Sunday, 28 February 2010

Wenger's Glass House - Remember these?

It's a man's game.

Another Good Result!

Another game for Sunderland and another two points lost. Fulham were there for the taking today after the midweek game in Europe and long journey home. Apparently they didn't manage a single shot on goal and yet Sunderland still failed to beat them. It is 14 games without a win for Blunderland now. Is Geordie Bruce secretly plotting their relegation?

Fatty Dowd Cheats Villa!

Now I can just about understand how Dowd didn't send off Vidic after giving the penalty. There was an argument, a thin one I accept, for not showing red initially, but surely EVERY referee in the world would have produced the minimum of a yellow for a professional foul in the penalty box? In which case, Vidic would have gone in the second half when he belatedly received his first yellow.

Dowd should be required to explain his reasoning in front of the cameras. Either he is utterly incompetent, or he is frightened of Ferguson, or he is a cheat. O'Neill couldn't say it on camera but everybody else should say it for him!

And who else should have been shown a red? The BBC panel who have been talking for 30 minutes now and boring the pants off of everybody!

Rooney Rested Today; Let's Hope Capello Follows Suit

I can't see the point of including Rooney in the squad to play Egypt personally. Surely here was the ideal opportunity to give the guy a week off? Ferguson has rested him from the League Cup Final starting 11, despite being a Scot, recognising the danger of burn out. It would be crazy for Capello to push him into action in a meaningless friendly.

Hopefully Capello will start with Cole and Defoe to see what they can do. They linked well against Holland and, of course, Cole played a killer pass to Defoe at Upton Park! No matter what, Rooney should not be risked. Give the guy a break, our World Cup hopes depend upon him!

If Wenger Had Adams And Vieira Now...

...would he see their fouls? Is it me, or did Arsenal mix it with the best of them when Wenger had thugs at his disposal? Wasn't Wenger's complaint then that referees were too quick to go for their cards, that Arsenal were being victimised based on their reputation?

I seem to remember an appalling Vieira tackle in the centre circle at Upton Park - I can't remember the victim, but I remember clearly Wenger saying that he hadn't seen it so could not comment.

Vieira was a true midfield "enforcer" - or a "bully" in any world other than sport. Wenger was perfectly happpy to allow him to rough up opponents and then defend his actions afterwards. I hated Vieira when he spat (which Wenger also did not see!) but admired him as a player apart from this. Arsenal won titles when Vieira was in the team because he drove the side forward and terrified the life out of the opposition with his take no prisoners tackling. Look at that picture above - tackling from behind with studs up!

That was all part of the game when the tactics suited Wenger! What a hypocrite the guy is!

Wenger Lacks Class

How disgusting were Wenger's comments yesterday? Everybody could see how distressed Shawcross was after breaking Ramsey's leg and the tackle was clearly not malicious. He went in for a 52:48 ball and was a millisecond late in the challenge. His studs weren't up and had the leg not been broken, he would not have seen a red card. I tell you what, Neill's tackle on Cattermole at Wigan last season was ten times worse!

I understand that Wenger was upset and wants to protect his players, but his comments were out of order. Shawcross is a young player himself and does not deserve such spite for an honest but mistimed challenge made in the couldron of a Premiership game. Wenger should take a deep breath and apologise.

The Grass Is Greener At Chelsea For Rob

The hilarious performance of Hilario at the Bridge yesterday surely rubber stamped Green's exit visa from Upton Park. Cech has been inconsistent since that head injury and his replacement is clearly not up to the required standards. Chelsea have to source a new keeper and Green is the obvious choice, given he can be picked up inexpensively because Duxbury chose to offer a contract extension to Ashton rather than to our England stopper.

I don't know much about Lewis, his mooted replacement, except that he has shipped lots of goals for Peterborough so far this season. Do we need a young keeper with lots of potential, or a gnarled old pro? For keeper, I'd go for experience personally.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Buy The Mini Season Ticket - It's Fantastic Value For Money!

It has just occured to me what a fantastic deal this mini season ticket is! For £250 or less (depending on where you sit), you get to see FIVE relegation Cup Finals plus the return to Upton Park of Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy! Imagine the atmosphere as we cheer Tevez and howl at Bellyache! The only thing that will spoil it all is if we go down...

...and that won't happen will it?

Kids and students can get to all six games for as little as £70! Now that is incredible value!

Four Glaring Omissions From England Squad

Great to see Baines and Warnock selected in the England squad. Who needs Bridge? Also pleased to see Walcott back in there. I think he is a must for South Africa because of his electric pace, especially if Lennon's groin refuses to heal. Remember it was a deep seated groin injury that destroyed Owen as an England player. Unfortunately for Mikey, our attempt to play him back into the squad hasn't worked out for him. How Owen must wish he could play West Ham every week! Zamora will also be disappointed but, despite his recent form, not many Hammers fans would take seriously his England credentials.

The surprise omissions for me are Foster, Robinson, Young and Joe Cole.

Bent seems to be on the reject pile and I am not surprised by that. And the same applies to Ivebonkedawhore. The decision to ignore an in form Robinson really surprises me. The guy has World Cup experience and looks as good as anybody between the sticks at the moment. Capello clearly does not fancy him for some reason. Foster also seems to have slipped down the pecking order, which is great news for Green.

The major shock is Joe Cole. I expected him to be given his chance based on his undoubted ability but, it seems, Capello is a man of his word. If you are not doing it at club level, you don't get picked! Amazing that, even in this season of terrible struggles, we still have 3 players in the squad.

It must be the first time in a long, long time that we have as many West Ham current players in the squad as players who have come through via the West Ham youth team and moved on to pastures new. In total, the West Ham link extends to 7, three current players, 3 players who made their league debuts with the Hammers, plus David James.

Mancini Offers Capello Solution To Bridge Dilemma

According to Mancini, Bridge is "Very concentrate". Well that's alright then, let's bottle him, and if we need Wayne in the World Cup, Terry can take a piss and we will have the perfect solution, the whole sorry affair perfectly diluted!

