Dan Coker's Match Preview

Crossed Hammers & Three Lions: Martin Peters

Welcome to the eighth in a series of articles designed for international matches – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England.

Today, as England prepare to face Panama in their second match of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, we look back at another true legend of West Ham United Football Club – Martin Peters. Born in Plaistow on 8th November 1943, Peters came through the ranks at his local club to sign as an apprentice under manager Ted Fenton in 1959. He made his first team debut on Good Friday, 20th April 1962 in a 4-1 home victory against Cardiff and played five games in the final weeks of the season as the Hammers finished eighth. He scored his first goal on 8th September of that year in a 6-1 win at Manchester City.

Peters’ versatility was such that he played in every position for the Hammers – including in goal in just his third game for the club when replacing the injured Brian Rhodes in a 3-0 defeat at Cardiff. Peters made 39 appearances (scoring nine goals) in 1962/63 and 36 (scoring three) in 1963/64, but would not be involved as the Hammers won the 1964 FA Cup. West Ham finished 12th and 14th in 1963 and 1964 respectively. He would not miss out on another Wembley triumph twelve months later though, as the Hammers defeated 1860 Munich by two goals to nil to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965. Peters was also voted as the Hammer of the Year at the end of this season, having scored six goals in 47 appearances as the Irons finished ninth.

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A further Final followed in 1966 when the Irons reached the League Cup Final, in those days played over two legs. Peters scored in the second game, but West Brom triumphed 5-3 on aggregate. West Ham finished 12th with Peters scoring 17 goals in 60 matches in 1965/66; he was runner-up to Sir Geoff Hurst in the 1966 Hammer of the Year voting; the pair, along with captain Bobby Moore, bounced back from the League Cup disappointment to lead England to World Cup glory.

Peters made his debut for England at the age of 22 in a 2-0 win over Yugoslavia at Wembley on 4th May 1966, two months before the start of the World Cup. He scored on his second England match, in a 3-0 win against Finland in Helsinki the following month. He was named in the squad for the Finals but missed out on playing in the opening game against Uruguay. He started the next match, a 2-0 win against Mexico, and kept his place for the rest of the tournament. Replicating a move tried and tested in east London, Peters provided the cross for Hurst’s near-post header which settled the quarter-final tie against Argentina (Peters is pictured below in this game) and scored what seemed set to be the winning goal in the Final himself before Wolfgang Weber levelled in the dying embers of normal time, Hurst going on to be the hat-trick hero in extra-time.

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Peters scored 16 goals in 49 matches in 1966/67 as the Hammers finished 16th and followed that up with 18 goals in 46 appearances in 1967/68, with West Ham finishing 12th. By the summer of ’68 Peters had taken his tally of England caps to 21, scoring a further six goals against Northern Ireland, Wales, the Soviet Union, Scotland, Spain (in the Bernabeu) and Sweden.

The 1968/69 season would be Peters’ most prolific for the Hammers, as he notched an incredible 24 goals from 48 matches including a hat-trick in a 4-0 home win over West Brom in August and a stunning volley past Peter Shilton in a 4-0 home victory over Leicester in November (included in my video below). The Irons finished eighth. Peters was nicknamed ‘The Ghost’ for his ability to drift undetected into the penalty area and it was around this period that England manager Sir Alf Ramsey stated that the midfielder was “ten years ahead of his time”. Peters scored three goals in the 1969 Home Championships matches, one against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park and two against Scotland at Wembley where doubles from Peters and Hurst gave England a 4-1 win over the Auld Enemy.

1969/70 saw Peters score seven goals in 34 games for the Hammers – however, in March 1970, at the age of 26, he was on the move to north London, as rivals Tottenham paid a world record fee of £200,000 (including Jimmy Greaves) for his services. His last goals for the Hammers came at Hillsborough on 10th January 1970, when he scored twice in a 3-2 win; his final match for the club was a 0-0 home draw with Ipswich on 14th March 1970. Peters had scored 100 goals in 364 appearances in all competitions for West Ham United.

My video below contains nine of Peters’ 100 goals for the Hammers – against Olympiakos (away, December 1965), Sheffield United (home, February 1966), Stoke (home, October 1967), Tottenham (home, September 1968), Chelsea (away, September 1968), QPR (home, November 1968), Leicester (home, November 1968), Derby (home, November 1969) and Tottenham (away, December 1969).

Peters’ run of success would continue at White Hart Lane as he won the League Cup in 1971 and 1973 and the UEFA Cup in 1972. He scored his last England goal on 19th May 1973 in a 1-0 win over Scotland at Wembley and played his last game for his country against Scotland too, in a 2-0 defeat at Hampden Park. Peters won 67 England caps, scoring 20 goals and captained his country on four occasions.

My video below shows 16 of Peters’ 20 England goals, scored against West Germany (World Cup, July 1966), the Soviet Union (home, December 1967), Scotland (away, February 1968), Spain (away, May 1968), Sweden (home, May 1968), Northern Ireland (away, May 1969), Scotland (two goals, home, May 1969), Northern Ireland (home, April 1970), Colombia (two goals, away, May 1970), West Germany (World Cup, June 1970), East Germany (home, November 1970), Malta (away, February 1971), Scotland (home, May 1971), and Scotland again (home, May 1973).

