Monday, 30 November 2009

East End Paupers Pay West End Agents!

Good to know that, despite our financial woes, we can still cobble together enough cash to line the pockets of those leeches on the game, the football agents. We may be fourth from bottom in the Premiership table, suggesting that the quality of our signings isn't that great, but we can surely feel proud of our position in the league table for fees paid to agents: a very respectable 7th no less, paying almost double what those misers Everton have parted company with, more than double what Villa forked out and not so very far behind the figure paid by Champions League qualifiers Arsenal! Oh, and not forgetting, almost three times what Manchester United paid!

I think a couple of people deserve a huge round of applause in the light of this! Step forward Nani and take a bow for your excellent links around Europe! I wonder how much Savio's agent pocketed? And the agents of Lopez and Tristan for that matter!

And, of course, we must not forget the "Banker", our very own Scotty Duxbury, he who agrees to pay the piper! Well done sir! Good to see that it isn't just "oral cuddles" you dispense with such aplomb!

Isn't it a shame that we can't scrap this silly business of deciding final league positions based on daft things like points and simply allocate positions on the basis of how well clubs look after the needs of the guys who make the game work - the wonderful agents!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

A Chance To Concentrate On The League

The FA Cup draw has surely decreed that we are going to win sweet FA again this season. Unless Wenger plays his U16 reserves, we aint going to get beyond Arsenal are we?

Ah well, at least we can concentrate on the league and avoid the embarrassment of going out to the likes of Watford or Chesterfield!

Make Parker Captain Now!

I was opposed to Parker being voted Hammer of the Year last season because, in my opinion, he did not start or finish enough games and his decisive contributions, even when playing, were too few and far between. However, despite his short stature, he has been, indisputably, head and shoulders our best player so far this season.

On Saturday he was awesome, from preventing Burnley from taking the lead by clearing the ball off the line, through to the delicious passes that led to our first goal and the award of the second penalty. Released from the shackles of protecting the back four by the inclusion of Kovac, Parker was literally everywhere and his attitude was perfectly summed up by again taking a free kick square on his kisser as he raced forced to block it.

There are growing rumours that Upson will be on his bike in January but that is irrelevant in my opinion. When playing, Upson is "in the zone" and so is no leader. Parker's enthusiasm and energy, on the other hand, are an example to all and surely must be as infectious as swine flu.

Zola should act immediately and pass the armband to Scotty!

Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3 - Great News For England!

I must admit that I was supporting Arsenal at the start of the game but, by the end of the first half, I had moved my allegiance squarely behind Chelsea; not because I support the winning team, but because Chelsea's superiority was based upon England players.

How good were Terry and Cole today? The pass from Terry for the first goal was worthy of Zidane and the Cole cross was weighted to perfection. Sure Drogba's finish was close to sublime, but the goal was laid on a plate by two England defenders. At the back, despite Arsenal's array of attacking talent, both the England boys didn't just look comfortable, they looked in control. Both made brilliant challenges in the box, albeit Cole and Terry had already played Eduardo offside before Cole's brilliantly timed tackle. On this showing, they are both World Class in my book.

Meanwhile, the rehabilitation of Joe Cole continues apace. He is not yet back to his best but he is getting there. Whether he starts in South Africa, or is used as a replacement, he is destined to play an important role as we win the World Cup. And then there is Lampard, bossing the midfield and oozing class throughout.

And Arsenal's support of our World Cup bid? Well Wenger sent on Walcott when the game was already lost!

Victories Over Villa and Burnley Tell Us What?

Quite simple really, we are so used to beating ourselves these days that when we come up against teams who traditionally wear Claret & Blue, we do what comes naturally to us, consign the Claret and Blue team to defeat!

Let's all campaign for Man Utd to become the Claret and Blue Devils ahead of next week's game!

West Ham Have Gone Goal Crazy - At Both Ends! Why? Zola explains!

One of the greatest admirers of this blog threw down a challenge yesterday when he posted, "Hammersfan also said at the start of the season that he fears we wont score enough goals, funny how you don't see him refer back to that great prediction dont you." (sic). If we can ignore the terrible tense confusions and failure to employ apostrophes for contractions, and focus on the point made, I must admit that it did set me thinking. I admit that I feared for our Premiership survival based more on our inability to score than on our defensive frailties, so how can I explain the avalanche of goals which accompanies virtually every West Ham game these days?

Well fortunately, the task does not fall solely to me because, being a fan of this blog and seeing the question, Gianfranco decided to step in and supply the answer for me, well went half way towards doing so anyway. According to Zola, it is not the fault of our defence that we are shipping so many goals, but of our midfield. On the eve of the Burnley game, Zola was quoted as saying: "We have to look at the midfielders who are not covering the defence very well. We know the problem and have been working the whole week to sort it out." Please note, that was BEFORE the Burnley game so presumably the training sessions did not prove terribly effective. It would also explain why Kovac was selected ahead of Noble or Jimenez in midfield!

So explaining why we are conceding so many goals is easy. First off, we do not have a quality right back because we failed to buy one. Secondly, we don't have an alternative left back and Ilunga has been injured and is playing poorly. Thirdly, we broke up a very successful centre back pairing when we sold Collins and were slow to see that Tomkins is not yet ready for the Premiership. Fourthly, our keeper hasn't been playing terribly well and is all over the shop at corners and other set pieces. But finally, and crucially, our midfield are no longer offering a defensive screen. Look at the two Fletcher goals yesterday, look how easy it was for Eagles to get in those crosses. Where was the protection for Spector? Collison just was not doing that part of his job. And for the Eagles goal, who tracked back with Mears? It should have been Stanislas presumably but the kid was nowhere to be seen because that's not his game is it?

So, the first part is explained and the explanation of the first goes some considerable way towards explaining the second, how it is that we are now scoring so many goals. This requires a bit of understanding of the mechanics of the game which is why it was beyond the wit and gumption of the anonymous poster who triggered this article.

To begin, before the season kicked off, I posted that we would be in terrible trouble IF we did not sign somebody to play up front with Cole and if Cole himself were to get injured. Well, so far, I have been proved spot on there. When Cole didn't play against Everton, we lost, scoring only once at home, whilst our "goal rush" has followed the arrival of Franco in the team. Before Franco started, we scored 9 in 9 Premiership games, exactly the return I was predicting before the season kicked off when I said that opponents knew they only had to score once to stop us winning. Since Franco has been starting, we have scored 15 in 6, or 10 in 5 if we take out the Burnley game, the return of two goals a game I said we needed to be aiming for.

Unless you have free scoring midfield players like Fabregas or Gerrard, you are heavily reliant on your forwards for goals, so if you play two up front, you double your chances of scoring, as Burnley showed when they brought on a second striker against us yesterday. That isn't rocket engineering is it? And it is exactly what I was saying until we started selecting Franco. My other complaint, that the signing of a striker or two should have been made before the season kicked off, rather than just before the window slammed closed, has been fully vindicated. The points we lost before Franco came into the team can never be retrieved and may yet lead to our relegation. Again not rocket engineering but beyond the power of understanding of many of my critics who kept saying the window hadn't yet closed and so "In Zola and Nani we trust".

Now we go back to that midfield. My critic might also like to check out exactly what I was saying before the season kicked off. My point was that our midfield last season was essentially defensively minded. With a quartet of Behrami, Parker, Noble and Collison, we lacked penetration and creativity in midfield. Parker and Noble for some reason do not compliment each other, Parker only scores a couple of goals each season and Behrami's goal return is, if anything, worse. That left Collison and Di Michele to score, and Di Michele had left to be replaced by Jimenez who was (and remains) unproven in the Premiership. Now that midfield offered a superb screen for the defence. Di Michele (and Bellamy when he played) did drop deep and fill up midfield, Noble and Parker themselves sat deep, and Behrami often looked like an auxiliary right back, protecting the slowing Lucas Neill.

But because of the defensive nature of our midfield, very little goal scoring threat was posed. So, if we needed to draw away from home, we could set up two banks of four, get Di Michele or Bellamy to help out defensively, and say to the opposition, score if you can. With no way down our flanks because of the cover for the fullbacks, or through our middle due to the sheer weight of numbers, opponents were reduced to pumping crosses into our box from deep which our centre backs gobbled up. Remember the Sunderland game last season when Collins must have headed out more crosses than a Brazilian centre back deals with in a whole career? But then when it came to stopping us scoring, how easy was it for opposing managers? There were not enough goals in the team because of the personnel involved - simples.

