Dan Coker's Match Preview

Hello and welcome to my 42nd and final match preview of a very different season for West Ham United, one which started nearly 12 months ago, was suspended for three months and ends behind closed doors, has seen another change of manager but, ultimately, ends in survival.

Blast from the past

Christmas Day 1925 – approaching the end of a month which had seen the births of Sammy Davis Jr. and Dick Van Dyke, West Ham United emerged victorious from a First Division encounter against Aston Villa with a 5-2 win in front of 22,218 at the Boleyn Ground.

The Hammers handed a debut to 22-year-old full-back Alfred Earl, who had recently arrived from Summerstown. A tall, constructive, cool and thoughtful defender, he would go on to make 206 appearances across eight seasons for the club. He is remembered also for having eaten four hot cross buns before one Good Friday match which led to him collapsing on the field! He moved on to Streatham Town in 1933 before ending his playing days in France.

Aston Villa travelled to east London with England full-backs Tommy Smart and Tommy Mort in their side; wing-half Frank Moss, outside-right Richard York, outside-left Arthur Dorrell and legendary Villa inside-forward Billy Walker were also England internationals. The Hammers’ goals that day arrived courtesy of a hat-trick from inside-right Stan Earle, with one apiece for centre-forward Vic Watson and inside-left Billy Williams. Watson would go on to be the Irons’ top scorer with 20 goals from 39 games; the Villa goals in this game were scored by the aforementioned Walker and York. Villa would get their revenge just 24 hours later, with a 2-0 Boxing Day victory over the Hammers at Villa Park.

Born in Stratford on the 6th September 1897, hat-trick hero Earle played for England Schoolboys before signing as an amateur with Clapton. He played there with future Hammers team-mate Viv Gibbins but also turned out for Arsenal, still as an amateur, between 1922 and 1924. Earle had made his international debut for England against France on 17th May 1924 and continued to play for Clapton, winning the 1924 FA Amateur Cup.

Three months after his England debut, Earle (pictured) signed for West Ham United and scored six goals in 18 games in his first season. He played in 37 of the 42 league games in this 1925/26 season, as the Hammers developed a fine forward line of Earle, Vic Watson and Jimmy Ruffell, the trio notching 41 goals between them that season. Earle impressed sufficiently to earn his second England cap on 22nd October 1927, against Northern Ireland. After eight seasons at the Boleyn Ground, Earle departed at the end of the 1931/32 campaign having scored 58 goals in 273 appearances in all competitions. He ended his career back at Clapton before coaching amateur club Walthamstow Avenue and managing Leyton FC. Earle died in Colchester on the 26th September 1971 at the age of 74.

The Hammers, who had topped the table in mid-September, went on to finish in 18th place in the 1925/26 Division One season while Villa ended up in sixth. Huddersfield won the league title and Bolton won the FA Cup, beating the relegated Manchester City in the Final.

West Ham United: Ted Hufton, Billy Henderson, Alfred Earl, Jimmy Collins, Jim Barrett, Syd Bishop, Tommy Yews, Stan Earle, Vic Watson, Billy Williams, Jimmy Ruffell.

Aston Villa: Cyril Spiers, Tommy Smart, Tommy Mort, Jock Johnstone, Vic Milne, Frank Moss, Richard York, George Stephenson, Len Capewell, Billy Walker, Arthur Dorrell.

Club Connections

Former Villa loanee Robert Snodgrass welcomes his old club while ex-Hammer Henri Lansbury returns to east London. Other players who have appeared for both clubs include:

Goalkeepers: David James, Mervyn Day, Les Sealey.

Defenders: Bill Askew, Arthur Marjeram, James Collins, Gary Charles.

Midfielders: Joe Cole, Carlos Sanchez, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Tommy Southren, Nigel Reo-Coker, Nolberto Solano, Stewart Downing, Ray Houghton, Franz Carr, Fred Norris, Tony Scott.

Strikers: Carlton Cole, Marlon Harewood, Robbie Keane, Frank McAvennie, Peter Kyle, Phil Woosnam.

Alan Curbishley played for both clubs and managed the Hammers.

Today’s focus though is on a player who spent four years with Villa before spending a season with the Hammers. John Carew was born in Akershus, Norway, on 5th September 1979 and started his professional career with Valerenga in 1997, winning the Norwegian Cup before moving on to Rosenborg two years later. He made his full international debut on 18th November 1998, becoming the first black player to represent Norway.

Champions League football with Rosenborg brought Carew to the attention of clubs in the big European leagues and he moved to Valencia shortly after representing Norway at Euro 2000. He reached the Champions League Final with the Spanish club in 2001 and won the La Liga title in 2002. Moves to Fulham and West Brom failed to be completed and Carew experienced Italian football in the 2003/04 campaign when he joined Roma on a season-long loan. The 6’5 striker moved to Turkey in 2004, signing for Besiktas in a permanent deal, but was on the move again in the summer of 2005 when he joined French club Lyon. He won the Ligue 1 title in 2005/06 before a move to the Premier League finally came off in January 2007.

