Friday, 31 July 2009

RIP Sir Bobby Robson, a True Great for Ipswich, England, Newcastle and Football.

Very sad to learn that Bobby Robson has passed away. I am old enough to remember Robson's marvelous Ipswich sides who bit their thumbs at the big boys and gave the mighty Arsenals and Liverpools a run for their money whilst leaving the Man Uniteds, Chelseas and Tottenhams in their wake. It was Robson who stole Paul Mariner from under our noses when, after our Cup Final victory, we sought to build a team capable of "pushing on". The story has it that Mariner had agreed to join us from Plymouth but Ron Greenwood forgot to take the necessary paperwork down to the West Country with him. Just before Mariner was due to travel up to London with Greenwood, a call came through from Bobby Robson and the rest is history.

When I think back to those Ipswich sides, I remember Frans Thyssen and Arnold Muhren, Butcher and Beattie, Alan Brazil, Mick Mills and Mariner. I am sure that the mention of other names would bring faces back through the mists of time. What is unforgettable is the style of those Ipswich teams. Like Greenwood and Lyall, Robson advocated a passing game based on intelligence rather than brute force.

As an England manager, of course, he took us to the World Cup semifinal and might have won it if not for the Hand of God incident. Waddle, Gascoigne, Lineker - these were true England greats.

As for Newcastle, the sacking of Robson triggered the dreadful demise of that great club. "The curse never fell upon our Nation till now, I never felt it till now" curses Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and that line should be inscribed beneath a statue of Robson with an axe coming down on his neck outside St James Park. Treat a so great and gentlemanly figure like that and you deserve everything you get in my book. The gods are just and Newcastle's present plight is just retribution for Robson's dismissal.

RIP Sir Bobby - you were a true great of the game and will be sorely missed.

Freddie Fit And Showing Two Fingers

Watched the second half of the MLS Allstars v Everton game in my hotel last night (after a pleasant Vietnamese meal in Montreal for all those worried about my holiday) and was frustrated to see Ljungberg running around like a teenager and giving Baines a thoroughly uncomfortable time. The speed of thought and pace over 15 yards seem to be back and he looked a born again Premiership player. How frustrating that, even in sweltering heat in Mormon Salt Lake City, he still looked twice as fit as he ever looked in the Claret and Blue.

At least he missed the crucial penalty that gave Everton the game with the most absurd "chipped" effort which Howard was able to claw to safety even though he was flat on the floor after diving early. But there is still the nagging question, did we pay him off too early?

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Questions I Would Like Duxbury To Answer

1. How serious was Ashton's original injury?
2. Was the original treatment flawed?
3. Was Ashton pressed to return too early?
4. Why was Ikea given a consultancy job?
5. What was your involvement in the Tevez affair?
6. Why did we agree to pay Sheffield United compensation if we were convinced that we had done nothing wrong?
7. Why have you shifted your position so often on the club's financial health?
8. Why did you give interviews to two West Ham friendly blog sites rather than in an open press conference where more challenging questions might have been asked?
9. What does Zola think of Ashton?
10. Why is Ashton allowed to work with his own medical team? What does this say about the quality of the club's medical team?
11. How do you expect us to win games in the Premiership without a strike force?
12. Given your insistence that Ashton is going nowhere, why has his shirt been given to Stanislas?
13. Why did we gamble all that money on Savio when there was a desperate need to replace Bellamy with a proven Premiership striker?
14. Why are we paying Nani a salary to source players if we don't have the funds to buy them?
15. What is the deal with Jimenez? Is he using us as a shop window to find another club in 12 months time or do we genuinely expect to be in a position to buy him ourselves?
16. Who is going to play at right back this season?
17. Given you have been a central figure in the Tevez affair and the BG takeover, should you not now do the decent thing and resign given the mess we find ourselves in? Please explain why resignation would not be appropriate.

Any questions I have forgotten that KUMB and Ian Dale omitted to ask?

Would Duxbury Now Tell Us The Truth?

Apparently Zola is going cap in hand to Inter to beg for the services of Mario Balotelli. Remember, this was the kid we were after at the beginning of the summer, the one Jose had lost patience with and sent back to train with the juniors because his attitude stank. According to Zola, "There's no place for him at Inter and he's a natural talent. He is extroverted and knows his attitude can upset people, but he's intelligent and still learning to handle situations."

Now anybody is better than nobody but do we really believe an 18 year old with an attitude problem is the answer to our goal scoring woes? How many 18 year old strikers take the Premiership by storm exactly? There was a lot of excitement when we secured the services of another teenager, Nouble, but again, can we trust a kid to score the goals we so desperately need? I don't think so. Again, I have to ask, what will we do if Cole joins Ashton in the treatment room? We would be buggered big time!

I derided Duxbury's interviews as mood management at the time and questioned whether he could be trusted. The rosy picture he painted in those stage managed interviews is looking like so much bull at the moment. It is becoming abundantly clear that we are crippled financially and are trying to fill key positions with loan signings because we don't have two millions to rub together. Dear God, Manchester are not the only City who appear cash rich when compared to ourselves: Stoke and Hull seem to have more muscle in the transfer market than we do! That is a truly desperate state of affairs.

I warned readers of this blog that Duxbury was taking them for a ride and pulling the wool over their eyes. I would love to have the opportunity to interview the guy but I doubt he would agree because I wouldn't share the questions with him before hand and would not smile benignly at the pat answers.

Apparently Duxbury and his cronies monitor this blog along with the others. Well, if you are reading this, how about fronting up and giving us the true picture this time Scotty because I, for one, am sick to death with what appears to be deceit!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Tottenham 1 West Ham 0 - Is this the story of the season before the season has started?

I haven't seen the game so cannot comment upon it, but I am not in the least bit surprised by the result. In fact, it had to be a banker as a correct score forecast. Well us not scoring at any rate!

So, what was predictable? Green kept the score down but is being blamed in some quarters for the one goal we conceded. Faubert put in the final challenge before the goal was scored but his challenge was ineffective. Yet another player suffered a long term injury - but if you had to pick one, I suppose most would have opted for Luis Boa-Morte. The Foe scored. And most predictable of all, we failed to score.

I have been saying it all summer and I will state it loud and clear now. UNLESS WE SIGN TWO STRIKERS, WE FACE A STRUGGLE AGAINST RELEGATION THIS SEASON.

