When Marko Arnautović signed for us, it felt like it was a continuation of what he was doing at Stoke.
There is no doubt that he has a lot of ability and I think people are surprised just how quick he is when he gets moving and runs with the ball. But at Stoke he would have one good game followed by two average games and then two poor games. It never felt like he was very consistent and I think that’s why there’s a lot of frustration amongst the Stoke fans.
They could see the potential and that the skill was there but he just wasn’t doing it for them on a consistent basis. He started exactly the same way for us and you looked at him and thought we were only going to get one good game out of him in six.
But I don’t know what changed. I guess you have to put his improved performances down to David Moyes coming in and treating him differently – whatever he did, it worked. He’s our record signing so perhaps under Bilic he felt like he had a right to play every game but with Moyes coming in and talking about players who don’t run, don’t play and proving their worth, it’s clearly had an impact on him.
I think West Ham fans have played a huge part in his resurgence too because they’ve really taken to him. You can see how loyal they are and how good they can be to players who they can see are trying to make things happen. Without realising it, they have had a huge influence on him and now it feels like he is a cult hero and it has helped him show how much of an exciting player he is.
He wants to score, he is hungry to get on the ball – he is a totally different player now. One player that springs to mind of everything changing almost overnight is Frank McAvennie. When John Lyall brought him in, he I think West Ham fans have played a huge part in his resurgence too because they’ve really taken to him. You can see how loyal they are and how good they can be to players who they can see are trying to make things happen. Without realising it, they have had a huge influence on him and now it feels like he is a cult hero and it has helped him show how much of an exciting player he is. was a midfi eld player and that was where he had been playing in Scotland.
We had Paul Goddard up top and Frank was going to be playing in that hole behind the two strikers but when Paul got injured, Frank went up top and it was like someone had switched a light on. He was a totally diff erent player. He found a position that he was most dangerous, and, like Arnie, he surprised people with just how quick he was. He took defenders by surprise.
There was never any doubt he had ability when he arrived but he was now playing in a role that he clearly liked better than being in midfi eld. Moving on and there’s been a lot of talk about James Collins and whether or not we should give him a new contract. I think he absolutely deserves a new contract. He puts his all every time he walks out onto the pitch and always puts his body on the line.
Yes, he is getting on a bit now but he is a great player to have in the squad and bring in when needed. As a ‘keeper it’s great to have players like him in front of you who you know will throw themselves in the way at every opportunity.