Sunday, 31 October 2010

Relegation could be a blessing in disguise!

Looking at West Brom and Newcastle, should we be asking, "Would relegation be such a disaster?" Both have gone down, regrouped and apparently come back so much stronger - and under rookie managers at that!

I must admit that I fancied both to struggle and there is still time for the form of both or either to collapse, but looking at the Prem at the moment, it is difficult to see either going down. Newcastle are probably the best comparable with ourselves. They struggled for a couple of seasons and went down in complete disarray. But they then took the Championship by storm and seem to have grown as a squad for the experience. I always fancied Nolan as a player and suggested we should buy him before Newcastle snapped him up but, apart from him and Carroll, the team isn't all that. They are just playing with confidence.

Let's take the nightmare scenario for a moment. We go down. The wage bill would have to be cut. Cole would be sold. Big loss? Don't think so. Upson would go. Do we care? Not really. Green would leave. Does that matter? He has lost us as many points as he won for us over the last 18 months. Behrami would go, but Valedictory is on his way in any case. McCarthy would have to stay because Weight Watchers don't have a team, but he would score in the Championship anyway. Parker would leave but Parker should probably have been sold in any case. Dyer would also go, but he rarely plays so that's no great loss either and Boa would either have to play for peanuts or find a new club.

So clear out that lot and we would cut the wage bill by £350,000 PER WEEK, or £18.2 million per year! (And another £20,000 a week if Boa goes!) We would probably bring in £15 million in transfer fees too, effectively offsetting the loss in Premiership revenue for a season, given the parachute payments that now exist.

And so we face a season in the Championship. Wouldn't we have a team good enough to bounce straight back up, even without signing replacements for the big 5?

I fancy this team would take the division by storm:

Stech: Jacobsen, Da Costa, Gabbidon, Ilunga; Barrera, Noble (Captain), Hitzlespurger, Collison; Piquionne, McCarthy.

The subs bench would read: Kovac, Sears, Spence, Nouble, Boffin, Reid, Spector, Tomkins, Faubert, Hines, Stanislas.

True we look a little thin in midfield, but we have some good kids coming through. Maybe the Championship is the right place to blood them. Who knows, Sears, Nouble and Hines might finds their feet, banging in goals for fun and coming back to the Prem rejuvenated. Maybe Hall will come through. Maybe Brown will emerge as the new left back we so desperately need.

One thing is for sure, we couldn't come back a worse team than we looked all of last season.  Maybe a year down is exactly what we need. Sometimes, as Newcastle appear to be showing, you have to suffer major trauma and surgery to come back stronger. As Doomsday Scenarios go, it doesn't seem like the end of the World!

West Ham Fans Talk So Much Bull!

I had to laugh looking in on the Org today. The site's Great Auntie Endorsealot has stuck up a thread asking why we have had our worst start for 115 years and a right Charlie has come back at him and said,

"Sorry to be pedantic del but the facts you state are wrong mate. Here are our actual WORST starts (after 9 games) in the past 40 years:

1970 - 5 points

1973 - 5 ponits

1977 - 4 points

2006 - 5 points

Out of all these poor starts we were relegated in only one of them. COYIs!!"
Amazingly, nobody has come back at him and pointed out that in 70, 73 and 77, you only got two points for a win and in those days, only two teams were relegated! What a joke. Talk about shaping the facts to fit your bloody argument!
Of course Great Auntie Endorsealot can't resist telling us all why, despite saying, "I have my theories as to why but would like to hear yours and more importantly what can be done to turn things around!" Dear Great Auntie Del says it is all down to our failure to "revitalise" after shipping out Zola and, in particular, the failure to buy a centre back and a 15 goal a season fox in the box. Well last time I checked, we had Upson, Gabbidon, Da Costa, Tomkins, Ben Haim and Reid to play centre back! Does Great Auntie want us to play 6-3-1 perhaps? But why allow the little matter of facts to get in the way of a good argument eh? And as for this 15 goal a season striker, they cost in the region of £16 million the last time I looked, money we sadly do not have.
Grumpy has chipped in, of course, to tell us how he told us it would all end in tears when we appointed Zola. He forgets that he called it a masterstroke when we recruited Clarke! He also omits to mention that he claimed everything would get better once Carlton Cole was out of the team! One right, two wrong, but he is still claiming to be a mini oracle! Grumble, grumble, grumble,  grrr, grrr, grrr, bloody country, bloody foreigners, bloody Spain here I come!
Then there is the "We needed a high profile manager" argument with Martin Jol suggested by the Great Auntie as the knitting is put to one side for a moment. You know, Martin Jol, the guy who could not take a job recently because he is under contract at Ajax! And the same guy who led Spurs to their worst start for 115 years until he was replaced by the even higher profiled Oneday Ramos! Mark Hughes and Steve McClaren are also mentioned as Great Auntie sucks on a Werthers Original! Well Fulham were fourth from bottom under Hughes when the games kicked off at 3 pm on Saturday and a victory at home to Wigan does not a great manager make; even Zola managed that! As for McClanger, apart from speaking Cockney like Dick Van Dyke inside six weeks of arriving, what bloody use would he be?
Why have we had our worst start for 115 years? Because Catchabung disallowed a legitimate winner at Wolves, the same Wolves who defeated billion pound outfit Man City yesterday. Had that goal been allowed, as it should have been, we would have started today one point behind Liverpool. A sense of perspective Great Aunts, Grumpy Soothsayers and gentlemen, please!

Should that Nani goal against Spurs have stood?

Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes (right) protests after Nani struck
Our old friend, Mark Homer Catchabung was at it again! After disallowing Piquionne's perfectly legitimate winner at Wolves - we can't have an away team winning can we Mark? - he was at it again today, guaranteeing Man Utd a victory with a surreal goal against Tottenham.

