From the Terraces - David Croft

Sky Sports F1 commentator and Hammers fan David Croft offers his take on Dimitri Payet and our recent form

Sky Sports F1 commentator and Hammers fan David Croft offers his take on Dimitri Payet and our recent form...

I must confess that I didn’t write a letter to Santa this year, just didn’t get the time. But it has to be said that the big man came up trumps over the Christmas period with tickets to Villa away, Southampton and Liverpool at home and then Wolves in the cup as well. Four games on the trot, something of a rarity for me these days and impossible once the F1 season gets underway on 20 March. 

So thank you Santa, what a pressie and a proper away day trip in the mix as well, although for long periods at Villa and the first half against Southampton it didn’t seem like much of a present. But then Slav made the changes and brought on Lanzini and Carroll, and the rest as they say, is history.

On that point, kudos to Slav for making the changes straight away rather than wasting ten minutes or so just to see if things could work out. Nice to have a manager that is proactive in that regard. It was the same at Bournemouth. Dimitri Payet wasn’t really influencing the game, until the Gaffer made a positional change that suddenly gave the midfielder some freedom to influence the game. And man can that guy influence the game.

There’s a lot of talk about Dimitri at the moment, and quite frankly there should be. Was it just me or was the sight of him pointing to the badge and celebrating with the fans at Bournemouth just as delightful as the free kick itself? As a fan, I want to see that as much as I want his match winning performances to continue. I don’t want to be negative, but the temptation will come. Offers from other clubs, big transfers and bigger wage packets to go with it. And I’m really sorry, but let’s all be a bit selfish here, I want this guy to stay, and stay at my club for a long, long time. 

Interestingly I noticed a thread on Knees Up Mother Brown asking ‘Di Canio or Payet, who’s the better player?’ It’s a great debate and one that I’ve been pondering myself for a while. 

For me, when Dimitri gets the ball, you can expect that at the moment he’s going to produce something sensible, or from time to time, magical. He does things that leave defenders flailing and West Ham supporters grinning. But he pretty much, always does the right thing.

Di Canio meanwhile, was the maverick. Capable of moments of utter genius, along with some moments of utter madness. From my point of view he could leave me scratching my head every time he played, often at the mesmerising skills he possessed, wondering just how he did it? But there were times too that you were left puzzled as to where the real Paulo had gone that afternoon or why he felt the need to catch the ball in the Everton box, yeah I still can’t work that one out.

Di Canio or Payet? It’s a great question, and the answer probably can’t be given until Dimitri has played a few years for the team. What I’d say at the moment is that Dimitri for me is way more of a team player and that’s a great asset to go along with his incredible skill. He fits in to this team and importantly, this team fits well around him. In the same way that the Mercedes Formula 1 team is a terrific fit for Lewis Hamilton. He gets the freedom allowed by the team, and way more freedom than he ever had at McLaren, and in return Hamilton has delivered two world titles in the last two years. He couldn’t do that without the support of the whole team and F1 is as much of a team sport as football when you break it down. But the team need his genius as the icing on the cake and that’s why they’re such a good fit.

Same with West Ham and Dimitri Payet, a player that every single Premier League team would want in their side, and I include our next visitors to the Boleyn Ground Manchester City in that sentence. It’s a big claim I know, but I’m not wrong and it staggers me that nobody else picked up on his talents before we did. It’s not like he didn’t perform in France. It staggers me, but I’m not complaining for a minute, I’m just enjoying the fact that we did sign him. Loving the moment as my sons and I stand up and sing “We’ve got Payet, Dimitri Payet, I just don’t think you’d understand” I even caught my eight-year-old singing it in the house the other day. 

Payet or Paulo? I loved Paulo, but I think Dimitri has the potential to be even better although maybe the true test of his potential legendary status at West Ham is the day we ask ‘Who’s better? Dimitri Payet or Trevor Brooking?’ Now there’s a discussion………

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of West Ham United