Wake up Zola, wake up Duxbury, wake up everybody. Yes it was only a friendly but this is yet another game where we have not managed to score twice. Last season we averaged a goal a game - that is relegation form offensively. We are WEAKER offensively now than we were last season.

I am VERY concerned. You should be too!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Living on a wing and a prayer!

How desperate is this sounding? Lucas Neill has not travelled to China but Zola is still hopeful that he will be a West Ham player next season. Aren't we getting a little too close to the wire for this to remain unresolved? According to Zola, Neill is a "key player" and yet we are hanging on a call from the Aussie to confirm whether he is joining ourselves, Unreal City or the Greeks.

According to Zola himself, Neill holds all the cards and the West Ham manager is working on the basis of "No News Is Good News"! Zola has been quoted saying, "Last time I spoke to the player he told me that if anything could happen he would call me first. So far he has not called me so I assume he is not yet going anywhere."

Is it just me or does that sound frighteningly desperate? When was the "last time" they spoke exactly? Let's face it, Neill will look after himself first and we know that money talks loudest in his case - thus the decision to join our relegation battle rather than participate in the Champions League with Liverpool. Medals? They don't buy you houses and cars do they?

Meanwhile, Zola has not identified a replacement. The season is nearly upon us and, so far, we have signed just one first team player and there are key positions to be filled: a first choice right back, a replacement left back and two forwards. If nothing changes, we are going to struggle!

Toni and Guy Anybody?

According to the latest crazy rumour, Zola is "chasing Toni". Dear God, based on what I saw at the last European Championships, Zola wouldn't have to run very fast to catch the Bayern Munich striker. Tristan was slow but I think I would back him over 30 yards in a sprint against Toni!

This rumour is surely nonsense. Why would he leave Bayern Munich for West Ham anyway? Sorry, that may sound disloyal but Bayern will be playing in the Champion's League next season and sadly we won't.

The search for a striker goes on; and the season is getting closer and closer. Anybody else concerned?

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Bad News Comes In Threes - Stoke, Man City and BUPA Circling Like Vultures

Well does it get worse than this? Ashton is apparently on his way, with some reports suggesting that his departure only now hinges on a medical at Stoke. That, of course, is a huge "only" in the case of Beano but how ironic would it be if he passed it? We want to sell him because we can't get him fit but if we do sell him, it is because he is fit! Explain that paradox somebody please! I'm still not convinced it will happen mind you. Luis was all set for Hull until salary terms were discussed. Can Stoke really afford £70k per week to match Ashton's superstar wages stupidly agreed by Duxbury? Indeed, is that why Duxbury was so complimentary about Ashton's ability, because he agreed the crazy salary when Primadeano still wasn't fit? The penny drops! Well actually the £70k a week drops!

If that wasn't bad news enough when we only have one out and out striker with Premiership experience on the books, we learn that Unreal City are indeed targetting Upson, just as we expected. Terry was always an unrealistic target and, as Capello knows, Upson is the next best option. £15m is good money for a guy who will soon tick past 30 and who, like Ashton, carries a long term, unresolved, injury. But do we really want to lose our newly appointed captain so soon to the start of the season? One thing is for sure, if Unreal City want him, Unreal City will get him. I just hope we land a forward plus £15m as a result of the negotiations. Bellyache anybody? I'm joking! I hope!

And just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, it seems we are going to act as a feeder club to BUPA yet again, with news emerging that Parker still hasn't recovered from his injury despite all the extra work over the summer. Hammer of the Year? I said at the time that a player who had completed less than 50% of the games over a season should not have been considered and all my reservations about Parker appear to be correct. The guy is a crock. Yes he covers it well WHEN he plays but I fear that, like Ashton and Bellyache, he will spend far too long in the treatment room to ever be a good investment. We should have sold to City when we had the chance in my opinion.

All this on top of the loss of Neill, the failure to find takers for Davenport, Faubert and Quashie and no good news on the signings front - except for Nouble who is not yet 18.

Still, let's not get down - we do have a lot of good kids!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Ashton Exit Moves Closer

Now before I start, I will say that I take no pleasure from this whatsoever. I know I have been knocking the guy for the best part of a year now and have coined the nicknames Beano and Primadeano for Ashton, but secretly I hoped he would return and stuff my taunts down my throat. Sadly, that is not going to happen - and perhaps when the inevitable happens, a few of my knockers on here might have the good grace to come on and apologise.

In fact, nearly two years ago now I expressed reservations about Beano's attitude. Yes he was unlucky with the injury but when he returned, he was patently overweight and showed no desire to mix it out on the pitch. It was as if the guy was made out of porcelain, the way he pulled out of challenges and fell to the floor at the merest hint of physical contact. He gave an interview to The Sun in which he talked about his personal fitness regime and the way he expected his kit to be laid out for him in the changing room before a game or training. He came across as an arrogant sod who was a legend in his own mind. I posted a critical thread on the org at the time and received no end of stick but I think I had hit the nail on the head personally.

Now we read that Zola is unhappy with Ashton's lack of fitness after the summer break. The inference I take is that, unlike Dixon and Parker, Ashton has been lazing the summer away rather than working on his fitness and conditioning. He has his own personal fitness advisor of course which makes it difficult for Zola and his team to control what is going on. One thing is for sure, Zola is not impressed and I think that means Ashton's days are numbered, despite Duxbury's bullshit.

This saga has gone on for too long. Ashton has tons of potential but sadly that potential has gone to his head, his waistband and his arse. He is far too precious and is becoming a liability to morale in the dressing room. How pig sick would Cole feel if Ashton were allowed back in to replace him now? And say what you like about Cole, he seems to have lots of mates in the dressing room who would feel equally aggrieved. If Stoke genuinely are prepared to gamble on Beano's fitness and attitude, I would offload him - sooner rather than later.

But can Stoke really afford to pay £70k a week in wages plus Primadeano's BUPA bills?

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Right Back Where We Started. What Is It With West Ham And Full Backs?

Remember this time last year? We were so desperate for cover at left back that Curbishley shunted all the club's values into a deep freezer and took Thatcher on trial. Such was the sense of outrage that Hammers fans actually voiced criticism of the manager! He could turn us into Charlton Athletic, he could play a brand of football anathema to every true Hammer, he could spend millions on crocked crap...but signing Thatcher for nothing was a step too far! The thugs belonged among the fan base, not out on the pitch!