Now I am not having the playing advantage nonsense. Nani clearly handled the ball. It was a free kick to Tottenham, pure and simple. In fact, Catchabung should have booked Nani for simulation and deliberate hand ball, as he took his exaggerated tumble in the hope of making it easy for Man Utd's twelth man to guarantee their victory.

Tell me, would the goal have stood if it had happened at the other end? Not in a million, biillion years! Catchabung would have had his card out in a flash, booking the Tottenham man for taking the dive and, no doubt, touching his forelock to Ferguson whilst he was about it!

Of course it was very funny to see Gomes look a complete arse and to watch 'Arry's 'ead corkscrew from off his shoulders, but leaving rivalry apart, the erratic refereeing of Catchabung is beyond a joke. He should have been stood down after the Wolves game; it's now time for the authorities to give him a long winter break!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Arsenal 1 West Ham 0 - Cruel Desserts

Alex Song heads Arsenal's winner against West Ham
Life is cruel at the bottom. We can't say Arsenal didn't deserve to win, they hit the woodwork twice and Green made two excellent saves and three good ones, but to hold out for 85 minutes and lose 1-0 was cruel. For one moment as Green appealed for offside, I hoped that Song was off as he netted, but sadly the goal was a good one and deserved to stand. It is hard to blame anybody, but we had dropped deep and Faubert sold himself desperately easily for a feinted cross, allowing all the time in the world for the final ball to be delivered.

The performance up until that point had been wonderfully professional. Yes we were lucky when Walcott struck the post after outstripping Ilunga and shooting across Green, and perhaps when Nasri struck the bar, although he was miles out and the ball hit the upper half of the woodwork so was not really in any danger of going in. Those moments apart, Green made three saves in the first half and three in the second, only one of which was out of the very top drawer.

There's not much more to add on the first half report. It was all about closing, closing, closing. Up front, we offered nothing in the second half. Piquionne was a shot bolt 5 minutes into the half and when Cole belatedly replaced him, he offered next to nothing. Mind you, by that stage, Obinna had nestled back into the midfield and had ceased to serve as a link to the lone front man. Once that happened, a goal was always likely to come because Arsenal were able to come at us in wave after wave after wave.

The real heroes of the performance were Green, Da Costa and Gabbidon, all of whom had superb games. To criticise any of them for the goal would be absurd. It was a superbly delivered cross that was impossible to defend for a centre half and goalkeeper alike. Once Song reached it with his head, it was always going to be a goal.

Boa, Noble, Parker and Behrami all did well in their role as defenders but, one Parker run apart, they were auxiliary defenders throughout the whole of the second half. Behrami was sadly summed up, however, when he diced with conceding a penalty and lost possession repeatedly. After Ilunga, he was the weakest player on show for me. Yes he runs, yes he huffs and puffs, yes he flings around his arms and legs but he is very ordinary in truth.

As for Ilunga, well he was my choice as Hammer of the Year a couple of seasons back but now, he looks off the pace, casual and frankly disinterested. Yes we need a goal scorer in January, but we desperately need a left back too.

Player Ratings: Green 10, Jacobsen 6, Da Costa 8 Gabbidon 8, Ilunga 5; Behrami 5, Noble 7, Parker 8, Boa 7; Obinna 6; Piquionne 6 Subs: Cole 5

Half Time: Arsenal 0 West Ham 0 - Disciplined, Organised, Professional - So Far!

Well that was a very impressive 45 minutes. Green has had to make one superb save and two goodish ones, but you would expect most Prem keepers to make them, and any keeper playing against Arsenal at the Emirates is going to see a bit of action over 45 minutes.

At the back, we have been organised and quick to close. Gabbidon made one brilliant tackle inside his box and another excellent block. He was very lucky not to see yellow for a late challenge on Fabregas, however. Ilunga was equally as unlucky to see yellow for a collision with Sanga - he jumped to block the ball and the Arsenal man ran into him. Of the four at the back, Ilunga is the biggest worry. Why does he jog when Arsenal players are running towards our box? He might not stand of chance of getting there but at least a sprint would suggest intent. Obinna also gave up on Sagna too easily for the cut back for Fabregas that led to Green's excellent double handed save.

Da Costa has been solid so far and Jacobsen has impressed, especially further forward up the right flank. This guy is more than just a journeyman defender.

The midfield have buzzed and closed at every opportunity. With the ball, we haven't done much but without it, we have played a good game. Noble, Boa, Behrami and Parker have all played their part and have been goodish at retaining possession when we have managed to grab it.

Up front, Piquionne has run across the line impressively and Obinna has done his best to link midfield to attack. Three free kicks, two delivered by Noble and one from Obinna have asked questions of the Arsenal back four but the keeper has been equal to the job so far. Had the ball dropped to Da Costa where he could see it, we might even have taken the lead.

I fear the introduction of Walcott second half. That will see us drop deeper to counter his pace and give more space for Arsenal to operate in in front of our back four. But for 45 minutes, we have done very very well. Heartening so far after the Newcastle debacle last week!

League Cup Draw - Glory Beckons!

Well we have the home draw we wanted but of all the teams to come out of the hat, it had to be Man Utd! Still, we stand more chance of beating them in a one off game at Upton Park than over two legs in the semi or at Wembley so who knows, it may be a good thing! Providing Grant picks a proper team of course!

Arsenal in the final? No problem if you use your head. Just ask Brooking!

Roll Up For The Turkey Shoot!

A quarter of the season gone and we are on 6 points. Keep this up for the whole season and we will end on 24. We need to add at least another 16 to stay up this year. It aint looking promising when you strip it down to the bare stats is it?

