In this week’s edition of our weekly Where Are They Now? Segment we look at one of the main defenders of that abysmal season, but how did he contribute to our woeful relegation? And where is he now?
The name Matthew Upson is barely muttered on the terraces of The London Stadium, but the former Arsenal centre-back is one of the main scapegoats of our 2010/2011 season.
Born in Eye, Matthew Upson signed for Luton Town in his teenage years under the watchful eye of our current U23’s Coach Terry Westley. However, the youngster would only make one appearance during his time at Kenilworth Road and be signed by Arsenal around a year later.
The then 18-year-old faced the daunting task of challenging the likes of Martin Keown and Tony Adams at Highbury for a first-team place and only made five appearances in his first season in North-London. A damaging knee ligament injury would keep him sidelined for a year and loan spells to Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace would follow. Upson’s best season with The Gunners would come in the 2001/2002 F.A Premier League campaign, but a broken leg in February of that term would rule him out for the season. The former England international faced another loan after returning to fitness in September 2002, this time at Reading. By the time his three months were up at The Madejski Stadium, Arsene Wenger had made the defensive additions of Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure, this culminated in Upson being sold to Birmingham City in January.
The £3 million move to The Midlands was followed by a relatively successful spell in which the physical defender managed to establish himself in The Premier League. However, injuries were never far from the former Luton Town man who spent April to December 2006 out of action with another leg problem. In the January 2007 transfer window, we came calling and Blues manager Steve Bruce was forced to sell Upson to us by Managing Director Karren Brady in ironic circumstances. The fee was understood to be in the region of £6 million and was one of Alan Curbishley’s first signings as West Ham manager.
The former Brighton and Hove Albion man sustained injuries in his first two Hammers games against Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur. Upson would not complete 90 minutes in Claret and Blue until the home defeat by Manchester City on the opening day of the 2007/2008 season. In that very campaign, the defender would go onto have a strong season and score the winner in the festive victory over Manchester United. The following season would be Upson’s best in East London as he made 41 appearances in all competitions and scored his first England goal in an away victory over Germany. At the end of the 2008/2009 season, he was awarded the permanent captaincy after the departure of Lucas Neill.
The Premier League campaign of 2009/2010 was one to forget for many Hammers, as we narrowly avoided relegation to The Championship under Gianfranco Zola. However, Upson would bag three Premier League goals and make Fabio Capello’s England squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The tournament would be one to forget for any Three Lions player or fan, with a controversial defeat to Germany in the round of 16, a game in which the tall defender got on the scoresheet in a 4-2 loss.
The huge disappointment would only carry over into the woeful season of 2010/2011, which was surely his worst as a West Ham United player. The then 31-year-old was a prominent figure in some of our worst defeats of the season, which included thrashing at the hands of the likes of Liverpool, Aston Villa, Manchester United and Newcastle United. Following our relegation from The Premier League in May 2011, Upson had his contract terminated at Upton Park by new manager Sam Allardyce.
As the twilight of his playing career dawned and his powers faded, Upson would play out mediocre spells at Stoke City, Brighton, Leicester City and MK Dons. At the end of the 2015/2016 season, Matthew Upson was finally forced to call time on his playing career after 20 years in the game. Nowadays, Upson occasionally appears as a pundit for BBC’s Match of the Day and is a Football analyst for various newspapers including The Daily Mail.
He was given a good reception at Mark Noble’s testimonial in April 2016, but for most true West Ham fans, the name Matthew Upson will bring back painful memories of a truly shocking 2010/2011 season.