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Grading every signing of the Sullivan/Gold era: Part 2

Summer 2010-11: A preamble to disaster

West Ham United v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images

Since they purchased the club in 2010, David Gold and David Sullivan have been controversial figures at West Ham. While increased spending has undoubtedly brought great moments, their heavy handed involvement in the clubs transfer strategy has brought in a number of flops.

In this series, I am going to lay out all the transfer activity in the Sullivan and Gold era. The good, the bad, and the forgettable.

Part one, detailing the Winter window of 2010, can be found here.

For their second season, Gold and Sullivan looked to improve on a 17th place finish. Those looking for catharsis after the Moyes appointment may want to avoid this article.

Summer 2010

Thomas Hitzlsperger, Free transfer from Lazio

Appearances: 13

Goals: 3

Assists: 6

In a year of abysmal signings, this one stands out as a positive. Hitzlsperger was a star player for Aston Villa, earning a move to Stuttgart, where he won the Bundesliga. Along the way, Hitzlsperger became a German international. However, in 2010, he moved to Lazio, where injuries tore apart his career.

The move to West Ham was a frustrating one. Hitzlsperger was out injured for the first 25 games. When he finally returned, he moved into the starting lineup. Despite contributing to 9 goals, he couldn’t save the team from relegation.

The verdict: For a free transfer, his performances were quite impressive. If it weren’t for the injuries, who knows how the season could have gone.

Grade: B-

Pablo Barrera, £4,000,000 from UNAM

Appearances: 24

Goals: 0

Assists: 3

An explosive, dynamic talent in Mexico, Barrera was a massive flop with West Ham. He rarely looked threatening, never scored, and did little to create for his teammates.

The verdict: A waste of money. Totally ineffective.

Grade: D+

Frederic Piquionne, £1,200,000 from Lyon

Appearances: 62

Goals: 11

Assists: 11

In the early years of the 2000’s, Piquionne was a breakout star. In 2001, his performances earned him a transfer to Rennes where Piquionne became a one of the top players in ligue 1. When his move to Saint Etienne brought further improved performances, and a callup to the national team, he looked like a player on the rise.

However, fallouts with coaches and a drop in form meant moves to Monaco and Lyon collapsed into poor performances. A loan move to Portsmouth brought his career back on track, with 11 goals and 7 assists.

With West Ham, in his first season, Piquionne scored 9 goals and added 6 assists. It wasn’t enough to keep West Ham from relegation. In his second year with the club, in the Championship, Piquionne was unimpressive.

The Verdict: Slightly less horrible than most of the players around him in his first season, Piquionne’s transfer is somewhat validated by the low fee.

Grade: C-

Tal Ben Haim, Loan from Portsmouth

Appearances: 12

Goals: 0

Assists: 1

Ben Haim was forced to play across the backline, rarely getting the opportunity to play his natural centre back position. A decent player in his time with Bolton, Ben Haim was unable to regularly contribute to West Ham.

The Verdict: In a season of constant defensive ineptitude, an experienced Premier League centre back might have been useful. Instead, Ben Haim was simply ignored by his coaches.

Grade: C

Winston Reid, £3,730,0000 from Midtjylland

Appearances: 213

Goals: 13

Assists: 13

By far the best transfer so far, Reid arrived for a cut price and has gone on to become one of the club’s best players. Even if his form has wavered in recent years, the kiwi’s record speaks for itself. Over 200 games with the club make him one of the most consistent performers of the recent era.

Along the way, he’s provided exceptional moments, none greater than his late headed winner against Manchester United.


Reid is a beloved player, a club favorite, and a trusted leader. He joined for an incredibly low fee. It’s fair to say that Reid was a fantastic signing by any definition.

Grade: A

Victor Obinna, Loan from Inter Milan

Appearances: 32

Goals: 7

Assists: 9

Another youth star who lost his way, Obinna looked set for incredible heights at Chievo Verona. Instead, his career stalled after a transfer to Inter Milan, and an unsuccessful loan to Malaga.

He managed some fantastic performances, including four assists in an inexplicable 4-0 thrashing of Manchester United in the League Cup, a hat trick against Nottingham Forest in the FA cup, and a winning brace against Blackpool.

However, outside of these flashes, Obinna was largely ineffective. His sending off in the League Cup against Birmingham City ruined West Ham’s best opportunity to win a trophy since 2006.


Obinna was at times uncontainable, and at times actively destructive to his own team. Considering he was a loan, and the club didn’t sink any funds into the deal, he goes down as a totally unremarkable signing.

Grade: C

Lars Jacobsen, Free transfer Blackburn Rovers

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

Appearances: 26

Goals: 0

Assists: 0

Relatively inexplicably, West Ham decided to sign the Blackburn back up. He ended up making a decent number of appearances for an abysmal defense.


Part of the problem as much as any player on the team, Jacobsen’s transfer was a confusing one from the start.

Grade: D-

Ruud Boffin 222,000

Appearances: 3

Goals: 0

Assists: 0

Signed for a low fee, Boffin was an unremarkable backup.


He rarely played, and cost next to nothing. An average signing.

Grade: C


The summer transfer window was merely a preamble to disaster. There were no spectacular failures, but the problem of this window was that the board failed to address West Ham’s issues from the last season.