Thursday, 30 April 2009

Stoke Away - Make or Break.

45 points and a pig of a run in (no pun on Swine Flu intended!). We did well to eke out a point at Villa and with a striker worthy of the name, would probably have picked up another against Chelsea. Tell me, if Di Michele and Tristan are worth their salt, why weren't they stepping forward to take that penalty? Twelve yards out, unchallenged, only the keeper to beat - fancy it Diego? No? How about you David? No? Looks like the 21 year old midfielder will have to take it then despite missing his last one! On yer bikes you pair of bottlers!

Zola's target was 52 points and that target isn't going to be easy to reach. We should be looking to claim 3 points in the last game of the season against Boro, but if they are fighting for their Premiership lives or signing off their stint in the Prem after being relegated, that might not be the straight forward victory many hope it will be. Everton away has become an easier game thanks to their passage to the FA Cup Final but 3 points at Goodison is a big ask given our record there. It is not, traditionally, a happy hunting ground. Let's estimate a point from that one. That puts us on 49 with a win over Boro. So where are the other three coming from? A victory over Liverpool? That's a huge ask given their pursuit of the Prem, their only hope of a trophy. I would only predict a draw in my most optimistic mood. So that leaves Stoke on Saturday!

Now Stoke have done brilliantly this season and have a superb home record, so this is a challenging game. Hopefully, Beattie won't make it, but even without him, the bombardment of high balls into our box is going to be Blackburnesque. Neill, Tomkins and Upson are going to have to be on their mettle and Green will have to be decisive. We can't afford for him to stick, twist, stick and twist again as that ball is hurled into our box. We were undone by a set piece header at Upton Park and Pullis will be planning for a repeat. Should Stoke score, securing 3 points will become very difficult given we can't score more than one goal in any game.

Personally I would jettison Di Michele from the team and play with Stanislas and Dyer in the hole behind Tristan, running beyond the target man onto any flick on he might muster through the 90 minutes. In midfield, assuming Parker is unfit, I would go with Kovac, Neill and Noble, with the first two protecting the back 4 and giving additional support as the ball is lumped into our box. At the back I like the idea of Tomkins, Collins, Upson and Ilunga, again with a view to adding inches to the team. Priority number one must be to nullify the aerial threat. Take care of that and Stoke pose very little of an attacking threat.

Can we score? I think Stanislas and Dyer are our best bets for getting a goal personally. Their speed will unnerve the Stoke back four and by "coming from deep", they will unsettle the defensive organisation of the opposition. Win this and we could be in Europe next season; anything less, then that dream will disappear.

Why Everton, Chelsea, Arsenal, Man Utd, Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle et all may be left hanging.

At the moment, we are all looking forward to an exciting ending to the season. Another all English Champions League Final threatens, there is the prospect of an attritional FA Cup Final, Liverpool still hope to chase down the Mancs in the race for the Prem, and nails are being bitten beneath the quick in the North East. But there is a very real prospect that all these matters may be left unresolved. The season may soon be put into suspended animation, locked away into cold storage. Football may stop in the next two to three weeks.

Why? Well some of you may have noticed how deaths from Swine Flu are growing exponentially. In week one, five deaths in Mexico, in week two 150. Apply the multiple of 30 and that is 4500 deaths next week, multiply by 30 again and 135,000 die, multiply by 30 again and over 4 million are dead. Doesn't take long does it?

Now, look at the spread of the disease globally. They have it in Scotland, Germany, Scandinavia, Devon and, very worryingly, Spain. How many Brits have returned from holiday in Spain over the past 7 days? There are a few Chelsea fans of course. One infected person in the Nou Camp on Tuesday and the disease will have enjoyed a massive boost in its quest to infect as many people as possible in the shortest possible time.

The world is now on red alert. Yet amazingly the Press are leading on the Gurkha story. Why? Is there is an embargo on exactly how serious this is? One school has already been closed in England, many more will follow now the alert level has been raised to 5. If it is dangerous to collect 1000 people together in a school, how much more dangerous is it to gather 50,000+ together in a football stadium? When the pandemic takes hold, and it is now when, not if, the government will be advising us not go out unless we have to. Football matches will be cancelled / postponed as a matter of course as mass gatherings will be made illegal to try to limit the spread of the disease.

What will happen from there? How will relegation be resolved, how will the Cup be awarded? Never mind that, there may be much bigger questions to answer in this country and around the world. Not worried yet? You should be. We are not all doomed but these are VERY dangerous times.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

BG - The case against.

The following article has been submitted. The Blog Administrator wishes to make clear that the site does not validate anything in this article. In the interest of balance following the article in support of BG, this submission has been carried.

The negative responses to the recent article praising BG shows what most of us long suffering fans think of our Chairman. BG is lucky to have the persona of a gentleman billionaire that has merely been unfortunate in the credit crunch but, I found an article in 1st November 2002 Euromoney Magazine, under the heading “Questions Over Landsbanki's New Owner” that changed my mind about him. It says that BG has a criminal record and has been bankrupting companies by his mis-management since the mid-80s. His business life has been littered with numerous lost law suits and disasters of one kind or another simply because he is a bad businessman and should not be allowed near any company IMO. I have never met BG so it is not personal. I am merely a fan that wants the best for our club!

BG first came to international attention when he was found to have misled the shareholders and bankers of Hafskip, an Icelandic shipping line he was MD of in the mid-80s. Euromoney says that he twice issued false accounts to reassure shareholders and banks that Hafskip was operating profitably. Hafskip went bust a few months later in December 1985. The bankruptcy forced an Icelandic bank to be closed which sounds all too familiar today but this was in 1985! BG was arrested and remanded in custody for 28 days in 1986 so he is actually an ex-jailbird!

He was eventually found guilty of “embezzlement of company bank accounts,” to have “violated articles of the Companies Act” and also violated “The General Penal Code over several counts of embezzlement, two of which involved fraud.” He got a 12month prison sentence suspended for two years. This is a classic, early demonstration of BG's cavalier attitude to business matters.

After the disaster of Hafskip, BG and his son Thor, turned up in the new capitalist Russia, with it's reputation for corruption and largely unregulated commercial activity. They got involved in building up a bottling plant, which they sold to Pepsico. Euromoney say “They developed a flair for working their way around the viper's nest of customs, regulatory and tax authorities.” I wonder what that means? Then they invested in a brewery in St Petersburg and Moscow, Bravo International, which they built up with two partners, one English and the other an Icelander, eventually selling to Heineken for $400m in 1995! Of more relevance to us is the fact that their two partners claimed in law suits, that BG and Thor had forged their signatures on documents to cheat them out of their full share of the $400m sale. BG and Thor finally lost in an Icelandic court on 6 December 1999!

After the sale to Heineken, BG and Thor then invested in a long established Icelandic pharmaceuticals company, Pharmaco (now renamed Actavis); Straumur Burdaras, an investment bank run by Thor that eventually went under just last month, and Landsbanki which the Icelandic Government sold off in 2002. The business community were surprised and a lot of serious questions were raised about whether the Iceland government were right to sell their bank to a convicted criminal with a dubious past but Iceland is a small community of 320,000 people not the UK! Landsbanki went bust just 6 years later under BG! One of the most incredible disasters that I still don't fully understand, came when BG gave guaranties for our sponsors to help them secure a £163m loan from another bank just a couple of days before XL called in the receivers! That episode clearly helped finish off Landsbanki as they were re-nationalised days after that debacle!

Most of us first heard about BG when he bought West Ham using Eggert Magnusson as his front man presumably because of his own 'colourful' past. I was one of the many fans that thought our bubbles would at last, no longer fade and die! Terrence Brown was no longer in charge and we gained a billionaire that was going to invest big time in Eggy's much heralded business plan for a new 60,000 seat stadium and Champions League football within 5 years. It sounded unbelievable and that's exactly how it turned out - unbelievable!

The first disasters happened on the playing side and it soon became clear that the business plan was behind schedule. Eggy sacked Pardew and appointed Curbishley to complete indifference amongst fans. Curbs was not a bad manager, just that Champions League and Curbishley, don't quite go together somehow. A lot of non-Champions League players were bought for £40m and we all know that we got out of the relegation zone at Old Trafford, on the final day of the season with mainly the existing players. It seems that Eggy had been given no limits to his spending authority which is most unusual. BG should have imposed tighter controls but the kind of expertise he has, was honed in Iceland and Russia, not the UK.

Eggy then hit the exit door fairly soon afterwards and he has since issued a high court action against us. Zola replaced Curbs after he walked out over the Ljungberg settlement and Anton and McCartney transfers. Curbs claimed they were all done behind his back in spite of him having a contract giving him the final say on all transfers. He has sued us for constructive dismissal. BG showed incredible insensitivity and if he wanted Curbs out, he should have done the decent thing and paid him off but that isn't his way it seems. Zola has certainly been a saving grace for the club and his sparkle and drive always cheers me up but was he an inspired choice or just a cheaper alternative to Curbs? We'll never know but it is about the only thing that has worked out OK.

During BG's two year ownership we have been found guilty of lying to the Premiership about the existence of an illegal side agreement with Kia Joorabchian. The lies got WHUFC fined £3m and breaking the rule itself, just £2.5m! Had we told the truth and pleaded mitigating circumstances – eg previous owner's fault just the way Alan Sugar did when he took over Tottenham, it would have cost £2.5m. We would have sorted out the Tevez contract properly and there would not have been a Tevezgate scandal that has cost us incredible amounts of money and ruined the club's reputation. We have now had 3 managers when in the previous 107 years we got by with only 9! The five year £1m pa contract Terry Brown negotiated for himself as part of the sale to BG, was canceled, presumably in an attempt to make him the scapegoat for the Tevez affair. We now know that the club lied though, because a copy of the side agreement was printed in the News of the World exposé a few months ago. BG must have approved Duxbury's lies to the Premiership or he would surely have gone through the exit door as well. Brown added himself to the list of people suing us and BG settled out of court because he was wrong and knew Brown was not going to let it go. I have little sympathy for Brown who made millions out of our club but it was just another example of BG's shady dealings that litter his entire business history.

