Dan Coker's Match Preview
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With England playing Denmark in the Nations League tomorrow, Part Two of my look at West Ham’s Danish Connections focuses on a former Hammers centre-back.
Marc Rieper was born in Rodovre on 5th June 1968 and began his professional career with AGF, making his debut for the Danish national team in the 1990/91 season. After 85 league appearances for AGF, the central defender moved to Brondby in 1992. While at Brøndby, Rieper secured a place in the national team starting line-up and played 38 matches in a row from October 1992 to August 1996. He also won the Danish Cup with the club in 1994.
Rieper joined Harry Redknapp’s West Ham United on loan in December 1994, with the 26-year-old making his debut in a 2-2 draw with Leeds at Elland Road on 10th December 1994. Rieper’s first goal in claret and blue arrived on the 30th April 1995, a header from a John Moncur corner in a 2-0 win over eventual champions Blackburn. His performances over his 21 appearances helped the Hammers to a 14th-placed finish in 1994/95 and Redknapp made the move permanent for a fee of just over £1m.
Rieper would experience particular highs in matches against Coventry during his time at West Ham, scoring against the Sky Blues on three occasions. Both of his goals in 1995/96 came against the Midlands outfit, the first in a 3-2 win at the Boleyn Ground on 31st January 1996 and the second in a 2-2 draw at Highfield Road on 2nd March that year – both were fierce, thunderous strikes. By this time Rieper had been joined by new signing Super Slaven Bilic in defence – the Great Dane made 42 appearances as the Irons finished tenth. Rieper would also play every minute of Denmark’s Euro ’96 campaign, where they exited at the group stage – the Danes opened with a 1-1 draw with Hugo Porfirio’s Portugal before crucially losing 3-0 to a Croatian side which included Bilic and future Hammers Igor Stimac and Davor Suker. A 3-0 win over Turkey in their final group game was not enough to see Denmark reach the last eight.
The 6’3 Rieper scored West Ham’s first goal of the 1996/97 season, smashing in another strike against Coventry on 21st August 1996, a match that would be drawn 1-1 at Upton Park. Exactly one month later, ‘Rieps’ would be sent off at Nottingham Forest but the Hammers would still clinch a 2-0 victory at the City Ground. The club became embroiled in a winter relegation scrap and were dumped out of the League Cup by lowly Stockport and experienced further cup embarrassment at the hands of Wrexham in the third round of the FA Cup. The signings of John Hartson, Paul Kitson and Steve Lomas ensured the Hammers’ Premier League survival. Rieper scored his first international goal at the end of that season, in a 2-0 win over Bosnia in Copenhagen on 8th June 1997.
Rieper scored his last goal for West Ham in his final match for the club, a flicked header from Eyal Berkovic’s free-kick in a 3-1 home win over Wimbledon on 30th August 1997. With David Unsworth already signed and Ian Pearce soon to follow, Rieper was allowed to move to Scottish giants Celtic for £1.5m – he won the title with the club at the end of the 1997/98 season. Rieper had made 101 appearances for West Ham United, scoring five goals – all five of these goals can be viewed in my video below.
Rieper would represent his country at the 1998 World Cup in France, playing every minute of Denmark’s five games. He scored in a 1-0 win against Saudi Arabia in the Danes’ opening match in Lens before a 3-2 quarter-final defeat to eventual runners-up Brazil. Rieper made 61 appearances for his country between 1990 and 1998, scoring two goals. His final game for the Danish national side was a 1-1 draw in Switzerland on 14th October 1998. A toe injury suffered that month eventually led to Rieper’s retirement in the summer of 2000.
Rieper has since been assistant coach at his first club AGF, joining in 2001 but leaving the following year. Now 52, he owns and runs a hotel in the town of Aarhus, is a member of the board of directors at AGF and is the owner of women’s online fashion store BA10.dk.