Football: Hammers put on Wright track

Sheffield Wednesday 0 West HamUnited 1
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The Independent Online
AT THE end of a World Cup summer, West Ham fans are probably even more acutely aware than the rest of us that it is a long time since the glory days of Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst.

As a new campaign gets underway, the burden of reinflating the bubbles of success at Upton Park rests on the shoulders of the man they loved to hate when he wore the shirt of their neighbours Arsenal - Ian Wright.

The Hammers manager, Harry Redknapp, has brought in the 34-year-old England striker to add motivation, enthusiasm and scoring power to a young, skilful side which might have scraped into Europe last season had they possessed those qualities in greater abundance.

Wright delivered all three at Hillsborough, although he left the most important - goal-scoring - a trifle late.

"Ian's great in the dressing-room, full of life and energy. He had his music going before the match, and it was a different atmosphere from last year when we were a young side full of quiet lads," Redknapp said.

Out on the pitch, Wright's enthusiasm almost got the better of him when he became involved in a vigorous finger wagging altercation with the Wednesday defender Emerson Thome after the latter's boot had made contact with Trevor Sinclair's head.

Otherwise, his first full match in claret had been decidedly sober. His chief contribution was to loft a couple of opportunities over the crossbar until his striking partner Sinclair set him free with only the goalkeeper to beat in the 84th minute.

As the Wednesday defenders appealed for offside, Wright calmly slotted the ball past Kevin Pressman and the travelling Hammers fans were delighted to take back everything they had ever said about him.

"He's a fantastic goal-scorer. Give him half a chance and he sticks it away," said Redknapp, who also praised another new signing, Neil Ruddock, for the way he defended during the late Wednesday flurry Wright's goal incited.

Danny Wilson's new charges would have been out of contention well before that but for the agility of Pressman, who denied West Ham's two most impressive players, Frank Lampard and Eyal Berkovic, before crowning an inspired afternoon with a fingertip save from Ian Pearce.

Pressman's future at Hillsborough has been the subject of some pre-season speculation, but after this performance his manager had only praise for him.

"He was great. He wants to prove everyone wrong, and if he goes on playing like this, he could yet get into the England side," said Wilson.

There was precious little else to praise about Wednesday's performance.

The Italians Benito Carbone and Paulo Di Canio were sporadically inventive and Petter Rudi worked hard in midfield, but on this showing Wilson has a big job ahead of him if Wednesday are to do more than stave off relegation again this season.

Goal: Wright (84)

Sheffield Wednesday (4-3-1-2): Pressman; Thome, Walker, Corbian, Hinchcliffe; Atherton, Jonk, Rudi, Carbone; Booth, Di Canio. Substitutes not used: Whittingham, Hyde, Clarke (gk), Oakes, Barrett.

West Ham United (3-2-3-2): Hislop; Pearce, Ruddock, Ferdinand; Impey, Lomas; Lazaridis, Berkovic (Moncur 84), Lampard; Sinclair, Wright. Substitutes not used: Keller, Forrest (GK), Omoyinmi, Margas

Booked: West Ham: Ruddock, Lampard.

Man of the match: Lampard.

Attendance: 30,236.