2-1 defeat at Sunderland on 29th March 2008. His final game was a 2-2 home draw with Newcastle on 26th April 2008, a game which saw him break his ribs when Magpies defender Steven Taylor landed on him accidentally.

Embed from Getty Images

Ljungberg won 75 caps for Sweden, scoring 14 goals. He was a member of the Swedish squad at Euro 2004 and Euro 2008, as well as at two World Cups in 2002 and 2006. After Euro 2008, Ljungberg agreed to terminate his West Ham contract just a year into his four-year deal for a sum of £6m. Ljungberg stated, "I gave my all at West Ham and enjoyed my time there but the decision is the best for the both of us. Now, I will take my time to consider my football future”. His two goals for the Irons can be seen in my video below.

Ljungberg signed for Seattle Sounders in 2009 and joined Chicago Fire a year later. He signed for Celtic in 2011 before moving to Japan later that year to join Shimizu S-Pulse. He announced his retirement from football in August 2012 but announced a comeback in July 2014, signing for Mumbai City to promote the launch of the Indian Super League. He played just four matches before moving back to London where he became coach of Arsenal’s Under-15s in July 2016. He was named assistant manager of Wolfsburg’s first team in February 2017 but left the club six months later. 43 today, Ljungberg is back at Arsenal as the club’s assistant coach. He had been the club’s Under-23 coach since June 2018 before being promoted to the first-team set-up in 2019 and was caretaker manager for a spell earlier this season.


Nostalgia

An Ode to Carlton Cole

There are many different ways of getting to know someone. For some, there is no more efficient ice breaker than a trip to the pub and overcoming any initial awkwardness with copious amounts of alcohol. Alternatively, introductions to a group of colleagues centred around ‘one interesting fact about yourself’ can be more nightmarish than sharing a lift with Katie Hopkins.

One housemate of mine uses a more binary technique. The first few weeks living together were marked by a barrage of questions that felt more relentless than the Manchester rain. For example, eating a banana would provoke a discussion on our favourite fruits. Wearing a green jumper would instigate inquiries into my favourite colour. One evening, polite small talk about the weather was met excitably with the question ‘what’s your favourite season?’ Conscious of my audience, I answered spring instead of the final year at Upton Park.

Far from being annoyed, this disarming tactic led me to question how we come to acquire our tastes and preferences. The realisation that nothing makes you question your sense of self quite like being asked about your favourite things was unavoidable.

I was reminded of this housemate when making my profile for this website. The question ‘Who has been your favourite West Ham player?’ initially had me stumped. The method used by supporters of more successful clubs of picking the player with the most trophies was obviously redundant. Equally, any player of world-class talent (e.g. Carlos Tevez or Dimitri Payet) only stayed at the club for a fleeting period of time.

Eventually, I decided to pick the player that best epitomised the club during my formative years. Once the criteria had been decided, there was a clear and obvious choice.

Carlton Cole joined the club from Chelsea for two million pounds in the summer of 2006 and was released in 2013, neatly bookending my years at secondary school (although like many performances, he was to have an unexpected encore). He never scored more than fifteen goals in a season, despite being the team’s primary striker for much of his time in East London.

Accordingly, he was christened with the nickname ‘Can’t Control’ – a tad harsh, although the best nicknames tend to have a grain of truth to them. Carlton is also the subject of one of the more ironic football compilations on YouTube.

Yet there has arguably never been a player that better epitomised the experience of supporting West Ham than Cole. Much of the time he was mediocre and sometimes downright appalling. On the other hand, there were occasions when Carlton would produce something brilliant – the unexpectedness of such an event heightening the disbelieving euphoria.

Following West Ham is effectively signing-up for a lifetime of frustration and thwarted ambitions. For a period of time, it seemed as if Cole represented this truism in human form. Despite this, it was impossible not to root for him.

Much of this can be attributed to his appearance. It is easy to feel distanced from elite footballers, many of whom seem fuelled by a sense of their own self-importance. While it must be essential to have a strong sense of self-belief, a quick glance through many players’ social media accounts demonstrate they are hardly relatable to most supporters.

These trappings largely seemed to allude Cole. His goal celebration, wheeling away with arms outstretched as if mimicking a jumbo jet during a game of charades, can be described as improvised rather than arrogant. Photographs of him tended to show a toothy smile in the manner of a bashful child having their school picture taken.

