This season, despite a fairly depressing series of results, and tantalising glimpses of salvation followed by general crushing disappointment, it’s been oddly reassuring to have the old West Ham back, one with which I am familiar. I can’t be the only West Ham fan to think that as our players take to the pitch against any team that haven’t won in about four months, and who are desperately out of form, they are likely to squander about 30 chances and the opposition will come away with a 1-0 win.
Or maybe, there will be a player in the opposition who used to play for us. Well, he’s bound to spark into life isn’t he. He’ll probably score a couple of goals, condemn us to defeat, and then not score for another six weeks.
This is always my personal favourite – it’s just bound to happen, and obviously, this never ever occurs the other way around, because they play for West Ham now, the most charitable club in the Premier League. I was reflecting on this as I watched Danny Ings toil against Aston Villa, confidently and completely wrongfully predicting on the Blowing Bubbles WhatsApp group that he would score in a comfortable win.
Is this actually true? Am I completely wrong, and have any of our players inflicted damage on their former team when playing for us? Or is this just a case of seeing things through my forever slightly jaundiced claret-and-blue spectacles?
Well, stunningly enough, as it turns out it has actually happened in this absolute slog of a season, twice in the same month. Bonus points if you can identify the two players and respective teams involved before you get to the end of this piece.
Here’s five occasions when the table has turned, a West Ham player has found the net against their former club, and the myth has been well and truly busted.
West Ham 2-2 Everton (Monday, February 13, 1995)
Tony Cottee had to make this list, of course. In his second spell at West Ham, having returned from Everton, he scored twice but this was not enough for the win. This left us in a precarious position, and a further three defeats in the next four matches followed. However, one defeat in the remaining 11 matches secured Premier League status for another year, with the Hammers ironically finishing just above Everton in the table on goal difference.
West Ham 2-0 Liverpool (Saturday, January 2, 2016)
Michail Antonio opened the scoring against Liverpool early in the first half, but it was 10 minutes after half-time when former Red Andy Carroll found the net with a header after meeting Mark Noble’s cross to seal the victory. This win took West Ham to sixth in the table after 20 games played, in the glory days of the Slaven Bilic reign.
Stoke City 0-3 West Ham (Saturday, December 16, 2017)
In a match that was delayed by an hour because of a power outage, West Ham romped home thanks to a strike from ex-Potter Marco Arnautovic, sandwiched between a Mark Noble penalty (who else) and a late Diafra Sakho clincher. Arnie’s reaction was beautiful: having been treated to a hostile reception throughout the whole game, his celebration in front of the Stoke fans will live long in the memory. On his day – what a player. Such a shame, the way it all worked out.
West Ham 1-1 Chelsea (Saturday, February 11, 2023)
And so, into this season of mostly disappointment. When Chelsea scored early in the first half at the London Stadium in February, you feared the worst. We’ve been largely dreadful for large parts of this season, and there was no reason to think that we might come back against Chelsea. However, then popped up Italy international Emerson Palmeiri, who finished at the far post, earning a draw and keeping our heads above water, just about.
West Ham 4-0 Nottingham Forest (Saturday, February 25, 2023)
Twice in a month? Goodness. Seriously, with an hour gone, did anyone predict this scoreline? Danny Ings scored twice, and Declan Rice netted a showstopper. But Michail Antonio, who’s been with us for so long we’ve actually forgotten that he played for any other clubs, scored against his former side to put the icing on the cake and foolishly make us think we were very definitely safe until we were tonked 4-0 by Brighton the following week.
So, the next time you see a West Ham player pull on the shirt against his former club, remember – goals against former clubs do happen. And you never know, any one of those strikes might be the one that saves our season.