In Retro: The Fifty Greatest Hammers (50 to 41)

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)

50. Vic Keeble (1957 - 1960)

Appearances: 84
Goals: 51
International: N/A
Other Rankings: BB (N/A) WHUFC (29) WHTID (16)

Were it not for injury there is little doubt that Keeble would be higher on this list. Having signed from Newcastle in 1957 he immediately formed a lethal partnership with Johnny Dick, and fired the Irons to promotion as champions of Division 2. The pair were so good that they carried on in the same vein in Division 1, and we were briefly top of the league in September after a 3-2 win over Manchester United, before eventually finishing sixth. We also beat Spurs home and away in back to back games on Christmas and Boxing Day, in case you're wondering how mad football fixtures used to be. Keeble scored in both matches, naturally.

Let's be honest - he wasn't saving that. Keeble secures promotion at Middlesbrough, 1958

After a decade of toil for the Club in the second tier, Keeble was a huge part of promotion and the subsequent setting of foundations for the success of the Sixties, and deserves to be remembered fondly as a centre forward of some renown. He was sadly forced to retire in 1960.

49. Dimitri Payet (2015 - 2017)

Goals: 15
International: France
Other Rankings: BB (18) WHUFC (34) WHTID (N/A)

A possibly controversial choice, or perhaps perfectly understandable now that the dust has settled. Arrived from Marseille in 2015 and was immediately sensational. Playing wide left for Slaven Bilic's band of disorganised lunatics, he was good enough to get us dreaming of a Champions League place, and but for some highly questionable refereeing he might indeed have got us there. Became famous for his wonderful free kicks, but he was also outrageously gifted on the ball and at the end of the 2015/16 season was one of the best players at that summer's European Championship. He also took home the Hammer of the Year award, which is probably more important.

In hindsight we should have cashed in on him then and taken the rumoured £50m that Real Madrid were dangling. As it was, we kept him, he became disenchanted when the club returned to its usual state of chaos and incompetence and Payet eventually went on strike so he could be sold back to Marseille. As happens at all normal clubs.

His star didn't burn for long, but few have ever shone brighter in Claret and Blue.

48. Jack Tresadern (1914 - 1924)

Appearances: 186
Goals: 6
International: England
Other Rankings: BB (N/A) WHUFC (N/A) WHTID (N/A)

Oh, hello. Football hipster alert.

Well, yes and no. Tresadern was in the side elected to the Football League in 1919, and was part of the team which reached the famous "White Horse" FA Cup Final in 1923. In fact, Tresadern was controversially caught up in the crowd after taking a throw in, which left a gap from which Bolton scored their opening goal in that Final, and now I am annoyed about a decision made in a game of football played nearly a century ago.

Considered a fairly robust player, which by the standards of the time probably meant he carried a musket, Tresadern was widely admired as a pre-eminent left half, and was good enough to play for England despite spending most of his career in the Second Division. In the end, I decided that West Ham haven't had enough successful teams that I could leave out one of the best players from our earliest finalists.

47. Frank Lampard Jr (1996 - 2001)

Appearances: 187
Goals: 38
International: England
Other Rankings: BB (N/A) WHUFC (39) WHTID (N/A)

Another who caused me to think long and hard, primarily because so much of his success came at Chelsea. But to ignore Lampard's formative years would be wrong, as he debuted in 1996 as a teenager and gradually imposed himself in the side before becoming a key part of the 1999 team who would finish fifth, win the Intertoto Cup and be first on Match of the Day every week because of their allergic reaction to defending. Lampard's defining moment at West Ham might even have come when he scored in that famous Intertoto win in Metz.

Worth it just for Metz

There is a lot of water under the bridge here because of the way he left and his subsequent attitude towards the club, but Lampard was a fine goalscoring midfielder who was much better for us than many fans seem to remember and who suffered far less abuse than he seems to remember. If I could reset the clock on any one relationship between the supporters and a player, it would be him. He and his father should be feted as heroes at West Ham.

46. Eyal Berkovic (1997 - 1999)

Appearances: 79
Goals: 12
International: Israel
Other Rankings: BB (N/A) WHUFC (N/A) WHTID (28)

Even as I write this, I am wondering how I could include a player who did nothing defensively and generally disappeared at the first hint of physicality. And yet Berkovic was the fulcrum of that bonkers 1999 team who finished fifth with a negative goal difference and generally were the maddest team around. Impossible to beat at home, and highly likely to concede four in the return game, Berkovic is probably the best epitome of the duality of that side.

Harry Redknapp essentially set the team up around him and he responded by becoming the best playmaker seen at Upton Park for many years. He had no real pace and thought tackling was for others, but he was highly skilled, an underrated finisher and could pick a final pass like no other. He played for just two seasons, and eventually left after John Hartson literally tried to kick his head in during a training session. West Ham, ladies and gentlemen.

45. Frank McAvennie (1985 - 1992)

Appearances: 190
Goals: 60
International: Scotland
Other Rankings: BB (19) WHUFC (16) WHTID (15)

I can hear the gasps from here. Frankie Mac, beloved wild man of the Boys of '86 has been a top twenty pick in every other poll, and remains a terrace hero even today when there are no terraces, only scaffold and popcorn.