Overall, he exuded the vibe of an endearing and sensitive younger relative. As such, you instinctively wished to put your arm around him and offer encouragement when he was going through a bad run of form rather than chide him. It was hard to stay mad at Carlton for too long.

One favourite memory of mine came in January 2011. Having seen his mishit shot squirm under Blues keeper Ben Foster for the winning goal in the League Cup semi final first-leg, Cole was chosen for the post-match interview. Despite the match having been played in freezing winter conditions, the BBC naturally conducted the interview on the pitch. While Cole spoke about his contribution to the game (something he described as ‘overchuffed’) vast amounts of steam poured off his head like an unattended kettle – providing a new twist to the phrase ‘steaming’.

Another part of Cole’s appeal were the match-winning performances that occurred almost randomly. After just one goal in eighteen games in 2010/11, he scored twice in a magical 4-0 League Cup win against Manchester United. In the semi-final second leg at Birmingham, Cole crashed in a 25-yarder to put the team on the brink of a Wembley cup final. It was only West Ham’s unerring ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory that prevented Cole from appearing in the showpiece final against Arsenal.

He did have his day at Wembley one year later. In the first half of the Championship Play-Off final, Cole bought down a terrific crossfield pass from Matt Taylor and placed a cushioned shot past Blackpool goalkeeper Matt Gilks to give West Ham the lead.

However, the big man produced an even greater contribution for the winning goal. Pouncing on a loose ball in the penalty area, Cole lunged in front in Gilks and managed to shield the ball from a horizontal position back for Ricardo Vaz Te to emphatically fire home. Cole’s selfless thinking was the difference between promotion and lower-league stagnation.

Alongside this were the snapshots of genuine quality. Again, it was impossible to predict when such moments would happen. For while many top strikers thrive when given time to think about their actions, Cole seemed to perform best specifically when deprived of it – almost as if extra seconds to deliberate would see his confidence squeezed out of him by a boa constrictor.

One such moment came in a Premier League game at Wigan Athletic in March 2009. In the form of his life, Carlton had earned a call-up to Fabio Capello’s England squad while the team looked tentatively well-placed for Europa League qualification. Fittingly, the only goal of the game was a special one.

Midway through the first half, slick interplay between Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Herita Ilunga and David Di Michele ensured the ball found Cole on the edge of the box. Rather than taking a touch, Cole swept the ball first time past Chris Kirkland to cap an outstanding team goal.

Sir Alex Ferguson wrote in his 2014 autobiography that he would like somebody to explain the ‘West Ham way to him’. He could do worse than re-watch this goal. It was as if Carlton had momentarily transformed into Thierry Henry, a metamorphosis that lasted a whole three minutes until he was sent off.

Arguably Carlton’s defining moment came at the start of the following season. Drawing 0-0 with Tottenham, Cole (who had already missed a tap-in in the first half) scored a sensational opener – instinctively flicking the ball up and smashing it in on the turn. It was a goal that no player without natural talent could have executed. More than that, he had given West Ham the lead against a more talented local rival.

Five minutes later, the full extent of Cole’s Jekyll and Hyde personality became apparent. Receiving possession on the halfway line, he attempted to pass the ball back to one of his defenders under no pressure from the opposition. This proved the perfect assist for Jermaine Defoe who duly equalised for Tottenham.

It was an inexplicable choice and demonstrated Cole’s ability to self-destruct at any given moment. As Carlton slumped inconsolably to the turf, it was hard to remember a clearer example of a player shooting themselves in the foot so rapidly.

There will be some that would argue this article is merely a celebration in mediocrity. That, while fans indulge players like Cole, West Ham have no chance of establishing themselves as a top team. It certainly doesn’t reflect well on the club’s transfer record that Cole stayed for seven years and was re-signed for two further seasons months after being released.

Nevertheless, the club’s failure to adequately replace him was hardly Carlton’s fault. He gave West Ham years of committed service, never putting less than full effort, and provided us with some unforgettable moments. The mishaps and many frustrating performances only serve to emphasise how human Cole was, marking him out as more relatable than the average Premier League footballer.

His standing with the fanbase can be measured by the success of the ‘Sex, Drugs and Carlton Cole’ T-Shirts that were sold outside Upton Park – he is unquestionably a cult hero. Cole returned this affection and genuinely seemed to love his time with the club.

There have been many more talented players to have played for West Ham. On the other hand, none perfectly epitomised the experience of supporting the club better than Carlton Cole.


Copyright © 2020 Iain Dale Limited. Terms and conditions. Cookies.
Website by Russell Brown.