I'll get my coat.

Duxbury and Nani Saved Us and Deserve Our Undying Gratitude!

I am not the author of this article, it was submitted via comments. If the author would like to own up, I will accredit him. My money is on it being Scott Duxbury!

Any talk of West Ham being close to financial meltdown is absolute scare-mongering, conjecture and nonsense. We are well over the hump and have been for months!

- West Ham have raised over £50m in player sales since the Summer of 2008 (the same time-frame as Pompey). That's with Green, Upson, Behrami, Parker, Noble, Collison, Tomkins, Cole and Diamanti still at the club.

- If West Ham were as close to folding as some claim (or on "life support"), then why weren't summer/January offers for Cole, Behrami, Upson and Tomkins accepted?

- West Ham's annual turnover is over 50% greater than Portsmouth's.

West Ham were in a financial mess because of Curbishley and Magnusson. Severe overspending on wages/transfe fees was the cause. However, from this summer we will obviously be well into the rebuilding process because so many players are out of contract and our wage bill will be cut dramatically. Dyer will go, Davenport will go, Boa Morte will go, Gabbidon will go, Upson will go, Ilan will go, Behrami will go etc etc.

Gold and Sullivan will take the credit, but Duxbury and Nani deserve the praise. To keep us with a Premier League standard squad, despite flogging £50m worth of talent and cutting the wage-bill by over 30% is remarkable. Those 2 are hated by many, but one day, probably the next time we win a trophy, every West Ham fan should look to Duxbury and Nani and say "Thank You!"

£50m recouped, wage-bill sliced by over 25% and only 3 places dropped since May 2008 in the league (from 10th to 13th now).


Burnley, Wigan and Wolves all LOSE! Bottom Two Determined!

Ok, the ideal result at Bolton would probably have been a draw but, at the end of the day, we only need two teams to go down with Pompey now, so any two from Burnley, Wigan or Wolves would suit us fine!

I predicted a win for Administration FC before kick off, and they didn't let me down! Burnley now are surely as good as down: losing at home to Portsmouth today will destroy any confidence that they were clinging on to. Clarke Carlise would be able to make sense of the conundrum GEARLIONET on Countdown but the clock is ticking down on their Premiership holiday regardless. The change of manager has killed them. How on earth did we contrive to lose at Turf Moor?

Wigan are a better team than Wolves but they are falling apart. 35 points will be enough to stay up. Let's start by taking 3 off Bolton next week!

The Battle Of Stamford Bridge - Ex West Ham 2 Ex West Ham 4

Bloody typical! It was billed as a battle of Terry against Bridge but, as it turned out, it was all about ex West Ham players! Six goals scored, and all six netted by ex Hammers. Bridge is angry with Terry! Our successive owners have shafted us far more than Terry ever shafted Wayne's former girlfriend!

Just imagine, for a moment, where we would be in the table now had we retained Tevez, Bellamy and Lampard! Wayne, if you want to know how it feels to be betrayed, become a West Ham fan!

West Ham in a Financial Coma and on Life Support

The article that follows was posted via the comments section. I am not the author but considered it so passionate, well written, and worthy of consideration that I have carried it as a main article. I will gladly accredit the author if he supplies his name.

Portsmouth have raised almost £100m in player sales in the last 20 months, could West Ham have done that (even owning and selling off their own stadium and training ground) and yet still Pompey has 70 million pounds in outstanding unpaid debts! Our situation is far worse; I don’t think too many understand the gravity of the West Ham predicament, Doomsday would be an understatement (Gold called it Armageddon if we are relegated, he did not mean that lightly) and we are still not out of it, not by any means, in fact we are still deeply in the mire; very, very deeply in it, up to our necks.

If Gollivan had not ‘saved’ us, our final demise would have been the same as Pompey’s & just as swift, make no mistake about that. The take-over has softened the devastating impact of the situation we ARE still in and we all have very short memories. I’ve seen some West Ham fans on the blogs even talking about a European place this, yes THIS season. We are not talking thousands here, we are talking millions, untold unobtainable millions; in this day of telephone number figures for money surrounding football clubs (particularly Premiership clubs) it is hard to envisage what those sums actually mean.

Some people find it hard to understand the concept of evolution and refuse to believe in Darwin’s theory of the origin of the present day species because they are not able to grasp in any way shape or form what happens to this planet and its flora & fauna over periods of millions of years, it is not possible for the human mind to comprehend such fantastic periods of time. The concept of understanding how great these sums of money really are is a simile to that inconceivable timespan.

West Ham were/are almost 111 million pounds in debt and were/are in hock up to their eyeballs (still very much the case) and sales of players in January were inevitable to raise cash just to keep the club afloat, yes just to keep trading as a business and not becoming the first premiership club to go into administration.

Gollivan only own 50% of the club and a bunch of creditors still own the other half. So extremely desperate are Gollivan to raise funds they were even prepared to grovel to Curbishley and ask him to invest his paltry 1.5 million; do you think they would have done that if the situation is still not as grave as it ever was? We were dead and on life support, they were about to turn off the machines that were keeping us alive when someone saw the Gollivan finger twitch just when the doctor had his finger on the off switch, that is how close we came and we are still in a coma that will take years to come out of, we were that close to dying at the ripe old age of 115.

Melodramatic? That’s as maybe but it is much closer to the truth than many West Ham fans are prepared to admit!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Pompey In Administration. There By The Grace Of God...

So Pompey are in administration owing a paltry £70m. That pales into insignificance when compared to our much more dramatic £110m! I know Sullivan and Gold are not our idea of the perfect knights on white chargers but you have to wonder how close we were to the brink when they stepped in. Duxbury and Bernhardt kept claiming that the situation wasn't critical, but the owners of Northern Rock were saying something similar on the evening before the Bank of England pulled the rug from under them.

The hope is that the Pompey players will now play out their remaining games desperate to prove that they have a future in the Premiership. All the pressure has evaporated, they are going down now regardless, so the players can go out and express themselves, rewarding the wonderful Pompey fans for their continued support, whilst putting themselves in the shop window ready for next season.