And talking stats, we go in to today's game having leaked 19 goals, and Arsenal having scored 21. That suggests Arsenal are going to bang in at least two and if spread betters were offering 3, you would mad to go anything other than high. Nasri and Walcott are scoring goals from midfield for fun, Fabregas is back and Chamakh looks OK. Bendtner also looked pretty impressive against Newcastle. Then there's Arseshavings to worry about too should he come on.

Still, we may have Upson back!

Is there any cause for optimism? Arsenal may swagger too early I suppose and forget they have to win the game first. But apart from that?

What do you do for this one if you are Grant? Pack the team with defenders and park the coach, hoping for a Green wonder show and a Zamora style wonder goal? Or seek to exploit the weakness at the heart of the Arsenal defence, accept that you will concede anyway, and look to score goals with fast counter attacking football. It is Option B for me!

Depending on fitness, my team would read:

Green: Jacobsen, Da Costa, Upson, Ben Haim; Dyer, Parker, Noble, Barerra; Obinna, Cole

If Piquionne is fit then I would play him ahead of Cole. If Dyer is out then bring in Behrami.

Who knows? It was a hell of a shock when Pardew's and Curbishley's teams won away at Arsenal, so miracles do happen in football!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Avram Granted a Stay of Execution

Either the papers have it in for him, or Sullivan and Gold really are poised to knife poor Avram in the back if we fail to win our next home game. The victory over Stoke seems to count for nothing, as do the string of impressive performances prior to the Newcastle debacle. All that matters to the Dildo Boys is getting out of the hole they find themselves in - and pronto!

It seems the game at the Emirates has been written off in advance. To sack Avram for losing to Arsene would be too obscene, even for two guys who made their millions out of sex aids. But next game up, well God help Grant if he loses because there will be no atoning for yet another defeat it seems.

So, like Isaac, Avram has been granted a stay of execution, but don't expect any pleas from angels to spare him if the Upton Park unfaithful turn their thumbs down at the end of the next home fixture. Sullivan will be the first to plunge in his knife but Gold will be quick to follow.

And poor Grant's final words?" "Et tu David. Then fall Avram!"

Behrami Suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder & Amnesia

Poor Valedictory Behrami has bared his soul and admitted to the extreme stress our poor players have been enduring since the start of last season. It is so tough being at or near the bottom of the Prem. Is it any wonder that the players crack, that when things start to go wrong, fear takes over and they go missing, or in Valedictory's words, they are "not there"? It's a bloody good job our troops in Afghanistan are made of tougher material isn't it? Who would you rather face, Carroll, Nolan and Barton or the bloody Taliban?

Mind you, Behrami is upbeat about our upcoming game against Arsenal because, according to our Swiss Cuckoo Clock, we have done well against the Gunners over the past couple of years. Have we? Well, we have lost our last two games against them, and haven't won against the Wenger Boys for seven games now, losing five!

Still, poor Valedictory is shell shocked and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder so it is no wonder the guy has gone a little Lady Gaga I suppose!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

League Cup Madness

What the Hell is going on? We took the field against Stoke with a kid in goal, two rookie centre backs, a centre half at left back, a lazy frog at right back, Boa and Kovac in midfield and McBenni up front. It was as if Avram was saying to Pulis, "Knock us out, please!". Yes we came through in extra time, but only thanks to ever present and so so precious Scotty Parker and the introduction of first team players Obinna and Mark Noble.

Tell me, if you were going to nominate one man to rest to save him for the Premiership, who would it be? Rob Green? Jacobsen? Gabbidon? Or Scott Parker? Never mind the risk of injury and burn out, Parker collects yellows cards at a rate of two every 3.5 games so there is the matter of a double suspension again this season to worry about. I'm not complaining about Parker playing, but I am querying the madness of resting key players from a winnable game when you are just three victories away from Wembley.

But Grant is not alone. How long is it since Newcastle won a trophy? And look at Hughton's team for the match against Arsenal last night! What a joke! No wonder Arsenal scored four times when Wenger, unsportingly, played a side resembling his first team rather than the under 15s. What a betrayal of the Geordie fans! 33,000 showed up, parting with their hard claimed benefit money, to see a reserve team trounced. No Carroll, no Barton, no Nolan...dear God, we would have beaten that team, even playing as we did in the second half on Saturday.

Villa were as stupid, and only scraped through against Burnley. Amazingly West Brom made ELEVEN changes and still thumped a very poor Leicester side but if they had lost, what a disaster that would have been!

The point is, if Arsenal and Man Utd meet ahead of the final, the door is open for a side to reach a Wembley final. How many years do fans of clubs like West Ham, Villa, Newcastle and West Brom wait for a Cup Final? Isn't football meant to be about winning trophies? Given Liverpool have an outside chance of winning the Europa League (as do Spurs if they finish third in their Champions League group) and Man City, Arsenal and Man Utd have an outside chance of winning the title, 15 clubs in the Prem started the season with only two trophies to play for - and yet managers treat one or both of those competitions with utter contempt. It is crazy, madness - and it is deeply disrespectful to the fans.

Of course it is all about money and the rewards of the Prem, but Everton are not going to win the title or get relegated, so their absolute priority should have been the cups. And the same is true of Villa and Liverpool. But two of those three are out because they picked absurdly weakened teams and Villa so nearly paid the price yesterday.

How do we feel this morning after the victory over Stoke? Great. How do Newcastle fans feel? Crushed. But it is just 5 days since the Geordies played us off Upton Park. Tell me, how has a 4-0 defeat helped the spirit inside St James' Park? How do Everton and Liverpool fans feel seeing Birmingham and Ipswich in the quarter final of the League Cup after victories over their lower division conquerors?