Even Kia Joorabchian sued us for non payment of a £7m contract secretively arranged to keep Tevez playing apparently! Kia's settlement is that he is now our transfer consultant for as long and as much as it costs for BG to keep him quiet. It's a shame BG never thought to employ Kia's lawyer as well so that he could not give his damning evidence to the FA hearing! Verbal cuddles Duxbury called it and the fact that he hasn't been sacked or shafted like Brown, Eggy, Kia and Curbs, suggests Duxbury has been operating under BG's direction since he took over. Tevez has now reputedly cost us around £26m spread across the next 5 years plus millions in legal fees and it could have been even worse! It could have put us into administration.

The May 2008 accounts have been delayed from being filed for 6 months beyond the deadline allowed for PLCs! Normally you cannot do that but BG used a little known rule to twice change our year end date by a few days each time so that we were given the extra time to sort out the accounts. We have the weird situation that our financial year will now end on the 24th May! The reason? Our auditors would not sign off our accounts or in layman's terms, they would not confirm that BG's version of our accounts were an accurate reflection of the year's trading!

I believe that the auditors insisted on putting in a large provisional sum for Sheffield United's compensation. Our auditors have a world-wide reputation to protect and clearly the size of provisional sum they demanded for the compensation payment would have pushed us into filing insolvent accounts and that would put us into administration. Those 6 months of delay gave BG time to settle with Sheffield United and even better, spread it over 5 years to minimize the impact in any one year. We can now belatedly file the 2008 accounts with an accurate provisional sum that should allow the accounts to remain solvent. For that reason, I have a feeling that our club actually may not have done anything wrong to deserve having to pay the compensation but, the auditors demands forced us to settle with Sheffield United or go bust! That's unfortunate but a direct result of BG having no credibility left with auditors and bankers. We will only find out if I am right, if the final hearing decides we did nothing wrong and it gets publicly announced.

All BG's companies, except Actavis, are now busted. Even Actavis has troubles and in 2008 lost an American law suit for patent infringements and have been forced to withdraw a particular brand of tablet from all outlets across the USA due to contravening the Food and Drug Administration's regulations! Sound familiar? As I said law suits seem to follow them around. They put Actavis up for sale this year for €8 billion but the highest bids did not clear the €4+billion in bank loans they owe! Imagine the interest and capital payments on €4+billion in loans every year? Then add in the costs of a product recall and losing a big legal battle in America. A cost of close to €750m I imagine. Ouch!

The banks that lent BG money for buying West Ham, have already threatened to take our club over once the Icelandic version of chapter 11 protection on Hansa's bankruptcy ends in June. I cannot see the banks going through the trouble to take us over for any other reason than they want to protect their interests by keeping the loans on their books as assets rather than being in default as they are currently. I hope I am wrong but if the banks do take us over, then expect them to try to load the £100m they are owed, directly onto our club instead of BG's bankrupt holding company. According to the Mail on Sunday a week ago, our club's borrowings have increased to £50m under BG so that means we would carry a total debt for around £150m! Thanks BG.

Whatever kind of spin anyone puts on it, BG has not been good for our club. His ownership of many companies shows a history of broken contracts, failed litigations, bad decisions, dodgy settlements and bankrupted companies. I don't think anything has really changed since Terence Brown's days as our Chairman, except we are now actually worse off financially; our good name has been dragged through the mud; we get sued all the time; have up to £10m a year to pay out in fines and settlements for the next few years and we could still end up getting lumbered with debts of up to £150m. We are still a selling club with survival as our main ambition despite Duxbury's Project and there is only one man that can take the wrap for all this – the man at the top.

Let's all cross our fingers that we find a new owner very soon. I don't believe any real West Ham fan wants an Abramovich or a wealthy Arabian trillionaire throwing money around like they do at Chelsea and Man City. We just want someone that gives us some stability and Zola and Nani a fighting chance in the transfer market. Maybe some future investment into developing the East Stand and the new training ground? Not much really is it?

Is there anyone out there with £200m to invest in a very good cause?


Have you ever wanted West Ham to lose?

An odd question to ask on a West Ham blog but I mean it most sincerely folks, have you ever wanted West Ham to lose a game? I came very close earlier in the season when we played Macclesfield in the League Cup. I was amongst a 10,000 weak crowd for the game and witnessed a woeful performance, requiring a late equaliser, a sending off and extra time to overcome a team who had lost every game in the old Fourth Division. It was obvious that the team was playing without inspiration, heart and even hope and it was absolutely clear that Curbishley had to go. A section of the crowd turned on the manager and chanted that he would be out of work in the morning and a humiliating defeat in a relatively meaningless cup (let's face it, even Tottenham can win it!)seemed, for a while, like a resonable trade off - anything to remove the curse of Turds from Upton Park! But then Bowyer equalised, Cole (a replacement for Sears) started to terrorise the hapless minnows and the claret and blue blood started pumping through my veins. Each goal was greeted like a goal scored against Manchester United or Tottenham and I exercised an opt out clause on my provisionally arranged pact with the devil. So, in the end, even a passionate yearning to see Turds replaced was not actually enough to make me want my beloved Hammers to lose.

But there was a game I was keen for us to lose. For this we have to go back to the last game of season 2003-04, away to Wigan. In case you have forgotten, this was the final league game of a truly depressing season. We were bumping along in the Fizzy Pop all season, Roeder had been belatedly sacked, Brooking had inspired hope, only for Pardew to be appointed and to recruit a bunch of players that had no place at West Ham. We used an incredible 36 players that season - and by incredible, I mean the number of players, not the quality! Remember Quinn? And Stockdale? And Connolly? And Mellor? And Harley? And Deane? Remember those depressing draws against Norwich, Burnley and Forest? Remember the 4-1 defeat at Millwall? Remember the surrender at home to the Baggies after Defoe's sending off? Remember the 1-0 defeat at Palace? I remembered that last one keenly, but Brian Deane seemed to have forgotten it when we entered the last ten minutes of the game at Wigan!

The equation was simple. If Wigan won their final game of the season and Palace failed to win, then the Latics were into the play offs. If they failed to win then Palace would replace Wigan. Now Palace were on a fantastic run, transforming from a team struggling against relegation into the favourites to make it into the Premiership should they squeeze into the playoffs. Wigan, meanwhile, were moving in the opposite direction, falling away as the pressure mounted, and our track record against them was good - we had thumped them 4-0 at Upton Park. I knew, absolutely knew, that if Palace made it into the playoffs, then they would win the final. It was obvious, it was written in the stars, there was nothing anybody could do to prevent it - if they qualified! But the solution was simple, blindingly obvious in fact. All Pardew had to do was pick a team of stiffs and smile as we lost, slamming the door in the face of the Eagles if they failed to win.

And it was all going to plan as we ticked into the last minute. Wigan were beating us 1-0 and Palace were losing. A point meant nothing to us - our final league position would not change - but our chances of winning through to the Premiership would be hugely enhanced by denying Palace participation in the playoffs. So what happened? Well in a supreme act of shooting yourself in the foot, Carrick crossed and that useless great lump Brian Deane thumped in a header. 1-1, Wigan out, Palace in, and Destiny would not now be denied! As the goal went in my son cheered, not understanding the implications, but I was swearing and ranting, calling Deane all the obscenities in the book. "Dad", my son said confused, "We've just scored!" My reply was short, "Yes we've scored, the f****** own goal to end all f***** own goals!"

And why am I writing this now? Well earlier this season I struck a £20 bet for Newcastle to be relegated and England to win the World Cup. It pays out £1200. Now, just imagine, last game of the season, the match means nothing to us but if Boro win, they stay up and send Newcastle down. It will hurt but in those circumstances, I might just cheer on Miserableborough. Not for the money, you understand, but because I hate Shearer!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Geoff Pike - An unsung hero!

Kicking off a series looking at former Hammers, I decided to run with Geoff first because he is a player who is easily overlooked. In fact, younger fans might not know much about him. The greats are rightfully lauded and any fan worth the title will know about the brilliance of Brooking, the steel of Bonds, the predatory instincts of Cottee, the power of Hurst, the intelligence of Peters, the mastery of Moore...but the likes of Geoff Pike fade into the background, barely outlined character sketches behind the star performers.

Geoff made his debut as long ago as March 1976, coming on as a sub in a 2-1 home defeat to Birmingham City. Not the most auspicious of beginnings perhaps but his first start was in a game we Hammers remember with a little more relish, a 5-3 home victory over Tottenham no less! The side that day brings back so many memories for guys of my age and, because of two names, has a strong link with recent events: Day; Bonds; Lampard; Curbishley; Lock; Taylor; Devonshire; Pike; Jennings; Brooking; Pop Robson. How is that for a team of West Ham cult figures?

It is typical of Pike that his name would probably be the last that anybody would come up with if asked to name the side that day. You can imagine the discussion in the pub. Brooking and Devonshire of course. And Bonzo! Lampard would have been at left back, Lampard was always at left back, and Taylor wearing the number 5. Pop Robson up top presumably and you can bet your life he scored! What about alongside Taylor? 76-77? Moore was gone. Kevin Lock perhaps? In goal? Guess it would have been Merv. Alongside Robson? Tough one. Was it Cross? Or the other Robson? Gould was gone wasn't he? How about Billy Jennings? And midfield? Curbishley? Yes, thought so. But who else? No don't tell me, it's bugging me this one. Paddon? Holland? Bonds in midfield perhaps...Pike? Really? That early!