At the age of 31, Peters left Tottenham in March 1975 for a fee of £50,000 to join former Hammers team-mate John Bond, who was manager of Second Division Norwich, and went on to help the club secure promotion to the top flight in his first few months at the club. The Canaries claimed 10th spot in the First Division in 1975/76 and remained a top flight side under Bond for the rest of Peters’ five-year spell in East Anglia. Peters scored 50 goals in 232 matches for the Canaries and was twice voted the club’s Player of the Year. He left Carrow Road to become player-coach at Sheffield United in August 1980 – Norwich were relegated the season after he left.

Peters ended his professional career with total statistics of 220 goals from 882 games when departing Bramall Lane in June 1981. He later worked in the insurance business and the motor industry and has spent time on the board at Tottenham and as a matchday host at Upton Park. Peters, now 74 and sadly suffering from Alzheimer’s, was acknowledged with the Lifetime Achievement Award by West Ham United in 2015. He is pictured below with Sir Geoff Hurst during the final season at Upton Park.

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Panama v England

England face Panama this lunchtime in their opening match of the 2018 World Cup – it will be the first meeting between the two nations. The last time England beat opposition from the CONCACAF federation was in the 2006 World Cup when they met Shaka Hislop’s Trinidad and Tobago on 15th June 2006, the Three Lions’ second game in Group B. Nelly Furtado was number one with ‘Maneater’, The Omen topped the UK box office and the BBC announced that Billie Piper would leave her role as Rose Tyler on Doctor Who at the end of the second series the following month.

Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England took the lead with seven minutes to go courtesy of Peter Crouch. Real Madrid midfielder and England captain David Beckham’s cross found 25-year-old Lverpool striker Crouch rising at the back post to power his header beyond West Ham’s Shaka Hislop in the Trinidad and Tobago goal. It was the sixth of his 22 England goals, in the ninth of his 42 caps.

Hislop’s nemesis from the FA Cup Final the month before, Liverpool’s 26-year-old midfielder Steven Gerrard scored England’s second in this 2-0 win, hitting a powerful left-footed drive beyond Hislop and into the corner of the net in the last minute of the match.

England: Paul Robinson (Tottenham), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd), John Terry (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Arsenal), David Beckham (Real Madrid), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Michael Owen (Newcastle), Peter Crouch (Liverpool).

Subs: Aaron Lennon (Tottenham) for Carragher; Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) for Owen; Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough) for Joe Cole.

Trinidad and Tobago: Shaka Hislop (West Ham), Carlos Edwards (Luton), Brent Sancho (Gillingham), Dennis Lawrence (Wrexham), Cyd Gray (San Juan Jabloteh), Chris Birchall (Port Vale), Densill Theobald (Falkirk), Aurtis Whitley (San Juan Jabloteh), Stern John (Coventry), Kenwyne Jones (Southampton), Dwight Yorke (Sydney).

Subs: Cornell Glen (LA Galaxy) for Jones; Evans Wise (Waldhof Mannheim) for Theobald.

The previous articles in the series are:

Ken Brown
Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne
Bobby Moore
Sir Trevor Brooking
Alan Devonshire
Alvin Martin
David James

Talking Point

Welcome To Lukasz Fabianski

There are just some players that a football supporter doesn’t rate. We’ve all got them; players we’ve seen playing for other clubs that seem to live up to our low expectations every time we see them play. Players who we are grateful are testing the nerves of supporters at other clubs, rather than at the Hammers.

One of those players for me has been Lukasz Fabianski. I’ve been watching the Polish goalkeeper since he occasionally broke into the side at Arsenal and have never been impressed. When watching Champions League matches with friends or family, I’d often see his name on the team-sheet and confidently proclaim that he would drop a cross or come off his line at a set-piece and get hopelessly nowhere near the ball. Invariably, he did and seemingly often he would be at fault for a goal.

To be fair, he was a young goalkeeper learning his trade in those days. And, while on a conciliatory approach, he does arrive in east London on the back of what appears to be a successful season for him individually – even if it was a disaster for his team. He won Swansea’s Player of the Year award in 2017/18 – not an onerous task given the departure of Gylfi Sigurdsson who had won it the previous two seasons, the Icelandic midfielder having done much to help the club survive previously. Fabianski was also second in last season’s ‘Most Saves’ table with 137, behind only Jack Butland’s 144. I thought I’d take this opportunity to provide readers with a run-through of his career to date…

Lukasz Fabianski was born in Kostrzyn nad Odra, western Poland on 18th April 1985; after starting his career with Polonia Slubice, Fabianski joined the noted independent football academy MSP Szamotuly at age 14 before signing for Lech Poznan in 2004/05. In the winter of 2005, Fabianski was signed by Legia Warsaw, where he competed with Artur Boruc for a place in the team. He made his debut at the age of 19 in a 4-1 Polish Cup win over Arka Gdynia on 6th October 2004. Fabianski took over the goalkeeping gloves after Boruc was sold to Celtic, making his league debut on 24th July 2005 against the same team as he had on his cup debut, Arka Gdynia, in a 0-0 draw. He helped Legia win the Polish league championship in the 2005/06 season, conceding 22 goals in 32 matches and keeping 19 clean sheets. Fabianski’s performances for his club soon saw him making his debut for Poland in a friendly against Saudi Arabia on 29th March 2006. He has since won 45 caps for his country, playing four of his country’s five matches at Euro 2016. He is currently in Russia as reserve goalkeeper to Wojciech Szczesny, who played less than half of Juventus’ matches last season. The 2006/07 campaign saw Fabianski concede 37 goals in 30 matches, keeping eight clean sheets. His performances led to him being awarded the ‘Football Oscar’ for the best goalkeeper in the Ekstraklasa in both the 2005/06 and 2006/07 seasons.

