West Ham: 6 Players to Watch in Premier League Next Season
The West Ham United team which won promotion back up to the Premier League for next season via the Championship playoffs will have a familiar look about it, but there are still several faces in the Hammers' squad that will be new to a lot of fans.
Sam Allardyce led his team to victory in Saturday's final at Wembley over Blackpool with a mixture of players who had got relegated with the club last season, new signings made in the last two transfer windows and youth players.
Assuming that the vast majority of people reading this will remember the likes of Robert Green, Carlton Cole and Mark Noble from when the Hammers went down last season, here are half a dozen new faces in claret and blue to look out for next season.
Ricardo Vaz Te
The forward with the funky hairdo is getting a second chance to impress in the Premier League, eight years after making his debut in the competition for Bolton Wanderers as a 17-year-old.
After unsuccessful spells in Greece with Panionios and in Scotland with Hibernian, Barnsley offered the forward a lifeline by taking him on a free transfer last summer. He repaid the Tykes' faith with 12 goals in 24 appearances in the first half of the season.
That was enough to convince Allardyce to sign the player he had first brought to Bolton all those years ago. After coming to Upton Park on deadline day, Vaz Te scored another 12 goals in just 18 games, including the winner in the playoff final just three minutes from time.
The case of Ravel Morrison is a curious one indeed. The midfielder was touted as one of the most promising young talents in England throughout his development at Manchester United, and yet he was sold to West Ham in January for just £650,000.
The 19-year-old's chequered past and reported lofty contract demands while at Old Trafford have not exactly won him many admirers. The majority of the football-watching public is still waiting to see what all the fuss is about, as since arriving at West Ham he has only made one substitute appearance lasting just 14 minutes.
Still, the extra spotlight the Premier League will once again give the Hammers means that, should Morrison get off the bench, everyone can finally get a look at what all the fuss is about.
One of the most talked-about players in the English lower leagues during last summer's transfer window, Baldock was linked with several top-flight clubs before making the move from MK Dons to West Ham.
It was seen as something of a coup for West Ham to tempt the forward, now 23, into joining a club in the Championship, but was perhaps the sensible move to make the step up to the top flight gradually.
A small, nippy poacher of a striker, Baldock only scored five goals for the Hammers last season as he flitted in an out of the team, but his steady development could see him make an impact in the Premier League.
Utility man O'Brien has 50 Premier League appearances under his belt, but many football fans wouldn't be able to pick him out of a line-up.
The Republic of Ireland international was brought to Bolton by Allardyce in 2004, and after making his league debut for the club at the end of that season he initially had a decent run in the side.
However, a series of injuries meant he spent the vast majority of his last five years at the club on the treatment table or on the bench, and it took Allardyce to sign him on a free transfer last summer to resurrect his career.
Still only 26 years old, O'Brien is another West Ham player for whom promotion represents a second chance at a top-flight football career.
West Ham is a club which has a reputation for bringing through talented young players. So when a player makes his debut at the age of just 17 he may well be a player worth remembering, especially when he is the son of a former player.
Defender Dan Potts has inherited the versatility of his dad, Steve, who spent all but one of his 19 seasons as a professional at Upton Park. Potts Sr is now back at the club as a youth coach.
Potts Jr made his first four appearances for the Hammers around the turn of the year, and was subsequently named Young Hammer of the Year.
There are not that many players around who can claim to have won promotion to the Premier League in consecutive seasons, but this season two have done it: Kaspars Gorkss at newly-crowned champions Reading a year after also topping the table with QPR, and Henri Lansbury at Norwich City last season and West Ham this term.
The midfielder, on loan from Arsenal, has had two impressive spells in English football's second tier, and now the 21-year-old looks set to make the step up.
If the north London-born youngster is not willing to spend another season on the Arsenal bench or down in the second tier, ten West Ham will surely jump at the chance to make his move a permanent one.