Will it all change now that it is two wins away from Wembley, will Grant, Houllier and company suddenly start to take the competition seriously? What years do we look back on with the deepest affection? The years we reached a cup final! Let's hope Grant goes for it 100% from now on!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Grant's Judgement is Perfect!

Scott Parker

Well he picked an odd team but, credit where credit is due, Avram made some inspired substitutions tonight and we came through as deserved winners. A second goal for Obinna should do wonders for the boy's confidence, whilst the pairing of Tomkins and Da Costa showed promise, after the 6th minute of the game.

The biggest plus was, again, the performance of Noble. His contribution for Da Costa's goal was, by all accounts brilliant and, after his belated introduction, he was again pulling all the strings in midfield. First half against Newcastle, he was brilliant and I posted a couple of games back that he had rediscovered his old form. We may just have an England midfielder on our hands here after all!

However, McBenni had a mare again. What a waste of money he is proving to be. And Carlton One Goal was unable to add to his one yard mishit against Newcastle.

What the hell. We are in the next round and Wembley beckons. Please God let Man Utd draw Arsenal in the next round!

And talking Arsenal, their 4-0 victory at Newcastle put our dreadful performance on Saturday into context and does not bode well for our next game!

Stoking The Fires Of Optimism - But Remember Everton!

Heady days, we are just three wins away from Wembley with a home game against a highly beatable Stoke City. Avram is within touching distance of immortality at West Ham. How many managers have taken us to a Cup Final? Syd King, Ron Greenwood, John Lyall and Alan Pardew are the only ones so far so Grant would join an elite band!

But will we blow it tonight? Grant is talking rotation and Nouble has been recalled from Swansea. I hope somebody has checked that he isn't cup tied! We don't want another Manny Omoyinmi!

Of course we have been here before and not so long ago. Back to December 2007 and we went into a home fifth round League Cup tie against an injury ravaged Everton and contrived to lose courtesy of a God almighty cock up between Green and Gabbidon.

I hope Grant's "rotation" goes no further than giving a start to Cole and Barerra. Green is playing better and does not need to be rested. The last thing Stech or Boffin need is to face the aerial barrage that Stoke threaten. After his showing against Newcastle, Ilunga should get no further than the bench, whilst Ben Haim would be my choice to partner Da Costa in the absence of Matty "I can't play cos I have a splinter and a corn" Upson.

The team will be announced soon. Will Grant embrace his destiny or blow it?

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Avram Grant's Decisions Are Flawed

The jury is certainly out on Avram. I have been a backer thus far, but I must admit that some of his decisions have left me scratching my head in bemusement.

Let's start with the Newcastle game. Now I can't criticise him for going with three up top because I was suggesting something similar before kick off. We desperately needed to win the game and, as I also said,, one goal was never going to be enough to buy three points. Of course, we are back to the old problem of Parker and Noble together in centre midfield, with neither contributing goals. Obinna has loads of promise but panics when he has sight of goal and Dyer, Boa and Barerra would not qualify for the adjective prolific would they? He hasn't played yet, but we are missing Hitzlespurger! So it was perfectly logical to bring in extra fire power, and with Cole netting from a Piquionne cross, it is hard to say Grant was wrong. The decision to go with Behrami seemed odd but, with Dyer unavailable what options were available? Could you pick Barerra in a three man midfield? That would be suicide! So it came down to Boa then. Boa or Behrami? Hobson's choice!

The mistakes came in game play, however. Once ahead, we surrendered the initiative and 4-3-3 became 4-5-1. Where was Grant at this point? Moving to 4-4-2 was simple enough, with Obinna told to play as a conventional left sided midfielder and Behrami told to stay wide. With Piquionne and Cole up top, we would have had much more chance of testing Newcastle at the back - and had they been tested, they would have wilted. But we dropped deeper and deeper and as good as invited them to first equalise and then score a second. Whatever was said at half time had no effect, unless we count making things worse!

But the strangest decision came with the "injury" to Upson, or should we say sit down strike? We were already struggling in the air so, with the loss of Upson, the logical replacement was Ben Haim. The Israeli had played well at Wolves at left back and is an experienced centre back. But Grant went with Ilunga instead. Why? He preferred Ben Haim the week before so what changed his mind? Inevitably, the winning goal came from a cross from our left, with Ilunga in no man's land, and a header. Surely leaving Gabbidon at left back and playing the taller Ben Haim in the middle would have made this less likely? So why did Grant make this perverse call? I would love to hear his explanation.

That was the latest in a string of odd calls. Why bring on Cole in the last 15 minutes when you need a goal? Why bring on Stanislas in the last minute at Old Trafford when you are three goals behind? Why start that game with Spector? Why pick Reid at right back at Villa?

To be fair, Grant doesn't make the same mistake twice in a row, let alone twenty times in a row like Zola. But twenty different mistakes are as bad as the same mistake made twenty times if it costs us points. I know it is easy to be critical when you don't have the responsibility but in each of the decisions identified above, both myself and my son were asking, "Why?" when the judgement calls were made by Grant.

Flawed judgement is disastrous in football management because the players start to lose faith in the man making the wrong calls. Soon, Grant is going to test Sullivan's patience and I don't fancy his chances of talking his way out of a corner once he has backed himself into it!

Where is Upson's backbone?

I am getting right royally cheesed orf with Matty Upson's "One has a twinge in one's body so one needs to be wrapped in cotton wool" attitude. Two weeks ago, he missed the game against Wolves because of a pain in his neck and on Saturday, he went down on his arse and refused to play on because of a bit of heat in his hamstring.

