“My name is Ludek Miklosko!”

For me, goalkeepers, more than any outfield player – and certainly more than any manager – define the various eras in West Ham’s history. Phil Parkes was brilliant, ; Allen McKnight was awful; Ferguson never quite lived up to expectations.

For me, goalkeepers, more than any outfield player – and certainly more than any manager – define the various eras in West Ham’s history. Phil Parkes was brilliant, ; Allen McKnight was awful; Ferguson never quite lived up to expectations.

When I first started supporting West Ham, the man in the green jersey was Jim Standen, who was not only a very decent keeper but also an extremely useful county cricketer for Worcestershire. It seems unthinkable now that a footballer with a top-flight club could spend the summer months bowling seam up for a living, but things were different in the Sixties – not least the amount of money professional sportsmen were paid.

They say you have to be mad to want to play in goal. If that’s the case, there have been approximately 30 suitable cases for treatment who’ve started a first team match for West Ham since Standen’s day – a mixture of good, bad, indifferent and – in the case of Colin Mackleworth – totally unmemorable. So little did Mackleworth’s name mean to me I took the trouble to find out a few details about him. It seems he was Standen’s understudy, making his debut in that historic year of 1966 and playing his final game for us later that season … in a 6-1 defeat which saw Manchester United win the first division title.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Mackleworth moved on. He went to Leicester to contest the No 1 slot with another young hopeful. Unfortunately, the other contender for the shirt was Peter Shilton. Colin only ever got a handful of games. But he was destined to return to Upton Park wearing blue. He signed up for the Old Bill, and being based at Bow police station he was, apparently, often see on duty at the ground keeping the Inter City Firm in order. Not so much poacher turned gamekeeper, more like goalkeeper turned peacekeeper.

Others have stuck in the mind for a variety of reasons. We all had high hopes for Mervyn Day when he emerged in the early Seventies. He was a brilliant shot-stopper and should have gone on to enjoy a wonderful career. Trouble was, when it came to crosses he was as jittery as an apostle at the Last Supper. Peter Grotier may not have been the greatest, but his facial hair was outstanding. I had a moustache just like his. Pub quiz time. Jussi Jasskelainen is the second Finn to play in goal for West Ham: who was the first? That was Neil Finn. Finn had been pitched into the side just three days after his 17th birthday, making him the youngest ever player in the Premiership at the time. Sadly, this was no fairy tale with the customary happy ending, and we went down 2-1. Finn never got another chance at West Ham.

Jimmy Walker was older – but shorter. At 5ft 8in many observers reckoned he was too small to be a top-class keeper, but anyone who saw his heroics at Stamford Bridge in the 2004 League Cup would beg to differ. Yes, we lost 1-0, but saving Frank Lampard’s penalty was one of the highlights of the season.

Les Sealey was what is known in football parlance as a “character”. He had more clubs than Tiger Woods but proved the old adage that while you can take the boy out of the East End, you can’t take the East End out of the boy.

There are even some folk at Coventry who will tell you that such was his love of West Ham he deliberately let in a few goals when we played them in his last game for the Sky Blues. When he wasn’t selling his team-mates dodgy high-end merchandise, terrorising his own hapless defenders, or entertaining crowds by standing on his hands when the ball was up the other end, he was an excellent keeper – as any Man Utd fan who saw him play will testify.

There are even some folk at Coventry who will tell you that such was his love of West Ham he deliberately let in a few goals when we played them in his last game for the Sky Blues. When he wasn’t selling his team-mates dodgy high-end merchandise, terrorising his own hapless defenders, or entertaining crowds by standing on his hands when the ball was up the other end, he was an excellent keeper – as any Man Utd fan who saw him play will testify.

There are several contenders for West Ham’s number one No 1; Parkes, Miklosko, Green – even, perhaps, the much underrated Shaka Hislop. But there is no contest whatsoever when it comes to the worst. Step forward Allen Darrell McKnight, aka McKnightmare. Considering he only played 23 league games for the club, it is remarkable how much of an impression he made.

There are still grown men in therapy as a direct result of having watched him in action. He made so many blunders it’s hard to pick his worst mistake, but the 3-0 home defeat by Luton in the first leg of the 1989 League Cup semi-final is the performance that sticks in my mind most of all. The word “inept” could have been invented specially for Mr McNit.

To determine just who was the best we’ve ever had, I conducted a scientific poll among supporters whose opinion officially counts for more than mine in all matters, namely Mrs Loud & Proud. There was only ever going to be one winner – Phil Parkes, the man who made Cossack hairspray a must-have fashion accessory for all heterosexual men aged under 30 during the late Seventies. But if Parkes was the best, Ludo ran him a close second in my book and he, of course, is the one we have immortalised in song.

If you’ve never been to an away game (shame on you!) it is worth it if only for the pleasure of watching the bemusement on the faces of opposition supporters when, as with one voice, thousands of travelling Cockneys introduce themselves with the rather unlikely information that: “My name is Ludek Miklosko.”

Now I’m no geography teacher, and I would certainly hate to get a reputation as a killjoy, but there is a slight error in the next line. Mr Miklosko does not, in fact, come from “near Moscow”. He actually hails from Prostejov, in the Czech Republic, which is some 1,734 kilometers from the Russian capital. So, bearing that one small alteration in mind, clear your throat and let’s give it a go. Shall I count us in? One, two, one, two, three … Oi, Big Boy, What’s Your Name?

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