Aaron Cresswell would love to emulate his heroes Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen and hit the net as West Ham United mark the Premier League’s 30th birthday with the visit of Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday.
Cresswell grew up pretending to be the two strikers in the playground at New Hutte Primary School in Liverpool as a little boy, using his now-famous left foot to score goals galore and earn a callup to the Reds’ Academy.
While he did not ultimately follow Fowler or Owen into the Liverpool first team, Cresswell went on to play for Tranmere Rovers, Ipswich Town and, since 2014, West Ham.
Now the Hammers’ longest-serving player, the 32-year-old ranks second in the Club’s all-time Premier League appearance list behind the recently retired Mark Noble, and is set to play game number 258 in the competition when West Ham welcome Brighton to London Stadium this weekend.
“Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen were the two growing up,” he smiled, recalling his happy childhood in Liverpool, when asked to name his first Premier League heroes for this Sunday’s Official Programme. “Fowler was probably No1 because he was from Liverpool so I had his name and number on my kits and I used to try and be him in the playground at school back in the early 90s!
“Going back as far as I can think, I used to love Michael Owen when I was younger and it was against Newcastle [in August 1998] when he ran through past two defenders and dinked it over Shay Given to complete his hat-trick and he celebrated with Paul Ince. That’s probably my first memory. I was eight!”
Cresswell has, of course, scored memorable goals of his own in a West Ham shirt, and would love to find the net again against a Brighton team the Irons have not beaten in ten Premier League meetings.
And the defender, who is available again after missing Thursday’s UEFA Europa Conference League play-off round tie with Viborg FF through suspension, knows the Irons cannot and will not underestimate Graham Potter’s side.
“They are a really good team and we’ve played them loads of times over the years and never beaten them,” he confirmed. “They are a very good team, as Manchester United found out the other day. They move the ball really well, have got some great players and it’ll be another tough test.
“I think there's that element that some teams or some fans and players might have thought previously ‘It’s only Brighton’ but let me tell you, Brighton are one of the best passing teams in the Premier League and I don't think Graham Potter has got the credit he deserves. For me, he looks like a fantastic manager and, as a player, you hear the stories of how they go day to day in training he is meant to be really, really, really detailed and he looks a fantastic manager.
“They are one of the hardest teams to play against and statistically, they were one of the best passing teams in the Premier League last year. So yeah, as I say, it's a tough test and one we need to get over.”
*Tickets for Sunday's Premier League fixture between West Ham United and Brighton & Hove Albion are available now via the Ticket Exchange.