Friday, 19 January 2007

The Upton Park Patriot

Calum Davenport has officially been confirmed as West Ham’s third recruit of the transfer window. In a move completed with little fanfare, the rangy central defender has joined for an unconfirmed fee believed to be in the region of £3 million rising to £4 million if specific conditions are met.

The transfer has been completed with almost indecent haste, which tends to suggest Davenport was never originally in our manager’s plans. Indeed, Curbishley intimated as much in his interview today when he suggested the primary aim for his visit to White Hart Lane last Sunday was to watch our forth coming opponents, Newcastle. There must have been something in the performance of the young defender that caught the eye, or else our own escalating injuries problems have somewhat forced our hand. Whatever the reason, there will be many West Ham fans who will welcome the return of a player who impressed greatly in a loan spell back in 2004.

Having been snaffled up (and then largely ignored) by Spurs in their gluttonous recruitment drive of young English talent a few years, Davenport immediately found himself offloaded to Upton Park. He made his debut for us in a 2-1 home victory over Sheffield United, a game memorable for a Marlon Harewood howitzer and a deflected Sheringham free kick that found the top corner five minutes from time. My visceral impression of Davenport from that time is of a statuesque, almost gaunt figure who never seemed to lose an aerial challenge. If the 2007 vintage can prove equally as dominant in the Premiership then we may go some way to addressing our frightening vulnerability to high balls into the box, something that has contributed to probably 90% of the goals we have hemorrhaged since Christmas.

Tottenham supporters seem to have mixed feelings about Davenport’s departure. Most will concede that he has done a competent job in filling in for the often injured Ledley King, while some maintain he has consistently outshone Michael Dawson in the games they have played together this season. There are perhaps justifiable concerns about the youngster’s distribution, positional sense and pace, three potential weaknesses that were not necessarily exploited at Championship level where the player last represented us. Having said that, I doubt Curbishley has aspirations to use Davenport as an attacking libero, and since when has lack of pace been a hindrance to good defending? Just ask Bobby Moore, Alvin Martin and erm…Malky MacKay. No, the role I envisage Davenport assuming is that of a flesh and blood Patriot missile, clinically intercepting the aerial scuds that routinely threaten our penalty box. If he can do that, and if we can find him a more mobile partner to repel the ground attacks, we might once again witness a clean sheet at West Ham HQ.

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