Voted 1988’s Hammer of the Year, never-say-die midfielder Stewart Robson made 84 appearances in Claret & Blue after joining West Ham United from Arsenal in a £700,000 transfer, back in January 1987...
West Ham United certainly compensated for the loss of Declan Rice thanks to three very good summer buys.
With his passing ability, dead-ball and hold-up play, they knew exactly what they were getting with James Ward-Prowse but, importantly, he’s a very good character – on and off the pitch – and the kind of player any manager wants at their Football Club.
Moving from Ajax, Edson Álvarez is gradually finding his feet and, while Mohammed Kudus made a slowish start after also arriving from the Eredivisie, we’re now seeing his full range of passing, pace and power.
That trio has brought the best out of Lucas Paquetá, too. I watch lots of Serie A football and he never fulfilled his potential at AC Milan. Back then, I wasn’t a fan but since arriving at West Ham, it’s been a different story. Lucas has been a revelation, starting four out of five games for Brazil at the FIFA 2022 World Cup, with his eye for a pass and all that technical ability, he certainly gives the Hammers something special, too,
Paquetá also complements Jarrod Bowen, who’s got an edge and a willingness to chase everything that comes his way. Jarrod’s got quality on the ball and, having already netted 14 times this season, he can obviously score goals, too.
Kalvin Phillips coming on loan is another interesting one for everyone – West Ham United, Manchester City and Kalvin, himself.
The player now has the opportunity to show Pep Guardiola – one of the best managers in the world – that he's made a massive blunder in letting him leave Etihad Stadium and Kalvin can certainly do a great job for David Moyes by rediscovering the confidence, character, courage and belief that made him such a big hero at Leeds United.
Arriving at West Ham, he’d only been involved in eleven City matches this season across some five hours or so and, although you can train all day, there’s no substitute for match-fitness.
Now, David just needs to manage Kalvin’s game-time to ensure that he gets more minutes under his belt.
The UEFA 2024 European Championships are only four months away and, like Jarrod, by playing regularly and playing well for the Hammers, Kalvin now has the added incentive of getting his name into the mix for Gareth Southgate’s 23-man England party, too.
Meanwhile, looking at David’s squad right now, he’s got the makings of a very good West Ham United team there.
Last June’s UEFA Europa Conference League victory over Fiorentina had been a long time coming after that barren 43-year spell.
Back in the day, the Club had a great tradition of reaching cup finals, from the Moore, Hurst and Peters era of the mid-60s, to the FA Cup wins over Fulham (1975) and Arsenal (1980). Add-in a few runners-up appearances and you can understand what it meant to the fans to finally see their team win major silverware, once more.
After Prague, there was an expectation upon West Ham to do well in the cups this season but having commentated on the Carabao Cup and FA Cup defeats at Liverpool and Bristol City, blame me for those two results!
Seriously, after beating Arsenal in the fourth round, those supporters heading to Anfield before Christmas would’ve been looking at potential semi-final opponents provided Liverpool could’ve been overcome. The Carabao Cup was wide open and they would’ve been thinking: ‘Is this our year?’
Likewise, having quickly got themselves ahead against Bristol City at London Stadium, there would’ve been equal disappointment with the subsequent FA Cup exit.
The desire for cup success and Premier League progress divides opinion but David Moyes still came into this weekend in seventh-spot having already won at Arsenal, in December.
And there’s still the UEFA Europa League to come, too. Living in Essex, I’m surrounded by lots of Hammers supporters, who really enjoy their European nights at London Stadium and they’re really hoping they’ll get chance to savour more great evenings, starting with next month’s round of 16.
With 15 games to go, Arsenal were only two points behind leaders Liverpool coming into this weekend. Sure, they can still win the Premier League but with Manchester City also in the mix, to be honest, I don’t expect them to finish top, come mid-May.
But the Gunners still remain a very good team, who’ll beat anyone on their day and they’ll undoubtedly progress in the UEFA Champions League.
Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli can cause absolute mayhem out wide, while Martin Ødegaard looks good whenever he’s given a free rein.
William Saliba’s a quick, aggressive central-defender and then, sitting in front of the back-four, there’s obviously Declan Rice, who gives them another edge with his break-up play and passing ability.
