Dan Coker's Match Preview

Blast from the past

Today’s blast from the past features a 3-0 victory at Upton Park against this weekend’s opponents, Crystal Palace; it arrived just over 16 years ago, on the 1st of October 2003 in front of 31,861 spectators. The Black Eyed Peas were number one with ‘Where Is The Love?’ and Calendar Girls topped the UK box office while, two evenings previously, Leslie Grantham’s character Den Watts returned to EastEnders, 14 years after he had been supposedly killed off.

The Eagles arrived in east London with former Hammer Michael Hughes in their starting eleven; Hayden Mullins and Darren Powell, who would both go on to represent the Hammers, also played for the visitors in this evening encounter under the lights at the Boleyn Ground. Jermain Defoe opened the scoring with his eighth strike of the season in the 19th minute – a poor backpass by Hughes let the 20-year-old striker in and he slotted into the net after dummying his way round goalkeeper Cedric Berthelin. Despite leaving the club for Tottenham in January 2004, Defoe finished the season as West Ham’s top scorer with 15 goals in 22 appearances in all competitions.

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Neil Mellor (pictured above with Defoe and Kevin Horlock) had an effort saved moments later before opening his Hammers account after 32 minutes. Robert Lee sprayed a pass out to Matthew Etherington on the left wing, and he hung up a cross for Mellor to head beyond Berthelin. Mellor, on loan from Liverpool, made it three when he converted Wayne Quinn’s low cross from the left on 56 minutes. These would prove to be Mellor’s only goals for the Irons in his 21 appearances between August 2003 and February 2004. The win was Trevor Brooking’s sixth victory in the eighth game of his second spell as caretaker manager. The defeat left Palace with just two points from seven matches and put further pressure on boss Steve Kember – he was eventually replaced by former Hammer Iain Dowie, who would oversee a remarkable upturn in form. The goals from this game can be viewed in my video below.

The Hammers ended the 2003/04 season in fourth place in the First Division while Crystal Palace ended up sneaking into the Play-Offs in sixth place, only due to a late Brian Deane goal for West Ham at Wigan ousting the Latics from the top six. The Irons would, of course, go on to lose 1-0 to the Eagles in the Play-Off Final in Cardiff. Norwich topped the division, Arsenal won the league title and Manchester United won the FA Cup. Etherington was voted Hammer of the Year, with Michael Carrick runner-up.

West Ham United: David James, Tomas Repka, Christian Dailly, Ian Pearce, Wayne Quinn (Matthew Kilgallon), Robert Lee (Anton Ferdinand), Kevin Horlock, Matthew Etherington, Neil Mellor (Niclas Alexandersson), David Connolly, Jermain Defoe.

Crystal Palace: Cedric Berthelin, Jamie Smith (Gary Borrowdale), Darren Powell (Curtis Fleming), Hayden Mullins, Danny Butterfield, Aki Riihilahti, Michael Hughes, Shaun Derry, Andy Johnson, Dougie Freedman, Neil Shipperley (Wayne Routledge).

Club Connections

West Ham United Academy product and 2012 Hammer of the Year runner-up James Tomkins could feature for Crystal Palace, as could fellow former Hammer Cheikhou Kouyate. A large group of players have turned out for the Hammers and the Eagles. Divided here by position, they include:

Goalkeepers: Perry Suckling, Steve Mautone, Vincent Blore.

Defenders: Eddie Presland, Kenny Brown, Matthew Upson, Malcolm Pyke, Alf Noakes, Bill Roberts, Neil Ruddock, Paul Brush, Danny Gabbidon, Jose Fonte, Chris Powell, Alan Stephenson, Tony Gale, Darren Powell.

Midfielders: Victor Moses, Jimmy Wood, Anton Otulakowski, Hayden Mullins, Derek Jackman, Carl Fletcher, Harry Gunning, Jobi McAnuff, Fred Norris, Trevor Dawkins, Kyel Reid, Ray Houghton, Michael Hughes.

Strikers: Joe Johnson, Ron Williams, Freddie Sears, Andy Smillie, Jeroen Boere, Johnny Cartwright, Johnny Byrne, Peter Simpson, Clive Allen, Dave Swindlehurst, Paul Kitson, Ron Brett, Dave Sexton, Marouane Chamakh, George Petchey.

Malcolm Allison and Jack Tresadern played for the Hammers and managed the Eagles, while Iain Dowie played for both clubs and also managed Palace. Alan Pardew played for the Eagles and managed both clubs. Sam Allardyce has also managed both clubs.

Today’s focus is on a former England international striker who enjoyed success with Crystal Palace before moving to West Ham United late in his career. Ian Wright was born on the 3rd November 1963 in Woolwich and began his professional career with Steve Coppell’s Crystal Palace, joining from Greenwich Borough at the age of 21 in the summer of 1985. He scored nine goals in 36 appearances in the Second Division of 1985/86 and scored the same amount of goals the following season. The arrival of Mark Bright from Leicester in 1986 led to a fruitful partnership and Wright scored 23 goals in 1987/88. It was largely the Wright and Bright double act which took Palace back to the top flight via the play-offs in 1989 – Wright was particularly instrumental that season, scoring 24 goals in the Second Division and 33 in all competitions as the Eagles swapped places with West Ham, John Lyall’s side being relegated at the end of 1988/89.