In May 2007, the 22-year-old Fabianski signed for Arsenal in a £2.1m deal. He made his debut in a 2-0 home win over Newcastle in the League Cup third round on 25th September 2007 and would remain the Gunners’ goalkeeper for that competition that season until a disastrous 5-1 defeat to arch-rivals Tottenham in the second leg of the semi-finals, which saw Spurs progress to the Final 6-2 on aggregate. He made his Premier League debut in a 6-2 win at Derby on 28th April 2008. He conceded ten goals in eight games in 2007/08, keeping four clean sheets.

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Fabianski was described as “much-maligned” by the BBC in 2008/09 after a horror show against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final gifted the west Londoners a place in the Final. With Arsenal leading 1-0, he was beaten at his near post by Florent Malouda for the equaliser and unnecessarily came haring out of his area with seven minutes to go only for Didier Drogba to beat him to the ball and give Chelsea victory. Three days later he conceded four at Anfield in a 4-4 draw with Liverpool and again conceded four a month later in a 4-1 home defeat to Chelsea. Fabianski made 18 appearances in 2008/09, conceding 16 goals and keeping ten clean sheets. He was Arsenal’s goalkeeper for domestic cups but, alongside their FA Cup exit to Chelsea, they were beaten 2-0 at Burnley in the League Cup.

2009/10 again saw Fabianski in the role of Arsenal’s cup ‘keeper – they were knocked out of the FA Cup at Stoke, losing 3-1 in the fourth round and dumped out of the League Cup in the quarter-finals after a 3-0 defeat at Man City. He also played two matches in the Champions League, scoring an own goal in a 2-1 defeat at Porto in the first leg of the last 16 tie – with the ball coming square across his six-yard box, Fabianski palmed the ball into his own net. Later in the same game he picked up a backpass by Sol Campbell with Porto scoring their second from the resulting free-kick. Arsenal won the second leg 5-0 to progress to the quarter-finals, with Fabianski left out of the side. He made ten appearances in 2009/10, conceding 16 goals and keeping just two clean sheets.

Fabianski enjoyed a stronger start to 2010/11 but would only play one domestic cup game, in a 4-1 win at Tottenham in the League Cup third round. Ironically, Arsenal would reach a Cup Final without him, although they lost in the same competition to Birmingham at Wembley. He played in five of Arsenal’s six Champions League group stage matches, and also made 14 Premier League appearances, but a shoulder injury picked up in January kept him out for the rest of the season. He made 20 appearances in 2010/11, conceding 22 goals and keeping five clean sheets.

2011/12 was a season to forget for Fabianski as, despite recovering from his injury in time for the season’s start, he only made six appearances, conceding eight goals and failing to keep a clean sheet. He was once again Arsenal’s domestic cup custodian but they were beaten 2-0 at Sunderland in the FA Cup fifth round and lost 1-0 at home to Manchester City in the League Cup quarter-finals. 2012/13 was a similar tale of woe for the Pole as shoulder, ankle and rib injuries restricted him to just five appearances, all in the Premier League or Champions League, conceding three goals and keeping two clean sheets.

Fabianski made 11 appearances for Arsenal in his final season at the club, finally reaching a Cup Final as his penalty shoot-out saves in the semi-final against Wigan (including one from Jack Collison) sent the Gunners to the FA Cup Final. Arsenal won the FA Cup following a 3-2 win after extra-time in the Final against Hull. Arsenal found themselves 2-0 down and Hull also hit the post before the Gunners came back to win – not without a final Fabianski scare though as, 3-2 up and with five minutes left of extra-time, Fabianski came racing out of his goal towards the touchline only to be beaten by Sone Aluko, who saw his effort from distance drift agonisingly past the far post. Fabianski conceded 11 goals in his 11 games in 2013/14, keeping three clean sheets.

In his seven years at Arsenal, Fabianski made 78 appearances, conceding 86 goals and keeping 26 clean sheets. He signed for Swansea at the age of 29 on a Bosman free transfer in May 2014. He made his debut in a 2-1 win at Manchester United on the opening day of the 2014/15 season. He received the first red card of his career at Upton Park in December 2014, again racing unnecessarily from his goal to impede Diafra Sakho. The Hammers, already 2-1 up through an Andy Carroll double, went on to win the match 3-1. He made 38 appearances in league and cup in 2014/15, conceding 46 goals and keeping 13 clean sheets.

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2015/16 saw more goals conceded and less clean sheets as Swansea dropped from eighth the previous campaign to 12th. Fabianski played 37 Premier League games, conceding 51 goals and keeping nine clean sheets. He made four errors which led directly to goals – only fellow Pole Artur Boruc, at Bournemouth, made more. The exact same pattern continued in 2016/17 – more goals conceded, less clean sheets, second in the league for errors leading to goals. This time Fabianski again made 37 league appearances, conceding 69 goals and keeping eight clean sheets. He made three errors leading directly to goals, second only to West Ham’s Darren Randolph, as Swansea dropped again to 15th.

Last season was undoubtedly a better season for Fabianski on a personal level, even though his club were relegated. He made 38 appearances, conceded 56 goals, kept nine clean sheets and made no errors leading directly to goals. Since signing for Swansea in 2014 though, he has made ten errors which led directly to goals – double the amount of Adrian in the same time period. During his time at Swansea he made 150 appearances, conceded 222 goals and kept 39 clean sheets.