Roll on 12 months and what has changed? Well, the situation has actually got worse. Back then, the concern was the lack of cover for Linda the left back. The Beatle has long departed and been replaced with Ilunga but who covers if he is injured exactly? Neill was our emergency left back but it seems certain that he is now packing his bags for good. And, of course, when he goes we will not have a right back worthy of the name either!

Two players played the full 90 minutes against Bursapor yesterday: Faubert and Ilunga. Why? Because there is nobody else to play there! Now, we were incredibly lucky with Ilunga last season - no injuries and no suspensions meant that we didn't have to play Lopez at left back in the Prem. Had we been forced to do so, we would have been made to pay. I saw the guy in the flesh at Watford and I can confirm there was a lot of flesh! He was as bulky as Maradonna in his nadir and Tevez in October. It was a good job it was a cloudy night or Lopez might have caused a total eclipse of the moon!

Zola surely cannot be happy with this situation. Bursapor were attacking down our right yesterday, aware that Faubert could be got at. To be fair, he made one brilliant saving tackle when the Turks broke and were on the edge of our box four against three, but do we really want to see Faux Pas as our first choice right back? What are the alternatives? Spector, who acquitted himself well in the Confederations Cup, and Tomkins played out of position. Neither fill me with excitement as first choice right backs. And if the rumours are to be believed Faubert and Spector could be on their way, leaving us without any experienced cover whatsoever.

I know some will say "Bring on the kids" but that is a high risk policy. To those who say, "In Nani we trust", my reply would be Lopez, Lastpickeva and Di Michele, three rushed signings who didn't exactly set the place on fire. I suppose there is Behrami but surely we would be wasting his talent playing him at right back?

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Half Time Bursaspor v West Ham.

Well I know Austria isn't exactly the football capital of the World but surely they could have found a stadium to play the game in. Apparently not, as the match is taking place in a park with trees and bushes lining one touchline. That can't be good for the intensity of the game but never mind.

At half time we lead 1-0 and Green hasn't been troubled. Mind you, the Bursapor keeper hasn't been too busy either. I know it is early days but nothing seems to have changed from last season. When Bursapor attack, it is down our right flank, with Faubert clearly identified as a weak link. Collins has covered superbly so even when Faubert has been bypassed, there hasn't been a real threat on our goal.

Up front, Cole is hopelessly detached. Jimenez has shown some nice touches but the diamond in midfield is far too flat. We need him operating a good 20 yards further forward than he is at the moment. On a couple of occasions Cole has shown his frustration and I am not surprised. The ball is played up to him and there isn't a single player in support.

On the plus side, Collins and Ilunga look strong and defensively we look tight. But we could have said that through most of last season. The big question remains, how are we going to score enough to win games in the Prem? Dyer has given us the lead but I haven't seen him in the box since.

Oy, Anonymous, I Want A Word With You!

(Submitted by a Reader)

Whenever I am told anything by the government, my local council, my employer, my kid's school, the owner of my golf club, my neighbours etc., I do the same thing: I think about what they've said, I think about what they have said in the past, I think about the independent information I have and I make my judgement as to exactly what's happening. Why should I do anything else when it comes to my football team?

And it seems to me that that's what Hammersfan does. He looks at what's going on and comes up with an article that provokes thought and debate. Some are amusing, some tongue in cheek, some are hard hitting and some are just crap! But he does provide a site which comments daily on the club, where anyone can voice their opinion and even contribute a lead article if they wish, so why does he get so much flack? When Newsnow is clogged up with the same information expressed in 24 slightly different ways I find it stimulating to read an article that takes an alternative view.

In my experience it is the things that we cherish most dearly, that we question and challenge the most. I support West Ham the team, not the corporate entity and as far as I am concerned, challenging the motives of whoever is temporarily in charge of our club is a demonstration of love for West Ham, not an indication that he's a spurs fan. I confess to being an old cyber mate of Hammersfan and am amazed at the amount of childish vitriol and even threats of violence that he attracts. Perhaps those who are not impressed should ignore it so that those who do enjoy the articles could comment without having to wade through so many immature offerings.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

What's Nouble At Upton Park?

Well, you could knock me down with a feather, we have signed somebody after all and, given he turns 18 in September, he may just be a contender for first team action next season. Nouble sounds more like "one for the future" but at least we now have an option up front should Cole join Beano in the treatment room. It is also reassuring to hear Duxbury talking about bringing in others to bolster our attacking options.

I'm not about to put up my hands and say all my pessimism was misplaced yet but should we land two more attackers and a right back of reasonable quality before the season kicks off, then I will gladly do so. I am not looking for world beaters (although that would be nice), just players I think could do a job in the Prem. The basics are there for a top 6 side but we need more depth and options to sustain a challenge over a whole season. Man Utd did once prove that you can win things with kids but a sprinkling of experience here and there generally helps.

Nouble sounds like a Clarke signing to me. I'm still waiting for Nani to do his stuff by sourcing three top quality, inexpensive signings.

What's to be done with a problem like Quashie? Feed him to the Wolves?

For those of us old enough, the old XTC number "We're only making plans for Nigel" might come to mind. I don't rate Quashie as a player and, after Ljungberg, he must be the dumbest of Curbishley's dumb signings, but I can't help but feel for the guy. He didn't ask Curbishley to buy him and, unlike Davenport, he has resisted the temptation to bitch about the club and yet, cruelly in my view, he has been left behind with the kids, isolated from the first team squad as if he is a victim of swine flu. Faubert is on the trip to Austria so surely a seat could have been found for Nigel?

He is clearly unwanted so what are we going to do with him? Perhaps we could follow the example of Michael Owen and prepare a brochure to be circulated around clubs. On the plus side, he has made over 300 first team appearances and has been capped 14 times for Scotland. In fact, he has a unique selling proposition, having been capped at U21 and B level for England but full international level with Scotland. Not many players have bridged Hadrian's Wall in that way have they? Of course the fact that he has been relegated three times from the Premiership might need to be glossed over. With Wolves and Birmingham apparently showing interest, there must be a good chance that Nigel could yet go down again. At this rate, he could change his name by deed pole to Gillian Taylforth!

