Picture the scene if you can. The year is 1970, there is still snow on the ground and a young boy in the Welsh Valleys makes a momentous life changing decision.
At the age of 10 I had to decide which football team I was going to support. Now I could have gone for a local team, maybe Newport County or Cardiff City, or maybe even a team supported by my football loving mates, Manchester United starring George Best or Leeds United, but I wanted to be different.
I picked a team from London and all because the current England manager at the time Alf Ramsey had labelled one of that team’s players as being ‘10 years ahead of his time’.
That player was Martin Peters but imagine my horror when just a month or so later after swearing my allegiance to West Ham and the World Cup winning trio, my favourite player of that group left the club to join our nearest rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Those local to the east end will see Spurs as a local rival, I just saw them as the team who stole my favourite player, and it was that one single event that soured my thoughts. And it seems that although this was one of the first transfers between the two rivals it was not to be the last.
One of the great rivalries in European football is that between Real Madrid and Barcelona and it is often thought that it is a rarity for a player to have played for both clubs, yet 14 have made that switch. But that transfer activity is of insignificance to us Hammers, the greater rivalry is West Ham against Spurs and it is surprising to see just how many players have “dared” to play for both since Peters.
The worry though is that often the Hammers have lost out. It is as if that Martin Peters’ transfer was our ‘Babe Ruth’ moment. For Peters we received cash plus an ageing past-his-best Jimmy Greaves. It is an interesting list of footballers who have worn both the claret and blue and white of spurs and it is a pretty impressive list.
Probably the star turn is a player who scored 41 goals in just over 100 appearances for the Hammers and then a further 90 goals in 274 appearances for our north London rivals. With such a goal tally at both clubs it would be assumed that this player would be one that many a fan would consider for an all time XI.
Sadly when one thinks of Jermain Defoe us Hammers think of a player that turned his back on the club in its hour of need and almost rivals Paul Ince for many as a turncoat. But there are two players that rival Defoe as the best we sold on to our rivals. The first was a certain three times Hammer of the Year.
In Scott Parker we had a player almost the opposite of Defoe, a player that gave his all in every game he appeared while wearing the claret and blue. He was so revered at the Boleyn that when he left after our relegation in 2011, he was still welcomed back with open arms.
That may have had something to do with the fact that West Ham saw the best of Scott Parker and after his time with us it was a slow downward spiral for our former hero. That cannot be said for the one who got away and in my eyes the best player ever to play for Spurs and West Ham.
That player is none other than the recently-retired Michael Carrick, he may have been a Geordie but he was one of our own, a true product of our famed youth set up. Carrick won five Premier League titles plus Champion League and FA cup honours. Amazingly he was only capped 34 times for an England national team that was crying out for a player of his ability.
Michael Carrick went about his football in an unassuming way and was a gentleman on the field as well as off it. He really was the one that got away.
Fred Kanouté was another player that was part of the team that was ‘too good to go down’. Sadly despite the great goalscoring record, it is a penalty miss that will always come to mind when I think of the Malian forward.
Who can forget with the game finely poised, Kanouté stepping up to take a penalty against Arsenal to put us well and truly in charge of the game, only to roll it softly back to Seaman in the Arsenal goal.
It would take the Hammers another five months before we finally won a game at home and relegation loomed. He though still joins the group of the ones that we should never have allowed to leave for our rivals.
So far it has been one way traffic but how about those who have left the dower cockerels for the mighty Hammers. There are some that stand out. The first has to be a Spurs legend who, despite that accolade, gave his best in a West Ham shirt.
Teddy Sheringham is a true legend of the game. He not only scored 28 goals in just 78 appearances, he was instrumental in helping us not only gain promotion but to also reach one of the great FA Cup finals in recent times. He may be in Spurs’ hall of fame but his contribution to the Hammers cause cannot be forgotten.
There are a trio of ex-Spurs players that really came into their own at the Boleyn. The first of this trio was “mad, bad” Johnny Moncur. He may have only scored nine times in 200 appearances as a Hammer but he was a character on and off the field.
I simply loved the way he would wind up the officials as he warmed up and I am sure I was not the only one who would bet on just how long it would take him to get booked. He was a true character of the game.
Second in this trio is Matthew Etherington who, despite his off-field problems, battled hard whenever he played and even won the Hammer of the Year award.
The final one of this trio of “Spurs rejects” who made it good in the claret of blue was our very own West Ham-loving Bobby Zamora. He not only became a fan favourite with his own terrace song and “top” CD release but scored the winner in our promotion campaign in 2005, that single goal even made me forgive him for scoring the goal for Spurs that knocked us out of the League Cup in 2003.
Rounding off my top 10 of those who played for both is Paul Allen who was cruelly deprived of a FA Cup final goal by an appalling tackle by Arsenal’s Willie Young that prevented the youngster from achieving near legendary status. But for every plus there has been some minuses. Who can forget the appearances of Sergei Rebrov and Milo in a West Ham shirt, I wish I could. I even have Rebrov’s autograph somewhere.
And there are also those players who joined us from Spurs that were way past their best. Stand up and be counted Les Ferdinand, Robbie Keane and Clive Allen. There has also been those that were initially thought to be a great buy only to be a bust. Yep – Ilie Dumitrescu and Michell Thomas that’s you I’m talking about you.
And although Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock was a crowd favourite, he can hardly be called a club legend. As for Chris Houghton and the aforementioned Jimmy Greaves, they both had their best years while playing for our rivals.
So that’s my 20 players who have played for both teams. My top three? For what it’s worth I’ll go with have to be Michael Carrick, Martin Peters and controversially Jermaine Defoe.