Pike was one of those players. He started in 1976 and played until 1987 and it is a fair bet that, throughout that era, his name would be one of the last somebody would come up with if asked to nominate the team for any individual game. He was the Mullins of his age, a bits and pieces player who did his job with the minium of fuss and allowed others with more ability to play around him. Curbishley flounced off in a huff because he wasn't given the starring role in our midfield, but Pikey was happy to play second fiddle, knitting the midfield together as Devonshire went on mazey runs, Brooking bemused the opposition, Ward skinned a left back, Dickens floated in and out of the game, Keen dropped a shoulder and dinked in a pass, Ince powered through a game, Paul Allen shed his nappies, Liam Brady graced Upton Park and Patsy Holland danced past a marker. As that list shows, not only did he knit together the midfield, he also knits together eras, crossing over generations that link Ferguson to Parkes via Day, Pop Robson to Cottee & McAvennie, via Goddard, Lock and Taylor to Tony Gale & Martin via Billy Bonds. Look at that team against Tottenham and the one that took the field in Pikey's last game, and only Billy Bonds survives. But Billy Bonds played in every game West Ham ever played didn't he?

Did Pikey play in the Cup Final victory over Arsenal? Of course he did! But the midfielders that most remember from that day are Brooking, Devonshire and Baby Faced Allen. But Pikey was there, Pikey was always there, it's just that not a lot of people noticed. Well, not a lot of people but one very good judge did. Commentating on the Final for ITV, one Brian Clough picked out Pike as the key man in the West Ham side! Was Pikey there in the two League Cup Final games against Liverpool? You bet he was, but not everybody remembers. Was Pikey in the team when we finished third in the old First Division? He started 10 games and was in the team when we beat Chelsea 4-0 at the Bridge and the Mancs 2-1 at Upton Park.

My fondest memory of Geoff Pike goes back to the 16th of May, 1977. We went in to the final game of the season needing to win to avoid relegation - and the opposition? Only Manchester United! The team that day read: Day: Bonds; Lampard; Pike; Taylor; McGiven; Radford; Pop Robson; Devonshire; Brooking; Taylor. We won, 4-2, preserving our top flight status! And the scorers? Well Pop Robson of course! He got two! And wasn't that when Frank Lampard scored? That's right! And the other scorer? Hang on, it will come to me...Brooking? Devonshire? Taylor? Nope. Step forward and take a bow Geoff Pike, a great club servant!

Any personal memories of Geoff Pike? Would be great to hear them!

Taking the Di Michele

So Di Michele wants a permanent contract at the end of this season does he? Well there's a surprise! If I was nearing the end of my career and I had the opportunity to play for a club which is tolerant of under performance and pays a tasty wage, I would be "up for the challenge"!

Apparently Mr "You carry on playing whilst I tie up my boot laces" has told the club's official site, "“As I have already said many times I would love to stay at West Ham for a few more years.” A few more years? So he wants us to see him a few years into full retirement as well as through his period of semi retirement does he? Perhaps he has a copy of the Freddie Ljungberg Retirement Plan and fancies a few million pounds to tear up his contract 12 months after it is signed!

It is a shame I didn't see any evidence of him meriting a permanent contract against Chelsea on Saturday. I have seen some players have mares in my time as a West Ham fan but Di Michele's performance on Saturday was "down there" as one of the worst showings I have ever seen by a player wearing the club's badge. Did he find a team mate with a single pass? Did he even come close to having a shot on target? Did he once try to run FORWARD with the ball? How many times, exactly, did he lose possession? It is genuinely the first time that I have rated a player's performance zero out of ten and that was without exaggeration. He was dire for every second he was on the pitch.

I have defended the Italian against what I regarded as unfair criticism at times this season but enough is now enough. I do not deny that the guy is skilful on the ball and has "flair" but where is the end result? Four goals in 22 games, plus 8 as a substitute is a pitiful return for a striker, or for a guy "playing in the hole". And remember, 2 of those goals came in his second appearance for the club! He has now made 12 starts without a goal and we cannot afford to carry somebody that goal shy as a striker.

Zola should be saying, thanks but no thanks. If Di Michele is the answer to the question then it must be a bloody stupid question. Get rid quick I say, and put Tristan on the same plane!

Monday, 27 April 2009

A Shameful Day for West Ham. We should follow Tottenham's lead.

In my match report on the game on Saturday (Same old Same old) I wrote that there was nothing to be ashamed of in the defeat; but I was wrong. At the time I was unaware of the extent of the abuse directed at John Terry and Frank Lampard during the game by morons who claim to be football fans. Tottenham fans who directed racial hatred towards Sol Campbell were rightfully shamed and have now been banned from future games, and I believe strongly that West Ham should now take the moral high ground and get rid of the scum who were directing hatred towards two fantastic England professionals on Saturday.

I know that we will hear the, "They are scum, they betrayed West Ham nonsense" but let's get a couple of things clear. John Terry left aged fourteen. How can these morons persecute a guy for a decision he made around about the time he was growing a full patch of pubic hair? As for Lampard, the club sacked his dad and uncle; how in God's name could he remain after that? Is it any wonder he holds a grudge? My Dad was sacked from a job once and every time we passed the company concerned in the car, we wound down the windows and spat. It was a natural response - you stick up for your Dad! How long had Frank Senior been a loyal servant of West Ham, only for the club to push him and 'Arry out of the door?

Of course, the spite is engendered purely by envy. Lampard and Terry have gone on to greatness and that rankles with the stupid amongst our fan base. These guys didn't do a Sol Campbell to us, they didn't walk out on Bosmans after the club had given them their big break. I well remember West Ham fans asserting that Chelsea had been stitched up when they paid £11million for Lampard - according to many, he was only picked because of nepotism anyway!

It is now time for the club to make a stand. There will be video evidence identifying the seat numbers of many of these morons - and in most cases they will be season ticket holders. There is a lot said about making football family friendly and this is a fantastic opportunity to take a lead. Name and shame the morons, ban them from the ground and make clear that hatred of this type has no place in football.

I find the image depicted above embarrassing and shameful. I love football and am a passionate fan of West Ham and England. The morons who understand the game as a vehicle for hatred are a cancer in the game and in society as a whole. Zola should demand that that cancer is surgically removed from our fan base, once and for all!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

A perfectly rational dislike of Spurs!

Growing up in southern Ireland I was the only WestHam fan at my school. In fact I was the only WestHam fan I knew apart from my dad. Being from Cork, there has long been a strong history of support for ManU, Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton. They regularly came to Cork to play pre season games at Flower Lodge against Cork Celtic and Cork Hibs. This meant that my mates when I was a kid tended to support "bigger and more successful teams" than West Ham.

Yeah I got a lot of good natured mickey taking from my mates about how good their teams were but it was just that, good natured. When I would call round my friends house to watch football, their dads would see my West Ham jersey and say things like "WestHam always play good football" or talk about the great players we had produced. They respected the club and what it stood for.

I have followed West Ham all my life, I have travelled big distances to watch them play and as these trips are often at short notice, I have on many occasion stood amongst the home fans at away games and with the away supporters at Upton Park.
Of all the fans I have ever met and shared a conversation or a joke with, none of them have felt the need to try and tell me that their club is bigger than WestHam, none except Spurs fans.

Now when you're a kid it's natural to take an interest in the clubs your friends support, I would often watch their teams play as football was a pretty rare thing on television and West Ham didn't tend to figure much in the games that were shown. Over the years I would keep an eye out for the results of these teams. I never really cared if they won or not, unless the result affected West Ham in some way. Now I never knew a Spurs fan growing up so I never cared how they did.

I still don't. I have never checked to see how they have done, I have never watched a Spurs game unless it was against us. My first trip to Upton Park was New Year's Eve 1983 to watch West Ham beat spurs 4-1, so if anything I should have a sort of a soft spot for them as it was the perfect first trip to Upton Park.

For a long time as a football fan I couldn't care less about Spurs or their fans. I have never been to White Hart Lane; to begin with, this was if I was going to make a trip to London I would prefer to wait till I could go to see a home game. Now though I don't go as I refuse to contribute even the price of a ticket to their club. I have never met a Spurs fan who didn't start a conversation by telling me how much bigger their club was than West Ham. Personally I don't care, I love my club, I love what it stands for, I love its history, its tradition and its fans.

I know every football fan feels the same way about their club and I respect that but when the only way you can support your club is by trying to put others down it annoys me. Every summer its the same thing, we have to listen to idiotic Spurs fans logging on to Hammers sites to inform us that the latest bunch of overpriced mercenaries they have bought are better than any players we have. They feel obliged to tell us that this is the season they will crack the top 4. They boast about how their latest recruit from the manager of the month club is the one to mastermind their title push. Then withing a few months they are calling for the manager's head and slagging off their players as being useless.

Again I wouldn't care but through all of this they still want to tell us how they are a big club. Constantly bleating on and on about being a big club doesn't make you one though!

This isn't just directed at us, its at all clubs, at all fans. Any response from other fans is immediately called anti semitic or jealousy. As you have seen from previous threads, they are very quick to sink to racist comments themselves. I am a tolerant guy, I don't care what race, colour or creed a person is. To me a person is a person, you can agree with me or not, you can like me or not, I don't care. I have a very good life, a great family and fantastic friends. I don't hate people, I really don't, but over the years my dislike of Spurs fans has grown and like a bucket that slowly fills, eventually it overflowed into hatred. I actually don't like feeling like this, I think its counter productive to hate anyone. You end up wasting your energy on hating them. I am annoyed at myself for allowing myself be dragged to a point where I feel this way.