The big stumbling block to any move is, of course, Nigel's salary. Like so many from the Turds and Egg interregnum he is taking home an absurdly inflated wage packet that no other club would be stupid enough to match. So we can't sell him and I'd imagine that any loan deal would be on the basis of us still paying a chunk of his wages. I am often asked why I am so hard on Curbishley. I give you exhibit A, Nigel Quashie!

I hope Nigel finds a club soon and earns his corn from West Ham by helping that club to relegation. Wolves or Birmingham? Take your pick Nigel, you can go with my blessing!

A Tribute To Brooking Or More Mood Management?

So tell me, why now? Why in the middle of July have the club announced that Brooking will be honoured by having a stand named after him?

I have no problem with the tribute of course but I am suspicious of the motives. I don't know why, but I have this image of Duxbury sitting down in May and planning how to keep the fans happy through the summer by a series of staged events - none of which have any bearing on what is happening on the pitch. It is a familiar tactic of course when an organisation wants to divert attention away from bad news. Nothing happening on the transfer front? Let's tell them how we are honouring an old Academy Boy, a player raised through the ranks, a player made, not bought; that's the West Ham way isn't it?

Cynical, mois? Meanwhile, we read on the OS how well the latest batch of Academy boys are doing. Stanislas, Savio (I know he was bought but he is a kid) and Edgar have all been impressing in training apparently. That's alright then! We don't need to buy anybody then do we? In fact, Duxbury may be earmarking areas of the ground to be named after players to see us through the rest of the summer. The Faubert Substitute's Bench, the Dean Ashton Treatment Room and The Quashie Crapper are all obvious calls!

Two More Join The Squad - Really?

Well the Official Site stimulated a moment's interest with the promising headline "Two more join the squad". Have we landed Eider by Toyota? Had Mancini decided to swallow his pride and play economy class? Has Nouble joined the ranks of the Claret & Blue? Well no, but Noble has returned from his holiday and so has Tomkins! So, another day and another blank on the transfer signings front and we still do not have a complete forward line or a right back worthy of the name.

Meanwhile the OS treat us to a detailed account of training. Now this spirit of sharing is fabulous but I'm not sure I would be too happy as a player for these sorts of details to be released. The news that Savio, Stanislas and Edgar caught the eye on the attacking front is all very well for them, but it tells us that Jimenez and Cole were less impressive, which perhaps should not be paraded for all to see. Also, it would have done little to boost Faubert's confidence or morale given the site tells us that he was playing head to head against the eye catching Savio!

One thing that is enlightening is that Dyer is still involved in "specialist fitness work with Alex Dyer". Read that in a positive way if you wish but, to me, it suggests that Dyer is still a short stretch away from readmission to the treatment room. There is an ugly sense of déjà vu here. No Ashton, Dyer receiving specialist fitness support, Cole not impressing in front of goal, no alternatives up front, nobody to play right back...the sooner there is some genuine good news to be released the better!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Bad News On The Take Over Front

Rumours now that a take over may be in the offing if the little matter of valuation can be resolved. Apparently there is only £50m between the valuations of buyer and seller or, looked at another way, the Thai bidders think we are worth just over half what Straumer want for the club.

The question is, do we want this deal to be done? On the plus side, it might guarantee that we survive and may allow us to buy players again but, to counter this, Pairoj Piempongsant is involved in brokering the deal and Shinawatra appears to be hovering around in the background. We made a very serious mistake when we got in bed with Ikea and then when we welcomed ex convict Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson as chairman. Can we really afford to risk becoming a Thai take away?

The sad thing is, we will not have a say in this. Not you or me as fans, not Duxbury, not Zola, nobody with any feeling for the club whatsoever. We are an asset, pure and simple, and CB Holdings will sell us to the highest bidder without a thought for what is good for the short, medium or long term future of the club. That is the desperate, depressing truth. Anybody who has been to Bangkok will know that morality doesn't intrude upon commercial transactions in Thailand. Who knows, Tony Carr may be replaced by Gary Glitter in due course!

So, let's watch and wait, that's all we can do in the circumstances. Unless you want your say on here of course!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Now Tell Sheffield United To Take A Running Jump!

So why exactly are we paying Shafting United £25m exactly? We have now been cleared of further irregularities and a fine was levied for the original misdemeanor. Come on Duxbury, give an interview to explain what looks like a f*** up to end all f*** ups! My suggestion is that we now tear up our "out of court" agreement and invite that sh*thouse McCabe to see us in court. Once that is out of the way, I'd tear up Duxbury's contract too!

I am sure a longer and more considered response is appropriate but I am back from a game of footy, a few too many pints and have to be up at six tomorrow to get to Lords for what I hope will be another brilliant day for England!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Zola Is Only Biding His Time

This article has been submitted by Hotshot C. I neither endorse nor reject the opinions expressed.

The saviour of Claret and Blue – Zola! I hear you shout. In the background are murmurs of discontent – is he for real?

Zola has been quoted as believing that West Ham can compete for Champions League football. I’m all for the cause but that’s sheer stupidity! The club nearly got into the Europa Cup via an extra place given thanks to one of the top six winning the FA Cup. There’s no guarantee that the same will happen this season, and furthermore Tottenham will have strengthened their cause as will Man City, Fulham, Aston Villa and Everton. That’s six teams fighting it out for two spots, 5th and 6th and, if we are brutally honest, we hardly have any cash to entice players, like Man city and to a lesser degree Tottenham, and unlike the other teams can’t currently offer European football.

I think like Tevez (and Mascherano) before him, Zola (and Clarke) are merely using West Ham as a shop window and acclimatization area before moving onto their real ambition of a bigger club. If Zola thinks he’s going to achieve greatness in a bankrupt club then he’s only kidding himself or the gullible supporters.

Enjoy the ride while you can, because the honeymoon’s not going to last long.

Hotshot C

Relegation Beckons For West Ham - And Here's Why!

I cannot believe how tolerant the fan base is being about the club's lack of activity in the transfer market this summer. Let's get something straight. Unless we sign two quality strikers before the season kicks off, we are going to be in desperate trouble. Zola is rumoured to be interested in Eider G (I can't spell his surname) but the club apparently can't muster £5m. You what? Are we seriously in a position where we cannot find £5m to buy a player for a key position? We also want Mancini but he is not a forward anyway and appears to be as enthusiastic about joining us as Joey Beauchamp. Look elsewhere I say!