What sort of captain is he exactly? When the going gets tough, Upson sits on his backside, shakes his head and refuses to play on. I knew there was no point in sending on the physio on Saturday - you could have sent on an army load of medics and none of them would have persuaded Matty that he was fit for active service. When the guy feels a twinge, that's it, he is far too precious to play on! One word, without any physical examination, and the rolling hands signal was given. But was Matty stretchered off? Nope. Did he even limp when he walked from the field? Not a bit of it. Did you see one single wince of pain? Nah. Remember the Bolton game when Matty got a kick in the face? Did we see him do a Terry Butcher and return blooded but brave? No chance!

We now read that he is expected to be fit for the Arsenal game. Big bloody deal! Personally, I would rather have had him on the pitch for the remainder of the Newcastle game; perhaps then, we might have defended that Carroll goal a little better than we did. At least Ilunga wouldn't have been on the bloody pitch!

This isn't the first time Upson has pulled a sicky in mid game and, unless he gets a proverbial rocket up his arse, it won't be the last either. The guy has psychological problems, which explains his need of that Yellow Pages Witch Doctor who performs minor miracles to get him on the pitch in the first place apparently. Without the Yellow Pages boot padding (why a boot cannot be specially manufactured to the designs of a podiatrist is beyond me), Upson would no doubt be a paid up member of the Dyer and Hitzlespurger club!

Talking of which, what was Dyer's latest excuse?

Monday, 25 October 2010

Come in Pardew, your time is up!

Model Katie Downs takes part in a photocall to promote Ann Summer's new Marble Arch store on August 29, 2008 in London, England.

When he departed, zipping his flies, Pardew left the door open for a return some day. Leave it a while, he said, doing up his trouser bellt, like a guy leaving a toilet after a vindaloo. He also made all the right noises about West Ham being a great club and about having "unfinished business". Whether that was Mrs Fletcher or one of the other WAGS, nobody is quite certain. But love him or hate him, and I suppose that depends a lot on whether you are the WAG or the player, you can't deny that in that one great season in the Prem under Pards, we played some pulsating football.

Sacking him was foolhardy in the extreme in my opinion: even if the rumours are true, the Welshman was hardly a key member of the squad so should have been shipped out with a lump of money to keep his mouth shut, and his partner's legs firmly closed. A "final warning" would have sufficed for Pardew, with directions to a local massage parlour should he feel the need to dip his wick again.

Pards is out of work again and has two advantages as a possible appointment to help us out of our present predicament. He would come cheap and he could play second fiddle to Grant, with the Israeli "promoted" to Technical Director, leaving Pards in charge of team affairs - although perhaps affairs is an unfortunate choice of word in the circumstances!

Bring back Pards and we would have a motivator alongside Grant, a guy who would show some passion on the touchline and get the fans and players alike stirred up. Given that Sullivan and O'Neill would last five minutes together, Pardew is probably our best bet at the moment - although I have a hunch that Turds is S&G's first choice as Grant's replacement - unless he so queered his pitch when the Hull vacancy came up that the Dildo Boys won't touch him with...well an Ann Summers paddle!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Avram behind in the Grantazola Index. Bring back Zola!

So, a quarter of the way through the season, and Avram is now behind in the Grantazola Index, if you translate Newcastle for Hull City. The results so far have been:

Villa away - Zola 1 point, Grant 0
Bolton home Zola 0 Grant 0
Chelsea home Zola 1 Grant 0
Man Utd away Zola 0 Grant 0
Stoke away Zola 0 Grant 1
Tottenham home Zola 0 Grant 3
Fulham home Zola 1 Grant 1
Wolves away Zola 3 Grant 1
Newcastle home Zola 3 Grant 0

So it's Zola 9 Grant 6 so far!

Of course, Newcastle are a better team than Hull, so the comparison may be a littler unfair but that is what Grant has to deal with. This is a stronger Premiership than it was last year!

The headline is a joke; the idea of Zola returning would fill me with horror. But you can bet your life that Sullivan and Gold are not amused at the moment. Grant is making them look mugs so expect swift action!

Time to snap up O'Neill before Newcastle make their move

Yesterday was a nightmare. With optimism pumping on the back of a string of promising performances, we all came back to earth with a bump, and earth is rock bottom in the Premiership. Until yesterday we kidded ourselves that it was a false position. Until yesterday we pointed to Piquionne, Obinna and Barerra. Until yesterday we put our position down to a run of difficult fixtures. Until yesterday we said there must be three weaker teams in the division. Until yesterday a couple of wins would see us climb the table.

Who was it that wrote that song, "Yesterday, all our troubles seemed so far away?"

Before yesterday, there was talk of Hughton losing his job. He will probably still be shown the door before the end of the year and that makes it vital that we make our move now.

But hang on, I am an apologist for Grant. I have argued that we should back him. And I still rate the guy, far more than I rate Zola. But there is somebody available at the moment, somebody with a tasty track record, somebody who would get into the faces of our lazy, over paid primadonnas like a swarm of hornets at a Buckingham Palace garden party. Martin O'Neill is out of work!

He will be in charge of Newcastle before the end of the season if we don't make our move now. He may tell us to take a running jump anyway, preferring to wait for the Newcastle job. But, if there is any chance whatsoever of landing him, we should try. Under O'Neill we would not go down.

But would Sullivan and O'Neill be able to work together? It would certainly be entertaining for as long as it lasted!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

West Ham 1 Newcastle 2 - Time to Panic!

I said it was a must win game in the build up. I said that today's result would set the tone for the entire season. I said that anything less than a victory would spell trouble. Well for the first 12 minutes we looked superb; then after scoring, we surrendered the initiative and, from that point forward, never really got back into the game.