Over-riding everything, though, is the fact that Arsenal desperately need a centre-forward to lead the line and score goals because Gabriel Jesus has struggled to recapture his form since returning from injury.
People often criticised the Emirates Stadium atmosphere, but it’s now totally gone the opposite way with fans being whipped-up into a frenzy.
While that can make things difficult for visiting teams and referees, equally, by playing on the emotions of the crowd it can quickly unravel, once things start going wrong. We saw that back in December, when West Ham went there and won.
Arsenal had 74% possession, 30 shots and 77 touches in the penalty area without scoring, while West Ham produced a superb counter-attacking performance, getting forward to net twice and also miss a late penalty.
David Moyes asked his side to be solid, sit deep and stay organised before breaking at pace. It’s in the manager’s DNA to set-up and achieve a result like that – we saw it at Brighton & Hove Albion (3-1) in August, too – and just as David would’ve done at the Amex Stadium, I’m sure he left Arsenal extremely satisfied that his game-plan worked so well.
Looking for their third-successive win over Mikkel Arteta’s side, West Ham certainly come into this afternoon’s game buoyed by this season’s Carabao Cup (3-1) and league (2-0) successes.
Gunner to Hammer
Despite attending Brentwood School – and with the Hammers on my doorstep – I’d joined Arsenal early on, captaining their U12s.
Ironically, aged 17, I made my first-team debut at West Ham in December 1981. With 33,833 packed into the Boleyn Ground, I can still visualise the Hammers fans swaying on the North Bank and, asked to play at right-back for the first-time in my life, I also had to stop Alan Devonshire at his peak.
With Arsenal winning 2-1, that afternoon remains my greatest, most vivid footballing memory.
Five years on, West Ham had just enjoyed their best-ever season, finishing third. Taking the opportunity to make a £700,000 transfer to try and help the Club move to the next level – man-for-man – I believed the Hammers had better players than those I was leaving behind at Highbury.
Tony Cottee netted a hat-trick on my debut at Coventry City, where I hit the woodwork in our 3-1 win, but I began to see the team slackening-off on the back of 1985/86. Complacency was setting-in with players and staff resting on their laurels.
Although we finished 16th after a season of struggle, having made 42 appearances, oddly, I’d enjoyed 1987/88. Voted 1988 Hammer of the Year, too, it was great to receive that recognition from the Hammers fans.
At Arsenal, I’d experienced groin problems and, now at West Ham, they started escalating. I now know that I’d ‘only’ locked a joint in my back but incorrect diagnosis resulted in pelvic fusion surgery – a procedure that should’ve never been undertaken.
That operation kept me out for 16 months, during which time relegation saw John Lyall replaced by Lou Macari. Upsetting rumours claimed my career was over but - aged 25 - I wasn’t giving up and took myself to a Chiswick clinic, where shedding blood, sweat and tears, I’d spend seven hours each day.
Funding my own treatment, it was ground-breaking for a player to sidestep his Club, but I was determined to play again. In January 1990, out of the blue, I turned up at Chadwell Heath and told Lou: ‘I’m good to go.’ Three days later, I started a League Cup tie at Derby County (0-0) at a boggy Baseball Ground. Wearing blue cycling shorts to support my groin, I played 85 minutes.
My performance shocked many – people still remember it today – but I’d worked really hard during those 16 months and returning to first-team action was my biggest achievement.
Retiring on the final day of 1989/90, Liam Brady couldn’t have departed more fittingly than to score against Wolverhampton Wanderers with the very last kick of his career. I also found the net with a 25-yarder in our 4-0 victory and, while it’d been an amazing afternoon for Liam, my goal showed the doubters I was back in the game.
I ended up joining Coventry the following season and today, aged 59, I’m enjoying life as a co-commentator for TNT Sports and ESPN.
The legacy of my groin problems means I can’t allow myself to seize-up so I still climb onto my rowing machine for a daily 5,000-metre stint. Competitive, as ever, I complete it in around 18 minutes, 30 seconds and, thankfully, there hasn’t been too much slippage over these past few years – globally, I’m proud to be in the top 5% for my age-group.
Despite misfortune with injuries, I’m not bitter and I’ve got great memories of some great times – It’s just unfortunate that, back in the 1980s, medical departments weren’t what they are today, but you can’t spend life looking back on what might have been…