I fancy Pompey to have a storming end to the season now, which will suit us down to the ground. We don't have a game this weekend so I will be cheering on Pompey against Burnley. My money is on a 2-0 win for Administration FC!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

So Wayne has decided not to go the World Cup - but it's okay, we are talking Bridge not Rooney! Can't see him being missed that much to be honest, even if Cole isn't there. It has been a mystery to me why Baines has been ignored thus far so hopefully we will now get to see what he can do. And there's also Warnock who is a regular in the best defence in the Premiership and Ridgewell at Birmingham who could provide cover for the centre back positions too. And Upson has played at left back too remember.

Poor Wayne. In times like this, music helps. How did the Simon and Garfunkel song go?

When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in her eyes
John will dry them all

He's by her side
When sex get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a Bridge over troubled water
John will lay your girl
Like a Bridge over troubled water
John will lay her down

When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
John will comfort her

He'll take Wayne's part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a Bridge over troubled water
John will lay your girl
Like a Bridge over troubled water
John will lay your girl

Ride on Bridge's Girl,
Ride on by
John's time has come to shine
All her dreams are on their way

See how they shine
If you need a friend
John's sailing right behind
Like a Bridge over troubled water
John will ease your girl
Like a Bridge over troubled water
John will ease her behind.

Reduced Service For Next 6 Home Games

Apologies in advance for the reduced service over the next 6 home games. Unfortunately I will not be able to post half time reports and the final match report will be appearing later than usual. The reason? Having bought the mini season ticket for myself and my son, I will not have access to a computer until I complete the long journey back to Bracknell. (3G? What's that then?)

In the meantime, I am looking for some help. Could anybody please tell me:

1. Is there a tube station closer to the ground than Seven Sisters?

2. If it is cold, would I be safe wearing my only scarf - navy and white?

3. Do fans still take football rattles to games?

4. Is the ICF a type of inter city train?

5. Where in London, approximately, is West Ham? Is it close to Chelsea or the West End?

6. Should I confide in anybody that I have a University degree or is this likely to generate a negative response?

7. Could somebody share with me some rhyming slang so I can converse with the natives?

Your help would be greatly appreciated.

And for the regular contributors, if you fancy meeting up for a beer (or orange juice Stani) on match day, drop me an email. It would be great to put some faces to names!

And just in case anybody from the club looks in here, Emma in the ticket office is brilliant - very helpful indeed!

The Lessons To Be Learned From Old Trafford.

In my match report, I declined to give players individual ratings because I said to do so would be unfair. Cole looked very average but the supply he received was awful. Spector was murdered second half but the protection he received was all but non existent. Once we were behind, there was only one team in it and we were lucky to come away with just a dent to our goal difference. Had Valencia been so inclined, he could have opened us up to a tonking of the order of Lennon's destruction of Wigan.

So what lessons should we learn? Well the problem remains one of balance in midfield and up front. Without Parker, there was no forward drive from the middle of the park. When we did try to get up in support of the strikers, we became stretched and it was easy for the Mancs to break and score. Think back to the fixture between us at Upton Park and we saw the same thing, looking comfortable when we were not trying to go forward, but once we were behind and trying to get back on level terms, looking as secure at the back as a Liverpool teenager's hymen, and still utterly impotent up front. Why?

A large part of the problem was Franco. The guy has talent but no pace so United were able to sit tight on our two strikers, knowing that there was zero possibility of a "knock through" and a pacey striker outstripping their defence. I was thinking of our performance at Liverpool last season as I watched the game, remembering how Bellamy was a constant threat to the Liverpool back line because of his pace. The score was 0-0 but, ironically, that was in large part down to the efforts of Bellamy because the Liverpool backline and midfield always had to be aware of an attacking threat and so could not over commit. At half time on Tuesday, however, Ferguson probably said "Play as high as you like, there's no danger of them running in behind you." That meant Valencia could play as high as Rooney, which ensured he was one on one with Spector as soon as he received the ball. The consequences of that were frightening! When Mido came on, our goal threat was, if anything, lessened because, in his desperation to get involved, he kept coming so deep to look for the ball. At one point, he looked as if he was playing as an axillary right back!

The lack of creativity in midfield was the other problem. Diamanti had a very bad day at the office and without him and Parker, the midfield offers nothing as an offensive unit. I know Behrami scored on Saturday but goals from him are once in ten blue moon events. Kovac is impressing when he does the simple things, but 99% of the passes he plays are square so he needs somebody alongside him who looks to get the ball forward quickly. And sadly, Noble looks as creative as carbon paper. Either he is in a prolonged dip in form or he is not the player we all hoped he might be.

So, what did we learn? Probably nothing that we did not already know. It boils down to:

1) We are not good enough. Yes we can beat poor and mediocre teams but put us up against the likes of Manchester United, or even Spurs, and we look woefully inadequate.
2) Tomkins will play for England one day but is not yet ready to be a first choice centre back in the Prem.
3) We desperately need specialised cover for left back.
4) We also desperately need a pacey player to play off of Cole. Ilan must be the best alternative of those currently on the books surely?
5) Noble needs to spend some time out of the spotlight, trying to rebuild his game.
6) Behrami is a great dynamo but offers very little in terms of creative inspiration.
7) Diamanti, at the moment, is a flat track bully like Graeme Hick. Put him up against dross and he looks brilliant, but against the best, he looks innocuous in open play.
8) The team is no better than mid table quality. European aspirations are unrealistic without a major overhaul of the squad.
9) Given the financial problems, to progress we have to accept the sale of players in order to free up funds for squad restructuring. If we go into next season with a broadly similar squad, we will struggle again.

