Everyone talks about stars like Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini and Adrian, but what about the guys who don’t get the plaudits, who go unnoticed but play an equally crucial role for the West Ham side?
As a club, we have had a number of totally useless comedic unsung heroes, who for most teams would sit on the bench and barely make an appearance; we are talking about the likes of Herita Ilunga, Carlton Cole and Roger Johnson.
Mercifully, nowadays our unsung heroes are actually very good, and only overshadowed by superstars. Below is a West Ham XI of unsung heroes of the Slaven Bilic era.
In goal, we have Darren Randolph; the Irishman endured a terrible start to his West Ham career during a pre-season friendly against Southend, which saw him effectively drop the ball into his own net twice. That left the Hammers’ faithful fearing that they had bought another duff back-up keeper, but since then he has starred in three unbeaten games against Liverpool, and helped the Hammers reach the fifth round of the FA Cup and had some fans calling for him to be number one, quite the turnaround for the Irish number one!
On the right-hand side of a back four, a player who has come to fore this season due to his heroic performances out of position at right back. He’s one of our own but that isn’t the only reason he is a hero, it’s James Tomkins. With injuries and a drop of form to our ‘regular’ right-back Carl Jenkinson, Tonks came into the side and made the right-hand side of defence his own. During the early part of the season with him in the side, the team just didn’t concede a goal. It was important for James that he also impressed, as performing in that role adds another string to his bow, and it will only help him to continue to develop as a player.
Joining him is his defensive partner, James ‘Ginger Pele’ Collins. The Welshmen isn’t as unsung as Tomkins is, as the centre-half has been held in high esteem for quite some time with the West Ham faithful, but he deserves a special mention for his never-say-die attitude and that opitimises this Bilic side.
Partnering ‘Ginge’ is Angelo Ogbonna, who acquired hero status recently for his last ditch bullet header against Liverpool to send the Hammers through in dramatic fashion. For a foreign player he seems to have settle down quickly and is slowing winning fans over.
At left-back, the options are limited, but for pure, unsung hero status, it has to be Joey O’Brien. O’Brien joined under Sam Allardyce as part of Big Sam’s Bolton revolution. The Irishman may not possess obvious natural ability, but he has been on a journey with West Ham and he is part of the furniture and an integral part of the dressing room. Like Collins before, he has a never-say-die attitude and to have a number of players like that in your team is crucial.
Moving to midfield now, and the first newcomer to the team is Pedro Obiang. Signed from Sampdoria in the summer the Spaniard has come in and added a little bit of calmness to the side. Whilst at the start of the season when Alex Song rejoined the club you would expect the former Arsenal and Barcelona man to be a regular starter, Obiang has outperformed the Cameroonian and could save the Irons a pretty penny come the end of the season. Given the strength in that central midfield spot now, I can see Obiang taking over from Song, allowing the Hammers to spend on those wages elsewhere.
Joining him is the man mountain himself, Cheikhou Kouyate. Cheik clearing loves the club, he possesses the same build and physic of Yaya Toure and to have a player like that in your squad is important. He pops up with the odd goal, and he is part of the African spine this club is starting to create. Plus, his friendship with Diafra Sakho is wonderful to see.
The last man to make up the midfield central three is one that has seen it all at West Ham, our leader; Mark Noble. All you have to do is look at the ticket sales for his testimonial in March to see how loved Noble is. He looks set to be the first West Ham professional to sell out a testimonial game and the types of players he has managed to assemble shows how respected he is in the game. He also has that never-say-die trait, and his passion to the club is second to none, an absolute must have in this heroes XI.
We have another summer recruit up next in the unsung hero category and someone who, in my opinion, should be in Roy Hodgson’s mind for the upcoming Euros, Michail Antonio. Joining for a hefty fee from Forest on deadline day in the summer window brought pressure for the winger. And having bided his time during his famous wait on the sidelines, the former Reading man has starred and is now seen as being ‘undroppable’. Never was that more evident in the recent FA Cup win over Liverpool. The 25-year-old first opened the scoring with a fine finish before a spate of injuries meant a brief starring stint at right-back. He has taken the Premier League by storm, and is definitely worthy of hero status in my mind.
Joining Antonio out wide is one for the future, and one who hasn’t really played much for West Ham, but his future is massive. Martin Samuelsen, the excitement around this kid is huge. Everyone has taken on the role of part-time Peterborough United fan just to see how the young Norwegian progresses. Every time he does something good at London Road it is all over Twitter and it has been a long time since the West Ham faithful were this intrigued by a player coming through the ranks.
Last but not least, a controversial one – Andy Carroll. It is a real shame for both West Ham and Carroll that his injuries have meant his time on the pitch since his arrival from Liverpool has been, well, limited to say the least. But his passion for the club is evident, he always has a smile on his face when he is playing, and I remain a massive Andy Carroll fan. When fit, he is one of our best forwards, there is no doubt about it. I saw a stat midweek that said when the Geordie comes of the bench, which is nine times this season, in six of those games Carroll has changed the game in a positive way. If that doesn’t warrant hero status I don’t know what does. Maybe a headed winner against Chelsea seals his place but for me Carroll remains a player that should remain part of the furniture at West Ham for a long time.
So there is my ‘unsung heroes XI’. Comment below with yours or Tweet me direct at @Bowdenwhu.
Come on you Irons!