With just a few games to go in what has felt like the longest and most stressful season in living memory, it’s time to decide on who should win our ‘end-of-season’ player awards. In Europe, we’ve been a joy to watch, playing fluid football and scoring prolifically. In the Premier League, we’ve been a tactical nightmare and sleepwalking towards relegation, but we’ve still had some bright moments and men worth celebrating.
Here’s my predictions for who could scoop a 2022/23 award.
Hammer of the Year: Right off the bat, Declan Rice will win again this year. It’s likely that it’s his last season in claret and blue and this award will solidify both his practical and emotional value to West Ham.
Admittedly, West Ham’s Captain doesn’t have a huge amount of competition for the top prize – it’s been such a hard season, and no one’s been faultless for our poor domestic showing. Being generous, Nayuf Aguerd would be next runner up, but his ability to really make an impact was lessened by missing a good chunk of the season to injury.
Lucas Paqueta has also shown tremendous skill, goals, and midfield engineering, but it’s come too late to influence the award this year.
Top Goalscorer: At the time of writing, a player written off by many – including me – is comfortably in pole position. Michail Antonio has scored 12 so far; a surprise given its a season where fans expected him to play second fiddle to marquee signing Gianluca Scamacca and even potentially depart the club in January.
Injuries to the Italian and Danny Ings’ lack of has left Antonio as our main option, and with credit to him, he’s delivered and scored some very important goals in our quest for survival. Hot on his heels is last year’s winner Jarrod Bowen with 10 goals, and with a few league games and two (maybe three) European games remaining, it’s all to play for here.
Players Player of the Year: Hard to predict this one, but we imagine this one to be a hard-working, well-liked player – and last year this award went to just that kind of person in Jarrod Bowen. It could easily head to Jarrod again this year, but I’d keep my eye on Lucas Paqueta for this one. His picture-perfect passes have set up players for more than a few goals this season and it’s likely the players could be tempted to reward him for that.
Signing of the Season: 2022 didn’t give us a signing of the season. It was hard to remember if we signed no one or if everyone we signed was awful, so let’s just presume it was at least one of those. 2021’s winner was loveable Czech signing Vladimir Coufal. And 2023 should’ve been full of contenders: Scamacca, Aguerd, Paqueta, Maxwell Cornet, Thilo Kehrer, Flynn Downes, Emerson Palmieri and Danny Ings.
Kehrer’s performances rule him out of consideration, whereas Cornet missed so much of the season that our own fans sang ‘we thought you were dead’ when he made a comeback. Scamacca’s ongoing injuries and Moyes’ gross mismanagement eliminate him, Moyes only lets Downes play in Europe, and Emerson hasn’t always been a mainstay in the side, leaving Aguerd and Paqueta as our best signings.
It’ll likely go to Paqueta, who has been a joy to watch as he finally adjusts to life in east London, playing lovely passes and bringing a flair to our style of play. But Aguerd’s reliability is equally – if not more so – valuable to West Ham, and it’s frustrating to think how much better our season could have been had he been fit for all of it.
Goal of the Season: It’s always easier to remember the goals at the end of the season, and this season is no exception as it seems to have started several years ago. However, as West Ham’s performances improved, so did the quality of their goals – and we’ve got a few excellent options here to chose from.
Declan Rice’s exceptional solo effort against Gent in the 4-1 win stands out, running through most of the pitch before slotting home to send us to the Semi-finals, as does Fornals against Bournemouth, scoring a stunning scorpion kick followed by a goal celebration which moved him to tears.
Passion, emotion, flair, skill – this goal had it all. Lucas Paqueta also features for his absolute screamer against Liverpool. After some silky build up play and passing, he delivered a stunner of a goal to put the Hammers in the lead (even if it didn’t last).
Save of the Season: In 2022, Areola pipped Fabianski to the post, but this year our number one has a strong shout with his late save against Leeds in January to secure us a vital point against our fellow relegation contenders. He did a fantastic job to get a hand on a powerful header to keep it out from a free kick – and in the 95th minute no less. A vital intervention.
Best Team Performance: Recent games have delivered two strong team performances with four goals apiece – Bournemouth and Gent. However, in a season where determination and belief have been seriously lacking, it’s a draw that’s shown the most heart.
April’s game against Arsenal saw the Hammers go 2-0 down in under nine minutes, with fans fearing a cricket score was on the cards after the recent 5-1 mauling from Newcastle. This time, the team had the right reaction and worked hard to score two goals and prevent Arsenal from scoring again in the process.
It showed we were willing and able to fight back – something desperately needed and longly awaited in our fight to retain Premier League Football.
Best individual performance: Last year’s winner Craig Dawson was never in doubt – that man left everything on the pitch against Lyon. This year, slightly less wins to pick from and memorable standout performances.
Rice against Gent is certainly in for a shout, but perhaps one of those joyous and meaningful would be Bowen against Everton. He took to the pitch with such positivity, having made the announcement that he and his partner Dani Dyer were expecting twins – and then delivered two vital goals in the first half to secure a much-needed three points for West Ham and inevitably costing Frank Lampard his job at Everton. All in a good day’s work.
Young Hammer of the Year: This award is meant to be for the young individual who has made the most impact in the first team, but this year there’s an entire team of young people who deserve all the plaudits and awards – our FA youth cup winning U18s.
They’ve set the league on fire, and won the cup against Arsenal with ease. The sooner they are ready to come into the first team, the better.