I think Zola will go in the summer. And I expect Upson, Parker, Green and Behrami to depart too. How the proceeds are invested will decide whether we are destined to kick on, or slide even further backwards.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Rare Sighting Of The Lesser Spotted Dyer

There are rumours that Kieron Dyer will be changing his name to Hitchcock on the basis of his cameo appearances, popping up from the bench unexpectedly and performing all too briefly. He must have completed something in the region of 15 minutes last night and may have touched the ball as much as twice. That represents a hard day's night for Kieron!

Diddy David must have been having a heart attack as Dyer came on to the pitch. "What the $$&£! Why the bloody hell is Zola bringing on somebody I'm trying to bully into retirement?"

Who knows, perhaps this is the warm up to the big performance. Maybe it is written in the stars that, last game of the season, Dyer will rise, Lazarus like, when the Saviour Zola touches him on the shoulder, race onto the pitch and fire home the goal that keeps West Ham in the Premiership!

Or maybe it will be Boa, like Dyer, leaping up from the bench, eager to justify his transfer fee and monumental wages, who will smash home the winning goal.

Or, more likely, last minute, the ball comes in from a corner, Dyer and Boa both go for it together, collide and both are carried from the pitch on stretchers!

Nanni Whammy!

I do not believe it! First Duxbury and now Nani has been shown the door. Do the Diddy Davids know what they are doing I wonder? How in God's name can they sack Technical Director Nani, the guy with a roving brief to sign players from a very compact region of Italy?

Do they not know that this is the man who was able,thanks to his fantastic ties with his former club, to capture that brilliantly precocious talent Savio? The lad didn't cost us anything like £11m in the end; the true cost was more like £5m, a snip given Savio played in a total of 11 games for us, 10 as a substitute! Compare the cost of Savio's time on the pitch to Dyer's, and you will understand what a bargain the boy was!

Then there was Jimenez! Remember Duxbury telling us how Zola was going to build the team around this fantastic Nani capture? Good God, such was the brilliance of Nani that he spotted ability in the guy that even the Special One hadn't identified! Trouble is, it was so well hidden that nobody in England spotted it either!

And don't forget Lopez! I won't! I witnessed his debut at Watford and thought we were playing the Michillin Man at left back!

And then there was Tristan of course, that brilliantly talented lamp post who spent three months getting into such fantastic condition that he was once spotted breaking into a ten yard jog at Upton Park. And don't forget Di Michele, the four goal a season striker! And Da Costa, who we may see play again one day. And Ilunga, who was superb until he landed a permanent contract. And Kovac, whose signing necessitated the sale of Collins (who is a central figure in a Villa defence that, statistically, is the best in the Premiership this season!).

True, he identified Diamanti and Behrami, but even Turds managed a couple of good signings - Upson and Parker.

As with Tottenham, the Technical Director role has failed completely. I have no time for Curbishley but his principle of the manager having the say on who is bought and sold (within reason) has to be right. So it is goodbye Nani and good riddance in by book!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Manchester Lions 3 West Ham Christians 0 - Even Michaelmas Owenus Scores!

Well we arrived at Old Trafford with Diamanti when what we really needed was Androcles. I warned about the consequences of entering the arena with the wounded lion and so it proved. In the end, 3-0 was an injustice to Emperor Rooney and his Praetorian Guard.

We could complain about the way we started the second half, with the Mancs passing the ball around us as if we were bollards before Park hit the woodwork, and how, in the remainder of the second half, it looked as if they were toying with us, less a roaring lion devouring a Christian, more a domestic cat playing with a mouse, but, in truth, there was nothing we could do. Manchester United were, quite simply, a class apart.

It is pointless to look for explanations beyond that. On this showing, if Cole is a World Cup striker, then Rooney is the greatest player the world has ever seen; if Behrami is worth £15m, then Scholes, even at 35 must be worth half a Ronaldo; if Diamanti is a genius, then Valencia is Newton, Einstein, Hawking and Pele all rolled into one; dear God, if Upson is an England player then so is Wes Brown! We even made Gary Neville look like a viable alternative to Glen Johnson for South Africa! Thank God that Giggs was injured!

Poor Spector was undone badly in the second half. Arsenal and Chelsea will be coming at us down that flank now. Upson and Tomkins battled manfully and Tomkins made another brilliant challenge on Rooney in the second half, as did Upson. But where were our centre backs when Rooney headed the second? Behrami looked bemused, having run half the length of the pitch to find himself in splendid isolation in the middle of our penalty box! And it was reassuring to see that we remain a charitable organisation for Michael Owen. Why break the habit of a lifetime eh? Make way for Michael Owen and lay out the red carpet all the way to the edge of our six yard box!

To grade individuals on this showing seems unfair. Spector tried so so hard and made three brilliant challenges but he was murdered in the second 45, with no protection offered by his midfield. How do you rate Cole, Mido or Franco? The ball they received was so slow, so telegraphed, and they were so outnumbered by the time it got to them. That said, they looked laboured when they got it, especially given Wes Brown was one of the markers. Yes you expect Vidic and Evra to present a challenge, but Neville and Brown? Well I suppose they are defensive giants in comparison with Carrick and Fletcher!

The best moment of the game? When Noble was tackled by the corner flag! That, I'm afraid said it all! Goal difference back to where it was before the Hull game; which is why we should have shown more urgency when they were down to eight and a half men!

One last thought: we matched the result achieved by the might of Wolves Reserves! We came, we saw, and we were conquered!

Half Time: Man Utd 1 West Ham 0 - Par Score So Far

A creditable performance thus far but it is very one sided isn't it? With Noble in for Parker, there is no drive from midfield. Diamanti has looked more cubic zirconia so far and Cole and Franco are in the pockets of the centre backs. Going forward, we have offered nothing.

Defensively, we have coped well. We conceded because we made the mistake of over committing, getting too many players ahead of the ball and losing possession. What followed was classical Manchester United, sweeping down field, stretching us first on our right, then switching to our left, for Valencia to deliver a sublime cross for the inevitable Rooney finish. It was a brilliant goal.

