With ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ starting this weekend and all things Australian being on my mind, my tiny West Ham addled brain has gone into overdrive. As the world’s biggest fan of Stan Lazaridis and remembering his blooter of a goal at Newcastle years and years ago, it seemed only right, in my mind at least, to look into the Australian connection at West Ham United.
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Lucas Neill holds the honour of being the star from down under to have made most appearances for West Ham. Granted, he did start his career in England at Millwall, and there were rumblings that when he signed for us ahead of Liverpool it was for the money, BUT in the season that became ‘The Great Escape’ he played an influential part for boss Alan Curbishley. As captain he kept the morale and team spirit up, along with being part of a defence that kept clean sheets at Arsenal and Manchester United. Though not as popular as some, possibly because of his Millwall connections, Lucas certainly made a positive impact on the side.
Hayden Foxe came in as a promising centre-back having played at two Olympics for Australia and having spent a couple years in his youth at Ajax. One of Harry’s signings, Hayden immediately went out on loan to Mechelen in Belgium to build up his match fitness. On returning he was seldom used and once used, failed to impress. In two years at Upton Park, Foxe made just 12 appearances for us before leaving for Portsmouth to link up with Redknapp again. Due to his poor performances at West Ham, Hayden Foxe is probably best remembered in East London for urinating on a bar at a West Ham Christmas party. Classy!
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Robbie Slater signed for West Ham in a deal that saw crowd favourite Matty Holmes go in the opposite direction to Premiership Champions Blackburn Rovers. To me this was a bad move, Slater failed to really do a job for West Ham and was moved on after one season that saw 25 league appearances and two goals. As an aside, despite signing around the same time as Stan Lazaridis in 1995, he was the first Aussie to play and indeed score for West Ham. Ironically, his first goal came against his former club Blackburn in December 1995 of that year.
This brings me on to Stan Lazaridis. The imaginatively nicknamed ‘Skippy’ was quick and utilised as a left winger at his time in East London. His most memorable moment for us is clearly the aforementioned thromper of a goal at St. James’ Park when he scored from almost 40 yards out and, to his credit, looked as surprised as the bewildered ‘keeper as it rattled the net. One of Stan’s biggest traits was that he didn’t have to beat the defender and could often cross the ball around them, setting up attacks and chances for the players in the box. Andy Carroll would have loved him, I think criminally underrated.
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So these players along with Richard Garcia, Trent McClenahan and Steve Mautone are all other Aussies to have played for West Ham, albeit with less fanfare than the others above, there seems to have been an Australian link over the past 20 years. Add to that we still also have Dylan Tombides as an exciting prospect on the books, who, when he gets a run in the side, will be hugely popular based on what he’s been through. Great result today Keep blowing bubbles