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13 goals followed in an injury-hit 1989/90 campaign but he made a dramatic appearance in the 1990 FA Cup Final against Manchester United, equalising for Palace a few minutes after coming onto the field to force extra time before later putting them ahead. The Red Devils levelled the game at 3-3, with the Eagles losing the replay 1-0. Wright scored 25 goals in 52 appearances in 1990/91 as the club finished in their highest-ever league position of third place in the top flight; he also scored twice as Palace beat Everton to win the Full Members Cup at Wembley. Wright scored 117 goals in 277 appearances during just over six seasons for Crystal Palace in all competitions, making him the club’s record post-war goalscorer and third on the all-time list. In 2005, he was voted into the Eagles’ Centenary XI and was named as their Player of The Century. He moved to George Graham’s Arsenal for a club record £2.5m in September 1991, winning the Golden Boot in his first season – he scored 29 league goals in 1991/92, five of which had been scored for Palace, and 31 in all competitions. He had made his England debut in February 1991 while still at Selhurst Park but, despite his goalscoring exploits, was left out of England’s Euro ’92 squad by Graham Taylor.

Wright went on to be Arsenal’s top scorer for six consecutive seasons, playing a major part in the club’s success during the 1990s, winning an FA Cup and League Cup double in 1993 and scoring in both the FA Cup Final and replay against Sheffield Wednesday. He also helped Arsenal reach the 1993/94 Cup Winners’ Cup Final, although he was suspended for the Final in which Arsenal beat Parma 1–0. He scored five goals in England’s qualification campaign for the 1994 World Cup, the first a key equaliser in a 1-1 draw in Poland and four in a 7-1 victory in San Marino, but the Three Lions failed to qualify for the tournament. Wright also made one start and three substitute appearances in Terry Venables’ first five games as England manager but thereafter never played under Venables again.

Wright scored a total of 185 goals for Arsenal before moving to the Hammers in July 1998 at the age of 34 for £500,000 and scored the winner on his debut in a 1-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday on 15th August 1998. He followed that up with two goals on his home debut but the Irons threw away a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 to Wimbledon. He scored the winner in a 1-0 home win over Southampton, a goal made famous for its celebration as Wright and Neil Ruddock parodied Paolo Di Canio’s push on referee Paul Alcock – Di Canio was to join them as a team-mate four months later! A brace followed in a 3-0 Hallowe’en win at Newcastle and Wright closed 1998 with a goal in a 2-0 home win over Coventry. Injury kept Wright on the sidelines for three months at the start of 1999 but he scored as a substitute in his second game back, a 5-1 triumph over Derby on 17th April, before scoring the opener a week later in a fine 2-1 win at Tottenham. Wright was sent off the following week in a 5-1 home defeat to Leeds and vandalised the referee’s room on his way to an early bath – the Hammers finished with eight men as Shaka Hislop and Steve Lomas were also dismissed by Rob Harris.

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Wright also won his final two England caps while playing for West Ham, in a Euro 2000 qualifier in Luxembourg and a home friendly against the Czech Republic. He won 33 caps for England, scoring nine goals – only Mick Channon has played more times for England without being taken to a major tournament. Wright’s final appearance for the Hammers came as a substitute in the 1-0 InterToto Cup third round first leg win over Jokerit of Finland at Upton Park on 17th July 1999. He scored nine goals in 26 appearances for West Ham United – all nine of these goals can be viewed on the West Ham Till I Die social media pages.

Wright went on to have a loan spell with Nottingham Forest before departing the Hammers permanently for Celtic and ending his career at Burnley. He was awarded an MBE in 2000. Now 55, he has since been Director of Football at Ashford Town and first-team coach at MK Dons. He is now a regular pundit on Match of the Day and ITV’s coverage of England internationals.


The referee on Saturday will be Michael Oliver. Oliver has refereed 19 of our matches, officiating in five wins for the Hammers, five draws and nine defeats.

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Oliver most recently refereed the Irons in our 1-1 draw at Leicester last October, when he sent off Mark Noble. His only previous red card issued to a West Ham player came six seasons ago, when he sent off Kevin Nolan in our 4-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in December 2013. Oliver also refereed our 3-1 home win over Manchester United last season.

Possible line-ups

West Ham United are without Lukasz Fabianski, Winston Reid and Michail Antonio. Roberto is in line to make his home debut for the Hammers. West Ham are unbeaten in their last eight Premier League matches against Crystal Palace, winning four and drawing four.

Crystal Palace will be without the suspended Luka Milivojevic, while Mamadou Sakho is a doubt.

Possible West Ham United XI: Roberto; Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice; Yarmolenko, Noble, Fornals, Anderson; Haller.

Possible Crystal Palace XI: Guaita; Ward, Cahill, Sakho, van Aanholt; Zaha, McArthur, Kouyate, McCarthy, Schlupp; Ayew.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!