That apart, however, we have looked good in terms of defensive organisation. Upson had a nightmare first 10 minutes, giving the ball away three times, but after that did well. Spector has his hands full with Valencia but is doing his job manfully and has made two superb challenges. Faubert has also looked efficient, though he was one of those sucked forward for the goal. The revelation at the back has been Tomkins. Touch wood, but he has been reading the game superbly and that tackle on Rooney on the edge of the box was like Moore on the Brazilians. And the way Rooney is playing, he would get into that great Brazil team! What a shot on the turn that was!

Kovac has done well, as has Behrami. Noble, sadly, is still looking a weak link.

Can we get back into the game? I hope they are told to keep it down to one until the 75th minute before then giving it a go. In truth, a 1-0 loss would be a small victory. What we mustn't do is chase an equaliser and ship a hat full of goals second half!

Zola Risks Premier League Fine!

Well he has picked Noble and left out Parker, so on the basis of what happened to Wolves...

Cole Walk Out Shocker

Cheryl's dumped Ashley!

Manchester United v West Ham. Who Dares...

...gets a mauling? There's a dangerous confidence surrounding tonight's game based on our two victories over Hull and Birmingham and Manchester United having a bad day at the office at Everton. Suddenly we have become undefeatable and the Mancs are a bunch of lame brained pussies. According to some, we collect three points just by showing up!

It is amazing how quickly a victory over AC Milan in the San Siro can be forgotten. If three goals against the Italian giants isn't warning enough, the little matter of the reverse we suffered at Upton Park, when Manchester United didn't have a defence, should serve as a warning. The defeat at Everton was a disastrous result for us. Without it, Fergie might have rested Rooney and the whole team might have gone into tonight's game thinking about the League Cup final. Now Fergie will be in their faces, demanding a huge improvement or else! As I said the other day, it is never clever to get into the arena with a wounded lion.

Victory would be wonderful but McCarthy wrote this game off and, until the weekend, most Hammers fans who expressed a preference, backed his decision, calling it sound management. If it made sense for Wolves, why not for ourselves? Parker is one yellow card away from another suspension; should we play him? What if Diamanti, Upson or Cole were to get injured?

I am not backing that policy of course. I don't hold out much hope for tonight but with Diamanti and Cole firing we do have a squeak of a chance. I expect to see either the same team as on Saturday or for Collison to come in instead of Franco. To get anything, we will have to be at the very top of our game: which means Tomkins and Spector in particular will have to be screened effectively. If we go a goal down early doors, I hope to God that we keep an eye on the goal difference column. At present the -5 gd is like an extra point; I don't want it doubled after a five goal spanking!

I don't do predictions as everybody knows so I will go for 2-0. To who? Now that would be telling!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Faubert Robbed!

Being French, Faubert has probably shrugged it off as inconsequential anyway ("What do zee Engerlish know anyway?") but I have to say that the selection of Diamanti as the man of the match on Saturday was wrong. Yes the Italian was very impressive, showing the virtue of playing a left footer wide on the left of midfield: yes he was gorgeously beautiful on the ball; and yes he teased Fagan into getting sent off; and yes he nearly scored with that delicious free kick in the second minute (won when Faubert was fouled as he skipped past the Hull full back); and yes he sent over that wonderful cross for Behrami's header, which bought a brilliant save from Myhill; and yes he tried that wonderful shot from inside his own half. But did he actually contribute to any of the goals? Answer non.

Faubert, on the other hand, played the pass of the season to set up Cole's goal, fired home a superb effort himself, looked as safe as maisons at the back and, a few overhit passes apart, was impressive all game.

Diamanti, Homme du match? Mon Dieu!

Fanno Got This Wrong! Czech Mate!

OK, I'm not always right. I was right about Curbishley, I was right about Ashton, I was right about Dyer, I was right about Davenport, I was right about 4-3-3, I was SOOOOOOO right about Duxbury, I was right about Jimenez, I was right about us facing a struggle against relegation this season (before the season kicked off), I was right about Villa and Tottenham pushing Liverpool and Man City hard for 4th place this season (again said before the season kicked off), I was right about how desperate our financial situation really was, I was right when I said Green lacked the all round quality to be England's World Cup keeper and I was right at half time on Saturday when I predicted somebody would be sent off. But always right? No, I am only human!

And in the case of Kovac, I think I may have been wrong. At the end of last season I asked if we really wanted to sign him permanently and admitted to being unconvinced. I didn't have strong feelings either way but felt that we had greater priorities - like another forward and two full backs, one left footed and one right. By October, I was convinced Kovac was an absurd signing. We had lost Collins and had, instead, a player who looked uncomfortable in midfield and who Zola and Clarke did not trust at centre back. Why on earth had we signed him, I asked.

Well with Diamanti bringing creative flair to the team and Parker showing more attacking intent, Kovac has come into his own. He played Bowyer so well at Upton Park that the Birmingham danger man was withdrawn, and on Saturday he anchored the midfield superbly, pressing high up the pitch and winning possession to set up the first goal.

I may yet be proved right of course, if Kovac returns to the dozy sod form he was demonstrating before Christmas but, for now at least, I owe the guy an apology. That goal against Portsmouth seems to have done wonders for his confidence and he has looked quality since. He keeps it simple which is a useful counterpoise to Diamanti and he also seems like a popular figure in the squad too.

So well done Radoslav, and if you are daft enough to look in here, I apologise!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Four Wins Sees Us Safe

Home games against Stoke, Wolves, Wigan, Sunderland, Bolton and Man City, plus an away fixture at our happy hunting ground of Fulham, and all we need is 4 wins! The problem will come if we suffer any more injuries to players at the back. All that focus on signing strikers meant we forgot about how little cover we have at the back. Ilunga is already out for 7 weeks and Gabbidon has a touch of the Dyers. If Upson were to pull up lame, we might yet struggle.

But 4 wins from 12 games? Surely that shouldn't be beyond us. Should it?

Tottenham Spank Wigan!

For the perfect weekend!

When Did Diamanti Stop Being An Impact Player?

