Filed: Sunday, 16th September 2012
By: Rich Hobday
The Fifty Shades Trilogy - Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed - has sold over 40 million copies worldwide, in 37 countries – mainly to undersexed, under-satisfied mums.
That is either 40 million wives with more exciting sex lives or 40 million disappointed wives, who realise their beer-bellied partners are no match for the Fifty Shades hero called Christian. It’s created a new genre of literary works – branded 'Mummy Porn' – whetting a newly found appetite for sex, bondage and fetish amongst women of a certain age. Increasing sales at Mr Gold’s Anne Summers empire in the process?
Maybe we should thank Fifty Shades for helping to pay Andy Carroll’s wages. In the interests of research I borrowed a Fifty Shades book from one of said undersexed mums (not my wife) but excitement was minimal. I get more excited by West Ham United and our very own hero called Christian - Christian Dailly.
Of course, unlike Fifty Shades, we have more than one hero to worship. West Ham provides more excitement and passion than any of the 969 pages of the trilogy. There is, however, similarity between Fifty Shades and the Hammers - in the words of one literary critic: "Fifty Shades will excite you, obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever". No better way of describing West Ham United.
Like the trilogy’s hero Christian Grey, West Ham hold a power over us – they excite, yet disappoint. They make us laugh, they make us cry. West Ham is simply our life. Whatever they do, however badly they treat us – we love them and we come back for more.
Like 40 million people, my brief encounter with Fifty Shades stirred something inside me. It fired my passion. A passion to create a new trilogy. To pay homage to West Ham heroes and villains - the cause of our pain, heartache and tears. The reason for our being.
Read a nostalgic review of our oldest players in "Fifty Shades of Grey", a salute to legendary centre midfielders in "Fifty Shades Parker" and a spit in the direction of those overpaid Hammers in "Fifty Shades Greed"...
Fifty Shades of Grey
“You’ll never win anything with kids” - Alan Hansen, August 1995
“You need experience when the chips are down” John Lyall, August 1989
Every successful team needs a mix of youth and experience; young and old. But how old is too old? 35 is the age we consider moving from the blistering pace of league football to the sedentary stroll of the local vets league. The pitches set against a backdrop of rolling countryside. The teams against a backdrop of rolling subs, rolling stomachs, and rolling joints.
But many ‘vets’ have excelled for West Ham over the years, including in the Premier League – the best league in the world. They may have grey hair, but they have guile. They may lack pace but they play with grace. From Teddy Sheringham to Les Sealey we have had some vintage claret, who just got better with age. From front to back, West Ham’s golden oldies have excelled – keepers, defenders, midfielders and strikers – leaving youngsters in their wake.
My top 10 'vets' defy age and have pushed their bodies to the brink, for the cause of West Ham United.
The day after West Ham’s promotion in 1993, back pages were full of West Hams golden oldies – David Speedie and Clive Allen. Both scored. Both were old. Both were past their best. But they were mere babes at 33 and 32 respectively. They had nothing on perhaps the best veteran, Billy Bonds – the most capped Hammer, the original captain brave heart.
A career of 793 games, spanning 21 seasons, saw Bonzo play into his 42nd year. He was still marauding like a bearded pirate, covering every inch of grass, tackling, blocking and battling to the end. No-one was fitter, no-one more passionate and having retired once, he came back for another two seasons, such was his importance and dedication to the club.
He eventually hung up his boots in 1988, still leading the long distance runs in training, still with a fire in his belly – Bonzo was the mount Everest of old players – the top man, a number one, top of the heap. His desire, his hunger, his passion, puts to shame the little effort of many who’ve worn the beloved claret and blue, before and since. He is the benchmark to which all over 35’s should aspire.
Goalkeepers are deemed to be mad. They are also angry. But they seem to improve with age. Even now, Brad Friedel, at 41, is holding down the number one spot at Tottenham, showing quick reactions and agility unbefitting someone of his age. We have seen our very own Les Sealey (39) Shaka Hislop (37) and Ludek Miklosko (35) keep goal with distinction – a mantle handed over to our most recent number one, Jussi Jaaskelainen, who at 37 still seems sharp.
Shaka, Ludo and Les have a special place in the hearts of Hammers. Although Sealey only played four times, his presence was formidable both on and off the pitch. His debut was up front against Arsenal, as a substitute where he snarled, moaned and kicked his way into our hearts. On or off the pitch Sealey spent all game scowling and kicking out in frustration. He wanted perfection. That passion is what West Ham is all about.
