Frank McAvennie remains a firm favourite among West Ham United supporters, 26 years after pulling on a Claret and Blue shirt for the 190th and last time.
The blond-haired Scot’s striking looks and striking abilities turned him from an unknown into one of the First Division’s most-feared marksmen in the space of a year.
Signed from St Mirren for £340,000 in June 1985, McAvennie started life in east London in an attacking midfield role in West Ham’s 1-0 defeat at Birmingham City. However, it was a fateful event in that game that would change the course of his Hammers career.
Paul Goddard’s broken leg saw the 24-year-old move up front alongside Tony Cottee in West Ham’s next match at home to Queens Park Rangers the following Tuesday evening. He scored two goals, John Lyall’s side won 3-1, and the rest is history.
West Ham went on to finish in a record-high third position in the First Division in 1985/86, with McAvennie scoring 26 goals and finishing runner-up to Cottee in the Hammer of the Year voting.
I said I was going to tear them apart and left them in no doubt what I was going to do them, which wasn’t very polite, but then I went out and did it!
The striker returned to his home city of Glasgow with Celtic in 1987, but returned to the Boleyn Ground 18 months later, only to suffer relegation at the end of the 1988/89 season.
A broken leg suffered in a Second Division match against Stoke City in August 1989 ruled him out for much of that season. He returned in 1990/91 and scored ten goals as West Ham won promotion.
McAvennie’s final season in Claret and Blue was not a particularly happy one as the Hammers were again relegated, but he signed off in style, scoring a second-half hat-trick in a 3-0 First Division win over Nottingham Forest at the Boleyn Ground.
For a player known for his flashy lifestyle, it was a fitting send-off, as the man himself recalled.
“I’ve got to thank Mitchell Thomas for faking a hamstring injury and getting me on at half-time!” he smiled. “There were only two subs, myself and Kenny Brown, and Mitchell faked a hamstring to let me on to say my farewells.
“It was funny, because I was standing in the tunnel with England defender Des Walker and Nigel Clough at half-time and I was really psyched up for the second half. Des was going to the Italian club Bari that summer and I said to him ‘Two million quid for you?!’ and gave him proper dog’s abuse!
“Nigel had played a couple of good games at centre-half and people were saying he was the ‘New Bobby Moore’ so I let the two of them have it before we went on to the pitch.
“I said I was going to tear them apart and left them in no doubt what I was going to do them, which wasn’t very polite, but then I went out and did it!”