“El Carlos-ico” – Sheffield United vs West Ham. Two clubs separated by over 200 miles and a rivalry created by a striker born in Buenos Aires.
Deadline day. August 2006. Unrivalled madness. In days before ‘Don’t go to sleep DG x’ , West Ham pulled off a transfer scoop that shocked the footballing world. A rushed press conference saw Alan Pardew welcome Carlos Tevez and national compatriot Javier Mascherano to East London.
To this day, no-one knows how much West Ham paid for these two players. Why and even how they signed? Two stars of the 2006 World Cup, who were previously linked with Chelsea and Manchester United, had somehow found themselves at Upton Park.
Whilst, Mascherano left on loan in December to join Liverpool, a change in the dugout – from Pardew to Curbishley – saw Tevez jump into the line-up. Ten points behind with 10 games to go. 19th after 32 matches. It was the greatest escape in Premier League history – no side has left it later. Tevez, of course, was key.
The Argentine hit six goals and four assists in his final ten games including a free-kick against Tottenham and screamer at Old Trafford as West Ham won 1-0 and stayed up on the final day of the season.
“He kept the crowd up even when we weren’t winning. We tried as much as we could to keep Carlos Tevez but it was not to be. We played up at Old Trafford on the final day of last season and he disappeared the next morning.”
Tevez was voted Hammer of Year in his only season in East London. He became an icon in ten months. He was ridiculous and so unbelievably West Ham in his attitude.
Mascherano would go on to captain Argentina and play at the Nou Comp; whilst, Tevez would light up both the red and blue side of Manchester. For one season, they caused chaos but on and off the pitch.
Compensation demanded as Sheffield United perhaps rightly claimed foul play. Tevez – a player deemed to be ineligible – had, with his goals, effectively relegated the Blades.
“Tevez was found to have been owned by a third party, which was bad enough, but people at West Ham were also proven to have lied to the Premier League to cover it all up. They were fined £5.5m but weren’t docked any points and Tevez was somehow allowed to play for the rest of the season.”
Eventually, West Ham admitted to breaking the league rules over signing the players. With third party involvement banned in the financial ownership of a player, Tevez’s signing was scrutinised.
West Ham paid upwards of 20m in compensation, but avoided a points deduction and stayed in the Premier League. Sheffield United chairmen, Kevin McCabe, claimed that relegation would have seen West Ham go bust – and he’s probably right.
Certainly, there is less hostility between the two clubs now. A meeting in the League Cup was met with Carlos Tevez masks, but both clubs seem to have moved on – largely due to the Blades return to the top flight.
Now, Chris Wilder is citing a desire to move on and away from the “Tevez Saga” and create “new memories”. Last years impressive top-half finish a stark contrast for a side that have struggled for points in a disappointing second season.
This weekend, West Ham face Sheffield United, as both sides once again find themselves in a fight to secure their Premier League status.