West Ham United will embark on yet another Premier League adventure as the “New Boys”. The Londoners have been a club in limbo for quite a while now, moving between the Championship and the Premier league at regular intervals. This is 3rd time that West Ham have been promoted to the Premier League.
A perennial Yo-Yo club, West Ham has been largely underachievers for a number of years if not decades. The tag of ‘underachievers’ becomes more prominent when look at how lavishly the Hammers have spent on their squad. They spent silly money on players under the regime of the Icelandic consortium, led by Eggert Magnússon in the mid 2000s. It never resulted in any kind of success. Their major headlines came from reaching a FA cup final under Alan Pardew and the surprise signings of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano,which didn’t do them any good either.
This time around, under the stewardship of Sam Allardyce, the Hammers would like to stick around for a while longer. Like every other side he managed, Allardyce has built yet another effective side which know how to grind out results and are physically more overwhelming than the regular Premier League sides. Big Sam has built a squad which can be impressive playing direct route one football.
The team that West Ham has in place is not too different from the side that went down a two years except for a few new faces. However, Allardyce has been able to instill a steel mentality into the side that looked promising yet dis-functional a few years back. There are not many flair players as such throughout the squad but everyone in the side is industrious and know their roles quite well. The camaraderie in the side and belief in each other’s ability has been re-installed by the manager.
Leadership changes last season not only took place at the managerial level but also in the squad as West Ham was able to pry away Kevin Nolan form Newcastle to replace Scott Parker. Parker is a good leader in his own rights but Kevin Nolan’s class as a leader was more than evident in last year’s performances. Nolan is a more influential and commanding figure, both in the dressing room as well as on the pitch than Parker was. West Ham benefited from Nolan’s experience which came in handy. His leadership skills were tested to the full with them going through some rough patches especially during December and January last season. Nolan’s past record with Bolton and Newcastle speaks volumes of his leadership abilities. Not only his leadership skills,but his ability to chip in with goals from the midfield were instrumental in West Ham’s quest for a swift return to the “big league”.
Though the squad remains largely unchanged here are a few you may keep an eye on:
James Tomkins was certainly West Ham’s player of the season last year. Tomkins has come through the ranks of West Ham’s famous academy that has produced talents like the Ferdinand brothers, Carrick, Defoe and Glen Johnson to name a few in recent years. He certainly looked out place two years ago. His season out from the top league has certainly provided him much more experience and has done him a world of good, and he is certainly one to look out for in the future. Tomkins was the stalwart at the back for the Hammers last season which led to the second best goal-difference in the league. He was also played as a midfielder when Papa Bouba Diop went down injured. This just goes on to show the versatility of the man.
Alan Pardew tried to take him to Newcastle in January but Tomkins decided to stick with his boyhood club and help them in their push to gain promotion. The decision certainly now seems vindicated. He is physical and combative on the field and will certainly attract attention in years to come. Now its time for him to prove that he belongs with the big boys.
If Tomkins was the Hammers’ player of the season, his partner at the back Winston Reid was the most improved. Both Reid and Tomkins are in their early 20s and looked like fish out of water in the Premier League last time around. Reid, like Tomkins, improved by playing against lesser quality opponents in the Championship. Both of them should look at the resurgence of Fabricio Coloccini as inspiration. The Argentine was dismal in his first season in the Premier League. Relegation did wonders to his game and has forced himself into the PFA team of the year last season.
Reid has developed physically and certainly has increased his ability to read the game. Hammers fans certainly believe that he will get better with age.
Ricardo Vaz Te came on board West Ham’s campaign in the Januray transfer window from Barnsley. The Hammers were in a bad patch, needing fresh bodies and a spark. Vaz Te certainly provided that. Vaz Te had previously worked with Big Sam when Allardyce picked him up at Bolton after he impressed in trials as a teenager. He has game changing abilities but hasn’t yet settled down. He has the experience of playing for Bolton, Hull City and Barnsley in England as well as Greek club Panionios and Scottish Premier League club Hibernian before joining West Ham.
Ricardo Vaz Te excites you one moment only to let you down the next. Skilful and adventurous, he has the ability to make things happen and certainly scores a lot in lower leagues. Yet another player who couldn’t make it big the first time round in the Premier League – Will he set off the fireworks this time? For my money, I wouldn’t expect too much from him. He is a natural athlete and can surely be a good player. But let us not put him on too high a pedestal – Yet.
One thing that 25 year old Maynard has is raw pace. It helped him become Bristol Rover’s record signing when they paid Crewe Alexandra £2,250,000 for his services. Maynard was put up for sale in the January transfer window after failing to agree upon a new contract at Rovers.
West Ham swooped for him at an undisclosed fee of around £2 million. Maynard is a neat finisher who has a sound technique. He is yet to test his mettle at the Premier League which will prove the litmus test for his potential. West Ham faithfuls will be hopeful that he rises to the challenge. It’s too early to judge him based on his displays for West Ham which have only been a handful.
Another January signing, Morrison came to West Ham after not being able to negotiate a contract at Old Trafford, and had left for the lack of first team opportunities under Sir Alex. Morrison certainly hasn’t seen much first team action at Upton Park(only making 1 appearance).
Sir Alex Ferguson dubbed him as ‘the best prospect since Beckham’. The 19 year old has been compared to a young Paul Gascoinge by many scouts and his potential is unquestioned. But like so many eccentric talents, his red flags lie off the the field. He has already faced charges of attacking his girlfriend as well as over homophobic tweets.
Ravell Morrison seems to be more of a David Sullivan(owner of West Ham) signing than Allardyce’s choice. How much of a chance he gets in the first team remains to be seen as Big Sam has kept him pretty ‘wrapped-up’ till now. If Morrison realises his potential,West Ham fans can be in for some interesting stuff in the coming seasons.
Honourable Player Mentions: Carlton Cole,George McCartney,Frederique Piquionne,Robert Green and Kevin Nolan