Well that personnel has now changed. Instead of Di Michele, we have Franco; Diamanti has offered an exciting new dimension when used; Stanislas is a goal scoring midfielder; and the offensively minded Collison, in the last two high scoring games, has effectively replaced Behrami, who was in Noble's role against Hull and absent against Burnley. And importantly, Parker has been released from the shackles of the defensive anchor role and is ranging forward. He has looked brilliant as a result, but when he surges forward and we lose possession, our defence is as exposed as a flasher on Clapham Common!

So why are we scoring more? Because we have more goals in the team! Why are we conceding more? Because we have less defensively minded players in the team. Not rocket engineering really is it? Why didn't I call it before the season kicked off? I did. Look at our goal return before Franco came into the team and the goal return since. Look at our goal return before Stanislas started and our goal return since he has. The problem is, the team is still imbalanced, but now in the opposite way. There is no point in stopping the opposition from scoring more than one if you struggle to score one yourselves; and there is no point in scoring two every game if the opposition are scoring two or three! It is the inability of Zola and Clarke to find a happy balance that is the problem! Zola's face at the end of the game yesterday said it all; it was the face of an angry man even though we had won, scoring five goals. He knows that if we play like that against Man Utd, we will be annihilated!

The big questions should now be:

1) Why didn't we move quicker to sign a couple of strikers? The points we lost as a result have consigned us to a relegation struggle rather than pushing for a top 8 finish.
2) Why didn't we sign a right back and somebody ready to cover Ilunga in the event of injury or loss of form?
3) What do we now do to sort out our defence? The last two games have been thrilling but 6 goals were conceded against two teams who will finish in the bottom 6. That is frightening!
4) What happens if Cole and Franco are injured? The last 30 minutes yesterday with Jimenez and Hines up front were terrifying. God help us if we are ever reduced to starting with these two. And please don't say Nouble. He is a raw kid who isn't even prolific in the reserves.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Well Done Bullard and Hull

Never mind the result, the celebration that followed Bullard's penalty has to be the funniest thing I have ever seen on a football pitch. You have to love the spirit of the Hull boys and admire the way Brown and Bullard have got them firing on all cylinders. I reckon on his current form, Bullard must be a good outside bet to be on the plane for South Africa, if only as the team mascot and clown!

Where was Dyer?

So where was Dyer? He played 68 minutes for the reserves in midweek and scored twice so I was expecting to see him on the bench today. But no. It appears that he has gone on the "Missing Not In Action" list yet again. The failure to bring on Noble was also odd. Is he really so desperately out of form that Jimenez and Kovac are seen as better options by Zola?

PS Is that Ashton in the body bag in the foreground of that picture?

West Ham 0 Burnley 3 - What A Disgrace!

Right, if you want the positive stuff, read the half time report. I finished that by asking what could go wrong second half but even I, imbued with pessimism from watching West Ham for 40 years, didn't see us losing the last 30 minutes of the game 3-0 after taking a five goal lead. And I tell you what, if Nugent had tucked away his two easy chances, it could have been 5-5!

What does Zola say at half time for God's sake? Whatever it is, it should be bottled and marketed as a weapon of mass destruction. Had he dropped that on the American and British forces massed on the borders of Iraq, Saddam would be alive today, having won his mother of all battles!

How the Hell are we going to keep the Mancs at bay next week after this? Burnley were running through us at will second half. Ask me who was to blame and I would struggle to put my finger on it though. Until we gave up, because that's what we did, we were looking rock solid. Then Coyle woke up, put two up front and moved Eagles to the left. Instantly, Spector looked what he is, out of his depth in the Premiership. How laughable was it is see Faubert sent on to protect his replacement, only for both to be turned inside out when Eagles ran at them for the first time? Don't shout it too loudly but I think Faubert tripped the ex Man Utd man as he ran into the box. It was obvious before the season started that we needed a right back so why didn't we buy one? Again you have to ask, why buy Kovac when the crying need was patently elsewhere.

Were our central defenders at fault? No, I don't think so. I think Da Costa and Gabbidon had goodish games, but still we shipped three, with the third conceded after Burnley were reduced to 10 men. How? How is that possible? What the hell is going on? It now seems that we need to score four times to win at game!

So is it the midfield? I think so. I think Parker is surging further forward and so is not offering defensive protection, whilst Kovac is, like Spector, out of his depth. The guy is a slow thinker defensively, does not track runners, and cannot time a tackle. Turn to his left and all he does is put out a foot and fall backwards. Meanwhile, neither Collison nor Stanislas offer protection to their fullbacks, being young, inexperienced and indisciplined.

Look at Zola's face at the end: he was furious. After sixty minutes, everything in the garden was rosy and the confidence was pulsing back through the veins; by the end, it felt like we had lost. Burnley will be in the bottom six by the end of the season and we could have left this game with a net 10 plus goal difference advantage over one of our main rivals. Instead it is only a net 4 and Burnley, not ourselves, left the field feeling upbeat. Ferguson will watch the video of this game and will be licking his lips. Rooney, Berbatov, Giggs and Valencia will be looking to fill their boots next week!

Basically Zola took Franco off too early and so left us with no out ball. From that moment, we were hopelessly stretched as a team, and at the very time when we needed to be compact. God help us if Cole and Franco are both missing because Hines and Jimenez are too leightweight to play together, even against Burnley. Yes it was a lovely goal from Franco, yes Parker set up the penalty beautifully and Jimenez achieved a 9.9 for style as he flew through the air to win the penalty, and yes we could have had two more penalties but the Mancs aren't going to defend like Burnley and will be a darn site more potent going forward. If Burnley and Hull can put 3 past us, and Everton can score twice with two shots, what chance do we stand against a team with genuine international class strikers?

Yes I know this is negative; believe you me, after 60 minutes I did not expect to be writing an article in this vein, but we were awful in the last 30 minutes, just as we were awful for 30 minutes against Hull and awful for 45 minutes against Sunderland. If you are that bad for half an hour in each game, you are going to be relegated! Meanwhile, Hull have got a point at Man City, Wigan have recovered from a nine goal mauling to beat Sunderland with a clean sheet and Bolton have drawn at Fulham! So we are still 4th from bottom! Still at least Pompey let in four - against our next opponents Man Utd!

Oh dear God, I don't think I can watch next week!

Player Ratings: First 60 minutes: Green 6; Spector 6, Da Costa 7, Gabbidon 7, Ilunga 6; Collison 8, Kovac 6, Parker 10, Stanislas 7; Franco 10, Cole 6

Player Ratings last 30 minutes: Green 6; Spector 1, Da Costa 6, Gabbidon 6, Ilunga 3; Collison 3, Parker 8, Kovac 1, Stanislas 3, Jimenez 4, Hines 5 Sub Faubert 3

West Ham 3 Burnley O - Half Time Report

So far so very good. The first ten minutes were a major concern but three moments of inspiration have put using a position where even we should find it hard not to run out winners. The vision of Parker to pick out Collison's superbly timed run for the first goal was fantastic - brilliant quick thinking from both - and Jack's finish was classical, opening the body and sidefooting it wide of the keeper.

The second goal was even cleverer. Franco's take on his chest was excellent, Stanislas' diagonal run was masterful and the slipped pass was perfect. I was still cursing Junior for his weak shot when he finished brilliantly with the second, doing the keeper with his eyes before cheekily tucking the ball home from an acute angle. If Henry did that, we would see it over and over and over again. Brilliant.

Now I need to check that I'm not dreaming for the third, a penalty won by Spector's superb run and a perfectly weighted pass by, of all people, Kovac! It was a penalty and full marks to Carlton for taking responsibility and calmly tucking it away. A little message to Capello perhaps as the curse of the penalty shoot out looms just over the horizon?

What could go wrong from here? A goal for Burnley within 5 minutes of the restart? The biggest worry with United due next is a booking for Carlton (which would mean a suspension) or an injury to any of Parker, Franco, Carlton or Collison. I tell you what, Franco is looking one hell of a player. He has hit the bar, he set Collison up with a brilliant chance and he played that crucial role in the second goal. He has even tackled back near his own corner flag! Quite a player for a free transfer! And Da Costa's looking good too!

If we are still three up at 70 minutes, I would take off Carlton! Fingers crossed. I would settle now for an incident free 0-0 second half personally!

Burnley Are No Push Overs

In typical playground style, the Org has run a "Team and Score Against Burnley" thread and, apart from one very informed poster who has joined in, everybody is, of course, going for the home win as if it is an absolute banker. One "genius" has not only picked the score, 4-1, to West Ham of course, but even announced the five scorers! He probably only knows the name of one Burnley player which made identifying him as, not only easy, but inevitable! He should ask for odds on his prediction. It must be worth 5000-1 in any bookmakers!

