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In 2009, Manchester United caught wind of a young Mexican striker called Javier ‘Chicharito’ (meaning little pea) Hernandez.
They did their due diligence and decided to sign the striker. Initially though, United were reluctant to bring the 21 year old over to England having struggled to integrate other South Americans like Diego Forlan, Kleberson and Anderson.**
However, when United learned that Hernandez would be representing Mexico at the World Cup they realised they’d have to tie up the deal sharpish. If they didn’t, they would risk losing out on their player to be, or being forced to double or treble their existing offer and back in 2010 United didn’t have the Belfortian attitude to spending that they do now.
So United went ahead in spite of their reservations and did the deal for a rumoured £6 million. Almost instantly, all those who doubted whether Hernandez would or could adjust to English football were eating hearty servings of humble pie.
Not flashy, but very efficient
He wasn’t flashy, but with a hard working approach Hernandez went about his business with clinical efficiency scoring 20 goals in his debut season and helping United to reach the Champions League final.
He instantly became a fan favourite and adding to his charm, many of his goals came in, let’s say, unconventional format. Some of his more memorable goals included kicking the ball into his own face against Chelsea and a backwards header against Stoke that had pundits questioning if the Mexican had genuinely discovered a new footballing dimension.
While at United, Chicharito established himself as one of the League’s most effective finishers and in fact, his Premier League goals per minute ratio remains in the top ten of all time.
Success in Germany
But he was never considered well rounded enough to lead United’s line and fell into the familiar role of ‘super sub’ before being shipped off to Real Madrid on loan and then Bayer Leverkusen permanently.
Yet Hernandez was unperturbed and continued to score goals with impressive regularity. During his two seasons with Leverkusen he managed 39 goals in 76 games, slightly bettering the 0.5 goals per game average that serves as the rule of thumb for a ‘proper striker’.
As a result of his continued success, English teams including United, began enquiring about bringing the Mexican back to England. But rather than returning up North, Hernandez has opted for the bright lights of London town, joining West Ham.
Signing for another bargain price, this time £16 million, Hernandez represents a fantastic deal for West Ham and owners Davids Gold and Sullivan will be rubbing their hands with glee having finally signed a striker worthy of the title.
You see, the duo in charge of West Ham have signed some absolute shockers when it comes to forwards and if you’re sceptical, just listen to this:
Since Gold and Sullivan took over West Ham in January 2010 they have signed a grand total of 32 strikers.
Collectively they have scored 129 goals in 659 games, which is lowly 0.2 goals per game. 20 of the 32 have failed to score more than 3 goals, while 13 failed to score at all.
Some of the hallowed names to have graced Upton Park and the London Stadium include Benni McCarthy with an impressive 0 goals in 14 games, John Carew who managed 2 goals in 21 games and last season’s star flop Simone Zaza who managed a mighty 0 goals in 11 games before he was dropped so that the club wouldn’t trigger a €20 million obligation to buy.
That record is staggeringly terrible and the lack of a striker who is both consistently fit and on form has undoubtedly held the club back.
Struggles up front
After an impressive 2015/16 campaign in which the Hammers finished 7th, flirting with Europe for the entire season on the back of the ethereal brilliance of free kick wonder Dimitri Payet, the Hammers regressed big time.
Last season the club’s flirtation was with relegation rather than Europe and despite an eventual 11th placed finish, the season was a disappointing one.
In addition to the loss of Payet, the club’s move from Upton Park to their new home, the London Stadium, was well publicised and readily offered as an explanation/excuse for the team’s often tepid performances.
But as much as in football you can look for answers everywhere from diet, to psychology, to star signs, ultimately there is but one place that actually counts, the pitch. And up front West Ham didn’t have a whole lot of answers.
Last season West Ham’s top scorer was winger-cum-fullback-cum-false 9 Michel Antonio with 9 goals and he got 8 of those before January. West Ham’s actual number 9, Andy Carroll, again struggled with injuries making only 22 appearances across all competitions, grabbing only 7 goals.
The Hammers’ other prime source of goals, Diafra Sakho suffered with injuries himself before ‘disagreements’ with manager Slaven Bilic saw him sidelined again.
Reliable and a stellar goal-getter
It is a universal truth that every successful side needs a reliable striker and in Hernandez West Ham finally have one.
Hernandez has a stellar goal scoring record across three of Europe’s top Leagues and has played for two of the biggest clubs in the world. He has rarely been injured and his attitude is first class.
Despite the limitations on his overall game Hernandez is unquestionable, unflappable and unstoppable in front of goal and ultimately, that is what you want from your man up top.
Plus, signing for £16 million in a market where clubs will regularly spend more on a striker than the government spends on the NHS, Chicharito isn’t even much of a financial risk.*
For West Ham it’s a win, win, win and if fans can dare to dream too that Andy Carroll might one day get fit and stay fit, the possibilities become even more exciting.
You can almost see it now; fellow new boy Marko Arnautovic puts in a deep cross to the back post, Andy Carroll jumps above 14 defenders and knocks the ball back along the six yard line, Hernandez slides in on his head and bundles the ball into the back of the net winning the game for Hammers.
The crowd goes wild and babies are born.
Because that’s another thing, it has genuinely been reported that when Hernandez plays for Mexico the national crime rate goes down and possibly even more impressively, more women go into labour.
Now have you ever heard a better endorsement of a striker than that? Of course you haven’t, there isn’t one.
For the first time in a long time, West Ham have signed someone worthy of the title ‘striker’ and if you have a house, bet it right now on Hernandez getting 15 goals. If you’re feeling funky, make it 20, what have you got to lose?
**Mexico is in Central America, not South America, but it is culturally closer to Brazil than Salford so the point still stands okay.
*This might not be true.
Written by Scott Pope
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