I remember some particularly insulting posts on WestHam forums when they signed Dos Santos last summer. Even by their own high standards, the smugness they displayed was incredible, hailing him the greatest young player in the world, a player only they were big enough to tempt away from Barcelona, a player who would lead their assault on the top 4, a player who would spark their title tilt. Where is he now? On loan at Ipswich! Spurs is a cesspit of a club, it sucks players in and discards them. The fans build them up to anyone who will listen and tears them down quicker than anyone else. Yes its frustrating when a player doesn't meet the standards you want for your club, yes every club has a player who the fans don't take to, but none with the regularity and ferocity of Spurs fans.

I am fed up with them infesting this blog (Blog Admin Interjection here! I welcome the contributions of the Tottenham fans!). The last two articles I submitted had nothing to do with Spurs in anyway shape or form yet their fans were on here looking for someway to make it about them. Its small man's syndrome, empty vessels make the most noise, any nuumber of penis deficiency jokes and even now, as I am writing this, I can hear the responses slagging me off from Spurs fans.

As always they will respond with typical smugness and arrogance, they will say its jealousy on my part but its not, I really don't care what happens to Spurs, they will say that they beat us twice this year and they did, but we lost to other teams, some of them twice, and I don't hate them or their fans. They will say they are a big club and I will point out they are not. The thing that bothers me most is that I cannot find a reason to not feel this way, things like Hillsborough makes me realise that football is only a game at the end of the day and its not worth a single human life. I hope, I truly hope, that this article brings out some of the decent Spurs fans, that it separates them from the vocal minority who have turned every other football fan against their club. I hope they find a voice to speak out, not retaliate. That may be a bit much given the way this article is written but please don't give me reasons to reinforce the way I am feeling; make me re-examine it, make me think again, make me see you as decent football fans. You cannot for even a moment fail to accept a large part of the responsibility of why other fans feel the way they do about you.

A West Ham fan wrote a book once called "An Irrational Hatred of Luton"; maybe I should have titled this "A perfectly rational hatred of Spurs".

By Celtic Hammer

Manager of the Season? Two Leading Contenders.

We all know that, as a rule, the award tends to go to the manager of the Champions but we all know the policy is stupid; in some years, 'Arry's wife could manage a team to win the title because their playing resources are far superior to any of their opponents. A table based on the performance of the managers would, I think, make very interesting reading this year.

Two of the contenders for the Premiership Manager Title this year came head to head yesterday when Fulham took on Stoke at the Cave in Cottage. Woy has done a fabulous job at Fulham, taking over a side apparently doomed to relegation and building a side which is now in pole position to win the "race for 7th" and European qualification. He has done this by investing in solid professionals, guys who will roll up their sleeves and play for the team, rather than worrying about their own egos. It is a little galling as a Hammer to see Konchesky, Zamora and Paintsil figuring in a side that might block our route to Europe, but it is a tribute to Woy that he saw how these guys could do a job if given the chance. I tell you what, there would not be many Hammers who wouldn't welcome Zammo back tomorrow in place of Di Michele or Tristan. I thought we had done well to get a combined £5.25m for the Z Man and Kaka Paintsil but, as it's turned out, Woy has had the last laugh. Look at the way he has revitalised Murphy and the signing of Schwarzer - two excellent pieces of management. Hangeland has had a fantastic season and Johnson has justified the faith that Woy showed in him when he spent big on a player most others had their doubts about. The Fulham team is a side without stars. They are all just one step up from journeymen, the nearly guys of the Prem, and yet Woy has carried them up to seventh, despite selling their best player in the January window. A job weally well done Woy!

Meanwhile, Tony Pullis has performed a minor miracle in keeping Stoke up (they won't go down now!). I shouldn't think there was a pundit in the country who wasn't predicting that Stoke would be relegated and I am happy to admit that I thought it was an absolute certainty. Not only did I think it would happen, I wanted it to happen because, although a natural fan of the underdog, I didn't want to see the "new Wimbledon" surviving in the Prem. Stoke were ugly - great big thugs who were going to clog their way to twenty points and return to the scrap metal yard from which they'd come. Or so we thought! Instead, they have played to their strengths, which has not just been pure muscle, though that long throw does require strength as well as technique. True, Stoke have proved that size does matter, and long and thick has proved a winning combination, but it has not all been down to thumping the ball high into the box and getting a head on it - just 95% of it! But fair play, Stoke didn't really have any other option, and Pullis has played his trump cards brilliantly. The signing of Beattie in the January window was an absolute masterstroke - how we would love him to lead the line at Upton Park at the moment. Beattie is not a craftsman but he is big, strong and knows how to score. I was at Hoddle's last game as Tottenham manager and saw Beattie drive the last nails into Glenn's management coffin. It was simple stuff, Southampton put the ball onto Beattie's head, and he did the rest. Football, as Pullis and Beattie prove, can be wonderfully simple sometimes. Whilst Hoddle fiddled with wing backs and the like, Beattie mugged him with ggod old fashioned centre forward play! And, of course, Stoke also managed to find a place for a Hammer. Matty can be frustrating but Pullis wanted somebody to put the ball onto Beattie's head and saw Etherington as the man to do it. And it has worked. As has the way Pullis has enrolled the Stoke crowd as the most potent twelfth man in the division.

Interestingly, both of these leading contenders for Manager of the Season are English, and the third and fourth that I will consider later are also Brits. Who says you have to have a foreign manager?

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Bad Timing - Downpipe Shows His True Colours

Just when it looked like Blunderland and Wolves were going to battle it out over the signing of Davenport, the Black Twats leaked three goals at West Brom, of all places, with Downpipe and Anton at the heart of the defence. I have long maintained that "our Calum" is a liability and this result is further proof that he does not have what it takes to play in the Premiership. But the lad could at least have kept it quiet until a club stumped up the cash to buy him!

Of course, this is not the first time Calum has played at the Hawthornes this season. He was in the heart of our defence when we went there in September. And the outcome, three goals conceded! I doubt that the boy knows much French, but he surely now understands the meaning of Deja Vu!

5-2 to the Mancs! Hard luck Tottenham! Well Done Webby!

Two nil up at half time with a full strength team including the indomitable King and Woodgate at centre back and that powerhouse Palacios in the holding midfield role, and the mighty mighty Tottenham Hotspur still contrived to lose 5-2! Brilliant! So now, all those Cockyfool boasts about their fantastic record against the Big 4 have been rammed well and truly down their throats!

After our defeat against Chelsea I wasn't sure I was going to watch MOTD tonight, but now I can't wait! I bet 'Arry was twitching so much by the end of the match that his head unscrewed five inches! Was Gomes to blame for any of the goals? Good to see Bent on the score sheet given 'Arry doesn't want him next season!

5-2 away to Man Utd. Do you know, we have only conceded a total of 6 goals in 7 games against the Big 4 so far this season! Tottenham's defence better than ours? I don't think so! Looks like it is back to the drawing board 'Arry! Hurry up with installing that revolving door to the dressing room ready for this summer!

Same old, same old...

West Ham 0 Chelsea 1

Nothing to be ashamed about but sadly all rather predictable. We lost because we haven't got a fit forward worthy of the Premiership, because Chelsea identified Neill's lack of pace and sought to exploit our defensive Achille's heel all game and, of course, because Lampard oozes class and is head and shoulders above anybody currenty wearing Claret & Blue.

It could have been so different of course. For all Chelsea's possession, it was in fact ourselves who had the best opportunities in the first half. Dyer should have scored after a lovely pass from Tristan whilst 'Arry's wife would have put away the chance Tristan was presented with from our first corner of the game. Add in the penalty save in the second half and a case can be made for us being unlucky. That would be overstating the case, of course, because Chelsea were much the better team for most of the game, but we were cerainly not embarrassed as we were last season.

However, all that said, I am puzzled why Noble was taking out swinging corners in the second half when we saw how vulnerable Cech was under the high ball from our first corner. Surely that should have been the cue to put as many high balls into the six yard box as possible. Just why we chose to ignore the blindingly obvious is beyond me. I truth, we were hopeless up front but pretty clueless in midfield too. Noble had a bad game - far too many of his passes went astray - whilst LBM was his usual self, willing but short on class. In terms of fitness, Dyer isn't sufficiently cooked yet but, even at 60%, he is positively well done when compared to the raw Stanislas and Savio. Up front meanwhile, Tristan is woeful and Di Michele ALWAYS wants to face his own goal. It was so easy for the Chelsea back four to cope because they knew nobody would try to spin and stretch them for pace - which is precisely how you discomfort Chelsea. Again it points to a lack of confidence in Sears and Savio because both were more logical selections to exploit any frailties in this Chelsea defence.

So, at the end of the day, it was a case of same old, same old. We can defend but without Ashton, Cole, Collison and Behrami, we do not look capable of scoring. Zola must take some blame for this because he made the decision not to secure the services of an out and out striker in January. Had he done so, we might have had a few more points by now and looking forward to Europe. Instead, tenth place beckons! And that really would be a case of same old, same old, wouldn't it?

Ratings: Green 7; Neill 6 (played well but the goal came from down his flank again!); Ilunga 7; Upson 7; Tomkins 7; Boa 5; Noble 5; Dyer 5; Stanislas 4; Tristan 4; Di Michele 0 (Well, honestly, did he do anything right all game?)

West Ham v Chelsea; Lambs to the Slaughter?