One thing that is interesting from the posts so far, however, is that the fans are unsure who should play. Spector or Faubert at right back? Hines or Franco up front? Include Stanislas or not? Noble or Jimenez in midfield? Grumpy hasn't joined in yet so nobody has suggested not playing Cole! Remember back to the halcyon days under Pardew before the arrival of the Argies? Back then, the team pretty much picked itself didn't it? Everybody knew his job and everybody went out and did that job for the team. There was a shape - 4-4-2 - and a style of play suited to the strengths of the players at Pardew's disposal. He knew Etherington was one footed so he had Matty hugging the left flank, he knew Mullins was limited as a footballer so he had him sitting like an anchor in front of the back four, etcetera. Like Pullis at Stoke, Pardew didn't overly complicate things but recognised what his players were good at and designed a style of play which squeezed the very best out of everybody: Zamora scored, Etherington looked England quality, Harewood terrorised Premiership defenders, Reo-Coker ran and ran and ran, Konchesky raided up the left, Yossi glided inside and played delicious passes, etcetera.

But now? Well courtesy of Curbishley and Nani, Zola has a jumble of bits which will not fit together into a puzzle. If we play Stanislas, we will be vulnerable down our left flank, if we play either Faubert or Spector we will be exposed down our right. If we play Franco, Cole ends up feeding off a target man who drops into positions that Cole naturally wants to drop into himself and if we play Hines, Zola seems to want to revert to 4-3-3. Noble is out of form but Jimenez is crap. No wonder ten different West Ham fans will give you 10 different formations because, the brutal truth is, whatever combination you come up with, you know it isn't going to work.

Meanwhile, Burnley fans know their team and know their tactics. Each player has a job to do and knows that job inside out because it is the same job every week. They know they are not world beaters but they also know that, with organisation, endeavour and bursting lungs, they can beat anybody on their day. Coyle will be able to say to them, "We've already beaten one United this season and this version is only West Ham!" Like Hull did last season, they may fall away and struggle after Christmas but, for now, they are playing with fire in their bellies and pride in their hearts, two qualities distinctly lacking in our team!

I think we need Noble for his passion. If Dyer is unfit, I would go with Stanislas, but I would move him onto the right flank where he belongs. Faubert is my choice for right back, Gabbidon to partner Da Costa at the back, and the General to partner Cole up front. Am I confident that is the right selection? No. Ask me for an honest prediction and I fear I would have to say 2-2.

The sad fact is that we are not good enough and, more worryingly, Zola thinks the players are better than they actually are. That is a recipe for disaster. Pardew played to the team's strengths with an eye on individual's limitations, Curbishley designed a system exclusively to mask the players' weaknesses, Zola keeps setting up as if we are Brazil and is surprised when we then play like Scotland! If he does it today, Coyle will say thanks very much and Burnley will go home with a share of the points at the very least!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Another West Ham Own Goal.......Or 24!

Well knock me darn wiv a fevva, the cold weather's arrived and Matty Upson has tweaked his ham string. It happens; but it puts into sharp perspective, the ridiculous decision to sell James Collins. I can't recall a more senseless unforced sale of a player than this in over 40 years supporting West Ham.

No, he wasn't the best player in the team but behind Cole and Green he was the third most important. Our best defensive pairing was Upson and Collins, but our second best pairing was Tomkins and Collins. Bobby Moore needed Jack Charlton next to him and Tony Gale had Alvin Martin. All of our centre backs are in the "footballing" mould, but you need a bit of brawn in there as well. Collins was dominant in the air and a better footballer than he was given credit for. We particularly didn't exploit his goalscoring capacity, from set pieces. We haven't had someone who can deliver a good cross for some time now, how ironic that we use the money from the sale of Collins to buy Diamanti, someone who could have delivered just that ball from a set piece.

There has also been the collateral damage done to James Tomkins, who was developing very nicely in a secure environment until Collins went. His confidence looks shot to bits at the moment and da Costa doesn't look ready to me.

We have conceded 24 goals in 11 games since Collins left and only twice did we concede only one. That is an atrocious statistic. To risk selling him at a time when we had no full backs except Ilunga who obviously immediately got injured, was an unbelievable decision.

But apparently we have no reason to worry, Nani has reportedly said he's happy with our strike force, it's one of the best in the league. Well if we're going to continue shipping 2 or 3 goals a game it's going to have to be!

El Martillo

Upson The Latest Crock

It was always going to happen given his history of injuries, but Upson's hamstring problem seems like another thread in our unravelling tapestry of disaster. Ilunga, Cole and Upson are three players that, Grumpy apart, we would all have agreed we could not afford to lose to injury, and all three have already been sidelined. Add in Diamanti's hip "injury", Dyer's ongoing woes, the stabbing of Downpipe, Parker's suspensions and Ashton's impending imminent retirement, and it appears that the gypsy curse is still hanging around like the club a Quashie fart.

We will miss Upson on Saturday. True he was played out of position, but I thought Gabbidon was poor at Hull and a back four reading Faubert, Da Costa, Gabbidon and Ilunga hardly fills you with confidence does it? I might fancy getting on the scoresheet if I saw that lot up against me!

Remember when West Brom came to Upton Park and won in the season we went down? Remember how Watford took all three points away from the Boleyn in the Great Escape season? If we don't beat Burnley on Saturday, it will be a complete disaster; apart from an injury to Cole, Green or Parker, the sidelining of Upson was the last thing we needed. Let's hope Gabbidon can step up to the plate!

Has Curbishley Burnt His Bridges?

With Portsmouth turning to an even baggier set of eyes to oversee their struggle to avoid the drop, has Turds burnt his Premiership bridges by hanging on for his compensation payout? His criticism of "foreign owners" this week wasn't exactly a bright move for a guy out of work and looking to get back into managing in the Premiership was it?

Where does Turds go from here? He was linked originally with the Sunderland job, but he chose to go for the pay off for wrongful dismissal instead. Bruce has subsequently done a brilliant job. The Hull job seemed a possibility, but Brown does not know when to lie down and die so that situation has still to become vacant. Portsmouth seemed like the ideal job for Mr Mediocrity but when you have one safety first bore already on the books, why recruit another?

Turds may be hoping that Big Sam's operation doesn't go to plan or keeping an eye on Megson's tribulations at Bolton, but would he really fancy towing his caravan all the way up the M6, even if these positions became available? Birmingham might be a possibility if they start to struggle and, I suppose, Wolves may decide that sticking with a guy with an amazingly successful record for securing relegation from the Prem, might not be the best idea. But would Wolves fans welcome the Turds "Lump it and see" football any more than we did?

It may well be that Turds has burnt his bridges by holding out for the compo payout. I hope so because it will serve him right!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Another West Ham McKnightmare On Green Street?

Hopefully it is all paper talk but West Ham fans, with a memory, will be shuddering at the thought of us buying a keeper from Scotland. I am old enough to remember the far from great Bobby Ferguson, but he was a veritable Peter Shilton when compared to the last keeper we signed from an Old Firm club, Allen McKnightmare. In 88-89, we plummeted out of the old First Division with McKnight playing 23 games - and his incompetence is legendary.

McKnight was not Scottish - he collected and dropped 10 caps for Northern Ireland - but he was bought from Celtic and fits the stereotype of the typical Scottish keeper: bloody hopeless. If we shell out £4m for Allan McGregor, as is being rumoured, then there is no hope! The Fizzy Pop here we come! At least McKnight only cost £250,000!

Quashie's Quibbles Put Question Marks Against Zola's Man Management Skills

I blogged earlier in the season that the treatment of Nigel Quashie was bordering on the perverse. Okay, you would have to talk to a lot of West Ham fans before you came across somebody who rated Nigel - he would have been exhibit A in my defence of the action Turds brought against the club - but I can't see the sense of making the guy train with the youth team and banning him from training sessions with the first team when, apparently, he has done nothing wrong - other than being Nigel Quashie of course.

At the end of the day, Quashie didn't force the club to sign him and can't be blamed for accepting a contract that hopelessly over valued him. Never mind the transfer fee, thanks to Turds and Egg, we have paid him a cool one million a year in salary for each of the last three years. Sure the club are upset that he hasn't agreed to the tearing up of his contract but why the hell should he? Would you in Nigel's boots? His subsequent treatment seems spiteful, churlish and unprofessional to me.

Presumably Nigel has mates in the first team squad. Presumably they disagree with the way he has been treated and must be wondering if the same thing might happen to them. Would you play your heart out for a guy who treats one of your mates like that?