And who have we got exactly? Cole, who I rate as a target man but not as a goalscorer, Jimenez (on loan) who is apparently more a creator than a finisher, and Ashton who seemingly needs the intervention of Jesus Christ himself to get him off his death bed. What happens if Cole and Jimenez pick up injuries exactly? Who is going to play up front? Dixon is still injured and isn't considered part of the first team so who else is there? Have I forgotten somebody? We haven't even got Sears, Di Michele or Tristan waiting in the wings!

I have heard Zola say that he is trying to "spot" where we are short. Bloody hell, Blunkett in a blindfold could spot where we are short. Let's stop the trying to spot the blindingly obvious and do something about it! And fast.

Last season a series of brilliant, backs to the wall, defensive performances kept us out of trouble. However, our goals per game return was appalling. In 38 games, we scored just 42 goals, and 8 of those had been scored in the 4 games before Zola took over. That means that in Zola's 34 games in charge, we mustered 34 goals, exactly one a game. West Brom scored 36 in 38 and Newcastle 40 in 38. Our goals per game return was what you would expect of a relegated team. Incredibly, however, personnel wise, we are in an even worse position than last season. Remember, we had Bellamy for 13 starts and he chipped in 5 goals. Take those out of the equation and we are down to 37 goals in 38 games. Ashton scored 2 in 4 too and, one way or another, I don't expect to see him playing in C&B this season. I know Tristan, Sears and Di Michele were at best ordinary, but at least they were warm live bodies who could run around up front! (OK, running was perhaps beyond Tristan but you know what I mean!)

Now I know this will provoke the "In Zola we can trust" responses but can we? His side did not score enough goals last season and I can see no reason why we would improve on that next season, unless something dramatic happens quickly. Eider and Mancini would be a start but neither are out and out goal scorers, both are creators first and finishers second. Who exactly is going to be in the six yard box tucking away the chances? I can't see anybody either on our books now or who we are being linked with. That spells relegation in my book.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

When Ashton Goes, Where Does That Leave Duxbury?

So, the Newham Recorder has come out and said it, the absence of Ashton from the tour of Austria stinks. Every other member of the first team squad is there - even Behrami - as part of a team bonding exercise, so why has Ashton failed to make the journey? The Newham Recorder have reached the conclusion that Beano is about to roll up his medicare kitbag and move to treatment rooms new.

And if that happens, where does that leave Duxbury? Well, still in charge of course because the guy appears fire proof - who knows what he knows and what damage he could do if cut adrift? But what about those interviews and his assurance that Primadeano was going nowhere. He was very categoric if you remember. "I am not selling Ashton to Stoke".

However, regular readers might remember that I pointed out the escape clause that Duxbury had allowed himself. The Slippery One positioned himself in a such a way that the door was left open for Zola to sell Beano. When Primadeano departs, therefore, Duxbury will be able to claim, "It was a footballing decision made because, after assessing the strengths and weaknesses of his squad, the manager decided that Dean Ashton was surplus to requirements." Anybody fancy a bet?

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

A Bellyache in Sunderland? It will end in tears.

According to the Daily Mail, Steve Bruce is now targeting that much traveled and much loved striking superstar Craig "Period Pains" Bellyache. Not content with splashing out on Fizzy Pop bound Frazier Campbell, it seems that the devout Geordie is determined to add another dud to his team of tunnelers as he secretly plots the Great Escape of Blunderland from the tortures of the Premiership to the comfort zone of their true homeland, the Championship.

How else could you explain a move for Period Pains? Our old favourite will cost in the region of £10m and will spend two thirds of the season injured. When he does play, he will score one goal per three games maximum and collect yellow cards at a rate of two in three. Meanwhile, he will disaffect the dressing room in a flash. Steve Bruce cannot handle players with big egos and I predict that his relationship with Bellyache would not last beyond the first two months of the season. Come January he would be on his way again, probably to Tottenham.

The Blunderland fans who have responded to this blog seem imbued with a peculiar optimism which, I suppose, is a firewall necessary after so many years of misery on Wearyside. But surely there must be doubts about Bruce? Look what happened at Birmingham and Palace and, as a Geordie, he didn't harbour a deep seated antipathy for those two clubs did he?

I am now picturing Sunderland as the Pequod and Bruce as Captain Ahab. Bellyache would be the Fedellah, the arrival of whom would signal the beginning of the end. What's that I hear on Wearyside? "Lar she blows!"

Still, stay positive guys, there's always a derby game with Newscastle to look forward to the season after next!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Have Real Madrid and Man City so distorted the market that Tottenham, Villa, Arsenal and West Ham can't do business? And as for Sunderland...

Ferguson has come out and said it: Manchester United of all clubs have been priced out of the market. They have lost one world class player and one close to world class, and may well have to do with out Hargreaves for much if not all of the coming season, and yet they have only "invested" in Oberton, Valencia and Owen. There is no doubt that Ferguson's side will be weaker next season, even if Owen stays fit and recovers his form, but Ferguson is sitting on his hands, insisting that there is no value in the present market.

And of course he is right. How can Terry, a good centre half and nothing more, be worth £30m? How can Tevez be worth £25m after bagging only a handful of goals last season in a close to unbeatable team? How can Valencia be worth £16m? He is good but he is not THAT good. How old is Santa Cruz? £18m for a forward knocking on the door of 30 with a career injury record that compares unfavourably with Owen's, that is bloody stupid. And £17m for Glen Johnson? Bloody hell, John McDowell would fetch £10m on that basis!

Now I know City supporters will scream jealousy but that would be wide of the mark because, personally, I would be delighted to see the big 4 monopoly broken. But at what cost? Blunderland are talking silly numbers to buy dross and are in danger of spending a fortune to get relegated because of the distorted market. It is financial madness and Real Madrid and Unreal City are killing the sport if not killing the game.

So what can the middle ranking clubs do? Wait until the Real and Unreal teams have gorged themselves to the full and then step in and feed on the scraps I suppose. There could yet be a spurt of activity just before the window closes but when even Manchester United seem resigned to playing second fiddle, it has to be a worry for clubs like Tottenham, Villa, Everton and West Ham.

