Graham Keeffe > In a normal season, the selection of one to two players for the prestigious Hammer of the Year (HotY) award is done with relative ease. In recent years, the likes of Declan Rice and Lukasz Fabianski being included on the shortlist has been somewhat of a foregone conclusion. Both of these players have been consistent performers for West Ham, sometimes even match-winning or point-saving. The efforts of their teammates however, have not always been up to scratch. This year however, something has changed. While there are still brilliant individual performances from certain players, these are now complemented by the collective effort of the entire starting eleven and even subs bench. For the purposes of this article, a quick synopsis of four potential nominees will be given. It should be noted that there may well in fact be double that amount on the actual list. However, due to time constraints and word count, these select few have been chosen.
- Tomáš Souček
Since the start of December, Souček has contributed seven league goals from the middle of park, the best return of any midfielder in the Premier League. Standing at an imposing 6 foot 2”, the Czech international has played a pivotal role in attack and defence. Possessing both aerial and positional prowess, Souček has been nothing short of a revelation since his move from Slavia Prague in January 2020. His work rate has been unprecedented, as he covers a staggering 12.2km per match, relentlessly chasing opposition players and closing down the space. Fuelled by an affinity for potato salad, there is no doubt that the 26 year-old has established himself as a fan favourite with his consistent performances at both ends of the pitch. He is a worthy contender for HotY.
- Craig Dawson
Perhaps a name that few expected to be so necessary in the team sheet, the on-loan Watford man has become an integral figure at the back for West Ham. A no-nonsense old-school defender, Dawson never shies away from a challenge and appears to revel in the physicality of the modern game. With his 12 appearances so far this season, his presence at the back has resulted in 8 wins and just 2 losses. His 28 successful long balls from the back to date have also helped bring a different dynamism to the Hammers attack as we look to catch teams sleeping on the break with the release of the wide men.
Much like Souček, Dawson has also proven himself to be an aerial weapon. Against Leeds on Monday night, he took his tally of league goals to 3 with another strong header from another well worked set-piece. He almost made it a second on the night but was denied by the woodwork. Dawson is a strong contender for HotY and even if he does not win, there is no doubt that both fans and Moyes will be looking to make his transfer permanent.
- Aaron Cresswell
In contrast to last season, the form of Aaron Cresswell is almost unrecognisable. Demonstrating his flexibility and willingness to adapt to the manager’s philosophy, he has performed consistently in recent months at both left back and centre back. Taking part in all 27 league games to date, the Englishman has become an indispensable component of Moyes’s back line, irrespective of formation choices. As well as contributing to the keeping of 10 clean sheets, he has also provided more assists (7) than any other defender in the league.
His reinvigorated form has been a joy to watch for Hammers fans and with the Euros just around the corner, it could not have happened at a better time for the Merseyside-born defender. With the versatility of playing both out on the left and in the centre of defence, Cresswell has certainly given Gareth Southgate to think about when selecting his England squad. From a West Ham perspective, fans will hope he continues to demonstrate his capabilities at both ends of the pitch as the potential of European football creeps ever closer. With his efforts so far this season, Aaron Cresswell is very much in the running for HotY.
- Michail Antonio
From right back, to right mid, to striker. Michail Antonio’s rise to leading West Ham’s front line has been nothing short of unorthodox. Since his conversion however, he certainly hasn’t looked back and is currently having one of his best seasons to date. While fans will be all too aware of his poor injury record, Moyes has to be credited for managing the player’s minutes successfully. The loan addition of Lingard and general form of the attacking players has also lifted some of the pressure on Antonio to play the full 90 minutes week in week out. From 18 appearances, he has notched 7 goals and contributed 3 assists. Even in games where he hasn’t directly contributed, he’s looked dangerous having struck the woodwork 4 times and missing 6 “big chances”.
As well as his goal contributions, Antonio brings an almost unwavering energy to run the channels and pressure defenders when called upon. It is also well-documented that he is an important, charismatic figure off the pitch. With his jovial demeanour and affinity for the occasional dance move during an interview, he’s certainly a figure capable of lifting dressing room spirits. As he lies just 4 short of Paulo DiCanio’s club record of 47 Premier League goals, not only is he worthy of a HotY nomination, but also a place in club history as one of West Ham’s best strikers.