Can West Ham aid England at Euro 2016 half a century after World Cup win?
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | March 6, 2016
Ask any West Ham United fan and, young or old, they know the legends of their club.
Hammers history lesson
You’ll probably hear how the Hammers ‘won the World Cup’ on home soil for England back in 1966. For the record, there were just three players selected for the tournament by Alf Ramsey schooled in the ‘West Ham way’.
Nobody doubts the defensive colossus that was World Cup winning captain and Three Lions centurion Bobby Moore, nor 1966 final hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst.
The latter and fellow scorer Martin Peters, unlike club and country skipper Moore, however, were far from established internationals when they aided England en route to that global triumph 50 years ago.
Hurst had just four caps to his name before the tournament began aged 24, while then 22-year-old winger Peters was on three. In the months leading up to the World Cup, Ramsey gambled on their precocious talent, handing both international bows, and it paid off.
The Hammers attackers were thus fringe players who – given backing their boss – sprang from out the shadows cast by Roger Hunt, Jimmy Greaves and Bobby Charlton to deliver on the biggest stage in football.
Back to their best under Bilic
Fast forward half a century to the present, and West Ham are flying high in former defender Slaven Bilic’s debut season as manager.
Sitting on 49 points in the Premier League with nine games to go, there is every chance European football will accompany the Hammers’ move from Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium.
While Coral quote odds of 7/1 for West Ham to crash the Champions League spots, there is plenty to suggest a top six finish is on the cards at 5/4.
Because the Hammers are in and around the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United, as well as recently beating Tottenham, there is an argument their English contingent should be recognised with Euro 2016 fast approaching.
For once, this clamour is not merely Barking mad West Ham supporters beating their own drum either.
Perverse that Payet and other could miss finals
Although the likely recipient of the Hammer of the Year award for best player at the club in a season is Dimitri Payet, he has helped to raise the game of those around him, providing an inspirational X-factor perhaps not seen at Upton Park since the days of Paolo Di Canio.
Could the ironic twist be that West Ham’s overachieving contingent will all miss the boat when it comes to the Euros?
Payet is out of favour with France national coach Didier Deschamps because he was bold enough to speak out and question why he hasn’t been called up off the back of his Hammers form.
To think that former Newcastle United and Hull City flop Hatem Ben Arfa is ahead of a proven Premier League performer like Payet in Les Bleus’ pecking order is absurd.
Surely Roy Hodgson will not be so narrow-minded and at least have a look at what West Ham’s latest homegrown talent can do? He’s name-checked Hammers heartbeat Mark Noble at a time when the makeup of the England engine room is far from certain.
Will Noble deeds have their own reward?
Noble loves a nibble and fellow tempted tackler Jack Wilshere has a woeful fitness record. Fabian Delph ditching Aston Villa for ambition and Manchester City, meanwhile, has been an injury-plagued disaster.
While the emergence of Spurs duo Dele Alli and Eric Dier is certainly helpful to the Three Lions’ cause, defensively-minded midfielders remain an integral part of football.
James Milner’s versatility, reliability and graft means he is a lock to go to Euro 2016 but, with Manchester United anchorman and West Ham academy graduate Michael Carrick now a veteran at 34, options do not abound for Hodgson.
Great adverts for the holding role like Gennaro Gattuso, Claude Makelele, Diego Simeone and Nobby Stiles – to hark back to 1966 – do not possess great technique among their attributes.
Common traits are tenacity, ferociousness in the tackle, getting away with fouls, and the ability to read play so that gaps can be plugged and fires extinguished. Just because a player finds finesse difficult to pull off, that doesn’t make them dirty.
Those above qualities are things Noble has in spades. Is he a fashionable footballer? No, but neither was ex-Hammers engine room cohort Scott Parker, yet he belatedly received recognition, earning 15 of his 18 England caps between 2011 and 2013.
Looking at the betting on who will make Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad doesn’t make good reading for Noble at an outside price of 33/1, though, or any West Ham player for that matter.