Zola's man management does seem questionable at times. I think he over-reacted to the Davenport criticism and painted himself into a corner. His failure to even talk to Ashton over the last 6 months is mighty odd. Presumably he has the guy's mobile number? A phone conversation once a week would surely be the decent thing to do given Beano's injury woes? Then there was the Lucas Neill fiasco. Zola was quoted as saying that Lucash had promised to call him ahead of making a decision. Hello? What's wrong with maintaining contact yourself, trying to persuade your captain not to jump ship? Then there was the treatment of Etherington, unceremoniously dumped amidst rumours of gambling problems, and Collins, shipped out against his wishes despite being one of our top performers over the last 12 months.

Some of us are questioning the spirit and desire of the current squad but perhaps they are looking at how team mates have been treated and are thinking, well sod that for a game. Faubert can't rate Zola very highly after anything and everything was done to try to offload him - until we woke up to the fact that, apart from Spector, we didn't have an option for right back. Even then, after picking up the player of the month award, Faux Pas found himself dropped after one poor display. That might be fair enough except for the fact that Noble and Tomkins were having a mare every week but still keeping their places in the team. Nobody likes perceived favouritism in a manager do they?

Are Quashie's quibbles the tip of the iceberg I wonder? Are the players looking at Zola and thinking, not only does he not know what he is doing, we can't even rely on him to be there for us when we need him?

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Hull Beat Everton - The Crisis Deepens!

Well I must confess that I had Hull down as bankers for the drop but after tonight's result and their epic fightback against ourselves, I am having to re-appraise things. Defensively they are poor but pouring forward, they are looking pretty irresistible at the moment. Stoke couldn't control them, we couldn't contain them and now Everton have found them too much of a challenge. Remember, this is the Everton team that mugged us not so very long ago.

Give Brown his due, with his head on the chopping block, he has somehow inspired the mob to rise up in defence of the ancien régime. The blueprint for the returning Robespierre was to decapitate Brown on the basis that if one man had to be sacrificed to save the club, then so be it. The program notes for the Stoke game virtually said, first defeat and Brown is gone. Well three games in and Brown is still alive and kicking and Hull have battered their way to relative safety.

As a fan of the underdog, I would normally be delighted by this, but with Birmingham winning on Saturday too, our position is looking increasingly precarious. Why, I wonder, are we unable to muster the same fighting spirit?

Etherington For England? Matty Has Money On It!

Matty Etherington, it seems, is being talked about as a possibility to fill the troublesome left midfield berth in the England team - and not for the first time. I remember some wild predictions about his future when Tottenham signed him and, during that fantastic 2005-06 season, I, for one, was calling for him to be given a try in an England shirt.

The selection of Etherington for South Africa would not be without precedent - remember when Trevor Sinclair not only made it into the squad but also into the starting 11? Personally, I think Matty lacks that extra yard of pace to make it at the highest level but the fact that he is even being mentioned shows that Zola blundered when he let him go.

Matty was the first victim of Zola's misguided 4-3-3 formation. Go back to just before the start of last season and I blogged how we could challenge for a Champions League place. The idea was simple: pick Cole and Ashton and encourage Etherington and Faubert to sit "high" for all home games, whipping in crosses for the two target men at every opportunity. I compared the system to the one employed by Blackburn when Shearer and Sutton led their line, with two out and out wingers providing the ammunition. Of course, it all went awry when Ashton was crocked, but with Faubert assisting in five of our first six goals at the start of the season, the simple strategy was working. Then Curbishley flounced out, Zola arrived and 4-4-2 became 4-3-3. Etherington briefly appeared to flourish under the system but suddenly disappeared from the team, amidst rumours of gambling problems, never really to be rehabilitated.

Pullis, with the signings of Etherington and Beattie, has showed how simple football can be. Instead of asking Etherington, who is more one footed than Heather Mills-McCartney, to switch from the left flank to the right, as under Zola's crazy system, Etherington has been told to stick to what he is good at, bombing down the left hand side and pinging in crosses for Beattie to attack. It isn't sophisticated, it isn't rocket engineering, but it can be wonderfully effective. I tell you this, had Etherington been playing against Sunderland, Fulham and Hull, we would have finished all three games with maximum points because he would have helped us to exploit the extra man advantage. Zola picks Stanislas or Collison on the left but both are then crossing on their wrong foot. We lack somebody on both flanks with the confidence to attack the full back and swing over a cross and so we find ourselves always attacking through the middle, irrespective of where our opponent's weaknesses may be.

Will Matty be on the plane to South Africa? One thing's for sure, if Matty is backing himself, he doesn't stand a cat in hell's chance!

Liverpool FC Buy T.V. Channel Franchise

With Manchester United and Chelsea already running their own television channels, Liverpool have decided to get in on the act, but rather than start from scratch have announced plans to buy out an existing channel - The HISTORY channel!

There are also plans to change the club's signature anthem from "You'll Never Walk Alone" to the Beatles' classic number, "Yesterday".

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Dyer Scores Twice For Reserves

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Kieron Dyer will be that man. We can make him better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.

Two goals for the reserves do not a superstar make, but it is a start. Dyer lasted 68 mins tonight and was not stretchered off! There's no doubt that a fit and firing Dyer would be a major asset for the team and maybe, just maybe this is the...

Hang on, what am I saying? Kieron will probably sneeze and rupture abdominal muscles tomorrow but, until we hear the latest BUPA Bulletin, let's keep our fingers crossed that Dyer might actually be on the comeback trail this time.

Well, we can dream, can't we?

The First Nail In The Liverpool Coffin!

When the gods are against you, there's no escape. Liverpool duly won in Hungary, but the lions were slaughtered by the Christians in Florence, sending the once mighty Reds out of the Champions League at the group stage! Carragher might not think this is a disaster but he isn't the brightest biscuit in the barrel is he? You can bet your life that the bankers are thinking differently!

How appropriate that Liverpool went out playing against a team that sound like a drug you would give to a geriatric suffering from arthritis. Debrecen, has anybody ever heard of them before? Well it is not a name Liverpool fans are likely to forget in a hurry because it could well be some considerable time before Liverpool play an away fixture in the Champions League again!

The folly of Rafa's transfer policy has now been laid bare. This Liverpool squad is inadequate and my money is on them finishing outside the top 4, just as I predicted before the season kicked off. Mind you, I didn't see them crashing out of the Champions League so early.

Still, all is not lost for the once magnificent Reds, there's always the Europa League - you know, the competition in which Bolton Wanderers played their reserves!

Hartless Pompey Deserve To Go Down

So Pompey have parted company with Paul Hart and look set to appoint Avram Grant. How shoddy is that? Hart saved them from relegation last season and then saw his team sold from underneath him to repay the massive debts accrued by 'Arry. Yes they are bottom, but they have been playing with great spirit from what I have seen and have been punching above their weight given the meagre resources available. Most experts agree that they were unlucky to lose on Saturday - it is hardly Hart's fault that the penalty was more of a pass back!

Throughout, Hart has shown great dignity, pressing ahead with optimism despite seeing his squad torn apart by Storrie and the Board. Unlike Zola, he seems to have been employing the right tactics and the reaction of the Pompey boys after their first victory of the season showed that he had them pumped up and that they were playing for their manager. Dear God, haven't they won two games 4-0? What would we give at West Ham for a 4-0 victory!

I have nothing against Pompey but I hope they go down now. To give the guy a contract in July and sack him in November isn't just crazy, it is downright Hartless!

Cole Going Nowhere - Nowhere You Hear? Nowhere! And Neither Is Behrami!

Zola has made it clear that Carlton is going nowhere! So that's it. Final. End of. The boy belongs to us and Liverpool and the Mancs can take a running jump! Ha! £20m? Stuff it up your Northern arses! Who needs it?

Feels great doesn't it? But I seem to remember hearing the same thing in December of last year about Bellyache. And where is Period Pains now? And then, of course, we were told Anton was not for sale, until Blunderland offered £8m for him. And of course McCartney was going to be sold over Curbishley's dead body. That is until Sunderland came back in for him too and we pocketed enough to cover the legal bills and compensation for Turds, but sadly didn't have to pick up the tab for his funeral costs!

We have heard this all before - about Rio and Carrick and Defoe and Joe Cole and... But we know that neither Zola nor Nani will make the ultimate decision. In fact, I have the impression that even Duxbury is now little more than a nodding dog. The Board will decide if Cole is sold, and Carlton will have a big say in it too. If he decides he wants out, there will be very little we can do to keep him!

So it is great to hear Zola talking tough but anybody who stakes his house on Carlton still being a West Ham player based on this could be making a very big mistake indeed. The fact that we are still sniffing around Toni might indicate that contingency plans are being made for what, may yet, prove to be the inevitable!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Is Clarke Looking For An Exit Strategy?

Is it just me, or have others noticed that Clarke is less involved this season on match days? Last season, it was not uncommon to see Zola and Clarke shoulder to shoulder on the touchline discussing tactics, but now Zola always appears isolated, jumping up and down and fretting, whilst Clarke sits coldly, dispassionately, almost it seems, disinterested in the dug out.

