How long will it be before Bowen takes Antonio’s goalscoring crown?

When will be the next time a West Ham player creates their own history and bags their own league record?

Mohammed Kudus (WHU) celebrates scoring the first West Ham goal (1-1) with Jarrod Bowen (WHU) at the Brentford v West Ham United EPL match, at The G-Tech Stadium, Brentford, London, UK on 4th November, 2023.

In the modern era, players rarely stay with a club long enough to break an appearance or goal scoring record. Big ambitions and even bigger salaries will always tempt them away. They succumb to injuries, loss of form, a change of manager and the small matter of squad rotation. 

All are factors that can limit the number of appearances a player might otherwise make. If a player stays at a club for say five years, he should make around 170 league appearances. However, most get nowhere near that total. Some are content to linger on the fringes, appearing as an occasional sub or playing in Cup games.

In total contrast others stick around and hardly bother the statisticians. At 16 years and 181 days, Reece Oxford became the club’s youngest first team debutant in August 2015. The following year he signed a four year contract and was acknowledged as one of the brightest prospects in English football. But in five years the defender made a paltry eight league appearances.

It may have been the weight of expectation but we never really got to find out. Oxford was symptomatic of many talented players nurtured through the youth system. Limited opportunities lead to a succession of unsatisfactory loan spells. He eventually shipped out to FC Augsburg of the Bundesliga.

Similarly Reece Burke was another product of the Hammers’ youth programme. The defender made his league debut in April 2015 against Queens Park Rangers but only managed five league appearances in four years. Loans with Bradford, Wigan and Bolton swiftly followed. Like Oxford, he was capped for England at multiple junior levels but just couldn’t crack it so moved onto Luton Town. 

Conor Coventry is another player who grew tired of running into a brick wall.  The midfielder made one solitary appearance in the league over six years. It was a fleeting first and last appearance as a 92nd minute substitute against Manchester City in August 2022. The Republic of Ireland Under 21 international eventually moved to Charlton in January 2024. 

Let’s hope that Divin Mubama and other members of our FA Youth Cup winning side don’t go the same way. But some graduates of the Hammers’ youth programme fare a lot better. Mark Noble spent his entire career with the Hammers and holds the club record for most Premier League appearances (414).

Noble is fourth in the all-time list of appearances for one club behind John Terry (492), Jamie Carragher (508) and Ryan Giggs (632). The only current player likely to threaten the top four is Seamus Coleman of Everton on 356 appearances.

Alan Pardew gave Noble his Premier League debut as a 17-year-old against Wolves in January 2005. It was a chastening introduction as the Hammers were beaten 4-2. He made four appearances the following season and watched a classic FA Cup Final from the sidelines. 

Was he perfecting the art of taking a perfect penalty? Noble had established himself in the first team by the 2007/08 season; starting 31 games and appearing as a sub on six occasions. Nobes steered clear of major injuries and survived the merry-go-round of managerial changes. He outlasted eight managers, which is quite a feat when most have a clear idea of the players they want.

Alan Pardew, Alan Curbishley, Gianfranco Zola, Avram Grant, Sam Allardyce, Slaven Bilic, David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini all sat in the manager’s chair during the Noble era. It could be argued that Pardew, Curbishley, Allardyce and Moyes are traditional British managers raised on the grit and graft of a player like Noble.

But Grant, Zola, Bilic and Pellegrini were schooled in a very different continental style of management. Yet they all saw his value as a player, leader and motivator. A talismanic midfielder who was the fans’ champion and a consistent performer who never let anyone down. As far as can be seen there were no major fallouts; he would just knuckle down and get on with it. 

These qualities and a quiet contentment to stay at one club would, in time, make Noble a record breaker. His record for Premier League appearances looks to be pretty safe. Although Aaron Cresswell (286) and Michail Antonio (240) are still current players, it’s unlikely they will overhaul his total. 