All logic says that today should be a no contest. Chelsea, playing with a swagger, pushing towards a top 3 finish, through to the semifinal of the Champions League and into the Final of the FA Cup, arrive at Upton Park to play a team decimated by injury. Still no Parker, still no Cole, still no Beano, still no Behrami, still no Collison, still no Gabbidon - and question marks over the fitness of Dyer, Kovac and Collins. West Ham's patched up side is likely to include Tristan and Boa-Morte, hardly individuals with the recent credentials to strike terror into the hearts of the Chelsea gladiators, and three players aged under 22. For West Ham to prevail, the lamb has to rip open the throat of the lion!

If that isn't enough to persuade you to put your mortgage on a Chelsea victory, add in increasingly unsettling speculation about the future of Zola and Clarke. Why haven't those contracts been signed yet? Why is Clarke, in particular, suggesting that there is no hurry from his point of view? If I was committed to staying and my employer was offering to double my salary six months after joining them, I would be asking for a pen very quickly indeed. However, if a former employer had rung me up and said, "Find out what they are offering and we will treble it providing we don't have to pay shed loads in compensation for breach of contract", then I might be a little bit more inclined to delay matters through negotiation.

Now add in the Lampard factor. He is motivated enough for games against the club that sacked his dad and uncle, but the anniversary of the death of his mother, and the possibly insensitive chanting from our fans, are likely to add another gallon of adrenaline to his veins. On top of that, we have the stupid comments of that DJ. What's the betting on a message for his kids written on a vest under his shirt, ready for when he scores?

It doesn't look good does it?

So what case is there to be made for West Ham? Well, our record away to clubs in the top 4 is impressive, so if we pretend it is an away game, we might have a chance! Then there is the never say die attitude of the team. At half time last week I was anticipating a 3-0 defeat at Villa. But the team dug in and, by the end, we looked like the more probable winners. If we can show that same fighting spirit, then who knows!

Then there is Chelsea's surprisingly poor record in London derbies this season. For some reason, the plastics have melted in the London derby furnace. Maybe, just maybe, without Cole, there are not enough Londoners in the team to grasp the need for that extra 10% of raw passion.

But the biggest advantage we have is the fact that Chelsea face Barcelona on Tuesday. The Premiership is now out of reach. If it was just the Mancs so far ahead then Chelsea might cling on to the hope of a miracle. But for Chelsea to win it, Liverpool have to stumble too. The realists know that the Champions League must now be an absolute priority. So, will Chelsea risk all their stars today; and if they do, will those stars really want to risk injury in a game that, at the end of the days, matters very little for them? They will not get a huge win bonus for winning today; but how much would they receive if they lifted the Champions League? I'm sure Cashley knows the figures!

But here we come to the rub. Don't get me wrong, I would hate to have Sam Allardyce at West Ham, but if you could appoint a manager for one game, I would appoint Big Spam for this one. The route to victory is to draw blood early, to bruise some ribs, to scar a shin, to stick a thorn into the soft pad of the lion and thereby give a clear message: if you want this one, it will cost you; victory today could mean three players out on Tuesday. Fancy it now Didier?

But will Zola and Clarke do that? They love Chelsea, they want Chelsea to win the Champions League! Big Spam would send out an army to smash up the glory boys, Zola will send out a team of ballet dancers to pirouette around the pitch, playing the game in the West Ham way. It will look good but, sadly, this is a game where ethics should be put to one side. The Big Spam approach is needed today!

Still, let's be positive. If we win, fantastic! If we get tonked, that might persuade Abromovitch that Zola and Clarke are not yet ready for the Chelsea job! Heads we win, tails we don't lose in the long run!

But wouldn't it be great at the end of the game to see the lamb, it's chin stained in blood, standing on the corpse of the lion?

Friday, 24 April 2009

To Be Frank, Well Said Lamps!

I know that on the eve of the game with Chelsea, this may not be the most politic think to say but I don't care. I have heard a recording of what Frank said to that jerk of a DJ and I agree with everything he said.

Now I am of the opinion that Dads should stay at home with the kids, but you could tell from the emotion in Frank's voice that he is upset not only by what was said but by what is going on in his life. The distress over his mother's death is obviously still keenly felt and I had a real sense that he wants to be with his children and did not opt for the present state of affairs.

Now might just be the time to bury the hatchet. Remember how Tevez was put off his game when he was given a hero's welcome on his return to Upton Park? Perhaps hostility should be put to one side tomorrow and Lampard should receive support for his stand against trial by media. Who knows, it might bring a lump to the guy's throat and make him less inclined to break the hearts of the fans who never ever made him feel as special at Upton park as his obvious talent deserved!

BG is a Great Owner. Better than the clowns running Liverpool, Chelsea, Man U, Arsenal and Tottenham!

Not all clubs are run badly, look at WestHam! Four weeks to the end of the season and we are second in the league with Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelski all in a relegation scrap.

Yes it's true.

The season is only 4 weeks from finished and we sit proudly in second place in the league. If you don't believe me then here go and check for yourselves, it's ok I will wait

Ok, are you back? I never said it was the Premier League but it is something that should make us proud as Hammers fans. The Fair Pay Network aim to improve the working pay and conditions of non footballing staff at clubs in England and a lot of credit goes to the club for providing a decent standard of living and good working conditions for its employees.

In a way it kind of sums up this board and the club's owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson who has show the type of patience that makes Ghandi look prone to flying of the handle. He has been slated by the fans, who lack the knowledge or understanding of what has happened to the guy or his business empire. He has been made into some Bond-esque super villain plotting the destruction of the civilised world from a secret head quarters in a hollowed out volcano in Iceland by the media.

He bought the club from Terry Brown and for about a week he was hailed a saviour, we didn't care if he had hooves, a tail and always carried his lucky pitch fork to games, he had saved us from that caravan salesman, promised to spend money and appointed a luvable elf like fella with the catchy nickname of The Egg to run the club.

However within weeks we were not hurtling up the table and no one had spotted Ronaldo at Chadwell Heath for his medical. The fans got restless, Pardew got sacked and Curbs got the job and with it the keys to the cash box. He went on a spending spree that the average Hammers fan could only dream of emulating if he won a trolley dash through LakeSide. Of course none of the signings worked out (although this was not Curbs' fault as he has pointed out since while taking credit for their revival after he had left the club) and relegation looked on the cards. Luckily Carlos Tevez saved us all on his own from this fate by playing every minute of every game in every position, at least that's what Kevin McCabe reckons and we all lived to fight
another day.

Having watched Curbs blow a wad of his cash on some very suspect signings, BG promptly stumped up more money in the summer to make sure we would not have to worry about relegation ever again and even sanctioned the big name signing of Freddie Lunchbox to make sure we felt like a big club and give the girls something to swoon over. Unfortunately, apart from a brisk trade in camera batteries for the ladies Freddie failed to live up to his billing (now that said I would have loved to see how the guy would have done in Zola's team). On top of this the rest of the big money boys keel over like the henchmen in an old Batman episode and again the fans get upset. Needless to say Curbs' backroom team's magic sponge and shoulder shrugging method of treating injuries means we are consigned to a mediocre season of awful football and cringe worthy excuses.

The fans are not happy that the Egg allowed these players be signed for silly money and laughable wages so BG packs him off back to his igloo and brings Scott "its still the 1980s to me" Duxbury, promoting him from his position of legal advisor where he had covered himself in glory in the handle of the Tevez saga. Duxbury asks Curbs if he knows how to sign players who don't cost a fortune and who don't own their own treatment table and when Curbs admits that his only experience of looking around Europe came from a school trip to Grenoble in the 70s, BG brings in Gianluca Nani from Italy, who was signed with the full endorsement and input of Curbs to help out with the scounting and signing of players.

No sooner has Nani polished off his first plate of spag bol, Curbs declares that he cannot work with the guy who he whole heartedly endorsed as the right guy to work alongside him and sods off, leaving the club managerless after the transfer window has closed. Needless to say this had the remaining fans up in arms. BG and Dux draw up a shortlist of top quality potential managers, making sure to publicly rule Big Sam out before they start, and set about interviewing for the job. They get Zola (my thoughts on this have been made clear before) and then BG and Dux go toe to toe with Roman and Kenyon to get Zola the man he wants for an assistant.

Then comes Black September and the world economy takes a nose dive, dragging Iceland with it. Fans immediately blame BG for this, although most of them know nothing of Iceland other than Kerry Katona does the adverts for the place. BG hits some serious financial trouble and the media vultures begin to circle. Talk of administraion, fire sales, knock down buy outs and impending doom dominate the papers. BG comes out and says the club is safe, it is protected and it is self financing and not in any trouble. The red tops refuse to believes this, or simply don't want the truth spoiling a good story and continue to hype the demise of the club.

With the transfer window approaching we are led to believe that all our games in January will be televised on QVC and we fans will be lucky if the seats we are sitting on are not sold out from under us. BG remains firm, Dux does his job, Zola and Nani agree on who stays and who goes and all we end up losing is an upity Welsh prat who we manage to con Citeh into paying £14M for and some of the dross that Curbs signed (Hayden Mullins apart). We even pick up a talented young player who is considered one of the best prospects in Europe, and a decent loan signing to bolster our upturn in form. The injuries keep mounting but the league position keeps climbing, the team keeps getting reshuffled but the football is still good to watch and we are watching some of the most promising youngsters in years coming through into the team

None of this would have happened without BG. He could have chosen to saddle the club with massive debt like Hicks and Gillette did at Liverpool, or Glazier did at Man U.
He could have pressed ahead with a new stadium and mortgaged the club to the hilt like Arsenal did, but instead he ordered plans to be drawn up to increase the capacity to almost 50,000 by redeveloping Upton Park so we could keep our spiritual home.

