Dan Coker's Match Preview
Welcome to the latest in a series of articles designed for international matchdays – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England.
Today, as England prepare to face Croatia in the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, we look back at a former Hammers and England goalkeeper. Robert Green was born in Chertsey on 18th January 1980 and came through the youth system at Norwich, making his full debut in April 1999 at the age of 19. He played for England Under-16s and Under-18s and made 241 appearances for the Canaries, helping them to promotion to the Premier League in 2004. He made his England debut under Sven-Goran Eriksson in a 3-2 friendly win against Colombia in New Jersey on 31st May 2005. He was selected as England’s third-choice goalkeeper for the 2006 World Cup but had to withdraw from the squad after rupturing his groin whilst taking a goal kick during an England B international against Belarus.
Green signed for Alan Pardew’s West Ham United in August 2006 for a bargain £2m, joining up with former Norwich team-mate Dean Ashton who had signed for the Hammers seven months earlier. The 26-year-old Green made his Hammers debut in a 1-0 defeat at Tottenham on 22nd October 2006 – he went on to keep nine clean sheets in 27 appearances in his first season, particularly impressing in a stunning performance against Arsenal at the Emirates in a 1-0 Irons win in April 2007, by which time Alan Curbishley had taken over as manager. The club finished 15th but had seemed doomed to relegation for much of the season.
Green was a Premier League ever-present in 2007/08, keeping nine clean sheets in 41 appearances in all competitions during a season in which he was voted Hammer of the Year and the Irons finished tenth. He saved three penalties during the campaign: the first from Kevin Doyle at Reading in a 3-0 win in September 2007; the second from Benjani in the last minute to secure a goalless draw at Portsmouth in October 2007; and the third from Jermain Defoe, again in the last minute, to force a 1-1 draw with Tottenham at the Boleyn Ground in November 2007. In the summer of 2008, Green climbed Mount Kilimanjaro during a charity event for AMREF (the African Medical and Research Foundation).
Green followed the same spot-kick stopping trend early in the 2008/09 season, saving a penalty from Jason Roberts as the Hammers beat Blackburn 4-1 in August 2008. He would also save a spot-kick from Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard in May 2009 but the England midfielder scored from the rebound. Green was again a Premier League ever-present in 2008/09, a season which saw Gianfranco Zola take over from Curbishley in September 2008. Green kept 12 clean sheets in his 43 appearances as the Irons finished ninth. He was runner-up to Scott Parker in the Hammer of the Year voting. Green won his second England cap, and his first as a Hammer, in a 2-0 friendly defeat in Sevilla against Spain on 11th February 2009. He also started his first matches for England in the June 2009 World Cup qualifiers – a 4-0 win in Kazakhstan and a 6-0 win over Andorra at Wembley.
2009/10 would again see Green play every Premier League match but the Hammers would drop to 17th place in the division. He saved a penalty from Aston Villa’s Ashley Young in a 2-1 home win in November 2009. Green played 41 matches in all competitions, keeping eight clean sheets. He had also risen to be England’s number one goalkeeper, starting in four consecutive games under Fabio Capello between August and October 2009 – a 2-2 friendly draw in the Netherlands and a 2-1 friendly win over Slovenia at Wembley, as well as a crucial 5-1 World Cup qualifying home win over tonight’s opponents Croatia. Green was sent off just 14 minutes into the fourth of these starts though, in a 1-0 World Cup qualifying defeat in Ukraine – he was dismissed for a professional foul after a mistake by former Hammer Rio Ferdinand.
Green started in World Cup warm-up games against Egypt and Mexico – both were at Wembley and both ended in 3-1 wins. He fought off strong competition from David James and Joe Hart (both representatives of West Ham and England themselves) to claim the starting berth for England’s opening match of the 2010 World Cup against the USA. With England 1-0 up through an early Gerrard goal, an uncharacteristic handling error by Green gifted Clint Dempsey an equaliser as the Americans claimed a point. Green was unceremoniously dropped by Capello, with James replacing him for the rest of the tournament – England were knocked out in the second round by Germany after a 4-1 defeat.