Speaking personally, if we have signed Fabianski to be a back-up goalkeeper to Adrian and/or to provide competition, I think it’s a very good signing. He has Premier League, Champions League and international experience and is a good addition to the squad. However, if he’s been brought in to be parachuted into the number one spot, I have to say I have my doubts. He is a very impressive shot-stopper, as supported by his excellent ‘number of saves’ statistic but, over the years, is prone to some major errors on crosses, decision-making and with the ball at his feet. I appreciate that the same criticisms can be levelled at Adrian but I just don’t see Fabianski as an improvement. Fabianski also has a touch of the Roy Carroll about him, in that he tends to parry balls back into the danger area rather than push the ball wide of his goalmouth. I’m sure many of us can also recall hoping Andy Carroll would be fit whenever we’ve played Swansea in recent seasons as Fabianski and his defence never looked comfortable dealing with that aerial threat.

From a transfer strategy perspective, signing Fabianski with the view of starting him will unsettle Adrian. The position of goalkeeper is like no other in a squad – centre-halves, central midfielders and strikers have more opportunities to play. There are more of them on the pitch, they get more injuries so their replacements get more game time and it is easier to drop an outfield player if they are out of form. It’s different for a goalkeeper – if you’re out of the side, you probably won’t play again for months. At 31, I can appreciate that Adrian may seek a move and don’t agree with those who may criticise him for wanting to move for a better chance of first-team football – he would be protecting himself and his career and has been messed about enough of late with inadequate replacements. The Spanish stopper has one year remaining on his contract. If it does become clear that Fabianski has been bought to start, then we may find ourselves in the position of having to buy a second goalkeeper.

If we were going to sign a new starting goalkeeper, I would personally have preferred it to be someone who would be a clear and obvious improvement. Nevertheless, as with all other new signings, I wish Lukasz Fabianski all the very best during his time at West Ham United.

To finish on a positive note: firstly, well done to the board for signing their first goalkeeper for more than a nominal fee since taking over the club eight and a half years ago. The last goalkeeper we spent more than a million on was Robert Green back in 2006, who arrived for a £2m fee and went on to become a Hammers hero. Since the current owners took over, they have brought in Jussi Jaaskelainen, Adrian and Darren Randolph on free transfers and Manuel Almunia and Joe Hart on loan, while Ruud Boffin and Stephen Henderson were signed for nominal fees. As a second positive to end with, here are some of Lukasz Fabianski’s saves from the 2017/18 season.

Talking Point

Who Is Issa Diop?

With Issa Diop signing for West Ham United yesterday, here is an introduction to our new centre-half.

Issa Diop was born in Toulouse on 9th January 1997; his grandfather, former Bordeaux player Labysse Diop, was the first Senegalese footballer in Ligue 1. Issa began at his local side Balma before Toulouse scouts picked up the defender aged just nine years old; he came through the ranks with his hometown club and made four appearances for France Under-16s, five for the Under-17s and two for the Under-18s before being named on the bench for Toulouse’s 2-0 Ligue 1 defeat at Guingamp in November 2015. He made his senior debut the following week in a 2-0 home win over Nice, helping his side to a clean sheet and three points. He scored his first goal for the club four days later on 2nd December 2015 in a 3-0 win at Troyes. He kept his place, making 21 league starts and two more in the cups, including a 2-1 extra-time win over Marseille in the Coupe de la Ligue. Diop picked up five yellow cards and two red cards in 2015/16 and helped his team to nine clean sheets from his 23 appearances as Toulouse finished 17th, avoiding relegation by one point.

In the summer of 2016, Diop starred in the Under-19 European Championships. France lost their opening game 2-1 to England, with Liverpool’s Dominic Solanke scoring what turned out to be the winner, but would go on to win the tournament in Germany, beating Croatia 2-0 and the Netherlands 5-1 in their other group games. Inspired by Kylian Mbappe, they defeated Portugal 3-1 in the semi-finals before trouncing Italy 4-0 in the Final, with Diop rounding off the victory and the tournament with the fourth and final goal in the 92nd minute. Diop was named in the Team of the Tournament. He is pictured below celebrating his goal in the Under-19 European Championship Final (second from left, wearing number 5).

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Diop returned to Toulouse for the 2016/17 season and made 30 league starts and one cup appearance, registering two goals, two assists and nine yellow cards. He missed seven matches with a back problem. Toulouse finished 13th, conceding 41 goals, the joint-fourth best defensive record in Ligue 1 that season, behind only Paris Saint-Germain, champions Monaco and Nice, and level with Marseille. Diop helped the club to nine clean sheets in his 31 matches, with his goals coming in a 4-1 home win over Bordeaux in August 2016 and a 4-1 home win over Bastia in February 2017. Diop led the back line superbly as Toulouse denied Paris Saint-Germain from scoring in both their outings against the French giants. Diop led both games for interceptions, made no fouls and made four blocks over the course of the two fixtures – no mean feat considering he was up against Lucas Moura, Julian Draxler, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria. Diop was given the captain’s armband for the first time at the age of 20 in a 3-1 defeat at Monaco in April 2017.

