Dan Coker's Match Preview

Hello and welcome to my 43rd and final match preview of an ultimately decent season for West Ham United, one which closes with the chance of a top-half finish. If I may, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish my parents a Happy 40th Wedding Anniversary for tomorrow (Sunday). I’m also delighted to announce that my wife and I are expecting our first baby, due before the start of the new season.

Blast from the past

Harry Redknapp’s West Ham United arrived at Vicarage Road, the home of this weekend’s opponents Watford, for a Premier League fixture on 4th March 2000 in front of 18,619 while en route to a ninth-place finish. Madonna was number one with ‘American Pie’, Toy Story 2 topped the UK box office and the UK had just deported Augusto Pinochet to Chile to face trial.

The Hammers took the lead on three minutes when Paulo Wanchope embarked on a run deep into Watford territory before playing the ball into the penalty area for Frank Lampard to cushion a pass into the path of the on-rushing Steve Lomas who struck his only league goal of the season (his other goal in 1999/2000 had been in a 3-2 League Cup win at Birmingham).

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The Hornets fell further behind 32 minutes later when 26-year-old captain Lomas’ lofted ball forward found Costa Rican striker Wanchope who used his strength to shield the bouncing ball before hooking into Alec Chamberlain’s net. The Irons had their advantage halved 16 minutes after half-time when Icelandic forward Heidar Helguson slotted home a rebound after Nordin Wooter’s effort was blocked by Scott Minto. The goals from this match can be viewed in my video below.

Harry Redknapp’s West Ham would end the season in ninth position, while Graham Taylor’s Watford would finish bottom and be relegated. Manchester United won the league title, Chelsea won the FA Cup and Paolo Di Canio was voted Hammer of the Year, with Trevor Sinclair runner-up.

Watford: Alec Chamberlain, Nigel Gibbs (Paul Robinson), Steve Palmer, Mark Williams (Neil Cox), Robert Page, Alex Bonnot (Richard Johnson), Micah Hyde, Peter Kennedy, Heidar Helguson, Allan Smart, Nordin Wooter.

West Ham United: Craig Forrest, Rio Ferdinand, Igor Stimac, Stuart Pearce, Steve Lomas, Marc-Vivien Foe, Frank Lampard Junior, John Moncur, Scott Minto, Trevor Sinclair, Paulo Wanchope.

Club Connections

Former Hammer Domingos Quina is now on Watford’s books. Others to have represented both clubs, divided by position, include:

Goalkeepers: Billy Biggar, Ted Hufton, Perry Suckling, Manuel Almunia, Joe Webster, Jack Rutherford.

Defenders: Jon Harley, Calum Davenport, Lucas Neill, James McCrae, Chris Powell, Colin Foster.

Midfielders: Henri Lansbury, Alan Devonshire, Alessandro Diamanti, Stuart Slater, Jobi McAnuff, Jimmy Lindsay, Joe Blythe, David Noble, Jimmy Carr, Mark Robson, Valon Behrami, Carl Fletcher.

Strikers: James Reid, David Connolly, Mauro Zarate, Jack Foster, Roger Hugo, Billy Jennings, Peter Kyle, Bertie Lyon.

Len Goulden played for West Ham and managed Watford, while Malky Mackay played for both clubs and went on to manage the Vicarage Road club. Glenn Roeder played for the Hornets and managed both clubs; Gianfranco Zola has managed both the Hammers and the Hornets.

This week’s focus though is on an England international goalkeeper who represented both clubs. David James was born in Welwyn Garden City on 1st August 1970 and grew up as a Luton supporter. He signed for Watford though and, after helping the Hornets win the FA Youth Cup, made his full debut on 25th August 1990 at the age of 20 in a 2-1 home defeat to Millwall. His strong physique and impressive athletic abilities helped him settle into senior football; he won the club’s Player of the Year award in his debut season as the Hornets finished 20th in Division Two. James’ 98th and final appearance for Watford came in a 5-2 home win over Bristol City on 2nd May 1992, with Watford ending the 1991/92 campaign in tenth place – he also earned ten caps for England Under-21s before moving to Liverpool for £1.25m in the summer of 1992. James was inducted into the Watford Hall of Fame in 2008.

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James won the League Cup in 1995 and received an FA Cup runners-up medal the following year before making his England debut under Glenn Hoddle in a friendly against Mexico on 29th March 1997. He signed for Aston Villa in the summer of 1999 and was once again on the losing side in an FA Cup Final, this time in 2000, the last Final to be played at the old Wembley.