Homegrown heroes only part of blend
Much of the Hammers’ high-profile recruitment has been from abroad in recent years. Homegrown stalwart Noble apart, you can go through the spine of their first-team squad and it is mainly foreign players.
Starting with Spanish stopper Adrian in goal, centre backs Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna are alternatives to British duo James Collins and James Tomkins. In midfield, Alex Song, Pedro Obiang and Cheikhou Kouyate join Noble as deep-lying options.
Further forward, Manuel Lanzini and Payet are charged with supporting strikers Emmanuel Emenike, Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia. Down the flanks, however, it is a different story.
Including the Greater London-raised Victor Moses (on loan from Chelsea), there are adventurous full backs and flying wingers in the shape of Aaron Cresswell, winter window arrival Sam Byram and summer capture Michail Antonio.
Cresswell holds considerable claims
Left back and 2015 Hammer of the Year Cresswell still looks a snip at the £4m paid to Ipswich Town in 2014, and is knocking on the door for England after two highly consistent Premier League seasons.
This is reflected in the Three Lions Euros squad betting as Cresswell is rated a 16/1 shot, and realistically the most likely West Ham player, to grace the France finals.
Both Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw have had injury-hit seasons, while Kieran Gibbs has been behind Nacho Monreal at Arsenal for much of the campaign.
Tottenham’s Danny Rose is uncapped, while Ryan Bertrand and Southampton have impressed less in Ronald Koeman’s second season in charge. There is much for Hodgson to consider here with nothing nailed down definitively.
Euro 2016 will come around too soon for former Leeds United prospect Byram, who can play wing back and on the flank down the right. England’s options rather pick themselves here in Nathaniel Clyne and Kyle Walker.
Antonio follows suit in stepping up
Wide attacker Antonio, meanwhile, has similarly stepped up from Championship to top-flight football relatively seamlessly.
In helping the Hammers come from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Everton, he scored for a third successive Premier League game, and is averaging a goal once every three matches.
Natural width is presently a problem for Hodgson, with Andros Townsend doing nothing to justify a place in France since switching from Spurs to Newcastle United.
Plenty will thus be pinned on Raheem Sterling, though Milner and Adam Lallana will do an admirable job out wide. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain faces a race to be fit for the Euros, with Theo Walcott also expected to be included.
Should this late season surge of goals from Antonio continue, however, a 20/1 price to be in the England squad is worth a cheeky punt. Jamaica have a claim on the player, but he can certainly do better when it comes to international football if he continues in this vein.
Case for Carroll unconvincing
West Ham target man Andy Carroll is an eyebrow-raising 10/1 to make Euro 2016, but that price looks ridiculously short given that he has missed 10 Premier League games this term.
Staying fit is a problem for Carroll, yet there is undoubted quality in him. Hodgson showed no hesitation in taking him to the last Euros shortly after succeeding Fabio Capello as Three Lions boss.
England would have to be very short of strikers indeed for Carroll to conceivably make the roster for this European Championship. Six or seven names spring to mind as being ahead of him in the pecking order.
Yet Carroll has attributes you won’t find in Danny Welbeck, Walcott, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and even Jermain Defoe, who is in double figures for struggling Sunderland.
None of these strikers possess Carroll’s strength in the air, physical presence and holdup ability.
Will West Ham way have part to play?
Route one is not the way Hodgson has the Three Lions playing; however, it’s not an option if he doesn’t take someone like the West Ham centre forward or uncapped Crystal Palace counterpart Connor Wickham.
To look at the England manager, you do not see a gambler. Hodgson is a conservative coach, yet circumstances in one or two areas may force his hand and the roll the dice as predecessor Ramsey did all those years ago with West Ham players.
Cresswell and Noble press their claims as a result, but heroic Hammers have been ignored heretofore. Only Stewart Downing, before returning home to Middlesbrough, has received the call from Hodgson while with West Ham during Euro 2016 qualifying.
It is in hope rather than expectation, then, that everyone in east London looks to see if the spirit of ’66 shall be invoked again a half-century on.
For more Euro 2016 features and tips, check out Coral’s dedicated page.