Don Hutchinson 1994-1996 & 2001-2005
The well-travelled attacking midfielder joined the club in a deal worth £1.5 million from Liverpool in 1994. Despite his obvious talent his first spell at the club was rather overshadowed by his ill-discipline on and off the pitch. He was allowed to leave the club in January 1996 moving on to second-tier Sheffield United.
It was at the Blades that Hutchinson first linked up with Howard Kendall who would have a profound effect on his career, Hutchinson impressed with the Yorkshire club and eventually moved with Kendall to Everton in 1998. Hutchinson joined a small group of players who have played for both Merseyside clubs.
Despite being born in the North-East of England Hutchinson had always stated his desire to play for Scotland who he qualified for through his Scottish born Father. Hutchinson had played for the Scottish B Team in 1994 but had to wait until 1999 to get his first full cap in a game against the Czech Republic at Celtic Park. Hutchinson’s performances in a number of positions finally earned him the international recognition he craved.
His performances for both Everton and Scotland saw Hutchinson become the subject of a bid from Sunderland who became aware of Don’s growing frustration with Everton’s refusal to offer an improved contract to bring him into line with other players at the club.
Hutchinson moved to Wearside for £2.5 million and helped the club to a respectable 7th place finish in his only season at the club before West Ham, under Glenn Roeder, offered £5 million to secure the midfielder’s services.
Hutchinson’s second spell at the club was severely hampered by a cruciate knee injury and the club’s relegation in the 2002–2003 season. He did play a part in the team finishing seventh but due to his injury and the change of management, he only featured sporadically until his departure in 2005.
Don then moved on to Millwall in August 2005 but he was unable to hold down a first-team spot so moved on to Coventry City after only 3 months. He was released by Coventry at the end of the 2006-7 season having sustained a nasty ankle injury which restricted his playing time.
Hutchinson’s final club was Luton Town who he played for in the 2007-2008 season. Luton were in huge financial difficulty and in an act of generosity Hutchinson refused his final two months pay packet and offered to sponsor the youth team for the following season.
When speaking about his career Hutchinson always cites his international career as the highlight.
Speaking in 2003 Hutchinson spoke of his pride at representing the country of his father’s birth, Hutchinson said “My Dad was my biggest fan, the happiest I ever saw him was when we beat England at Wembley (Hutchinson scored the winner). Playing for Scotland for my dad was something I really wanted to do because it made him feel proud. I will never forget his face when we played England at Wembley.
Although West Ham didn’t really see the best of Don he had an interesting and varied career and he is always an interesting pundit when guesting either on Sky Sports or Talksport radio.
Matthew Etherington 2003-2009
Etherington joined West Ham from Tottenham as part of the deal that saw Freddy Kanoute moving in the opposite direction after relegation in 2003. Etherington quickly established himself as a key member of the side regularly contributing goals and assists in the club’s run to the Championship play-off final most notably against Ipswich in the semi-final. Etherington was named Hammer of the Year in 2004 and was again a key member of the side in the promotion winning side in 2005 creating the winning goal in the 2005 play-off final against Preston.
Etherington would go on to shine in the Premier League and was a key member of the side that made the FA Cup final in 2006 but much like West Ham’s fortunes at that time this was the pinnacle of his time with the club. Dogged by gambling debts and the general instability at the club, Etherington’s time at the club fizzled out and he was eventually sold to Stoke City in 2009.
Etherington’s father has publicly thanked Stoke City for saving his son’s life, they got the troubled left winger back on track off the pitch and this lead to a return to form on the pitch. Etherington was outstanding in his first season with the club winning the club’s Player of the Year trophy. In his second seas, n he helped Stoke reach the FA Cup final losing to Manchester City. A change of manager and approach at the Potteries meant that Etherington’s time at the club was to come to an end, he was offered a contract at Millwall but announced his retirement in 20014 citing a long-standing back injury as his reason.
Since retirement, the full extent of Matty’s gambling addiction has been revealed and has worked hard to bring the impact of gambling in professional football.
Matty was a great servant to West Ham and his first three seasons were fantastic, a hardworking and skilful player he is always guaranteed a good reception by the fans.
Nigel Reo-Coker 2004-2007
Reo-Coker joined the club from Wimbledon in January 2004 and quickly established himself in the centre of midfield forming a very successful partnership with Hayden Mullins. His performances drove the team to the play-off final in 2004 and again in 2005 securing promotion at the second attempt.
Nigel’s performances in the 2005-06 season were outstanding as he led the club to a respectable 7th place and a first FA Cup final in 28 years, he also made the 30 man squad for England’s World Cup Squad in 2006.
It was at this point Reo Coker’s relationship with the crowd began to wane, a bad start to the season combined with the arrival of Mascherano and Tevez unsettled the club and affected team unity. Reo Coker was singled out by the fans as one of the main culprits responsible for the slump in form, his case was not helped by new boss Alan Curbishley making reference to “baby Bentley culture” at the club, citing players who had the trappings of being a successful player without any of the achievements.
Despite this Reo-Coker did play a key role in the club surviving relegation with a brilliant late run of form culminating in a 1-0 win at Old Trafford, Nigel’s last game for the club.
Reo-Coker moved to Aston Villa for £8.5 million in 2007 citing the club’s greater ambition as one of his reasons for leaving West Ham.
Reo-Coker started well at Villa who were a young vibrant side under the stewardship of Martin O’Neill, but a combination of boardroom turmoil and a falling out with management restricted his first-team opportunities. He did enjoy something of a renaissance under Gerard Houllier but eventually left the club for Bolton at the end of his contract in 2011.
Nigel played 43 games for Bolton in the 2011-2012 season that saw the club relegated from the top league, Reo-Cocker activated a clause in his contract following relegation and was allowed to leave Bolton to seek another club.
He moved briefly to Ipswich before moving to Canada with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Reo Coker played with some success for the Whitecaps, Chivas USA and Montreal Impact before leaving Canada for a trial with Granada who were being coached by Tony Adams at the time. Unfortunately the trial was not successful and Nigel moved to Norwegian football with IK Start who did not peruse their interest past June 2017.
Reo Coker is a career unfulfilled, he could have easily become a West Ham legend, his performances at the early part of his career showed his real talent had he kept doing what he was good at. He had all the attributes to succeed at the top level. That being said he was part of a very entertaining young and vibrant West Ham team and he deserves to be remembered for his positive contributions rather than anything else.