Pedro Obiang recalls the day he finally broke his duck in a West Ham United shirt, in a 3-1 win at Southampton on 4 February 2017…
For many West Ham United players, the wait for their first goal in Claret and Blue was a short one.
Among those to have scored on their debuts were Carlton Cole, Bobby Zamora, Mauro Zarate, Ian Wright, Alvin Martin, Tony Cottee and 1940 War Cup final hero Sam Small.
For others, however, the same wait goes on seemingly forever, with supporters beginning to ask if he will ever find the net for the Hammers.
Two-time Hammer of the Year Steve Potts, who famously scored just once in 505 appearances, had to wait until his 118th game to register his first goal for the Club, against Hull City in 1990.
Another defensive great, Ken Brown, marked his 279th appearance, a 5-0 thrashing of Birmingham City in October 1962, to net the first of his three West Ham goals.
And spare a thought for Alfred Earl, too. The right-back played 206 times between 1925 and 1933 and did not score a single goal – the most games played by a West Ham outfield player without finding the back of the net.
As the calendar flipped from January to February 2017, Pedro Obiang was still anxiously awaiting his first goal in a Claret and Blue shirt.
The Spanish midfielder had, to be brutally honest, not really threatened to get off the mark, firing a few hopeful shots narrowly wide, over or close enough to the goalkeeper to be saved fairly comfortably.
Hammers fans were beginning to wonder if the popular Obiang, who was enjoying a breakout second season at the Club, would ever be able to celebrate a West Ham goal of his own.
“Scoring goals is not my main job, of course, but I wanted to score one!” the 25-year-old reflected, with a smile. “I had to wait for a long time for my first goal at Sampdoria, so maybe we should not be surprised that we had to wait a long time for my first goal at West Ham.
“I did try to score before, though, I promise. I had some shots, but for whatever reason, they didn’t go in!”
West Ham’s 2016/17 season was something of a stop-start struggle from the off.
Five defeats in six Premier League matches left the Hammers in the relegation zone and only a run of three slightly fortuitous straight wins in December pulled them into the relative comfort of mid-table.
Back-to-back and convincing victories at the end of January, at home to Crystal Palace and at Middlesbrough, saw Slaven Bilic’s side rise to a season-high tenth in the table.
A humbling 4-0 home defeat by Manchester City soured moods somewhat, but West Ham still travelled to Southampton with confidence on 4 February.
Obiang was named in the team for his 55th Hammers appearance.
That confidence looked to have evaporated just 12 minutes in, when Saints new boy Manolo Gabbiadini marked his own debut by blasting high past Darren Randolph.
Scoring goals is not my main job, of course, but I wanted to score one!
Two minutes later, however, Man of the Match Obiang took centre-stage for the first time, threading a superb through ball for Andy Carroll, who converted his fourth in four games with aplomb.
And seconds before half-time, the No14 finally broke his duck to put West Ham into a lead they would never relinquish.
When Southampton cleared a corner only as far as Obiang, he took a touch and sent an accurate, low, skimming – ‘bobbling’ may be a fairer description – shot through a forest of legs and into the bottom left-hand corner of Fraser Forster’s net.
Cue wild celebrations. Obiang was mobbed by his happy teammates and lifted into the air by Winston Reid. In the stands, the fans marked the big moment with a cheer and a song for their new goalscoring hero.
Captain Mark Noble would add a third goal after the break and West Ham went on to win 3-1, delighting Obiang.
“For the team, for the supporters and for the Club this is great, because after the game against Manchester City we were all angry. That’s normal, but after today we can be calm for this week and try to take another three points on Saturday against West Bromwich.
“I was happy for the supporters – we had over 3,000 of them there and they come every time.
“I know we have nice supporters. They come to us every time, whether we have lost or won.”
Obiang was naturally delighted to score his first goal for the Club, all the more so because he had recently become a father for the first time, with baby Jeremih being born in summer 2016.
“It feels very, very good to score my first goal for West Ham," he beamed. “This goal is for my baby because I am now a Dad, and I am very happy because many times I have seen the other guys score. I’ve enjoyed that and now I have scored, so I am very happy.
“One time before, the same ball arrived and I tried to cross. When it came to me again I thought ‘it’s your time’. If I score, then OK, and if not, no worries. This time I scored!
“It was important for us to go in front at that stage. We started the game well, but they scored quickly and we needed to recover. We did that, and then after my goal we had a really nice game.”
Unfortunately, West Ham would fail to build on their morale-boosting win at St Mary’s Stadium, failing to win any of their next seven matches to slip down the table.
By 8 April, the Hammers were 15th and needed a vital 1-0 home win over Swansea City – the first of five games unbeaten – and a 2-1 final-day win at Burnley to end the season in a creditable eleventh position.