Goalkeeper: Lukasz Fabianski
He hasn’t been with us for long, but of all the goalkeepers we had in the last decade, he is the only one I can/could watch without peeping through my fingers from behind the sofa and my blood pressure going through the roof every time a ball comes or came near our penalty box. Very solid and reliable custodian. Consistent as clockwork. And Polish. I like Poland and its people.
Especially if they’re good goalkeepers. Without his injury things might have gone a lot better for us this season.
LB: George McCartney
Had three spells at West Ham and was very unlucky with injuries in the latter stages. But when he did play we got tremendous mileage out of him. Not a glamourous player, but certainly the best pure LB we’ve had at the position in a long time. Oh, and as a massive Beatles fan I had to give him bonus points for the name alone. Shame we never signed Lennon. Or a Harrison.
CB: Angelo Ogbonna
Calm, composed and currently our best and least error-prone defender. Vastly underrated. A player who may only truly be appreciated once he’s gone elsewhere. If only he was a bit more vocal on the pitch at times. Some of our players could do a lot worse than taking Ogbonna’s on-field advice on board.
CB: James Collins
This Welshman represents a vital part of what our club is all about. Not the most naturally gifted player you’ll ever see. Still, the brilliantly nicknamed Ginger Pele always put his body on the line for the Hammers’ cause to clear balls galore and block plenty of shots. Was an absolute rock for us and became a fan favourite because of that. Always had a great rapport with the fanbase and I am proud to say I was at his final game for us inside the London Stadium when unfortunately he didn’t quite get the appropriate send off from the club he would have deserved.
RB: Joey O’Brien
We haven’t exactly been spoiled for choice at the position in the last ten years, have we ? For whatever reason we never had a truly great RB at our club in that period. Joey wasn’t magnificent either, but he was a no-nonsense, versatile and reliable player doing a job for us in many games over several seasons, wherever needed. Which more often than not was at RB. Another chap I would happily put in my West Ham United Unsung Heroes XI, but not at RB, that spot I would always reserve with my German towel for Tim Breacker, of course! ;-)
DM: Mark Noble
I simply can’t ignore Mr.West Ham when picking this team and yes, it is as much due to what he represents for our club off the pitch than what he actually does on the pitch. There are faster runners, better passers, more accurate shooters and more clinical tacklers out there than him, but this Canning Town lad is a West Ham fan playing for his and our favourite club and, quite simply, we have more spirit and fight in the team whenever he puts on the claret and blue shirt.
DM: Declan Rice
I chose Rice not just based on the still small sample size of performances but also because of his sheer potential. With the right coaching and development (he might only find at another club) he could not just become a good player, but a great one in the not too distant future. And it’s always nice to see a lad from the Academy make the transition into the first team. With a massive helping of luck he could be our next skipper for years to come. Either way, I saw the second ever goal he scored for us, against Newcastle, in person at the game when they opened the Billy Bonds Stand at the London Stadium.
The resulting cheer of the crowd was probably the loudest I ever experienced at a home game.
Winger/Striker: Michail Antonio
Another rags to riches (or Nissan Micra to Lamborghini) success story, a player starting out at Tooting & Mitcham (that’s actually a London based semi-professional football club, not a funeral director) and arriving relatively late on the PL stage. But boy, is he fun to watch when his hamstrings are functional! Running his socks off, scoring all kinds of goals and doing the silliest goal celebrations you’ll ever see. Also, our main scoring threat these days.
Attacking midfielder: Dimitri Payet
He only graced us with his presence for a short spell, but THAT final season at the Boleyn alone will put him in most Hammers fans’ “Team of the Decade“. Payet made every player around him better, he helped us to snatch victory or at least draw from the jaws of defeat, time and time again. And by sheer brilliance he turned standard freekicks into penalty shots. His freekick against Crystal Palace in July 2016 was the best freekick goal I saw in person inside a football stadium, ever! And no matter how unceremoniously it all ended between him and West Ham, we can all be grateful for having had the opportunity to watch Payet in his absolute prime while he was playing for us.
Striker: Marko Arnautovic
This is no popularity contest and you all know I never really liked the guy as a person. But as a player the Austrian with Serbian roots simply worked for us, when being in the mood and playing upfront instead of on the wing. Try to ignore all the phoney crossed hammers goal celebrations or his stroppy demeanour at times and you end up having to admit that Arnautovic was our most effective forward in a long time. Despite practically inventing the throwing-toys-out-of-pram-to-achieve-personal-advantage routine along the way. The arrogant git! ;-)
Striker: Andy Carroll
One silly injury after another. Early morning photos taken in nightclubs. And minor knocks leading to the player being out for another 3-4 months. It would be oh so simple to put Andy Carroll in a West Ham United Flops of the Decade XI as well, if you think about all the games he missed for us. If you instead choose to mainly remember the games he DID actually play in, you will never be able to forget the thundering headed goals and THAT bicycle kick against Crystal Palace. If only he could have given us 50 more games or so during his many years at the club…
Goalkeeper: Robert Green
An intelligent footballer who prefered books to booze or BMW cars. I never was quite as relaxed watching him trying to marshall his box as when seeing Fabianski do just that (as Green was prone to the odd gaffe) but overall Greeno gave us years of solid enough goalkeeping. I will never forget witnessing him protecting our 1:0 away victory at Arsenal in 2007 (Arsenal’s first home defeat at The Emirates) when he made what felt like 98 brilliant reaction saves. Unreal! He’s got a street named after him near our old ground, apparently…
CB: Winston Reid
The Winston Reid BEFORE his most recent injury was as solid a defender as they come in the PL. It took him a while to adjust to that level, but once he had done that he was a joy to watch and a ball clearing machine. And of course he will forever be enshrined in Upton Park folklore as the final ever goalscorer at our old ground. Probably the most unlikely goalscorer of all players out there on the pitch that day, bar the goalkeepers.
