Early Preview: Hammer of the Year

Another season draws ever closer, the transfer window has slammed shut and football fans across the country salivate at the prospect of their newly acquired talent turning out for their respected clubs.

The excitement and anticipation is building amongst Premier League fans, none more so than for the loyal, and in some cases, ruthless supporters of West ham. After some promising performances by players old and new during pre season, coupled with some distinctly average ones, the appetite for the upcoming campaign has undoubtedly tickled our football taste buds.

Surely even the most pessimistic of Irons fans are at least a little excited as to how Pellegrini's army will fare this season? Of course, time will tell all.

Our transfer business has seen the arrival of some potentially formidable players in Sebastien Haller and Pablo Fornals. Manuel Pellegrini has opted for quality over quantity, just what is needed to build on a promising season last term. It is well documented that we are slow starters, last season's catalyst being forced to play away for our first three matches - far from ideal.

This season can be different. Manchester City provides the sternest of tests early on, a match we have to get through without damaging confidence, or the fans' trust in Manuel. League fixtures to follow the mighty City, see us visit a Brighton side that seem to hold a voodoo curse over us, and a rather unchanged Watford side that we comfortably dismantled on the final day of last season. These are the fixtures that we must be more competitive in, and you'd better believe that we possess the quality within the squad to do exactly that.


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The prestigious Hammer of the year award is an integral part of the history, present and future of our beloved football club. The award was introduced in 1958 and previous winners have included the greatest legends the club has ever seen. The likes of Bobby Moore, Trevor Brooking, Sir Geoff Hurst and Billy Bonds make up just some of the many wonderful players who have graced the Upton Park/London Stadium turf. The award has been so successful with the fans of the club that in 2008 a Young Hammer of the Year award was introduced.

So, looking forward into this season, who will be the likely candidates for the annual Hammer of the Year award? Will Haller finally break the twenty league goal barrier for the club? Will Fornals provide the energy and flair to win over the fans? Will Jack Wilshere stay fit for more than three games?


Declan Rice

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"Boy wonder", "Future West Ham captain" and "Best product of the Academy of Football in years", are just a few of the many superlatives describing Declan Rice. Arguably our best player last season, Rice has established himself as the first name on the team sheet, has won England caps and ultimately has won the hearts of the West Ham faithful. A product of the academy, which, let's face it, hasn't provided the top talent it used to, Rice is everything the supporters want in a player.

No surprise, then, that the bookies mark him down as clear favourite for the award. Rice is a cool head on young shoulders, and is clearly capable of great things in the beautiful game.

Rice managed some impressive stats last season, notably racking up just under three successful tackles per match. He lacks pace, but makes up for this with excellent strength and masterful positional play. One fears that if performances maintain the levels of last term, top six clubs will surely be ready to pounce. At only twenty -years old, Rice is most definitely still eligible for Young Hammer of the Year - an award he has twice received in the last two seasons.

Rice won his first award after making his Premier League debut in May 2017 and retained the title after cementing himself in the first team under David Moyes. He played every minute as West Ham secured their Premier League status with seven points from their last three games last season, and scored the winner against Arsenal to open his account in January.

If Rice were to pick up the youngsters award for the third time, would it aid the clubs attempts to keep him from the clutches of a top six side? Rest assured the West Ham fans will do everything in their power to ensure he knows he is loved and valued, and providing he maintains his level of performance, will likely vote in their numbers to crown Rice with the most prestigious club award.


Sebastien Haller

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This summer's big signing for the Irons will come with great intrigue, but also with immense pressure from the supporters. West Ham fans are notorious for voicing their scathing opinion, albeit a little prematurely on occasion. The first handful of matches will be crucial for the former Eintracht Frankfurt striker, who has arrived for a large sum of money, and with many plaudits for last season's performance.

Pre-season has been of mixed fortune so far for the 6'3 ace, who opened his account in the victory over Hertha Berlin. His fortunes took a slight downward turn when netting an own goal in the draw against Bilbao in the London Stadium season curtain raiser. He did show some brilliance, however, when assisting Jack Wilshere after some excellent skill and great show of strength, pace and awareness. From what we have seen so far, there is definitely an heir of class about him, and it's easy to see why he bagged twenty goals in all competitions last season.

