In memory of Marc-Vivien Foe

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FoeIn a day-and-age when record signings are often about goals and glamour, about a showpiece international unveiling, it is easy to forget when deals were done in more of a matter-of-fact way.

Players would be announced by the club, only when the contract had been signed, and the shirt pulled on for the photo-call.

Marc-Vivien Foe was brought to West Ham in a time before 24-hour news was available, before Twitter was around to confirm or deny every movement.

A club record signing, for £4.2 million in January 1999, I remember reading the news on Teletext, before waiting anxiously for the next edition of the club’s monthly magazine for an interview and pictures.

The then 23-year-old was unveiled, not as a goal scorer, or a superstar, but as a player that would bring the right assets to the squad as a whole, and warranted the record fee tag.

Amongst Harry Redknapp’s many wheeler-dealer transfers, this was a significant statement. He was photographed hugging Paolo Di Canio, a fellow January recruit, and together they were a mark of intent by the club.

Foe was powerful. He one of the first of a new generation of committed, workhorse midfielders in the Premier League, who could impose themselves on a game, and drive through an opposition.

He provided a balance to the side in terms of physical presence (around the likes of Joe Cole and Trevor Sinclair) and was a no-nonsense tackler to complement his team-mates’ finesse.

It was a combination that worked, with the club finishing 5th in his first season. He went on to make a total of 45 appearances for the club, scoring two goals.

Foe’s input made him popular with fans, and in a more lucrative time, the club may have had greater ability to retain his services.

As it was, Foe moved to Lyon, before returning to the Premier League in 2002 on loan at this weekend’s opponents, Manchester City.

Following an impressive first season back, he collapsed on the pitch during a Confederations Cup match on June 26, 2003, and died later, aged just 28.

West Ham and City will no doubt pay their respects to Foe during Saturday’s fixture. The gestures will be particularly poignant for Joe Cole, who played alongside Foe.

Any search of tributes to him will be unanimous in confirming those memories will be of a humble, kind, calm and fun individual.

In a day-and-age where riches and flamboyance often rule, the fans can united over a man who will be remembered for playing to the game in a very matter-of-fact way.

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