Last January, the club hierarchy did not want to do any business, having spent so much over the summer. However, this turned out not the case with the side purchasing young right-back Sam Byram from Leeds United for an undisclosed fee. This almost certainly mirrored the Aaron Cresswell agreement with Ipswich Town and Byram came into the club with high expectations. With the team in great form in January and competing for a spot in Europe, Byram wasn’t offered too much opportunity, appearing just 286 minutes to end the 2015/2016 season.
Entering this season, the lofty expectations were renewed, with Byram tipped to be the starting right-back. However, from the beginning, it looked as though his game was not up to snuff. Starting in the Europa League it seemed as though the only thing keeping him in the side was the fact the Hammers didn’t (and still don’t) have a right-back that would replace him (sure, Antonio has played some right-back, kinda, maybe, a little?) With the club so thin at the position, Byram was given some time to grow into that role and seemed to be improving every game.
However, injuries have really derailed his development, going down in the 7’ against Middlesboro with a hamstring tear. He’s still out of action and the jury seems to be out on his ability as a player. But the team seem to be ready to move on, with the Board looking to bring in a right-back in January, per transfer rumblings.
So, back to the title of the article, The Curious Case of Sam Byram. What do the Hammers have in this young man? Is he Aaron Cresswell on the right? Is he oft-injured Cup-level player who will provide capable cover for years to come? Or is he one who is to be cast-off this summer, needing to look for another opportunity? This transfer window will do a lot to sort out his future and, given Slav’s move to three at the back, it may be challenging for Byram to get back in the side with Antonio playing the right wing-back position well. It is the author’s opinion that he should be given a chance to prove himself at the Premier League level, but at this point in the season, the side may have no choice but to move on.
UPDATE: Per Slaven Bilic, Byram is back training with the squad.