Signed from St Mirren in 1985, the Scotsman was originally a midfielder but was pushed up front by John Lyall and repaid him with 28 goals in that now legendary season, in which he also finished as runner up in the Hammer of the Year voting. Matching a prodigious work rate on the pitch with a Herculean appetite for debauchery off it, McAvennie was very much a man of his time. The problem is that as far as I recall, his best work was really restricted to that season. He would score just 11 the following campaign before moving to Celtic where he struggled to regain the form that had nearly carried us to a title.

One Mac-ah-ven- EEEEE

McAvennie then followed the well worn path back to West Ham in 1989 - a distressingly high number of those on this list have had multiple stints with the club - where he managed just ten games before Chris Kamara attempted to amputate his leg in a game at Stoke. McAvennie was never the same after this and although he was an important squad player in the side which gained promotion under Billy Bonds in 1991, he gradually drifted away. He did, however, sign off in fine fashion with a marvellous second half hat trick against Forest in the last match of the 1991/92 season.

This seemed a fitting farewell for a man who was always box office, and in his pomp felt like a lightning strike in human form, wearing the tightest shorts imaginable on a grown man.

44. George Foreman (1939 - 1946)

Appearances: 234
Goals: 188
International: N/A
Other Rankings: BB (N/A) WHUFC (N/A) WHTID (N/A)

I strongly suspect that you have never heard of Alec George Foreman, and I don't blame you. His official playing record for West Ham lists him as having appeared in six games and scored just one goal. However, when I started looking into the wartime records for the club, Foreman immediately jumped out. In an admittedly jumbled set of competitions and amid a clearly diluted talent pool, Foreman scored a startling 188 goals at a rate of nearly one a game.

We can quibble about the standard, for sure, but once I made the decision to take wartime football into account it was impossible to leave him out. He was the leading striker for the team who won the 1940 Wartime FA Cup, and scored no fewer than thirteen hat tricks during his time leading the line for the wartime Hammers.

Curiously he left the club immediately after the war finished, which perhaps suggests that he wasn't up to playing at an elite level. He therefore joined Spurs.

43. Tony Gale (1984 - 1994)

Appearances: 368
Goals: 7
International: N/A
Other Rankings: BB (33) WHUFC (35) WHTID (31)

Another Boy of '86, although the reality is that most of that team make this list. Gale will be better known these days to younger readers as the jovial co-commentator on most illegal streams, but he was actually a very good centre half in his day. Arriving from Fulham in 1984 he soon settled in as a long term partner for Alvin Martin and continued a tradition of ball playing centre halves in Claret and Blue who should probably have got a look in for England but didn't.

The shorts though

Whilst he earned a reputation as a stylish, footballing defender, Gale coped fairly well with the physical stuff, and indeed his most famous moment might have been the 1991 FA Cup Semi Final when he was ludicrously sent off by Keith Hackett for a "professional foul" when on the half way line. We would go on to lose 4-0 while Villa Park shook to the sustained strains of "Billy Bonds Claret and Blue Army" as our fans sang their way through more heartbreak. My dad maintains to this day that he has never heard anything like it.

I always felt rather sorry for Gale that he should be remembered for that episode, when his brilliant curling free kick in the famous 4-1 1988 League Cup win over Liverpool seems far more fitting.

42. Malcolm Musgrove (1954 - 1962)

Appearances: 317
Goals: 98
International: N/A
Other Rankings: BB (N/A) WHUFC (N/A) WHTID (N/A)

For most of the Fifties West Ham were a second tier side, and much of their threat came from men who don't get much airtime these days. John Dick, Malcolm Musgrove and Harry Hooper were a more than handy triumvirate, with the former two being a key part of the team who landed promotion in 1958. While Hooper was perhaps the most acclaimed of the two wingers, being named as a reserve for the England 1954 World Cup squad, it was Musgrove who stayed longer and left the deeper footprint.

Second only to the astonishing Jimmy Ruffell in terms of goals scored by wingers, Musgrove was direct and physical and actually improved his output after promotion. He bagged 20 goals in the 1959/60 season and generally offered an unparalleled goal threat from wide areas. He was rewarded for his efforts with the 1960 Hammer of the Year award and a place in this list. He can't complain.

41. David Cross (1977 - 1982)

Appearances: 224
Goals: 97
International: N/A
Other Rankings: BB (N/A) WHUFC (28) WHTID (33)

I will confess that the initial appeal of David Cross wasn't obvious to me. Indeed I pondered whether he or Dean Ashton were worthy of this spot, before deciding that a man with his reputation deserved further investigation. Still, I had never seen him play, and at first glance his statistics don't make obviously great reading. He was clearly a fine player but his West Ham career was spent primarily in the Second Division. But not all of a footballer's gifts are revealed in spreadsheets or goal charts.

Cross, almost more than any other player, seems to inspire a reverence in West Ham fans of near mythic proportions. Perhaps it was the manic physicality that earned him the nickname "Psycho" or the did-that-really-happen feat of scoring all four goals in a 4-0 win at Spurs. Either way, he is a man who led the line fearlessly and despite being our then record buy when he arrived from West Bromwich Albion, remains one of the best purchases the Club have made.

Older fans can no doubt fill me in, but it seems to me that here was a player who was lethal in the air and more than capable with the ball at his feet. Leading the line on his own in a time when defenders were still able to clatter forwards at will speaks to his physical courage and strength. I am converted. Psycho reigns.

The H List - In Retro - The Fifty Greatest Hammers - 40 to 31
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

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