Tuesday 2 July 2013

Who is West Ham’s greatest penalty taker?

In the aftermath of ex-Hammer Luis Boa Morte’s audacious penalty the question arises as to who is the greatest penalty taker of all time for the Hammers? Although the Hammers certainly are prone to a stress-inducing defensive leakiness at the best of times (less so under ‘Uncle’ Sam),  Hammers faithful have always had a sense that we WILL score if the man in black deems a penalty shall come our way.

However, “greatest” is a description that includes many facets, not just conversion rate (although that is surely the ultimate barometer of success).  Confidence is surely an additional characteristic as well as additional marks for scoring crucial or especially memorable penalties? In such circumstances, crucial misses must count against each candidate. Also, it’s worth noting that such was the force of  Ray Stewart’s penalties that many of the misses were scored on the rebound.

The Hammers have had many highly competent penalty takers – Johnny Byrne and John Bond in the 60s followed by Geoff Hurst and on to Ray Stewart, Julian Dicks and the current incumbent, Mark Noble. Bond (‘Muffin’), Dicks (‘Terminator’) and Stewart (‘Tonka’) were all ‘blasters’ with Stewart using a both feet off the ground method, while Dicks possibly had the most powerful of the lot having been estimated at 90 MPH on one occasion!!!! Hurst was more of a placer and Noble balances power with direction towards the corners.

As for important kicks – Tonka slotted away a host including at Wembley in the 1981 League cup final, while Hursty is often remembered for a missed penalty in the League cup semi final versus his future employers at Stoke City (with the legendary Gordon Banks in goal) - This according to Sir Geoff was the first penalty he ever missed for West Ham!!! Surely the most distressing was the 2006 FA Cup shoot out where the Hammers missed 3 of 4 kicks (Konchesky, Zamora, Ferdinand). Thankfully, a young  Mark Noble emerged into the first team ranks the following season and it’s been plain sailing regarding penalty kicks since!

Taking on board all available info (and therefore excluding Muffin and Byrne due to lack of clarity as to penalties missed) we rated our four highest scoring penalty takers of all time:

Total penalties and conversion rate
Confidence, crucial conversions vs misses, cheekiness rating
24/26 = 95%
35/39 = 88%
81/86 = 94%
18/19 = 94%

So Ray Stewart pips it – only time will tell if Noble can maintain his current standard but if so, he may yet prove to be the Hammer’s greatest spot kick expert.


Finally, we might ask how well our lads compare with other penalty-legends?  The Premiership’s greatest penalty taker is Matt Le Tissier who scored an amazing 48/49 spot kicks (Conversion rate: 98 percent) with the only miss against Mark Crossley of Notts Forest! Of the current crop, Ricky Lambert has scored all of his 31 spot kicks he has taken for Southampton, however most of these were not in the Premiership, while Fat Frank Lampard at last count had netted 52 penalties with a Conversion rate of 93 percent. However, he was denied the chance to add to his total as a youngster at West Ham when in perhaps the most amusing penalty-related incident ever at the Boleyn, in an  amazing 5-4 game versus Bradford City, Lampard junior took on a certain Mr Paolo Di Canio in a wrestling contest over who would take a penalty…..no prizes for guessing who prevailed!

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