Diop made 34 appearances in Ligue 1 for Toulouse last season (2017/18) and also played in five cup games and both legs of the relegation play-off. He scored three goals, made one assist and collected eight yellow cards, helping his side to 14 clean sheets. He scored his first goal of the season in a 3-2 home win over Rennes in August 2017 and was given the captain’s armband two months later. His second goal of the campaign came in a 1-0 win at Angers in October 2017 with his final goal for the club arriving in a 4-2 defeat at Bordeaux in May 2018. Toulouse finished 18th but secured their survival by beating Ajaccio in the relegation play-off, Diop’s defence keeping a clean sheet in both legs with Toulouse winning 4-0 on aggregate. Diop is pictured below, challenging Di Maria and Cavani of PSG.

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Diop, still only 21, has made 95 appearances for Toulouse, registering six goals, three assists, 22 yellow cards and two red cards. Alongside his success with France at Under-19 level, he has also represented his country three times at Under-20 level and has played five matches for the Under-21s, and has also captained the side. He is also eligible to play for Senegal and Morocco. Standing at 6’4, Diop is tall, broad and imposing – strong in the air, he is a threat in the opposition penalty area from set-pieces too. His positioning is a strength and he has great covering speed – he also prefers to play on the right side of a central pair or three. He made an average of 2.2 interceptions per game last season, placing him alongside the Premier League’s Chris Smalling and Laurent Koscielny, and behind only James Tomkins for the equivalent statistic last season in his position at centre-half. His disciplinary record was a concern in his first couple of seasons but, unlike that of Ryan Fredericks, is improving. Diop was sent off twice in his first season but has not been dismissed in the two seasons since and his number of yellow cards last season was down on the previous campaign, even though he played more games last term.

Speaking personally, I have to say that I am delighted with the signing of Issa Diop. He was first linked with the club two weekends ago by the Sunday Mirror and I’m delighted we’ve got the deal over the line – full credit to all involved.

I’m sure all WHTID readers will join me in welcoming Issa to West Ham United. I’m certainly excited by the prospect of seeing him develop and progress in the claret and blue.

Dan Coker's Match Preview

Crossed Hammers & Three Lions: Alvin Martin

Welcome to the seventh in a series of articles designed for international matches – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England.

Today, as England prepare to face Tunisia in their opening match of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, we look back at a true legend of West Ham United Football Club – Alvin Martin. Alvin was born in Liverpool on 29th July 1958 and played schools football for Bootle and Lancashire and was attached to Everton as a schoolboy but left in 1974 after the Goodison Park club only offered him an apprenticeship on a part-time basis. An unsuccessful trial later that summer with Queens Park Rangers was followed by one for West Ham United, where he was awarded a contract as an apprentice on 19th August 1974, the year after Bobby Moore had left for Fulham. He appeared in the 1975 FA Youth Cup Final alongside Paul Brush, Alan Curbishley and Geoff Pike but the Hammers lost 5-1 over two legs to Ipswich. Alvin signed as a professional on 29th July 1976, his 18th birthday and made his first team debut at the age of 19 on 18th March 1978 as a substitute in a 4-1 defeat at Aston Villa. He scored on his first start for the club in a 2-1 win at Leeds on 8th April 1978 and made seven appearances towards the end of the 1977/78 season as the Hammers were relegated to the Second Division.

Strong in the air and a classy performer on the deck, Alvin made 23 appearances in 1978/79, scoring one goal in a 3-0 home win over Oldham on 24th February 1979. He became a firm fixture in the side the following season, making 55 appearances in a campaign which saw the Second Division Hammers win the FA Cup after victory in the Final against Arsenal at Wembley in 1980. Establishing himself at the heart of defence alongside skipper Billy Bonds, Alvin would be voted Hammer of the Year for the first time in 1979/80 and scored three goals that season, in a 2-1 win at Leicester in October 1979, a 2-1 home win over Sunderland in a League Cup fourth round replay on 5th November 1979 and a 2-1 home defeat to Birmingham on 22nd April 1980.

The Hammers would reach the League Cup Final the following season, Alvin’s header being handled on the line by Liverpool’s Terry McDermott with Ray Stewart scoring from the resultant penalty to force a replay, which the Irons lost at Villa Park. More happily though, the Hammers won promotion back to the First Division as second tier champions – Alvin scored twice in 60 appearances that season, in a 2-1 home win over Barnsley in the League Cup fourth round in October 1980 and in a 5-0 victory over Bristol City the following month. He would also taste European football for the only time in his career, playing all six of the Hammers’ matches in their run to the quarter-finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup. The 22-year-old was also given his first England cap by Ron Greenwood in a 1-0 defeat to Brazil at Wembley on 12th May 1981, with Zico scoring the winning goal. Alvin seemed a prime candidate to replace 34-year-old Southampton centre-back Dave Watson in the England team and received his second cap 11 days later as a half-time substitute in a 1-0 home defeat to Scotland.

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Alvin made 35 appearances in 1981/82 as the Hammers returned to top flight football and finished ninth. He scored four goals, all at the Boleyn Ground – one in a 1-1 draw with Everton in October 1981, a double in a 5-2 win over Coventry the following month and another in a 3-1 victory over Wolves in April 1982. He was also voted Hammer of the Year for the second time. Brighton centre-back Steve Foster and Ipswich pair Terry Butcher and Russell Osman were all getting nods for Greenwood’s England but Alvin played in a critical World Cup qualifier against Hungary at Wembley in November 1981, marshalling the defence superbly alongside Liverpool’s Phil Thompson as England won 1-0 to qualify for their first World Cup in 12 years. Alvin played in a 4-1 win over Finland in Helsinki in June 1982 but, alongside Osman and Watson, was left out of Greenwood’s squad for the World Cup in Spain with Foster getting the nod as reserve behind the established duo of Butcher and Thompson.

