The sun sets on the jewel of West Ham’s golden generation

Michael Carrick was the heartbeat of our very special youth team

West Ham’s upcoming game against Manchester United is sure to be an exciting one – not just for the fans but also for former West Ham midfielder Michael Carrick.

The 35-year-old appears to be in his final season at Old Trafford and is to soon be another of West Ham’s golden generation of youth stars transitioning out of the game. Ahead of what is possibly Carrick’s final game against West Ham, it’s a good time to reflect on the careers of the golden boys. Was he the best of West Ham’s golden generation?

There’s certainly a lot of success in Carrick’s life, starting with his time in West Ham’s youth team. Carrick was in our youth squad from 1997 to 1999 where he won the FA Youth Cup. He played a strong role in the infamous 9-0 aggregate victory over Coventry City, scoring twice. He then played for the first team from 1999 to 2004, making 136 senior appearances and scoring six goals.

When West Ham were relegated in 2003, Carrick initially stuck by his club, unlike fellow golden boys Joe Cole, Glen Johnson and Jermain Defoe, and helped to get West Ham to the play-off finals. After failing in our first bid to return to the Premier League, Carrick made a £3.5 million move to London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. He spent two years in North London before moving further north in England in 2006 to the club where he has spent the majority of his senior career – Manchester United.

I think it’s fair to say that his senior career really took off at Old Trafford. In his time with the Red Devils he has won the Premier League five times, the Champions League once, the FIFA Club World Cup once, the League Cup twice, six Community Shields and an FA Cup in 2016.

Carrick has also been capped by England’s senior team 34 times and was a member of the England squad for World Cups in 2006 and 2010 – although, the less said about England in recent international championships, the better. He’s certainly had his share of achievements, but what of his golden teammates? How have messers Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Glen Johnson, and Jermain Defoe done since leaving West Ham?

Lampard spent the majority of his career at Chelsea where he became the club’s alltime leading goalscorer and arguably, and rather annoyingly, one of their best-ever players. Alongside winning the mighty Intertoto Cup with West Ham, Lampard also has three Premier League winner’s medals, four FA Cup winner’s medals, two Football League Cup medals, two Community Shields, one Europa League medal and one Champions League medal under his belt.

Joe Cole played with Lampard at Chelsea, and enjoyed most of the same accolades – although he won one less FA Cup and, notably, does not have Europa or Champions League medals on his bedside table. Glen Johnson also jumped on the Chelsea bandwagon from 2003 to 2007, winning the League and the League Cup. Subsequent stints at Portsmouth and Liverpool have led to an FA Cup and a League cup, respectively.

Jermain Defoe currently plays for relegation candidates Sunderland and once won the League Cup with Tottenham. There are some impressive careers above but of all his fellow golden boys, most impressive is probably that of Rio Ferdinand.

He played with Carrick at Manchester United for eight years and has a trophy cabinet which is similarly stuffed with awards. Ferdinand won six Premier League titles, six Community Shields, three League Cups, the Champions League, a Club World Cup and spent time captaining both England and Manchester United at the height of his career.

But he was also given an eight-month ban in December 2003 for missing a drugs test. It was a difficult time for Rio, but did lead to one of the best chants in West Ham history: ‘His name is Rio and he watches from the stands’. It’s an incredible collection of accolades for the golden boys, spanning an incredible 63 club trophies and there is some sadness for football – and for the England team in particular – at these players now wrapping up their playing careers.

Afterall, Carrick is certainly not in the dawn of his career anymore, and at the time of writing, he has made just one appearance this season under new boss Jose Mourinho. Carrick signed a oneyear contract extension in summer 2016 but has only featured in a League Cup game against Northampton.

Mourinho has assured Carrick that he remains a part of the plans at United, but given the few playing years that Carrick has left in his career, he’s unlikely to want to spend his remaining years sitting on a bench, however illustrious that bench may be. Still, there’s life in Carrick yet and let’s hope that he doesn’t get an opportunity to return to form against the club where he learned to be they player he is today.

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