But where does this leave Noble in the Hammers all-time appearance list? He spent two seasons in the Championship which brings his total to 472. This puts him in sixth place still a long way behind Billy Bonds on a mammoth 663 league appearances. But it does quite rightly put him in the pantheon of Hammers’ greats; the top six also includes Bobby Moore, Trevor Brooking, Frank Lampard Snr and pre-war legend Jimmy Ruffell.

Our record goalscorer in the Premier League is Michail Antonio on 63 goals. As much as we all love Micky, his tally is pretty sick compared to other club totals. To offer some perspective Steven Gerrard lies tenth in the all-time list of goal scorers for one club on 128 goals. We can only dream of strikers like Harry Kane (213), Sergio Arguero (184) and Wayne Rooney (183) who top the Premier League goal scoring records for one club.

It feels symptomatic of West Ham’s ongoing blind spot and apparently fruitless quest to find a proven goalscorer. The long-standing record of 47 goals was set by Paulo Di Canio in 2003. For such a modest total to have stood for 18 years speaks volumes. 

DI Canio was a wonderful footballer but not a great goalscorer, more a scorer of great goals. The intervening period saw a succession of strikers come and go. They included Carlton Cole and Andy Carroll but none came close to threatening the Italian’s record.

Michail Antonio was signed by Slaven Bilic from Nottingham Forest in 2015. He had been a journeyman footballer who came up the hard way. This willingness to work was in some respects to his detriment as Bilic and Pellegrini played him in a variety of positions. 

Ostensibly a winger, he looked the archetypal centre forward. In spite of the utility tag, Micky was still averaging seven goals a season. David Moyes handed him the number 9 shirt on the eve of the 2021/22 season, and there was real hope we had found a predatory striker that might score 20 goals a season.

Antonio broke the record with a brace in the 4-2 home win against Leicester in August 2021. He merrily danced with his cardboard cut-out on the touchline. It proved to be a false dawn as Micky scored just 10 goals in the Premier League that season. The impact on the team wasn’t significant as goals came from all areas of the pitch. 

But he lacked a real killer instinct and played as a lone striker which failed more often than it worked. With a slow healing knee injury, it’s doubtful whether the 33 year old will significantly add to his tally. Such is the fickle finger of fate Antonio’s injury forced a tactical change. Jarrod Bowen was effectively moved into the position of centre forward. 

It didn’t seem like a solution but has worked better than anyone imagined. Where Bowen was used to playing off and around the front man he was now leading the line. Bowen has scored 11 goals in 23 games and Moyes may be loath to change a winning combination. Bowen stands on 38 goals and could eventually overtake Antonio if this arrangement were to continue.

The paucity of goal scoring talent is further illustrated by Mark Noble who rarely scored goals from open play. Yet he lies equal second with Paulo Di Canio on 47 goals. The last proper goalscorer West Ham had was Tony Cottee, who scored 115 league goals in two spells with the club. He averaged a goal every two games and hit the 20 goal barrier on two occasions. 

Cottee is unsurprisingly near the top of the Hammers’ all time goal scoring chart. He lies fifth behind Vic Watson (298), Geoff Hurst (180), Jimmy Ruffell (159) and John Dick (153). One of the more useful statistical innovations is the concept of assists, where a player receives credit for making a goal, or effectively supplying the final pass that leads to a goal being scored. 

It’s unfortunate they weren’t around in the 60s and 70s. How many would have been accumulated by Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters? The peerless Trevor Brooking was the creative fulcrum throughout the 70s and early 80s. How close might he have got to Ryan Giggs, who holds the record of 162 assists for one club? 

The highest placed current player is Kevin De Bruyne on 106. West Ham’s current record holder is Mark Noble on 39. Whilst an impressive total he is way down the all-time list for one club and doesn’t even come close to cracking the top 20; Matt Le Tissier of Southampton is in 19th place on 63. 

Midfield maestro Lucas Paqueta has eight after one and a half seasons with the Hammers. The ridiculously talented Brazilian is capable of sweeping all before him; but realistically those assists will soon be made with a different club. It’s the way of the world, no one sticks around anymore.

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