So tell me, when did Diamanti stop being an "impact player"? When I was complaining about Zola wasting this special talent by leaving him on the bench, the "Zola Can Do No Wrong" brigade kept coming on here, telling me he was an impact player!

"Impact player", I asked, "well why not let him make an impact from the first minute instead of from the 65th?"
"You don't understand", they said, "you don't know anything about football. Diamanti is the classic impact player, you bring him on when the opposition tires. Why waste that potential against fully conditioned teams?"

Well those "experts" wouldn't have had Diamanti on the pitch when Parker won that free kick against Birmingham! And, of course, Diamanti would not have been there to take that brilliant free kick yesterday in the second minute of the game!

Impact players! Bloody idiots! Diamanti has looked like a 90 minute impact player to me, not the 30 minute merchant that Zola's can't think for themselves acolytes believed! And interestingly, since Clarke has wrestled control of the tactics, Diamanti has shown that he can defend too!

Remarkable that!

Burnley and Bolton Spanked!

This is turning into a fantastic weekend! Now, say it quietly, but we could really do with Tottenham thumping Wigan in the four o'clock kick off. Come on you Spurs? Go on, force yourselves!

Clarke Has Resumed Control Over Selection And Tactics.

A debate is raging on another article about the merits or otherwise of 4-4-2 and 4-4-3. What is indisputable is that when we played 4-3-3 last season, we struggled and found ourselves in the bottom four, with relegation looking a real possibility, despite being in the top 6 when Zola assumed control. Playing 4-3-3 we slumped to seventeenth in the table and questions started to be asked about Zola's suitability to manage a Premiership side. Then we changed to 4-4-2 and a string of results saw us pull away from trouble.

During this period, Zola lost patience with Etherington and dropped him, before selling him to Stoke. He couldn't understand why the left footed Etherington was uncomfortable on the right side of a 4-3-3 formation. Rather than play Etherington in his correct position, Zola dropped him and shipped him out. Since then, Etherington has starred in a Stoke team who are 7 points ahead of us in the table and has been mentioned as an outside bet for the England team. Stoke picked him up for £2.1m in what must be one of the bargains of the last few seasons.

This season, Stanislas and Collison have suffered in a similar way to Etherington. Played either on the wrong flank or as part of a 4-3-3 formation, they have looked increasingly less effective, probably, in large part, down to loss of confidence. Even Hines was forced into the 4-3-3 corset, rather than allowed to sit on the shoulder of Cole / Franco. Zola, meanwhile, buggered around with Jimenez, a player patently unsuited to the Prem but who happened to be the right shaped piece of the jigsaw from Zola's point of view. The trouble is, Zola was building the wrong bleeding jigsaw, just as last season! Remember how Jimenez was preferred against Everton instead of Diamanti? What happened? After wasting 60 minutes, Zola had to accept he was wrong and replace the less than hot Chilean! Remember what happened when we went from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 against Burnley? 5-0 became 5-3! I could go on!

So what has now happened? Well, as with last season, Clarke has won the tactical argument. During the 4-3-3 experiment, a number of people commented on how Clarke was no longer at Zola's shoulder during games. The Scot seemed to stay on his arse all game, keeping his own counsel. Zola was in the spotlight, looking anxious, looking devoid of ideas. That hasn't been the case so much recently. Clarke is back in the spotlight, back directing affairs from the dugout, back, it seems to me, in control of who plays where and how.

Clarke is a safety first coach. When Zola was allowed his head, we shipped goals all over the place; now Clarke is back in control, we are looking much more watertight. Remember those 0-0 draws at Liverpool and Chelsea last season? Those points were secured with defensive banks of four, those points were squeezed out by the tight arsed Scot who said "bugger 4-3-3, lets play 4-4-2 and pull Bellamy or Di Michele back into midfield when we don't have possession".

I expect to see something similar at Old Trafford on Tuesday, with Franco coming deep if he plays to make up a midfield 5, which becomes a conventional 4-4-2 when we have the ball. Clarke is back in control of tactics and that is why things are suddenly looking more optimistic!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Lawrenson You Plonker!

"But today was all about Hull. How can Carlton Cole score from that position? Nightmare defending by Hull City."

Er, excuse me, what about a fantastically bent and weighted pass from Faubert and a wonderful run and finish by Cole? If that had been Gerrard bending a pass for Torres, there would have been a puddle at Lawrenson's feet and I'm not sure it would have been dribble!

MOTD really does need to be revamped. Hansen is now a self parody and is smiling as randomly and as absurdly as that other Scottish tosser, Gordon Brown, and the silly attempts to chip at Lineker are embarrassing. But Lawrenson's comments take the biscuit. He didn't even mention that Hull were down to nine men when Faubert fired home the third - it was all down to crass defending apparently!

What a twat!

Let's Support Pompey For The Rest Of The Season!

After today's defeat, there's no way back for Portsmouth. Even 7 wins from 12 games would only get them to 37 points. They are down, but please God not out!

Now every point Pompey take off a relegation rival is a point that helps us. We need them to survive the winding up order and we need them to get a few results too, starting, ideally, with a win at Burnley next weekend. How does it go? Play up Pompey!

Time For Zola To Explain

All season I have used this blog to question Zola's perverse tactics. First it was the obsession with 4-3-3, then the insistence on playing a right footer on the left and a left footer on the right of midfield. Well we have just won two games in a row for the first time this season, scoring 5 and conceding none: and we have done it with a 4-4-2 formation with Diamanti on the left and Behrami on the right!

I think it is high time that Zola explained himself. Yes we have suffered injuries and yes there have been all sorts of off field distractions, but at the heart of our difficulties has been Zola's poor tactical decisions. Even with Hull down to 9 men today, we lost all penetration down the left once the right footed Collison replaced Diamanti on the left. There, in a microcosm, was an explanation for our struggles this year. Let's hear from Zola, explaining the thinking behind his perverse tactics and acknowledging the errors of his ways. Otherwise, I fear a return to 4-3-3 next season, just as he reverted to it this year, despite the failure of the strategy the season before.