He has overseen virtually all the clubs best players sign long term deals and Zola and Clarke are about to do the same. Zola himself has come out and said we will be in the market for some big signings in the summer, and you can believe anything that he says. He has reduced the cost of season tickets to help the fans out when Man U are upping their prices again next season to force the fans to shoulder the burden of the clubs debt. And as we have all just seen, he has refused to get involved in penny pinching and using the economy to force the club's non-footballing staff to take pay cuts.

For fans who are so well known for their fierce loyalty to their club, they have shown little to the owner. Do we want to become some Arab's plaything like Citeh, where the manager is in charge of little but laying out the cones for the 5 a side, or leveraged to our eyes with debt, chasing titles like Man U, Arsenal and Liverpool?
BG has turned the club into a financially stable, self financing outfit who can compete for Europe. He deserves out thanks and our respect and whatever happens with his ownership of the club he is by far the best Chairman we have ever had.

Hail to the Chief!

By Celtic Hammer

Thursday, 23 April 2009

What have Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd done to our game?

Everyone remembers those newsreels of 1930's football crowds with 80,000 happy souls shoe horned into a ground to watch Blackpool and Preston North End play a cup game. Some things stand out in those images, firstly that never in modern day life will there be so much Brillcream in one place, there is no way the guys in the middle had their feet in contact with the ground, just how long was the line for the bogs at half time, and what happened to all those football rattles?

These days the average fan needs to trade in those old clackers for calculators. This week during the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster Tom Hicks, the co-owner of Liverpool FC, defaulted on a $10M payment on a $525M loan for his American sports interests, the Dallas Stars ice hockey team and the Texas Rangers baseball team. Bloomberg states that this default came about because the teams in question could not meet their operating cost and pay down the debt at the same time. Hick maintains that this is in fact a negotiating tactic with the banks to get them to refinace the loan in reasonable terms.

Now feel free to try and negotiate with your mortgage lender by not paying them and see how long before you’re dossing in a doorway in Charring Cross. The loan was already tenuous, spread as it is between a consortium of some 40 banks. Now this form of borrowing, which was first seen in a major way when Rupert Murdoch scrambled to save his media empire in the late 80s early 90s, does work but only if there is a considerable and realisable amount of assets to secure it against. In Murdoch’s case, there were parts of his empire that could be sold off if any trouble meeting a payment was seen coming. The problem with a sports team is you can’t really sell off a part of it. You can’t sell one stand, the back four and the dressing rooms to fund the rest of the club.

Hicks has stated that he will fund the teams himself should they have any difficulty in meeting their operating costs until such time as new finance can be put in place. It may be half a world away from Stanley Park but what happens in Texas will provide a big insight into the future fate of Liverpool FC. At the start of last year Hicks and Gillette quietly removed the personal assets that they had secured the loan to buy the club with. This does not mean that they felt the club would fail or the assets would be called in by the club’s lenders, its more likely they were needed to shore up other businesses in their respective empires. They may well have felt they could weather the storm elsewhere and put the assets back before the deadline to refinance LFC fell due in January 09. They couldn’t and they didn’t.

Instead the banks RBS and Wachovia (which is also one of the lenders that Hicks defaulted on in the US this week) were asked to refinance the club (at this stage the plans for a new stadium were well and truly off the table) with only the club’s cashflow and assets as any means of both securing and repaying the loan.. They refused. The only thing that could be agreed was a 6 month extension to provide the necessary security, find another lender, bring in new investors or sell the club. To date, and for various reasons, none of those things has happened.

In August 2010 Malcom Glazier will have to refinance Manchester United’s almost 3 quarters of a billion pounds of debt. Man U are financed by what is called a PIK loan where the principal is not repayed, the interest is merely serviced. Glazier has recently reached an agreement with 3 New York hedge funds (Perry Capital, Och-Ziff and Citadel) whereby, should he fail to be able to refinance, they will assume majority control of the club. No plan has been offered by Glazier at any point as to how the principle, which was £660M last time around, will ever be repaid.

Arsenal have always been held up as a very astute club who had resisted the urge to either go down the route of massive borrowings or throwing open the baordroom doors to the nouveau riche. Their plan involved borrowing to build a new stadium which would generate the cash from ticket sales due to increased capacity to allow them to compete with the biggest clubs in Europe. They would pay off this loan by redeveloping the Highbury site into a mixed used retail, commercial and residential development which, when sold, could pay off the cost of the new stadium (this is a simplified version but I fear I am already risking boring people). The idea was good, the idea would have served as a model for other clubs, if the launch of the new development hadn’t arrived in the middle of the biggest world recession since before the war. Now they have the debt from the new stadium, the debt from the Highbury development and no sign of the profit they had hoped to generate. As of last November, the clubs debts were listed at £320M but these accounts still listed Highbury Square as an asset. Now they face a carve up of the club between Russia (well technically it’s Uzbekistan) and America.

Chelski seemed immune to this, their own pet Russian had bottomless pockets and was happy to throw money at the club like it was going out of fashion. In fact he has thrown about £600M (excluding the purchase price) at the club since he bought it. At the height of his powers he was worth a reputed £12Billion. What he is worth now is really anyone’s guess. According to RIA Novosti, the Russian press agency, his companies have lost $9billion of their value in the collapse of the Russian stock market. It has also been reported that he had to sign over his holdings in North America to he VTB in order to secure $2Billion in financing to shore up his empire. What is known is that he has cut 15 of the clubs scouting staff, forced the players to pay for their meals at the clubs training complex, reduced the number of free tickets given to players to two each and insisted that plans be drawn up to repay the money he has lent the club.

Ultimately who is it that will pay for this? For the greed or vanity of rich men? Easy, I will, so will you, so will every football fan. All of us who have stood in the rain and sang ourselves hoarse, who have gone without to buy our tickets when times were tough and who spent freely in the club shops and hospitality areas when times were good. Man U fans have seen a 42% increase in ticket prices since the Glaziers took over the club. Liverpool fans must look at July and think, what will happen their club. Arsenal must wonder if their squad will be cherry picked by the likes of Real Madrid, Barcalona, or the Milan clubs. Chelsea fans must think what happens if Roman loses interest in the club, there is no way they can possible support themselves without his money.

If Michel Platini gets his way, then clubs will be limited to the amount of their turnover they can spend on transfers and wages, and those who fail to adhere to this would be blocked from entering European competitions. This is not meant to be an attack on the clubs mentioned, nor is it intended to make out that they are the only ones guilty of this, all clubs in their own way mortgage their future for present success. Football is a risk, that’s part of the thrill, that’s what makes you dig deep every summer and buy your season ticket. All fans dream of watching their club win cup finals, or getting into Europe, our hopes and dreams are what tie us to our clubs. But while we dream of success they dream of more money. While we think of cup runs, they think of Asian media rights and global image sales.

To paraphrase the 70's one hit wonder "What have they done to my club ma?"

Submitted By Celtic Hammer

Why Curbishley was NOT the disaster some would have us believe! Hotshot opines!

When Curb’s was on TV on route for an interview to become West Ham’s football manager, I was praying, please don’t let him become manager, especially as West Ham now seem to have the backing of a Billionaire. I thought it would show a real lack of ambition, and that we should be looking to appoint a top international manager.

My worst fears were realised when he became manager, and I was one of the cynics right from the off, saying we had chosen an average football manager that didn’t fit the new aspirations and financial clout of the club.

I remember people in forums showing blind loyalty to him, and vitriol was directed towards me for stating the blindingly obvious. They persisted to support him because he was English, nay even from the East End of London. It was entertaining to see over that year people’s opinions gradually change, until finally it seemed almost all sentient West Ham fans had witnessed enough of his boring football, along with his dour TV personality, and his footballing philosophy which amounted to nothing more than staying in the league or constantly saying he was ‘stabilising the ship’.

So when he finally walked, ironically because the clubs technical director Nani had sold two average players, and replaced them with a much better midfielder and defender, I was the first person cheering and relieved that we could now get back to showing the ambition that the club finally deserved, and appoint a manager that would be an attractive prospect for players to play for, and one that I could wholeheartedly get behind and support.

In came Gianfranco Zola, and although I was as surprised as anyone else at the choice, I at least thought that world class players may be attracted by the prospect of playing for him, and thought that if his winning mindset could rub off, and his contacts be utilised, that the future would be brighter than under Curbs.

Now people are raving on about Zola’s exploits, and the new players that he has at his disposal, thanks to Nani’s wheeling and dealing and the academy graduates coming of age. And it is regularly reported that Curbs bought a load of lemons and wasted the money and resources that were initially pumped into the club. Now that’s where I draw the line, although many of the same people that were supporting Curbs, are now slating him, I do acknowledge that his purchases were actually very shrewd. They were also necessary in keeping the team in the Premier League at the time, and it could be agued that he didn’t pay over the odds, when you compare the purchase prices with those of Spurs, or other clubs.

Bellamy – his class is not in question, Champions League experience, a potent striker, he brought a goal scoring edge and pacey dynamic that the team has since sorely missed. He was chased by quite a few clubs and later sold on for nearly double the fee paid for him.

Upson – became an England international and must again be worth at least double the fee we paid for him, and among the best centre- halves in the Premier League.

Parker – one of the best defensive midfielders in the league who again could have been sold for more than double the fee paid for him, and was chased by many clubs, during the January transfer window.

Neill – Although suspect at times, with his shirt tugging and lack of speed, has been a steadying influence in the team and at times shown the worth of his transfer fee.

Dyer – No doubt the ability to win games with his speed, creativity and eye for goal. Also an England international when fit, and at least worth the fee paid and could prove a bargain if he doesn’t get injured 

Boa Morte – The boo boys are starting to choke on their pies, as he is showing that he is well worth the fee paid for him and adds speed and attacking options to the team.

Cole – Ok Curbs didn’t buy him, but when many fans would have had him sold and shipped off to Canvey Island, Curbs kept him and saw and developed his potential, which he is now beginning to realise.

