Adrian - Thank you to a true West Ham United cult hero
When Adrian joined West Ham United in the summer of 2013, he was a virtual unknown to the Claret and Blue Army and spoke just a handful of words of English.
Six years on, as he prepares to leave east London after half-a-dozen memorable seasons, Adrian is not just a cult hero among those same supporters, but he speaks their language fluently, too.
After being spotted by goalkeeper coach Martyn Margetson during a breakthrough 2012/13 season with Spanish Primera Division club Betis, the Hammers moved quickly to bring the then 26-year-old to the Boleyn Ground on a free transfer.
He initially waited patiently for his chance as manager Sam Allardyce remained loyal to the experienced Jussi Jaaskelainen. He conceded a penalty on his debut in a League Cup win over Cheltenham Town, but that patience paid off when he was handed an opportunity in the Premier League fixture at Manchester United four days before Christmas 2013 – and took it with both gloved hands.
By the end of the 2013/14 season, Adrian’s spectacular displays had earned him the Signing of the Season and Best Individual Performance awards and saw him voted runner-up to Mark Noble for Hammer of the Year by the club’s supporters.
The standout moment of Adrian’s career in Claret and Blue occurred on 13 January 2015, when the Hammers hosted Everton in an FA Cup third-round replay.
After an enthralling 120 minutes of action, the tie went to penalties. After Adrian had saved from Steven Naismith and seen compatriot Joel Robles hit the crossbar, the No13 theatrically threw his gloves to the turf before converting his own spot-kick to send West Ham through. His celebration, a knee-slide in front of the Bobby Moore Lower, is the enduring image of an unforgettable night.
Adrian was again named Hammer of the Year runner-up in 2015 – to Aaron Cresswell – and remained the Irons’ first-choice for the following, historic Farewell Boleyn campaign, adding a goal in Mark Noble’s Testimonial to his outstanding displays between the sticks.
That summer saw West Ham move to London Stadium, where Adrian started the official opening fixture against Italian giants Juventus in August 2016. The same month, he received a call-up to the full Spain squad for the first time.
The arrivals of Darren Randolph and Joe Hart put pressure on Adrian’s position and both Slaven Bilic and David Moyes opted to leave the Spaniard out of their starting line-ups on occasion, but Adrian remained the ultimate professional, working hard to regain his place and performing admirably whenever called upon.
The signing of Lukasz Fabianski in summer 2018 put an end to the 30-year-old’s Premier League career with the Hammers, but he received a warm reception when on duty in the cup competitions this past season, taking his total number of first-team appearances for the club to a round 150.
Off the pitch, Adrian settled quickly and seamlessly into life in London, where his wife and young sons immersed themselves into all things West Ham United, while his extended family regularly flew in from his home city of Seville to support him and his teammates.
With his wide smile and amiable sense of humour, Adrian endeared himself to teammates, staff and supporters alike.
He departs a West Ham United cult hero whose contribution during an historic period in the Club’s history will never be forgotten.