Ranking the 42 forwards signed in West Ham’s Gold & Sullivan era

Quick Reads

The January transfer window is almost upon us and it’s likely we’ll once again see West Ham United linked with moves for new attacking talent.

David Moyes’ team have scored at a rate of less than one goal per game, enough to keep them in the bottom half of the table all season, so the logic behind attacking recruits is solid.

However, as fans of the London club know all too well, they have found themselves in this situation before. A lot. In fact, since David Gold and David Sullivan took over ownership of the club in January 2010, West Ham have signed no fewer than 42 forwards.

We’re not including the likes of Dimitri Payet and Ravel Morrison, playmakers pushed into more advanced supporting roles, but the 42 includes number nines, second strikers and attacking wingers – some substantially more successful than others.

42. Mido (Loan from Middlesbrough, February 2010)

Considering a number of these players never even made a matchday squad, it takes a lot for someone who actually did play to finish bottom.

However, Mido’s contribution – no goals and a missed penalty – is undoubtedly a net negative. He famously earned just £1,000 per week at West Ham, but even that felt a bit steep.

41. Benni McCarthy (Undisclosed from Blackburn Rovers, February 2010)

An absolute car crash of a signing, with the South African scoring no goals and only leaving after being paid off handsomely by the club.

Ahead of Mido only because he stuck around a little longer, though I’m starting to wonder if that should actually count against him.

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QUIZ: Can you name West Ham’s top 30 goalscorers of the Premier League era?

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40. Joe Dixon (Unattached, January 2012)

Literally no idea who this person is.

39. Luka Belić (Free from OFK Beograd, September 2015)

Apparently not the guy from GTA IV.

38. Wellington Paulista (Loan from Cruzeiro, January 2013)

Brazilian forward who impressed in his homeland but never made an appearance for West Ham. Not to be confused with Wellington Silva, a Brazilian forward who impressed in his homeland but never made an appearance for Arsenal.

37. Jaanai Gordon (Undisclosed from Peterborough United, January 2014)

The closest he got to a first-team game was an appearance on the bench in a 5-0 FA Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest. Make of that what you will.

36. Sean Maguire (Undisclosed from Waterford United, January 2013)

Seems to be doing okay for Preston, but never got a game for West Ham. Only this high by virtue of sharing his name with an EastEnders actor.

35. Brian Montenegro (Loan from Deportivo Maldonado, August 2011)

One of two (two!) strikers loaned by West Ham from Deportivo Maldonado, a Uruguayan second-tier team who have had the likes of Alex Sandro and Gerónimo Rulli on their books without either player having ever turned out for their first team.

Apparently he played 12 minutes in a cup game. Also holds the distinction of being part of the Leeds United loan 100.

34. Mladen Petrić (Unattached, September 2013)

Signings outside the transfer window always come with that caveat of no one else wanting them, so everything else is a bonus.

There was no bonus with Petrić, who was on the losing side in each of his three sub appearances in the league and didn’t even last until January.

33. Marouane Chamakh (Loan from Arsenal, January 2013)

Managed one league start, in a game where West Ham failed to win at home to a QPR team that picked up 25 points all season.

Then moved to Crystal Palace, where he scored the only goal of the game in a win over West Ham. I’m glad he’s out of work.

32. Marco Borriello (Loan from Roma, January 2014)

Scored 12 Serie A goals the season before joining West Ham, and netted 16 for Cagliari last season. His West Ham stats? Two games. No goals. One shot. Bumped up for his 100% win ratio.

31. Nenê (Unattached, February 2015)

A great player in his day but was never going to benefit from joining a West Ham fan managed by dead man walking Sam Allardyce. Almost had one special moment against Crystal Palace, but didn’t.

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READ: A tribute to Nenê at PSG and his ‘right man, wrong time’ act at West Ham

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30. Pablo Barrera (£4m from Pumas UNAM, July 2010)

A good player who just failed to settle in London. More a winger than a striker, his final tally of *counts on fingers* zero goals still isn’t ideal. He looked alright in that 5-1 cup win over Burnley, but then again everyone did.

29. Nikica Jelavić (£3m from Hull City, September 2015) 

It’s a damning indictment of West Ham’s transfer business that there are more than a dozen players worse than the Croatian.

Scored a winner against Wolves in the cup but also led the line in a borderline unwatchable goalless draw with Swansea that must be in the bottom five Premier League matches of the century.

