The other Paolo: A look back at Paolo Wanchope
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 13 October 2020 at 8:53pm
Written by: @DennisWatling
Much is made, and rightly so, of the exploits and achievements of Paulo Di Canio, but his one season partner, Mr Wanchope, receives minimal fanfare despite boasting an almost as impressive tally as Di Canio in his first season – 15 in all competitions. A true wildcard, the athletic, pacey, yet wholly erratic forward would have struggled to fit into the modern game from a tactical perspective. Yet, the man managed 50 Premier League goals for three clubs and that is nothing to be sneezed at.
Signed from Derby County in Summer of 1999 using the bulk of the money from the sale of Eyal Berkovic to Celtic, Wanchope was a known commodity upon his arrival. He arrived with a level of acrimony having claimed there was disconnect at Pride Park. ‘I wasn’t looking to move from Derby but things changed and I am here now. It hurt me to be accused of being a disruptive in influence. It is horrible. But I know what I did for that club, so I feel OK.’ He said upon signing for the Hammers. Despite his acrimonious departure, he is fondly remembered by Derby fans to this day for his sensational debut goal against Manchester United. His frequently flamboyant performances against much bigger teams led to Des Lynham joking Match of the Day should be renamed “Wanchope of the day” such as performing keepyuppys mid match against champions elect Arsenal. West Ham were in Europe after finishing 5th in 98/99 and it was a no brainer to bring in some more flair players to replace the influential Berkovic.
He proved to be a good purchase off the bat, his first goal being a vital away goal against SC Heerenveen in the intertoto cup after a great one handed save from Hans Vonk, and his first league goal was a classic toe poke to connect with a wayward Lampard shot, both from about 7 yards out. As the season progressed, he linked up very well with Di Canio, assisting for one another on various occasions as the pair notched 31 league goals between them in the 1999-2000 season, With this being Di Canio’s most prolific season, it seemed Wanchope’s unpredictable play brought out the best in him. The most notable example being a late winnerat home to Newcastle in April. Under the floodlights, the game looked destined to end in a draw. Di Canio picked up the ball on the right hand touchline, nothing looked on, yet he chipped a ball up with the outside of his boot for Wanchope to take down, Cruyff turn away from a spaghetti legged Warren Barton to bury the ball past a hapless Steve Harper. Aside from the retro 90’s name drops, it was a sensational bit of play in the peak Redknapp days.
In typical West Ham fashion, the partnership of the Paolo’s was broken up and Wanchope was sold to pre oil money Man City for a very minor profit of roughly £180,000 (proving we have always been bad at selling players). The player dismissed reports that he was homesick, citing his two years with Derby, but more a struggled to settle in the Capitol.“London is nice to visit, but I wasn’t sure about it as a place to live”. What was also the same is after being sold, the former Hammer scored a hattrick on his debut for his new club. He went on to play for City for 4 years and proved a popular figure famous for his extravagant celebrations, including roaring into a microphone after netting the winner against Southampton in 03/04. His later years were spent club hopping in Spain, Qatar, Japan, and USA on short term deals before retiring in 2008. He also scored goals against Brazil and Germany at the next two world cups, and all round had a solid career.