Ashton Explanation Required

Now regular visitors to this site will know that I am not the greatest fan of Primadeano Ashton - not because I don't rate him as a player, but because I think his attitude stinks. I passed comment last week on a remark from young Dixon, that he had trained through the summer but had not seen any of the other players, apart from Parker, as he put in his extra shifts. 'Where was Ashton?' I dared to ask.

Beano fans leapt to his defence of course. Perhaps he is so far along the road to recovery that he doesn't need the additional fitness training they argued. Fair enough, then we could expect to see Beano stripped and ready for action at Grays or, if that was beneath him, then certainly on the tour of Austria. Remember, Zola was of the opinion that Ashton could return before the end of last season!

Cometh the hour but no cometh the man! Deano was a no show at Grays and, it seems, is not ready for the pre-season tour of Austria either. So the guy who was too fit to need to train through the summer (having had almost the whole of last season off!)is not yet ready to turn out against part time professionals. Hmmmmmm, does anybody smell a rat here?

I'm beginning to suspect that the treatment table has moulded itself around Beano's body. Stoke's interest seems to have waned and no other clubs are being linked with him. At this rate, any return of Beano will be on a par with the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Get Well Soon John

What a load of codswallop!

With news breaking of the dastardly tactic of selling Vietnamese cobblers fish as cod, West Ham fans are asking themselves if anything can be taken at face value in the modern era. Punters are now demanding to know whether or not the stuff served in the Queens Fish Bar is, in fact, the real McCoy.

Local Hammer Buster Gutt moaned, "I don't want to eat any commie Vietnamese crap on the way to the game do I? If I want to eat foreign muck, there's enough Indian joints in Green Street aint there?"

More to the point, perhaps, is the issue of Curbishley's signings. If they can dress up cobblers fish as cod, does that explain how Curbishley was able to pass off Davenport, Quashie, Ljungberg, Faubert and Boa-Morte as prime catch?"

Top pundit Lee Vitout explained: "Let's face it, if most clubs had hauled in that lot in a drag net, they would have tossed them back over the side without giving them a second thought wouldn't they? But incredibly, Curbishley paid good money for them."

Mind you, if the infamous five are the equivalent of the Cobblers Fish, they are not the only ones with a Vietnamese counterpart. Leading couch potato Dean Ashton who, surprise surprise, will not make the Austrian trip, is surely the claret and blue equivalent of the pot bellied pig!

And THAT is why Test Cricket is the BEST game in the world!

It defied all logic - Australia murdered us over 5 days but we emerged as the psychological victors after a nail biting draw - but who cares about logic? You can imagine Yanks scratching their heads in total bemusement if anybody tried to explain why a no result was so incredibly exciting, but for anybody who knows anything about the true drama of sport, today's events were up there with the very best. Anderson and Panesar of all people, holding the Aussie bowlers at bay for the best part of an hour - that is comparable to the Colchester victory over the then mighty Leeds United!

Twenty20 cricket? Stuff it. Two guys blocking and counting down the minutes was far more exciting for any true cricket fan. I am at Lords next Saturday and I can't wait!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

SPL v Prem Where would Celtic, Rangers, Hearts and co finish in relation to West Ham, Tottenham, Man City, Aston Villa and Everton?.

My article on Fortune's decision to join Celtic seems to have rattled a few tartan cages. The article was not actually about Celtic but the hornet's nest seems to have been stirred by the following:

"Fortune, it seems, prefers the idea of playing in the Scottish Prem. It doesn't seem to worry him that the quality of football is only marginally above what you would find with jumpers chucked down to indicate goal posts, cash strapped Celtic are preferable to West Ham."

Now jumpy Jocks have read that as a comparison between West Ham and Celtic, which of course it is not. Lots of irate comments have, quite rightly, pointed out that Celtic are a far bigger club than we are and have flaunted Champions League participation as proof that the Hoops are cocks of the estate. I am not denying that and never have. Celtic are a much bigger and much more successful club than West Ham, but that has nothing to do with whether Fortune made the right or wrong decision to opt for Scottish huff and puff over the Hammers. Celtic are a bigger club because if you allow two boys to have free run of a sweet shop, they will inevitably grow very fat. And they are in the Champions League (which qualifying round this year?) because they are in a two horse race every season, and both horses qualify for a shot at the Champions League. Celtic's big boast this year is, "We finished last in the two horse race!" Big deal!

However, some of the replies have made some valid and interesting points. How would English clubs of the stature of West Ham, Tottenham, Villa and Everton fare in other European leagues? The performance of English clubs in the UEFA Cup seem to suggest that our sides might struggle in the German, Spanish, Italian or Ukrainian leagues but that, I would argue, is down to two factors:

1) Unlike the representatives of the other leagues, our top 4 always progress in the Champions League and so our fifth, sixth and seventh best clubs are pitched against the second, third or fourth best clubs from other leagues in the UEFA Cup. That's why we find Portsmouth playing A C Milan! And

2) Our clubs treat the UEFA Cup with what borders on complete disdain - Tottenham, Villa, Bolton and Everton have fielded near reserve teams for key games in the last two seasons.

I do not know enough about European Club football to say how West Ham might cope in other leagues but when I watched Inter play Roma and Fiorentina play Brecia a few seasons back, I was none too impressed by what I saw. True Fiorentina and Brescia were at the wrong end of the table, but the ground was a shabby concrete bowl and the football was not much better. On the evidence of my own eyes, I would back West Ham to finish in the top ten in Italy and therefore in the top half in Spain and Germany too. As for the SPL, we would definitely qualify for Europe!

And what would happen if Celtic, Rangers and Hearts transferred to the Prem? Well, as Newcastle showed, a big fan base and a team packed with highly paid foreigners does not guarantee success in the Prem. Yes, Celtic and Rangers can raise their games for contests with each other and a few home games in the Champions League, but could that intensity be maintained for a whole season? I very much doubt it. They would be no threat to our big four, that's for sure, and I think they would struggle to head the group of clubs aspiring to finish in the Europa League qualifying places.

Over time, of course, that situation could change as the Glasgow giants fed upon the cash cow of the Prem, but would that offset the loss of Champions League revenue? Probably not - and that is why, I suspect, that they are happy being the bullies in the SPL playground. And that is why Fortune has opted for Celtic over the Premiership. Playing against SPL defences, he can't help but fill his boots can he?

Does Anybody Want To Join Us? Celtic, Southampton, dear God!