A difficult season at club level followed in 2010/11 as the Hammers were relegated under Avram Grant. Green saved yet another penalty, this time from Mauro Boselli of Wigan in a 3-1 home win in November 2010. Green missed his first league game in just under four years when a knock kept him out of a 1-1 draw at Blackburn in December 2010, Ruud Boffin taking his place. Green played the other 37 league matches though and made 44 appearances in total during that fateful campaign, keeping seven clean sheets. He also saved a penalty from former team-mate Matthew Etherington in an FA Cup quarter-final at Stoke in March 2011, although the Potters would go on to win a controversial match 2-1. Green was again runner-up to Parker in the voting for Hammer of the Year.
Green remained with the club for the Championship campaign of 2011/12, with Sam Allardyce taking over as manager. He was sent off in a 4-1 win at Blackpool on 21st February 2012, with midfielder Henri Lansbury taking over in goal – the red card was later rescinded. ‘Greeno’ kept 17 clean sheets in 45 games, playing a key role in the Hammers’ return to the Premier League through the Play-Offs. During a match at Barnsley in April 2012, with the Claret and Blue Army singing ‘Sign Up Greeno’ as the goalkeeper’s contract was set to expire at the end of the season, Green turned to face the supporters, mimed signing an imaginary piece of paper and held out his hands, as if to say ‘where’s the contract offer?’. He joined QPR on a free transfer in the summer of 2012, with Allardyce signing his former Bolton ‘keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen on a free as his replacement.
Green had made 241 appearances for West Ham in all competitions, his final match being the 2-1 Play-Off Final victory over Blackpool at Wembley on 19th May 2012. He had kept 62 clean sheets, won the Hammer of the Year once and been voted runner-up twice. Green won his 12th and last England cap a week later in a 1-0 friendly win in Norway and was named in Roy Hodgson’s squad for Euro 2012. My video below is a compilation of some of Greeno’s saves in a West Ham shirt.
After four years at Loftus Road, Green moved north to join Leeds in the summer of 2016. During his time at Elland Road, Green was also studying at the Open University for a BA Hons Business Management Degree in order to have something to focus on after he retires from football. He moved to Huddersfield last summer but did not play a competitive game for the club. Now 38, Green is a free agent after his release from Huddersfield – he has been linked with a reunion with his former Leeds boss Garry Monk at Birmingham.
Croatia v England
England face Croatia this evening in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup – it will be the eighth meeting between the two nations. The pair have met once before at a major tournament, with the Three Lions emerging victorious in the group stages at Euro 2004 with a 4-2 win. The two nations have met more recently in World Cup Qualifying though, with the last meeting between the countries resulting in a 5-1 win for England in front of 87,319 at Wembley on 9th September 2009. Jay-Z featuring Rihanna and Kanye West was number one with ‘Run This Town’, District 9 topped the UK box office and Westcountry Television completed the digital switchover process with the turning off of all analogue signals from the Caradon Hill transmitter.
Croatia were dealt an early blow when Chelsea’s Frank Lampard converted a penalty in the eighth minute after a foul on Aaron Lennon. Fabio Capello’s England doubled their lead ten minutes later courtesy of a header from Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard. Lampard scored a header of his own after 59 minutes but, not to be outdone, Gerrard bagged his own brace seven minutes later with yet another header.
Croatia pulled one back with seventeen minutes remaining – West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green, the feature of today’s piece, made a double save before Eduardo tucked home the loose ball. Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney rounded off the scoring in the 77th minute, converting after a kicking error by Croatian goalkeeper Vedran Runje to ensure England booked their place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in style against former Hammer Slaven Bilic’s Croatia. West Ham’s Matthew Upson joined Green in starting the match for England, while future Hammer Mladen Petric played the second half for Croatia.
England: Robert Green (West Ham), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), John Terry (captain, Chelsea), Matthew Upson (West Ham), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Gareth Barry (Man City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Wayne Rooney (Man Utd), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa).
Subs: Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) for Heskey, David Beckham (LA Galaxy) for Lennon, James Milner (Aston Villa) for Gerrard.
Croatia: Vedran Runje (Lens), Josip Simunic (Hoffenheim), Nikola Pokrivac (Red Bull Salzburg), Darijo Srna (captain, Shakhtar Donetsk), Danijel Pranjic (Bayern Munich), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), Niko Kranjcar (Tottenham), Ivica Krizanac (Zenit St Petersburg), Ivica Olic (Bayern Munich), Eduardo (Arsenal), Mario Mandzukic (Dinamo Zagreb).
Subs: Mladen Petric (Hamburg) for Olic; Ivan Rakitic (Schalke) for Pokrivac, Ivan Klasnic (Bolton) for Eduardo.
The previous articles in the series are: