Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Obama Indeed! Old Skool Check Your Diary!

Oh dear, there's always somebody ready to take the bait! Anybody else fall for the "Obama to make a secret visit to Upton Park" story? Some eager soul has released the April the First edition a few hours early and the best wit on the mordant org has fallen for it, hook, line and sinker!

No News Is Bad News

Am I the only one getting more and more worried as the days then weeks roll by with no news of a buyer for West Ham? The out of court settlement with Shafting United was supposed to have tied up the loose ends and cleared the decks for the sale of the club; instead, it has opened the door for more and more compensation claims, with no apparent limitation on what we might yet have to shell out because of the Tevez fiasco. Who in his right mind would buy the club given this scenario?

Now look at this situation from the point of view of BG's creditors. When they got together this month, they were no doubt told about the impending settlement. Suddenly the propects of finding a buyer looked so much brighter. With an end to the Tevez affair in sight, and the damage quantified, prospective bidders could put a value on the club and that value would inevitably be higher with West Ham's position in the Premiership secured for next season. Why enforce administration on that basis and, in so doing, cut off your nose to spite your face by triggering a points deduction and so plunging the club deep into the relegation mire?

But suddenly everything stinks if you are one of those creditors. Far from quantifying the financial damage of the Tevez affair, the settlement has encouraged a pack of jackals to snap about our heels. Fulham want money, Warnock wants money, Horsfield wants money, Sanchez wants money, the whole bloody world wants money - and we have accepted that we were in the wrong by agreeing to stump up the dosh to Sheffield United. Where does this stop?

Well there is a frighteningly simple answer. The creditors simply say 'stuff this' and wind up the holding company, seizing the assets and putting the club into immediate administration. They will have first call on the money and there will be none left for Warnock and co once the first charge debts have been settled.

What they do from there is anybody's guess. Do they sell the club as a going concern or liquidate the assets? The playing staff would realise them approximately £88 million (Green £8m, Upson £8m, Parker £8m, Savio £5m, Collison £5m, Collins £4m, Behrami £12m, Noble £6m, Tomkins £5m, Ashton £8m, Cole £8m, Dyer £2m, Spector £1m, Davenport £2m, Faubert £3m and £3m for the kids) and I would guess the ground to be worth £50m for redevelopment as housing. That figure of £138m may well seem more appealing to the merchant bankers than the bids rumoured to be in the region of £100m which, to date, have not materialised. It might just make financial sense to shut the club down!

We are not out of the woods yet and as each day goes by without news, so the worry increases.

I Am Faint, My Gashes Cry For Help

A debate has begun on the number of injuries suffered in the modern Premiership against those incurred in the 70s. One argument is that nothing has changed, the other that the speed of the modern game has greatly increased the number of injuries.

I do not have the statistics to hand but logic suggests that there should be less injuries now than in the seventies. To begin, free rein is no longer given to the likes of Chopper Harris, Norman Hunter, Joe Jordan, Tommy Smith and all the other hit them first and hit them hard merchants who made a career out of intimidation. I once watched Harris take Johnny Ayris out with a boot to his chin within two minutes of kick off. The message was clear to our young winger, "Try to take the ball past me and you are a dead man". Ayris avoided the ball like the plague for the rest of the game! Some tackles back then used to make the stadium tremble, never mind the leg of the victim. We see reruns of Neill's challenge on Cattermole in the Wigan game but that was a meat and drink tackle as far as the hard men of the 70s were concerned.

Then there were the pitches. Today they play on crown bowling greens, but back then the pitches by February resembled the Somme. Now the pitch is blamed if a player's foot gives way under him and an injury is incurred, back then boots literally disappeared beneath the mud at places like the Baseball Ground. Surely the joints were at greater risk on rutted and muddy pitches than they are now?

And fitness regimes have also supposedly improved. We are now talking Sports Science not running up and down the pitch carrying a medicine ball in between fags. If these fitness gurus are worth their salt, surely they should be able to tune the players to the right level to maximise performance whilst minimising stress on the body?

So why then are modern players struck down so often with injury? Why is the 100% present man such a rarity these days? Why has logic been stood on its head?

Some point to the pace of the game but I don't buy that. So what that the game is quicker, if the training is right, the muscles and joints should cope. I don't see top tennis pros going down with so many injuries (Andy Murray apart!) and they put their bodies under much greater physical stress than footballers, with many more muscles called upon in short stressful bursts over a longer period of play. An epic tennis game can last two hours, and the very next day the player can be out on court again. If Nadal can do it, and do it all season, why can't a footballer?

Either the training isn't right, or the players are molly coddled. Brian Clough famously told Eddie Gray that if he was a racehorse he would have been shot because of his injuries. As far as Cloughie was concerned Gray was a malingerer, somebody who played up the niggles and turned a twinge into a reason not to play. Using the yardstick of Gray, Beano should be in a tin of Pedigree Chum by now and Dyer should have been wiped from the bottom of a shoe years back!

I suspect that agents, supported by the medical boffins, now over protect the players. What now constitute injuries would have been seen as niggles back then. The "pain killing" injection would have been given in the 70s and the player would be out on the pitch, earning his salary, rather than lying flat on his back in the treatment room. When he arrived at Tottenham, George Graham stripped out the home comforts from the treatment room and told Lazarus Anderton and his injured acolytes to roll up their sick beds and walk. Overnight, the number of Sick Notes reduced dramatically. Is it a coincidence that the arrival of a new manager saw our injury list reduce as players battled to impress the new guy; has familiarity brought security and resulted in players feeling the twinge that four months ago they put to the backs of their mind?

Zola thought our squad was too big but perhaps that's because Zola was thinking like a player who would do anything to get out on the pitch and play. Sadly, some now seem to have a very different agenda. But I must stop writing now, the flesh on the end of my index finger is feeling terribly tender!

Monday, 30 March 2009

Bill Brewer Considering Compensation Claim

Bill Brewer is the latest to join the queue to sue West Ham over the Carlos Tevez affair. Brewer, who claims to have lost his job as a toilet cleaner because of mental illness following the relegation of Sheffield United, is confident that his claim has as much merit as that of Warnock and his players.

Brewer, a resident of Norwich, told journalists from the East Anglia Times that the relegation of Sheffield United had sent him into a deep depression. "I am not a Sheffield United supporter myself," he said, "but I do believe in the importance of fair play. There has to be the same rules for everybody and common standards, otherwise where do we stand?"

Visibly trembling as he spoke, Brewer added, "Look at me, even now I am a nervous wreck. I lost my centre of gravity when this happened. I couldn't believe it. How could the Premier League turn a blind eye to a third party agreement that might have forced West Ham not to pick a player on the instruction of somebody not connected with the club? On that basis Manchester United could have insisted that Everton didn't pick their first choice keeper for a crucial title deciding fixture against the boys from Manchester. If that was allowed, United could conceivably come back from two goals down and win the fixture based on the errors of a teenage replacement."

Sipping from a can of Tesco Value Lager, Brewer continued, "I was perfectly happy in my job until the Tevez affair broke. From that point onwards it was as if my life had stopped, nothing mattered any more, nothing made any sense. So what if there were skid marks on a pan, if West Ham could flout the rules like this, what was the point? Within days I found myself unable to work. In fact, even now, I find it almost impossible to leave the house except to go down the pub."

And Brewer is not alone in preparing a claim. "I know of others," he said. "From what I've been told, West Ham can expect similar claims from Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all!"

Curbishley, The Gypsy, and Global Economic Melt Down

Just when we thought the new medical set up at West Ham had cured all our ills, along comes the injury jinx again to lay low half our squad. It was Curbishley's out dated training regime and a bunch of quacks who were responsible for all the injuries we were told. Well, it seems that may have been so much tosh.

Still no Gabbidon or Beano, but that's hardly a surprise. Add to that list Dyer's recurring woes, Collins, Behrami, Luis Boa-Morte (every cloud has a silver lining), Upson, Collison and now Carlton Goals. Suddenly we are competing at the top of the Sick Note League again!

Personally I still blame Turds. He should have bought that sprig of heather off that gypsy the day he arrived to take the job. I mean, he spent all that money on Ljungberg, surely he could have found a pound to avoid a curse?

The Tevez affair, all those injuries, the Icelandic Banking Crisis, the Global Economic Melt Down - it's all Curbishley's fault! I tell you what, the G12 should pass a resolution to find that gypsy quick and buy her a new caravan. In fact, they could give her Alan's and the brown Volvo into the bargain. Until she is appeased, nothing will be good!

Sunday, 29 March 2009

A Self Confessed Swine - Sanchez Stirs the Muck

Sanchez says it all for himself, "If everyone else is sticking their nose in the trough then perhaps I need to have a look at it. As manager of the team, I must have lost out financially in some way." So the guy admits to being a pig, low life swine trying to swill from the trough. How sad is that?

For the record Lawrie, Fulham only escaped relegation because Liverpool picked a reserve team for their game at the Craving Cottage. If any team, other than Sheffield United themselves, relegated the Blunted Blades, it was Liverpool by picking an under strength team for that vital relegation decider. If any single man was responsible for the relegation of Shafting United, other than Warlock himself, it was Bentitez - he did it, in the Cottage, with the stiffs!

As for you Lawrie, you did your best to get Fulham relegated. Your tactics were a throw back to the days of the Wombles - high ball, long ball, high boot drudgery. Look what happened the following season after you had built "your team", a team in your own image, it took a mirwickle from Woy formerly of the Wovers to save the club from wellygation.

Compensation? Stop squealing like a stuck pig and look in the mirror. All compensation claimers are equal but some compensation claimers are less equal than others. Pigs usually wallow in shit, but in your case Lawrie, it sums up your ability!

How Good a Super Hero is Herita Ilunga?

Well to begin, I have to nail my colours to the mast - Herita is a Horatio of mine if only because it was his arrival that facilitated the departure of The Beatle, which in turn prompted Turds to jump ship without a compensatory life jacket. For that alone, he deserves Hammer of the Year! No, sod it, for that alone, he deserves to be enrolled in the West Ham Hall of Fame! One day they will write comics featuring the superhero Herito Man who, with the help of his sometimes seen sidekick Lopez Man, saves Boleyn City from the curse of the arch villian Turds who had sent the entire city into a deep sleep destined to last for a thousand, million years! Herito Man, we love you baby!

So perhaps I am just a little bit biased here. I would send the guy out in a shirt bearing the name "Turds Slayer" on the back and call him Man of Every Match before kick off! But what about his footballing ability?

Hold on to your hats because this is going to seem controversial: in my opinion, he is the best West Ham left back I have ever seen. What? Tea spat over computers! Lap tops thrown through windows! Union Jack Bull Dog tatoos with Dicksy Rools bared for nervous wives to see! Calm down lads, calm down, it's only an opinion! Let me explain.

Now, assessing the whole player, of course "Julian West Ham to the Core Except When I Joined Liverpool Dicks" gave the team much more than Herito ever will. He scored goals. And not just goals... but screamers. Dicksy's record is awesome and, apart from the contribution of Tonker Stewart, will always be beyond compare. But I am not talking about the whole player, I am talking about the position of left back.

Transport Julian to the 'here and now' and he would struggle as a left back. Yes, there will always be a place for a player with a hammer of a shot like that, but how many games would he actually finish as a left back in the yellow and red card frenzy of the modern Premiership? Not many!

Herito does the job of a left back, plain and simple. Apart from slaying the demonic Turds, he is not the team's Superhero and has no aspirations to fulfil that role. He seems a humble soul, a good, honest, take me for what I am, confident, competent, composed and consistent defender who will get forward and offer an attacking option when the situation allows. He maintains good positional discipline, he reads the game well, he tackles well, he retains possession well. He is a left back, plain and simple, and is just what the team needs.

Konch recently reminded us all of how good a left footed screamer can be, but would anybody take Onecap in exchange for Herito? I doubt it! And there, in a nutshell, is why Herito is the best LEFT BACK I have seen in a West Ham shirt, because that is his position. Julian was always a rampager first and a full back second, a pirate rather than a naval rating, serving his own instincts rather than the discipline of the Navy. It was great to watch when it worked but how many goals did Dicksy cost us because, when possession was lost, the left back was absent without leave?

Those tats have been bared again haven't they? I can see the growling teeth! Ladies and Thugs, I give you the League Cup semifinal against Luton. Remember the piggy back ride Dicksy took to give away the penalty? I don't think Herito will ever do that, he relies more on the superhuman powers of staying in position, closing and covering! Not the most exciting super powers I give you, but just what Commisssioner Nani ordered when he got on the Bat Phone!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Most Overrated Player - Jealousy Knows No Bounds

Just looked in on the mordant org and checked out a forum on who is the most overrated player currently playing. Would you believe some morons have listed John Terry? The guy was / is rated by Hiddink, Capello, Errikson, Ranieri, Scolari and Mouriniho no less. Clearly this bunch know absolutely nothing about football!

Where do these jealous idiots think they are coming from? You can only begin to imagine if they had the intelligence to be physicists! Einstein? Useless, know nothing, a plastic physicist! Hawking? What does he know?

Do these people not realise how stupid they look when they come out with this nonsense? And what about patriotism? Terry is the England captain for pity's sake!

Mind you, my least favourite, letter writing dwarf takes the award for the most absurd reply! Grumpy announced that the most overrated player was not Stewart Downing or Robinhio or Wayne Bridge or Babel or, based on Real Madrid signing him, Faubert; no, the most overrated player has 109 caps for England, has won every club honour in the game and has played for Manchester United, Real Madrid and A C Milan - clearly the guy must be a clown with that CV!

How, tell me how, can anybody be so myopic as to call Beckham the most overrated player in the game? Moronic, truly, truly moronic. I have really enjoyed watching Beckham over the years; it is such a shame his Dad didn't raise him as a Hammer!

The Cream Comes To The Top

I remember the blue tits pecking through the lids of milk bottles and the joy of that creamy top on sugar puffs first thing in the morning - that was in the days before homogenized milk, homogenized politics and homogenized television. But watching England tonight, it was good to see that the cream still comes to the top.

There are some, many of whom wear Claret & Blue, who resent Beckham surpassing Moore's record number of caps for an outfield player; but tonight showed exactly why he deserves it. By the time Moore was Beckham's age, he was a shot bolt, over filling a Fulham shirt in semi-retirement. Beckham, incredibly for a midfield player, actually looks as fit today as when he first broke into the England team. In fact, physically, I would have money on him having a higher muscle to fat ratio now than when he made his England debut. The discipline of the guy, given he is a multi-millionaire so does not need to be playing, is awesome.

But it is not just his fitness that takes your breath away. That cross for Rooney's header was sheer magic. On a plate, as they used to say, and Rooney dispatched it in the most perfect way possible. How many times has Beckham done that now, come on as a substitute and delivered the best pass / cross of the game? He hasn't got the pace of a Lennon or a Walcott and so rightly is not picked ahead of them, but for sheer class, only Rooney is his equal.

We looked so good tonight. The movement and inter changing of positions was awesome at times. Gerrard and Lampard can certainly play together under Capello - both were brilliant. Rooney was all over the place and bagged yet another goal. Heskey impressed, that missed header apart, in his short time on the pitch. Barry looked strong and secure. Carrick played a killer pass in his short time on the pitch. Lennon looked at home. Ashley Cole looked back to his best. James made a great save and Foster had nothing to do second half which suggests the defence did OK. We are going to win the World Cup. Seriously, we are!

How Good was Bobby Moore?

A particularly obnoxious little runt with a proclivity for writing letters of complaint to Big Brother recently opined in his inimitable fashion that Bobby Moore would not survive in the modern game. Now given this guy is supposed to be a West Ham fan, I thought that was a bit of a jock strap tightener and it certainly had me squealing. Bobby Moore, the only England player I have seen in my lifetime (apart maybe from Banks) who would get anywhere near an All Time World XI, not good enough for the modern game? Really?

Sadly the individual concerned declines debate so there is little prospect of getting him to explain this outlandish statement. If he means that Moore's fitness levels and personal lifestyle would not fit the modern era then fair enough, but what footballer from the 50's, 60's or 70's would be able to cope with the physical demands of the modern game? None. Even Colin Bell would be shagged inside 45 minutes! But that is missing the point. Transport the player to the modern era and you would transport him to modern training, fitness and dietary regimes (unless his name is Beano Ashton!). The 2009 version of Bobby Moore would know the dangers of fags and best bitter and would be conditioned on the training field to cope with the physical stresses of the super fast modern game.

Let's remember that despite his playboy lifestyle, Moore was a determined individual who overcame cancer to pursue his playing dreams. Yes the game is faster now but I would love to see Torres and co playing on Baseball Ground style mudbaths and coping with up to 60 games over a season. And the game was harder then. Giles, Bremner, Jack Charlton, Chopper Harris, Peter Storey, Norman Hunter...the roll call of names alone is enough make your shins ache and the cartilage pop out of your knee caps. These players made the game so much harder physically and it is true that they would never have been able to translate their games to the modern era, the red card would be waved in their faces before they made it out of the dressing room!

So what is it exactly about Moore that would not have translated to the Premiership and international stage in 2009? Is there no place for a range of passing equalled only in my lifetime by Glenn Hoddle? Dear God, when I hear the eulogies for Beckham when he plays a forty yard pass with the modern light weight ball, I wonder how the commentators would have coped with a Moore pass played from the edge of his own box to bounce perfectly in front of Hurst to facilitate a thumping half volley shot that near burst the back of the net. Long ball? Not when Moore did it, the pass was pinpoint in direction and weight and arrived at the foot of the receiver gift wrapped with claret and blue ribbons attached. Look at the delivery of the ball for the goals in the World Cup Final. This was from a centre back, a defender, not from the midfield magician. Beckham does it and we hear, "He's worth his place in the team for that alone". Well Moore stepped forward to deliver Beckham balls into the box from free kicks and Peters and Hurst gobbled the gifts like the Hebrews feasted upon their manna from Heaven.

So perhaps the poison dwarf was referring to Moore's habit of reading the game so that he rarely had to tackle. Well that is strange because the gripe from the old pros is that the modern game is killing the art of tackling. "It's a man's game, there's nothing wrong with a good hard tackle". Well Moore thought so. His defending was not based on clogging or blocking, but on reading the intentions of the opposition. Like a goal poacher attracts the ball to his foot in the opposition box, so Moore had this uncanny ability to KNOW where the ball was going to be played and to get there ahead of the opposition striker. It was intuition, a special skill that cannot be taught. Owen, Lineker and Greaves had it as strikers; Lampard seems to possess it this season; Peters had it when he ghosted into the box; but Moore and Beckenbauer were the only two defenders I have seen who read the game with the same degree of intuition. Defenders do not appear the brightest biscuits in the cookie jar, which is why strikers find it so easy to get across them, but Moore and his Kaiser counterpart were the exceptions to that rule.

So perhaps it is pace? But the whole point about Moore is that he never depended upon speed, not speed in the legs at least, his speed was in the head, this art of seeing the game five seconds ahead of the play, knowing what was about to happen as if he had seen the film before and so was able to predict the future. Of course he made mistakes, of course he was done from time to time, of course the West Ham teams he played in shipped goals like Carson in an England shirt. But I don't think Moore really cared. For him it was a game and perhaps that's where he may have struggled in the modern day. "So we lost, but we had a bloody good night out in Blackpool didn't we?" kind of attitude! The modern manager couldn't cope with that but I suspect that Moore would see life differently now - a win or clean sheet bonus of ten grand would probably have given him a little more day to day, match to match, minute to minute focus. If Rio can learn consistency, I'm damn sure Moore would have!

But to nail the heresy finally I point you to that epic World Cup tussle with Pele and Brazil in 1970. That Brazil team were the best the world has ever seen. They ripped Italy apart in the final and survive to this day as a pantheon of footballing gods - CARLOS ALBERTO, JAIRZINHO, TOSTAO, RIVELINO, PAULO CESAR and PELE . Look at the England side. Outside of Moore, Banks and Peters, we were, in truth, nothing that special. Hurst struggled with the heat, Charlton was past his best, Labone only managed 26 caps, Wright was lightweight, Franny Lee was the opposite! On paper we should have been mullered and but for the brilliance of two men, Banks (one great save) and Moore, we would have been. At the end of that game, as they swapped shirts, the great Pele said to Moore, "See you in the final". The respect was mutual, two of the greatest footballing talents the world has seen had come head to head and, despite the score, the honours were even. But Pele had been at the pinacle of a brilliant team, a team powered by a Ferrari engine; Moore was the cotter pin that held a rickety penny farthing of a side together. To have exited that game the equal of Pele in the circumstances was nothing short of incredible. Despite the heat, despite Bogotta, despite the limitations of the players around him, Moore had matched Pele and won his undying respect.

How dare anybody suggest that Moore would have been found wanting in the modern game. Moore was made for football in the C21st - a defender who did not tackle because he didn't need to with the ability to hit a lead weight of a ball sixty yards up the field onto the foot of his own player. That sort of quality today would command the same values as Kaka! My challenge, Beckenbauer apart, is for anybody to name me somebody his equal!

Friday, 27 March 2009

How Good is Carlton Goals?

Now this is one to get debate raging. Listen to some, and you would believe Carlton is the clumsiest yard dog this side of Dowie & Small; listen to others, including Capello, and he is an England striker. How can one player provoke such opposing views? How on Earth can we have a player in the England squad who a sizable chunk of our fan base seems to think is, at best ordinary, and at worst plain crap? Are England strikers really that thin on the ground?

Cole's detractors will point to a poor goals per game ratio and his inability to slot it home when through one on one with the keeper. Listen to them and you will hear that Ashton is three times the player Cole will ever be, even whilst spending every winter flat on his back in the treatment room. Ashton scores goals, Ashton has quality, Ashton is naturally more gifted. Yarde yarde yah. Does Ashton come in any other colour? We have him in noire!

And sometimes I wonder if that is the problem, it's not just that Carlton is an ex-Blue, he's black and blue into the bargain. Think of all our classic bête noires - Ince, Defoe, Reo-Choker - and (fat Frank apart) they are all a blacker shade of pale. Is the luke warm acceptance of Carlton down to latent racism, a hang over from the banana throwing Clyde Best days? Just as it is easy to identify the colour of those the fans most love to hate , so it is just as hard to think of a black player that the Upton Park faithful have taken long term to their hearts. A roll call of West ham favourites? Moore, Hurst, Peters, Bonds, Devonshire, Brooking, Stewart, Ludo, Dicks, Ward, Di Canio, Behrami, Collison, Green, Upson... Your starter for ten, what do they all have in common? Curbishley acted in exactly the same way as Defoe when we were relegated, slapping in a transfer request and sulking until allowed to go by an infuriated John Lyall, but the Claret and Blue Klan were happy to welcome him back as manager. Bilic was calling Everton a "bigger club" than us before the ink was dry on the Everton offer, but you would have struggled to find half a dozen Hammers who wouldn't have had him as our boss before the appointment of Zola. The real traitors, it seems are black or fat in Upton Park folk lore. The fans tolerate the black players, but they don't take them to their hearts it seems to me. Even Ilunga has had his critics despite having a truly outstanding season.

So Cole perhaps should not expect to be loved, but can't he at least be admired? This season he has netted 9 goals in 25 Premiership games, better than one goal in every three games, and only one of those goals, against Bolton, has been in a losing cause. Without his goals we would be in real trouble because we would have nine less points now - and 32 points would put us deep in relegation trouble.

And it's not as if Cole has been netting ordinary goals that any old striker would put away. The goals against Newcastle and Wigan (both away) were right out of the top drawer. And remember he won us a penalty against Fulham into the bargain. This is in the context of a goal shy season with the team averaging just a goal a game since Zola has been in charge. Given that fact, for Cole to have accumulated 9 in the league and another two in the cups is impressive. And this scoring ratio isn't a recent phenomenon - he has netted 20 goals from 62 starts over his West Ham career, despite being an in and out understudy before this season.

And goal scoring is, by common consent, the weakest aspect of Carlton's game. He is not a Michael Owen, a natural fox in the box striker. Cole is a workhorse, a genuine target man who drops deep to link the play, holds up the ball before bringing others into the game and stands cheek to jowel with the John Terrys and Vidic's of this world, taking the bruises for the team. Listen to Kovac, he has said how important Cole is to the all round team play. Carlton's contributions this season have, in my opinion, been immense. Take the epic rear guard actions at Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. Carlton didn't score but he did as much as anybody else to protect those clean sheets, defending from the front for 90 minutes and occupying both centre backs single handedly. But what do I hear from his critics? He missed a sitter against Chelsea and he never looked like scoring against either Arsenal, United or Liverpool. Amazing. I remember Owen, Shearer and Greaves failing to beat a keeper when through one on one, but when they don't score, they get credit for getting into the position to score. "Give him three chances and he scores one!" the neutral pundit drools. When it is Cole, his own fans label him useless! Tell me, who else has been through one on one with the keeper this season? Bellyache missed a few but was still being hailed a hero before he packed his bags for City. And who else? Somehow Cole gets into that position when nobody else seems to manage it. He deserves credit for that, not criticism!