What is going on? From a brilliantly well drilled defensive unit, we have degenerated into a shambles at the back. I know we have lost Neill and Collins, and Ilunga has been injured, but last season we coped with injuries to Upson and Collins and carried on regardless. We all moaned about how slow Neill was anyway and how opposition managers were targeting him as our weak link defensively; and presumably Zola and Clarke did not see him as irreplaceable because they allowed him to leave without putting up too much of a fight and without sourcing a replacement. Presumably, our management team thought that Faubert and Spector were up to the job!

So what is going on? Well, I am wondering if Clarke is in a sulk. There may be a number of possible reasons for this. Maybe he was opposed to the sale of Collins. Maybe he saw his authority undermined by Zola's anxiety to sign anybody he could to provide an attacking option and Zola's willingness to sacrifice a first choice defender in the process. Clarke, of course, will be of the school that says you build a team from the back; stop the opposition scoring and you only need to score once yourself to win the game. Zola, we know, is more attacking minded. Did it come down to a straight forward disagreement over priorities with Zola over-ruling his second in command? Is Clarke in a "I told you so" mood, watching events unfold with a smug, "Don't blame me, I warned you" attitude?

Or maybe Clarke is angry that Duxbury sold him a pup. Maybe he is regretting leaving Chelsea for a poison chalice of a job, understanding that his reputation is under threat as our fortunes nosedive.

Or maybe, just maybe, Clarke has half an eye on Celtic. There were rumours that the Hoops wanted him in the summer but nothing came of it. Did we block a move for him, frustrating his ambitions to be a number one? As Mowbray struggles at Celtic, is Clarke thinking, that could be my dream job?

Something is definitely amiss and I would not be surprised if Clarke is looking for an exit strategy.

After The Tottenham Debacle Well Done Wigan! West Ham Should Follow The Example!

Well done to Melchiot and the Wigan boys for announcing that they are going to refund fans after that shameful performance on Sunday. True, that doesn't really make up for one of the most inept showings on a football pitch that I have ever seen, but it is a gesture that shows how embarrassed the players feel.

I don't wish to belittle the performance of the Tottenham boys in any way - Lennon, Krancjar, Huddlestone and, of course The Foe, all looked awesome on the day - but, in truth, Wigan were the incompetent architects of their own annihilation. How many times did they lose the ball in their own half? I only saw the highlights on MOTD but time and again I saw Wigan players playing what looked like deliberate passes to their opponents and even trying to dribble past Tottenham players in their own half. The marking, closing down and tackling were so woeful that I began to think that Breen might have been a Premiership quality defender after all!

All that said, you can only hammer what's put in front of you and Tottenham certainly delivered. Lennon apparently can't cross - well he could yesterday! Huddlestone can't boss the midfield apparently - well he could yesterday! And as for Defoe, well two of his finishes were sublime, the dragged shot when the ball was slightly behind him as he met it and the fantastic volley to complete his hat trick. His movement and finishing looked international class to me!

But enough with praising Wigan's post match attitude and Tottenham's in game performance. I just hope that West Ham follow Wigan's example and repay our wonderful travelling fans. By my reckoning, the fans who travelled to Sunderland deserve a 50% refund because the team failed to come out of the dressing room for the second half, whilst 30% of the ticket price should be refunded after Saturday, because after 11 minutes, the team went missing for the rest of the first half!

Come on Zola, tell the team to pull their fingers out or pay up - the fans who pay to support the team deserve better!

Liverpool Fan Hits Back In Defence Of Rafa

Hammersfan I think someone like myself whose seen us win NINE League Titles has a fair idea of what's required to win the damn thing no?

I KNOW that winning at places like Birmingham, Sunderland and Fulham is needed to win the league. Look at our record last year - 2 defeats only and we DID win at Sunderland AND Fulham but we STILL didn't win it. I DO think it's a bit much to expect us to win EVERYWHERE when A:) half our squad/ backup (like Hyppia, Arbeloa and Alonso) has gone and been replaced by either dross or injuries and B:) our players are going down like they're on the Somme and have been all season. (We've missed Aquilani, Gerrard, Skrtel, Agger, Carragher, Johnson, Torres, Riera, Benayoun, Babel, Aurelio AND Mascherano through various injuries/absences ALL season which is more than a FULL team) and I doubt our first choice back four has played together at all; So the losses and disasters come as little surprise - Unlike Chelsea we CAN'T buy a whole new team per injury crisis.

And to the idiot who follows the media mantras about Rafa' not buying well or not nurturing young players in comparism to Taggart at Old Trafford and the Mad Professor at the Emirates. Really? I don't hear you mentioning the fact that Nani's A:) had no effect at United since being bought AND had a go at Fergie in the press recently resulting in him being dropped from the team. And what of other youngsters we've heard of in recent years at Old Trafford? People like Macheda, Pugh, Even Ben Foster has started complaining and agitating for a move, what of the likes of Cathcart, Bellion, even Anderson's gone backwards this season - WHERE is United's NEW crop of 'fledglings' ala Beckham, Giggs, Scholes etc then? The last REAL player United brought from their youth system was probably John O'Shea and you have to go ALL the way back to 2001 for him.

As to Arsenal; Well, let's see; what of Wenger's much publicised 'English' drain from Arsenal - Good young ENGLISH players like Hoyte, Bentley, Taylor and even Ashley Cole ALL gone in favour of foreign imports - SURELY as a West Ham fan you have something to say there? - ESPECIALLY since those same foreign imports block the progress of Arsenal's vaunted 'youngsters' who then get sold on for a profit as Hoyte did? I'll bet now that the likes of Carlos Vela and Aaron Ramsey much vaunted as they are have a HECK of a job getting in Arsenal's team over the next few seasons and even get loaned out; That's happened with Arsenal ever since they moved stadiums and won't change.

Liverpool? Well since Gerrard and Carragher came through our academy along with David Thompson in the late 90's; We've brought through Stephen Warnock, Neil Mellor who have since played in the Premiership elsewhere (and still do in Warnock's case) and more recently players like Emiliano Insua, Jay Spearing, Martin Kelly and Nathan Ecclestone and now David N'gog have ALL had a chance in our first team and come through from our Academy or reserves; They may not all be GREAT players but they ARE from our Academy/Reserve sides; all of them - Unlike Babel which the fool I'm replying to forgets TWO things about;

1:) He was BOUGHT in 2007 for ELEVEN million.

2:) He's had PLENTY of chances including nearly the whole of the 2007/2008 and a lot of 2008/2009 seasons but like many young players; He suddenly seems to think he's 'made it', stops working hard/loses his 'spark' and talks more in the media than on the pitch. THAT is why Rafa's not picking him regularly - He has PLENTY of talent but just can't be arsed to use it Except where he has a point to prove ala Lyon - IF LFC need to play as they do against United in EVERY game, then Babel NEEDS to play like he did in Lyon EVERY game before a manager like Rafa' picks him regularly. Can he improve enough? We shall see......................

Oh yes, and regarding arguments about Rafa' buying players/improving them - Well firstly, it's a BIT hard to pick and choose GOOD players (who cost LOTS of cash) when you're told to A:) sell off your backup squad to afford them or B:) BANNED from buying your primary targets due to lack of funds - BOTH of which has happened to Rafa' in the not to distant past in the transfer market.

Yes, he's bought the likes of Voronin, Riera, Benayoun (whose a brilliant player now anyway), Skrtel, Crouch and Sissoko amongst others but that's mainly because he was denied the funds to buy his REAL targets which included players like Silva, Villa, Vidic, Simao, Tevez and Barry (who Rafa himself said was meant to play ALONGSIDE Alonso - NOT instead of him) When you look thus at his REAL targets instead of what he got (second and sometimes third choice in the case of Kyrgiakos) I think his eye for talent is obvious.

And it's an eye for talent that becomes even CLEARER when you look at the players he DID get and either developed or groomed into stars - His 'big' buys/best players if you will (and even some slightly below that level show how well he can spot talent); Players like Reina, Alonso, Torres, Crouch (who he developed into a record England goalscorer for the national team - our national sides ONLY reliable source of goals other than Rooney),Garcia, Kuyt, Agger, Pongolle (bought by his predecessor but developed by him), Your own former hammer Mascherano, Finnan, Sissoko, Gerrard himself (whose become FAR deadlier going forward), Carragher (whose he's developed from Houllier's fullback into a centre back) and more recently Agger, Skrtel and it looks like N'gog (whose improving by the game and in our last three Home games has set up 1 goal and scored twice).

