After yesterday's lively encounter where an increasingly buoyant Hammers dragged their Claret and Blue cousins into the relegation-mire, Dave Hammer offers his verdict on a first XI who have represented both clubs and asks – at the end of the day will they consider themselves primarily Hammers or Villains?
Dave Hammer says:
Merve the Swerve was an Essex boy who had the world at his feet after minding the nets for the Hammers triumphant 1975 cup winning side. Then suddenly the crosses started spilling and he had to go…he endured a quiet spell at Villa for two seasons reaching 30 appearances but never quite realised the early potential. Decent spell at Leeds followed and he is now a scout with Brighton. Had a whole album named after him by Indie popsters St Etienne! Verdict: Hammer
Seemed perfectly settled at West Ham until a mysterious transfer to Villa in 2009. Upon returning, he commented that he wasn’t really sure why he left in the first place. Neither were we! He now has more appearances notched up for the Hammers than Villa which is only proper given that his heart is with the Bubbles boys. possibly the best shot blocker in the league? How the Hammers have benefitted from his return and how well he marshalled the physical presence of Benteke yesterday. Verdict : Hammer
Prone to homesickness and the influence of his ‘hard to settle’ wife, Unsworth had a decent season with the Hammers in ’97-98 before moving to Villa for few weeks before decideing to bounce on up the motorway back to Everton! Never actually appeared for Villa and they got their 3 million fee back in the whole crazy saga! Verdict : Hammer.
London boy who came through the Hammers youths but was ‘let go’ to Villa where he was part of the team that won the 2002 FA youth cup. A six year career at Villa ensued before stints at Birmingham City and West Brom. Rather embarrassing episode where pictures were released of him using pound notes when simple three-ply toilet paper should suffice did little to endear him with cash-strapped footie fans. A journeyman that the Hammers let get away. Verdict: Villain.
Troubled Bubble – was the other half of the famous Gazza Cup semi final ‘lunge’ that changed Gascoigne’s career. Both men subsequently have admitted to severe alcohol-related problems and in Charles’ case prison time for ‘foolish’ activities. Had a decent 4 years at Villa. Conversely, bobbled through the Boleyn with 5 appearances before other distractions took priority. Verdict: Villain.
Back when the Hammers turned out stylish creative midfielders for fun - a Late 70s Hammer who wasa Boleyn Boy at heart and did well to notch up 85 appearances in an era where Brooking, Devonshire etc were competing for places. Later returned as a manager in a disappointing but not unsuccessful spell that ended in acrimony. A single un-noteworthy season at Villa on his way to Charlton where he established a second home. Presently contributing to the relegation-bound farce at Fulham. Verdict : Hammer.
Energetic midfielder who had a productive 4 years at the Hammers before being snathched by Martin O’Neill to join his Villa crusade. Clocked up 120 Hammers appearances compared to 102 for Villa. Period at Upton Park was marginally more successful but ended unhappily. Verdict: Hmmm…Villain - just!
Picked up a crazy half-Brummie acacent during his 4 years at Villa park in the early noughties – classy midfielder with a ‘hammer’ shot. Much loved by the Midlands outfit before returning home to Germany for a 5 year spell. Came to West Ham many years later for a season that was ruined by injury and ultimately managed only 11 appearances for a relegated Hammers side. Recently took the brave step of 'coming out' regarding lifestyle preferences. Verdict: Villain.
Powerful striker – managed almost a goal every third appearance for the Hammers over a four year and 150 match spell in the mid noughties. Less happy time at Villa where he was used as a back up forward and managed only 30 appearances Has drifted since – to places as exotic as Turkey and China! Verdict: Hammer.
Travelled striker who has finally made the Hammers his spiritual home. Had a season on loan at Villa in 04-05 before joining the Hammers in 2006 where he has remained. Not the most prolific but a committed and loyal club servant who even took a pay cut to stay at the Boleyn during our recent season ‘out’. Has remained at the club despite all sorts of contractual tomfoolery and has provided decent cover for the often- absent Andy Carroll. Hammers fans have warmed to his robust and sometimes amusingly forthright style. Verdict: Hammer.
Hammers legend after two wonderful periods at the Boleyn. Formed a much feared partnership with Tony Cottee, which reached a peak during the 1986 season where the Hammers finished third. ‘TC and God’ had highly complementary skills. Had a brief spell at Villa but latter part of his career was punctuated by an increasing fondness for the high life. Another troubled bubble who at one point received a 4 month suspended sentence for affray. Verdict: Hammer's Legend.
Hammers 7 vs Villains 4
Substitutes: Ray Houghton; David James; John Carew; Nobby Solano; Robbie Keane, Stewart Downing
So, the Hammers come out on top – just like in yesterday's encounter.