Aaron Cresswell's decade at West Ham: Broken noses, dedication and 'legendary' status

Aaron Cresswell is the left-back who Matt Jarvis believes should have had more England caps, who Sam Allardyce says is a West Ham United legend and who David Martin refers to as a close friend for being there during his lowest moment.

Today marks 10 years since Cresswell joined West Ham from Ipswich Town for £3.75million. The Athletic interviewed ex-West Ham managers Allardyce and David Moyes, and Cresswell’s team-mates for their thoughts on his achievements and what he is like as a player and person.

This is the story about the impact Cresswell has had at West Ham, the setbacks he has overcome and what is next for the defender.

The early days: ‘It was Neil McDonald who said I should sign Cresswell’ 

Cresswell started his playing career at Liverpool at 12 but was released three years later. He would later play for Sunday league side Wood Lane Juniors and within months, Cresswell was spotted by a Tranmere Rovers scout.

He was devastated by his Liverpool release but used the experience to try and prove them wrong, enjoying his football again with friends before Tranmere provided the platform to get back on track.

Cresswell scored six goals in 80 appearances during his three-year spell at Tranmere Rovers. He joined Ipswich Town in the summer of 2011 and won the player of the year award in his debut season. The full-back was named in the 2013-14 PFA Championship Team of the Year. Off the field, Cresswell lived with his girlfriend, now wife, Jessica. They would regularly attend a local Italian restaurant, with the owner charging the pair £4 a meal as they got used to living away from home. He would eventually pay more once his profile at Ipswich started to build.

It was Mick McCarthy who informed Cresswell about West Ham’s interest. Unbeknown to the defender, Sam Allardyce and members of his backroom staff regularly scouted the full-back at Portman Road.


Allardyce signed Cresswell and says he is a club ‘legend’ (Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

On July 3, 2014, Cresswell joined from Ipswich on a four-year deal. West Bromwich and Fulham had monitored Cresswell, but West Ham won the race.

“We liked him a lot, we were looking to strengthen the team and the reports from our coaches were very good,” Allardyce tells The Athletic. “We felt Cresswell was the right player for us and little did we know he would spend 10 years at West Ham. I had him for three years and he never let me down. It was Neil McDonald, my assistant coach, who was adamant I should sign Cresswell. He watched a lot of Cresswell’s games and really liked him. He’s played a key part in West Ham’s recent success.

“There was a time when we had interest in Cresswell, but there was no way David Sullivan was going to sell him. It would’ve taken a crazy offer. It’s worked out well Cresswell staying at West Ham. He’s now a club legend.”

Cresswell the person: ‘Aaron was looking for me and consoled me after’ 

David Martin, the former West Ham goalkeeper and son of club legend Alvin, chuckles over the phone as he recalls one of his fondest memories of Cresswell after joining in the summer of 2019.

“I was with Cresswell when I was on loan at Tranmere from Liverpool,” he says. “He was very quiet but you could tell he had something about him. It was my first week at West Ham and it was under (Manuel) Pellegrini. We went to Switzerland for 12 days, came back and flew out to China for the Asia Trophy. We were due to play Manchester City in the evening, but Pellegrini always liked to go on the pitch before to do set pieces.

“In one session it was me, Cresswell, Jack Wilshere, Ryan Fredericks, Robert Snodgrass, Ben Johnson, Declan Rice, Mark Noble and I was getting the run around. There were a lot of personalities in the dressing room and I was trying to go under the radar. I got in the middle of a drill called ‘boxes’ and the lads started laughing because they knew I was getting tired. Cress tried to nutmeg me and just missed but I could see him getting chirpy and laughing more.

“Snoddy played this ball to him but it got left short and I thought, ‘Yes, this is my chance’. I lunged in but Cresswell was enjoying me being in the middle so much he tried to go for it as well. I’ve toed the ball but my right hand has caught Cress in the face. The sound of it was so loud it sounded like I intentionally slapped him in the face. All the players in the other boxes stopped because it was that loud.

“I start panicking and the British lads start crying with laughter. Cress went to the ground in a heap and started covering his face. He was down for about 20 seconds but it felt like two minutes. I just kept thinking, ‘I’m done, this is me getting the sack’. Noble went to Cress and said, ‘Come on mate, you’re milking it now’. But when Cress looked up he had a broken nose. Remember, we’re playing Man City that night.

“The rest of the lads see his nose and start rolling around on the floor. The physio took Cress inside and managed to ease the situation, thank God. But the funniest thing is, on the coach back, Cress was icing his nose with a surgical glove. Then in our group chat the lads start putting pictures of Steve Bruce and Mick McCarthy’s noses. I started worrying that Cress was going to be raging, but we’ve been close mates ever since. He’s a friend for life.”

One of Cresswell’s best moments was his solitary goal in the 1-0 win over Chelsea in November 2019. It was Martin’s debut for West Ham, having replaced Roberto who had conceded nine goals in three league games. Cresswell embraced Martin after the game, a moment Martin will always cherish. When the goalkeeper found out his contract would not be renewed in May 2022, Cresswell helped lift his spirits.

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Martin was mobbed by team-mates after the Chelsea match in November 2019 (Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

“Cress was the first person I saw when I found out I was leaving,” says Martin. “I was hoping to get a new deal but it wasn’t meant to be. When you walk into the gaffer’s office at the training ground, you can walk in through the diner, or walk out via the car park. I walked through the diner and all the lads knew this moment had been building up for months.