Now, the above are ALL players he's either bought big, bought unknown/little known, brought from our reserves OR inherited and in all cases in which he has improved beyond all recognition until they can command fees like the 30 million recieved for Alonso or the 36 million spoken of for Masch'. In short all of whom, he's helped turn into if not World Class stars then certainly top-class/International level ones.

You don't believe me about Rafa's improvements to his players? Then think back to 2007 and England's doomed Euro 2008 campaign - Remember the clamour for Carragher (a jobbing centre back and traitor according to certain areas of the press - a 'coward' according to others for the twin crimes of putting his family first after being f*cked around by the England manager {and I use that term loosely for Steve Mcdonut} once to often AND the unforgivable sin of (shock, gasp) MISSING a penalty at the World Cup - Boo!!! Can't have that can we? I know, He's Liverpool, let's crucify him - Only Jamie wouldn't have it and quit England that summer - he was the wrong side of 30 anyway (funny, but I don't seem to remember Paul Scholes getting that level of abuse on HIS retirement from England in 2004 and he's refused at LEAST 3 times to come back).

Anyway - we could of done with Carragher's nous, determination and defensive ability v Croatia that awful night in November 2007 no? We might even (heaven forbid for we'd prob' STILL have Mcuseless at the helm) have qualified for Euro 2008 and all would be forgiven but think of this - The shouting and clamour was for Jamie to play as a CENTRE-BACK; Do you REALLY think that would of occurred say 8 years ago or so when he played FULL-BACK under Houllier? Don't make me laugh - of course not. And just WHO transformed him into this international level centre back - None other than Benitez that's who (and before anyone says he's no good - he got us to the CL final that season with his defending so he can't be THAT bad can he?).

Finally, please take the case of one Stephen Gerrard - formerly a (VERY) indisciplined) central midfielder who charged all over the place like Roadrunner in attempts to 'command' games under Houllier - He has under Benitez developed into one of the foremost scoring forces (and one half of one of THE truly deadly partnerships with Torres) in the English Premier League and thus Europe; He knows when, where and HOW to attack now and regularly breaks the 15/18 goal a season barrier (even 20 odd sometimes) whereas back as that undisciplined midfielder he rarely got even 10 a season;

Most importantly of all, he's one of the VERY few English players who knows HOW to play in 'the hole' where continental sides do so much damage and in view of that and the way he can drift all over the pitch and do such massive damage is also well on the way to forming a similar telepathy with the nation's other great Scouse footballer - Wayne Rooney under the direction of one of the few managers I see as Rafa's superior in Don Fabio Capello - England Manager who using Rooney and Gerrard as a template (and to a lesser extent Lampard and Crouch) has turned England into a scoring force reborn. But just WHO taught Gerrard to play like this in the first place as he showed LITTLE sign of it back in 2004 when Benitez came did he? Yep, that's right, Rafa' again.

So far from being unable to improve players - I think in Gerrard's case, the England team owe Mr Benitez a debt of thanks for helping modernise our attack in the way he has 'updated' Gerrard's abilities and just think IF Mcawful had been just a LITTLE more tactful with Carragher (i.e. NOT saying he'll play at centre back and then shoving him out to full-back/midfield/anywhere but full-back at every chance) then maybe, just maybe we'd have qualified for Euro 2008 and Mcabysmal MIGHT just have kept his jo.............

Actually, no DON'T think of that, it's to awful a thought to contemplate - Croatia did us the biggest favour imaginable by knocking us out at Wembley 2 years back as they took our complacency and old-fashioned arrogance with them forever. Anyway, I think Carragher coming back COULD of stopped that elimination happening as Rafa's turned him into an excellent centre half and he certainly wasn't that when Rafa' came here - far from it actually.

As to LFC's more recent acquisitions; Who knows but should Aquilani fulfil his potential AND Babel wake up and work to fulfil his - we may even add 2 more names to that list before long? We shall see - yes Rafa's had his failures (like Bellamy, Morientes, Kromkamp, Kewell, Gonzalez and Nunez to name but 5) but then what manager doesn't? I could name equally large lists of failures for Alec Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and whichever manager is at Chelsea this particular month if you like. But because it's Liverpool - people seem to notice far more no?

I think looking at the above though - the players he's bought, inherited etc AND improved out of all recognition AND the players he WANTED to buy but couldn't - having to settle for second/third best etc Along with all he's done for Liverpool in the league, FA Cup and Europe in his time here whilst hamstrung (having to sell to buy OR to constantly trim his squad/accept second best and NEVER coming close to Chelsea/Man U style funding) then it's clear that Rafa's not so much a manager as a miracle worker and to accuse him of 'lacking an eye for talent'/'being unable to develop young players'/wasting money under the CONDITIONS he's worked under (i.e. by ignoring said conditions) is not just wrong and stupid, but also pathetic.

Rafa's a World Class Manager,and IF Liverpool DO ever get the same type of funding that certain teams enjoy during his tenure then this blog (which seems to enjoy criticising him) will lose one of the reasons for it's existence as he'll clear up EVERYTHING in the trophy stakes for years...............

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Liverpool Staring Down The Barrel

Another round of Premiership fixtures and the Liverpool crisis deepens. Tottenham's breath taking hammering of Wigan suggests that they are genuine top 4 contenders and, whilst Arsenal lost at Sunderland, that merely replicates Liverpool's result at the Stadium of Fright. The big thing is that Arsenal lost one away point whilst Liverpool lost two home points, so even in defeat, Arsenal are the net winners. Man City will probably count it as a point gained as well, whilst Villa "broke even" with their result at Burnley. So the biggest net losers over the weekend? Liverpool.

And before Liverpool fans mouth off about our mess - we know! But we are West Ham, the yo-yo club that won the World Cup; you are Liverpool, the footballing giants cut down to the size of dwarfs by American owners who promised glory and have brought an unfolding misery. An early exit from the Champions League is imminent, the Premier League title has disappeared out of reach faster than under Sounness or Evans, but much more serious is the threat of not qualifying for the Champions League Cash Cow next season. The debts at Liverpool are truly massive and the revenue stream from the Champions League is all that is keeping the club afloat. If that goes, God help them!

Of course there is a delicious irony here. Scousers have been nicking the wheels off foreign cars for years; how wonderful that two foreigners have nicked the wheels off the Liverpool coach!

Benitez to Real Madrid in January anybody? In fact, are Torres and Benitez already waving goodbye in that picture?

Tottenham 9 Wigan 1 - The Game's Gone Crazy!

WTF? Maybe Tottenham are contenders for the top 4 after all; and maybe Wigan are going to struggle! The Foe got FIVE, including a hattrick in seven minutes! Incredible!

West Ham fans won't like it, but you have to hand it to Spurs today! Congratulations and I, for one, would be delighted if you Cockyfools keep Unreal City and Liverpool out of the Champions League!

Stani Defends Zola - He's Made Mistakes But Give Him Time!

I have always rated Collins and Gabbidon highly ever since we got them. They would have been my first choice as a centre back pair, yes, even ahead of Upson. There were players we could have sold other than Collins but we didn't. This is no exaggeration but I really could not believe it when we sold him. O'Neill must be laughing....what was it, £5m for a 25 yr old international defender?

Letting Bellamy go was a big mistake too. The pressure he used to take off our defence by running onto Neill's forward passes (which were always excellent) is now beginning to show. Should have done more to keep Neill as well. Could have done with his intelligence on the pitch. Would we have lost a 0-2 lead with Neill on the pitch?

The Upson pen shout yesterday; I'm still undecided about. You see, he got up before Hesselink who backed into him. This caused Upson's arms to go forward and make it seem as if he was man handling him. I don't think it was clear cut. May be as many refs would have given as those that would not of. Although, Battenberg does strike me as one of the ones that would have given it....may be he was concentrating on his tan.

Jimenez just makes me sick now. Please someone just get rid of him. When the club you play for is in the mire, hairstyles are not what you should be worrying about.

Zola's other big negative is his loyalty to players. In my opinion, Noble and Tomkins had far too long in the team whilst they were under-performing. Yes you can improve players but only so much in real games where it matters. I was pulling my hair out seeing Noble getting picked week in week out when he was quite clearly struggling.

I will say though that Zola has had to work in a testing environment with all that's gone on and with the lack of funds.

The one hope I retain is that he will learn because everyone will agree that the style of play he has brought is quite magnificent to watch. It is that reason that makes him different from our other mentioned managers. I just hope he can become more tactically adept.

I still don't think we're close to reaching a point where we cannot salvage the season. Hence, in my opinion, we should still stick with Zola as managers do become better. I hope he can because he deserves it. And it may not seem as if he cares from his after-match interviews, but have a look at him when our second goal went in yesterday.

Stani's Army

Zola Is The New Roeder - Only Worse!

