There are many strikers from West Ham’s history who have graced the hallowed turf, known where the goal is, and gone down as some of our greatest players. Sir Geoff Hurst, Alan Devonshire, David Cross, Tony Cottee are just some of the names that come to mind. Unfortunately, West Ham’s history is also filled with strikers who may have showed promise but didn’t make the grade. Florin Raducioiu, Marco Boogers, Mido (shudder) are just three of the players in the Hall of Shame.
There’s one forward who may be added to the list in the next few months — he’s currently on loan at Everton, who we take on this month. Step forward Enner Valencia. It’s easy to arrive at the conclusion that the Ecuadorian international has been a fl op. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve heard fans bemoan his performance, or read less-than-flattering reviews online. But do the stats bear that out?
Valencia arrived in a blaze of glory, signing a five-year contract for an estimated £12m fee. For West Ham, that’s a fair bit of money to spend on a striker. But perhaps, in hindsight, the first seeds of doubt were sown when he apparently revealed that he knew very little about the club before signing and mainly found out information having watched hooligan films such as Green Street.
That’s hardly the best preparation before signing a big-money deal with a Premier League football team. In his defence, he knows how to score a spectacular goal. He scored one of the goals of the 2014-15 season against Hull — a vicious 25-yard strike that peaked at 61mph. In the following weeks, he also added a couple more against Burnley and Stoke City. Our striking superstar was coming of age or was he?
It turns out, not. Any momentum that he was to carry into the following season was immediately halted in the Europa League match pre-season against Astra Giurgiu. Despite scoring, he had to be substituted because of ‘significant’ injuries to his right knee and ankle, keeping him out of the team for three months.
He didn’t score any goals until January 2016, when we beat Bournemouth memorably 3-1 in a comeback win. The good news was that even though he was out for so long, he still scored as many goals as he had in the entire previous season. The bad news is that the grand total for both seasons was four league goals each.
Eight goals in 54 league matches isn’t good enough. Add in one solitary cup goal in seven games and the stats become, frankly, laughable. Just a reminder: we reportedly paid £12m for him. That means it’s cost us £1.5m per league goal!
Everton have the option of a permanent transfer at the end of the season. It would be worth £14.5m and would represent good business for us. The problem is Valencia hasn’t been ripping up trees at Goodison Park either with three goals in 15 appearances. On first viewing, signing him probably wouldn’t be good business for the Toffees.
But even though he’s only played the equivalent of one 100-minute match for Everton this year, he’s become something of a player to make things happen. In the time that he’s been on the pitch, Everton have scored eight goals and only conceded one. Indeed, his recent performance against Hull has drawn very complimentary reviews. After coming on with 13 minutes to go, he not only scored within 69 seconds of getting on the pitch but also laid on an assist for Lukaku.
So, what next for Valencia? Will he return and does he have a future at West Ham? I just don’t think he does. He’s cut a frustrating figure for West Ham fans, never really delivering on his early promise. Injury hasn’t done him many favours but even accounting for that, can you really see 10 or 15 goals being scored next season by a player who hasn’t scored that many in three seasons in the Premier League?
I wish Valencia well, but I think that if we can get £14m for him, we are better off reinvesting that money in a striker, perhaps from the lower leagues, who would be younger, and hungrier, and who would have masses of potential. Or perhaps we should combine that money with a fee from the sale of Andy Carroll too and sign a bigger-name striker but that’s probably another debate for another day!