28. Martin Samuelsen (Free from Manchester City, July 2015)

Looked good in his first pre-season and on loan at Peterborough, but you get the sense it won’t work out for him in E20. Fully expect him to impress elsewhere in Europe and carve out a career that many will describe as ‘okay, I guess’.

27. Toni Martínez (Undisclosed from Valencia, July 2016)

If this was based on the opinions of dads on phone-ins, Martínez would be number one. Easy to forget he hasn’t actually played a minute for the club, and this relatively high ranking is based on a combination of outrageous under-23 goalscoring exploits, a few games at Oxford, and Dave on 606’s intuition.

26. Domingos Quina (Free from Chelsea, July 2016)

He’ll be good for someone, though maybe not for West Ham. Hindered by being the size of a tennis ball but scored a cracking goal from the halfway line (yay)…in an under-23s game (boo).

25. John Carew (Free from Aston Villa, August 2011)

One of five substitute strikers on a five-man bench in a defeat to Derby in 2011, which is remarkable in its own right. He did at least score a couple of goals in the Championship, but a player of his build and pedigree ought to have been capable of more at that level.

24. Robert Snodgrass (£10.2m from Hull City, January 2016)

Right, so technically he’s still at the club, but also he’s…well he’s not really done anything. Reserving some judgement in case he’s reinvented under David Moyes, but who am I kidding?

23. Sam Baldock (Undisclosed from MK Dons, August 2011)

Four goals in back-to-back home matches was a great start, but that’s as good as it got for a player who was never likely to stick around after promotion.

That said, he has stuck around at Brighton after their promotion, but injury has stood in the way of his top-flight debut. He’ll probably return to score the winner against West Ham, if Chamakh is anything to go by.

22. Modibo Maïga (£4.7m from Sochaux, July 2012) 

West Ham turning a profit on Modibo Maïga is a good example to use when justifying magicians never revealing their secrets. He was the biggish-money attacking recruit after promotion, and somehow stuck around for more than three years, even scoring under Slaven Bilić. No, really.

21. Simone Zaza (Loan from Juventus, August 2016)

Zaza is clearly a good footballer, as proven by 95% of what he’s done while not playing for West Ham. Sadly all we have to show for his time in England is a botched two-on-two and several failed bicycle kicks.

Attempting more bicycle kicks after failing so many times is enough to elevate him above strikers who actually did some goals. I’ve absolutely got my priorities right here, shut up.

20. Jonathan Calleri (Loan from Deportivo Maldonado, August 2016)

You’re standing in the middle of the goal, about eight yards out, with only Shay Given to beat. Do you sidefoot the ball home? Do you fuck. You try a rabona, hit it straight at Given, and head back to – yes, you guessed it – Deportivo Maldonado at the end of the season.

He did score in a win, though, and also produced one of the most depressing heatmaps ever.

19. Emmanuel Emenike (Loan from Fenerbahçe, January 2016)

You might think including a striker with no league goals ahead of 20 others implies West Ham haven’t got a clue about strikers. And you’d be right.

Still, his hold-up play in a huge 1-0 win over Spurs is worth at least one goal, which – fittingly, is the final tally Calleri achieved in four more league games.

18. Robbie Keane (Loan from Tottenham Hotspur, January 2011)

It wasn’t his fault that he walked into one of West Ham’s worst ever squads, or that he wasn’t very good at football, or that he barely contributed.

Scored twice, though, including in the win at Blackpool that gave some West Ham fans hope despite them knowing much better.

17. Nicky Maynard (Undisclosed from Bristol City, January 2012)

A good striker, who was on the losing side just once in his 17 games for West Ham. Not good enough for the Premier League, but we got our money back, so no harm done.

16. Ashley Fletcher (Free from Manchester United, July 2016)

He tried hard, okay.

15. Frédéric Piquionne (Undisclosed from Lyon, July 2010)

Stuck around until 2013, somehow. No, really.

Piquionne was actually pretty decent in his first season as a West Ham player, though that red card for celebrating what ended up not being a winning goal was pretty stupid. Somehow looked worse playing at a lower level in a more successful team.

14. Sofiane Feghouli (Free from Valencia, July 2016)

The winger took a long time to get going but ended up being a big part of enjoyable wins over Crystal Palace and Burnley. You might accuse me of recency bias here, but it’s not that: it’s just everyone else being absolute garbage for the most part.

