Well, when was the last time we had it so good with regards to two quality strikers banging the goals in for us and generally looking the business? Diafro Sakho and Enner Valencia have been revelations since their arrivals in the summer and it has got me reminiscing about strikers from my time following the Hammers. So, here for you are my memories of strikers some very good and some very (very) bad.
Now I am fairly lucky that being born in 1978 my first really memories of West Ham revolve round the 1985/86 season and as such the legendary striking duo of Frank McAvennie and Tony Cottee. To be honest I could stop this article here as McAvennie will always be my favourite ever striker and I think a lot of Hammers fans who went regularly during this era will have the same feelings, yeah? McAvennie, looked the part with his 80’s mullet and he was as prolific off the pitch as he was on it! Cottee was arguably somewhat overshadowed by McAvennie during that season, however, Cottee continued to bang the goals in the next season whilst the goals dried up for McAvennie. The partnership was split when McAvennie departed to Celtic and eventually Cottee left for Everton.
Both returned for second spells and sadly McAvennie could not save us from the drop, before breaking his leg and never really being the same player, however, I don’t think Billy Bonds ever really fancied him and this probably had something to do with the party lifestyle. However, in proper McAvennie style he signed off with a hat-trick in his final game, we might have been relegated but what a way to sign out. An undoubted legend in my eyes.
I’m sure when Tony Cottee returned in 1994 he thought he would see his career out with us. His goals kept us up that season and while he was not as prolific in his second spell (this had more to do with general lack of goals in the squad) he was still a top striker. As such I was gutted when Harry Redknapp decided to cash in and Cottee went off to the Far East. He soon returned to our shores where he scored regularly for Leicester City. A transfer deal that Redknapp got wrong.
So, let’s go back a few years and following the departure of Cottee in 1988 for a then-record transfer fee, what were we left with? Answer, not a lot!! Leroy Rosenior had been brought in and his goals plus red card against Chelsea which contributed to their eventual relegation made him a bit of a cult hero, however, injuries meant Rosenior’s West Ham career somewhat petered out. The big replacement for Cottee was David Kelly and what a disaster that was, it never happened for Kelly at the club as he went game after game without a goal as we slipped to relegation. I must give an honourable mention to Paul Hilton, though as he led the line and also scored in that Chelsea game, other than that he was crap!
The next few seasons saw plenty of strikers come and go as we yo-yo’d between the top two divisions and the striker I have the fondest memory of was Trevor Morley. I first remember his legendary moustache but beyond great facial hair Morley served as well in what was tricky period for the club and his partnership with Clive Allen in the second promotion season was superb and the following season Morley finally proved his worth in the premier league and won the fans player of the year award. So while Morley served us well I have less good memories of other strikers in the early to mid 90’s. Clive Allen, Jimmy Quinn and even Mike Small for half a season had their moments, however, the memories of Steve Jones (who can be forgiven for that goal at White Hart Lane), Alex Bundbury, Jeroen Boere, Lee Chapman, Mike Newell and Iain Dowie still leave me cold!
Cottee was sold as Redknapp went all continental with Florin Raducioiu arriving at the club, this did not work out, with Redknapp rather stubbornly preferring to pick Steve Jones and Iain Dowie, unsurprisingly Raducioiu departed and we looked in trouble.
And this brings us to John Hartson and Paul Kitson, finally a proper strike partnership. Hartson was for 18 months almost unplayable and despite his injuries Kitson was an excellent player. It was a short-lived partnership but an important one that rescued the club from relegation. Ian Wright arrived, but he had seen better days and injuries caught up with him while we also had the comedy cult character Samassi Abou, who was not very good but scored a few goals!
Following the departure of Hartson we gained our next striking legend with the arrival of Paolo Di Canio. What a player, he gave me so much joy, the Wimbledon goal, destroying Arsenal, the goal at Old Trafford, the list could go on and on. During his time at the club Di Canio was partnered by the enigmas that were Paulo Wanchope and Frederic Kanoute, both great players on their days, but we never really saw enough of them and fans often got on their backs, which was a shame.
The standard West Ham relegation then happened and Jermaine Defoe turned from hero to villain, Defoe was quality but his attitude stunk and this still leaves a sour taste. Down in the Championship we saw the emergence of Bobby Zamora and Marlon Harewood as a partnership, again two players who split fan opinion, however, the signing of Teddy Sheringham got us over the promotion line and back in the Premier League these three strikers did the business for a season as we reached the FA Cup final.
So then emerges the most heart breaking of West Ham strikers, being Dean Ashton. Ashton had the lot, goals, strength, intelligence but it was not to be and injury ruined what I believe to be would have been a magnificent career. We had a fleeting glance of Ashton partnering Craig Bellamy, how good would have this been hey?
Now I’m probably going to get belters for this but I do not consider Carlos Tevez a West Ham legend, yes, a world-class player who it was joy to watch but the damage done to the club from his arrival has taken a lot of time to recover from, plus he was quick enough to move on when his agent said so. Maybe one day he will come back as I feel there is some unfinished business?
So this is brings us to the modern day and the striker which connects it all from the Tevez days is Carlton Cole who has now been with us for almost nine years. Say what you like about Carlton and may people do but I like the bloke, he likes the club and while not prolific has scored some vital goals for us over the years.
In the last couple of years Carlton has taken a back up role as big Andy Carroll was brought in. Carroll is quality, of that there is no doubt, does he have a future with us? I am sure he does but at the moment he simply will not get in the team given the form of our new McAvennie and Cottee.
I ‘m sure there are plenty of strikers I have forgot to mention and I look forward to hearing some of your memories, but please don’t remind me of Colin Foster and David Speedie up front at Roots Hall, Southend in 1993…….shudders!!