Players From The Past

French full-back Sebastian Schemmel is a man synonymous with West Ham United cult hero history and perhaps the most obscure player ever to collect the Hammer of the Year Award, playing over 50 times in the Claret & Blue between 2001 and 2003.

In the latest edition of Player from the Past, today, we look back at his bizarre and quite brilliant spell in East London and his short playing career, how did he end up at Upton Park? What was the odd reason behind his downturn in form and subsequent departure from the club? And more importantly, where is he now?

Sebastien Schemmel

Sebastien Schemmel was born in early June 1975 in Nancy, France and grew up dreaming of playing the game he loved professionally, starting out at local club Nancy as a youth.

The attack-minded right-back quickly progressed through the ranks at his boyhood team, who in that period, were constantly yoyoing in and out of France’s top league.

He made his debut as a teenager in 1993 and quickly became a home favourite and a permanent fixture in the first-team, going on to make nearly 150 appearances throughout the decade.

During his time with AS, Schemmel had earned himself a reputation for being an explosive character and in 1998, sought a new challenge and a more established name in Ligue 1, the top division of French football.

Metz would be his destination, but his spell at the club would be largely shrouded in controversy by a number of off-field incidents, one even involving a police charge.

Nevertheless, he still went on to make an abundance of appearances for the Maroons, most notably helping them to reach the final of the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1999.

In the Final, he was pitted against Harry Redknapp’s West Ham and ended up on the losing side over the two legs, although he had gained one thing, he was now under the radar of the Premiership outfit.

The following year and after an unhappy season at Metz, the defender was finally snapped up by Redknapp, initially signing on loan in January 2001 and impressing enough to be captured on a permanent basis the following summer for £450,000.

Once he had been signed up, a change of manager occurred at Upton Park with Redknapp ending his long reign and being replaced by Glenn Roeder from his backroom team.

Roeder’s first campaign would be a huge success as he led the Irons to a top half finish with a youthful squad and Schemmel’s form would very much follow the pattern of the side during that 2001/2002 season.

The attacking defender played 39 times in all competitions and scored the only goal of his spell in East London in the Boxing Day home thrashing of Derby County.

Schemmel was adored by the Claret & Blue Army, not only for his play on the pitch but his looks also and more specifically, his trademark long and luscious, thick hair.

At the end of the season, he became the first player from France to win the club’s prestigious Player of the Season Award, the Hammer of the Year as chosen by the supporters.

In that season, he fought off tough competition from the likes of Paolo Di Canio, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick to the Award and all was set for another prosperous season with Roeder at the helm in Schemmel in defence.

Towards the end of the previous campaign, Schemmel opted to shave his hair and went for a shorter style, something that would be looked back on as something of a turning point in his Irons career.

As the next season begun, a noticeable drop in the form of the side and the player occurred, as he slipped to under-par performances in heavy defeats to teams such as Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Manchester United.

The Hammers were never able to stop the rot and eventually got relegated to what was then known as the First Division, and as for the depleted Schemmel, he wouldn’t feature again after January 2003.

At the end of the treacherous season, the previous year’s Hammer of the Year was shipped down to Portsmouth to play out the final spell of his time in England after a weird and wonderful stint in Claret & Blue.

The defender only made 18 appearances with Premiership Pompey, moving back to his native France where his final club before retiring would be Le Havre during the 2004/2005 season.

Schemmel only made around 300 appearances during his 13-year career, one that had been blighted by injury, poor form and his controversial nature, he decided to move into a different profession after his retirement.

Having flirted briefly with the idea of punditry work and coaching, the man who is still a fan favourite amongst the Claret & Blue Army, decided to start his own business, becoming a Restauranteur.

Now living in Luxembourg, Schemmel started a West Ham-themed restaurant called “Upton Park”, which mainly serves burgers and fried food, the outlet is situated in the Esch-sur-Alzette region of the country.

Sebastian Schemmel may not have been the greatest ever player to grace the hallowed turf of the Boleyn Ground week-in-week-out, but there can be little doubting that he struck a chord with the fans and the club, a bond that will never be broken, a true cult hero status.