Fans' Opinion

Candidates for Hammer of the Year

Author: . Published: at 9:33pm

Written by : Corey Kemp

It’s that time of the season where West Ham fans mull over who they think has been the best player for the club over the season. After West Ham’s decisive win over Watford, most can breathe a collective sigh of relief and evaluate who they think deserves the esteemed accolade.

The clear frontrunner for myself and many others is Declan Rice. He has matured into a well-rounded centre midfielder over the last season and his emerging partnership with Tomas Soucek has shown that he can contribute further up the pitch.

From a technical standpoint, his range and accuracy of forward passes illustrates how talented an individual he is but also his attitude to mature into the midfield position. Against Bournemouth and Crystal Palace, pinpoint cross field passes and drilled short passes into the forwards were pivotal. In general, his ability to keep the ball and spread the play enables West Ham to mobilise in attack and pull the opposition out of shape.

Defensively, there are few better than Declan Rice. His anticipation of opposition attacks and his ability to read the game have saved West Ham on many occasion and his decisiveness in finding his teammates with the resulting pass show that he is as important as in defence as he is in attack.

There is a lot of speculation regarding whether he’ll be a Hammer next season but the consistent improvement and his first-class attitude, despite West Ham’s disappointing session, has me hopeful we can enjoy his talent for another season.

Late to the party and always the loudest, Michail Antonio’s goals since Project Restart have made him an outsider runner for Hammer of the Year. It is strange to think that Antonio was considered as surplus to requirements two seasons ago but is now more integral than ever to West Ham’s success in the league.

I have been impressed with his adaptability position-wise in supporting the team. Under Manuel Pellegrini, he formed a tremendous strike partnership with Sebastian Haller that saw West Ham, albeit temporarily, halt their slide into the relegation places. Under David Moyes, he has operated as a hold-up striker, winger and traditional number 9, where he has been successful wherever he has played.

It is the latter position change that has seen him contribute to West Ham’s survival. He has found himself in goalscoring opportunities over the last five games and has rewarded Moyes’ faith in him by taking those chances. Is he the best natural finisher at the Club? Not for me. However, if we have learnt anything about Michail Antonio since 2015, is that he can rise to the occasion and perhaps he will do so as a prolific goalscorer next season.

Last but not least is Angelo Ogbonna. The Italian has been nearly faultless in his defensive performances this season. He, like Michail Antonio, was written off by most West Ham fans last season due to a lapse in form but has been instrumental in West Ham surviving the drop.

Angelo Ogbonna doesn’t only offer strength and aggressiveness in defence but his leadership qualities and organisational skills have prevented West Ham from falling foul to poor defensive awareness from Issa Diop, Aaron Cresswell and Ryan Fredericks. Since Ogbonna returned for the Chelsea game, the back-four has once again looked more organised and resolute.

So who deserves to be Hammer of the Year? For me, Declan Rice has been the most consistent player in the squad over the course of the season. He has developed technically and continues to offer contributions to both West Ham’s attack and defence and in most cases is the key point of transition between the two.

However, it is difficult to overlook the contribution from both Michail Antonio and Angelo Ogbonna. Without their performances, in the games they have played in and particularly since Project Restart, they have been fundamental to securing safety. In addition to this, they have shown the grit and desire that West Ham fans want to see from their team.

Without meaning to sit on the fence, I would be happy with any of these players winning the award. It isn’t just their performances that have been impressive this season but their attitude and commitment to the Club has been fantastic and any of them would be a worthy winner!