It’s been very pleasing to see the footballing world coming together to show its support for Rigobert Song. Th e ex-West Ham defender last month suffered a stroke earlier this month and, aft er coming out of a two-day coma, is continuing to receive treatment in a French hospital as Blowing Bubbles went to press.
I can still remember him arriving in England to start playing for Liverpool. He’d already appeared in two World Cups for his country, Cameroon, and was their captain so the £2.7m they paid for him in January 1999 appeared a snip. He quickly became a fan’s favourite because of his attitude and effort and appeared 34 times for the Reds.
His move to West Ham came aft er being dropped from Liverpool’s fi rst XI in the 2000-1 season, aft er playing just four games. Arriving at Upton Park in November 2000 for £2.5 million, there were high hopes that he would be an able replacement for Rio Ferdinand, who’d we recently sold to Leeds United for a then-record £18m.
Th ere was no reason to think that this couldn’t happen. Aft er all, Song was only 24 when he arrived, with the peak of his career still ahead of him and a strong international record. His debut, however, was probably a fair indication as to what was to come as the team slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Upton Park in the League Cup against Sheffield Wednesday, with Song at fault for the fi rst goal.
Perhaps it was unfortunate that Song was signed with the Rio Ferdinand money. People may have had expectations that he would slot straight into the side where Ferdinand left off , but this never really happened.
Indeed on signing, he was aware of the immediate comparison: ‘You can’t compare us. I am different from Rio but I will off er the same hard work and desire to improve. I will be bringing my own experience and character to the club.’ A very likeable player, perhaps his stay at the Boleyn was unfairly affected by this comparison, and this appeared to unsettle him at times. He remains, however, a player that is held in good esteem by West Ham fans because of his character and attitude on the pitch.
Song’s final appearance for us was a 5-0 defeat against Everton. Shortly afterwards, he left Upton Park with just 27 appearances under his belt in two seasons, having spells at Galatasaray and Trabzonspor. Everyone at Blowing Bubbles wishes him a speedy recovery.