What went wrong? Well I'm not sure it is a coincidence that huff and puff Behrami's return coincided with our most disjointed performance in a long time. What does the guy offer exactly? Yes he harries opponents, but more often than not he gives away a free kick anyway. Offensively, he is a complete waste of space. Dyer was missing in inaction again - God knows what is wrong with him this time - and Barerra looked no great shakes after coming on, so perhaps Grant had little choice. I don't know.

What I do know is that, apart from some delicious passes from Noble in the first half, we looked like Zola was back in charge. Is it 4-3-3 or is it Behrami that makes us look disjointed and crap? Either way, Grant must see what Zola failed to see, that we aren't good enough to mess around with fancy formations. We need shape; without it, we are nothing!

The second half was appalling. I don't think we strung three consecutive passes together and Newcastle simply controlled the game. A better team would have stuck four or five past us! The decision to bring on Ilunga for Upson was perverse. We were already struggling against high balls into the box so the situation cried out for Ben Haim. It was no surprise to see a cross coming in from our left flank, with Ilunga absolutely in no man's land, and an absolutely unmarked Caroll rising to head home the winner. But what was Da Costa doing? As Caroll ran towards our goal to head home, Da Costa was running in the opposite direction! Had he seen a pretty girl amongst the Geordie fans at the other end perhaps?

Our goal was brilliant. It was a sublime pass from Noble, a brilliant run and cross from Piquionne and a clumsy but effective finish from Cole. But that apart, what did we offer. Obinna had a good 15 minutes but was awful apart from that. Noble had a fantastic first 45 but looked shattered in the second half. Parker was a spectator second half. Gabbidon was lucky to be given a free kick when he slipped, allowing Ameobi in. Ilunga was dire second half after coming on. Upson gave in to injury very easily again. Piquionne was missed hugely after he departed injured. And Cole looked ordinary.

We are bottom for a reason now. Sullivan did not look happy. Grant will be sweating. I would hold my nerve but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that a brown Volvo is chugging its way down the A12 as we speak. We were shit today, so maybe it is time for Turds!

Player ratings: Green 6; Jacobsen 6, Da Costa 4, Upson 6, Gabbidon 5: Behrami 4, Noble 6, Parker 5: Obinna 5, Cole 5, Piquionne 6 Subs: McCarthy 4, Barerra 4, Ilunga 3

HT - West Ham 1 Newcastle 1 Ten Minutes of Retreat So Costly!

Why, why, why? Why did we back peddle for ten minutes after going ahead? We had murdered Newcastle for 12 minutes, then we dropped back after scoring and invited them on! Result, Nolan equalised.

How good was Noble in that first half? The pass to Piquionne for the goal was sublime and two others for Obinna were absolutely top draw too. He is looking special at the moment!

Who knows how it will go second half. Obinna was poor first 20 minutes and missed a great chance to re-establish the lead but, last 20 minutes was our best player. I said we needed to score twice to win. Now, can we deliver?

West Ham v Newcastle - Grant Goes 4-3-3

Big surprise for me to see Behrami picked. No real surprise to see Cole start to be honest. I would have gone with McBenni but Cole, Piquionne and Obinna promise goals as a combination.

Team: Green: Jacobsen, Da Costa, Upson, Gabbidon: Behrami, Parker, Noble: Obinna, Cole, Piquionne

Time To Roll On Roly Poly McCarthy!

We have been playing well. For 45 minutes against Stoke, we were very good. We were excellent for most of the game against Sunderland. Against Spurs we were superb. We woke up in the second half against Fulham. And against Wolves we clawed ourselves back from the dead. But through-out, one thing has been lacking: goals.

To be fair, we did net twice against both Sunderland and Wolves but that plonker Catchabung single handedly kept the score down at Molineux. Apparently Mick McCarthy is thinking of signing him in the transfer window to play between the sticks!

And talking McCarthies, is this the time to roll on our roly-poly McBenni? I have been perplexed by Grant's use of Cole as a late sub when we are looking for goals. Against both Fulham and Wolves, Cole had a chance to win the game but failed to put away the opportunities. But that's hardly surprising is it? Poaching isn't Carlton's game; he is the honest gamekeeper who will put in a good day's shift but is unlikely to grab the headlines. McBenni is the exact reverse.

Can you see McCarthy posing naked for a testicular cancer awareness campaign? An Obesity Awareness campaign perhaps, but it would have to be a double page centre spread to accommodate the staples in his stomach. But fat bastard though he is, McBenni does have an eye for a goal as well as for a burger.

Today''s is a must win game for me, with the potential to define the whole season. I would like to see Obinna pulled wide left, Dyer played wide right and Piquionne leading the line with McBenni. We will need to score twice to win, so let's pick a team that bristles with scoring potential for a change.

I'm not keen on predicting a win for fear of putting the mockers on us, but I reckon Newcastle are due a hammering. How about a fiver on Dyer to score today too, based on the "Rule of the Ex"?

Friday, 22 October 2010

Will Stanislas ever start another Premiership game for West Ham?

I hope I am wrong, the boy is still not much more than a kid after all, but I have a hunch that Junior may be destined to play out his career in the lower divisions.

His rise to prominence under Zola was certainly meteoric. One moment he was out on loan at Southend and not really being talked about as a future first team player, the next he was being press ganged into plugging a hole in the team because of injuries and a threadbare first team squad.

Undoubtedly there was early promise, with a return of 6 goals from his first 19 appearances, but since then, the goals have dried up and the lad has looked either very short on confidence or a little short on class. In fact, since he scored in the 5-3 victory over Burnley back in November of last year, Stanislas has only completed a full 90 minutes for the first team once, either being used as a sub or being subbed off if he has started.

