We take a look at the five West Ham players who stood out this season.
In a year when almost half the top flight’s teams have at least tickled the precipice of relegation, Sam Allardyce’s side has steadily got on with business, finishing a respectable tenth.
While most of the headlines centred around Andy Carroll, West Ham’s success has been built on collective effort, on players who may not get the acknowledgement outside of their club, but who serve it with gusto.
Here we take a look at five such players.
The New Zealand international took time to secure a starting place following his move from Danish side FC Midtjylland in 2010, and yet he is now an integral part of the West Ham team. His efforts this season were recognised when he was named the club’s Player of the Year earlier this month, efforts that also prompted a new contract that will see him remain at Upton Park until at least the summer of 2015.
Missing only two games all season, Reid has been a vital component at the heart of the Hammers’ defence, during which time he has been crowned man-of-the-match on three occasions and scored a single goal, in a 3-0 win over Fulham. At just 24, Reid has a very bright future in the game, and his developing partnership with fellow centre-back James Collins should get even stronger in the seasons to come.
Diame’s career in England has gone very much unnoticed by neutrals. Having played over 100 games for Wigan, he moved to Upton Park last summer on a free transfer, and his form since has been incredible. The defensive midfielder was linked with a January move that never materialised, and how grateful Allardyce must be for that.
Still only 25, the Senegalese international has outstanding tackling ability and drive, and he can hit a mean shot, too, as his strike in the 2-2 draw with Manchester United proved.
There will be interest again this summer. But it is imperative for the Hammers he remains where he is. Around players such as he, teams are built.
Yes he scored a last-day hat-trick, but he would have made this list regardless. Nolan is an Allardyce player through-and-through, a player who has grown up alongside the manager, and continues to do his bidding on the pitch.
Now 30, Nolan is as incisive in front of goal as he has ever been. But he is more than a goal-getter, his concentration and experience have proved vital yet again.
With 10 goals and two assists in 35 games this campaign, Nolan has a better return than some side’s main striker. You also sense he will make lists like this for as long as he is playing the game.
Having played so little football prior to last season, the rebirth of Joey O’Brien deserves an article all of its own. But consider this a precursor…because the 27-year-old fullback has been a dependable almost-ever-present this campaign.
Able to play in multiple positions, O’Brien will never garner headlines or warrant media praise. But every club needs a player like him if they are to get through a treacherous season. That he is now covering for other injured players – having suffered so much himself – means he will play every game with the determination lacking in those who have never known what life is like without it.
The third ex-Bolton player on this list, Jaaskelainen is arguably the greatest Premier League goalkeeper never to play for a “big club”, choosing instead to play for Big Sam. The 38-year-old Finn is very much in the twilight of his career, but his form has remained consistent during an ever-present campaign.
The Hammers have the second-best home defensive record outside the top seven, and the fourth best away from home. Much of that is down to the experience and agility of their ‘keeper.
Being pipped by Reid for the club’s Player of the Year award should not detract from another great season. The only question is how long he can keep going.
Do you agree with our choices? And if not, who deserves their place on this list...and who doesn't?
image: © Ben Sutherland