In this week’s edition of our weekly Throwback segment, we hear from Jack, 20 and a lifelong West Ham United fan and Season Ticket holder about the time that a Hammer was tearing up on the World stage.
“I remember the signing of Dimitri Payet very well indeed, by studying him play during his time in France with Marseille, anyone could have predicted that he would be a perfect fit for The Premier League and more importantly, West Ham.
The buzz and excitement surrounding his £12 million arrival was clear to see everywhere, but I don’t think that even the most optimistic of Hammers would have predicted just how much of hot shot he would go on to be in Claret & Blue.
However, one of my most vivid memories of the skillful winger isn’t of him playing at Upton Park or at The London Stadium, but for his National Team at a Major Tournament to remember.
Having dazzled English Football during the memorable 2015/2016 season, in which we finished seventh and narrowly missed out on playing in The Champions League.
Payet picked up The Hammer of the Year award in his first season and was a front-runner for both The PFA Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season awards.
In addition to this, the exiting attacker was inducted into The PFA Team of the Year in the left-wing position amongst the likes of Harry Kane, N’Golo Kante, and David De Gea.
That summer, Payet was picked to represent France in the 2016 European Championships, it was the most excited I had been for a Major Tournament in my lifetime.
But, I wasn’t champing at the bit to watch The Three Lions in action, I was only interested in Payet and Les Bleus, the fact that a West Ham United player had such a huge chance of winning European Championship was a tantalising concept.
The feeling in my Claret & blue-blooded family was mutual, after so many years of your own National Team neglecting you with not only the disruption of tedious International Breaks midseason, but also quite horrendous showings when Tournament time comes around, you only focus on your Domestic club and its players.
The TV Coverage of The Tournament was given a cherry on the top when Bilic joined up with ITV to add to the Hammers theme for fans, he was in The Studio for the opening game of France 2016 as the hosts welcomed Romania to The Stade De France.
It was a tight affair that was followed by me with all the passion of a Hammers game, gasping and willing Payet forward every time that he picked up the ball and looked dangerous.
With the scores level and added time looming, the winger picked up the ball and ran at the Romanian defence, striking a wondrous weaker-footed effort from range into Ciprian Tatarusanu’s left top corner to win the opener for his Nation.
The goal was celebrated like he had just netted it at Upton Park in our household as a West Ham United star became the first Frenchman to score and Assist in a European Championship game since the great Thierry Henry in 2000.
Every single Newspaper or Media Outlet headline involved Payet in some way shape or form followed by mention of my supported club, waving the banner for East London.
“Dimi” would go on to net two more goals in that the Competition and be included in UEFA Team of the Tournament, although eventually missing out on a winner’s medal.
That period was an incredible time to be a Hammer and despite the fact that Payet would go onto depart quite notably, breaking the heart of everyone associated with the club.
We will always have the grateful that such an incredibly gifted talent wore the famous Claret & Blue at the prime of his Career and peak of his powers, as the iconic song goes,
“We’ve got Payet, Dimitri Payet, I just don’t think you understand”.