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In Retro: The Fifty Greatest Hammers (40 to 31)

Filed: Friday, 31st August 2018
By: HeadHammerShark

In narrowing down a list of over one thousand names to just fifty, it is inevitable that I will make some mistakes and certainly there is not a huge amount to choose between those in this section, and those who I have ranked immediately outside this list. In order to try and give some context, here are those players who just missed out:

John Sissons (1963-1970), Andy Malcolm (1953-1961), Manuel Lanzini (2015 - present), Phil Woosnam (1958-1962), Michael Carrick (1999-2004), Harry Hooper (1951-1956), Dean Ashton (2006-2008), Peter Brabrook (1962-1968), Vivian Gibbins (1923-1932), Winston Reid (2010 - present), John Charles (1963-1969)

40. John Bond (1952 - 1965)

Appearances: 449
Goals: 39
International: N/A
Other Rankings: BB (30) WHUFC (33) WHTID (N/A)

A high class full back whose partnership with Noel Cantwell was a mainstay of the Fifties side. Bond was good enough to continue playing right the way through until 1965, including an appearance in the victorious 1964 FA Cup Final side, and he racked up a decent number of goals as a result of his penalty and free kick taking prowess.

Nice action

Unusually he was able to play up front as well as in defence, and scored a hat trick against Chelsea in 1960. Something of a dead ball specialist he was apparently known as "Muffin" because of his ability to kick like a mule. No, me either.

Despite playing in the earlier rounds he missed out on the European Cup Winners Cup Final of 1965 and left shortly thereafter, before embarking on a successful managerial career.

39. Jim Barrett Sr (1925 - 1945)

Appearances: 553
Goals: 70
International: England
Other Rankings: BB (N/A) WHUFC (31) WHTID (N/A)

A remarkable, iconic figure from the early days of the club and the next great to emerge after the 1923 Cup Final side. Barrett played in all manner of positions and scored a decent number of goals while doing so. Typically a defender, as one might have expected from a man who went by the nickname "Big Jim", he was dangerous from set pieces and in the air.

Barrett was capped by England in 1928 against Northern Ireland and promptly got injured after four minutes, making his the then shortest international career in history. If that isn't the most West Ham thing of all time then I don't know what is.

38. Noel Cantwell (1952 - 1960)

Appearances: 278
Goals: 12
International: Ireland
Other Rankings: BB (N/A) WHUFC (40) WHTID (45)

Yet another high class defender from the Fifties, and the other half of the outstanding full back partnership with John Bond that characterised the era. Cantwell was one of a number of Irishmen who played at West Ham at the time, but he was unquestionably the best. Unusually attacking for the era, he was a key member of the promoted side of 1958 and once again after promotion.

After suffering an injury he would lose his place to a young fellow by the name of John Lyall and was sold shortly thereafter to Manchester United, with the fee being a record 29,500 for a full back. Cantwell went on to become an instrumental figure in rebuilding the Old Trafford side after the Munich air crash, and it's difficult not to think that he was allowed to leave Upton Park too soon.

37. Rio Ferdinand (1995 - 2001)

Appearances: 158
Goals: 2
International: England
Other Rankings: BB (34) WHUFC (27) WHTID (18)

And the stylish defenders just keep coming. Ferdinand was talked about around Upton Park long before he made his debut, as tales of his youthful excellence began to convince fans that the long dormant Academy might have actually been revived under Harry Redknapp and Tony Carr.

Neil Ruddock just out of shot

Although he made some early errors, Ferdinand soon established himself as an unusually accomplished ball player and was quickly the mainstay at the heart of the defence. Alongside him was a revolving door of centre halves as he played with Slaven Bilic, Marc Rieper, Neil Ruddock, Steve Potts, Igor Stimac and David Unsworth which would have exposed him to quite a few different styles of play, at least.

For all the talk of his development after leaving Upton Park, Ferdinand was Hammer of the Year in 1998, and was selected to go to the World Cup shortly after. He was an elite defender even then. Sadly, by 2001 the Club was once again in need of money and Redknapp had seemingly lost his way in the transfer market and off the field. Ferdinand was sold to Leeds, for 18m, which it turned out they were paying on credit card. It mattered not as they soon flogged him on to Manchester United for 30m. I am not bitter about this.

Redknapp, meanwhile, managed to waste every penny he was given, and the Club used the rest to rebuild the West Stand. Fans referred to it as the Rio Ferdistand, which was pretty funny, but the reality was that his departure precipitated the end of Redknapp's reign and eventually saw us relegated two years later.

When West Ham collapse, we do it in style.

36. Ernie Gregory (1946 - 1959)

Appearances: 488
Goals: 89
International: N/A
Other Rankings: BB (15) WHUFC (25) WHTID (27)

Long serving goalkeeper whose connection with West Ham far exceeds even his outstanding performances on the field. After his retirement in 1960, Gregory remained with the Club in various capacities, including coaching and administration which sadly ended with a slightly soured relationship at the end. By that point, Gregory had been with West Ham for over fifty years.

Aside from his longevity, Gregory was an excellent keeper although I have him below several others in this list purely because he spent much of his time playing in the Second Division and Wartime leagues. Gregory is perhaps the first player on this list who deserves the accolade 'great" because of the totality of his contribution to West Ham.

35. Pat Holland (1969 - 1981)

Appearances: 304
Goals: 32
International: N/A
Other Rankings: BB (N/A) WHUFC (37) WHTID (N/A)

Perhaps the first player on this list who I had heard of but never really considered as a great player in any sense at all. Unlike, say, Tresadern or Barrett, Pat Holland was a name I recognised but simply assumed was a bit part player from the Seventies. How wrong I was.

