Irish Hammers

West Ham United

To mark Declan Rice’s call up to the full Irish Squad, here are five fellow Irishmen who were capped while playing for the Hammers.

Noel Cantwell

Cantwell was signed by West Ham from Cork Athletic in 1952 as an enterprising 18-year-old full-back. Cantwell spend 8 years with the club, the high point being captaining the side to the Division Two Championship in the 1957-58 season, leading the club to its first appearance in the top flight of English football since 1932. Cantwell was part of a group of senior players who would help influence the youth team who went on to form the core of both West Ham and England’s successes in the 1960’s. Cantwell’s
performances caught the eye of Matt Busby who was looking to rebuild Manchester United following the Munich air disaster.

Busby paid £29,500, a then record fee for a full-back, to bring the Cork man to Manchester. Cantwell went onto captain United to the FA Cup win in 1963 and was club captain when they won the League title in 1967, although injury restricted him to only four appearances in the title winning season. Cantwell was famed for his composure on the ball and was regularly played in a variety of positions for his country most notably centre-forward which was a contributing factor in his impressive international goal tally of 14 goals in 36 appearances for the Boys in Green.

After his playing career ended, Cantwell moved into Football management and enjoyed a successful tenure at Peterborough United in the 1970’s and coached in the U.S later in his career.

Cantwell passed away in 2005, both Manchester United and West Ham observed a minutes silence before the games following the Irishman’s death, a sign of the esteem he was held in at both clubs.

Liam Brady

Unquestionably one of Republic of Ireland’s greatest ever players, Brady joined West Ham from Italian side Ascoli for £100,000 in March 1987. Brady’s career started at Arsenal where he made his League debut in October 1973 aged just 17. Brady was to become one of Arsenals greatest players appearing in three consecutive FA Cup finals between 1978 and 1980. Brady moved to Juventus in the summer of 1980, winning two Scudetto titles before moving onto to Sampdoria, Inter Milan and finally Ascoli.

Although in the twilight years of his career when he joined West Ham, his skill and guile were plain for all to see. He was a member of the squad that was relegated in 1989 and played one final season in Division 2 a before retiring at the end of 1989-90 season.

Brady played 70 times for the Republic, scoring nine times. His last goal for his country was the winner in a 1-0 defeat against Brazil in May 1987 in Dublin.

Following the end of his playing career, Brady had unsuccessful spells in charge of Celtic and Brighton before he went onto forge a successful career within the Arsenal Youth Academy.

Chris Hughton

Signed by Billy Bonds as cover for Julian Dicks in November 1990 from Tottenham, the reliable full-back represented the Hammers on 43 occasions and contributed to the FA Cup run in 1991 and the clubs promotion to the First Division the same year.

Hughton became the first non-white player to represent the Republic of Ireland in 1979, he qualified through his Irish born mother. Born in Forest Gate, Hughton said of his move to West Ham “In a sense it’s like going home, I was born 10 minutes from the ground. My Mum and Dad still live there”

Hughton was a member of the Republic’s Euro 88 and Italia 90’s squads and following his retirement from playing, Hughton also served his country as Assistant Manager between 2003 and 2005.

Hughton played 53 times for the Republic between 1979 and 1991.

David Kelly

Signed by John Lyall for £600,000 from Walsall in the summer of 1988, as replacement for the outgoing Tony Cottee, Kelly battled to find form in a struggling team and as such, had a largely unsuccessful time with the Hammers.

Prolific in the lower leagues for Walsall, Kelly only found the net six times in his first League season, which saw the Hammers relegated in 1989. He didn’t fare better in his second season where he only scored two goals in 24 games.

After two seasons of underachievement, Kelly moved onto Leicester for £300,000 in March 1990.

Kelly qualified to play for the Republic through his Dublin born Father, and scored a hattrick on his debut against Israel in 1987. Kelly is perhaps most famous for scoring the goal that sparked the Lansdowne Road Riot in 1995, leading to the game being abandoned due to rioting by the English Fans.

Kelly played 26 for the Republic scoring nine times