How good is Cole? Well I think he is twice the player he was last season. He is maturing, emerging as a quality striker who has a greater positional awareness and vision. His eye for goal is still a little myopic but as his confidence grows, so that aspect of his game will improve. Before his England call up, I predicted that Carlton would get more England caps than Ashton, and if he plays on Saturday he will be in pole position already, at least a season ahead of anything I expected. He isn't the finshed article yet, Zola, Clarke and Capello are still polishing him, but there aren't many better England qualified strikers around - and if the rumours about Juve were right, Zola isn't his only Italian admirer. We haven't had many players linked with a move to Juventus so perhaps the fans who refuse to see Carlton's strengths should take this as a hint that they are missing something. I, for one, rate Cole very highly indeed and am proud to have a West Ham number 12 in the England squad. The question is, will Beano be required to surrender the number 9 shirt next season to a player who takes the knocks, picks himself up and carries on playing? Carlton at least makes it onto the pitch, an example that it would good to see Beano follow.

Floccari of Doves?

I have no idea how good this Floccari guy is but the fact that we are in for him is very exciting. £14 million? Now either nobody has told Nani that BG is facing insolvency or somebody has tipped him that, come the summer, we will definitely be solvent and in the market with comparative shed loads of dosh. Let's hope it is the latter!

I read that players will be moved on - we can guess who they are providing we can find takers - and that the squad will be strengthened. Not so long ago all the talk was of points deductions, fire sales and ongoing legal actions. Now we are being linked with £14million signings! Amazing!

A Flock of Doves is described in the Urban Dictionary as "The act of pulling out two guns and blasting your enemies away in slow motion, while wearing a suit and sunglasses and walking through a flock of doves just taking flight." It sounds like next season at Upon Park might just be an action packed thriller! I say bring on the cockerals in place of those doves and let's get blasting !

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Safe As Houses. But Some Warn of Falling House Values Next Year!

That's it then, we have 41 points so wont be going down based on what happens on the football pitch and today is the deadline for points deductions in the event of a club going into administration. So, what ever happens to BG and his holding companies, any points deduction will be carried over to next season. Break open the champagne!

So, the pressure is off for now. Hopefully there is a deal being put together to buy us and all this talk of further legal action over Tevez will come to nothing. Dare we start to think about signing new players?

The shallow nature of the squad is the big worry at the moment. Do we own Ilunga? If not, we haven't got a left back. Do we even want Di Michele? I would say thanks but Arrivederci personally. Tristan surely must be packing his bags already. What about Kovac? I like the look of him but not in a midfield pairing with Parker, unless Collison and Behrami are going to be given more license to range forward. From what he says, we are not keen on stumping up the fee to buy him. Lopez? He looks as if he has shed a stone since the Watford game (his only start) but is he any cop? Zola seems to see him as an absolutely last resort. What happens with Bowyer, Downpipe and Quashi? Do they return in the summer? And then there is Luis Rigor Mortis, what is to be done with him? And Faubert's arse of course!

To compete next season we need a new right back, an alternative left back (assuming Ilunga is still ours) and a goal scoring striker; and possibly a creative, goal scoring midfielder. Suggestions anybody?

The new Frank Lampard?

Is Collison the real deal, our new Frank Lampard? The thing that strikes me most is the boy's confidence. He WANTS the ball and wants it in key areas. Against Boro at home in the cup he missed a sitter, blasting over when he should have squared to Di Michele or Tristan, but he was there, at the far stick, further forward than any other player, and he had the balls to let fly. Yes the decision to shoot was wrong, but in our side, a player confident enough to shoot is a precious commodity.

Look at him against City. Never mind the finish, and that goal was beautifully taken, look at the run that took him into the box in the first place. Savio is quick but not quick enough to leave Collison in his wake. As Nsureko broke forward, there was Collison bursting through the middle, actually pointing at the space he wanted the ball played into. Savio chose to shoot instead and who was on hand to sniff in the box as Given parried? Not Cole or Di Michele, the guys paid to do that job, but Collison. That sort of awareness, that sort of hunger to get into goal scoring positions, is rare.

Who does it in the modern game? Lampard, Gerrard, Ronaldo, Giggs, Cahill, Ireland, special players because they read the game and somehow take up positions that others don't see. It is as if the ball is drawn to them, they gamble and time and again, unlike Ethers, they back a winner. Now I accept that it might be going too far to say Collison has that knack based on three goals but that is a good return for a 19 year old playing in a goal shy team that doesn't create bucket fulls of chances. Crucially, the kid has key defensive duties in the formation that Zola picks. Look at Behrami. He is all energy, loads of endeavour, but how often does he actually make it into the opposition box? He is being lauded as a West Ham great but that is more down to sweat and graft than down to any end product from what I have seen. Think again of the City game. Who forced Given into his only meaningful save in the first half? You've got it, Collison, breaking into the left hand corner of the box and driving low towards the bottom corner. The movement and confidence were Lampard like.

So is he that good? Only time will tell of course but confidence, an ability to read the game and quick feet are key ingredients for a quality player. The boy can control a ball, the boy can pick a pass (look at that through ball to Cole against Wigan), the boy can knock in a cross, the boy can dribble, the boy can score, the boy can play down the right, the left or down the middle, the boy can tackle...there's only one mystery. With all that ability, why on earth did he opt to play for Wales when he was qualified for England? Will he become the new Giggs? What a shame he never got to grace the final stages of a World Cup because he opted to play for Wales!

(Denbighammer says) The Long Ball Isn't Always The Wrong Ball

In my opinion our football is a bit too slow and predicatable at the moment. I watched the 1976 European game v.Frankfurt on YoutTube last night, our 1989 league cup win over Liverpool and some other games and I can't believe

A) How many chances we created over the course of a game and

B) How direct we were at times, even players like Dev and Sir Trev getting the ball forward to the strikers and bypassing midfield at times.

We've got to mix it up people! The short interpassing is great on the eye but the long ball can be a very effective weapon if used sparingly - as Liverpool have demonstrated in recent games.

Curbishley over used the "lump and hope" but is Zola under utilising the long ball? Remember how Sears got that one and only goal? Long ball, headed on by Ashton and bingo!

So, should we mix it up more?

(Marty Says) Ashton is 30 Years Behind The Times

Dean Ashton seems to me like a player who would have been better off playing in the sixties or seventies, times when a fag at half time and a pint or three was the norm after match. I'm not suggesting that Deano is a chain smoking alcoholic, but that he is suited to a time when sportsmen were not such athletic specimens.

Players these days are very highly tuned and not every body is capable of maintaining these levels of fitness without constantly breaking down. In the old days a cartilage operation could signal the end of a career, but at the same time it was commonplace for players to play every match in a season, whereas now it is a feat worthy of mention in end of season dispatches.

Less highly tuned bodies, although not capable of the athletic feats of today's players, were more capable of dealing with the week in, week out physical demands. Let's not forget that in those days football was also a contact sport.

The thing that strikes me about Deano's physical state is how "tight" he is. There is very little flexibility for a young man and although he is obviously technically gifted, he can't run and he can't jump. He has missed three seasons now and I doubt that he will ever make a sustained impression for us, so if we were offered anything over ten million I would take it.

Do you agree? £10 million a good price for Beano or not?

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

How Good is Ashton?

With rumours of an impending come back, now seems the right time to muse upon the ability of Beano. Is he the real deal as some suspect or a nearly man destined to fall short of greatness?

To be honest, any conviction on this point must be misplaced. At times Ashton has looked the dog's danglers, but for most of his time at West Ham, he might as well have been at the vets waiting to be put down. People bang on about the ankle injury and blame Curbishley and his NHS medical team for rushing back Ashton too early, but they forget that the guy arrived from Norwich wearing more bandages and strapping than a Hammer Horror mummy. He nearly missed the Cup Final with injury remember! His body is fragile, there's no getting away from that, and long lay offs take their toll, especially when you eat more pizza than a mutant ninja turtle. But that, I believe, is only half the problem.

Some athletes get hurt and don't let it bother them. I can think of Lance Armstrong, Gary Mabbutt and Frank Lampard as three examples of sportsmen who will do anything and everything they can to compete. You're not telling me that Frank hasn't played through pain over the years, there's no way he could play so often without sometimes doing so in defiance of aches and strains.

