‘Dimitri Payet was the X factor’: The world-class talent, the fallout and the bitter West Ham exit – The Athletic

“We played a pre-season game against Southend United. Straight away I thought, ‘Fucking hell, what a player’. He scored two goals and was unbelievable. He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

It is July 18, 2015, and a new star is in town. At Roots Hall, Dimitri Payet is making his debut following a £10.7 million arrival from Marseille. Southend is only a few miles beyond their east London patch, so 1,500-plus West Ham United fans are in attendance — and they, along with Stephen Hendrie and company out on the pitch, cannot quite believe what they have witnessed.

“Payet was a joke that day,” former West Ham midfielder Hendrie tells The Athletic. “It was mainly the young lads playing but in the dressing room after we all looked at each other like, ‘Fuck me, we have a player here’. (Manager) Slaven Bilic gave him a big hug after the game. That’s when I knew it was going to be a special season.”

West Ham beat their neighbours, who were newly promoted to League One, 3-2 that day, with experienced players Darren Randolph, James Collins, Angelo Ogbonna, Cheikhou Kouyate and Diafra Sakho in the starting XI. But for Southend’s then-manager Phil Brown, it was Payet who left a lasting impression.

“There was one player — Dimitri Payet — who showed absolute quality. I asked Slaven Bilic whether he was going to take him off and make it more of an even game,” he said.

Rate this post