Dan Coker's Match Preview

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Blast from the past

12th January 2008 – Gordon Brown was Prime Minister, Basshunter was number one with ‘Now You’re Gone’, I Am Legend topped the UK box office and mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary had died the day before. Meanwhile, West Ham United secured a 2-1 Premier League victory over Fulham in front of 34,947 at Upton Park.

Former Hammers left-back Paul Konchesky was in the visitors’ starting XI that day, while ex-Fulham man Luis Boa Morte came off the bench for the Irons. Roy Hodgson had taken over as Fulham boss just over a fortnight previously. Despite struggling in the league’s relegation zone, Simon Davies gave the visitors the lead after just eight minutes when his glided free-kick from the left evaded the home defence and bounced past the helpless and flat-footed Robert Green. Freddie Ljungberg was enjoying one of his better afternoons in claret and blue, albeit wearing a shirt without his name or number after an earlier injury had left his original shirt bloodied – the Swede beat Konchesky after 28 minutes to swing over a cross which was expertly met with a brilliant glancing header by Dean Ashton at the near post. The 24-year-old striker would go on to be the Hammers’ top scorer that season, with 11 goals in 35 matches. Ashton’s thunderous left-footed drive soon after crashed against the crossbar, via the fingertips of Antti Niemi.

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Niemi denied Ashton and strike partner Carlton Cole before the Hammers found their winning goal with 22 minutes remaining, Anton Ferdinand (pictured above) providing a firm finish to Mark Noble’s fine cut-back – the Hammers’ homegrown midfielder had chased down the ball when it seemed to be harmlessly heading out for a goal-kick. Midfielder Jimmy Bullard ended 16 months of injury hell after coming on as a late substitute for Fulham against the club which had released him earlier in his career without making a senior appearance – he was met with generous applause by home and away supporters alike. The West Ham goals from this game can be viewed in my video below.

Alan Curbishley’s Hammers went on to finish the 2007/08 Premier League season in tenth place, while Hodgson’s Fulham ended up 17th, surviving on goal difference. Goalkeeper Green would be voted Hammer of the Year, with George McCartney runner-up. Manchester United won the title and Portsmouth won the FA Cup.

West Ham United: Robert Green, Jonathan Spector, Anton Ferdinand, Matthew Upson, George McCartney, Freddie Ljungberg (Julien Faubert), Mark Noble, Hayden Mullins, Matthew Etherington (Lee Bowyer), Carlton Cole (Luis Boa Morte), Dean Ashton.

Fulham: Antti Niemi, Moritz Volz (Jimmy Bullard), Dejan Stefanovic, Carlos Bocanegra (Aaron Hughes), Paul Konchesky, Simon Davies, Chris Baird, Danny Murphy, Steven Davis, Clint Dempsey, David Healy (Alexei Smertin).

Club Connections

Ryan Fredericks welcomes his former club. Scott Parker played for both clubs and is currently manager at Craven Cottage. A decent number of players join the pair in representing West Ham United and Fulham over the years. These include:

Goalkeepers: Bill Biggar, Jan Lastuvka, Tony Parks.

Defenders: Paul Kelly, Bobby Moore, George Horler, George Redwood, Kevin Lock, Tony Gale, Jack Hebden, Rufus Brevett, John Paintsil, Paul Konchesky, Ian Pearce, Wayne Bridge, Jon Harley, Alan Stephenson, Andy Melville.

Midfielders: Luis Boa Morte, Dick Richards, George Carter, Papa Bouba Diop, Fergus Hunt, Havard Nordtveit.

Strikers: Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne, Brian Dear, Alf Harwood, Jack Fletcher, Roger Cross, Iain Dowie, Fred Harrison, Billy Brown, Archie Macaulay, Danny Shea, Kenny McKay, Leroy Rosenior, Bobby Zamora, Mladen Petric, Bill Davidson.

This week’s focus though is on a player who joined Fulham after starting his career at West Ham. Ray Houghton was born in Glasgow on 9th January 1962; a boyhood Celtic fan, he moved to London at the age of ten and progressed through the youth ranks at West Ham, signing professional forms as a 17-year-old in July 1979. He made his first team debut at the age of 20 under John Lyall, as a 60th-minute substitute for fellow Scot and Academy product George Cowie in a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal on 1st May 1982. Due to intense competition for midfield places, Houghton was allowed to move to Fulham on a free transfer just over two months later having made just one appearance for the Hammers.