If this form should continue in the Premier League this campaign, he will be adored by the home fans and absolutely stake his claim for the coveted Hammer of the Year award. One thing is for sure, if Haller can shake the heavy price tag and be the first West Ham striker to net twenty times in the league, since Tony Cottee in 1986/87, not only will he scoop the prize; he will go down in West Ham United history .


Lukasz Fabianski

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Goalkeeping stalwart Lukasz Fabianski was one of Manuel Pellegrini's first signings for the club, and at the time, a very underwhelming one at that. The mature goalkeeper was signed for around seven million from Swansea and a few eyebrows were raised, but a magnificent season last term earned him the Hammer of the Year for 2018/19. The super stopper was in imperious form, his shot stopping and reliability the main features of his performances behind what was an uninspiring defensive line.

Judging solely on pre-season, it would appear that not improving our defensive line could well mean that Fabianski is called upon much too often in the season to come. The pair of David Martin and Roberto arrived in the summer, and there simply shouldn't be any way that either will be regular starters aside from injury or suspension to super Fab.

The Polish International will be a busy boy again this season, and is arguably proving to be the best goalkeeper we have had at the club since Ludo Miklosko. There will be no shocked faces around the London Stadium if Fabianski were to have another outstanding season, and be the first player to pick up the award two years running, since Scott Parker in 2009 & 2010.


Pablo Fornals

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Could this signing be one of the best pieces of business by a Premier League club this season? Absolutely, it could. Twenty-four million was enough to secure the services of this midfield maestro, early in the transfer window. The Spaniard was in a sumptuous form throughout the Euro U21 Championships, helping Spain to a tournament win. Fornals was purchased from Villarreal, for whom he made fifty appearances for last season.

The stats from last season are not too impressive on paper, but taking into account his age, has a lot of potential to be a real star for the Cockney Boys. Fornals mustered five goals and six assists last season in all competitions, but to make the aforementioned fifty appearances for the top flight club just shows how instrumental he was for the Yellow Submarine.

If his pre-season exploits are anything to go by, Fornals could be a real superstar. Hammers fans only require two real traits from any of their players; hard work and a smidgeon of flair. Fornals possesses these in abundance, here's to hoping he can add further goals and creativity to his game and become a real marvel. If the attacking midfielder can achieve this, he is a solid contender for Hammer of the Year.


Honourable Mentions

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For the first time in many a year, West Ham United have a plethora of attacking firepower. Individual flair and creativity is apparent from all over the pitch, and even from the full back areas.

Ryan Fredericks was much improved last season, and if he continues in the same vain with added attacking overlapping and end product, could easily throw his name into the hat.

If Manuel Lanzini can steer clear of the physio table, the nimble Argentinean has all the tools necessary to wow the fans for another season, having shown glimpses of his wizardry each year thus far, as well as in pre-season this term.

Football fans all over the globe are aware of the former Arsenal players Jack Wilshere's talents, and a fit, in form Wilshere could easily be the best player on the park for Pellegrini's side this season. He has worked all through the summer to improve his fitness and started pre-season with some scintillating performances. We will all be holding our breath for the start of the season, for Wilshere to pick up an injury would indeed be "The West Ham way". If we are able to cast an eye upon Jack for a large part of the season, there can be no doubt that he will be one for the HOTY shortlist.

With Mark Noble entering the twilight of his career, the Hammers fans could well give the sentimental vote to "Mr. West Ham" though, his performances toward the end of the previous campaign did roll back the years somewhat, if Nobes can continue to be glue that holds the side together, and keep the standard of his performances to an optimum, the award could be given to him on merit alone.

There is no doubt this season will be a rollercoaster for the East London outfit, for it never seems far away each season, whether on or off the football pitch. However, last season has showed the fans that Manuel Pellegrini is building something quite special here. The board have previously promised to elevate West ham to the next level, and with a capacity sell-out crowd cheering us on every week, some good performances on the pitch and with squad of players we have at our disposal, there is no reason the chasm between the top six and the rest of the league cannot be somewhat bridged by the mighty Hammers, with the 2019 Hammer of the Year leading the way.

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