Dan Coker's Match Preview
With England’s upcoming match against the Czech Republic on Friday, here’s the second part of my look back at the Hammers’ Czech contingent.
Tomas Repka was born in Slavicin, Czechoslovakia on 2nd January 1974 – he began his professional career with Banik Ostrava in 1991 and made his sole appearance for Czechoslovakia in 1993. He joined Sparta Prague in 1995, having already made his first appearance for the Czech Republic, and moved to Italy’s Serie A with Fiorentina in 1998. He missed Euro ’96 through suspension but did play for his country in Euro 2000. He won 46 caps for the Czech Republic between 1994 and 2001, scoring once.
The 27-year-old Repka signed for Glenn Roeder’s West Ham United in September 2001 for a club record £5.5m after team-mate Alessandro Pierini failed to secure his own switch from Florence to east London. Repka was sent off on his debut in a 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough on 15th September 2001 and was sent off again in his third appearance for his new club, a 7-1 defeat at Blackburn. He made 34 appearances, mostly at centre-back, as the Irons finished seventh. He was part of a porous Hammers backline which played a large part in the club’s relegation in 2002/03 – Repka was sent off for a third time in claret and blue in a 1-1 home draw with Fulham on Boxing Day 2002.
Repka gradually reverted to the right-back position under Alan Pardew, making 47 appearances as the Hammers failed to secure promotion at the first time of asking in 2003/04. He was red-carded again on 5th March 2005 for a first-half headbutt with the Hammers already trailing at home to Preston and desperate for points in their hunt for a play-off place – the match would be lost 2-1. Promotion was eventually secured via the play-offs as Repka returned to the Premier League with the Irons. He left the club midway through the 2005/06 season – his last appearance for the club coming in a 2-1 home win over Fulham on 23rd January 2006. He had played 188 games for the club without scoring, been sent off four times and booked on 53 occasions.
Repka returned to his homeland, rejoining Sparta Prague. He remained there for five years before joining Dynamo Ceske Budejovice. He ended his career with a brief spell at Hvozdnice. Now 45, Repka is currently in jail for a combination of offences, including fraud and driving under the influence.
Pavel Srnicek was born in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia on 10th March 1968 – the son of a woodcutter, he started his working life with a period of service in the Czechoslovak People’s Army. The goalkeeper began his footballing career with Banik Ostrava in 1990, replacing a certain Ludek Miklosko who had just moved to England to sign for West Ham United. ‘Ludo’ featured in Part 1 of my Czech connections, which can be viewed here.
The 22-year-old Srnicek signed for Jim Smith’s Newcastle in January 1991 for £350,000 and made 179 appearances for the club. He rejoined hometown club Banik Ostrava, playing six matches, before returning to England to sign for Sheffield Wednesday in October 1998. He remained at Hillsborough until the summer of 2000 when he moved to Italy, signing for Brescia. He stayed with the club for three years before a brief spell with Cosenza. Srnicek also won 49 caps for the Czech Republic and started all of his country’s matches at Euro 2000.
Srnicek returned to England in September 2003, signing for Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth. The 35-year-old Srnicek joined West Ham United, initially on loan in February 2004, as cover for Stephen Bywater after the departure of David James to Manchester City. When Bywater was sent off at Millwall with the Hammers 3-1 down, Srnicek’s first action as a substitute was to see Tim Cahill fire a penalty off target. He could do nothing about Millwall’s fourth in their 4-1 win with his hapless fellow Czech, the aforementioned Tomas Repka, at fault for Nick Chadwick’s goal.
Srnicek made his move to the Boleyn Ground permanent on a free transfer and made his first start against Derby on 10th April 2004 – he kept a clean sheet in his only Upton Park appearance for the club in an Easter Saturday goalless draw. His third and final appearance for West Ham United came in a 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace two days later. He left the club in the summer of 2004, moving to Portugal where he spent two years with Beira-Mar.
Former Hammers boss and then-Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder took the 38-year-old Srnicek back to Tyneside in 2006 – he played two matches to take his Magpies total to 181 appearances. After retiring, Srnicek began the Srnicek School of Goalkeeping in the Czech Republic, offering youngsters from around the world the opportunity to learn from his coaching. He was also involved in a number of charity organisations. Srnicek also joined the coaching staff at Sparta Prague in January 2012. A regular visitor to the North East after his retirement from playing, Srnicek returned to Tyneside in December 2015 to promote his autobiography, Pavel is a Geordie, named after the song the Newcastle faithful sang for him.
