Michail Antonio is fast becoming a fan favourite at the Boleyn.
During the summer transfer window and amongst relatively unknown players, namely Messrs Payet and Lanzini, and other more known ones such as Moses and Jelavic, Antoni0 was the one player fans seemed to be most excited about.
Coming from Nottingham Forest after a stellar year, where he gained the player of the season award after netting no less than 14 goals, fans were chomping at the bit to see if this young player could open the door to more goals and exciting football at the Boleyn after his £7million move from the land of Robin Hood.
Disappointingly, West Ham’s great early season form meant Antoni0 couldn’t get a sniff.
Not hitting the first team until a substitute appearance against the Sky Blues, where a cameo appearance didn’t really give him much of an opportunity to show us what he could do.
Games against Newcastle, Norwich, Sunderland, Chelsea, Watford, Everton, Spurs featured no game time whatsoever and then the rumours started. Does Slav not rate him as a player? Is he good enough? Is he ready yet? Will he be offloaded in the Summer?
Then against Stoke City, he finally gets a start thanks to an injury to Victor Moses. Time to step up, Antonio, and but for a bit more luck, he could have had two goals on the day.
Then follow up starts again for him against both Villa and Swansea. Antonio was trying a little too hard and seemed so desperate to impress. Perhaps he just needed a tap on the shoulder and told to get back to basics and try to do the simple stuff first…
Then the lights switched on and against Southampton he was terrific. Getting into forward positions, he showed a desire and hunger to put himself in the danger areas.
He bagged a well deserved debut goal that still baffles everyone how the ball ever ended up in the net – just the tonic he needed, though. Without really being in the side, he seems to have developed quite a following.
Then he was on hand again and but for his his cannoned header off the crossbar, Carroll would never have had that chance to score the winner.
Then we welcomed Liverpool to Upton Park for one of the most enjoyable games we have seen for quite a while. Antonio stepped up into the spotlight, and what a game.
The tackle that could have been a foul (but wasn’t), resulted in Antonio running the entire length of the pitch to get himself placed in a fantastic position to receive Enner Valencia’s cross and BOOM, there he was again, in the right place at the right time to send a bullet header that gave Mignolet no chance whatsoever. Brilliant stuff.
Personally I cannot wait to see him in action again. He hasn’t had much game time this year so he’ll be fresh, and I believe Slav should play him against Wolves.
Onwards and upwards for Mr Antonio, I hope he keeps pushing himself. He is young, he wants to play, he works hard and still has his best years ahead of him.