Dan Coker's Match Preview
Ahead of England’s World Cup semi-final tomorrow, here’s the second part of my look back at Croatians who have represented West Ham United.
Davor Suker was born in Osijek on 1st January 1968 and began his professional career with local side Osijek in 1984 – West Ham would later play Osijek in the UEFA Cup in 1999. Suker played for Yugoslavia in the 1988 Olympics before moving to Dinamo Zagreb in 1989. He won two caps for Yugoslavia and joined Spanish club Sevilla in 1991. Suker made his Croatia debut in 1992 and was named in the Team of the Tournament at Euro ’96. Suker caused controversy in 1996 by posing for a picture at the grave of Croatian fascist leader Ante Pavelic while in the company of two well-known criminals. He signed for Real Madrid in the summer of 1996 and won the Golden Boot at the 1998 World Cup.
Suker moved to Arsenal in 1999 before joining West Ham on a free transfer in the summer of 2000. The 32-year-old made his debut in a 4-2 defeat at Chelsea on 19th August 2000 and scored his first goal for the Irons in a 2-2 home draw with Manchester United a week later. He scored his second goal for the Hammers in a 1-1 draw at Sunderland on 5th September 2000, with his final goal coming in a 2-0 home win over Blackburn in the League Cup third round on 31st October 2000. His final appearance for the club came as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat at Manchester City on 28th April 2001. Having made 13 appearances for West Ham, scoring three goals, Suker moved to German side 1860 Munich in the summer of 2001.
Suker played for Croatia at the 2002 World Cup – in total, he won 69 caps for his country, scoring 45 goals. He retired from playing in 2003 and established his own school of football, the Davor Suker Soccer Academy, with training camps located in Zagreb and several other Croatian cities. Now 50, Suker has been the President of the Croatian Football Federation since 2012. His three goals for West Ham can be viewed in my video below.
Mladen Petric was born in Brcko on 1st January 1981 and began his professional career with FC Baden in Switzerland in 1998 – Petric had moved to Switzerland with his family during his childhood. He moved to Grasshopper Zurich in 1999 and spent five years with the club, winning two league titles and making his Croatia debut in 2001, before joining Basel in 2004. Petric won the Swiss title again and the Swiss Cup with Basel but moved to Germany in 2007, signing for Borussia Dortmund. Under the management of new Croatia boss Slaven Bilic, Petric became the first player to score four goals in a match for Croatia (against Andorra) and also scored the winning goal in a 3-2 victory over England at Wembley, a strike that ensured the Three Lions would not qualify for Euro 2008. After a season with Dortmund, he joined Hamburg and spent four years with the club.
Petric moved to Fulham in 2012 but was released just a year later. He made his final appearance for Croatia in February 2013 – he won 45 caps for his country, scoring 13 goals. With West Ham United having failed to sign a striker to join Andy Carroll during the summer transfer window having been linked to Jermain Defoe, Loic Remy, Romelu Lukaku and Demba Ba, Sam Allardyce brought in free agent Petric in September 2013 – he made his debut as a substitute in a 3-2 home defeat to Everton on 21st September 2013. Petric made three more sub appearances for West Ham over the following month, in a 3-2 League Cup third round win over Cardiff, a 1-0 defeat at Hull and his final appearance in claret and blue, a 3-1 home defeat to Manchester City on 19th October 2013.
Petric was released in December 2013 and signed for Greek side Panathinaikos in January 2014. He won the Greek Cup in 2014 and announced his retirement from football in May 2016 at the age of 35.
Nikica Jelavic was born in Capljina on 27th August 1985 and began his professional career with Hajduk Split in 2002. He moved to Belgian club Zulte Waregem in 2007 before joining Austrian side Rapid Vienna in 2008. He made his Croatia debut under Bilic in 2009 and moved to Scotland in 2010, signing for Rangers. After 18 months with Rangers, he joined Everton for £5m and spent two years with the Toffees.
Jelavic moved to Hull in January 2014, spending 18 months with the Tigers before teaming up with his former international manager Bilic at West Ham on transfer deadline day in September 2015. He had made his final appearance for Croatia in 2014 having won 36 caps for his country, scoring six goals. Jelavic made his Hammers debut as a substitute in a 2-1 win at Manchester City on 19th September 2015 and made eight sub appearances before his first start, in a 0-0 draw at Swansea on 20th December 2015. Jelavic scored his first goal for West Ham in a 1-0 FA Cup third round win over Wolves at the Boleyn Ground on 9th January 2016 and scored his only league goal for the club a week later in a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle. His final appearance in claret and blue was again as a substitute in a 2-0 home win against Aston Villa on 2nd February 2016. After scoring two goals in 15 appearances for West Ham United, Jelavic moved to China, signing for Beijing Renhe. After spending a loan spell with Guizhou Zhicheng, Jelavic, now 32, signed for the club permanently last year.