Carew signed for Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa in an exchange deal which took Milan Baros to Lyon. The 27-year-old made his Villa debut in a 3-1 defeat at Newcastle on 31st January 2007 and didn’t have to wait long to score his first goal for his new club, this being the winner on his home debut in a 1-0 win over Alan Curbishley’s West Ham on 3rd February 2007. He scored two more goals in 2006/07 as Villa finished 11th.

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Villa would end up sixth in 2007/08, with Carew finishing as top scorer with 13 goals in 33 games, including a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Newcastle at Villa Park on 9th February 2008. The following season saw Carew score in the away leg against Odense as Aston Villa won the InterToto Cup and eventually qualified for the UEFA Cup. Carew scored 15 goals in 34 matches and was Villa’s top scorer again in all competitions, despite a back problem restricting his appearances during the winter.

Carew faced competition from Gabriel Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey in 2009/10 but again finished top scorer for the campaign with 17 goals from 42 appearances in all competitions, including a hat-trick in a 4-2 FA Cup quarter-final win at Reading on 7th March 2010. Carew continued to be a key member of the side as Villa finished sixth for the third consecutive season, and reached the League Cup Final and the FA Cup semi-finals. His final goal for Villa came in a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City on 1st May 2010.

O’Neill resigned in August 2010 with Gerard Houllier his replacement; Carew’s relationship with the Frenchman was strained, with the pair arguing in the press, and his first team opportunities were further limited by the big-money signing of Darren Bent in January 2011. Carew’s final appearance for the club came in a 1-1 draw at Birmingham on 16th January 2011. After four years, 131 appearances and 48 goals at Aston Villa, Carew joined Stoke on loan in January 2011 (who he would represent in the FA Cup Final) before being released by Villa at the end of his contract that summer.

The 31-year-old Carew signed for Sam Allardyce’s newly-relegated West Ham United on a free transfer the day before the start of the 2011/12 Championship season. He made his Hammers debut two weeks later, as a substitute in a 2-2 draw with Leeds at the Boleyn Ground on 21st August 2011. Carew again appeared from the bench to score his first goal for the club on 1st October 2011, meeting a George McCartney cross with his head to bag the second equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace on an unseasonably hot afternoon in south-east London. Carew was rewarded with a starting place in the next game a fortnight later and repeated the trick, scoring the Irons’ first of the afternoon with a header from a Julien Faubert cross in a 4-0 win over Blackpool at Upton Park.

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The club’s signings of Nicky Maynard and Ricardo Vaz Te in the January transfer window of 2012 restricted Carew’s first-team opportunities. He made his final appearance for West Ham as a substitute in a 1-1 draw at Bristol City on 17th April 2012. He had scored two goals in 21 appearances for West Ham United but never completed a full 90 minutes for the club – he was either withdrawn early or used as a substitute in all of his appearances for the Hammers. Both of Carew’s goals for West Ham can be viewed in my video below.

Carew was released by West Ham at the end of the 2011/12 season with the club having secured an immediate return to the Premier League. He could not agree personal terms on a return to his first club, Valerenga, back home in Norway in August 2012 and had an unsuccessful trial at Inter Milan in February 2013, with the Italian club harbouring concerns over his fitness. Carew officially retired in October 2013. He had also played 91 times for Norway, scoring 24 goals – his final goal for his country came four days before his last goal for West Ham, in a 3-1 Euro 2012 qualifying win over Cyprus in Oslo on 11th October 2011.

Now 40, Carew has embarked on an acting career. Amongst other projects, he has appeared in a Canadian horror film, a Norwegian television series and also had a role in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil alongside Angelina Jolie and Forest Gate-born actor Chiwetel Ejiofor.


The referee on Sunday will be Michael Oliver. He has refereed 24 of our matches, officiating in five wins for the Hammers, six draws and 13 defeats. Oliver has refereed the Irons five times this season, in our 2-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace in October (when he awarded the visitors a match-levelling penalty); for our 3-2 home defeat to Tottenham in November; for our 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United in January; for our 3-3 home draw with Brighton in February; and, most recently, for our 1-0 home defeat to Burnley earlier this month.

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Oliver also refereed our 1-1 draw at Leicester in October 2018, when he sent off Mark Noble. His only previous red card issued to a West Ham player came six seasons ago, when he sent off Kevin Nolan in our 4-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in December 2013. Oliver also refereed our 3-1 home win over Manchester United last season.

Possible line-ups

Ryan Fredericks and Robert Snodgrass are doubts, while Aaron Cresswell and Jarrod Bowen sustained minor injuries in midweek which thankfully shouldn’t keep them out of contention. West Ham are unbeaten in their past four home league games against Aston Villa without conceding a goal, winning two and drawing two. The Hammers have won their final Premier League game in each of the previous three seasons.

Aston Villa will be without the injured Tom Heaton, Ahmed Elmohamady, Bjorn Engels and Wesley but Neil Taylor should be available. Villa are currently on a run of 25 successive away games without a clean sheet in the Premier League, since a 0-0 draw with West Brom in January 2016. There have been just seven goals scored in the last seven league meetings between West Ham and Aston Villa.

Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Johnson, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice; Bowen, Soucek, Noble, Antonio; Haller.

Possible Aston Villa XI: Reina; Guilbert, Konsa, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Hourihane; Trezeguet, Samatta, Grealish.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!