For the delight, education, deliberation and angst suppression of whoever cares to read, I have compiled a list of the top ten misfiring West Ham strikers from (my) living memory. The list is purely subjective using as its criteria those who would have have put in a below par performance in a brothel, had trouble connecting the cows arse and the banjo or been lacklustre in locating the barn door from the latch? Here are my findings.
1. John Radford (0 goals in 28 league games). Not even the most gifted statistician or persuasive spin-doctor could present Big John’s time in West Ham colours in a positive light. Radford was signed in the twilight of his career after enjoying enviable success during 13 illustrious seasons at Highbury where he remains in the record books as the fourth highest all-time scorer. In an exceptional spell of non-achievement at Upton Park he did not manage to bother the scorer at any time during his one year stay before his services were terminated. Some contemporary pundits suggested that he worked hard for the team and that this went largely unnoticed, certainly in the record books. These same people will likely now advance the merits of Julien Faubert on the basis that he runs around a lot. Ironically, Radford's missing goal touch was somewhat restored following his eventual transfer to Blackburn Rovers.
2. Ted MacDougall (5 in 24). Any striker with a Mac surname is obliged to be known as Supermac. This particular incarnation arrived at West Ham via Manchester United having made his name as a prolific striker with lower league Bournemouth, an experience which included a nine goal haul in one single first round cup tie. His transfer to Old Trafford was short-lived in the turmoil of the post Matt Busby bloodletting and he was brought to the East End by long term admirer Ron Greenwood. It is fair to say that his performances in the claret and blue were not very good and while this is not necessarily a limiting factor to a career at West Ham his dressing room brawl with Billy Bonzo sealed an early passage through the exit even before Harry's revolving doors were installed. MacDougall was subsequently to re-unite with ex-Dean Court buddies, manager John Bond and strike partner Phil Bowyer, at Norwich with some commendable goal-scoring success.
3. Iain Dowie (12 in 70). A Master of Engineering, Dowie demonstrated his full understanding of angles, forces and stresses in his perfectly executed own goal at Stockport in the 1995/96 League Cup. Originally signed to strengthen the club's QuizBall team, Dowie answered few questions during the 1991/92 promotion season and he left the club early the following autumn after just one Makita tournament appearance. In an early example of his bouncebackability style, however, he was bizarrely re-signed four seasons later to complete “unfinished business” and prove beyond all doubt that he wasn't able to score at the highest level either. He has since pursued a career as an ineffective club manager and at the time of writing is currently ‘resting’.
4. Lee Chapman (7 in 33). Lumbering Lee Chapman was a jobbing footballer who had achieved limited success with Sheffield Wednesday, Forest and a league title with Leeds United before being signed for West Ham in the embers of his career from the Portsmouth scrapheap. The Hammers had just made it into the Premier League and Chapman was brought in to partner fellow deviant Trevor Morley in a fearful strike duo combining cunning, timing and energetic sex. Up to a point the plan worked and the odd couple played their part in securing a comfortable mid-table finish that season. However, a terrible start to the next campaign in which neither scored outside the home saw Chapman pack his boots up sticks to the Tractor Boys.
5. David Kelly (7 in 29). Kelly was signed as the replacement for the recently departed Tony Cottee who had been the major goal contributor for West Ham over the previous four seasons. He arrived with lots of promise and a good scoring record in his locker from Walsall but replacing Cottee was always going to be a tough act to follow. Despite some good cup runs during his sojourn in the smoke the team did not perform well and were relegated during his first season. His propensity for falling over seriuosly limited his goal contribution and he fell out of favour following the arrival of Jimmy Quinn from Bradford City. Like Radford before him his goal touch was magically rediscovered in his later career when plying his predatory trade with Leicester, Newcastle and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
6. Sandy Clarke (7 in 26). Recruited to replace the original Psycho, Clarke was another pursuing footsteps that were difficult to fill. Signed from Airdrie where he had regularly been netting past the cream of Scottish goalkeeping, he made a reasonably bright start to his Hammers career and deep in my memory is a vision of him jinking through a Manchester City defence in a frenzied Highland Fling with the ball seemingly tethered to his ghillies. However, such sweaty exuberance was not to last and by the time the winter chill was leaving the lochs his appearances were as rare as Nessies and he was on the night train back to Hadrian's Wall.
7. Mike Small (13 in 42). Small was already aged 29 when he pitched up at Upton Park having achieved very little in a nomadic career apart from one above average return the previous season at Brighton and Hove Albion. In fact, he was top goalscorer in his first West Ham season notching an unlucky 13 out of a free-scoring total of 37 league goals which saw the Hammers firmly relegated in wooden spoon position. After being sent off in the opening game of the following season he rarely featured again and his career effectively fizzled out.
8. Derek Hales (10 in 23). The man known as ‘Killer’ down at the Valley where he remains the all-time leading goalscorer arrived at Upton Park after a short undistinguished top-level stopover at Derby County. The most hirsute of all post war West Ham strikers was, in fact, leading scorer during his one season cameo at his boyhood club which unfortunately culminated in a farewell to 20 years of First Division residency. Hales flirtation with the limelight thus extinguished he returned to Charlton to see out his career at a level more suited to his abilities exemplified by an on-field punch up with strike partner Mick Flanagan in a disagreement over hair perm techniques and styles.
9. Dave Swindlehurst (16 in 52). After eight productive seasons at Crystal Palace and three fallow ones at Derby, John Lyall was persuaded to bring Swindlehurst to The Boleyn as strike partner to Paul Goddard just as Tony Cottee was emerging as a first team prospect. Goddard’s injury in October 1983 saw Swindlehurst get a good run during his first season returning a mediocre goal haul even if it wasn’t actually a famine. According to Wikipedia his Upton Park career was limited by injury but Sarge’s return from injury and the continued development of Cottee effectively squeezed him out and he left, thankfully, prior to the legendary 1985/86 season.
10. Dave Dunmore (16 in 36). I don’t really remember Dunmore but he is included because my Dad didn’t like him (seeing him as a replacement for one of his favourites, the ridiculously one footed but prolific John Dick) and the fact that he was a straight swap with Tottenham for the promising John Smith who would later feature in their double winning season and also play for Swindon in the league cup victory over Arsenal. To be fair the stats don’t suggest a striker in mid drought (and which included a purple patch of 11 goals in 8 consecutive games) but many insightful observers at the time (my dad) did not rate him and he was subsequently transferred to Orient for their one and only season ever in the top flight. It was later rumoured that Dunmore left for Orient to be closer to his Stratford home.
Other candidates nominated for this compilation but rejected include:
Carlton Cole (40 in 121). I thought including a contemporary player would widen the appeal to younger readers but in the end decided he’d been around too long to qualify for a place. Further, Freddie (Goals for Fun) Sears (2 in 20) was a possibility but it was likely to spark a debate over whether he’d been given a chance as a striker.
Billy Jennings (34 in 89). I was never convinced by Jennings but he was ruled out by the fact of his smart hairstyle, prodigious leaping ability, FA Cup winner and that I once met him in a pub in Chadwell Heath.
Jimmy Greaves (13 in 36). Didn’t seem right that a goal-scoring legend who was drunk most of the time and converted to a midfielder by Ron Greenwood should be included.
Leroy Rosenior (15 in 44). Because of his goal at Arsenal in the cup.
Others, for the example Mike Newell (putting a training cone on the pitch would have been equally effective) were disqualified due to insufficient appearances which I have arbitrarily set at 20.