Sitting in 13th place, we suddenly feel comfortable but we are only 4 points above a relegation place so we are a long way from being out of the woods. Before kick off Boetang said that we had the better players but Hull had the better team. He was wrong on the day but I understood where he was coming from. We now need Zola to keep it simple and play to the strengths of his players, instead of chasing a tactical dream that has proved a living nightmare! An apology would not go amiss too!

West Ham 3 Hull City 0 - Faubert Comes Of Age!

Well it has taken long enough, but Faubert showed today why Curbishley bought him, why France capped him and why Real Madrid took leave of their senses and took him on loan. His pass today for Cole's goal was absolutely top drawer and his goal was a beaut. Some weeks back, I called for him to be moved forward on the right, saying he looked our most likely creator of goals. Well Cole scored against Birmingham thanks to a wonderful cross by the Frenchman, and today Faubert came of age. Top drawer, if we ignore a few hopelessly overhit passes!

What to make of today's game? In my half time report, I forecast a red card, and identified Fagin as one of a clutch of players in the frame. Who says I can't make predictions? When Brown brought on three substitutes in the second half with the best part of 30 minutes to play, I said to my son that he had taken leave of his senses, asking, "What happens if they get an injury?" Well, they didn't just get one and for the last ten minutes, we were playing against eight and a half men. Had Faubert not scored, there would have been a real sense of deflation at the end. As with Burnley, we had a relegation rival by the throat but released the grip. Why?

Despite the score, the performance was largely stuttering and, for some reason, we never played with any swagger, Diamanti apart. The Italian, played on the left, was excellent today, nearly setting up a goal in the first half with a delightful run and cross, tormenting Fagin into two yellow yards, performing his defensive duties with a real gusto, and nearly scoring thrice, including one brilliantly audacious effort from inside his own half.

Cole wasn't at his best but took his goal brilliantly. That is nine goals in the Prem this season, and he is tucking them away at a rate of one every two games. I hope to God that the knock he took isn't serious because Ilan, Mido, Franco and McCarthy are not in the same class. Had Cole stayed fit all season, relegation would not be an issue!

And what a goal that was. You will NEVER see a better pass than Faubert's. He looked up, he saw the space and the run and he bent a superbly weighted pass into Cole's path. The calm way in which Cole finished shows what a precious commodity he has become.

But, the goals and Diamanti's contribution apart, there wasn't a lot to write home about in truth. Behrami got on the score sheet at last and, but for a fantastic Myhill save, would have got another, but he again looked high on hustle and bustle and low on class and clarity of thought to me. I wrote at half time about how impressive Green was playing and, second half, he wasn't really tested. His command of the area in the first 45 minutes was very pleasing to see.

On the minus side, we almost conceded when Hull had 9 men on the pitch and it took a last ditch Upson intervention to prevent it. The midfield and front two still looked disjointed for much of the match and Tomkins made a few careless errors again that will be punished if repeated against the big boys. Stupidly, Parker picked up yet another booking - his 9th this season. One more and we lose him to suspension again - and a yellow is a nailed on certainty when we are battling to contain Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United!

It was 3-0 and we scored one brilliant goal (Cole's), one very good one (Faubert's) and a third (Behrami's)that wasn't bad. But the performance was a very long way from scintillating. Still, Parker said that we needed to "win ugly" and this one was "won plain" so I'm not complaining. And Wolves and Sunderland lost too - perfect!

Player ratings: Green 8, Faubert 9, Spector 6, Tomkins 5, Upson 6, Parker 6, Kovac 6, Behrami 7, Diamanti 8, Cole 7, Franco 5 Subs Ilan 4, Mido 5, Collison 5.

West Ham 1 Hull City 0 - Half Time Report - So Far So Sufficient

After an electric start, with West Ham coming out of the traps like Burnley at Turf Moor, it has settled down into a bit of an attritional battle. Our passing is poor and we are not finding the front men when the ball is hoofed forward. At the back we have looked tight but we are still making really crass errors. Tomkins, Faubert and Cole have all put us on the back foot losing possession stupidly within 25 yards of our own goal. When are we going to stop making these school boy errors?

I'm nervous about saying it at this stage, but Green has been excellent, making one superb save from Boetang and commanding his area when high balls are played into the box. Fingers crossed this continues!

Cole doesn't look at his best and Franco is in a war with McShane. I would fancy a bet on a sending off in the second half with McShane, Fagin, Zaki, Franco and Diamanti favourites to see red. There are lots of niggling things going on out there and players are reacting. Sooner or later, the referee is going to see an elbow or a raised hand and go for the card. Zola needs to tell Franco, in particular, not to respond!

The goal was finished superbly by Behrami. Significantly, possession was won by Kovac who is playing suprisingly high up the pitch. Did Franco mean to play in Behrami? I don't think so, it looked to me as if he just lost control of the ball. Our best move saw Myhill save brilliantly from Behrami. Once again, we saw the virtue of playing Diamanti on the left because he skinned the full back and sent in a wonderful cross. How many more chances would we have created if Zola had not buggered around with a right footer on the left and a left footer on the right? Faubert crossed for Cole's goal against Birmingham and only a fantastic save prevented a goal created on the opposite flank today. Case proven methinks!

One goal is a flimsy lead. We need a second. A crucial 45 minutes is about to start.

Franco Back!

Good news in one respect, but what does it say about Mido and Ilan? Clearly they have not set the training field alight over the last 10 days! Franco and Cole linked excellently until the injuries but neither is a natural goalscorer, whereas Ilan looks like he has the instincts of a fox in the box.

Here's hoping our front two have their scoring boots on this afternoon because our midfield, Diamanti apart, does not look full of goals!

West Ham v Hull. A Relegation Decider

Another day, another MASSIVE game. We came through the test against Birmigham but can we now do what we have failed to do all season, put together back to back wins in the league?

