There were two notable incidents which stuck out in West Ham’s FA Cup clash with Shrewsbury Town today.
The game finished 0-0 at New Meadow, with the visiting Hammers unable to find a way past their resilient League One opponents, who were more than worthy of taking the tie to a replay.
There has been much talk about the ‘mercenary’ nature of football in recent weeks, with some fans questioning whether certain players even care about the clubs they represent.
Unfortunately, the FA Cup has long lost its magical aura, and is often seen as top clubs as merely an opportunity to give their fringe players some game time.
There is a (perhaps) cynical perception that an away trip to a battling lower league club in January doesn’t appeal to certain players, usually summed up with the “wet windy night in Stoke” analogy.
West Ham midfielder Cheikhou Kouyaté certainly seemed intent to prove as much.
It was a physical game at New Meadow today, and Shrewsbury defender Mat Sadler suffered a gruesome head injury after a clash of heads with Andre Ayew in the 32nd minute. Thankfully, the bloodie defender was able to carry on after brief treatment on the wound.
Sadly, not every player was putting his body on the line.
Senegalese midfielder Kouyaté didn’t look bothered for the visitors in today’s stalemate, much to the ire of West Ham fans watching the game.
Many took to social media to criticise his attitude, and the following clip of him “tracking back” typified his lack of effort.
Vintage Kouyate pic.twitter.com/ZVGI0mSots
— Stevie “WHU” Sizzle (@TheSullis) January 7, 2018
It was a disgraceful effort from a player who clearly didn’t fancy a cold, tough cup clash.
He exhibited no passion whatsoever, which I found extremely disheartening even as a neutral.
Thankfully, there was an impressive showing of passion from another of the Hammers’ midfielders.
Republic of Ireland u21 captain Josh Cullen impressed for the Irons, and showed that passion isn’t dead yet after an ugly incident in the second half.
The 21 year old was kicked in the face accidentally by Shrewsbury opponent Abu Ogogo when going for a header, and his tooth flew out of his mouth on impact.
It was a sickening collision, and Cullen was escorted off the pitch for treatment, as a member of the West Ham medical team scampered on to the pitch to pick up the young midfielder’s tooth.
However, the Cullen was insistent that he wanted to return to play, and came back on once his wound had been patched up.
Ouch!! West Ham’s Josh Cullen loses a tooth! pic.twitter.com/8cp3mU38Oe
— Tim Shires (@timshires) January 7, 2018
He returned to the pitch with a bloodied mouth and a grimace, and threw himself back into the action, as the commentator revealed that his tooth was resting in a mug in the away dressing room.
His determination and commitment will have gone down well extremely well with the West Ham management team and supporters alike, particularly in light of the other indifferent performers around him.
His bravery should be rewarded with a place in West Ham’s squad for their next Premier League clash, even at the expense of Kouyaté.
Fans want to see players who will give their blood, sweat and tears for their club, and Cullen showed he was up to the task today.
You can’t put a price on passion.
Modern football needs more Cullen’s, and fewer Kouyaté’s.