An eighth-placed finish followed in 1982/83 with Alvin scoring three goals in 45 matches and retaining his Hammer of the Year title, winning the award for the third time in four seasons – his three goals came in the space of six matches, in a 5-0 home win over Birmingham in September 1982, followed the following month by strikes in a 3-2 win at Arsenal and 3-1 home win over Liverpool, which took the Irons into the top two. He was sent off for the first time in his career in a 2-0 home win over Everton in November 1982. Bobby Robson had taken over as England manager and started Alvin in five consecutive matches between November 1982 and April 1983, four of them European Championship qualifiers.

1983/84 saw Martin record the exact same statistics as two seasons previously – four goals in 35 appearances – with the Hammers ironically again finishing ninth, as they had in 1981/82. Again, he scored all four at Upton Park in a 4-0 win over Birmingham in August 1983, the famous 10-0 League Cup second round second leg victory over Bury two months later, a 4-1 New Year’s Eve win over Tottenham and 3-1 triumph against Luton in April 1984. Alvin also won a further three England caps that season. The Hammers would dip the following season, finishing 16th in 1984/85 with Alvin scoring one goal in 49 appearances, in a 2-2 draw at Luton in November 1984. With Robson testing out Tottenham’s Graham Roberts, Norwich’s Dave Watson and Southampton’s Mark Wright, Alvin only played once for England that season, in a 1-0 win at Windsor Park as the Three Lions beat Northern Ireland in a World Cup qualifier.

1985/86 would go down as the finest league season in West Ham United’s history as the Irons recorded their highest ever finish of third. Captain of the side and having established a strong central defensive partnership with Tony Gale, Alvin made 50 appearances, scoring four goals, all at the Boleyn and all in the crucial, exciting run-in. He was sent off in a 1-0 defeat at Arsenal in March 1986 but scored an important winner in a 1-0 win over Southampton in April 1986. Later that month, on 21st April 1986, Alvin’s ‘quiz question’ moment arrived – he scored the only hat-trick of his career with each goal being scored against a different goalkeeper in a terrific 8-1 win over Newcastle. His first two goals were headers from set-pieces but his third was a penalty – not the assigned penalty-taker, the ball was handed to Alvin by Ray Stewart with the crowd chanting the skipper’s name to claim his rare and unusual hat-trick, scoring past England colleague Peter Beardsley.

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Alvin started two England matches in the run-up to the 1986 World Cup and was named in Robson’s squad for the tournament in Mexico. QPR’s Terry Fenwick was the man preferred alongside Butcher until Fenwick was suspended for the second round match against Paraguay. Alvin stepped in and helped England to a clean sheet and a quarter-final spot as the Three Lions defeated the South Americans 3-0. Robson dropped him for the clash with Argentina though, with Fenwick restored to the starting XI – Diego Maradona scored twice and England were knocked out.

The Hammers would drop dramatically in the league in 1986/87, finishing 15th in the First Division. Alvin scored twice in 20 matches – in a 2-2 draw at Sheffield Wednesday in September 1986 and 3-1 defeat at Manchester City in December. He was also sent off in a 2-0 home win over Luton in September and missed a total of six months of the campaign due to problems with his instep. With Arsenal’s Tony Adams emerging on the international scene, Alvin won his 17th and final England cap in a 1-0 defeat to Sweden in Stockholm in September 1986. The injury problems continued into 1987/88 with a series of operations and further setbacks limiting ‘Stretch’, as he was nicknamed, to making 18 appearances without scoring. Alvin has this to say about West Ham’s failure to build on the 1985/86 campaign:

“If you have a good team, we knew you needed maybe one or two players to strengthen it the following season, but I don’t really believe that John Lyall was given the brief or the funds to say, “Right, OK, go and get us the title next year.” I think West Ham’s mentality at that time was, “OK, we’ve had a good season, let’s settle for where we are, we’ll more or less stay in the top half of the table.” I think that was the way the club was run, on a firm financial footing where they didn’t want to take any risks. There was money spent the following year but I don’t think they went out with a view that said, “We have a title-winning side here, let’s push it on.” Maybe another board would have done it. I think the board was financially astute and was running a club that wasn’t going to lose money. If they wanted to push on, they’d have had to spent big on two or three positions. We had a generation of players who all totally trusted the manager, John Lyall, who was a father figure. John’s word was taken and never opposed because we all had so much respect for him. We always just left all the football stuff to John and then he’d deal with the board and do the contracts and spend the money. But John spent money as if it was his own. He felt a real responsibility to the club and to the fans, which is admirable. I wish he was still around now because a lot of people think spending will save their job, whereas John always made every decision in West Ham’s interest and in the fans’ interest."

Disaster struck in 1988/89 as the Irons were relegated from the top flight and John Lyall, who Alvin had worked with for more than a decade, was sacked. The season began with Alvin’s first testimonial with the club, a 2-0 win over Tottenham in August 1988. Alvin returned to the side more regularly, making 38 appearances and scoring three goals – two in a 5-0 League Cup third round win over Derby in November 1988 at Upton Park and one in a 4-1 defeat at Luton later the same month.