Now onto Curb’s relatively small number of doubtful purchases.

Quasie – I can’t defend this one – Enough said.

Ljungberg – Was bought for a very small fee, apparently very high wages though, not sure if he was past his best – we’ll never know.

Davenport – bought for a smallish fee, the club should be able to recuperate most if not all of it back, and for the record played well for the team when Collins/ Upson was injured.

If people require further proof of Curbs ability to identify good talent, he also tried to purchase Ashley Young and Darren Bent among others whose, attacking and goal scoring talents are not in doubt.

When people blame Curbs or the Eggmeister for allowing inflated wages, lets remember it was one of the few tools of leverage the club had at their disposal at that time – and so was justified. Why else would top quality players joined a team fighting against relegation?

So, Curbs although I didn’t think you were the right manager for the long term (or even the short tem), I do acknowledge this, that the players that you identified, tried to purchase and did purchase were overall very good! Good luck in your next job mate!

Hotshot C

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Perfect - Chelsea Draw And Can't Win The Prem!

A perfect couple of results tonight. With the Mancs winning and Chelsea only drawing, the Plastics are now six points off the pace and Fergie's mercenaries still have a game in hand. Chelsea cannot now win the Premiership.

And the significance of this? They come to Upton Park on Saturday, three days before the Champions League battle with Barcelona. Now tell me, where will their priorities be? If we make it a tasty affair, with some hard (but fair) challenges in the opening minutes, will the Glory Boys really fancy it? Three points in a forlorn chase for the Prem or victory over Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal? It is a no brainer really isn't it? Will they risk any key players already feeling niggles or strains? They are already without Terry on Tuesday, can they afford to lose Essien, Drogba, Ballack or Lampard?

I am not saying we will win. I am not even saying we will draw. All I am saying is that tonight's results made it less likely that Chelsea will steam roller us as they did last year. Perhaps Lucas can point out the risks in the tunnel before we go out onto the pitch. "Fancy playing on Tuesday? If I were you, I would stay away from the ball!"

Budget Boosts West Ham's Transfer Kitty!

Alistair Darling has announced that from next month any player aged over thirty years old can be exchanged for £2,000,000 against the price of a replacement.

The scrap scheme, which was unveiled during the 2009 budget speech in parliament, is designed to help encourage regeneration of football squads in the Premiership. £300billion will be ploughed into scrapping our old nags, and the scheme will end by March 2010 - or whenever the funds run out.

The first question owners of older players will ask is, of course, "How do I scrap my Boa-Morte?" In order to qualify for scrapping your old nag, it must be useless on the ball, weigh more than 13 stone 5 pounds, be registered as a player in the UK before 1st August 1999, be on record with the FA and, crucially, must have been with the current owner for more than one year.

To scrap your player, you must also hold a valid health certificate for it - which the Government has insisted on working into the scrap scheme to prevent owners of forgotten, rusty heaps like Freddie Ljungberg scrapping them for unfair profit. Furthermore, there's no limit on the ability rating of the player purchased in any deal, which is thought to be a move to help sales of high performance luxury players - like Kaka and Ronaldo for example. Participating clubs will handle the whole process from start to finish: filling out the paperwork and taking the old clapped out player to be scrapped, with no significant delays expected.

The move means that, for example,less than average ability 32 -year-old duds like Luis Boa-Morte and Nigel Quashie, who are currently worth pennies on the transfer market, will now be worth a cool £2,000,000 each to their lucky owners. However, it also means than many perfectly good, serviceable players will be scrapped in favour of a new player, which the PFA claims will prematurely shorten playing careers.

That said, the Society of Premier League Clubs has already voiced its approval of the scheme, with chief executive Paul Everitt saying: "This is good news for the fans and will kick-start squad renewal. Clubs such as West Ham United will be mightily relieved that at last they can off load the dead wood in their squad and raise finance into the bargain."

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Caption Competition Two

Any suggestions? How about, "You can have the three points today if we can have Tevez in the summer!"?

An Allegory For The Curbishley Era!

Get this for a weird story! Stay with it, you will see the admittedly contrived West Ham link!

A judge in Stuttgart, Germany, is currently trying to decide on a lawsuit in which a man hired his neighbour to impregnate his wife.

It gets weirder.

Demetrius Soupolos, 29, and his former beauty queen wife, Traute, were very keen to have a child together, but Demetrius was sterile so they began to seek out other possible options.

The option the couple eventually decided on was to hire their neighbour Frank Maus, 34, to impregnate Traute.

Maus, who was already married with two children agreed to do the job for the fee of €2,000. For three evenings a week for the next six months, a total of 72 different times, Maus tried to impregnate Traute.

When his own wife objected, Maus explained that he was "only doing it for the money."

After the unsuccessful six-month period Soupolos insisted that Maus take a medical examination. The doctor concluded that Maus was also sterile, which forced his wife into admitting that their two children did not belong to him.

Soupolos is now suing Maus in an effort to get his money back. Maus' argument is that he did not guarantee conception, only that he would try his hardest.

It all reminds me of Curbishley being recruited to lead us into the Champions League! After goodness knows how many impotent performances, the hapless Curbishley admitted he wasn't up to the job and walked away with his limp tail between his legs. In a weird twist, however, it was Curbishley who tried to bring the legal action, claiming his failure to rise to the occasion was down to broken promises from his employer!

Olympics Threat to West Ham.

Does talk of a GB team for the London Olympics pose a threat to West Ham? If I understand it correctly, players beneath a certain age have to be released for the Olympics teams if they are selected. For many clubs, this would not be a huge problem, but with our rapidly emerging young talent, could we find ourselves seriously disadvantaged in 2012? At this stage, Noble, Collison, Stanislas and Tomkins would appear very good bets for GB selection, with Sears an outside possibility. In addition, given anticipated progress, Savio could well be in the German squad. That means we could lose as many as 5 of our then first team, and that is not allowing for the progress of our young Icelandic lad, Stech, Bajner and Spence, all of whom hopefully have bright futures ahead of them.

Now I am patriotic and a passionate fan of the England team, but for me, the Olympics has nothing to do with football, and I would be furious if players were unavailable for selection for West Ham because they had been picked for the GB team. Personally, I think the FA and the Premier League should wash their hands of the whole event and say that the World Cup is football's Olympics!

Monday, 20 April 2009

Faubert doesn't know what day of the week it is!

Well, nobody at Upton Park will be surprised by Faubert's latest faux pas. After failing to show up for training, Le Sulk claimed that he thought it was a day off! Funny, I have seen a dozen or so games where Faubert was in the team but went AWOL when the teams ran out on to the pitch! "I knew I was in the side but I thought I had the day off"! Now it all makes sense!

Man Utd and Arsenal are the New British Rail!

Remember those old excuses from British Rail? They bought machinery to clear leaves from the lines, then come the next autumn the trains didn't run and we were told, "They were the wrong type of leaves". Then there was the British Rail snowplough that didn't work because it was the "wrong type of snow"! British Rail became a laughing stock, the butt of every stand up comic's joke. They were getting there, but "there" was a terminus called Ridicule!

Now Arsenal and Manchester United look set to claim the British Rail mantle of absurdity. According to a bleating Fergie, he picked his team based, not on the strengths or weaknesses of the opposition, but on the "deadness" of the pitch. Wenger, meanwhile, has jumped on the bandwagon, claiming Wembley will "never" have a pitch suitable for a "good match". What absolute and complete tosh! Have you ever encountered grapes sourer than these? Arsenal and Manchester United didn't go out of the Cup because of the state of the pitch but because, in Arsenal's case, Wenger's bloody mindedness has stopped him buying a keeper worthy of a top 4 team, and in the Mancs' case, because over paid primadonnas can't tuck away a penalty when the pressure is on. Don't blame the pitch you pillocks, look in the mirror!

Wembley will never have a pitch suitable for a good match? So every single Derby County game played under Clough and Dave Mackay was rubbish was it? From late October to the end of the season, the Baseball Ground pitch resembled the trenches of the Somme, but somehow Clough and Mackay managed to persuade their players to play an attractive passing game, securing the League Title in the process. "Dead and Spongy", dear God, I would love to see these pampered buffoons play on the pitches of the 60s & 70s! When West Ham overcame Manchester United to reach the 64 Final, the pitch was such a mud bath that you could barely tell the two teams apart by the end of the game. Did Busby complain after the match? No, the guy had more dignity. If his team could rise from the ashes of the Munich air crash, he wasn't going to bleat about a muddy pitch and use it as an excuse for a defeat. Let's face it, the pitch is the same for both sides!

If a West Ham manager moaned in this way, I would feel ashamed. Roeder famously signed his dismissal when he took the team back to the hotel to change because the away dressing room was not up to standard. Look at Zola, eight players ruled out by injury and does he look for an excuse? Does he heck, he just smiles and purrs about his team of kids and old nags rising to the challenge.

The fact is, both Arsenal and Manchester United were found wanting this weekend. In Arsenal's case, they lacked the quality to defeat Chelsea; in Manchester United's case, they lacked respect for the competition. I am so glad that Everton knocked them out. If Ferguson thinks his team is too big for the competition then he should take a running jump.

This has simply confirmed what we have always known, that although they are undoubtedly great winners, Ferguson and Wenger are the most appalling losers. That is why they will never hold a torch to the true greats of the game - Busby, Paisley and Clough. Clough complain about the pitch? Clough pick a side based on the deadness of the turf? I can hear him now, "Listen sonny, Revie might blame the pitch but we just go and play whatever the conditions!"

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Will Everton's win help us to make the Europa League? Or will Tottenham, Fulham or Man City benefit?

