West Ham United last night honoured a loyal servant in Director of Youth Development Tony Carr - although it was two veteran strikers who stole the show.
Carr has given 37 years of loyal service to the club, and during that time has overseen the development of an array of talented youngsters, many of whom have gone on to achieve international and world class status.
Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, Glen Johnson, Jermain Defoe are just a few now seasoned England internationals who have rolled off the production line at the famed Hammers’ academy where Tony has been such a key figure.
A host of star players, past and present, returned to East London to pay tribute to a devoted man who has been a mentor to many as he was granted a richly deserved testimonial by the Upton Park club.
After a season of struggle, West Ham fans were reminded that, having seen rookie front men leading the line for the majority of the campaign, the answer to their managers’ problems was sitting on the bench the whole time.
Gianfranco Zola made a 20-minute cameo, partnering Upton Park legend Paolo Di Canio, and capped his performance off with a wonderfully taken goal.
With the score standing at 2-0 to West Ham, against an Academy All-Stars side, Manuel Da Costa played his boss through and Zola lifted a delightful lob over keeper Marek Stech as chants of ‘sign him up’ rang out.
The night itself, though, belonged to Carr and Di Canio; the latter playing for both sides and getting an unsurprisingly rousing reception.
With the amount of talent on offer it is not hard to see why the Irons’ faithful felt so compelled to pay tribute to a man who has served West Ham, and England, so loyally.
His Academy team contained a wealth of talent including England skipper Ferdinand, who played centre half alongside brother Anton, as well as Kieron Richardson and Liam Ridgewell.
Before the game came a moment no West Ham fan thought they would ever see; Chelsea stars John Terry and Frank Lampard adorning the claret and blue once again and they received a fantastic ovation before Joe Cole came out and raised the roof.
Despite Chelsea not allowing former England captain Terry to play, he was nonetheless proud to be at the Boleyn Ground and as surprised as anyone with the fans’ response, having started at the Hammers’ youth academy before ‘defecting’ to West London
Terry told West Ham’s official website: “It was nice to come back. I was delighted to say yes when Tony asked me to come down.
“The fans did give us a great reception. It was totally unexpected. It is not the kind of response we get when we do come here with Chelsea of course and we are really grateful but it is all about Tony Carr,” the Blues’ skipper added.
The match itself ended 5-1 to West Ham, a scoreline that prompted a light-hearted chorus of ‘can we play you every week’ from the 14,000 strong crowd.
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