Tuesday, 7 April 2009
How good is Matthew Upson?
Well, this one shouldn't take too long! When Curbishley bought Upson, I thought, "Oh no!" and all my fears were confirmed almost immediately. The guy was a physical wreck and, at his very best, had never been anything other than marginally above ordinary anyway. Like the signings of Downpipe and Quashie, this smacked of utter desperation (Yes, I admit that I thought Boa-Morte was a good signing at the time!). Remember Upson limping off after just 10 minutes against Tottenham? He was bought to help us avoid the drop and managed just 40 minutes of football that season, missing the whole of the Great Escape in the process. Finding Upson in a West Ham shirt was like trying to spot the director's cameo in a Hitchcock movie, and we lost both games that Upson appeared in anyway.
And then we went out and bought Dyer, Bellamy and Ljungberg, and the signing of Upson suddenly seemed to make sense. Curbishley wasn't building a football team but a Casualty ward, desperately trying to fill the beds to prevent closure of the BUPA ward in Newham General Hospital. Poor Beano needed company to keep up his spirits and Curbishley was the man to find him some friends. We only needed to sign Roy Figgis to set up a remake of Only When I Laugh! (Images of baggy eyed Curbishley in the Richard Wilson role exploding, "I do not believe it!")
Then there was the lump. No, not a lump on the leg or the testicles, something much worse, the "Upson lump", that long aimless thump up-field that characterised the Curbishley era. I imagine the dressing room before the game. Upson turns to Turds and asks, "One lump or two boss?"; Curbishley rubs his eyes and replies, "At least five, then after the first ten minutes we will review the plan." It was dire and, although he was looking superb as a defender, Upson was the "Lumper In Chief", the heavy artillery of Field Marshall Curbishley's "Over the top and Charge!!!!!!!!" idea of tactics.
But look at him now! Until the build up to the recent England games, an ever present in the Prem all season after starting 33 games last season. There are stories of witchcraft and Yellow Pages inserts to keep the guy fit, but credit where credit is due, he is the modern Lazarus. His defending is now excellent, so good in fact that at times I've wished that number 6 shirt hadn't been retired - Upson deserves to wear it. And with the arrival of Zola, so the lump has been retired. Now Upson feeds the ball to a midfielder and we play from the back.
Three goalless draws in one season at Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal is unheard of at West Ham. Tomkins, Neill and Collins have all looked top notch, no doubt enhanced by playing alongside Upson. As the senior partner of the centre backs he is the defensive captain of the team and, this season, he has done that job superbly. He is my choice as Hammer of the Year.
How good is Upson? He is our best centre back since Bobby Moore, so good that he would not disgrace that number 6 shirt. And I can't pay the guy a bigger compliment than that!