13. Carlton Cole (Unattached, October 2013)

If we were dealing with Cole’s entire time at West Ham, he’d be much higher, but we’re sticking to Gold & Sullivan signings. That means looking only at his second spell, after being brought back on a free in October when no one wanted him and no other forward would join West Ham (well, except Mladen Petrić, but we’ve been over that).

His last goal for the club came in a vastly memorable 2-2 FA Cup draw with Everton, best known for Adrián’s winning penalty. Thanks for everything, Carlton.

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READ: Great Goals Revisited: Carlton Cole for West Ham v Wigan, 2009

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12. Ilan (Free from Saint-Étienne, February 2010)

Scored the goals to keep us up and then vanished forever, like an unnaturally square-headed wizard. Allegedly has three Brazil caps, which I find impossible to believe.

11. Javier Hernández (£16m from Bayer Leverkusen, July 2017) 

Chicharito is clearly one of the best finishers West Ham have had in the Premier League era, but I can’t really put him much higher just yet.

10. Enner Valencia (£12m from Pachuca, July 2014)

Valencia had some great moments, including a stunning debut goal against Hull and one of West Ham’s best ever non-Payet free-kicks against Bournemouth.

Am I biased from having been sat directly behind the Ecuadorian as he hit that dead ball at the Vitality Stadium? A resounding maybe.

9. André Ayew (£20.5m from Swansea City, August 2016) 

It’s taken a while, but Ayew is finally beginning to look like the player West Ham signed from Swansea for a club-record fee. Has a tidy knack for popping up with goals from close range, even if he did miss against Liverpool from basically on the goalline.

8. Mauro Zárate (Undisclosed from Velez Sarsfield, May 2014) 

Zárate did some brilliant things, from his debut volley at Palace to his winner against José Mourinho’s Chelsea, but the Argentine frankly didn’t score enough goals. Won a penalty for Watford against West Ham last season, because that’s how football narratives work.

7. Marko Arnautović (£24m from Stoke City, July 2017)

Edges out other recent recruits based on his shithousery away at former club Stoke, which I think you’ll agree is entirely fair.

6. Victor Obinna (Loan from Internazionale, August 2010)

Imagine having a player set up all four goals in a 4-0 win over Manchester United and then freeze him out while battling relegation that same season. Welcome to ‘West Ham United: The Sitcom’.

5. Diafra Sakho (£3.5m from Metz, August 2014) 

More good than bad, though the missed one-on-one that cost West Ham a place in last season’s Europa League group stage is something we could probably have done without.

4. Andy Carroll (Loan then £15m from Liverpool, August 2012)

The prospect of West Ham having a £35m striker sounds preposterous, before you realise (a) Carroll cost the club less than half as much as that and (b) no one has ever considered Andy Carroll a £35m striker apart from Kenny Dalglish.

If we turn a profit on him then maybe I can justify bumping him up to third.

3. Ricardo Vaz Tê (Undisclosed from Barnsley, January 2012)

Scorer of the promotion-winning goal, and that one against Spurs where he hit the ball straight at Hugo Lloris only to fall over and accidentally knock in the rebound while lying on the ground.

Still not sure which of the two was more enjoyable, and I can’t even say ‘the one that resulted in special club merchandise being released’ because we’re the kind of joke club that did that for both, somehow.

2. Michail Antonio (£6m from Nottingham Forest, September 2015)

Hey, it’s a Bilić signing who was actually good. See, they do exist. A legitimately good investment, as evidenced by goals against Man Utd in the last league game at Upton Park and against Bournemouth in the first at the London Stadium.

Oh, and a Vaz Tê-style goal scored while on the ground, in his case the winning ‘header’ against Southampton. If he knew how to keep the ball in the corner he’d be the complete winger-slash-forward.

1. Demba Ba (Undisclosed from Hoffenheim, January 2011)

Yes, my number one pick only played 12 league games for West Ham, but those 12 games saw him crowned the club’s top scorer for the whole season.

I know what you’re thinking, that’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard. Wrong. The new stupidest thing you’ve ever heard is West Ham including a clause in Ba’s contract allowing him to leave on a free if the club got relegated, only to have second thoughts and try (and fail) to give him a new deal in the second tier. Obviously he went on to score 29 league goals in 54 games for Newcastle.

Ba is the most eye-catching striker to play at West Ham this decade, and our failure to keep him on board for more than five months is, to use a technical term, dumb as hell.

By Tom Victor


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