Premier League Files: Bobby Zamora

Bobby Zamora’s career took its time to really get going but he represented all of his Premier League teams with great loyalty and desire to succeed. His best spell was with Fulham where he helped Roy Hodgson’s side to a UEFA Europa League final in 2010 and earned himself international recognition from Fabio Capello and England. A lifelong West Ham United fan, he would spend five seasons as a player for the club he grew up supporting and was often a scorer of some spectacular goals.

He started his Football League career as a trainee with Bristol Rovers in 1999 and made a few sporadic first-team appearances before going out on-loan to first Bath City, then Brighton & Hove Albion. He made an immediate impact at Brighton, scoring six goals in six matches during a three-month loan spell in 2000. This encouraged the Seagulls’ to sign him permanently for the 2000-2001 season. He would score 83 times in 136 appearances, breaking into the England Under-21 setup during this time and helping Brighton towards the second-tier of English football with back-to-back promotions.

Several Premier League clubs had been monitoring Zamora very closely, particularly Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs paid Brighton £1.5 million in July 2003 to take Bobby to White Hart Lane. He was one of Glenn Hoddle’s prime targets that summer. However, the manager was sacked in September 2003 after a poor start to the campaign which saw Tottenham winning only one of their first six games. Zamora struggled to settle too, scoring just once in 18 matches and that was in a League Cup victory over West Ham United. Had he just blown his big Premier League opportunity?

In January 2004, he dropped back down to the Football League but it was a move he needed for his career. Joyfully for Zamora, it was West Ham United where his next port of call would be as the Hammers struck a deal with Tottenham which allowed an unhappy Jermain Defoe to go in the other direction. Zamora struck an instant cord for West Ham supporters, scoring in his first two matches for the club as they narrowly missed out on an immediate return to the Premier League via the play-offs.

There was no play-off heartache in 2005. Zamora was the ultimate difference behind West Ham’s return to the top-flight. He scored four goals in the play-off matches, including the winner to defeat Preston North End in the final. He was heading back to the Premier League and it was with his boyhood club too. He made an important contribution to the 2005-2006 team under Alan Pardew that finished in 9th place and reached the FA Cup final. Bobby scored on the club’s final visit to Highbury which ended in victory over Arsenal but was one of the unfortunate victims to have a spot-kick saved in the FA Cup shootout defeat to Liverpool FC.

He started 2006-2007 in brilliant form with five goals in four matches but as the club hit a dreadful run of form, the goals also dried up for Zamora. Pardew was sacked and replaced by Alan Curbishley. Zamora did score some vital goals in the run-in which saw West Ham pull off a remarkable escape with seven wins in their last nine matches to avoid relegation. Among those goals was a winning goal at Arsenal which made West Ham the first away winners in the Premier League at The Emirates Stadium. In 2007-2008, he missed five months of the campaign because of tendinitis which restricted him to just 14 Premier League appearances and would leave Upton Park in the summer of 2008 to join Fulham.

Zamora struggled to find the net, scoring just twice in 35 league appearances over the 2008-2009 season and it looked set that his stay in the west of the capital would be just a sole season. Fulham agreed a fee with Hull City for Zamora to be sold in July 2009 to the Tigers. However, he turned down the move because he didn’t fancy moving away from London.

It was an inspired decision to stay. Zamora enjoyed his best-ever campaign in 2009-2010, scoring some vital goals in the run to the UEFA Europa League final as Fulham beat the likes of reigning holders Shakhtar Donetsk, Bundesliga champions VfL Wolfsburg and Italian giants Juventus. Fulham suffered heartache in the final, losing 2-1 to Atletico Madrid but finished a comfortable 12th in the Premier League table and he scored 19 goals in all competitions.

A late season injury ended his outside hopes of playing in the 2010 World Cup finals for England but he made his international debut in August 2010, featuring in a friendly victory over Hungary. Another injury meant he would figure just once more for the Three Lions – against Sweden in November 2011 which ultimately turned out to be Capello’s last match in charge of England.

He signed a new four-year contract at Fulham in September 2010 but just 24 hours after putting pen to paper on his new deal, he suffered a broken leg in a home match against Wolverhampton Wanderers. This would keep him out of action for over five months. He did return to action before the 2010-2011 season finished but fell out with new Fulham manager Martin Jol and would leave the Cottagers in January 2012 to join Queens Park Rangers.

He scored on his debut for the club which was a 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers and scored twice in 14 games as the club narrowly avoided relegation. He never hit the heights of his Fulham days at Loftus Road and experienced two relegations in three seasons. He did score a Goal of the Season contender against West Bromwich Albion in April 2015 and scored another play-off final winner over Derby County but by now, injuries had taken their toll.

In August 2015, he returned to Brighton & Hove Albion and scored seven times in 26 appearances before being released after Brighton missed out on promotion through the play-offs. He didn’t play any part in the campaign after March due to a hip injury and in December 2016, he decided to hang up his football boots. He scored 182 goals during his club career.

Zamora is currently pursuing business interests, including a social housing scheme with ex-Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and West Ham United midfielder Mark Noble.

On his day, Bobby Zamora was unplayable and certainly made an impact on many of his clubs. His best Premier League spell was with Fulham and he is still fondly remembered by Brighton supporters, who came up with the chant: “When the ball hits the goal it’s not Shearer or Cole, its Zamora,” to the tune of Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore.”

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