It’s finally happened. Fan favourite and all round good egg Adrián has left the building. It’s fair to say it’s an emotional time to be a Hammers fan.
Forced out of first team action by super-keeper Lukasz Fabianski since the start of the 18/19 season, Adrián warmed the bench in order to allow his goalkeeping colleague to shine and pick up Hammer of the Year. He did so with no complaints.
Sam Allardyce signed Adrián in summer 2013 from Real Betis. The then 26-year-old took over shot-stopping duties from Juusi Jääskeläinen in December of that season and impressed enough to come second to Mark Noble in the Hammer of the Year contest.
The 6’ 3” ‘keeper stayed in east London for six seasons in total, racking up 150 appearances across competitions. On average he conceded 1.3 goals per game, excluding the 18/19 season.
He also picked up 11 yellow cards and two reds, both of which came in the same year. The red card he received against Southampton in February 2015 for handball was rescinded. He was then sent off in August that year for a challenge on Jamie Vardy.
Above all this, Adrián gave West Ham fans great memories. We all know which one will stick in the mind as long as any Hammers related event in modern history.
West Ham are playing Everton in an FA Cup third-round replay. Extra time isn’t enough to separate the two teams. Neither are the usual set of five penalties. So sudden death is on the table.
Adrián steps up to take the twentieth spot-kick of the shootout. A goal wins it for the Hammers. As he takes his run up, the Spaniard throws his goalkeeping gloves to the floor and becomes a confident striker as he powers the ball into the back of the net.
Cue the most joyous scenes from his teammates, the fans and the man himself.
This moment has brought me more skips of a heartbeat than it probably should have. I loved it! Some people comfort eat when they’re sad – I watch videos of Adrián whipping his gloves off.
In the season before that, West Ham created a ‘social media match’. The home league game versus Hull City was chosen for fans to get involved via social media.
Through this initiative, I was lucky enough to have Adrián wear a t-shirt during the pre-match warm up, adorned with a quote I’d written. This was beyond exciting and my work colleagues can vouch for the moment I found out this was going to happen! I was due to receive the t-shirt in the post but it got lost. I was devastated.
By way of apology, the club kindly sent me a signed photograph of the aforementioned penalty moment and also offered me the opportunity to meet my penalty hero on my next visit to Upton Park. As much as I try not to fangirl, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Meeting Adrián was every bit as lovely as I’d hoped it would be. He was warm, chatty, obliging and smiley. Everything he exuded on the pitch was true to his personality in the dressing room.
The following year brought Mark Noble’s testimonial during which the whole team assisted their ‘keeper to score his first and only goal from open play in claret and blue. Well, in green. That was another joy filled moment to remember.
Let’s not forget he was a brilliant shot stopper for the Hammers too. He was unfortunate to play at a time when his competition was high in both Darren Randolph and Lukasz Fabianski.
Last season was less happy for Adrián. In the closing months of his contract, his Instagram posts grew a little more solemn (although even then he managed to turn everything into a positive), which indicated that his fate had been sealed.
It was the post he made after it had been confirmed he would be departing West Ham that was tearjerker: “…when one has found oneself at home, one must recognize it and show gratitude”.
In it he recalled playing at the “mythical” Boleyn Ground and the penalty against Everton. His words really captured the enjoyment he felt playing with West Ham for almost six years.
I bid a sad farewell to a player who has given me three significant memories in my life. I think I speak for most West Ham fans when I say we’ll miss having Adrián around.
Realistically, he was never going to displace Fabianksi in goal, but his infectious personality was an asset to the squad and I think east London will be a sadder place without him.