The parallels between Zola and Roeder are frightening. Both were appointed after a former Hammer lost the manager's job, and in both cases, there was an element of surprise when the change of manager was triggered. Both Roeder and Zola enjoyed a honeymoon period during their first season in charge and both were being hailed as clever appointments after one season in the job.

How many points did we have after 13 games in 2002-03? Spookily and worryingly, 11. The 13th game in 2002-03 was a high scoring thriller, at home to Leeds, a match we lost 3-4. True we lost then and we came away with a draw yesterday, but at half time against Leeds we were 4-1 behind and so we were the team staging the fightback - and Leeds had not been reduced to 10 men!

To all those who chant the mantra, "In Zola we trust", here is a sobering statistic. After 13 games of his second season in charge, a season we were relegated in, Roeder had a win ratio of 35% from 51 Premiership games; Zola has now been in charge of 47 Premiership games and his win ratio stands at just 29.78%. Sobering or what?

For those who say "back the manager and it will come right", let me warn you that things got better still for Roeder. When he was sacked, he had a win ratio of 38%, but we still went down! In fact, Zola's current win ratio is the worst of any West Ham manager in living memory - worse than Curbishley, Roeder, Pardew and Macari.

In Zola we trust at our peril. Who looked the savvy manager yesterday, Zola or Brown? But for the sending off, does anybody believe we would have got a point out of that game? A win ratio of 29.78% is shockingly poor, so shockingly poor that it is unprecedented at West Ham.

It's looking as if Zola is Roeder with knobs on!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Zola Pays Homage To 'The Game's Gone Crazy'

Good to see that Gianfranco is looking in on this blog. After the farce of a performance at Hull, the Italian showed how low his expectations now are by expressing pleasure at the team's ability to fight back from a goal down to draw; against the 10 men of prime relegation candidates! Speaking after the game, the diminutive Italian said he "couldn't see Hull coming back at all" because "we looked in control"; well, presumably, Zola either didn't see, or has forgotten, the Sunderland and Fulham games! And the Arsenal match, for that matter, where the reverse happened!

But what stood out the most was the tribute Zola paid to this blog. Quite right Gianfranco, it is a "crazy game" now isn't it?

Although not widely reported Zola was then heard to mutter, "I must say that the blog site 'the games gone crazy' has been identifying our weaknesses since before the season started. I am now realising that had I taken note of the author earlier, we might not be in the mess that we now find ourselves in!"

All I need now is for Scotty Duxbury to give me an interview and, before I know it, I will be eating prawn sandwiches and making straight arm salutes with Iain Dale at Tory Party open primaries!

Hull (with 10 men) 3 West Ham 3 - Another 2 Points Tossed Away

I'm telling you, a team of 11 year olds have more tactical nounce than the bunch of clowns representing us at the moment - and more fire in their belly. The blinkered will say that we were unlucky today because of the Cole own goal and the dubious penalty, but they will then have failed to acknowledge that Franco should have seen red for a second bookable offence and Upson should have conceded a penalty in the second half for climbing all over Van Helsing. Even then, Jimenez did his best to set up Hull for a fourth with a blatant and unnecessary tug.

What is it with these idiots? To stop Hull, you mark Bullard and don't give away free kicks within 30 yards of your own goal. What did we do all afternoon, even when Hull were down to 10 men, we let Bullard roam around unmarked and took EVERY opportunity to concede free kicks around our box. The result was that Hull, the lowest scorers in the Prem before this game bagged three. I don't care what the idiots say about supporting the team, that was an appallingly naive and irresponsible performance from a team that are a shambles at the back. Upson isn't above criticism himself but he must be thinking, I need to get out of here fast if I want to get to South Africa.

What was Behrami doing today? He looked hopeless, chasing shadows all afternoon when we didn't have the ball and offering nothing creative when we did. Collison was good but was out on his legs at the end - there are fitness and stamina issues with this team, perhaps because they run so much instead of letting the ball do the work. Look at Bullard. He was head and shoulders better than any of our midfield because he retained the ball and delivered delicious passes when the opportunity to do so presented itself. I said before the game that he was Diamanti and Noble rolled into one. Sadly, we made him look like Hoddle, Beckham, Netzer and Tony Currie rolled into one! As good as he is, he aint that good! Who in our midfield puts his foot on the ball and picks a pass? Only Diamanti and we desperately need him for the game against Burnley.

We played like kids today. That's fair enough up to a point because Collison, Da Costa, Hines and Stanislas are kids, but big questions have to be asked as to why and how we have left ourselves so reliant on youngsters. No proper right back, no replacement left back and a raw young centre back - is it any wonder we are as leaky at the back as an incontinent old maid?

And look at our second half performance after Hull were reduced to 10 men. Apart from the goal (which loked like hand ball to me before Da Costa hit it home), we didn't create a proper chance until the last five minutes. Collison tired and so did Parker, and Hines looked out of his depth. I understand why Zola took Franco off, fearing a red card, but his withdrawal only served to demonstrate again that Jimenez is a light weight.

The optimists will try to take positives out of this game but the truth is, this performance showed that we are deep in trouble. We do not have a defence and should Cole or Franco pick up injuries, we won't have an attack either - unless Diamanti can step up to the plate.

We didn't lose, so relegation is not a certainty but it looks even more likely to me after today's game. No team should go in at half time a goal behind after going two goals ahead, even if playing against Arsenal or Barcelona. To do that against Hull City is criminally naive!

Player ratings: Green 6 (That first goal could only go in that top corner so why was Green a yard off his line as it curled in off Carlton's head?); Faubert 5, Da Costa 5, Upson 5, Gabbidon 3; Collison 6, Parker 7, Behrami 4, Stanislas 5; Cole 6, Franco 8
Subs: Hines 5, Jimenez 5

Half Time Hull 3 West Ham 2 - Disgraceful

There is no stomach in this team. We saw it at Sunderland and we are seeing it again today. Two goals up against Hull inside 11 mins, the game should be in the bag. What did we have to do from there? Pin a man on Bullard and stop his supply and aoid giving away free kicks around the edge of the box. So what do we do? Drop deep, leave Bullard untagged and give away two free kicks on the edge of the box and a dubious penalty inside it.

I despair. The first free kick conceded by Da Costa was absolutely unnecessary. All he needed to do was stand his ground, instead he tried to come through the back of the opposition player - that is going to be a free kick every time. The Stanislas shirt tug was criminal because the boy fell asleep and then panicked. The penalty was dubious I believe because the Hull player backed into Faubert but why were we defending inide our box in the first place.

Bullard is looking like Hoddle in his prime and whilst the lad is good, he isn't that brilliant. We now have to chase the game so he is going to have even more space. I would have money on him now to score a screamer in the second half.

We are spineless, pure and simple. Can we pull this one out of the fire? Hull are like a river in a flood, they have broken their banks and I don't think we will be able to hold them back personally. The sale of Collins, the failure to buy a right back and the absence of cover for eft back are telling. But are we surprised by that? Leave yourself without a defence and you are going to struggle. And to think, there are rumours that Upson will be allowed to go in January. God help us!

Any hope? Franco looks good but that's about it. We need to win the second half 2-0. I can't see us keeping Hull out so that means we need to score twice just to draw. Here's hoping!

Will Bullard And Garcia Come Back To Haunt Us?

Must admit that it passed me by that Bullard returned last week against Stoke and played a blinder. Out 11 months, plays the full 93 minutes, setting up the winning goal, and then, as Sod's Law has it, gets a two week break ahead of this game to recover from his exertions.

As for Garcia, he is another of the nearly men from Upton Park, a player who we let go who has gone on to prove himself worthy of a place in a Premiership team. Both will be invited to the Carr testimonial, I am sure, and Bullard may even have an outside chance of making it onto the plane for South Africa. He was a gem that we let go!

How dreadful would it be if these two were to combine to fashion the winning goal? That would be typical West Ham!

West Ham Inside The Hadron Collider At Hull

This is it, the big one, in my view the biggest game since the match at Old Trafford that secured our survival in the Great Escape. Indeed, it could be argued that this match is more important because, if we lose, we will go down; and then the whole Tevez debacle would have been for nothing. All that money, all that heartache, all Duxbury's sexual favours (I did not have sexual relations with that solicitor!), just to delay relegation!

Is it really that big, some will ask. Yes, yes and yes again. If we lose there will be no way back, no escape (great or otherwise) just a sad, protracted and inevitable slide towards the Fizzy Pop. If we win, and follow up with a victory over Burnley next week, then we will survive and live to fight another day, providing C&B Holdings don't cash in all our chips in January.

