The 2008/2009 Premier League campaign was a fantastic season for any West Ham fan, but just who were the key players? And where are they now?
David Di Michele
The swashbuckling Italian forward was instrumental during the 2008/2009 campaign, when his goals helped us to a ninth placed Premier League finish, but where is he now?
The former Italian international’s spell with us would only last a season, but his impact would last longer. Michele had a big personality and was much liked within the squad. Fans and players alike were disappointed when he returned to his parent club Torino. In September 2008, the former Palermo man made his debut against West Brom and scored twice in just his second Hammers game against The Magpies. Di Michele would have to wait until January 2009 for his next goal in another 3-1 victory, this time at home to Fulham. His final Hammers goal would come in the same month and the opponent that time would be Phil Brown’s Hull City, all of his four goals in Claret and Blue would turn out to be at Upton Park.
In June 2009, Gianfranco Zola decided not to extend the loan of the former Coppa Italia top scorer and his time with us came to an end. Shortly after the 41-year-old left he was loaned out again to Serie B side Lecce, where he later signed a permanent contract and remained until 2012. The later years of Di Michele’s career saw him play out spells at Chievo, Reggina and Lupa Roma, before he retired in December 2015. The former Udinese man is now the head coach at Lega Pro side Lupa Roma, where he continues to spread his charm and larger than life personality.
The Welsh forward dazzled with the form of his career during his spell in East London which included five goals in the first half of the 2008/2009 season, but just where is he now?
The fiery former Wales international joined us in August 2007 for a then club record fee of £7.5 million, the move saw him reunited with former Canaries team-mate Robert Green. After spending most of the 2007/2008 season sidelined with injury, Bellamy scored his first goal of the 2008/2009 campaign when he added to former club Blackburn’s misery in a 4-1 thrashing. His next strike would be at Stamford Bridge in December 2008, as we drew 1-1 in West London. Three goals in three games which included a brace in the Boxing Day victory at Fratton Park and a goal against former club Newcastle United, culminated in widespread interest from other clubs. Reports of a training ground bust-up between Zola and Bellamy were followed by the news that every Hammers fan was dreading on January 18th; A £14 million bid from Manchester City had been accepted and the former Celtic man’s time at the club was over. This move was blamed as partly the reason that we missed out on UEFA Cup Football that season.
After departing Upton Park, Bellamy would enjoy a fruitful end to his career which included two spells at Cardiff City and a return to Anfield under Kenny Dalglish, before finally retiring in May 2014. The 37-year-old briefly toyed with coaching at The Cardiff City Academy, but now works as a pundit for BT Sport.
Some Hammers fans may remember the name Diego Tristan, but some may not. However, there is no doubting the Spaniards’ influence during the 2008/2009 campaign.
The former Spanish international joined us as a free agent in October 2008, after leaving Italian side Livorno a few months earlier. The forward made his debut a couple of months later as a late substitute in a London Derby defeat against Spurs. His first goal in Claret and Blue would come in the home victory over The Potters in December 2008 as he settled into life in The Premier League. The former Deportivo man would have to wait a few months for his last two goals in English football, which came in the form of a wonderful free-kick at The Britannia Stadium and a tap in at Villa Park. After leaving us in summer 2009, Tristan played out the final season of his career at Spanish Second Division side Cadiz CF. Since retiring from football in 2010 the former Copa Del Rey winner and La Liga top scorer has put on a considerable amount of weight and now is the first team coach of Spanish lower league side Atletico Algabeño.
As one of the only West Ham United players to ever be born in The Democratic Republic of Congo, Herita Ilunga was an instant hit in the first team, but just where is the former Saint-Etienne man now?
Ilunga joined us on loan from Ligue 1 side Toulouse in September 2008 as a replacement for the recently departed George McCartney. He quickly became Gianfranco Zola’s first choice for the position after impressing in early games against West Brom, Newcastle and Fulham. Both of Ilunga’s goals in that campaign would come in The FA Cup, against Barnsley and Middlesbrough respectively. Months of solid performances in Claret and Blue would lead to the announcement of a permeant Hammers deal for The DR Congo international. He would go on to be a West Ham United player until the termination of his contract in January 2012. A spell at Doncaster Rovers would be followed by two spells in French Football, the former Espanyol man is currently still playing for French Third Division outfit US Creteil.