Just weeks after visiting his former club, Srnicek suffered a cardiac arrest while out jogging in his native Ostrava on 20th December 2015. He was put into an induced coma but sadly passed away nine days later at the age of 47. Srnicek’s funeral was held in his hometown on 4th January 2016, with his former Newcastle understudy Steve Harper and Czech team-mate Pavel Nedved among the mourners.
Jan Lastuvka was born on 7th July 1982 in Havirov and began his career with Karvina before moving to Banik Ostrava in 2000. He signed for Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk in 2004 and spent the 2006/07 season on loan at Fulham. A goalkeeper, Lastuvka spent the following season on loan at German side VfL Bochum, making 64 appearances, before spending the the 2008/09 season on loan at West Ham United, with whom he played one match under Gianfranco Zola, a 1-0 League Cup third round defeat at Watford on 23rd September 2008. The only goal of the game came when Lastuvka rashly raced off his line to claim a high ball, missed it and then watched it rebound into the net off the unfortunate Hayden Mullins.
The 27-year-old Lastuvka left Shakhtar permanently in the summer of 2009 to sign for Ukrainian rivals Dnipro. He won three senior caps for the Czech Republic whilst with Dnipro, and was part of their Euro 2012 squad. He returned to first club Karvina in 2016 and joined Slavia Prague a year later. Now 37, Lastuvka is currently at Banik Ostrava, who he rejoined last year.
Radoslav Kovac was born in Sumperk, Czechoslovakia on 27th November 1979 – he came through the ranks at Sigma Olomouc and made his debut in 1997. He joined Sparta Prague in 2003 and made his first appearance for the Czech Republic in 2004, before moving to Spartak Moscow in 2005. He represented his country at the World Cup in 2006 and at Euro 2008, winning 30 caps in total between 2004 and 2009, and scoring two goals.
The 29-year-old Kovac signed for Gianfranco Zola’s West Ham United on loan in January 2009. A defensive midfielder, he made his debut in a 2-0 FA Cup fifth round replay defeat at Middlesbrough on 25th February 2009 and scored his first goal for the club – a cracking long-range strike – in a 3-1 defeat at Everton on 16th May 2009. He joined the Hammers in a permanent move three months later. Kovac was sent off in a 2-2 draw at Sunderland on Hallowe’en 2009 but scored a match-clinching header in a 2-0 triumph over Portsmouth at Upton Park on Boxing Day two months later.
Kovac scored a crucial goal, again a header, in the 3-2 victory over Wigan which secured the Hammers’ survival towards the end of a turbulent 2009/10 season – his last appearance for the club came as a substitute under Avram Grant in a 3-1 win at Blackpool on 2nd February 2011. He had played 62 games for the club, scoring three goals, all of which can be viewed in my video below.
Kovac signed for Swiss side Basel in the summer of 2011, with whom he won a league and cup double, but returned to his homeland with Slovan Liberec the following year. He ended his career with a spell back at Sparta Prague between 2013 and 2016 – he is now 39.
Marek Stech was born on 28th January 1990 in Prague and began his career as a trainee with Sparta Prague before moving to West Ham United at the age of 16 in August 2006. After loan spells with Wycombe and Bournemouth, the goalkeeper made his Hammers debut under Avram Grant aged 20 on 24th August 2010 in a 1-0 League Cup second round win over Oxford at Upton Park – he went on to play in the 2-1 third round win at Sunderland and the 3-1 fourth round win over Stoke at the Boleyn on 27th October 2010. This third appearance was also his last for the club as Robert Green replaced him for the quarter-final win over Manchester United in a snowy east London. Stech has the distinction of a 100% winning record in a West Ham shirt.
Loan spells at Yeovil and Leyton Orient followed before he signed for Yeovil permanently in 2012. He won promotion to the Championship via the League One play-offs in 2013 and earned his first (and currently only) senior cap for the Czech Republic a year later, shortly before he returned to his homeland by signing for Sparta Prague. He signed for League Two Luton in 2017 and was named in the PFA League Two Team of the Year at the end of his first season, which culminated in promotion. Now 29, Stech is still at Luton, who are now in the Championship.