When scrolling through West Ham’s history, there appears a pattern of strike partnerships which come around about once-a-generation. We have mainly relied on contributions from all over the park as opposed to the efforts of one ‘30 goal man’. Recent midfield examples are Kevin Nolan and the penalty king Mark Noble.
The current season has bucked a regular Hammers trend. New signings have flooded in, with our frontline being strengthened beyond anything we’ve seen for a number of years. As Blowing Bubbles has recently reviewed our new strikers – particularly Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia, both of whom have made instant impacts in East London – it seemed appropriate to look back at some of our most famous pairings to play up top for The Irons.
JOHN HARTSON & PAUL KITSON
Any victory over Tottenham Hotspur is a welcome one. But never is it more welcome than when the team is struggling in the league and looking for a break. This break was provided in February 1997 by the signings of John Hartson and Paul Kitson from Arsenal and Newcastle respectively. Hartson cost the club £3.2 million, with Kitson having a price tag of £2.3 million.
That outlay was more than paid back with debut goals from the pair against Spurs, in a 4-3 win which marked a turnaround and a move away from danger. A total of 13 goals from the pair proved crucial in the 1996/97 season, with the club avoiding relegation by only two points. To put it further into perspective, those goals scored between the end of February and May, represented a third of the total goals scored by the team all season.
PAOLO DI CANIO & PAULO WANCHOPE
No Hammers fan would argue that Paolo Di Canio was important for much more than just his goals. The passionate Italian brought back a brand of creative football to the club, as well as a new approach to training and nutrition for the players. That aside, Di Canio’s moments of brilliance and ‘heart on sleeve’ performances won the eternal affections of the fans and helped the club to an impressive fifth position in the league in 1999, as well as qualification for Europe.
His most fondly remembered goals might be his FA Cup nutmeg on Fabian Barthez, along with his Goal of the Season effort against Wimbledon. But there was another Paulo (spelled slightly differently, of course) who made an important contribution with his Italian friend. Costa Rican Wanchope only spent a year at West Ham, but the signing could be considered £3.5million well spent.
He scored 12 of West Ham’s 52 league goals during the 1999/00 campaign, with his strike partner getting a further 16. Those goals proved vital when we consider that there were less than 20 points between ninth and 17th position in the Premier League table that season.