Following our last two extraordinary January issues where we firstly ranked the greatest Hammers of all time and then followed this up by ranking our managers, we were keen to do a similar feature for 2019. Our initial thought was an All Time XI but when it comes to selecting an All Time XI so much is subjective. Do you vote for the players you’ve seen live or do you vote based on what you’ve been told by your Dad or Grandad?
Our solution was to ask our expert 10-man panel to focus on a time period they would have all been to West Ham and watched a whole host of different players thrive – the Premier League era. According to our friends at the Premier League, there have been 277 players don the claret and blue in England’s top division since 1993 – remember we weren’t in with the big boys for the start, and we’ve also endured three seasons out of the top flight in the last 25 years.
Scrolling through the long-list of names brings back some terrible memories – especially towards the bottom. Names like Marouane Chamakh, Roger Johnson, Simone Zaza, Savio Nsereko, and Benni McCarthy to name a few. But a glance at the winners of the Hammer of Year award following a Premier League campaign does bring back some good feeling.
Steve Potts, Trevor Morley, Julian Dicks, and Rio Ferdinand were early winners in the Premier League era closely followed by Shaka Hislop, Paolo Di Canio, Stuart Pearce, and Sebastien Schemmel. Joe Cole, Danny Gabbidon, Carlos Tevez, and Rob Green all got their hands on the trophy before Scott Parker won it for three years in a row.
Since Super Scotty Parker we’ve had six different winners and all except one are still playing for us today: Mark Noble, Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell, Dimitri P***t, Michail Antonio, and Marko Arnautovic. How many of our Hammer of the Year winners made our XI?
GOALKEEPER: Ludek Miklosko
PL Appearances: 169 / PL Clean sheets: 47
Despite Hammer of the Year wins for Rob Green and Shaka Hislop, it’s Ludo who gets the nod to start in between the sticks. Just to clarify, he didn’t actually come from anywhere near Moscow. The 6ft 3in Czechoslovakian put in some stellar performances as we were promoted to the Premier League in 1993. His man of the match performance at the end of the 1994-95 season also denied Man United a vital win to hand Blackburn the title.
RIGHT BACK: Steve Potts
PL Appearances: 204 / PL Goals: 0
Potts secured the most votes for our right back slot but he’d happily play on either flank and in the centre of defence with distinction. Indeed he recorded votes in our poll for one of the centre back berths, and it should be pointed out that the one-time Hammer of the Year would happily start in midfield when required. Possibly the only one of our Premier League XI who is qualified to drive a black cab, having successfully done the Knowledge.
LEFT BACK: Julian Dicks
PL Appearances: 110 / PL Goals: 21
The four-time Hammer of the Year strolls into the left back position, and quite rightly so. A tough tackling, free-kick taking, penalty lashing skinhead the likes of which football will never see again, and it’s football’s loss. Nicknamed ‘The Terminator’, he’d pick a fight with the best of them and more often than not he would come out the winner. He was always passionate about West Ham – and he carried on his association with the club after first managing the Ladies side before joining Bilic’s coaching staff when the Croat took over from Sam Allardyce.
CENTRE BACK: Rio Ferdinand
PL Appearances: 127 / PL Goals: 2
A huge talent. What could have been if he’d stayed at West Ham? Named Hammer of the Year aged just 19, Man Utd had already had one approach rejected before he moved to Leeds for £18m, making him the world’s most expensive defender, and the rest is history.
CENTRE BACK: James Collins
PL Appearances: 188 / PL Goals: 6
Perhaps the most surprising player to make this XI but there is no doubt when it came to leading by example and putting your body on the line, the Ginger Pele did this week in, week out for the Hammers. Some would argue his time at West Ham was cut short, while others feel the timing was right as a new era dawned in Stratford. Would he have got much game time under Pellegrini? Unlikely but one would hope he may be part of the backroom team in the future – or certainly coaching an age group.
RIGHT MIDFIELD: Trevor Sinclair
PL Appearances: 177 / PL Goals: 37
His Boxing day blockbuster goal against Derby in 2001 – a year to the day after his previous Premier League goal – will live long in the memory for many and was rightly crowned the best of 2001. With West Ham already 2-0 up going into the last five minutes, Paolo Di Canio chipped a corner to Joe Cole on the edge of the box. He took one touch to control it, and another to send it arcing over the crowded goal-mouth from right to left where Sinclair leapt six feet in the air to scissor-kick home. From corner to net-bulge, the ball didn’t touch the floor! It’s also worth noting as well as 37 goals scored, he also clocked up 25 assists during his time at Upton Park.
LEFT MIDFIELD: Joe Cole
PL Appearances: 157 / PL Goals: 15
Unplayable on his day and a delight to watch – yet another ‘what could have been’ had he stayed at West Ham. The recently retired Joseph John Cole first broke into the first team in January 1999 and went onto play more than 120 Premier League games over five seasons. He was one of a number of players who left in the summer of 2003 after we were relegated with 42 points, which remains the highest recorded by a relegated team in a 38-match Premier League season!
CENTRE MIDFIELD: Scott Parker
PL Appearances: 109 / PL Goals: 9
How I wish I could have been in the dressing room when Parker gave his ‘inspirational’ pep talk at half time after, being 3–0 down, we earned a 3–3 draw against WBA. His reaction after scoring the winning goal against Wigan that ensured another season of Premier League football, also showed his passion for West Ham.
CENTRE MIDFIELD: Mark Noble
PL Appearances: 330 / PL Goals: 37
Mr West Ham; Mark Noble encapsulates the West Ham Way. The attendance for his testimonial – and the number of stars who played in it – shows how highly regarded he is. He rightly deserves to be in the midfield and will most certainly go down as one of the greatest West Ham servants of all time. Certainly if he wasn’t on the pitch, he’d be in the stands cheering us on. He lives and breathes West Ham. The only disappointment felt towards Noble is his lack of senior international recognition having played – and captained – England youth sides.
STRIKER: Paolo Di Canio
PL Appearances: 118 / PL Goals: 47
The fiery Italian was rescued by Harry Redknapp, a lover of bargains, having fallen out of favour at Sheffield Wednesday after pushing over referee Paul Alcock. Redknapp admitted it was a gamble bringing the former Celtic and Lazio man to Upton Park, but it was certainly a gamble landed as he went on to score nearly 50 goals. One of his best goals needs little introduction – a perfectly executed volley against Wimbledon which earned BBC Goal of the Season in 2000 and is still considered by most as one of the best Premier League goals ever scored.
STRIKER: Dean Ashton
PL Appearances: 46 / PL Goals: 15
The fewest Premier League appearances in our XI and joins the club of ‘what could have been’. But while Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand enjoyed success after leaving West Ham and became the players we knew they would, Deano never got the chance to fulfil his potential. It still saddens many that he retired aged 26 after failing to recover from a long-term ankle injury sustained during international duty with England. His extraordinary goal during Mark Noble’s testimonial was the perfect way for him – and the fans – to say a proper farewell. What a career he could have had, and had they been playing at the same time, what a terrific partnership he would have had with Di Canio!