Life under Lou Macari was short-lived, with Alvin’s former defensive partner Bonds taking over the top job in February 1990. Alvin scored twice in 43 appearances as the Hammers returned to the second tier, with both strikes coming in cup competitions and both at the Boleyn – his first goal of 1989/90 came in a 5-2 win over Plymouth in the Full Members Cup in November 1989 with his other strike arriving in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final against Oldham in March 1990, a match the Hammers won 3-0, but a tie they lost 6-3 on aggregate after the ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre’ at Boundary Park in the first leg. The Hammers would win promotion under Bonds in 1990/91, with ‘Stretch’ making 23 appearances and scoring one goal, in a 1-1 home draw with Wolves in September 1990.

Alvin was to suffer a significant spell out of the side through injury though, not playing for 16 months between December 1990 and April 1992 due to an Achilles injury. The Hammers were adrift at the bottom of the First Division and well on their way to relegation by the time of his comeback game, a 4-0 win over Norwich which was the Hammers’ biggest win of the season. He played seven games in 1991/92 including the full 90 minutes of a 1-0 win over Manchester United too, a result which dealt a massive blow to the Red Devils’ title dreams.

1992/93 was a generally happier campaign all round, with Alvin making 32 appearances as the Hammers secured promotion to the Premier League but he would miss the final four months of the season with another Achilles injury. ‘Stretch’ scored one goal that season, in a 6-0 home win over Sunderland in October 1992. He made 11 top flight appearances in 1993/94, scoring two goals – one in a 2-0 win over Oldham in November 1993 and another in a 4-2 defeat to Newcastle in March 1994. The Hammers would finish 13th on their return to the top flight. With Alvin’s hairline having receded significantly over his time with the club, the Hammers supporters, who adored him, had a new ditty for their hero:

Alvin Martin, Alvin Martin
Alvin, Alvin Martin
He’s got no hair
But we don’t care
Alvin, Alvin Martin!

‘Stretch’ would make 28 appearances under new manager Harry Redknapp in 1994/95, being given a frankly ridiculous red card ten minutes into a game against Sheffield Wednesday in January 1995 when he stumbled inside the Owls half and inadvertently brought down Mark Bright – referee Paul Danson somehow viewed this as denying a goalscoring opportunity! The Irons would go on to lose 2-0 with the later dismissal of Tim Breacker sending the Hammers down to nine men. The Hammers finished 14th at the end of the season.

Alvin played 17 matches in 1995/96 as the Irons finished in the top ten – his final appearance for the club came on 5th May 1996 as an 88th-minute substitute for Iain Dowie but Jon Newsome would score an equaliser a minute later for Sheffield Wednesday in a 1-1 draw, a game which saw young pretender Rio Ferdinand make his senior debut. Earlier that season, Alvin had enjoyed his second testimonial with the club with a match against Chelsea – in the club’s history, only he and Bonds have been afforded two testimonials. Chris Waddle, Jamie Redknapp and Steve McManaman all turned out in claret and blue, while the lesser-spotted Marco Boogers netted in a 3-3 draw – Danny Williamson and Don Hutchison also scored for the Hammers. Looking back on his time at West Ham, Alvin had this to say:

“I had opportunities to leave and other clubs could have bought me. There were times when I could have joined the top clubs. Tottenham approached West Ham three times during my career. I could have gone to Arsenal. But once John said, ‘No, we’re building a team around you’ I was happy because it was where I wanted to be. Even now, I have no regrets. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at West Ham. Twenty-two years on, I have links and have stayed around the area and have a close bond with the supporters. These days, because players sometimes only stay for a year or two they don’t really gain a position of trust with the supporters. I was with a group of players who – seven or eight of them – stayed for 10 years or more. They’re synonymous with the name West Ham and some of the modern-day players don’t get that. They get better financial rewards, but they don’t get the link with the community or the supporters.”

Alvin Martin made 596 appearances for West Ham United in all competitions, scoring 34 goals. 15 of these goals can be seen in my video below, alongside footage from his second testimonial. Alvin is fifth on the all-time list of appearances for the Irons, behind only Bonds, Frank Lampard, Bobby Moore and Sir Trevor Brooking. He was also named Hammer of the Year three times – only Brooking, Moore, Bonds and Julian Dicks have won it on more occasions.

Alvin would move to Leyton Orient on a free transfer in 1996 at the age of 37, spending a season at Brisbane Road before being named manager of Southend in 1997. Since leaving the Shrimpers Martin, who turns 60 next month, has been a radio regular on TalkSport. His elder son, 32-year-old David Martin, is currently a goalkeeper at Millwall – he represented England from Under-16 to Under-19 levels and made over 200 appearances at MK Dons. David has also turned out for Wimbledon and had loan spells with Accrington, Leicester, Tranmere, Leeds and Derby while he was on Liverpool’s books. Alvin’s younger son, 29-year-old Joe Martin, is currently at Stevenage – he represented England at Under-16 and Under-17 levels and made over 150 appearances for Gillingham, as well as representing Blackpool and Millwall.

Tunisia v England

England face Tunisia this evening in their opening match of the 2018 World Cup – it will be the third meeting between the two nations. The pair have met once before in the World Cup, just over 20 years ago on 15th June 1998, ironically also in the Three Lions’ opening game in Group G. Baddiel & Skinner & The Lightning Seeds were number one with ‘Three Lions ‘98’, The Wedding Singer topped the UK box office and cartoonist Reg Smythe, who created the Andy Capp comic series, had died two days earlier at the age of 80.