Goalscorers in European finals. We haven't had many.

In keeping with my own misconceptions, Holland was probably an under appreciated part of the Seventies side, and it took him a number of years to firmly establish himself in the first team. He made his debut in 1969 but eventually cemented his place in the 1972/73 season. This meant he was a member of the FA Cup winning side of 1975 and the European Cup Winners Cup runners up the following year. Indeed, Holland scored the opening goal of that final, when it looked like we might actually beat the classy Anderlecht team.

Holland played on until 1981 but injured himself scoring a crucial goal at Notts County and never played again. He did, however, have the consolation of presenting me with a Player of the Year award a few years later at a Gidea Park Rangers presentation ceremony. He was introduced as a Spurs scout, which might have contributed to my misguided ideas about him.

34. John Dick (1953 - 1962)

Appearances: 367
Goals: 177
International: Scotland
Other Rankings: BB (35) WHUFC (13) WHTID (43)

A player who I think I might return to in a few years and feel that I short changed. Dick was a tall, highly skilled goalscoring inside left who drove West Ham to promotion in the late Fifties, and became the first Hammer to represent Scotland when he played against England at Wembley in 1959. He is only really rated this low because he spent as much time in Division 2 as he did in the top tier.

That said, Dick's partnership with Vic Keeble was tremendous as the two rattled in bagfuls of goals in both Division 1 and 2, with his probable highlight being a hat trick over then giants Wolves to take us top of the league in November 1959. We ended up 12th because West Ham.

He left the club for Brentford in 1962, with the brilliant Johnny Byrne and Geoff Hurst arriving to replace him and Keeble. It is slightly blowing my mind how many good players we had in this era and yet did nothing with. The publicans of East London have a lot to answer for.

33. Geoff Pike (1976 - 1987)

Appearances: 368
Goals: 41
International: N/A
Other Rankings: BB (N/A) WHUFC (42) WHTID (N/A)

Greatness comes in all forms and Geoff Pike is a player who I think best epitomises quiet greatness. Whether he truly deserves to be above players like John Dick and Rio Ferdinand is for me to ponder, but his longevity in a hard working midfield role is notable and he was a key part of FA Cup winning side of 1980 and the promotion winning team of 1981.

Just give it to Brooking, Pikey

No less an authority than Trevor Brooking described Pike's all action style of play as integral to his own, because it allowed him the freedom to play his game. In such situations can greatness go unnoticed, but Pike wouldn't have played for as long as he did without being of real use to the team. He strikes me as being similar to Steve Lomas in that his unsung work did much to allow the artisans around him to flourish, but others have described him as closer to Michael Carrick due to the understated excellemce of his passing,

Pike is also scorer of the greatest headed goal of all time. Don't message me. It's true.

32. Graham Paddon (1973 - 1976)

Appearances: 152
Goals: 15
International: N/A
Other Rankings: BB (38) WHUFC (N/A) WHTID (48)

Perhaps the greatest joy of this exercise for me has been the discovery of players who I literally knew nothing about. In that sense, Graham Paddon might just be the best player that I never knew existed. Joining from Norwich in 1973 his career got off to the most West Ham start possible when, prior to the move, nobody remembered to go and meet him at Liverpool Street to negotiate his terms. Plus ca change, and all that.

He soon joined, and his silky left footed midfield play was an outstanding complement to Brooking. In a time of agricultural defending and pitches, he oozed class and always seemed to have time when others were frantic. Paddon was a symphony musician in a rock'n'roll world.

His highlight was probably the glorious thirty yard strike to open the scoring in the 1976 European Cup Winners Cup Semi Final against Eintracht Frankfurt. Indeed, as West Ham fans often whisper in hushed tones about the brilliance of the Anderlecht side who beat us in the final, I do wonder if there is a corner of some Frankfurt website where they speak reverentially of the graceful West Ham midfield of Brooking and Paddon. There should be.

31. Joe Cole (1998 - 2014)

Appearances: 187
Goals: 18
International: England
Other Rankings: BB (37) WHUFC (30) WHTID (19)

Oh Joe. The one that got away. I could handle Ferdinand and Lampard, but I wasn't prepared to lose Joe Cole. He was the generational talent, and the player who I was convinced was going to take the team of the Noughties to the promised land. As it was he arrived in a blaze of unnecessary hype - mostly endorsed by the club - , and probably failed to live up to it, purely because of how ludicrous were the expectations upon his shoulders.

The dreaded second stint

It probably didn't help Cole that he had to break into a team dominated by the Italian Paolo di Canio, who was so central to the team and their style of play, that it left little room for the youngster. He eventually found a home in the centre of midfield where he was outstanding and where I thought he could have stayed. Sadly, this was in 2003 and West Ham were busy getting relegated with a team full of internationals. Cole deservedly won Hammer of the Year, but was never going to stick around and duly joined Chelsea where Jose Mourinho moulded him into a winger who tracked back. A sad waste, I thought.

As happened with so many others, Cole couldn't resist a return and duly came back in 2013. His second debut against Manchester United in the FA Cup was electrifying as he set up two goals, but the lightning soon escaped from the bottle and he left after just two seasons, stricken by injuries and without the spark of pace that had once made him so exciting. It's hard to call Joe Cole a wasted talent because he achieved so much, but he really did once seem like the kind of player who could have bent the game to his will. Of all our mistakes over the years, losing him to Chelsea is high upon the list.

The H List - In Retro - The Fifty Greatest Hammers - 50 to 41
The H List - In Retro - The Fifty Greatest Hammers - 30 to 21
The H List - In Retro - The Fifty Greatest Hammers - 20 to 11
The H List - In Retro - The Fifty Greatest Hammers - 10 to 1

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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