Dan Coker's Match Preview

Welcome to the fifth in a series of articles designed for international weekends – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England. Today, as England prepare to face Slovenia at Wembley, we look back at arguably one of the Hammers’ most skilful players of all-time – Alan Devonshire.

Dev was born in Park Royal, north-west London on the 13th April 1956 and started his career with non-league Southall while working as a fork-lift truck driver at the Hoover Factory in Perivale having been rejected twice by Crystal Palace for being too small. He joined West Ham United for a paltry £5,000 in 1976 and made his debut on the 27th October that year in a 2-0 home defeat to Q.P.R. in the fourth round of the League Cup. In his debut season, the supporters named the 21-year-old Devonshire as runner-up to Trevor Brooking in the voting for the 1976/77 Hammer of the Year. Devonshire and Brooking would go on to enjoy a fantastically entertaining, almost telepathic, partnership at the club.

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Dev’s first goals for the club came on the 12th November 1977 as he struck twice in a 3-3 draw with West Brom at the Boleyn Ground but his efforts in that 1977/78 season could not prevent the Hammers from being relegated. Devonshire scored five goals in 43 appearances and was voted Hammer of the Year as his silky skills helped the Hammers finish fifth in the Second Division in 1978/79. An attacking left-sided midfielder who possessed tremendous dribbling skills and the ability to beat a series of players in quick succession, it was Devonshire who gave West Ham the lead in the FA Cup semi-final replay against Everton in 1980 – Frank Lampard later ensuring the Hammers’ successful path through to the Final after Bob Latchford had equalised.

Devonshire became an FA Cup winner at Wembley, his run and cross eventually leading to Brooking heading what would prove to be the winner against Arsenal. Later that month, Devonshire made his England debut under Ron Greenwood in a 1-1 draw against Northern Ireland. The presence of Glenn Hoddle often blocked Devonshire’s path to the England team and he would only go on to win eight caps for his country, missing out on a place in Greenwood’s squad for the 1982 World Cup and making his final appearance under Bobby Robson against Luxembourg towards the end of 1983.

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West Ham did win promotion in 1980/81, with a two-goal salvo in a 5-0 triumph over Preston proving to be a particular highlight and the start of five goals in five games for Devonshire. His double in the Preston match, the fourth and fifth goals of the game, can be viewed in my video below. He would also play in the League Cup Final that season but the Hammers were beaten by Liverpool in a replay.

The Hammers consolidated as a top-flight club and Devonshire would go on to play a part in the Boleyn Ground’s biggest-ever winning scoreline as he scored twice in the 10-0 League Cup second round second leg win over Bury. However, less than three months later, on the 7th January 1984, disaster struck for Dev as he snapped three ligaments in his right knee in a 1-0 FA Cup third round win over Wigan. He would not play again for 14 months but broke down in his second game back, a 5-1 FA Cup fifth round replay win against Wimbledon.

Devonshire made a full comeback from the start of the 1985/86 season as the Hammers marched to a third-place finish, the club’s highest ever. He had lost some of his pace but his creative nous had not waned. He made 47 starts in all competitions that season and 27 in the following campaign. His stunning strike at Chelsea opened the scoring with the Hammers going on to record a memorable 4-0 victory at Stamford Bridge in March 1986.

1987/88 was to be another injury nightmare for Dev however as he snapped his Achilles tendon 15 minutes into the opening game against Q.P.R. He would again be out of action for over a year. The Hammers were in decline when he returned and would be relegated in 1988/89, with Devonshire making 20 league starts. John Lyall, with whom Devonshire had won an FA Cup, promotion to the First Division, experienced European football and a third-placed finish, was sacked. Devonshire did not see too much action under Lou Macari and he deserved better than the finish to his West Ham career that he had to endure, with his final game being the 6-0 defeat at Oldham in the League Cup semi-final first leg. At the age of 34, Devonshire was granted a free transfer by new manager Billy Bonds in May 1990 – he had made 448 appearances in all competitions for West Ham United, scoring 32 goals.

My video below showcases 14 of Dev’s 32 goals in a West Ham shirt.

Devonshire signed for Watford, where he played for two years, making 27 appearances and scoring one goal, before retiring as a player in 1992. Now 61, Dev is now a highly-respected manager at non-league level having accrued vast experience over a number of years. He started at Maidenhead United before moving on to Hampton & Richmond Borough. He spent four years at Braintree Town, making the part-time outfit a competitive force in the National League (formerly the Conference), a division which contains a number of professional clubs. Dev, who was strongly linked with a move into the Football League with Colchester two years ago, is now back with Maidenhead who currently lie 13th in the National League having gained promotion by winning the National League South under Devonshire last season.

England v Slovenia

England face Slovenia on Thursday in a World Cup 2018 qualifier – it will be the sixth meeting between the two nations. Joe Hart and Aaron Cresswell are both in the squad, fresh from being part of a Hammers defence which has kept three clean sheets in the last four Premier League matches.

England’s only previous competitive match against Slovenia at Wembley resulted in a 3-1 win for the Three Lions in a Euro 2016 qualifier in front of 82,305 at Wembley on 15th November 2014. Cheryl was number one with ‘I Don’t Care’, Interstellar topped the UK box office and the last ceramic poppy had just been laid at the Tower of London memorial art installation to join the 888,245 flowers commemorating the armistice and centenary of the First World War.

The visitors scored the opening goal three minutes before the hour mark – Omonoia winger Andraz Kirm curled in an angled free-kick which Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson turned into his own net.

Just two minutes later, England skipper Wayne Rooney, winning his 100th cap, was brought down in the penalty area and converted the resulting spot-kick himself. Roy Hodgson’s England were ahead on 66 minutes through a scuffed strike by Danny Welbeck, before the Arsenal striker doubled his tally six minutes later after neat interplay with Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling to round off the scoring and complete England’s 3-1 victory.

England: Joe Hart (Man City), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (captain, Man Utd), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).

Subs: James Milner (Man City) for Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal) for Sterling, Chris Smalling (Man Utd) for Jagielka.

Slovenia: Samir Handanovic (Inter Milan), Bostjan Cesar (captain, Chievo), Andraz Struna (PAS Giannina), Branko Ilic (Partizan Belgrade), Andraz Kirm (Omonoia), Jasmin Kurtic (Fiorentina), Ales Mertelj (Maribor), Miso Brecko (Cologne), Kevin Kampl (Red Bull Salzburg), Valter Birsa (Chievo), Milivoje Novakovic (Shimizu S Pulse).

Subs: Dejan Lazarevic (Chievo) for Birsa, Rajko Rotman (Istanbul Basaksehir) for Kurtic, Zlatan Ljubijankic (Omiya Ardija) for Kirm.