Can anybody remember a convincing Stanislas performance since the Burnley game? He was even withdrawn against Oxford in the League Cup game, having looked pretty ineffectual when on.

I argued through last season for him to be switched from the left flank to the right, on the basis of him being naturally right footed. Zola declined to do it and Grant has arrived and used him on the left too. The trouble is, the boy is so easy to mark when wide left. He automatically positions himself to come inside as the ball is passed to him, so the full back knows that there is no danger of being skinned on his outside.

I heard Lee Dixon talking on the radio about how, as a full back, he hated wingers that he couldn't read. He explained that, although not quick, he could handle the speed merchants who always tried to do him for pace on the outside, because he knew in advance what they would try to do. Equally, it was easy to mark a winger who always sat high, or always dropped deep, or always came inside. In Dixon's words, "Variety is the winger's most potent weapon and uncertainty is the biggest threat to a defender", or words to that effect. And there, in a nutshell, is why Stanislas is so easy to mark when played wide left. The defender KNOWS he will drift inside and so can read his next move.

Against Oxford, Stanislas tried to receive the ball wide left and dribble up the left flank. He used his right foot to control the ball and play it forward, and promptly kicked the ball into touch three feet in front of him. It was comic to watch because it was so pathetic. The Oxford full back was a big lump and I would have fancied my chances of skinning him, but Stanislas didn't do him down the outside once.

To be a success in the Prem, I am convinced that Stanislas either needs to switch to the right or be moved inside, playing on the shoulder of the striker. The trouble is, the one time he was tried on the right by Zola, he looked all at sea and utterly disinterested in the game.

Will he come again, or like others before him, will Stanislas simply slip down into the Championship to play out the remainder of his career?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

West Ham v Newcastle - The wheel turns full circle

The last time we hosted Newcastle, Zola was in charge of team affairs for the first time. A pulse of optimism was pumping through the club and, with the dark clouds of Turds uninspired drudgery swept aside, the sun appeared to be shining brightly on West Ham.

The team that day read:

Green: Faubert, Neill, Upson, Ilunga; Behrami, Parker, Noble, Etherington; Di Michele and Cole.

Di Michele scored twice - amazingly given what followed - and Etherington bagged the third in a 3-1 victory. At times, our play was truly pulsating and the sky suddenly seemed the limit. Indeed, after a victory away to Fulham in the next Premiership game, we went into the match against Bolton with the opportunity to top the table 8 games into the season.

And here we are, two seasons later, and 8 games into the season, and we are sitting at the bottom of the table. What a turn around!

However, as I keep saying, there are reasons to be cheerful, despite our league position. The team that will probably take the field against Newcastle at the weekend is stronger than the side fielded by Zola. Jacobsen is a better right back than Faubert, Da Costa is a better centre back than Neill, Ilunga could be picked so Ben Haim or Gabbidon are presumably better players if preferred, Dyer offers more attacking threat than Behrami, and Obinna and Piquionne are a better striking pair than Cole and Di Michelle. I would have Etherington over Boa, it is true, and Green's nightmare started in that home fixture against Bolton two games later, so was a better keeper then than he is now, but I would take this Grant team to beat that Zola team nine times out of ten, especially if the two managers were in charge of their respective teams!

If it has been an eventful two years for us, then what about Newcastle? Relegated that season and promoted again last, their recent history has been as black and white as their shirts. And that is true of their form this season too! The Newcastle team that day read: Given, Edgar (Bassong 59), Taylor, Coloccini,N'Zogbia, Geremi, Cacapa, Butt, Duff, Owen, Xisco and, that looks at least as strong a team on paper as the side they will field against us this weekend.

This is a game we should win. In fact it is a game we must win. Caroll is a threat, so are Nolan and Barton, but this is, in truth, a very average Newcastle team and, if we can't beat them, then we will struggle to avoid the drop. However if we win, as I expect, then it could be our springboard to climb the table. If we follow up with a cup victory over Stoke, what appeared a terrible start to the season will take on a whole new perspective.

The next seven days are absolutely huge!

Crimewatch Special - Da Costa v Andy Caroll - Girls watch out!

With the news in The Sun that Da Costa has been arrested for an alleged sexual assault, followed by affray, the match up between the rising Portugese star and Newcastle thug Andy Carroll promises to be a tasty affair on Saturday. God help us if there is a pretty girl in the crowd: the pair with have a punch up over who has first dibs, then abandon the game to get their ends away!

Da Costa joins a long tradition of West Ham men skating close to the law. There was Bobby Moore in Bogotta, Mark Ward and Frank MacAvennie, 'Arry and the tax heist, Davenport and the accidental collision of his forehead with his sister's face, Anton and the nighclub brawl, Carlton Cole and Tristan and their drink driving problems, and probably a host of others who I have forgotten. Wasn't Hutchison involved in something? He certainly had a "bad boy" image. Then, of course, there were the Icelandic owners and Scotty Duxbury and the Tevez affair!

If true, what a shame that Da Costa was out in a nightclub in the first place. The Newcastle game is a crucial six pointer and we need Da Costa absolutely focused on the game, not worrying about what might happen to him in the showers in a few months time. Still, should both Carroll and Da Costa be found guilty in their respective trials, there will be an open prison with a pretty tasty team some time soon. Perhaps 'Arry could be sent down for tax evasion to manage them!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

'Arry Nearly Out Of Jail On Bale!

Bloody hell, it almost makes you wish you were a Tottenham fan! 4-0 down in the San Siro at half time, the Tottenham players made their way forlornly to the dressing room with humiliation staring them in the face. What could 'Arry say? "Chin up lads, we shouldn't be in the bloody competition in the first place so what did we expect?"