Maybe it is just my natural pessimism, but I am getting a little concerned about our failure to secure our supposed transfer targets. Now, Mancini apart, I must say that none of the players linked with us lately have inspired any sense of excitement, but when third raters are saying, thanks but no thanks, it has to be cause for concern surely?

Fortune, it seems, prefers the idea of playing in the Scottish Prem. It doesn't seem to worry him that the quality of football is only marginally above what you would find with jumpers chucked down to indicate goal posts, cash strapped Celtic are preferable to West Ham. Maybe the song put him off. "Always running Boss? So what is Ashton going to be doing?" Of course, if his professional pride amounts to preferring fourth grade football to playing in the Premiership, we are probably better off without him, but it still rankles.

Then there is Davis who has opted to stay in the old Third Division rather than join us. Now full marks to the guy for preferring first team football at a lower level to sitting on the bench as an understudy to Green, but how much time have we wasted in pursuing him? The squad are back in training and is so tissue thin that even Quashie seems to fancy his chances of getting a game.

Come on Nani and Zola, get your fingers out!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Man City's Bellyache To Tottenham?

How ironic would it be if Mr Bellamy were to join Tottenham this summer? After all Scott Duxbury said about not selling to the Cockyfools, how frustrating would it initially seem if Redknapp was able to pick him up for less than he would have paid to buy him direct from ourselves?

Well, ironic or not, I hope it happens because, personally, I do not understand Bellyache's appeal. Yes he is a ferret, yes he winds up opponents, but is he really a top class Premiership striker? Not in my book. His goals per game return is nothing better than ordinary at a ratio of 1 in 3 games played and his fitness record compares with Michael Owen's.

But more importantly, I can't see how Tottenham are going to use him. They already have Defoe and Keane and their immediate need would appear to be for a big guy up front - in the style of Crouch or Kenwyne Jones. If 'Arry shells out for Bellyache, it suggests he is planning to offload either Judas or Keane some time very soon. More unrest at the Lane beckons - and isn't Bellamy just the ideal guy to stir the hornet's nest?

Monday, 6 July 2009

The 2006 FA Cup Final Replayed

I should begin with a confession. I am not a fan of tennis. No matter how epic the contest, the game bores me. I prefer team sports over individual games. So even yesterday's fantastic final left me a little cold. How many aces can you watch? For how many minutes can you remain transfixed watching a ball travel backwards and forwards over a net? In my case, two sets was ample, from that point on I only had half an eye on proceedings and at one point I think I had a fifteen minute nap.

Nevertheless, I recognise that yesterday's Wimbledon Men's Final was one of those great moments in sport, one of those special occasions when a David takes on a Goliath and slugs it out, toe to toe, until the bitter end - just like the Greatest Cup Final ever. Roddick's efforts were incredible but so were Ferderer's. Here were two supreme athletes giving their all and displaying fantastic sportsmanship into the bargain.

Contrast the after match interviews with what happens in football. The mutual respect and humility of the two guys was a lesson to us all. Compare that with the crass, in your face, celebrations of the Brazilians after their 3-2 victory over the USA in the Confederations Cup. No handshake for the opponents, no respect for their feelings, just group hugs all round, with Brazilian players running past their valiant and heartbroken opponents to hug friends on the bench. Federer could have hugged his coach or wife, but instead he respected his opponent. Look at Roddick and the way he handled beating Murray. By paying such a glowing tribute to the man he had beaten, he won our hearts and guaranteed the British support in the Final. That wasn't strategy, that was honesty and because he is a thoroughly decent guy.

Remember back to that epic Cup Final and to the number of players suffering cramp. It would appear from yesterday that footballers could learn something about fitness from these tennis players. I think we could also learn something about how to settle a drawn game. Well done to Wimbledon for rejecting the equivalent of the penalty shoot out to decide the final set of the Final. At one point I thought the game might never end but that just added to the drama. The penalty shoot out should be consigned to history; if scores are still level after the 30 minutes extra time, I favour a seven a side contest, the first scorer wins,

Sunday, 5 July 2009

There May Just Have Been A Defining Moment At Upton Park

News is filtering out of Upton Park of what may or may not have been a defining and momentous event in the club's history. Talks may or may not be on going in relation to the sale of Dean Ashton to Stoke. Beano may or may not have been fit to play last season and may or may not be back in training now. He may even be running and jumping. But then again, he may not. Dyer may or may not be striving to get back to fitness and Gabbidon may also be about to make a playing return. Parker and Dixon have been working on their fitness so they may be able to kick a ball in August; but then again, they may not. And let's not forget Behrami, he may or may not be ready to return for the start of the new season.

Lucas Neill is also in Limbo, with one foot in and one foot out of the club. Will he go or will he stay, that is the question. That and, do we really care? Upson may or may not be leaving and his house may or may not be up for sale. Green may be in negotiations to extend his contract but with more than two years to run, there may not be any hurry on the part of the club to offer him more money when there is no contractual need. We have definitely signed Jimenez, well definitely maybe because there is an option to buy or not buy which may or may not be exercised in 12 months time. Mancini may join us, but then again, he may not. We may fancy Gudjohnsen but then again we may not; and if we do fancy him, we may or may not be able to meet his wage demands. Oh, and exciting news this, we may have landed an understudy keeper who shipped God knows how many goals last season as Southampton were relegated from the Fizzy Pop. Bowyer may well have joined Birmingham but has it yet been definitely confirmed? Quashie may be on his way somewhere and so may Davenport; some club may be stupid enough to sign them!

Then there is the issue of the ownership. Straumer may or may not survive the banking crisis and we may or may not be up for sale. There may or may not be a buyer waiting in the wings and that buyer may be Indian or may be an American. Who knows, he may be both! That would explain the Apache rumours - they had nothing to do with Tevez after all! Of course Mr Tevez may have been about to rejoin us but that, it seems, was never going to happen. Maybe that's Sod's Law!

Dear God, that Duxbury interview was so revealing - everything is so crystal clear now isn't it? Maybe, just maybe, that was the purpose.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

When will the transfer merry go round start? Man City, Tottenham, Villa, Liverpool - it's all gone quiet over there!