There are others, however, who almost seem to yearn for the warmth and comfort of the treatment room, the sporting sick notes headed by the likes of Darren Anderton, Chris Old (who once missed a test match because he strained stomach muscles sneezing!) and Michael Owen. Maybe their bodies are particularly frail, maybe there is a phsyical explanation; or maybe there are psychological issues that turn a niggle into an injury, discomfort into pain and a lay off into semi-retirement. Ashton apologists will argue that a broken ankle isn't a niggle, and they are of course right, but what about all the other injuries? Why did it take Beano so long to shed his pizza enhanced bulk? Why did he look so immobile following his return? Why did he pick up another injury so quickly? Why did it look as if he could barely run and jump during his spell back in the team? A legacy of the ankle injury, the Ashton supporters will claim, the failure of the medics it will be argued; but then why was he so heavily strapped BEFORE that injury? Why has he always looked like he has just walked out of A&E?

I have no doubt about the guy's ability. That goal at Boro last season showed what he can do and a return of 19 goals from 43 starts for us shows his potential. The guy is a goal scorer and has the physical presence to be a true target man into the bargain. That makes him, potentially, the new Alan Shearer but Shearer had a quality that I fear Ashton lacks, a heart as big as a wheelbarrow. And it is for this reason that I think Cole will go on to win more England caps than his more talented contemporary. Cole plays for the team; Ashton plays for himself.

Capello took one look and did not like what he saw. Whereas Cole has secured a "call back" after playing against the mighty Spain, Ashton seems to have done himself no favours in an outing against Caribbean minnows. When Cole plays for West Ham he is in the thick of everything, dropping deep, leading the line, holding the ball, chasing down opposing players, even getting sent off twice for full blooded, 100% committed play; when Ashton dons the shirt, he looks for others to do the donkey work for him. He is, I fear, a legend in his own mind, and a precious one at that.

Look at his latest statement: “I want to come back when everything is right, not return prematurely and end up getting another injury, because all the hard work will be for nothing. If it means continuing to be patient and let things take as long as they need to, then that's what I will do.” Now that is all very sensible of course but just look at how often Ashton says I rather than we, look how often he sounds as if he knows best rather than putting trust in the medical experts. I don't see him talking about West Ham, I don't see him telling us how keen he is to get back playing for the team or the fans, what I see time and time again is an egotist who is in it for himself.

Back in November 2007 I posted this: Dean Ashton in "The Sun" talking about the West Ham treatment room: "In a weird way it's a nice place to be, considering everyone in there is injured. There's lots of banter. It makes a nice change from when I was out last year and there wasn't anybody else in there. It was a very lonely place and it was hard going." A nice change eh Dean? Sod the team eh? Sod the fans eh? Just so long as you're happy mate and there's plenty of others to keep you entertained! I can imagine the banter: "So how much are you be paying paid to not play this week?"

I got stick at the time but, from memory, in the same article that the quotation was lifted from, Ashton came across as a spoilt brat, demanding that his socks were laid out in the dressing room in a certain way and insisting on his own specialist training regime because he knew his body better than anybody else. He might be right of course. Or he might be an arrogant tosser who is too big for his own boots!

To me, the jury is out. I want to believe that Beano will return as a 20 goal a season striker, leading the line with passion and verve. My head, however, tells me that he will never really do it over a sustained period. A niggle will be enough to stop him running, stop him jumping, stop him playing. Zola faces a tough call if somebody bids anything above £12 million in the summer. If we cash in and Ashton goes on to be an England striker, we will look stupid; if we don't cash in our chips and Ashton pulls up lame half a dozen games into the season, we will have missed our opportunity to move on damaged goods. I would sell. Let's see if that call is right or wrong. I would really love Beano to shove my words down my throat by emerging next season as the real deal, the new Alan Shearer!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Here's A Frightening Thought

If Faubert doesn't get his finger out, he will be back on le payroll acting as a L'argent Provocateur next season. Can you imagine Le Sulk after returning from his dream move to Madrid back to cold, wet, nasty old Newham? If he didn't like it first time around, he's going to like it even less after sitting on his derrière in Madrid for six months. And just think how fat that arse will be after all that inactivity! Will we have a pair of shorts big enough for Faux Pas when he returns? I suppose he could always borrow a pair off Beano!

Level Playing Field?

So, Upson is unfit to play on Saturday but is fine to join up with the England squad regardless. Collins is out for 2 weeks, and has only managed 15 league games in total all season, but is OK to join up with Wales. Period Pains hardly kicked a ball for us for 15 months but still popped up in a Welsh shirt from time to time. So how comes Leggy King can wear the lillywhite of the Cockyfools but can't manage 90 minutes for England? Redknapp moans that the guy can't play more than one game a week, but who is asking him to? He needn't play on Saturday if Capello thinks he might be needed for Wednesday!

This stinks. King isn't fit between games but that doesn't mean he can't give 70 minutes to his country a week after playing a Premiership game. He would be turning out for Tottenham on Saturday if there were Premiership games instead of internationals, so how can Redknapp pull him from the England squad? This highlights the selfishness of Tottenham and Redknapp alike. In contrast, we seem to put the needs of the national teams over our own. I bet Dyer would be with England now had Capello selected him.

I think Capello, FIFA, UEFA and the FA should make a stand. There should be a rule, all or none. If Liverpool pull Gerrard from the squad for an operation, then sod Liverpool, don't allow any of their players to be picked for any of the national teams. If Tottenham want to deprive England of their King, then ban all national teams from selecting Tottenham players. That would put an end to this nonsense immediately. Top internationals would immediately shun the barred clubs and the likes of Torres and Keane would demand moves elsewhere.

We won the World Cup for England when Redknapp was at the club but then he was never good enough for England, neither as a player, nor as manager, so perhaps he doesn't understand the honour and pride involved in pulling on the national shirt. As for England, Capello knows that Upson WILL play through the pain barrier for his country even if he won't do it for his club. The King is dead, long live the...Upson!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Take Note Curbishley Apologists

First Pantsil comes out and says how Hodgson treats players with respect at Fulham; now Noble tells us he will play anywhere for West Ham United Football Club under Gianfranco Zola. "When you have got respect for a manager like Zola, you will (play anywhere for him)," he told the club's official website. "He treats you the right way and that is why I am happy to do that."

Now who is Noble comparing Zola with I wonder? Let me see, hmmmm, could it be our caravan towing, brown Volvo driving friend, Mr Lump It And See, Alan Curbishley by any chance? Surely not! Never! Impossible! Mark Noble criticising Alan West Ham Through and Through Curbishley? Perish the thought!

How Good is Robert Green?

Well I thought the Tomkins article was relatively uncontroversial, given I concluded he was a future England captain, but some still accused me of being negative and overly critical, so I approach this assessment of Green with a degree of trepidation. I realise that daring to find fault with Green amongst West Ham fans is the equivalent of showing up in Mecca for Hag with a copy of the Satanic Verses for a "holiday read" but I have never been one for allowing Orthodoxy of any form, Greek, Jewish, Muslim, Christian or Claret & Blue Klan to silence me, so here goes!

To begin, Green is a great shot stopper. Along with Friedal, James, Cech, Jaskelinen and Kirkland, he is up there with the very best in the Prem. He is agile, has strong hands and knows his angles, making it very difficult for any shot to get past him. So far so good. But does that mean he is an international quality keeper? Well, there is the rub.

If you can endure it, watch a tape of the Blackburn game through again. See how flustered Greenie looked as those crosses were boomed into our box and how passive he was when faced by the deliberate obstruction by Diouf. Now imagine for a moment Diouf trying that tactic with Van de Saar, Cech, Reina or Almunia. You can bet your life that the Spiteful Spitter would be manhandled the first time he tried it and the keeper would go down in a heap holding his face. Diouf would see yellow immediately and be warned not to repeat. What did Green do? He blinked a few times, looked puzzled and tried to reach round Diouf for the ball like a Tesco shopper trying to get a can of beans without disturbing the shelf stacker. He made a complete hash of one and got away with it, and the referee felt sorry for him and gave a free kick the second time it happened - ignoring the fact that Diouf did not move a muscle and so could not possibly have committed a foul. But Green did nothing to win that free kick, he wasn't protesting, he wasn't demanding protection, he wasn't imposing himself on the officials, his own defenders or El Spitter, he was just blinking and looking confused. The guy is too nice for his own good!

And he is not just too nice when it comes to officials and opponents, Green is also too quiet and understanding when interacting with his own defenders. How often have you seen him rollock anybody? Keepers should be generals of the penalty box, shouting orders to the defenders and giving them what's for if they fail in their defensive duties. The closest Green comes to reprimanding anybody is that arms half open gesture, supported by a slightly quizzical look and three blinks of the eyes. When he does this he looks slightly hurt and confused, like a Labrador ordered from the sofa by a bad tempered owner. I suspect that Schmeichel like rants may sometimes be counter productive if too frequently used but I would like to see Green let go sometimes, berating a colleague for failing to track an opponent. To move to the next level, Green has to be in control of others as well as himself and I never feel that he is. He is reactive, rather than proactive in my book.

