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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 14:14 GMT
Flair and farce in equal measures
Paolo Di Canio
Paolo Di Canio provided many of West Ham's highlights
From the genius of Paolo Di Canio to the farce of the Worthington Cup fiasco, it was certainly a memorable season for Irons fans.

It began with the Intertoto Cup in July. The gamble of entering paid off as they won through to the Uefa Cup, their first European competition in nearly 20 years.

They crashed out in the second round as Steaua Bucharest survived a 90-minute barrage at Upton Park to go through 2-0 on aggregate.

It was a good season in London derbies. Hammers only lost one, at Highbury, and for many fans the 2-1 home win over Arsenal in October was one of the highlights of the season.

Unfortunately, Di Canio's match-winning performance was overshadowed by the dismissal of Patrick Vieira.

Self inflicted

Cup humiliation is nothing new for West Ham, but this season it was self inflicted.

After FA Cup dismissal at Tranmere, the Worthington Cup was the only chance of glory. Four days after Tranmere, Aston Villa were beaten in a quarter final penalty shoot-out after a thrilling 2-2 draw.

But when it was realised that substitute Manny Omoyinmi had been ineligible, a replay was ordered and Villa won 3-1.

Joe Cole
Joe Cole is among West Ham's rising stars
The only match to rival the first Villa game for drama was the visit of Bradford.

A broken leg for goalkeeper Shaka Hislop meant a debut for teenager Stephen Bywater, who had a nightmare start as Bradford scored three times in quick succession to go 4-2 up, only for West Ham to come back to win 5-4.

Other highlights included Di Canio's BBC Goal of the Season in the win over Wimbledon, and a 5-0 thrashing of Coventry, but away form was frustrating.

They were demolished 7-1 at Manchester United, and losing 3-1 at Sheffield Wednesday after scoring first was hugely disappointing.

Serious injuries

The early start eventually caught up with West Ham. Serious injuries and one point from the last four matches meant they finished ninth, two points and four places behind the previous season.

But most fans view it as a season of progress.

Alongside Di Canio, the unpredictable Paulo Wanchope eventually came good, and the addition of Frederic Kanoute promises even more excitement and exasperation next season.

Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Stephen Bywater have shown that the famed youth policy is still working well.

If a poor disciplinary record and plague of injuries can be avoided next season, West Ham's trophy drought might finally be over.

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