Les was a one off and sorely missed. Ludo is a legend. 315 games and the longest goal kick in the world ensured his place as a crowd favourite. How Big Sam would love his long kicks onto Carroll’s head. Ludo’s name still rings round Upton Park in honour…. his name is Ludek Miklosko; He comes from near Moscow...
At the back we have been blessed with Alvin Martin (37), Nigel Winterburn (37) and Stuart Pearce (39). Alvin is one of the all time greats at West Ham – a hero, legend, an icon. I grew up watching the Hammers of the 1980s, whose players have a special place in my heart. From the FA Cup winning team of 1980 to the Boys of ’86, these are true West Ham legends - Brooking; Bonds; Lampard; Stewart – Martin; Gale; Cottee; McAvennie. Over 3700 West Ham games between them.
Alvin Martin, aged 37 was better than most of the centre backs since, collectively. For me he was simply the best. Pearce played with passion, commitment and anger rarely seen. His legs the size of tree trunks, his face red with rage. He famously played on with a broken leg, not letting that small knock keep him off the pitch. He scared players into playing better. You dare not say no to Stuart Pearce - perhaps the reason he was simultaneously, manager of England U21’s, Caretaker of the full England team and GB Team manager. No-one dare say no.
If Pearce was the ultimate hard man, Winterburn I’m afraid was not. Undoubtedly a great full back, but a fighter ? No. His Arsenal spat with Paolo Di Canio was brilliant. Nigel tried to incite Paolo but shit himself as it looked like Di Canio would smash him in the face. You wouldn’t want Nigel on your side in a fight, but you would want him on your side on the pitch. Winterburn still had what it took and showed at 37, in 82 games, he was still a class act for the Hammers.
In midfield we have seen the silky John Moncur aged 36, still running and tackling all over the pitch. No game went by without the Moncur turn. Nothing looks better – Mark Noble obviously thinks so. Moncs played for nine seasons, 176 games, 884 Moncur turns, and three sendings off. Latterly, the cheeky chap Moncs, turned to religion, but I’m sure he misses the terrace chants of "He's here he's there; He's every-f*cking-where..."
Up front we have witnessed international strikers playing into their early forties. Teddy Sheringham still had the best football brain on display as he became the oldest outfield player in Dec 2006, against Man City. A natural goal scorer and play maker, Teddy could link up midfield and attack like no other. In his one season in the Championship he scored 20 goals and created many more for Marlon Harewood and Bobby Zamora, in our promotion season.
His age didn’t affect his never-existing pace – but his brain was the quickest around. He stood head and shoulders above the Championship plodders and journeyman, and was a joy to watch. He could guide the ball with head or chest into the path of our attacking midfielders. He obviously loved using the chest – a skill he fine tuned when dating Jordon. His touch and ability to cushion the ball continued in the FA Cup Final, when in May 2006, Sheringham became the third oldest player to appear in an a final, at 40 years and 41 days old. He remained a West Ham player until after his 41st birthday.
40 PLUS: Sun, sand and Sheringham
Teddy was the coolest at the club on the ball, and the coolest in the clubs. Flings with Nicola Smith (Mandy Smith's sister), and a string of Page 3 models, showed he never took his eye off the goal. He even bagged Miss GB, Daneille Lloyd, when he was on the judging panel. Anyone who can play Premiership football and bag Page 3 models in their 40s is simply a legend.
Ian Wright enjoyed a brief spell with West Ham and although past his best still added bite and speed up front. For me he is worth a place in my top 10 simply for getting sent off against Leeds, and smashing the shit out of the ref's dressing room.
Others who didn’t make my top 10 "Shades of Grey" included Rob Lee, a real silver fox, Bernard Lama the talented but erratic 'keeper and Les Ferdinand, who made 14 appearances for us as we were relegated in 2003. Lee Chapman looked over 40 for much of his career, and had a lack of speed to match – but he was only 34 when he left West Ham, so can’t be included. Maybe he needs to visit his wife’s surgeon for some facial age reduction treatment.
I would also have loved to include Peter Shilton, who signed for West Ham aged 47 in 1996 – but he never made an appearance, despite being named as a substitute several times.
Between them, these top 10 ageing Hammers played over 2,100 times for West Ham, scoring 134 goals. Grey-haired heroes stand up – if you can – and take a bow.
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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