Then there is the problem under crosses. I doubt anybody has saved a copy of the West Brom game (why would you?) but if there are any masochists out there, look at that elbow in the face Green collected. It was a foul, no doubt about that, but that isn't the point. The cross was bulk standard, was inside the six yard box but, foul or no, Green was never going to collect it in a million years. He was well under the ball, clutching at thin air, when the elbow connected and endangered his cheek bone whilst saving his blushes. If this was a one off, no problem, all keepers make mistakes and even Cech has dropped a couple of crosses. The trouble is, Green is vulnerable under crosses - his decision making is suspect and it is an identified weakness that Allardyce and Blackburn were deliberately seeking to exploit on Saturday. He has improved his game in this critical area this season - the gaff against Bolton at Upton Park was, I suspect, a wake up call to Clarke and led to Miklosko being told to put in some extra work with Green; but he is still not confident under crosses and still seems to misjudge whether to stick or twist when a ball is played in close to the edge of his six yard box.

"So what?" I hear you ask. "Look at James, he isn't called Calamity for nothing." True, but there is a difference. James has no actual weaknesses in his game save the tendency to make the odd complete, risible howler and you cannot plan your tactics around an unpredictable howler. Green, on the other hand, has an identifiable flaw in his technique and that can be exploited if the tactics are right.

So how good is Green? Very good. The best qualified England keeper? Sadly I think not. Personally I rate James and Kirkland ahead of him and suspect that Foster may overtake him in the pecking order ahead of the World Cup finals. I hope I am wrong and look forward to hearing the opinions of others.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Capello disagrees with Zola

No Parker in the England squad then? I am not surprised personally. Capello saw enough against West Brom to realise why Parker is a very good Prem player but not true England quality. The modern midfield player has to offer quality both defensively and offensively and sadly Parker does not offer enough going forward.

Upson is presumably fit given his inclusion. That's a strange one. Who pays his wages exactly? Not fit enough for us on Saturday but OK to join up with England the next day? Echoes of Period Pains here who strangely overcame the time of the month for Welsh games but was too bleeding injured to appear for us for months on end! I tell you what, had Upson been at Liverpool or United, he would have played on Saturday and missed the England games.

Delighted to see Cole in the squad. To all those Hammers "fans" who knock the guy and seem to delight in him missing one on one chances, stick that in your pipes and smoke it! (Dear me, am I 12 years old all over again?) If Cole pulls on the Three Lions again, I will be cheering him!

And well done to Green. The performance against Blackburn showed why I still have my reservations about him as an England keeper but I accept that few international sides will test his ability under crosses in the same way as Big Spam did.

Three Hammers in the England squad and a World Cup just over 12 months away...is history about to repeat itself? A Carlton Cole hat-trick in the World Cup Final? Stranger things haven't happened!

Something for the weekend sir?

If your barber whispers those words, be careful, because based on the rest of this nightmare weekend, it will have a bloody great hole in it! Spurs beat Chelsea and move to within three points of us (how big a head start do we need to be sure of finishing above the Cockyfools?), Wigan beat Hull with a late goal and move above us into seventh, City look like pulling closer with a victory over Blunderland and, worst of all, Fulham beat United, close up to a point behind us, and give Liverpool and Chelsea extra incentive to pull off a result at Upton Park.

I am not too fussed about qualifying for Europe personally (the competition is absurd already and becomes even more stupid next season) but I do want to see some progress on last year and, if we are not careful, we could find ourselves back in tenth before the season ends. That really would be galling if only because Turds could smugly point to the fact that the club had "stagnated" since his departure.

Of course, Zola can only influence our own results but, as they say, over a full season, your position in the table does not lie. Back in October I predicted Tottenham would finish above us and I fear that will happen. They are on a roll and with Keane back and firing, they are a match for anybody. In fact, but for that terrible start, they would be in contention for a Champions League place. Personally, I'm in favour of West Ham building a statue of Oneday Ramos because without his contribution, Tottenham would definitely be back in Europe next season!

Let's hope the return of Dyer and Cole will see us banging in the goals again. It is a sobering thought that under boring boring Curbishley we scored 42 goals last season, whereas so far this season we have managed just 35, 8 of which were scored BEFORE Zola became manager. That gives Zola a return of just 27 goals from 26 league games, or one a game, less than we managed under Turds. Stats don't lie and for all our pretty approach play, our "goals for" tally is woeful.

Some will stupidly blame Cole for that or point the finger at Di Michele, but the strikers can only score if the team creates chances - and how many openings did we create against West Brom and Blackburn? Dyer may be part of the solution, as may be the return of Collison but to score more, we need to commit more players forward. Clarke is a cleverer version of Curbishley, a member of the safety first, "one point is better than none, if the opposition don't score we can't lose" school of tactics. I would like to see the shackles off at some point soon. Let's trade blows and see if we can score more than the opposition. I would take tenth with free flowing football over 7th secured by circling the wagons and parking the caravan.

Come on Zola, rev up the Ferrari and tell Clarke to leave the brown Volvo in the garage!

How good is Tomkins?

With a two week gap between games, I will be using this blog site to debate the strengths and weaknesses of the present squad, trying to assess where we are in need of strengthening and where we are strong. Young Tommo follows on from old Lucash by way of juxtaposition.

When he came into the side against Everton, I was worried. Curbishley sang his praises but Tomkins was badly at fault for the Everton goal - he was too tight on Yakubu and was turned far too easily - and lucky that a repeat error did not lead to a second goal. When he played against Hartlepool, his passing was sloppy and a better team would undoubtedly have punished him. I will admit to being very critical of him after the Borough game. To be brutally honest, he looked undercooked to the point of being raw and I was very anxious going into the game against City, predicting that Ribena would crush his blackcurrants.

However, that City game seems to have been the making of him. I know Ribena doesn't really turn up for away games but he is still an awesome talent and Tommo must have had some self doubts going into the game. If Yakubu can turn me, what hope have I got against Ribena? If the Boro boys can expose me, surely it will be more than a close shave against the Brazilian, surely he will skin me? But Tommo stood tall, kept his bush and we kept a clean sheet into the bargain. And from that point, the kid has not looked back. (Well except to see if Green is coming to punch that cross!)

Positionally, Tomkins has been excellent and it was so impressive to see him and Neill working as an effective centre back pairing in the face of the Blackburn barrage. Now, it is one thing to look the part alongside Upson - even Downpipe looked like a Premiership defender briefly - but quite another to look impressive alongside Neill. To be fair to Lucash, he was excellent and kept talking to his younger partner, encouraging him to maintain focus and close, jump, close, jump, block, close and block again. At times it was like watching Ali against Foreman, backed into the corner, arms in front of the face, blocking blow after blow. That takes guts, that takes skill and Tommo and Neill showed it in abundance. It is a real shame that they did not get the three points that their performances deserved. Let's face it, Green was rattled and seemed to be one ill judged charge for a cross away from disaster for most of the second half. Tommo wasn't flustered, he just got on with his job to the best of his blossoming ability.

How good is he? Well he is not the finished article and he will cost us goals, just as a young striker misses chances and a young midfielder loses possession. When those mistakes are made, we must keep it in perspective. Look at the over reaction to Sears' solitary goal - we were all calling him the new Cottee! Look at the reaction to Tommo's error at Everton, some were ready to call him the new Strodder! That is the advantage of being the glory boy striker rather than the Mr Consistency defender.

Tommo is still raw, not as raw (that loan spell at Derby no doubt helped) but still raw. His main weakness at the moment is the failure to get distance on his defensive headers. When Collins' red head connects with the ball, it is as if it has been fired out of a cannon. "Take that" his forehead says, and the ball goes miles; when Tommo connects, it tends to loop and drop about five yards outside our box. Those neck muscles need strengthening. He also tends to head the ball without thought for direction. There were times against Blackburn when he could have headed the ball away from danger but instead dropped it just outside the box in an all too central position.

But let's not be too critical. Bobby Moore wasn't the best header of a ball and I remember Rio making many a gaff as a young West Ham defender. Upson didn't really mature until he was 27. Time is on Tommo's side and I think he is every bit as an exciting prospect as Collison. Let's get behind the kid, I see him as an England captain in the making.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Your Honour, I Rest My Case

We should have fought it, we should have seen the Red Stripes in Court. Defending the legal action brought by the Blunted Blades would have been one of the easiest jobs in the world. Tevez and West Ham responsible for their relegation, who are they kidding?

