Tomas Soucek’s magic, he wears a magic hat, and if you throw a brick at him, he’d head the f***er back.
Tall and Lanky Czech mate, lethal in the air, eats potato salad, does it without flair.
Adopted with banter, initiated with blood, Tomas Soucek has become the fan favorite of this season and has everything that epitomises David Moyes’ machine-man squad.
His endless running, goal scoring and humility has crafted a West Ham hero in only a year, and made an ultimate partnership in the midfield with captain Declan Rice.
Soucek hit form last season during Project Restart and after a simple sharing of potato-salad pastimes in an interview, West Ham fans embraced him with a multitude of jokes, memes, gifts and even a journo-fan crafted a signature potato salad recipe.
To an outsider this may be seen as taking the p*ss, but for West Ham this is the process of adoption.
But banter and potato-salad puns quickly faded into a roar of applause from the quarantined supporters’ seats at the sight of blood spilling from Soucek’s head after a hard-won battle against Spurs.
Reminiscent of Billy Bonds’ bandaged forehead, every West Ham fan knows to bleed any part of the Claret and Blue and put your body on the line is to enter into the West Ham Way, which Soucek has done in a single year.
Soucek is currently the highest scorer at West Ham and the highest scoring midfielder of the Premier league (barring penalties) even over Man United’s beloved Bruno Fernandes.
His rise into West Ham fame, as was his rise to be captain of Champions League-competing Slavia Prague, came like his goal scoring – a late run out of nowhere, bounding and lanky transformed into the sharp and athletic pounce of victory.
What West Ham fans don’t know is that Tomas Soucek was rejected at trials by several second tier Czech clubs who found him awkward and unappealing to look at.
Eventually he was loaned out from Slavia’s academy where he had been since age ot 10 to second tier club Viktoria Zizkov who took him simply because he was on a free and Ziztov were in dire financial straits.
ZIztov’s coach Trpisovsky considered his running style slow, his passing ability weak, and just didn’t rate him the typical athlete they were looking for.
Poor form and lack of funding caused Slavia Prague to recall Soucek where manager Dusan Uhrin Jr put academy players into the starting XI based on limited options, and Soucek started scoring.
Slavia Prague was then in 11th place; four years later, Slavia Prague stood at the top of the table having won three league titles, with decent runs in Champions and Europa Leagues and Tomas Soucek as their captain.
Like his fellow midfielder Declan RIce, Soucek was once an overlooked academy player who was turned into a centre back based on stature; but also like Rice, Soucek grew into his midfield leadership role and Slavia fans knew he was destined for bigger things.
Together Rice and Soucek have a preternatural read of the game which allows for smart runs. What Soucek might lack in pace or typical athletic prowess, he makes up for in intelligent positioning and cardiovascular coverage of the pitch.
Unlike Rice’s holding play, Soucek prefers a box-to-box role, allowing him to make unexpected late runs and be mobile while still providing defensive cover.
His stature and gate gives him more mobility and strength, helping him win the ball in the box and edge out Mark Noble from the first team, and with his age at 26 he looks to be the perfect pairing to Rice and West Ham’s challenge for Champions League positioning.
Bringing along fellow Slavia Prague friend and teammate Vladimir Coufal, who he gels with on and off the pitch with, Tomas Soucek has even bolstered West Ham’s poor scouting network.
And with off the field respect witnessed in his stepping over opposing teams badges instead of on them, dedicating matches to his homesick wife, and Facetime calls from former teammates who want him to share their celebrations on pitch, Tomas Soucek has begun to weave himself with the fans.
And like Slavia Prague’s nickname – Sešívaný – slang for ‘stitched’ based on their kit which is a stitched together white and blood red, so has Tomas Soucek stitched himself into our fanbase, with his grafted workmanship, and battleworn stitches on his forehead.