Traditionally, club's that reach the FA Cup Final who are not in contention for the title, suffer a dip in form in the League at the fag end of the season. With boyhood dreams about to be realised, players, unless they are called Hayden Mullins, don't want to run the risk of missing out through injury or suspension. 50-50 balls suddenly become 40-60 balls in favour of the opposition and the desire to "run through walls" for the club suddenly evaporates. It has been a long season already and those niggling injuries are felt with a new keenness. Why play in a relatively meaningless league game and risk aggravating the injury, thereby putting yourself out of the Final? Dust off the, "Sorry boss, I'm still feeling it, I don't think I can play today" speech or, if the manager insists, the wave to the bench after ten minutes and an anxious hobble, hand grasping the calf. Remember Upson ahead of the recent England game? Down on his backside, roll down the sock, shake of the head, on with the stretcher, feet up until the internationals. It is as easy as that!

And of course, Everton are now in Europe, they qualified by reaching the Final against Champions League qualifiers. We don't want their form to nose dive so badly that they lose sixth place, of course, unless it is to us which would be perfect if it knocked out a seventh place Tottenham, but with a buffer of 8 points over Fulham and Tottenham, that is unlikely. Sadly, Everton's fixtures between now and that final don't only involve a match against ourselves but also games against Tottenham, Man City and Fulham. It could well be that a place in that Europa League is at the gift of the Toffees. Last three Everton fixtures before that final? Amazingly, Tottenham at home, West Ham at home and Fulham away. How is that for a coincidence?

First up for them, on Wednesday, is a game away to Chelsea, the team they now meet in the Final. Now hopefully this is a game that will see them fully motivated for obvious reasons. A blood and thunder battle that sees Chelsea bruised and battered ahead of the game at Upton Park would do very nicely. If Everton could get a draw, and United win their game on the same night, Chelsea would effectively be out of the race for the Premiership. How hungry would the Chelsea players then be three days ahead of a Champions League semifinal against Barcelona? Would they risk Drogba, Lampard and Terry for a London derby? If they did, might Lucas persuade them early doors that discretion is the better part of valour?

All ifs and buts I know, but we have to somehow cobble together the points in a difficult run in. Three points at Everton and at least one at home to Chelsea would be a huge help. But the team who must be really laughing? Fulham. Remember when Liverpool fielded their stiffs and effectively kept the Cottagers in the Premiership? Well there is every chance now that they will be facing a heavily understrength Everton team at the Cottage in the last game of the season. If that isn't a gimme game, I don't know what is!

Celtic Hammer's Villa Verdict

18 hours in Birmingham, a point well earned, an unused hotel room and a man with a lot of explaining to do. That pretty much sums up yesterday for me!

Hammersfan I am actually in Spain at the moment mate so I flew from Malaga with BMI Baby to Birmingham yesterday. I had a feeling it was going to be a good day, there was sod all traffic on the drive into Malaga and I got parking within minutes, giving me plenty of time to grab my carry on bag (I had packed my laptop and mobile internet connection as I was sure I would be posting this from my hotel room last night after my cousin wussed out and went home after the game) and arrived uncustomarily early at the check in desk. I got a text from my cousin to say he only rated his chances as 50/50 of being allowed to stay the night in Birmingham. I sent him back a quick guilt laden text of how I had only seen him once since he moved to Redditch (he works in Birmingham but commutes from there for some reason) and he was to tell his missus he would be back almost as good as new sometime on Sunday and, that after all, how much damage could we do when my flight was leaving at 6am Sunday morning?

The flight was good. I like BMI they treat you with just enough contempt to let you know that you're and incovenience but not enough to make you actually apologise so you and the crew can settle into a nice little rut of ignoring each other for the flight. I have to be honest, Birmingham isn't the prettiest city in the world when approached from the air; I can only imagine that the first wave of German bombers turned up and thought someone had beaten them to it.

I met my cousin at the hotel, which was the Etap hotel, providing a glimpse into what must have been considered luxury in communist Albania. The trip was short notice and even if my cousin was summoned home after the match, I was going to be checking out at 4am for my flight back. I could tell his resolve was crumbling and reckoned a decent result could tip him over the edge into a night on the tiles in Birmingham.

My cousin had picked up the tickets but has annoyingly never grown out of the cash strapped early 20s belief that any ticket that didn't involve climbing over a wall or shimmying up a telephone pole was good enough, so we were stuck in a filled in corner at the Holt end.

I know we haven't got the best record at Villa but I always enjoy a trip there: the stewards are polite and the Villa fans are really top notch. Chatting to many of them on the way into the game, the mere hint of an Irish accent and they start waxing lyrical about Paul McGrath. They were gutted to hear he is little more than a down and out drunk at this stage (allegedly).

I hadn't heard any team news so I was keen to see if Parker or at least Kovac were fit and I was a little worried when I heard they were both out and we were starting with the same 11 as we had against the spuds. But when the game started it looked like we would rip Villa apart. From our seats we had a perfect view when Stanislas carved through the Villa defense - it looked like everyone else was running in slow motion, good god the kid is quick. We were out of our seats celebrating when the ball left his boot, only for Freidle to get a hand (or an arm) to it. It's almost a shame there are only 5 games left because the more that kid plays, the better he looks. He is bright, always alert, has a fantastic work ethic and is always keen to get on the ball and make things happen. Tomkins look great coming forward from full back but he is still a little suspect positionally. I don't think it will hamper his development though as I see him as being a starting center half next season.

The injury to Ginge actually improved things for us as Lucas went back to right back which gave our back 4 more shape and organisation. Now I know a lot of people think he is over paid and not the greatest full back in the world, but I think the guy is class. I have always had a soft spot for full backs who push the letter of the law to its limit. I was a huge fan of Tomas Repka and I think Lucas is in the same mould, albeit with a lot more upstairs. His method of dealing with Ashley Young was pure class, tug at him, tug at him, kick him, shove him, kick him again and then look shocked when he flares up and gets himself booked! All the while looking at the ref with a face that's a picture of innocence. Brilliant!

I don't know what we paid for Ilunga or what we are paying the guy as a salary, but whatever it is, it is a bargain. The guy is fantastic. He has tidied up his defending since he arrived and looks a real handful going forward. In a full strength team he would be a brilliant attacking outlet.

I know most of you have seen the game, the highlights and the Sunday morning post mortem so I will refrain from giving you a match report. There are a few things I want to say about the game yesterday. Firstly, Tomkins will be a future captain of England, the guy is pure class. Playing alongside Upson he certainly didn't look the junior partner in the centre of defence. Rob Green must sign a new contract, although I felt he could have done more for their goal, he is the best English keeper around. I was thrilled to see Tristan score and yes he meant it. You can see the guy is struggling with the pace of the game and the fact that the legs just won't do what his mind is telling them, but the way he tackled back in the 92 minute made me glad we signed him. He probably won't stay beyond this season but I will always cherish the memory of seeing the great Diego Tristan play and score for West Ham. DiMichele is trying to hard right now, he desperately wants to do well for the club and at times the guy looks a different class. Remember it was his two touches that set Cole up for goal against Wigan. I hope he bags a new deal as I think the young players could learn so much from him technically. Noble tried to take the weight of the world on his shoulders again yesterday and his performance suffered from it. Watching Dyer walk of the pitch, he look very fresh which is a great thing for the club. Every game he plays he looks more like the player he was. We were sitting with mostly Villa fans and they all agreed that we are having a superb season and Zola and Clarke are doing a brilliant job.

One funny note was when Villa brought on DelFouneso who we pormptly christened The Fonze and everytime he got near the ball we went "EEEEEHHHHHHH". A few of the Villa fans even joined.

I did think it was going to be another plucky defeat until Tristan's deft header, at which point I turned to my cousin and told him to ring his missus and tell her he wouldn't be home. He said it would be simpler to text her and then turn his phone off. We could have bagged a late winner and to be fair it was the type of game that any end scoreline could have been easily argued and being deserved.

We hit a few bars near the ground when the match was over and had a good laugh with some Villa fans. Interestingly enough, they all wish the club had made more of an effort in the UEFA cup as they never really felt a top 4 finish was on for them this year but said O'Neill (who we all agreed reminded us of that really cool geography teacher you had in school) was under pressure from Learner to concentrate on the league even though the fans said their squad was no where near good enough. We also all reckon that if you watch a video of John Barnes with the settings wrong on your tv so the picture gets stretched, its like watching John Carew. Naturally we apologised for landing them with Nigel Reo Coker.

We ended up in the Island bar with the great and the good of brumms social scene where the main topic of the night was if an accent can make a girl more or less attractive. Despite hours of debate all we could agree on was that a brummie accent wasn't necessarily so off putting (not like a scouse accent). Unfortunately by the time we had reached this conclusion it was chucking out time and there was nothing to do but head back to the hotel.

By the time we got there it was obvious there was no point in my going to sleep if I wanted to actually wake up for my flight so I grabbed my bag while my cousin stood in the doorway waiting for the bed to pass by again so he could collapse on it. I headed to the airport and grabbed some kip in the departure lounge and some more on the plane, where I was told that I couldn't sit at the emergency exit seat (I need the legroom) if I was going to sleep through the safety briefing. I pointed out that unless anything had changed radically from the flight over yesterday I felt confident I had retained the gist of it.

I had some breakfast in Malaga airport, taking time to ring the hotel in Birmingham and asking them to keep trying the phone in the room until my cousin answered before wishing him luck in keeping his testicles when he got back to the wife, before driving home to crash on the couch and shout encouragement at Newcastle (now there is an accent that improves how attractive a girl is) while filling you in on my trip.
I can spend the next few days soaking up some sun and worrying about the upcoming game with Chelski!

Celtic Hammer.