Your Honour, I give you exhibit A - Neil Warnock. Enough said?

For exhibit B I offer you the Sheffield United team sheet. Is that really a team worthy of a place in the Premiership?

Exhibit C - Look at their performances in the Championship!

Exhibit D - They appointed Red Stripe Robbo as manager after Warlock departed. Clearly, your Honour, the club have a death wish!

I rest my case.

Referee Foy Seeking Legal Advice

In the light of Big Spam's post match comments, referee Chris Foy would be well advised to find a good lawyer quick! With Blackburn still teetering on the brink of the drop, Mr Foy and his assistants may well be in need of a Silk after controversial decisions "robbed" the Knockemblackandblueandburnem of two additional points.

Not one to criticise referees without good cause, Mr Allardyce raged, "We feel bitterly disappointed we have not got three points and in many ways that is our fault but it is also the fault of the referee's assistant and it is a hard one to take.

"We had two goals disallowed for offside but unfortunately the key area lies with the West Ham goal which nobody can argue is not offside - and we don't know why the referee has not given it as he was in such a good position"

"What can be done about it? Nothing. But I have to express my disapproval publicly because we are in a very difficult position and we can't afford to have major decisions going against us."

Now it is that last paragraph that would really worry me if I was Mr Foy. The use of that word "afford" suggests to me a pending compensation claim should Blackburn fall, unfairly, through the relegation trap door.

I am not a lawyer myself but I would recommend that on Monday Mr Foy put his house and everything he owns into the name of his wife; or maybe he could go for a canoe ride and show up under a Panama hat in a few years time; or perhaps he has £25 million set aside for just this eventuality. One thing is for sure, some Judge who went to a rugger school and has never been close to a fottball shirt (other than to lift it to gain entry) will offer an expert opinion that by allowing that goal, Mr Foy cost Blackburn the two points that ensured their relegation. And who knows, because we scored it, we will probably be held jointly liable.

By The Skin Of Our Teeth

That's an odd saying isn't it? Anyone know where it comes from? The tooth of a punch drunk boxer hanging on by a slither of skin perhaps, which would sum up our second half display quite nicely. Until Dyer appeared we couldn't get the ball out of our own half and pass after pass was misplaced as we tried to get the ball beyond that funny white mark that cuts through the centre circle. Did I miss something, was Samba picked as a striker and were Kovac and Parker playing in a back six? That's the way it appeared!

God only knows what happened at half time. Big Spam obviously laid into his players and told them to cut out anything fancy whatsoever. Just thump the ball into the box and chase after it. The keeper is dodgy under crosses so get it under his bar and CHARGE!!!!!!!!!!!! Quite what Zola said, I have no idea. He certainly didn't tell Di Michele to track back, or if he did he wasn't speaking the same language, which is ironic given they are both Italian. For once, Zola's tactical switches were intelligent but why did we have to wait until the 80th minute to see Dyer. Surely he could have managed twenty minutes in the circumstances?

What were the plusses? Neill and Tomkins were excellent given the pressure they were under. We are rightfully excited about Collison but it is beginning to look as if Tomkins could be just as good. Kovac did a stirling job defensively and had a hand in the goal. It was great to see Noble get on the scoring sheet - that will help his confidence enormously - and LBM buzzed around like a blue bottle on a summer's morning. The biggest plus, however, was the appearance of Dyer and the stunning turn of pace he showed when going down that left flank. It seems as if the bloke can at least run, and I was having my doubts about that! One burst of speed does not an international footballer make but, who knows, maybe, just maybe, just maybe, Dyer might play a part for us next season. Maybe.

One last major plus - Cole has served his suspension and will be back for the Sunderland game. All those mugs who have been questioning his right to be in the team must surely now see why he is such an important player for us. Cole may miss chances but at least we get chances when he is in the team!

The Lucas Neill Debate

Full marks to the Mirror for their headline, "Zola says Lucas Neill is worth every penny of his fat contract" because that captures perfectly the oxymoron that is our skipless Skippy. In recent weeks, Lucas has looked like a defender reborn, maintaining excellent positional discipline and treating the ball with respect when we are in possession. Clarke has clearly been working on him, demanding that he cut out the stupid stuff - including diving in on the half way line and passing across his own box to an opposition forward. But one big problem remains, Lucas is slow, too slow in my opinion to be a right back.

Look at the West Brom game, what did we offer going forward on the right? From memory, we got the ball into the box on the right hand side just once in the whole game. Why? Because Noble kept drifting inside and Neill did not dare overlap because he knows that he lacks to pace to recover his defensive position. And this lack of pace has been a real problem to us as an offensive unit all season. Parker and Behrami have been superb all season but both have done 70% of their work as part of a defensive six. Parker anchors in front of the back four and Behrami played as an auxillary right back, pushing forward when he could but always aware that his main job was to protect Neill from being exposed one on one with anybody with pace. The result is that we are very tight defensively but we offer very little going forward, despite all the delicious passing.

Reflect on the Wigan game. Without the shield of Beharami, Neill was forced to give away two free kicks on the edge of our box and "reverted to type" with that leg break tackle on Cattermole just inside our half. Never mind the argument that he could have seen straight red for the Cattermole tackle, had Attwell flashed yellow for either of the shirt tugs that gave away the free kicks (and they were professional fouls and so merited a booking more than Cole's high foot), then Neill would certainly have gone for a second yellow for that wincer of a challenge. Against West Brom, Neill was our best player defensively but what did he have do? Very little, yet he still could have conceded a penalty for what was, indisputably, a shirt pull in the box.

The brutal truth is that, for all his leadership qualities, Neill lacks pace and does make stupid decisions when a forward looks like getting the better of him. If I was a referee, I would watch him very closely at corners and free kicks and would feel within my rights to give a penalty at every set piece. Lucas seems to think that holding an opponent is a legitimate defensive ploy. It isn't and, sooner or later, the referee will spot what the TV camera exposes virtually every game.

So is he worth his fat contract? No. He is getting older and will get slower. He may well have a couple of years in those legs as a centre back but his days as a right back are almost over - unless we accept that we need a defensive six in every game to cover for Lucas's frailties. The contract is up for renewal and I would slash his salary by at least 33% to reflect his reduced effectiveness. The fact is, with Collins, Upson, Tomkins and Gabbidon (if ever fit), we do not need another centre back so why pay top dollar for Neill? On the other hand, to push on to the next level, we need a Herita Ilunga at right back, a good defender with the ability and pace to get forward. Only then will we start scoring more goals.


Any truth in the rumour that they are inventing a new Cluedo game, "Who relegated Sheffield United?" Was it Chairman Brown in the Boleyn Ground with the dodgy signing? Or Professor Benitez in the Cottage with the dodgy team selection? Or most likely, Colonel Warnock in the Premiership with the shite team!

Friday, 20 March 2009

Zola To Be Drug Tested

Now we know why Zola is smiling all the time, he's been puffing the wacky backy. I don't hold with those who maintain that Parker is a liability because he dwells on the ball too long and pirouettes more than a ballet dancer on a gyroscope, but I do not understand how anybody can seriously suggest that he is currently the best midfield player in the Premiership.

How many goals has Parker scored this season exactly? How many assists? Yes he does his defensive duties well and yes he is all energy, but what does he offer going forward? The opposition penalty area seems like a total exclusion zone for Parker and I could count on one hand the number of passes he has completed over 20 yards so far this season. Do the pulses start to race when Parker picks up the ball? Do you find yourself thinking, "Something special is going to happen here"? I'm sorry, but I don't.

I am not knocking the guy, I think he has been one of our best players this season, but to mention him in the same breath as match winners like Lampard and Gerrard seems absurd to me. Parker does not punch in the same division as these two heavyweights. He can't skin defenders like Walcott and Young, he doesn't have the passing range of Carrick and he isn't as good a tackler or crosser as Barry. The fact is, Parker was pressed out of the game by West Brom and Villa. Each time he collected the ball, somebody was biting at his ankles and Parker looked flustered and hurried. And we all know that the mark of a very good player is that he always appears to have more time than mere mortals.

Capello was at the Villa game and witnessed Parker's discomfort, and Parker has not figured in an England squad subsequently. Capello looked less than impressed at Upton Park on Monday too so I would be very surprised to see Parker adding to his meagre number of England caps any time soon. Zola, of course, is probably just trying to boost morale after that abject performance against the Baggies but Parker is a big boy now and should not be in need of such crude kiddology. Save it for the little uns boss, Freddie Sears might be boosted if you told him he was still worth a place in his school team!