Houghton made his debut for Malcolm Macdonald’s Fulham in a 1-1 draw against Rotherham at Craven Cottage on the opening day of the 1982/83 season – the club were playing in the Second Division having just won promotion from the Third. The Cottagers nearly achieved back-to-back promotions, but missed out on a place in the top flight by one point after losing four of their final five matches. Fulham dropped to 11th the following season before finishing ninth in 1984/85. After scoring 16 goals in 129 league games for the club, Houghton signed for First Division Oxford in September 1985 for a fee of £147,000.

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Houghton won the League Cup in his first season with Oxford, scoring the second goal in a 3-0 win over QPR in the Final. He helped keep the club in the top flight in his two seasons at the Manor Ground and also became an international player during his time there. Houghton had declared himself available for the Republic of Ireland having qualified to play for them through his Irish father – he won his first cap in Jack Charlton’s first match as manager, a 1-0 defeat to Wales in a friendly at Lansdowne Road on 26th March 1986.

Houghton left Oxford for Liverpool for £825,000 shortly after the start of the 1987/88 campaign. He scored his first goal for his country on 12th June 1988, a looping header and the winning goal in a Euro ’88 group match in Stuttgart against England. He also represented his country at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, scoring a penalty in the second round shoot-out win over Romania to help send the Green Army into a quarter-final clash with the hosts. The dynamic, diminutive midfielder (he stood at 5’7 tall) won two First Division titles, two FA Cups and the Charity Shield during his five years at Anfield; he departed for Aston Villa in a £900,000 move in the summer of 1992 and won the League Cup with Villa in 1994.

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Shortly after that League Cup win, Houghton again represented the Republic of Ireland at an international tournament, the 1994 World Cup in the USA – he scored the shock winner against Italy in the opening group game with a lofted left-foot strike at Giants Stadium, New Jersey. Houghton returned to London with Crystal Palace for £300,000 in March 1995 but couldn’t keep the Eagles in the top flight and spent the following two seasons with them in the second tier.

Houghton joined Reading on a free transfer in the summer of 1997 and won his last cap for his country in the second leg of a World Cup ’98 Play-Off against Belgium in Brussels on 15th November 1997 – he came off the bench to sign off with a goal to level the tie but couldn’t prevent the hosts eventually winning 3-2 on aggregate. He had won 73 international caps, scoring six goals.

After two seasons with Reading, the second of which was spent in the third tier after relegation from the First Division, Houghton ended his career with a spell at non-league Stevenage, signing for the club in September 1999 before retiring in May 2000 at the age of 38. Having represented the Hammers for just half an hour, Houghton had gone on to make over 700 domestic appearances during the rest of his career. Houghton has since been a consultant on the Football Manager game series and was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Huddersfield in 2005 for services to sport. Now 58, he works as a television and radio pundit in both Ireland and England.

Referee

Tonight’s referee will be Merseyside-based Robert Jones, who will take on his second ever senior Hammers appointment – his only other match involving West Ham’s first team was the 4-0 defeat at Oxford in the League Cup third round in September 2019.

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Jones has refereed one other Premier League match in his career so far, that being Sheffield United’s 1-0 win at Brighton last December.

Possible line-ups

West Ham United will be without Michail Antonio. Aaron Cresswell should be available, but Mark Noble is a doubt. The Hammers are unbeaten in the past ten meetings between the sides in east London, winning six and drawing four. West Ham’s tally of 13 goals is the club’s third highest after seven fixtures of a Premier League campaign.

Fulham are without the injured Kenny Tete and Terence Kongolo, while Josh Onomah is also out and Aboubakar Kamara is suspended. Neeskens Kebano is available, but Mario Lemina is a doubt. Fulham won their first Premier League game away to West Ham in 2001 but are winless in ten subsequent league visits, drawing four and losing six. Fulham manager Scott Parker made 129 appearances for West Ham between 2007 and 2011, scoring 12 goals.

Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Coufal, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Masuaku; Bowen, Soucek, Rice, Fornals; Haller.

Possible Fulham XI: Areola; Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Robinson; Lemina, Anguissa; Decordova-Reid, Cairney, Lookman; Mitrovic.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!