“Cress went, ‘Have you spoken to the manager? Do you know what’s happening?’. I went in, got the bad news and I knew at that moment I couldn’t function with all the lads in the dining room after. I couldn’t put on a brave face so I asked the gaffer (Moyes) if I could go out the other way because I needed a moment to myself. He said yes and I was probably outside his office for 20 minutes, just composing myself. But all that time, Cress was looking for me and he consoled me when I told him what happened. He was the best person to have been there for me at that moment.”

Off the field, Cresswell prefers to be out of the limelight. There have been occasions when he has gone above and beyond for close friends and staff at West Ham and is extremely popular with players and those behind the scenes.

“Cressy came to my office when it was announced I was leaving,” says former manager David Moyes. “We had a good chat and he pretty much just thanked me for everything. It was nice of him to do that. I got wind that he was staying and I congratulated him.”

Cresswell the player: ‘I didn’t realise how good he was until I played with him’ 

Cresswell was voted player of the year in his second season. It was his involvement offensively which pleased Allardyce — and in 2016 Cresswell earned his first international call-up to the England squad.

Season Appaearances Goals Assists









































The left-back made his debut in the 2-2 draw against Spain at Wembley Stadium and he earned three caps.

“I messaged him when he got called up because I was so proud of him,” says Matt Jarvis. “It was long overdue and he was playing at a high standard. He deserved it and should have had more caps. He was able to fulfil a childhood dream. I didn’t realise how good Cresswell was until I played and trained with him.”

Cresswell has been a consistent performer having played under Allardyce, Slaven Bilic, Moyes, Pellegrini and Moyes again. New head coach Julen Lopetegui will have his first interaction with Cresswell today when the players return for pre-season. In June, Cresswell signed a one-year contract extension. Although Emerson Palmieri’s arrival from Chelsea in 2021 led to Cresswell becoming second choice, he remains a solid understudy.

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Moyes worked closely and is fond of Cresswell (Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

“It was tough last season for him with Emerson being first choice,” says Moyes. “The year before he had a lot of assists and was a really big part of our first European run. He was still an important member of the squad even with giving advice to some of the younger lads, or being a leader behind the scenes.

“There was a time where we had little backup at left-back so he was very consistent for me. It reached a point where we needed another left-back for competition. Unfortunately for Cresswell, Emerson’s performances were really good so he stayed in the team. But Cressy could go and play for a long time. I don’t think he’s someone who will stop playing soon because he’s still in condition.”

The hurt of Frankfurt: ‘I looked at Nobes and he said, “Dave, how long do we give it?”‘

The nadir of Cresswell’s time at West Ham was his red card in the semi-final of the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt. West Ham lost 2-1 at home in the first leg and 1-0 in the return fixture. Cresswell was sent off in the 17th minute and Martin made sure he was there for his friend.

“I went in the dressing room straight away because I wasn’t in the matchday squad,” he says. “I knew what a big game it was for him. I gave Cress a couple of minutes, walked in and he was sitting on the bench with a towel on his head. It’s the only time I’ve seen him super low.

“When he won the Conference League (the following season), I was made up for him. But I remember me and Nobes (Noble) being next to Cress when he was down after the loss against Frankfurt. We wanted to lift his spirits and address the elephant in the room, but Cress still had his head down looking at the floor. I looked at Nobes and he said, ‘Dave, how long do we give it?’ I said, ‘No, it’s too soon. The game’s just finished!’ Cress could hear us and he started smiling. We just wanted him to feel better.”

Jarvis and many of Cresswell’s team-mates checked on his wellbeing after the game. “I messaged him to say he should keep his head up,” says Jarvis. “He’s been outstanding for the club. It’s just one mistake and it happens.”

It was Cresswell’s second dismissal of the competition. In an interview with Iron Cast podcast, he was candid about how it affected him.

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Cresswell was sent off for this foul against Frankfurt (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

“The Lyon one really p***** me off because I didn’t think it was a red card,” he said. “But the one against Frankfurt was really hard to take and was the lowest point I’ve had. We were up against it going into the second leg. I was devastated.

“But we played Norwich City on the Sunday and I thought the gaffer was going to be so pissed off but he played me. The start of the game, the West Ham fans sang my name and that meant a lot.”

In the family lounge at the London Stadium is a picture of Cresswell with his son, Sonny, and daughter Sadie. He was an unused substitute in the final against Fiorentina, but after the victory he expressed his gratitude to the entire club.

‘He deserves a testimonial but he would hate the attention’ 

This season will be Cresswell’s 11th at the club. The last West Ham player to receive a testimonial was Noble in 2016. As it stands, it is unlikely Cresswell will receive one, much to his relief, according to Martin.

“He’s one of those people who don’t like the limelight,” he says. “He definitely deserves a testimonial but Cress would hate the attention. It’s hard for players to stay at clubs for five years, much less 10. It’s a rare achievement and Cress can feel proud he’s been able to do it in the Premier League.”


Cresswell playing against Stevenage after signing in the summer of 2014 (Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

Former team-mate Joey O’Brien agrees. “Cress is one of the only few players I’ve remained in contact with,” he says. “You don’t hear about players staying at clubs for 10 years these days. You have to be a top player to do it that long at that level.”

So what next for Cresswell? He made 18 appearances in all competitions during 2023-24, including 10 starts. The full-back still believes he has a lot to offer and will aim to impress Lopetegui.

“With Nobes having retired, and then Declan Rice leaving last summer, I like to think I can take on that role as one of the senior voices now, and can pass on my experience and knowledge,” says Cresswell.

“My role has changed a bit, but I understand how things work in football, and there’s a bigger picture. There’s a new management team that’s come in, and our academy is booming, so that could be really important. I’m ready to help out as much as I can.”



Julen Lopetegui’s first press conference: Meeting with Moyes, transfers plans, and Paqueta

(Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

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