Sunday 14 October 2012

The Irish Brigade: West Ham’s Greatest Green XI

This World Cup Qualifier weekend provides an ideal opportunity to consider matters International. As Hammers who hail well west of West Ham, the Verywestham team have gotten to wondering how a team comprised of the greatest Irish Hammers might look.

So here it is, after detailed trawling through club records, a team coddled together from the most notable Irish players to turn out in the claret and blue.

The Irish brigade
Back Row: Breen, Brady, Henderson, Moroney, Keane, Cantwell
Front Row: O'Brien, McCartney, Dowie, Lomas, Hughes

Goalkeeper: We have had a lot of short stay Irish netminders at the club with no single player really making the position their own. Allen McNightmare was certainly the most memorable, sadly for all the wrong reasons – possibly making the greatest contribution of any single player to our relegation in 1989. Will we ever forget all those crazy moments when he came running off his line only to get stranded in no-man’s land!


We got a slice of Gerry Peyton towards the end of his career, mainly in a covering role while Roy Carroll performed pretty solidly until personal problems interrupted. David Forde never really got a proper chance and Noel Dwyer was well before our time. In short – it’s all good news for young Stephen Henderson – the position is his for the taking, even despite a few anxious moments in pre-season run outs and a nasty full debut versus Wigan in the league Cup! Given Jaskelainen’s age, he seems likely to get every chance to justify this selection in coming years….fingers crossed!


The defence was… well, frankly, worrying! Unbalanced and not endowed with aerial presence. There would undoubtedly be much sweating at set pieces.


Joey O’Brien at right back is the man of the moment (and had no real challenge from former players).


Centre back is a real patch up…..Gary Breen and Clive Clarke…Hmmm. Luckily, Big Sam demonstrated to us in pre-season how Georgie McCartney can provide pretty solid cover in that position so we are going with Gazza Breen and Georgie. They may lack aerial prowess, but Colin Clarke was too lacking in mobility.


Left back provide a more challenging call – We got a useful turn out of Chris Hughton at the twilight of his career but Noel Cantwell was a much more formidable left full from long ago and gets our selection.


Midfield is by far our strongest zone. Steve Lomas as enforcer and water carrier and a nice partner for Chippy Brady. Although Brady is primarily a Gooner, we got two very decent seasons out of him that included some cracking moments.


Wee Michael Hughes was a great seizure from Wimbledon - gamey, if lacking in physicality, and with a useful habit of scoring at key moments. Both Frank O’Farrell and Tommy Moroney were key contributors in the early fifties but Tommy Moroney gets the final nod, mostly based upon his presence on the glorious Ireland team that was the first foreign team to beat the old enemy on their own turf at Goodison Park in 1949.


Of note: Kevin Nolan should be on this list but no manner of persuasion could get him to use the Parents rule as qualification. Perhaps luckily for West ham since the extra mileage of International football might have caught up on those now ageing legs.


Up front, David Kelly underachieved – too light for top-level English football. David Connolly was too, well, David Connolly (i.e. perfectly average). Robbie Keane came and went in the blink of an eye, with most of that time spent on the injury room table, but on the basis of what might have been (and forgiving him the goal-line miss against Blackburn that could have spurred a more meaningful survival bid two years ago) he gets the nod, just!

And finally, Frankenstein himself, terrifying Iain Dowie – a true Hammer who was not prolific by any means but always gave 100% and created opportunity for those around him. A real servant who had two determined spells at the club and is one of the more refreshing TV pundits about. Loyalty – a rare thing amongst our footballing folk these times.

So, a team that would by no means be worldbeaters, but we might expect plenty of effort and any team with Liam Brady could always find a moment of magic, while Michael Hughes would be sure to spoil a few Man United celebrations and Robbie could always find cause for a party!


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