A West Ham and Tottenham Combined XI
Combined XIs are all the rage these days. You can’t thumb open a newspaper or trundle down a corridor of your favourite sportsball website, without being presented with some controversial assemblage of two rival side’s best and brightest.
Never one to miss a bandwagon before it hurtles off a cliff, then— here’s a jolly little amalgamation of West Ham and Spurs players from the Premier League era. Enjoy!
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris
As much as Luděk Mikloško, Shaka Hislop, David James and Bernard Lama might all like to throw their varied and colourful hats into the ring— Lama almost certainly wears a fedora— there can only be one candidate. The genuinely bloody excellent, Hugo Lloris. While West Ham’s singular Frenchman might’ve sported a first-rate ponytail in his short time in the Premier League, Lloris is the only one to be considered a true master of his craft.
Right-back: Kyle Walker
Glen Johnson had an eye-catching breakthrough season at Upton Park, back in 2002/3, but ultimately was part of a side that got relegated— so it’d be difficult to push him ahead of the Spurs defender. Although still capable of momentary, calamitous brain flubs, Walker has emerged as one the League’s finest right-backs.
Left-back: Julian Dicks
Danny Rose is probably a more, shall we say, well-adjusted left-back— a truly modern interpretation of the role— but never underestimate the value of having a player who can tw*t the living sh*t out of the ball from twelve yards. Four-time Hammer of the Year suggests he wasn’t all just blood and nails, either.
Centre-back: Rio Ferdinand
You’ve all seen the footage of a 19-year-old Rio Ferdinand, feinting and pirouetting his way through a giddy cluster of Newcastle players. Warren Barton, David Batty and Rob Lee, all international footballers; all unable to dispossess the cultured young Hammers defender. Ferdinand ended up at Man United where he won, well, everything.
Centre-back: Ledley King
A close-run thing with Toby Alderweireld, and, possibly, Slaven Bilić. But King just edges it. One of the most naturally gifted English defenders of his generation. If it weren’t for a knee made of chewing gum and bits of Lego, would’ve likely said farewell to Spurs in his mid-twenties and won multiple honours elsewhere. Admitted recently that he was often asked to play at 70% fitness. But was still 70% better than that guy at the club you like. Here he is tackling Arjen Robben.
Centre-midfield: Luka Modrić
Well, I hope the Croatian maestro is feeling fit, because he’s the only even remotely defensive-minded player in the entire front six. The advantage of having Modrić, of course, is that he never gives the ball away. Perhaps my favourite Spurs player of the modern era. Left for Real Madrid in 2012 and won two Champions Leagues. Bit of a pattern developing here.
Right-midfield: Gareth Bale
2012-13 will be forever known as the season in which Tottenham gave up on traditional tactics, and decided they’d be better off just giving the ball to Gareth Bale and seeing what would happened. What usually happened was that the Welshman ran really fast and smashed it in the top corner. And yep, you guess it, Bale left for Real Madrid in 2013 and won two Champions Leagues.
Left-midfield: Rafael Van der Vaart
Only managed two seasons at Tottenham, before injuries, a more energy-focused coach, and an ever-inflating waistline caught up with him. But my what fun they were. One of the spearheads of the North London club’s rip-roaring adventure into the Champions League knockouts in 2011. Will always be mentioned in Spurs folklore for the time he nutmegged Jack Wilshere. Twice. In the space of a few seconds. A glorious player to watch.
Attacking-midfield: Dimitri Payet
West Ham’s most talented recent player by a thousand miles. Took his irrepressible form from the 2015/16 season into the Euros where he became the host’s unlikely talisman. A free-kick wizard, despite not being too arsed about practicing them— with quicker feet than Sammy Davis Jr. One of those true artists of the game who make things look alarmingly simple.
Forward: Paulo Di Canio
Scored one of the greatest goals in Premier League history, with an obscene scissored-I-do-not-believe-that-volley against Wimbledon in 2000. Pure box office; not just for the instants of virtuosic brilliance, but also for the drama. From demanding to be substituted when things weren’t going his way, to shoving over a jelly-footed official who had the nerve to show him a red card. Never a dull moment. Questionable political views, perhaps, but never dull.
Striker: Jurgen Klinsmann
For younger viewers, it’s difficult to imagine how much of a big deal Tottenham signing Jürgen Klinsmann was. Off the back of scoring 5 goals at USA ’94, the German was comfortably one of the finest pure strikers in world football— and still only 29. The modern-day equivalent would’ve been if, say, Everton had signed Robert Lewandowski. Klinsmann managed 30 in 50 games in his first stab at English football, before hopping off to Bayern to win the UEFA Cup and a Bundesliga.
Why do they always leave?