Pants Reveals All!

John Pantsil has ditched the dirt on Turds and revealed that West Ham had no team spirit when he was at Upton Park. He said: "At West Ham we didn't stick together like we do here. When I came to Fulham the welcome was amazing, I felt I had been playing for the team for years."

Those of us who commented on Curbishley's failure to even look at the players he substituted as they left the field, will feel empathy with Pantsil when he adds, "Here, the manager will shake everybody's hand before training. But if training is not going well, he is not afraid to tell us to put more effort in."

It is pretty obvious who he is talking about when he continues, "Some managers just keep quiet and let the players do whatever they want. And on a Saturday, whether they win or lose, they don't care. But here the manager will challenge you to play well. And he has really improved my game, being offensive and defensive, and overlapping."

Many West Ham fans continue to defend Curbishley despite all the evidence. Onecapchesky had his say when he left, Tevez revealed that Turds wrote the match day tactics on a white board and said nothing to the team and former Charlton players, including Murphy and Bent, have talked in a less than complimentary way about their former manager. It is probably no coincidence that the dinosaur is still out of work despite all those years of "success" at Charlton.

I am very clear in my mind that the appointment of Curbishley was a terrible mistake. Just think where we might be now had somebody with a little gumption been allowed to invest all that money!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Tony Carr's Testimonial - Old Skool Pete 's Poser.

If ever a guy has deserved a testimonial, it is Tony Carr. On the mordant org, Old Skool has invited suggestions for who should play in the game. My vote is for a team of Carr's "Home Made Hammers" against a team of "Claret and Blue Mercenaries" selected from players currently playing the game.

If that was the format, who would figure in the two strongest teams? Well some names are obvious. Assuming everybody is fit, Carr's Academy Products would include Lampard, both Ferdinands (Anton is ahead of Tomkins), Johnson, Cole, Carrick and Collison for sure. The Mercenaries would have to include Tevez, (without a Third Party Agreement!), Upson, Parker, Defoe (we bought / stole him from Charlton), Ashton or Kanoute, Green or James, Ilunga, Collins, Behrami, Yossi and Reo-Choker. Have I forgotten any of the obvious candidates?

What the two lists throw up is the paucity of our "home grown" strikers and keepers. There has been no "made in West Ham" forward of real note since Cottee. And before him, is Hurst really the next down the line? There's Clyde Best I suppose but I'm scratching my head trying to think of another! Slater wasn't all that at the end of the day was he? As for the guy between the sticks, Bywater was not off the Carr conveyor belt; in fact apart from Finn, Mervyn Fat Man Day is the only one I can think of. Does Stech count? I think we bought him didn't we? Left back is another weak area!

The Mercenaries should logically be managed by Redknapp but as a Tottenham managing, Arsenal supporting West Ham man, I think he would have to be given the Academy boys ; Curbishley or Zola could manage the Buy-ins. To give him a role, Pardew could be brought back to keep the players' wives entertained! If a clown was needed for the half time entertainment, we could put a call through to Roeder!

So, three questions. First, who would make up the balance of the two teams? Second who would play where? And third, which team would win the game?

Elano to Upton Park!

Sorry, not news, just speculation. But who on here would fancy him? City are planning to offload and he seems the ideal partner for Parker in central midfield, offering genuine flair as a counterfoil to Scotty's endeavour. We need creativity and goals from our midfield and I fancy a Zola managed Elano would fit the bill perfectly. With Behrami and Parker running themselves into the ground, Collison springing beyond the strikers and Elano picking the passes, we really would be a force to reckon with going forward. Just imagine a fully fit Ashton in front of that fabulous four!

Am I in cloud cuckoo land or is this a possibility?

A Present From Santa

Father Christmas has come early with the news that Rocky is out for the count and won't be turning up for the game on Saturday to deliver a Cruz missile or two. Mind you, Jason Roberts has a pretty good track record against us and will fancy his chances with Upson probably ruled out with his tweaked calf. They will be baying for Neill's blood at Ewood Park of course so the chances are that Roberts will have the opportunity to score from the spot after being wrestled to the ground in the box by Lucash.

I don't do predictions in the week of a game for fear of putting the mockers on the side but I am not filled with confidence after that dreadful performance on Monday. Still no Cole thanks to Attwell so Tristan looks like he might get a walk out. He can't be less effective than Sears I suppose but does anybody really fancy him as a Premiership striker?

Any news on Dyer?

Locked Stocks and two Smoking Bramells

(Contributed by fellow mordant.org outcast L Martillo)

Anyone who has ever been involved in financial negotiations will know that you don’t start with your bottom line; a reasonable rule of thumb says "double it and then negotiate". So to agree to pay Sheffield United about half of the ridiculously inflated figure they asked for, seems to me to be tantamount to wandering down to the village green and restraining ourselves in the stocks, the medieval throne of public humiliation. Assaulted with a barrage of rotten tomatoes, or compensation claims as we call them these days, there seems little leeway to say anything other than, "It’s a fair cop – we’re guilty – punish us."

Had we negotiated an out of court settlement early on in this dispute, it is unlikely that the Premier League would have ordered a further enquiry and the whole business, though costly, would have been forgotten by now. If we had argued our corner at the hearing convened to adjudicate on compensation, we would probably have been no more financially inconvenienced than we have been but would at least still have been able to say the decision was unjust and we had been unfairly treated.

But what happens now? Sitting there like the aftermath of a comic relief red nose day fundraiser, I fear we may have left ourselves open to be hit with the cruelest punishment of all; a hefty points deduction that would be a bitter pillory to swallow.

"Remove our boots and beat our naked soles" in the words of Bastinado.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Was Noble Nobbled? Blame Basildon Irons!

(The following has been lifted from the mordant org. Bas has always been an intelligent contributor willing to risk the ire of the Klan. I hope you don't mind me carrying this Bas, given I am banned from the site it is the only way I can engage in the debate with you! I attach a response and hope others join the debate.)

Mark Noble burst onto the scene in the most emphatic way and, in my opinion, without him the great escape would never have happened. He was the real driving force behind those great performances that secured our Premier League survival; but, for me, ever since the start of last season something has been missing, he just simply has not cut it.

Now before you all start throwing abuse about me being negative and how he’s one of us and we should leave him alone (all that stuff has been thrown at me many times before on westhamfans.org) just have a real hard think about this player. He doesn’t score goals, he doesn't assist, he’s not a destroying midfielder who prevents goals and his tackling comes with a "Will Break A Leg Soon" warning; so tell me, what is he actually good at?

I think he has gone backwards in his development and for such a young player he appears terribly slow with no burst of pace whatsoever. This brings me to the point where I’m slightly confused. When Curbishley brought him through, he seemed to have all the technical attributes, apart from natural pace, needed to become a West Ham great; yet time after time I’m left totally frustrated and bemused by his performances.

In those early oh so heady days, Curbishley seemed to give him a ‘Steven Gerrard’ level of freedom, apparently sending him onto the pitch with a "just go out and play" instruction. When he did this he was top notch and the enthusiasm he showed, allied to his natural talent, was exceptional. Come the start of last season, however, he seemed withdrawn, depressed almost, with all his creative spark extinguished. It was as if Curbishley had told him to adopt a more responsible defensive role, not to get drawn too far forward, not to gamble and risk being caught out of position. Whether or not this is actually the case we will probably never know but that’s how it seemed. Like everyone under Curbishley, he picked up niggling injuries and his season never really took off. It was like a lost year, a year in the wilderness, with Noble searching for the player he once had been.

The start of this season was much the same and then enter Gianfranco Zola. I really expected someone like Zola to get the best out of Noble. I thought he would liberate him, release him from the shackles of self doubt and get him performing with his old vim and vigour. But that hasn’t happened has it? Where are those lung-busting runs into the opposition's box? Where are those fearsome tackles when tracking back to our own goal? Where are those set piece deliveries? Where are those emotional, wholesome gutsy performances that turned a team of down and outs into a team of winners, a team of fighters, a team with pride? Where has it all gone wrong for this boy?

We know he can do the business, we’ve all seen it, but for whatever reason it just isn’t happening. I’m interested to know if anyone has the same views as me but please, if all you’re going to do is yell insults, don’t bother wasting your time. I’m not having a dig, I just want to know if anyone else thinks the same as me and to hear other views on this. Is it mismanagement or is Noble simply not good enough?