When it comes to announcing this year’s Hammer of the Year I have a feeling that it might just come down to two names. The first being last year’s Young Hammer of the Year, Declan Rice and the other being a certain Polish goalkeeper who has certainly earned his place in that end of year vote.
West Ham have a somewhat surprising history of great goalkeepers. In my life time we have had the great Phil Parkes, followed by Ludo Miklosko and even in that class I would place a pre World Cup Robert Green. But we have also had a few that have been pretty mediocre or at best one-season wonders.
It’s been a position in which other than those three names already mentioned, we have seen inconsistency and sometimes abject failure. We have seen great individual performances by the likes of Adrian and even David James but there has been a gap where we supporters can actually breathe easy with the knowledge that we have someone between the sticks who is consistent game in, game out.
The problem with the goalkeeping position is that it is unforgiving. An outfield player can make a horrendous mistake but it seems easily forgotten, a goalkeeper though is different that one mistake will hound him for the rest of his days.
David James earned the nickname “Calamity” and Robert Green will always be remembered for that slip up while in goal for England against the U.S of A. But both keepers on their day could be outstanding but those single slip ups will never be far from supporters or indeed the media’s minds or no doubt their own.
West Ham in the last few years have been floundering in the goalkeeper department. It seemed that we had found a saviour in Adrian but several high profile mistakes found him battling firstly with Darren Randolph and then Joe Hart, both of which had the West Ham faithfully scared to death and no doubt sent shivers down the spine of a few defenders who played with them.
The goalkeeper position was one that in pre-season needed addressing, the possibility of another season of seeing Joe Hart standing still with his head turned to watch the ball hit the back of the net was one that I am sure I was not the only supporter dreading. With several keepers possibly in the market and another team in claret and blue, Burnley, having two young England internationals seemingly available I was a little dismayed that the club spent £7.5m on a player that had just been relegated with Swansea City and had played previously just 32 times in seven years at Arsenal.
It’s true that at Swansea he was the unanimous choice as player of the season and stopped more shots than any other goalkeeper but he was a star in a relegated team that no doubt allowed him to excel in that department. At 33 years of age he could also not exactly be called a spring chicken. It was thus with mixed emotion that I saw him sign for the Hammers but what a signing he has been.
When the club looks back on the season and the players that the reported £100 million was spent on, it’s a fair assumption that the best 7.5 per cent was spent on Lukasz Fabianski. What a player he has been this season as time and time again he has been called on to save our Hammers.
It is not an exaggeration to state that with the confidence he has given others that he had helped the likes of Diop, Balbuena and latterly Ogbonna to settle in to the team. The stats may show not that many clean sheets but it’s a certainty that he has kept the score down in more than enough games to keep the Hammers at least competitive. But does he already deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Phil Parkes and Ludo Miklosko?
Well there’s that old saying of “one swallow doesn’t make a summer” or for those of you who do not recognise that saying how about “one season doesn’t make a West Ham great”. After all we have seen it all before, a certain Dimitri Payet fits that bill. It takes time to become a West Ham legend.
We have seen goalkeepers have good seasons followed by bad or at best mediocre ones. Our current back up keeper Adrian may still be a fan favourite and at one time even made the Spanish National Squad, he had all the makings of a West Ham great but now sadly is relegated to the bench and no doubt could be on his way come the summer.
Fabianski though seems made of greater stuff, with current form a few more seasons could see his name linked with Parkes and Ludo rather than Day and Hislop who were good keepers but not great keepers. We will have to wait and see. What is clear is that Fabianski is an integral part of all that is good at West Ham at the moment.
He is reliable and currently irreplaceable. He gives the players around him and us the fans confidence that our last line of defence is a good one, not yet great but a good one. Unless young Declan wins both Young Hammer and the top award, Fabianski will be a worthy winner of the Hammer of the Year Award.
There is, of course, one other point to mention, Fabianski was born 30 miles closer to Moscow than a certain Czech Hammers great. Let’s stick to singing “Super Fabianski” first rather than having a geography lesson and let’s wait a little longer before adding those words West Ham great to our Polish stopper.
But I have a feeling that in a few year’s time he just may be mentioned in the same breath as Ludo and Parkes rather than a certain McNightmare.