Remember the optimism following the Villa game? Remember the excitement, the feeling that we would kick on and leave our relegation fears behind us? Well along came Everton and our bubble was well and truly burst. Remember, at the time, we would have gone above the Toffees had we won that game and that they arrived at the Boleyn in a Variety bus because so many of their players were in wheel chairs. Zola picked the wrong team with the wrong tactics and Moyes sent his side out to do a smash and grab number on us, his players hanging around like a bunch of hoodies on a street corner for 89 minutes, but stealing the game in the one minute that our back four were looking in the wrong direction.

Well we have a carbon copy now. Our peckers are up after the victory over Birmingham and Hull arrive scripted by Hammers fans as lambs to the slaughter. The trouble is, Hull City, and Brown in particular, will have a different script.

In truth, man for man, we had the stronger side against Birmingham who do not have anybody of the class of Cole, Upson or Parker; whilst in Diamanti we have a "special" talent that is scarce in the Prem as a whole, never mind outside the top 4. I'm not saying the guy would get into the Chelsea or Man Utd teams but I am saying that he can conjure something from nothing and so is invaluable to a club in our position. Go back to that Everton game and it is significant that Zola left Diamanti on the bench until well into the second half, preferring Jimenez instead. Of all his bad, bad decisions this season, that has to be one of the worst!

But if, man for man, we are stronger than Birmingham, why are they one point from guaranteed safety whilst we are two points off being second from bottom? Well, uncomfortable though this is for Zola fans, it is down to poor decisions and tactics by the manager.

Why did we win against Birmingham? Sullivan will argue it was down to his motivational trick of threatening salary cuts, but the truth is that Zola changed his tactics in a dramatic way. Not only did we play 4-4-2, but, for maybe the first time this season, we started with two left footed players on the left and two right footed players on the right. Now how basic is that? But Zola has failed to do it all season, even though I have been banging on about it since the season kicked off. Why did it work? Because suddenly it was an option to use the full width of the pitch, rather than having to play down the middle.

Why was Parker able to win that free kick? Because there was space to run into, rather than the centre of the pitch resembling a tube train on the central line at 8a.m. on a Monday morning. How did we score the second? Faubert went to the byline and used his right foot to send in a cross from the right. How simple and straightforward is that? Yet Zola, for some perverse reason, has ignored this basic tactic all season.

We are in this mess at the moment for three reasons:
1) We failed to secure another striker in the summer, wasting time and money on Jimenez as Zola chased his 4-3-3 dream
2) Cole was injured and we had no replacement striker
3) Zola has continually picked a right footed player on the left and a left footed player on the right.

Why are we in this mess? Because of bad decision making by the manager!

What will Zola do against Hull? Well I would be amazed if he makes the same mistake he made against Everton. He must stick with a winning formula, retaining 4-4-2, with Diamanti on the left and a right footer on the right. Ilunga is out, so the need for Diamanti on the left becomes all the more pressing because Spector cannot cross off his left foot. I would pick Ilan or Franco ahead of Mido personally but, otherwise, I would stick with the same team. Unless we were to bring in Stanislas on the right, pushing Behrami inside alongside Parker, dropping Kovac.

Man for man, we were stronger than Birmingham but, man for man, we were stronger than Blackburn, Burnley and Pompey too. Will Zola pick the right team and motivate the side sufficiently, or will we wilt in front of the roaring Tigers? Hull are playing above their ability, we are playing below ours. That is down to the manager, pure and simple. In Zola we trust? Let's hope that trust isn't misplaced! We MUST defeat Hull. Logic says we should. The situation demands we do. Zola, it's down to you!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Change more than 3 players, lose 3 points or be thrown out of the Cup!

I am suffering from an Ashtonesque ankle injury so was unable to play football tonight but still went along for the post match beers and curry and became embroiled in a discussion about the Wolves "penalty" for playing a reserve team at Old Trafford. Out of the discussion, involving rotation and bringing through youngsters, came the very sensible suggestion that, apart from a major injury crisis, no team should be allowed to change more than 3 players from the starting 11 from any one game to the next.

What a simple and effective rule! Yes Manchester United could still rest Giggs, Rooney and Ferdinand, but they would still have to pick 8 first teamers, even if they have already secured the Premiership and are playing a "means nothing" game (to them) at the end of the season. If the same rule were carried over to the cups, we would remove the nonsense of reserve teams being fielded, which is now seriously devaluing both the League and F.A Cups.

Wenger wouldn't like it, of course, but sod him. The game is greater than Arsene Wenger and Arsenal. We need to secure the integrity of competitions and what Wolves did was a flagrant abuse of the rules. A maximum "rotation" of three would enable clubs to develop young talent, rest stars, and still not so devalue an individual contest as to devalue the integrity of the competition as a whole.

It wasn't my idea but it seems like a simple and effective rule change. What's your opinion?

West Ham Desperate To Keep The Good Ship Pompey Afloat!

What is it with our club? Why, oh why, is nothing ever simple and straightforward? The latest illustration of madness is Gold offering a loan to Pompey to keep our relegation rivals afloat. Now this has all the immediate logic of the Americans arming Bin Laden but...hang on, that happened!

Gold's offer is, of course, an empty gesture. Firstly, it is against the rules. Something to do with third party influence perhaps, but what do we know about that? Then there is the little matter of Gold wanting guarantees that the loan will be repaid. Repaid with what exactly, a pound of flesh cut from off the breast of Peter Storrie?

Pompey's plea to be allowed to sell players, of course, does not suit us. There's no point in them becoming so weakened that our relegation rivals pick up gimme points off them between now and the end of the season. We might as well surrender our four points on that basis!

So what can we do? Nothing! Except pray! Pray that Pompey are not wound up, pray that they are not allowed to sell players, pray that their players are paid and pray that Pompey remain strong enough to take points off the likes of Hull, Wigan, Wolves and Burnley, but weak enough to not reach 34 points!

Or alternatively, we could get up off our knees and win our remaining home games, which would see us safe from any threat of relegation anyway. Sod prayers, sod Pompey, let's take control of our own destiny - beginning by thumping Hull on Saturday!