Nigel Kahn’s Column
As the 12th decade of West Hams existence comes to end, it is now my time to look back at what I would say has been the most turbulent in its history. 10 years ago we were looking down the barrel of possibly not existing if many of the doom merchants want to believe, but 10 years on, I’m not sure if surviving the collapse of the Icelandic ownership has made the club any better.
This though is a look at players that have graced the pitch in our shirt and I will pick my team of the decade including subs, my manager of the decade and then my legend of the decade.
I will also add my 3 moments of the decade and look forward to seeing in the comment section all your choices too.
The player list for this decade is pretty exhaustive mainly due to the abundance of players bought by the current ownership, possibly more than any other decade, I have tried to select players not just on their perceived ability but also on what they have brought to the team as a whole.
Goal Keeper: Adrian
This wasn’t an easy choice, to be honest, but I plumped for Adrian as though not the greatest of keepers his enthusiasm for playing for the shirt was infectious. His finest moment perhaps being the winning goal in the penalty shoot-out against Everton which may not say a lot about his keeping skill but it summed up at best the way he took the club into his heart.
TBH, the competition wasn’t much, Rob Green makes the bench for me, a great keeper for us and left us too early for my liking, Fabianski in only having the one season misses out, but in 10 years, I hope that he will be the first name down on my Team of the 2020s.
Also notable was Darren Randolph who was as a good a back-up keeper as Adrian was
Right Back: Carl Jenkinson
Only a loanee but he clocked up nearly 50 games for the hammers, I thought he defended well and got forward as expected of the modern-day full-back.
Frankly, if I thought to pick a keeper was difficult, at least I had decent stuff to work with there. At right-back, we have not been graced at all.
Zabaleta was great in his first season but age has caught up with him now, Guy Demel was steady for me but nothing special I did consider putting Antonio there as he did a good job playing there in 2016 but that would not be playing him at his best.
Left Back: Aaron Cresswell.
Great signing for me, Fitted straight in and has this season scored some great goals.
Takes a lovely free-kick.
Masuaku is not as good as Cresswell for me, George McCarthy was admirable and performed well in our return to the premier league
Centre Half: Winston Reid
Played as a right-back when he first joined the club, it is possible to say that relegation under Avram benefited Reid, the season he had in the Championship at Centre Half I think gave him the confidence to continue and grow into that role after promotion.
A footballing Centre half, that seemed to never really be panicked with the ball at his feet.
I can think of no better player to have scored that last night of the Boleyn Ground.
He when retires I hope will join the legends of the club, not just hero.
Centre Half: James Collins
All hail the Ginger Pele. Complemented Reid in the Centre of defence with his no-nonsense approach to defending. If the ball was there to be cleared, he didn’t dilly dally, he cleared it, and if needed take the player with it. A defenders defender and will be loved forevermore for the effort and pride he put into playing in our shirt.
Center Midfield: Mark Noble
He can’t be left out, as much as possible I wanted to.
Mr West Ham, born and raised into the club.
Why would I want to leave him out?
1 reason, Burnley.
Lost all credibility for me in throwing that fan to the floor.
He will retire a legend in the eyes of many, not mine though.
Center Midfield: Declan Rice
His break though is a shining light in the last 4 seasons or ordinariness.
Best young player since Rio, his reading of the game for a player so young is above and beyond anything I remember of any young player to come through the youth set up in my time of watching the club.
Attacking Centre Midfield: Manual Lanzini
On his day, which at the moment is rare, a fantastic ballplayer, a creative genius and scorer of goals as well. Lit up the last season at the Boleyn with his link play with Payet and the two of them together will damage most teams.
Injuries have taken their toll on him but hopefully, he will get back to near where he was when he joined the club.
Left Midfield: Dimitri Payet
Hands down the most Skillful player of the decade,
I’m sure there will be outrage by some for his inclusion but ignore the way he left, and just remember the great times.
Old Trafford in the cup, That Crystal Palace Free kick, and the Middleborough goal at the OS where he single handily earned us a point by dribbling past ¾ of the boro team.
Right Midfield: Michael Antonio
Never heard of him when we signed him, Wasn’t played when we signed him, has this un-gamely way of running with the ball. To me, it looks like he has no idea what he’s going to do with the ball but that then fools the opposition as if he doesn’t know how would they be able to guess what he’s going to do.
His contribution since he joined though is unequalled for me, should be the first name on the team sheet. Has played in many positions but does his best work coming in from the right.
Centre Forward: Diafro Sakho
As goal scorers go, through the decade, it has been slim pickings.
Harsh on Andy Carroll may be but for me, Sakho at his best was far more clinical than AC ever was. Carlton Cole & Arnautovic were in with a shout as well, but as I say, Slim pickings.
Another player who perhaps we need to ignore the way he left.
GK: Rob Green
MF: Kevin Nolan
A: Andy Carroll
Manager: Slaven Billic
Wow, 10 years ago we had Gianfranco Zola, not the best tactically but how could you not like the man. His biggest achievement must be getting Carlton Cole into being an England player. Sacked to be replaced by Avram Grant, which can now be viewed as the worst appointment ever in our history. Darth Vader replaced Grant as the club sold its identity.
It took four years before Super Slav was appointed, 4th choice apparently, but what a choice.
The only West Ham manager in Premier League era to have a positive goal difference. Most points in a Premier League season to boot, he had to be my choice for manager of the Decade. Since his departure, nothing has changed. Underachievement followed by underachievement.
Moments of the Decade
3: Burnley Demonstrations
The fans that were sold out by those they trusted were 1 of them, turned to face the real problem with the club.
How it got to that situation is a great unsaid, but perhaps one day we will know the truth.
Then again, some truths are best left in a dark cupboard.
Nothing has changed but that day the owners got to see 1st hand the anger over their ownership and realise that their legacy will not be as heroes saving the club, but as chancers that sold a soul of a club.
2: Liverpool Away
To be there that day will live with me forever. Never did I ever believe that we would get anything from that game. Even at 2-0, I was just waiting for the scouse comeback, Sakho’s late third ensued mad celebrations and me having a 60-year-old bloke id never met before crying on my shoulder. West Ham has been in more cup finals than wins at Anfield they are that rare.
1: Last Night at Upton Park.
The best of nights, but yet the worst nights.
The day I and many never wanted to happen turned out to be possibly the best night I ever had there. WHTID meet up early, then to stand on Green St as West Hams media man refused to let David Gold be interviewed with me standing there.
Spending the game with my best mate and his dad next to me.
Refusing to leave the Upper North Stand until we were the last left in there which required co-operation from the Stewards.
Locked in on the concourse until the Man United replacement coach had left only to then remember id arranged to meet my sister after the game. The poor girl had been pushed down Green St by the old bill, no phone battery, by luck we meet up but I then have to drive her home to Southend. Home at 4 is, to sit down and watch the game again.
As Funerals go, you couldn’t get any better than that.
So that’s a slice of my West Ham decade, now below it is your turn.
Opinions may divide us, but as 1 hammers fan likes to say, “we’re all West Ham aint we”
Though of course,
Some are more than others :)