Looking at the last 10 years, it’s often easy to forget those individuals who have worn the claret and blue during that time. Football supporters are a fickle group as we quite easily move on to the next great thing and often forget those players who wore the West Ham shirt albeit for a short time.
So let’s look at a few of those unsung heroes of the past decade. One player that I feel was underrated when at West Ham was a certain Diafro Sakho who joined the club in August 2014.
He arrived as an unknown and ended up spending almost four seasons at the club appearing in 71 games and scoring 24 goals but that goals-to-games stat doesn’t show the full picture. In that first season he was a revelation, exciting to watch, dynamic.
Let’s not forget that he scored a goal in each of his first six starts, a record that still exists. Injuries that season prevented a bigger goal tally but 12 goals in his first season is something not to be sniffed at.
He followed this in his second season by scoring in our first league win at Anfield in over 50 years and then scored the winner away at the league champions, Manchester City. Wins at Citie and Anfield are things that dreams are made of.
But then it all came crashing down as he once again picked up an injury and other issues suddenly came to a head resulting in Diafro asking for a transfer. He did come back briefly but was once again injured soon after scoring against Manchester United.
After that it was all pretty downhill. He became almost the forgotten man and some questioned whether he was really injured or simply couldn’t be bothered. His final goal came against Stoke after which he was shipped out and never made his mark again.
But let’s not forget for around 18 months, he was almost unplayable. At his peak he could be the player we are crying out for up front. Sadly for whatever reason, he never really reached his full potential but for a short time he was simply outstanding.
During that same period of time there was another forward who I felt was going to achieve great things but sadly failed to deliver, that player was a certain Enner Valencia. The Ecuadorian only played 54 games for the Hammers scoring a measly eight goals but remains Ecuador’s leading international goal scorer.
In partnership with Sakho, I really felt we had a real goal scoring threat and a duo that could surpass Kitson and Hartson for goals per game. A £12 million price tag didn’t help nor the fact that he signed for the Hammers with his only knowledge of the club being from the film Green Street.
For the short term he did look a quality player and one that given time could excel. He made his debut in significant fashion by scoring from 25 yards out with a shot that was alleged to have travelled at 61 mph.
In that same week he scored two more goals away at Turf Moor before rounding off a phenomenal few weeks by scoring against Stoke. But then the injuries came and with that his career at West Ham. The odd brief appearance and a loan spell at Everton signified the end of his West Ham career.
The problem was that at the time West Ham probably didn’t play the type of football that suited his game. With Andy Carroll now at the club and Big Sam as manager, West Ham was not a good fit for Enner and he became another in that long list of forwards during the GSB era that never quite made the grade.
But for a short time in 2014 he did look the real deal. So that leaves me with my pick on the player over the last 10 seasons that I would have in my starting eleven if they were at their peak.
I had to think long and hard regarding this one. An obvious choice would have been someone like Dimitri Payet. But instead I have chosen someone who at his peak was simply so dominant in his position and that player is a certain New Zealand international who goes by the name of Winston Reid.
Winston is simply one of the best centre backs I have seen live in a West Ham shirt, and this is coming from someone who loved the Welsh Pele. But whereas James Collins was a no nonsense throwback to a forgotten era, Reid had the silky skills of a modern day defender.
Not only that but he could also score a few goals and will forever be remembered as the last person to score at the Boleyn. It’s amazing to think that when I saw him make his debut at Villa Park in a 3-0 loss, I thought he was a disaster and would disappear pretty quickly.
The hype prior to his signing didn’t help as it was all cloak and dagger with no name mentioned other than we were signing a World Cup star. After that nightmare debut, he didn’t appear in the first team for several months and when the season ended in relegation, it seemed pretty clear that Winston would stay with us and would find his playing level in the Championship.
But then it all changed. They say that football is a confidence game and it seems that the drop down to the Championship did Winston a great help. He grew in stature and if it was not for injuries would have, in my opinion, started every game for the rest of his time as a West Ham player.
Here was a player that was linked with a transfer to one of the big four but instead stayed at the Hammers. Sadly constant injuries resulted in him spending long spells in the physios room. But at his peak Winston was immense.
Yes I could have picked a short-lived star but the fact that Winston scored against Millwall and then scored our last goal at the Boleyn immediately raises him to another level. So there you have it, my three player choice.
Winston as the player I would have back at his peak; Diafro as the most underrated and Enner as the one I thought would deliver but sadly didn’t.