World Cup Hammers

In the final part of our unique series on whufc.com this summer, in which we have looked back at West Ham United players who have made an impact at the World Cup finals over the years, we feature the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea that saw three Hammers board the plane with England to the Far East...

Three Hammers were to become Three Lions at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. But while David James and Joe Cole had been automatic inclusions in Sven-Goran Eriksson's 23-man squad, the originally omitted Trevor Sinclair found himself going the long way round.

Just as the disappointed West Ham wide boy was preparing for a family holiday in St Lucia, an injury to Kieron Dyer saw him placed on standby.

But after flying, via Dubai, to Jeju Island in the South China Sea, Sinclair decided to return to Chadwell Heath to train alone after the England coach decided to place him back on standby and gamble on Dyer's fitness.

However, injuries to Steven Gerrard and Danny Murphy then opened the World Cup door once again and, earning nearly enough Air Miles to fly to the moon, Sinclair took another long-haul flight back to the Far East to rejoin the squad, where he was handed the No.4 shirt vacated by the luckless Liverpool duo.

With David Seaman installed as first-choice goalkeeper, there was to be no tournament participation by disappointed David James, but Cole did appear as a 73rd-minute substitute in England's Group F opener against Sweden (1-1), for whom future loanee Niclas Alexandersson wiped out Sol Campbell's opener.

But with just 17 minutes of football under his belt, Joe would have to wait until 2006 for his next slice of World Cup action.

It was Sinclair's turn to step from the bench in the second game, though, as David Beckham exorcised the horror of his Argentinian dismissal four years earlier, by slamming home a vengeful, long-overdue winner from the penalty spot.

"When Sven told me that I was going on I had a whole mixture of feelings - excitement, fear, expectation. You name it, I felt it!" revealed Trevor, after replacing the injured Owen Hargreaves just 18 minutes into England's 1-0 victory and collecting his sixth full cap.

"Having proved myself in the Premiership, I knew that it was a massive chance for me to show that I could do it at international level in the biggest football tournament in the world.

"I looked around at Hernan Crespo, Javier Zanetti, Juan Sebastian Veron and all the other Argentinians and I knew that I mustn't be afraid. If I'd thought: 'Oh God, what am I doing here?' I would've frozen, but I truly believed in my ability.

"The pressure was off, I'd been on standby, then I'd made the squad and now I was actually being brought on to play for the team itself. Without any doubt it was the highlight of my career."

While Cole and James sat out England's subsequent goalless draw with Nigeria and a second round victory over Denmark (3-0) - in which ex-Hammer Rio Ferdinand dubiously scored and future Upton Park capture Teddy Sheringham emerged as substitute - Sinclair was, by now, an automatic starter.

But England's World Cup dream was famously ended by the pony-tailed Seaman's nightmare flap at Ronaldinho's long-range, up and under free-kick in the quarter-finals.

"Although we went ahead through Michael Owen, we have to accept that the better team won," admitted Sinclair after the 1-2 defeat at the hands of eventual winners Brazil. "There were a lot of good teams at the 2002 World Cup who were sent home early, while we came through the so-called 'Group of Death' and put in some decent performances along the way.

"And don't forget, Brazil went on and won the tournament, too!"

Elsewhere, a Republic of Ireland squad containing one-time Upton Park youth starlet Matt Holland and future West Ham players Gary Breen and David Connolly made it into the second round, where they lost to Spain on penalties.

And there were early, first round departures for Cameroon duo Rigobert Song - who had been on loan at FC Cologne ahead of his East End departure to Racing Club Lens - and ill-fated, ex-Hammer Marc-Vivien Foe.

Former striker Paulo Wanchope also saw Costa Rica fall at the first hurdle but, alongside James, Cole and Ferdinand, he was, at least, destined to find himself back at the 2006 finals in Germany...

by Steve Blowers, author of Nearly Reached The Sky - West Ham United 1989-2005, available now in the club store.