Those of you that have read my musings before will note that I like to look at connections between West Ham players past and present. Be it other clubs’ past players have appeared for, or exotic first names shared, I do love a link. My mind is like a footballing version of ‘Only Connect’
And so on this occasion I’ve thought of a slightly amusing connection, one that leaves me feeling slightly smug and cocky at the reasoning, though not meant to the detriment of their current club.
During Avram Grant’s disastrous tenure, very few players did anything to cover themselves in glory. Scott Parker was, as painful as it is to admit now, the heartbeat of our side. Despite his desire to stay up, proven mostly by an inspiring half-time team talk against West Brom, there were too many players happier to bask in previous glories and past appearances.
One of these was Matthew Upson. Though his early days at the Hammers were disrupted by injury, Upson had become not only a regular, but also team captain. Unfortunately, Upson’s ability and form dipped alarmingly. Whether it was lack of confidence in himself, inability to adapt to a new manager’s plans and ideals, or opposition players becoming wise to him, he now was not up to it. If this wasn’t bad enough, his attitude and body language saw him come across as somebody too big for his boots. As captain of your side you’re meant to lead by example, something Upson didn’t do. Parker was influencing the side with team talks and Tomkins, albeit as a youngster, was leading the defence. Upson however isn’t the one player who can have the finger of blame pointed at them.
At the end of the season, our beloved Hammers were relegated. Like many sides in a similar position, panic signings were made in the January transfer window. In that time, another England international defender signed. Just writing this brings back memories of the player that makes me despondently shake my head. Wayne Bridge. Making his first start against Arsenal on January 15th, The Independent casually, and in a charitable manner, classed his debut as ‘completely out of his depth’ and ‘playing a part in all three Arsenal goals in a 3-0 defeat.’ This was pretty much as good as he got with every performance seemingly accompanied with apologetic gesturing.
So with Bridge syphoning £90,000 a week out our generous owners, and Upson signing off by letting his contract expire before informing us that he had many top-half suitors battling for his signature, it only seems right to see how they’re currently performing. Well, they’re still team-mates. And they’re at a side just outside of the top six. In all honesty I have no problem whatsoever with Brighton. They’re ambitious and building to progress. A couple experienced players in theory could benefit the side. But where Bridge never benefitted our side and Upson became his own biggest problem, it’ll be interesting to see if Gus Poyet improves on what Avram couldn’t.
I somehow doubt these suitors though were the ones Upson had in mind though. Maybe his next injury is a bruised ego?