West Ham United legend Alvin Martin is reveling in the feelgood factor around his beloved Club this summer.
After watching David Moyes lead the Hammers to a record Premier League points haul, a sixth-place finish and qualification for the UEFA Europa League group stage, Martin is sure the foundations have been laid for yet more success in the future.
With the Season Ticket renewal deadline approaching on Monday 14 June, West Ham TV sat down with Martin, who made 596 appearances across an 18-year senior career in Claret and Blue – winning the FA Cup in 1980, the Second Division title in 1981, and starring in the Club’s best-ever top-flight finish in 1985/86 – to reflect on a memorable campaign for the Hammers and his hopes for next season and beyond.
“Isn’t it fantastic to get to the end of the season and feel good, about what’s gone before and hopefully what’s going to come after?” began Martin, now an athletic 62.
“As a player, it doesn’t get any better than that. You’ve done well, you’ve all played your part, you’ve got to the end of the season, looking forward to your break – it’s a great feeling.
“If I could give any advice to the players now, it would be to make sure you enjoy it. The good times are the ones to savour and you have to take the absolute most out of them. And make sure that, when you come back next season, you do the same again. That’s the challenge.
“This past year has been extremely difficult for everybody. I’m not just talking about West Ham, I mean the whole country, in whatever industry. But I think at West Ham it has been dealt with positively.
“One of things that I sense with David Moyes is that he can sometimes be hit with a problem, or an obstacle, and he will turn it into a positive. That attitude and leadership from the very top has been reflected in the way the players have approached the games and any set-backs.
“Tremendous credit to David and his coaching staff, to be able to keep the players focused, all the way through to the end. There have probably been lots of little problems caused by the pandemic that we don’t even know about, but I think the strong leaders at clubs, the managers and the people above, have played a pivotal part during this time – and that’s maybe a reflection of a lot of positives within our Club, in every department.”
One of the key factors behind the Hammers’ success under Moyes’ stewardship has been the recruitment of the likes of Tomáš Souček, Jarrod Bowen, Vladimír Coufal, Saïd Benrahma. Craig Dawson and Jesse Lingard – players who not only improved the team on the pitch, but also added to the work ethic and team spirit that the manager demands.
Martin says the impact of their addition has been clear and believes there are clear parallels to be drawn between this side and the Boys of ’86 vintage, when the defender helped the team to their record third-place finish.
“We had some good players here already, but I just think the last five or six additions to the squad have been outstanding,” he continued. “Whoever has overseen the recruitment has certainly played a major part in what has been a successful season.
“I think what that also does, when you see really good players coming into the dressing room, is it enhances what you’ve already got.
“The attitude of this team has been outstanding. There have been certain moments during the season where I’ve thought: ‘Ooh, what’s going to happen here?’ But I don’t think I ever remember seeing a team – apart from maybe going back to some of the best sides I played in – where there is such a resilience and togetherness, and a willingness to sacrifice themselves for the team.
“It’s not about me, it’s about us. And I think that has been moulded by the manager and the coaching staff, and it’s really obvious to me that it’s there.
“The togetherness and closeness in the group is also very important. Obviously [my son] David is in that dressing-room, he witnesses it first hand, and sometimes we talk about the players, his team-mates, and there is a real friendship in the squad that has come through.
“Now and again he’ll tell me what they’ve been doing. It’s a squad that trains, and doesn’t just get in the car and go home. It’s a squad that trains and then likes being around each other. They’ll eat together, they’ll play head tennis together, and there will be stuff going on afterwards.
“That’s always a great sign for me – that people are enjoying coming in. Obviously when you’re winning games the training ground is a nice place to go, but David Moyes has been able to create something that is family-orientated, with genuine friendship.”
In a season of many highlights, there was one in particular which made Martin sit up and think the team had the potential to achieve great things.
3-0 down at Tottenham Hotspur with just eight minutes remaining, many sides would be resigned to their fate.
Not this Hammers’ team. Back they came with Manuel Lanzini’s last-gasp spectacular strike rescuing a 3-3 draw and setting them up for the fine form which followed.
“That’s the game I went back to where I thought ‘it’s a team that never knows when it’s beaten’,” Martin continued. “It was a big result – resilience, and also, match-winners in the team. How do you accommodate those players who have got that little extra bit of flair? Do you allow them the luxury of not tracking back? There’s no sign of that in this team.
“Everybody who has come in has worked unbelievably hard. There was a moment (in the reverse fixture against Tottenham) when Souček got the cut eye and jumped straight up, and I thought: ‘Wow, I wouldn’t mind having him in my team!’
“I think he encapsulates everything that has been good about the team this season. And look, there has been some outstanding performers. I think there are a lot of leaders in the team. I look at people like Aaron Cresswell, who I think has been fantastic this year.
“When you look at the Hammer of the Year – the amount of candidates who are going to be put forward for that. If you win Hammer of the Year this year, you have had a good season, because there have been so many outstanding individuals.”