Fathers and Sons at West Ham
Our latest guest post sees us welcome Tom Victor. Tom is the Major League Soccer Correspondent for Footy Matters and you can read a selection of his missives here. He’s also a proud Hammer and here brings his attention to the extraordinary development of family tradition at that storied east London club. You can follow Tom on twitter here.
Plenty of things have happened over the last few months which have made me feel old.
My little sister started her first term at university, patriotic manchild Jack Wilshere spawned a future World War III infantry soldier, and the newborn baby commemorated in Bebeto’s iconic 1994 celebration signed his first contract with his father’s former club Flamengo.
Thankfully I have at least been prepared for the last of these eventualities by my travails as a West Ham United supporter.
A mere 14 months after Bebeto’s ‘rocking the baby’ celebration debuted against The Netherlands (and about six months after it stopped being funny to replicate it in school playgrounds) I went to my first game at Upton Park to watch Harry Redknapp’s Irons play Everton.
The match was notable for a match-winning penalty from Julian Dicks – his second of the afternoon – and a full Premier League debut for an exciting if erratic young winger by the name of Stan Lazaridis.
At centre-back for the home side that day was Steve Potts, a Connecticut-born defender who would ultimately rack up more than 500 appearances in claret and blue.
I have not been able to make it across London much this season, but the last game I went to – at home to Barnsley in December – saw Potts’ young son Dan, born just months before Bebeto’s son Matheus, thrust into the first team for his debut after Abdoulaye Faye was injured in the warm-up.
Potts the younger was playing just five years after a leukaemia diagnosis threatened his life, and barely 18 months after an all-clear from doctors allowed him to focus on his fledgling career, and the post-match suggestions that his performances warranted the man of the match award ahead of actual recipient Kevin Nolan were anything but sentimental.
He acquitted himself brilliantly given the circumstances of the debut, helping keep out a front-line which had scored seven in its previous two games, despite slotting into a back four completed by James Tomkins, 5’8” makeshift centre-back George McCartney and attacking midfielder Henri Lansbury, who cannot have expected to slot in at right back when he joined on loan from Arsenal in August.
Indeed, such was the 17-year-old’s prowess and assuredness both defensively and going forward that groans (if not outright boos) were evident when the sponsors deemed club captain Nolan more deserving of the plaudits..
Celebrating the sons of former players is nothing new in E13, although those in question often have to earn the fans’ acceptance rather than being able to take it for granted (see exhibit A – F. Lampard Jr.).
Potts is the second of the current crop to to make his professional debut, with Olly Lee – son of former Hammer Rob – impressing on loan at Dagenham and Redbridge. An active midfielder like his father, the 20-year-old scored his first Daggers goal in September and will look to build on a handful of appearances on the West Ham bench.
Elsewhere in League Two you can find the heir to the man who proceeded former Newcastle midfielder Lee in the West Ham first team. George Moncur’s father John is another veteran of Redknapp’s overperforming mid-90s squad and the 18-year-old has built on a strong few years in the reserves and youth team by making his professional recently.
Of course there are also those who slipped through the net. Alvin Martin spent enough time at West Ham to earn two testimonials but his sons Dave and Joe both found their way to rival (at the time) Premier League clubs before settling down in the Football League, while Gianfranco Zola’s son Andrea enjoyed a brief spell with the reserves during his father’s tenure as manager but has since been released.
With the continuing conveyor-belt of talent being produced by the hyperbolically christened ‘Academy of Football’, it is surely only a matter of time before another familiar name appears on the books.
As for now, Potts looks to be the best of the bunch, despite the teenager coming back down to earth a little during his unexpected run of games.
Indeed given USA manager Jürgen Klinsmann’s ongoing campaign of repatriation it is perhaps only a matter of time before he is invited to turn out for the Stars and Stripes at international level.
From a fan’s point of view, however, it is always refreshing to see a constant stream of talent to provide memories of happier times while we wait in hope that an ‘un-West Ham’ style of football is vindicated by an instant return to the top flight.