Gianluca Scamacca - a modern day 'Budgie'?

It’s a tenuous link, but bear with me if you will.

Paul Walker’s recent excellent appreciation of Sir Geoff Hurst on the occasion of his 81st birthday had me thinking back to that masterstroke of Ron Greenwood’s to move big Geoff further forward to link up with an expensive recent addition who was finding it difficult to provide the goals he was brought in for.


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That newbie was a certain Johnny Byrne, who had been brought in by Greenwood in March 1962 in a £65,000 deal from Crystal Palace. Not only a record purchase for West Ham, but a record deal between two English clubs. Light years away from today’s monopoly money transfers of course – but I digress.

Byrne’s 85 goals in 203 appearances for Palace, albeit in the third tier of English football, showed he could find the net on a regular basis. But that strike rate of a goal every two-and-a-half games didn’t initially follow Byrne across London.

In the 11 games between Byrne’s arrival and the end of the 1961/62 season, the little man netted just once. Questions were being asked. Fingers were starting to point in Greenwood’s direction. The club had paid a significant amount of money for a striker who clearly wasn’t in terms of goals giving much in return. Had we bought a ‘dud’?

History records that 'Budgie', as he was affectionately known, went on to score 79 goals in 156 league games for the Hammers plus 28 goals in 34 cup appearances during his five-year stay at Upton Park. A remarkable goalscoring record by anyone’s standards.

Just as those on the terraces at the time – myself included – were doubting Greenwood’s decision-making in bringing Byrne to the club, there are now similar questions being asked of David Moyes and his summer purchase of Gianluca Scamacca.

The big Italian was warmly welcomed, particularly across West Ham’s vocal and highly-excitable-at-times social media support. At just 23 a relatively young talent who had scored regularly for his previous club Sassuolo in Serie A and, as a result, had forced his way into the Italy national team.


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We were told he’d been on the radar of several bigger club in his native homeland, as well as one or two others in the Premier League. But it was with West Ham he had chosen to continue his footballing education.

Unfortunately the wave of optimism that a long-term replacement for the ever-loyal, tireless but overworked Michail Antonio had finally arrived has somewhat tempered since those sweltering days of summer. Scamacca has found acclimatisation and adjustment to playing in the Premier League – and to playing to the requirements of his manager – a significant challenge.

His national team manager Roberto Mancini was quoted at the time as saying Gianluca could take up to six months to fully adjust to the change. The wily old Italian knows a thing or two about football in general and the Premier League in particular, so he’s definitely worth listening to.

Gianluca himself was recently quoted as saying: "I’m at 70 per cent of my potential. In a couple of months I’ll get there, or be on my way there." An acknowledgement he realises his integration is a work in progress – and unsubstantiated stories that he’s becoming frustrated and disillusioned are no more than products of over-furtive imaginations.

The fact Scamacca appears to have found playing in Europa Conference games more to his liking so far – with four goals in seven appearances compared to just two goals in 13 Premier League appearances - seems to bear out Mancini’s opinion. Moyes clearly saw a future for Gianluca with the Hammers – an important part for him to pay in the evolving team.

Greenwood used Hurst to bring the best out of Johnny Byrne. There is a school of thought that maybe Lucas Paqueta will become the key to unlock the door for Scamacca in a similar way. That is backed up by the Italian who has said himself: "I’ve got a great understanding with Paqueta. But I know I can do better."

Given his Latin heritage, perhaps it’s right to point out Rome wasn’t built in a day. But it was worth waiting for when it was finally finished. Those of us privileged to have seen Johnny Byrne in action will agree he too was well worth waiting for. We have to believe the same will be said eventually of Gianluca Scamacca.

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