Apart from Real Madrid, nobody has really done much in the transfer market so far. The transfer window is now officially open and players have reported back for pre season training and yet, Michael Owen apart, and he was on a free, nothing much has really happened. True we have landed Jimenez on a loan deal, Liverpool have bought Johnson for an absurdly inflated £17m and Man Utd have signed Valencia from Wigan for an absurd £16m, but what about Unreal City (after their initial spurt), Tootatthem, Blunderland and Villa, clubs linked with a host of deals recently but who have not yet captured their primary targets.

The delays are totally illogical. Selling clubs find themselves paying salaries through the summer for players they will not be using in the coming season. With salaries of £50,000 per week or more, that is crazy. Meanwhile, the buying club is reducing the time available to work with the new signings and, with wholesale changes, risk doing a Tootatthem, using September and October as a get together session, forfeiting fifteen points in the process. As for the players, they have to cope with moving home, and often country, whilst trying to perform to the best of their abilities for the new club.

The selling team is massively inconvenienced. The Mancs may not like the way that The Real Deal do business but at least Ferguson knew early doors that he had to replace Ronaldo. Look at the chaos at Tootatthem when Keane and Barbietop left very late in the day. Suddenly Oneday Ramos was scratching around trying to find anybody to play up front - and took a desperate punt on Roman Pavlova. He should have bought 'Arry's wife instead! And imagine the psychological effect on the rest of the squad left behind when a key player departs just before kick off. It happened to us when Joe Cole joined Chelsea; imagine the uncertainty that would be caused if Upson, Ashton and Green were to depart at the beginning of August!

The failed bid for John Terry is a worry. Unreal City have money to burn and are clearly targeting an English centre half. It may now be Lescott but Upson is more in the Terry mold so I expect him to be their first choice. If he goes, Clarke and Zola will have a major problem to solve. The longer they have to solve that problem, the better. Meanwhile, let's hope 'Arry leaves his inevitable flurry of deals as late as possible!

Friday, 3 July 2009

Make Him Neill And Beg!

There's a great little scene in "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" where the Ugly one starts negotiating to buy a gun. The gunsmith says $50 dollars, then drops to $30 then to $20, then suddenly says $50, $100, $200 and finally, "That's all I have". His product has been pointed against his temple and the negotiation positions have been reversed.

Well, Luckless Neill has shot himself in the foot by turning down our initial contract offer and walking away from the club. He expected a host of other clubs to be falling over themselves to sign him, not realising that his lack of pace has been noted by every manager in the Premiership and even, it appears, as far away as Greece.

Now, if I was in the negotiation, I would delight in saying, "We offered you £40k a week last time so now we are offering 30. Delay 24 hours and it goes down to 25, delay another 24 hours and it's down to 20. You want a pen? Well ask nicely. On your knees!"

Well, with Zola in charge, why shouldn't we have a rerun of the most famous spaghetti Western of them all?

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Fancy A Fortune?

Marc-Antoine Fortune is the latest in a long line of wittily named players to be linked with the Hammers. According to that up to the minute, never wide of the mark news source, tribalfootball, Fortune has to choose between Celtic, Hull and ourselves.

Now, apart from the fact that the club anthem incorporates his name, so guaranteeing him Claret and Blue immortality if he joined, I can't get excited about signing the guy personally. He didn't look anything special in a West Brom shirt and at 27, he isn't going to make giant strides forward over the next 4 or 5 years is he? The £3.8m fee that Celtic have apparently agreed to pay probably puts him beyond our reach anyway.

This is one Fortune that I hope doesn't fall into our lap!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Ashton On His Way To Stoke

I must admit that I found the early rumours difficult to believe, but this business about Ashton going to Stoke just won't go away. Apparently it isn't our reluctance to sell, or Stoke's willingness to meet our valuation, that is the problem, but Beano's personal terms. Having grown fat on the mad contracts we were willing to offer before financial realities bit us on our bollocks, Primadeano, unsurprisingly, is unwilling to lie flat on his back for a whole season for anything less than the £65,000 a week we are currently paying him!

This must be very frustrating for all concerned. Zola doesn't seem to fancy him and would probably rather have the money and Duxbury may yet be snared by his own propaganda if the Stoke deal suddenly stacks up. Quite how he would explain this volte-face I'm not sure.

But those personal terms are still the stumbling block - though it would be best not to mention stumbling blocks in an article about Beano I suppose as that could mean another season's lay off! Negotiations have probably been made more difficult by the spate of celebrity deaths - Jackson, Fawcett-Majors, Karl Malden, Mollie Sugden - as no doubt Beano will be wrapped in cotton wool and locked in a padded treatment room to avoid Sudden Death Syndrome. Any suggestions of a Pay When You Play contract would probably induce a coronary meanwhile.

Is there a good pizza restaurant in Stoke I wonder? That's probably the best way of closing the deal and keeping all parties happy!

Bad Business At The Boleyn

There may be a logical reason for this and, if you know what it is, please let me know.

Now, to begin, I was always taught by my parents to "Look after the pennies and then the pounds look after themselves" and I have never been in debt in my life as a result. So, I am struggling to understand the logic of releasing Kyel Reid on a free.

Hammers fans are understandably annoyed that Reid has signed for Shafting United but, in many respects, that is missing the point. From what I can make out, Reid was wanted by a number of clubs, having acquitted himself well whilst out on loan. And he has made it onto the pitch in Claret & Blue 9 times so he obviously isn't a complete mug.

So tell me, why didn't we try to sell the guy for a modest sum? I know £200,000 would be a drop in the ocean given the £25m we have to pay the Blunted Blades, but anything is better than nothing surely? In fact, £200,000 might just about pay Ashton or Dyer's medical bills for a whole month!

Tottenham Reject Dixon and Parker Working Through Summer But Guess Who Isn't There?

It was interesting to read that young Terry Dixon, tossed onto the scrap heap by Tootatthem, and club captain Scott Parker have been working on their fitness through the summer. The young lad's attitude is highly commendable as he told reporters, "I would rather be here than on holiday to be honest, just to get ready for the new season." Now that is the spirit we want to see isn't it?

But what he had to say next really got me thinking. He added, "Scott Parker has been in this week, but other than that I haven't seen any of the other players since the end of the season."

None of the other players? Since the end of last season? So Beano and Dyer haven't been in then? Aren't you just a little surprised by that given neither were fit to play for most of last season? I wonder where they are then? I hear the pizzas are delicious in Italy!