Tristan silences his critics with late leveller

STRIKER Diego Tristan must have looked over at the substitutes board with a little trepidation, WRITES DAVE EVANS. There were 81 minutes on the clock and the match had not exactly gone well for the 33-year-old Spanish striker, but when the board was rais

STRIKER Diego Tristan must have looked over at the substitutes' board with a little trepidation, WRITES DAVE EVANS.

There were 81 minutes on the clock and the match had not exactly gone well for the 33-year-old Spanish striker, but when the board was raised it was his striking team-mate David Di Michele who made way for the arrival of Freddie Sears.

Four minutes later and an afternoon of mediocrity and misery had turned to delight. Mark Noble's corner was cleared as far as Kieron Dyer and when the midfielder sliced his shot, it was Tristan who had the presence of mind to arch his back and divert it with his head into the Aston Villa net.

Before that moment, many pundits, including this one, were likening Tristan to some of the worst strikers ever to have worn the claret and blue.


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His control had been dreadful, his pace non-existent and his hunger for the ball just did not seem to be there. He strolled around like a Spanish deckchair attendant at closing time down at the Marbella hotel swimming pool.

"It looked like being one of those days for Diego, to be honest, but to be fair it was his fourth successive game," said the ever-understanding Gianfranco Zola after the game.

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Most players get fitter the more matches they play, but not Tristan it would seem. It is not as if he has had to play three games in a week.

It is just one 90 minute effort each Saturday and though the Premier League may be the toughest in the world, surely his experience in the Spanish League should have prepared him for what was in store.

"When you haven't played for such a long time it is normal to have physical problems, but he's the only one who can play up there and give us the sort of presence that keeps the defender's attention," explained the manager.

That of course is true. Without Carlton Cole and Dean Ashton there is no muscle or height up front without Tristan, but his performance on Saturday was so below the standard expected of a Premier League striker, that you wondered if it was better to play another of West Ham's breed of youngsters.

Big Hungarian striker Balint Bajner has done well for the Academy and the reserves this season, so if the likes of Junior Stanislas, Zavon Hines and Bondz N'Gala can force their way into the first team squad, why not the giant 18-year-old?

It is of course, very difficult to completely condemn Tristan after he stooped to head home that 85th minute equaliser. Before that moment he could have rightly been branded with the worst individual performance by a West Ham player this season.

But goals change perceptions. He has now earned the Hammers four Premier League points with his two goals this campaign and Zola and West Ham may say that for a free transfer, he has repaid the faith shown in him. Perhaps he has.

"I was very delighted for Diego because he got the point for the team that we deserved," said the boss.

He was right. But is this the sort of player the West Ham fans want to see in their beloved claret and blue?

If the Hammers want to progress then they need better players as back-up to their real stars, and that is simply not a player too slow for the Premier League, who is living off past glories.

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