The curse that has haunted West Ham for years

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Kieron Dyer InjuryI am starting to believe that West Ham are suffering from some sort of curse. On so many occasions in recent years, when the club have actually shown some real ambition and spent relatively big money on new players, the signings in question invariably seem to become victims of long-term injuries and therefore find it difficult, or even impossible, to repay the capital that the Hammers have invested in them. Whilst my curse comment was of course a bit tongue in cheek, whatever the reasons are for these injuries, it is and has been a massive problem for West Ham in terms of the clubs progression.

I imagine there were fitness issues with new signings in previous times, too, but the first big example in recent years I can think of is the case of Dean Ashton. Bought from Norwich City by then manager Alan Pardew for a club record transfer fee at the time of around £7million, it looked for a while as though the Hammers had signed a top quality goalscorer for years to come. It was not to be, with a broken ankle suffered in an England training session in August 2006, from a tackle from Shaun Wright Phillips of all people, effectively starting the beginning of the end of Ashton’s career. Although he had spells back after that, often resulting in a good goalscoring record, ‘Deano’ never fully recovered from that injury, and was forced to retire from football in 2009.

In the January transfer window of 2007, the Hammers boss at that time Alan Curbishley signed defender Matthew Upson from Birmingham City for a fee in the region of £6million, with West Ham desperate to strengthen their squad for an ultimately successful relegation battle. Upson would end up playing for West Ham for the next four-and-a-half seasons, but was injured in his first game for the club, causing him to miss the rest of that campaign.

Next, during the summer of 2007, the Hammers, under Icelandic chairman Eggert Magnesson and manager Alan Curbishley, embarked on a spending spree that not only would push the club to the edge of financial oblivion, but brought in several big money signings whose injury records in their time at West Ham were, to put it mildly, horrendous. Firstly there was Craig Bellamy, who became the clubs record transfer after switching from Liverpool for a fee of £7.5million. Despite several good moments for the club, Bellamy’s career at Upton Park was blighted by injuries, and was only able to manage 26 matches in the year and half he was at the club before being sold to Manchester City.

That same summer also saw the arrival of Freddie Ljungberg from Arsenal, in a £3million move. In his one and only season at the club, Ljungberg was injured for a large period towards the end of the campaign, and indeed only played in 26. Ultimately the club decided to pay off his contract the following summer, for an unbelievable £6million.

Then there were Scott Parker and Julian Faubert, and despite the fact both would go on to have long careers at West Ham (Perhaps Parker’s a little more distinguished), each were out for a large portion of their first season at the club, and following on from the theme, both were signed for a big price; Parker in a £7million deal from Newcastle United, and Faubert a £6million transfer from Bordeaux.

Last, but not least from that transfer window anyway, is a name that probably sends shivers down the spine of most West Ham supporters for years to come; Kieron Dyer. This was another of Curbishley’s buys, in a £6million move from Newcastle United. Having suffered a broken leg at the start of his time at the club, and constant injury problems subsequent to that after his eventual comeback, Dyer only managed 22 appearances in four years at West Ham, and not one of those was for a full 90 minutes. You start to think to yourself that only at West Ham this sort of thing could happen!

Now of course we have Andy Carroll. Having impressed when fit in his season on loan at Upton Park, in the 2012/13 campaign, The injury curse again struck the club after Carroll was brought on a permanent transfer, in a £15million deal with Liverpool. His ankle injury picked up at the end of the previous campaign meant that he was out of action until the January of last season. Now, a new ankle problem has hit the big striker during the current pre-season, meaning Carroll will be out for at least four months.

Stewart Downing, to a lesser extent, is also another example of a big money buy who has had injury problems since his £5million arrival at the club in recent years.

So that is a lot of money spent by West Ham during the last 10 seasons on players who have spent large parts of their career at Upton Park in the treatment room. For a club that doesn’t possess unlimited funds, this has been a huge source of frustration, and it is fair to say West Ham would have achieved a lot more in this time if those signings had actually managed to stay fit for reasonable periods. I have worked out that of the players mentioned above, West Ham have spent in the region of 63 million in transfer fees, as well as untold millions in wages. For this money invested, a lot more should have been received in terms of performances on the field.

Why is it then, when West Ham splash the cash, we always seem to end up with players who obtain long term injuries, and who therefore cannot fulfil their potential on the field for us? Is it just bad luck, or do our managers take unacceptable risks with players who are known to be injury prone? And does this record worry you in regard to the new signings made so far this summer? Let me know your thoughts.

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  • DC33 says:

    I can’t remember how much we signed Lucas Neill for but he was out for around 6months after we signed him.

  • paul lyons says:

    It’s karma mate, for snubbing the talent we produce through our academy!

  • glenn says:

    Let’s not forget, Simon Webster, Richard Hall (both big signings at the time in terms of the money we had) and Thomas Hitzelperger

  • roger holcombe says:

    I think the curse has been a lack of proper medicals
    before we sign these assorted overpriced demics

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