But this is West Ham, so maybe it was perfectly adequate that a CB of all people should provide the final bulging of the net at the Boleyn.
LB: Aaron Cresswell
My Final Boleyn Season shirt has his name and number on the back and that is mainly down to his crossing ability and his uncanny knack for chipping in with vital and unexpected goals (and my penchant for rooting for defenders in general who all too often get overlooked). If only that Karlsruhe butcher dressed up as a footballer hadn’t chopped at his leg and confidence in that meaningless preseason game, Aaron would most likely have become even more of a stalwart for us, subsequently ending up in my starting XI after all.
Midfielder: Scott Parker
Energetic, skillful, tenacious and hard-working player who ended up being too good for us really. If only we could have built a proper side around him, but alas, it wasn’t to be. IF ONLY should probably be our club motto, emblazoned in blue letters on our crest, in Latin of course (Si modo).
Midfielder: Thomas Hitzlsperger
As a German, how could I leave out my fellow countryman, especially if that guy was nicknamed DER HAMMER due to his fearsome piledrivers from distance ? Strangely enough, we never had many Krauts running out for West Ham in the first place – Dieter Eckstein and Savio Nsereko were the only other Germans at the club. Hitz was another player unfortunately held back by injuries. Hitzlsperger also is a genuinely nice guy who used to talk a lot of sense as a pundit on German telly for games of the German national side.
He is now CEO at one of Germany’s traditional big clubs, VFB Stuttgart, aiming to get them promoted back to the Bundesliga where they belong.
Midfielder: Manuel Lanzini
He could have been a star for Argentina in the last World Cup. But he twisted his knee in training before the tournament had even started. Injuries to West Ham players, a recurring theme. But Lanzini, on his day, is a guy who can still get fans out of their seats when receiving the ball in midfield with space to roam. Graceful player in the Devonshire mould. Plus, he has a tendency to score against Spurs. Which is a surefire way to get onto any West Ham team-sheet.
Striker: Carlton Cole
One of them cult heroes at West Ham. Scored 68 goals for West Ham in 293 appearances for the club, so actually one of our Top 20 goalscorers in our history, ahead of the likes of DiCanio or McAvennie.
CC initially came to West Ham probably with a plan to use us as a springboard to catapult him to a bigger club eventually, but somehow he got stuck with us. So, in return, we gave him a nice song for his valiant efforts, singing his name to a famous Spandau Ballet tune. Once that happens, you know as a player where you belong. The fans will always fondly remember Carlton Cole and he, I believe, will never have a bad word to say about West Ham.
Manager of the Decade: Slaven Bilic
What was not to like ? A manager that did get this club and the fans. Who acknowledged and appreciated the merits of our old stadium.
I knew Bilic when we signed him the first time from his playing days at Karlsruhe. I met him briefly once at Chadwell Heath and those 90 seconds or so confirmed my view that Bilic is not only a smart, multilingual guy but also a thoroughly nice person. Maybe a bit too nice to make it at a top club.
He gave us one of the most memorable seasons in our history.
You know I do have this romantic/naive/stupid view on football sometimes.
And despite his managerial setbacks and tactical flaws I still consider him one of the best fits West Ham ever had at the position, a modern day Lyall.
I’d have Bilic back at our club in a heartbeat.
Moment of the Decade: The opening of the Billy Bonds Stand
I could have picked a big event with dramatic effect, scenes of chaos or despair, or days that made us feel sad, like the cancelled march, the pitch invasions at the Burnley game or the passing of our oldest supporter, Mabel Arnold. Or I could have picked our rare victory away at Liverpool, a much happier occasion. A bittersweet and truly historical day, like the final game at the Boleyn.
Instead I’m choosing a less obvious or spectacular moment, but still a highly emotional one. It was seeing Bonzo walking out onto that giant vastness that is the London Stadium pitch, clearly overcome with emotion, joined by his kids, to witness the opening of the biggest stand at our new home stadium, dwarfing the Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking Stand.
For the older fans among us, Billy Bonds is probably now the most loved and respected former player ever, due to his traits and performances as a player, but also because of the man he is, down to earth, honest, modest – a guy you’d gladly have in your section of the trench anytime. Or just to have him in the same room, talking football and West Ham. My heart was filled with joy and pride while my eyes were welling up with salty liquid when watching Bonzo on that pitch, waving at the crowd before wiping off his own tears with the same hand. And we even won that game for him after the ceremony.
Finally, when I met Bonzo at one of those “Meet the Legends“ evenings in Dagenham, he had me stuttering and stumbling my way through asking him to sign that famous black and white picture for me, showing him post-game with a band aid above his eye and some blood trickling down from under it.
No mean feat to get me into a state where I’m unable to put a coherent sentence or two together…Billy Bonds did just that. COYI!!!