Glenn Hoddle’s England took the lead three minutes before half-time courtesy of captain Alan Shearer. Chelsea left wing-back Graeme Le Saux’s free-kick found 27-year-old Newcastle striker Shearer rising at the back post and his header clipped the inside of the post on its way past the prematurely-diving Esperance and Tunisia goalkeeper Chokri El Ouaer. It was the 19th of his 30 England goals, in the 40th of his 63 caps.

Former Hammer Paul Ince was the creator of England’s second in this 2-0 win, the Liverpool midfielder setting up 23-year-old Manchester United man Paul Scholes to curl an exquisite effort beyond El Ouaer and into the corner of the net.

England: David Seaman (Arsenal), Gareth Southgate (Aston Villa), Tony Adams (Arsenal), Sol Campbell (Tottenham), Darren Anderton (Tottenham), Paul Ince (Liverpool), David Batty (Newcastle), Paul Scholes (Man Utd), Graeme Le Saux (Chelsea), Teddy Sheringham (Man Utd), Alan Shearer (Newcastle).

Sub: Michael Owen (Liverpool) for Sheringham.

Tunisia: Chokri El Ouaer (Esperance), Hatem Trabelsi (CS Sfaxien), Mounir Boukadida (Etoile Sahel), Khaled Badra (Esperance), Sami Trabelsi (captain, CS Sfaxien), Jose Clayton (Etoile Sahel), Kaies Ghodhbane (Etoile Sahel), Skander Souayah (CS Sfaxien), Sirajeddine Chihi (Esperance), Adel Sellimi (Real Jaen), Mehdi Ben Slimane (Freiburg).

Subs: Zoubeir Beya (Freiburg) for Souayah; Imed Ben Younes (Etoile Sahel) for Ben Slimane; Tarek Thabet (Esperance) for H. Trabelsi.

The previous articles in the series are:
Ken Brown
Sir Trevor Brooking
Bobby Moore
David James
Alan Devonshire
Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne

Talking Point

Compiling the Premier League Fixture List

The compilation of the fixture list is certainly more difficult than shoving some clubs into a computer and seeing what comes out at the printed end! A whole series of factors are taken into account…

For example, every club is paired with another with regard to when they play their home and away fixtures. The main reason for this is the organisation of security so that, for instance, Everton and Liverpool do not play at home on the same weekend.

There are, however, knock-on effects. West Ham have, in the past, been paired with Dagenham & Redbridge for revenue reasons however, Southend request they do not play at home on the same day as the Hammers as they believe it negatively impacts upon their attendance. Southend are normally ‘paired’ with Colchester though, so they also cannot play together on the same weekend. Colchester have been known to share stewards with Ipswich so those two clubs also request they do not play home games on the same weekend. Transport links dictate Ipswich and Norwich do not play together on the same weekend either. Consequently, organising when West Ham play at home can have a knock-on impact on when a club as far away as Norwich play their home fixtures.

The compilation of the fixture list is run jointly between the Premier League and the Football League. The whole process starts months in advance when FIFA and UEFA release their match calendars before the Football League sends a questionnaire to all their clubs in March. This is a club’s opportunity to make specific requests and to request which other team they would like to be paired with. Clubs often don’t want to play their local rivals on Boxing Day as they will always get a bumper crowd on Boxing Day regardless of the opposition, so they want that local derby on another Saturday to guarantee high revenue gates. Furthermore, a local derby often requires a greater police presence and, as Boxing Day is a bank holiday, would incur additional police charges. The police may ask for certain fixtures not to be played on Boxing Day as well. The fixture compilers satisfy higher than 85% of club requests every year.

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The fixtures are sequenced, using the pairings and club requests, by Glenn Thompson of Atos Origin, who has been compiling fixture lists since 1993/94. Sequencing involves mapping out on what days all the fixtures will take place and the pattern of home and away games that a team will play. Clubs will play no more than two home games consecutively and games either side of an FA Cup fixture should not both be away from home, particularly for lower league sides. In any five matches there should be a split of three home fixtures, two away, or the other way around. The compilers also strive to prevent any club from having to start or finish the season with two home or two away matches.

Travel is also taken into consideration. The compilers look at whether clubs from the same area are travelling on the same trainlines across the Football League and the Premier League on the same day – they attempt to avoid having various ‘pinch points’ on the rail and road networks. The computer is also programmed to try to minimise travel on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. The general rule is that if your club are at home on Boxing Day, they will be away on New Year’s Day (or the equivalent date) and vice-versa.

It then takes a couple of months before a first draft is produced after the completion of the Play-Off Finals. This draft goes to a working party which consists of representatives from the Football Supporters’ Federation, the Football League, the Premier League and the Football Association before being passed on to various police chiefs and the British Transport Police. In the 2012/13 season, for example, there was a requirement from the Metropolitan Police not to play high-profile matches until after 8th September because of the Olympics and Paralympics. Potential logistical problems are discussed and, where possible, changes made before fixtures will be signed off today (Wednesday) before release tomorrow.

The fixtures are then released to the relevant press distributors the night before, for distribution on the morning of release. There are often fake stories of fixtures being leaked in the days and weeks leading up to the official release of the fixtures – the fact fixtures are not signed off until the day before reinforces the fact that these leaks should be viewed with a heavy dose of salt.

At least we won’t have to start the next campaign with three away games, which was certainly far from ideal for Slaven Bilic and his players in 2017/18. This time last year I correctly predicted that we would open the season with a trip to Old Trafford – this time around I’m predicting a home game against Huddersfield. It would certainly be nice to start with a home match for the first time since 2014! We will find out on Thursday who we will face at the dawn of the Pellegrini era…

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