James signed for Glenn Roeder’s West Ham United in July 2001 for £3.5m but a serious knee injury picked up in a collision with Martin Keown whilst playing for England against the Netherlands at White Hart Lane would keep him out until late autumn. The 31-year-old finally made his Hammers debut in a 1-0 home defeat to Tottenham on 24th November 2001 – he went on to keep ten clean sheets in 29 appearances in his first season, a campaign which saw no other Premier League team win more matches at home than the Hammers. The club finished seventh but were to nosedive the following season, culminating in relegation. James was an ever-present in 2002/03, keeping nine clean sheets in 42 appearances during a season in which he became England’s first-choice goalkeeper, replacing David Seaman.

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James remained with the club for the first half of the First Division campaign of 2003/04, seeing many of his team-mates depart in a fire sale and playing under three managers – Roeder, caretaker boss Trevor Brooking and Alan Pardew – as the Hammers adjusted to life in the second tier. ‘Jamo’ kept ten clean sheets in 31 games before returning to the Premier League with Manchester City in a £2m deal in January 2004. He had made 102 appearances for West Ham in all competitions, his final match being a 2-1 home defeat to Preston on 10th January 2004. James had retained his position as Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England number one but his return to the top flight all but secured his place as England’s goalkeeper at the upcoming Euro 2004 tournament in Portugal. My video below is a compilation of some of James’ saves in a West Ham shirt.

After two and a half years with City, James returned south to join Portsmouth in the summer of 2006. While with Pompey, he won the FA Cup in 2008 and broke the Premier League record for clean sheets and consecutive appearances. He stands fourth in the all-time Premier League appearances list with 572 games played – only Ryan Giggs, Gareth Barry and ex-Hammer Frank Lampard have played more. James moved to Bristol City in the summer of 2010 having captained Portsmouth in the FA Cup Final, James again picking up a runners-up medal after defeat at Wembley to Chelsea. The goalkeeper also played three of England’s four matches at the 2010 World Cup, having lost his place to Paul Robinson during qualification for the 2006 World Cup – former Hammer James replaced then-Irons custodian Rob Green in the tournament held in South Africa after Green’s unfortunate error against the USA, while future Hammer Joe Hart was the third goalkeeper in the squad.

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The 42-year-old James was released by Bristol City in the summer of 2012 and signed for Bournemouth in September of that year. His final appearance for Bournemouth, and in English football, was against Walsall in a 3-1 defeat at the Bescot Stadium on 19th January 2013. James went on to play in Iceland for IBV, teaming up with former team-mate Hermann Hreidarsson in order to gain coaching experience.

James was also player-manager of Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters, owned by Sachin Tendulkar, in 2014, helping the side to runners-up position in the inaugural campaign of the ISL. James played 956 matches during his career and later returned to Kerala Blasters as manager in January 2018 – he was sacked last December. Now 48, James has also been a regular pundit on BT Sports.

Referee

The referee tomorrow will be Christopher Kavanagh. The Manchester-born official has refereed the Hammers on seven previous occasions, most recently for our 2-0 defeat at Chelsea last month. Prior to that, Kavanagh officiated our 2-0 home win over Newcastle in March, a game in which he awarded the Hammers a penalty for a foul on Chicharito which was converted by Mark Noble. He had previously been in charge for our 2-2 home draw with Brighton in January, our 1-1 draw at Huddersfield in November and our 1-0 home defeat to Wolves in September.

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Kavanagh was the man in the middle for our 2-0 win at Leicester last May and also issued Arthur Masuaku with a red card for spitting in an FA Cup fourth round defeat at Wigan in January 2018. He has been the man in the middle for 23 Premier League matches so far in 2018/19, issuing 74 yellow cards in those games and one red, and awarding four penalties.

Possible line-ups

Sebastian Prodl and ex-Hammer Domingos Quina are out injured for FA Cup Finalists Watford but Miguel Britos and Etienne Capoue are expected to be fit – a booking for Capoue would mean he equals the Premier League record of 14 yellow cards in a season. Hornets boss Javi Gracia has stated he will resist the temptation to rest players ahead of the Wembley showpiece six days later. Watford could do the league double over West Ham for the first time since the 1911/12 season.

For Manuel Pellegrini’s Hammers, Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice, Robert Snodgrass, Felipe Anderson and Samir Nasri are available but Winston Reid, Andriy Yarmolenko and Andy Carroll remain out. West Ham have lost only two of their last 14 league matches at Watford. The Irons could win three consecutive Premier League games without conceding for the first time since February 2014.

Possible Watford XI: Foster; Femenia, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas; Hughes, Capoue, Doucoure, Pereyra; Deulofeu, Deeney.

Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Fredericks, Balbuena, Diop, Masuaku; Rice; Antonio, Noble, Lanzini, Anderson; Arnautovic.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!