Foot in Both Camps - Jobi McAnuff

Former West Ham and Crystal Palace man Jobi McAnuff looks ahead to Saturday's game

His West Ham United career may have only been 14 games long, but Jobi McAnuff still draws on the invaluable experience he gleaned from his time at the Boleyn Ground.

The 33-year-old Leyton Orient midfielder suffered Play-Off heartache with the Hammers before going close to winning promotion to the Premier League again with Crystal Palace.

He finally made it to the top table with Reading and as two of his former clubs prepare to go head-to-head this weekend, caught up with the Jamaica international for the first of our Foot in Both Camps series.

“I’ve kept an eye out for all my former clubs over the years” he explained. "All the teams you play for you have an affinity with and I always look to see how they’re getting on.

“I had a good spell, although it was a short one at West Ham, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I had a bit longer at Palace and likewise, I enjoyed my time there too.”

McAnuff joined the Hammers from Wimbledon in February 2004 as Alan Pardew’s men looked to bounce back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

The north Londoner had to largely make do with substitute outings during his six months in E13 before moving on to Cardiff City, but he still credits his time at West Ham as being pivotal to his later success as a stalwart in the top two divisions. 

West Ham have had a fantastic season this year and credit goes to Sam Allardyce for that,

“For me at the time, being a fairly young lad it was a real eye-opener and an experience to play for such a big club as West Ham,” he explained. “It’s definitely stood me in good stead for the rest of my career.

“The support was incredible, not just the numbers, but the passion of the fans too. Obviously we went pretty close to promotion that year and to experience a Play-Off final at Cardiff with that many fans was a massive learning curve.

“It’s a shame I couldn’t stay a bit longer. I just wanted to play football and the manager at the time couldn’t promise me that. An opportunity came up for me to play at Cardiff and I took it, but yes, West Ham is a fantastic club.

“Being at West Ham gave me a taste of a Club that wants to be successful and that helped with being at teams who wanted to be promoted from the Championship after. We went close with Palace, and they are all experiences that you draw on as you get older and fortunately enough we managed to get there with Reading.”

A year at Cardiff followed before McAnuff moved back to London with Crystal Palace. With the Eagies now under the charge of his former Hammers boss, Pardew, the midfielder is expecting their recent revival to continue.

He continued: “He’s obviously a real top manager with a good pedigree at the highest level. When I was at West Ham the aim was to get up and although we didn’t manage it that year, they made it the following year then had a little success in the cups.

“It was unfortunate for myself that I didn’t quite play as much as I would have liked under him, but managers have tough jobs and they’ve got to make decisions that they feel are best for the club.

“Overall, he had a fairly good spell at West Ham and is now at Palace, where he’s started fairly well. He’s had that impact, so fair play to him – it’s a big decision for him to leave Newcastle, but the support at Palace is massive and I’m sure from the experience of playing there he knew all about that. Good luck to him.

“It should be a good game on Saturday. Pardew always wanted his teams to go out and play good attacking football and he seems to have been doing that with Crystal Palace lately. They’ve got some really good players.

“As for West Ham they’ve had a fantastic season this year and credit goes to Sam Allardyce as well, He was under a bit of pressure, but they’ve had a good season and it should be a cracking game. London derbies are always feisty and that always adds to the game.”

Since moving down the road to Orient last summer, McAnuff has endured a difficult first season at Brisbane Road to date, with a recent injury preventing him from playing his part in their battle to dodge the drop to League Two.

However, having returned to the team in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Oldham Athletic, he is confident in their ability to climb to safety just a year on from being denied promotion to the Championship by a penalty shoot-out defeat in the Play-Off final.

“I feel we can end the season strongly but we’ve still got some work to do,” he admitted.

“I feel we can do that – it’s about doing it on the pitch. We had a good win last Saturday and we’ve got to back that up.

“We’ve had a few false dawns this season, so that’s something we’re wary of and we’ve got to try to put that right to get on a run to get away from the bottom four as quickly as we can.

“Hopefully we can have a good end to the season and start building for next year once we’re safe and everything’s fine.”