The true best signing of West Ham's best ever Premier League season

West Ham Dugout

West Ham United's official award for signing of the season may have already been handed out but this is the true signing which defined their campaign.

The Hammers have impressed fans and pundits alike by mounting a serious challenge for the Champions League places this season.

As well as taking a number of notable scalps home and away, including a historic treble over Liverpool, Slaven Bilic has reinvigorated the East Londoners and with stars such as Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini, the Hammers are playing the 'West Ham way' once more.

The Irons have officially enjoyed their best ever season in the Premier League era and have a positive goal difference for the first time since 1986.

Bilic also masterminded a fitting and thrilling 3-2 comeback win over Manchester United in the last ever game at Upton Park.

And the club could yet qualify for the Europa League should the Red Devils beat Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Payet's prize

Mercurial French star Payet was understandably awarded the signing of the season at West Ham after 12 goals and as many assists since his move from Marseille.

That was despite missing nearly three months through injury too.

While it is difficult to argue with Payet as the obvious choice there was another signing which went under the radar somewhat but proved to be just as crucial to the side's success.

Shadow of the Beast

Michail Antonio cost the club £7 million from Nottingham Forest last year and he could not have had a more contrasting start to his West Ham career than Payet.

A brief cameo for the final few minutes of a 2-1 away win at Manchester City was the only look-in Antonio got before injuries ravaged the Hammers first team in November.

Antonio was not even making the squad at one stage and Hammers co-owner David Gold had to apologise after retweeting an appeal to help find a  "missing" Hammers fan which was in fact Antonio, as reported by the likes of BBC Sport.

Gold thought he was doing a good deed, but instead was found guilty of not recognising one of his own players.

That incident summed Antonio's Hammers career up at that stage.

Once he got in the side in November, though, there was no looking back.

The Beast, as he is affectionately known by the club's fans, re-energised West Ham just when they were on the ropes missing the likes of Payet, Lanzini, Diafra Sakho, Winston Reid and Enner Valencia.

His strength, determination, pace, power, skill and first class attitude rubbed off on his teammates and his performances were so good, and so consistent, that he ended up running Payet close for the prestigious Hammer of the Year award.

A true grafter

A true grafter in every sense, Antonio ended the season with 15 goals and assists - despite only beginning his West Ham career halfway through the season.

And the versatile powerhouse was also deployed as a makeshift right back for much of that time, not that you would know it as he still got forward at every opportunity to help out the attack.

He was also the club's biggest aerial threat throughout the season too with a number of crucial headed goals.

The most notable of those came against bitter rivals Tottengham Hotspur in a 1-0 win that derailed Spurs' title hopes and in a 3-2 victory over Manchester United in the last ever game at Upton Park.

While Payet was brilliant and elevated West Ham to another level, he did blow hot and cold throughout the season as that kind of player often does.

But Antonio was solid, consistent and exceptional and did it all with a huge smile on his face. Who can forget those memorable celebrations for his children?

Michail Antonio was West Ham's true signing of the season.

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