I just hope Zola understands how important this game is and sends his players out understanding that defeat is not an option. In fact, a draw isn't any good to us either, it will just keep Hull deep in the mire with us. They will go down anyway, it is the three points and the psychological lift that are crucial. If we lose, the players will stare into the pit and know that God has abandoned them. If we win, there will be hope, belief, conviction that we can escape.

The omens are not good with Diamanti ruled out by injury and Ilunga struggling. But there can be no excuses today, defeat is not an option, Hull must not be allowed to out-fight us, we need OUR team to roll up their sleeves and go hell for leather for victory!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Wenger Is Having A Laugh

Just heard him on TV talking about the Henry handball and saying that it is amazing that 2 million people can see something but they cannot help the one man who can't see it out on the pitch. The one man? Since when has Wenger been able to see any incorrect decision that has worked in favour of Arsenal?

Perhaps he is joining in the spirit of Children in Need!

Dyer Returns To Fitness!

Now there's a headline I didn't really expect to read! I got all excited for a moment, thinking the closest thing to organ transplants this side of Dean Ashton might be on the substitutes bench for the game at Hull, ready to contribute his traditional 15 minute monthly contribution to the cause.

But sadly no. By returning to fitness, it means he has returned to training with a view to returning to fitness, in the hope of making it on to the substitute's bench, building to a possible run out for 15 mintes, leading to a potential start this side of the end of the universe!

Still the report I read did give Zola the opportunity to make one of the greatest understatements of all time: "The problem with him (Dyer) is he finds it very difficult to keep the fitness" - yep, as difficult as a 14 year old Scally finds it to keep her virginity! And recovering fitness is as impossible, it seems, as it is recover virginity.

So Dyer is back in training, so what? West Ham should introduce Dyer Bingo - which part of his body will bust next? One thing's for certain, with Christmas just around the corner, Kieran aint going to be in any mad hurry to get back playing!

Ray Winstone And Fan Group Buy Out

This blog ran a proposal yesterday for a fan buy out of the club as outlined below:

The proposal is simple. To raise the £100m necessary, 50,000 fans need to chip in £2,000 each to buy a single share in the club. 49% of the club is then given, free of charge, to an investor willing to commit a net £20m a year to purchasing players for each of the next 5 years, whilst funding the day to day running of the club.

How would the fans find 2k to buy their stake? Well on mortgage, this would cost no more than £8 per month! £8 a month to own a stake in the club and to save that club from imminent demise? I'm in!

And who would take the 49% stake? Well Sullivan seems to have something similar in mind and I'm sure there are wealthier investors than him who would be prepared to commit!

Pie in the sky? Well better pie in the sky than the piss in the wind that all the other offers seem to amount to!

Not surprisingly, others have raised objections, the most legitimate of which include who would lead the buy out and how would 50,000 fans agree on anything?

Let's deal with the second point first. The share purchased for £2,000 would be a non voting share as I envisage it, like preference shares. Who would make up the Board? Well, I would allow the preference share holders to initially vote on nominations put forward by a merchant bank appointed to represent their interests. That Board would then vote on replacements when necessary. Trevor Brooking would be a permanent member of the Board, if he would accept the position, and so would Tony Carr, as a reward for his outstanding contribution to the club. That would act as some sort of guarantee that the club's heritage and soul is represented at Board level. In time, they could be replaced by subsequent West Ham heroes.

The preference share would entitle the owner to a 20% discount on season ticket purchasers, meaning that the money would be recovered by true fans over a 10 year period. For the occasional fans, a 10% discount could apply to ticket purchases. All preference share holders would be entitled to attend events where they could meet the players and ask questions of the manager and Board.

Who would lead the buy out? Well we would need a high profile fan of the club. How about Ray Winstone? I am throwing down the challenge to him and all West Ham fans! Let's save the soul of the club we love!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Challenge To Ray Winstone To Lead Fan Group Buy Out

This blog ran a proposal yesterday for a fan buy out of the club as outlined below:

The proposal is simple. To raise the £100m necessary, 50,000 fans need to chip in £2,000 each to buy a single share in the club. 49% of the club is then given, free of charge, to an investor willing to commit a net £20m a year to purchasing players for each of the next 5 years, whilst funding the day to day running of the club.

How would the fans find 2k to buy their stake? Well on mortgage, this would cost no more than £8 per month! £8 a month to own a stake in the club and to save that club from imminent demise? I'm in!

And who would take the 49% stake? Well Sullivan seems to have something similar in mind and I'm sure there are wealthier investors than him who would be prepared to commit!

Pie in the sky? Well better pie in the sky than the piss in the wind that all the other offers seem to amount to!

Not surprisingly, others have raised objections, the most legitimate of which include who would lead the buy out and how would 50,000 fans agree on anything?

Let's deal with the second point first. The share purchased for £2,000 would be a non voting share as I envisage it, like preference shares. Who would make up the Board? Well, I would allow the preference share holders to initially vote on nominations put forward by a merchant bank appointed to represent their interests. That Board would then vote on replacements when necessary. Trevor Brooking would be a permanent member of the Board, if he would accept the position, and so would Tony Carr, as a reward for his outstanding contribution to the club. That would act as some sort of guarantee that the club's heritage and soul is represented at Board level. In time, they could be replaced by subsequent West Ham heroes.

The preference share would entitle the owner to a 20% discount on season ticket purchasers, meaning that the money would be recovered by true fans over a 10 year period. For the occasional fans, a 10% discount could apply to ticket purchases. All preference share holders would be entitled to attend events where they could meet the players and ask questions of the manager and Board.

Who would lead the buy out? Well we would need a high profile fan of the club. How about Ray Winstone? I am throwing down the challenge to him and all West Ham fans! Let's save the soul of the club we love!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Fans Should Buy West Ham

I can't claim credit for this idea, it came from a poster on the Org who, subsequently, has been banned. I thought I would bring it to a wider audience.

The proposal is simple. To raise the £100m necessary, 50,000 fans need to chip in £2,000 each to buy a single share in the club. 49% of the club is then given, free of charge, to an investor willing to commit a net £20m a year to purchasing players for each of the next 5 years, whilst funding the day to day running of the club.

How would the fans find 2k to buy their stake? Well on mortgage, this would cost no more than £8 per month! £8 a month to own a stake in the club and to save that club from imminent demise? I'm in!

And who would take the 49% stake? Well Sullivan seems to have something similar in mind and I'm sure there are wealthier investors than him who would be prepared to commit!

Pie in the sky? Well better pie in the sky than the piss in the wind that all the other offers seem to amount to!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Plimpsole Line On The Claret And Blue Hull

This weekend is truly do or die. I well remember saying, the season we went down, that if we couldn't beat West Brom we would be relegated. We lost at home 1-0 in just the fourth game of the season and, as far as I was concerned, the writing was on the wall from that point forward. The critical defeat in the end was, of course, the 1-0 reverse at Bolton five games before the season ended and even a Trevor Brooking inspired Great Escape was not enough to keep us afloat.

Well if we lose at Hull, that is curtains. Hull are a poor team managed by a dead man walking and, despite their victory over Stoke, are there for the taking. If we can't beat that pile of shite, we don't belong in the Prem.

But how will Zola play it? Will there be echoes of that Bolton defeat, when we waited until we were behind before we looked like we wanted to win? Unfortunately Zola's approach has been to give the opposition a goal or two start before turning to his cavalry. Well, in my opinion, we cannot adopt a negative approach for this game. Cole is back and so is Ilunga. Diamanti must start at the top of a diamond, with Franco paired with Cole, and Hines and Stanislas available if necessary when the opposition defenders tire. Parker, Behrami and Collison pick themselves in midfield and Da Costa has earned the right to partner Upson in the centre of defence. Faubert or Spector at right back? I would go for Spector's extra height personally.

Zola must send out a positive message with his selection and the players should be told to wipe the floor with these toothless tigers! Should we lose, we will be hulled below the water line and the good ship West Ham will sink without trace, with the rats abandoning ship as soon as the January transfer window opens!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Another Day Another Defeat

It seems losing is now endemic. The reserves turned up at Norwich tonight and, against the stiffs of an old Division Three team, managed to go a goal down in the opening minute and lose 2-1. Of course the OS stresses that we were fielding a young side whilst Norwich had as many as THREE fringe Division Three players in their team; well that's okay then!

When a malaise sets in, it is desperately hard to turn things around. When a club is doing well, everybody is buzzing. When defeat becomes the order of the day, the fight goes out of everybody. Some collective arses need to be kicked but does anybody feel confident and secure enough to kick them? Dixon was playing, so was Grasser. And Eyjolffson. And Kurucz. And Kearns. These have all represented their countries at U21 or U19 level and yet they cannot beat Norwich City Reserves! Dear God!