Nope, none of it! I don't know what Redknapp did say, but what ever it was should be bottled and sold as a miracle cure for all ills. I didn't see the game - why would I  want to watch Tottenham play? - but what a second half that must have been! 'Arry and his boys so nearly got out of jail on Bale!

Gareth may look like a monkey but, on a football field, he is looking more and more like a divine creation. What a shame the guy is Welsh!

Sears on the comeback trail

So Freddie is out on loan again, this time at Scunthorpe. There was a time when we expected our striking wonderkid to do a Jermaine Defoe and transfer his talents easily from the demands of youth and reserve football to those of the Premiership; but those days are long gone.

Loan spells at Crystal Palace and Coventry suggested the boy's promise, except in one vital area, putting the ball in the net. True, he did have a perfectly good goal disallowed at Palace, when the referee failed to spot that the ball had not only crossed the line but hit the back stanchion and rebounded out, but that apart, he was as lethal in front of goal as a overweight Egyptian in a West Ham shirt.

Well, last night, Freddie, by all reports had an exciting debut for Scunthorpe. True it was only the Championship and true, Preston are struggling, and true Freddie went yet another game without scoring; but he did do the next best thing, firing in a shot that rebounded off the post and into the path of a team mate, who netted.

What's better, to score with a shot that rebounds out and results in a goal not being given, or to set up a goal inadvertently by hitting the post? Freddie must still be yearning for that first senior goal in the league but the signs are there that it will come soon. And hopefully Freddie Sears goals will be like London buses, you wait and wait and wait and wait, and then ten come along at the same time!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Sullivan Targets Disgruntled Wayne Rooney

With a chasm opening between Rooney and Fergie, Manchester United are seeking to avoid the disintegration of team spirit by loaning out the sulking England man in January, ahead of a permanent deal in the summer. Fergie is seething at the prospect of Rooney switching to one of Manchester City, Chelsea or Real Madrid and is insisting that, whilst a deal will be agreed in January, no move should take place this season that could strengthen rivals for the Premiership and Champions League crowns. That means that Rooney will either be paid to rot in the reserves or will be shipped out to a temporary home for the second half of the season.

It seems that any rapprochement is impossible following Ferguson's comments today regarding Rooney's failure to "respect" the club.  The ankle injury persists, but a bigger problem now is the clash of wills of the two big beasts at Old Trafford. Ferguson has always insisted that no player is bigger than the club and behaves as if the club itself is not as big as him. He kicked out Beckham and waved goodbye to Ronaldo; and Rooney is next.

The friendship between Grant and Ferguson may now be the deciding factor in facilitating a 5 month loan of Rooney to West Ham. Rooney, himself, is amenable to the idea, willing to entertain virtually any solution that will enable him to escape Fergie's revenge. Never mind flying boots in the dressing room, Rooney hates the idea of playing for the stiffs for the remainder of the season.

Sullivan is the only chairman in the bottom half of the division willing to take on Rooney's massive salary and Manchester United hope that, with Rooney playing for West Ham against their principle rivals in the Prem, he may just help the Mancs to the title anyway. As one source in the club said: "Wayne could still win the Premiership for Manchester United by helping West Ham to victory over Chelsea or Manchester City."

It is a win win win situation as they say. So stand ready for Rooney to wear Claret and Blue against Chelsea in April. A statement from Sullivan about West Ham's move is expected in the coming days!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Strachan shows he is a bigger wee man than Zola!

Full marks to Gordon Strachan. It takes a big wee man to put your hands up and say, "I've cocked up, I'm not up to this job!" But Strachan has done it at Miserableboro, chucking himself overboard early in the season rather than clinging desperately to the wheel and ignoring the perfect storm gathering around him.

Unlike Zola, Strachan has waived his right to compensation, accepting that he would be out of order to pocket a wad after doing a bad job. And this is all the more commendable because Gibson is a patient chairman who would probably have given the Scot as much time as he wanted - within reason. He stood by Robson and Southgate after all!

What a contrast with Zola, who was willing to drag the club down with him rather than do the honourable thing, and walk away from a job that he was clearly incapable of doing. And Zola, of course, like Turds before him, wanted his blood money.

You may remember that Strachan was a front runner for the West Ham job some years back. I can't remember who pipped him to it. Roeder? Or Pardew? Pards I think. I'm glad we didn't appoint him because I don't rate the guy as a manager but as a man, he deserves respect. Unlike our last two money grabbing managers.

Noble is back!

I didn't see the game so can't comment on his overall performance, but boy did he hit that penalty! And his reaction afterwards - brilliant!

The boy is back!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Level on points with Liverpool!

Yes we are bottom of the table, but what a table! So many teams are in false positions. Blackpool fought brilliantly again today but will slide backwards, just like Burnley did last season. Newcastle are wobbling; we need to nail them next week. West Brom are surely in a false position; that point at Old Trafford was down to dreadful keeping by Van der Saar, just as their result at Arsenal was courtesy of a nightmare keeping performance. Wigan aren't all that and will go down. Blackburn are ordinary with a capital O and Allardyce is clearly suffering from hubris after his "I should be managing Real Madrid comments". Bolton will struggle if Davies is injured. Wolves now go into a nightmare run of fixtures.

So the doom mongerers -like my old pal Grumpy King - should hold their peace for a while. Things are not as dark as they appear. We are level on points with Liverpool for God sake and despite what the Everton fans sang today, Liverpool are NOT going down. They will finish 8th, 9th or 10th and we are good enough to finish 8th, 9th, 10th or 11th. First half we were poor yesterday, and that needs to be sorted, but second half we were very good. But for the dual incompetence of Green and Clattenbung, we would have won that game.

One more thought though, if you need a GOAL to win a game, why send on Carlton Cole? Surely McBenni would be a better bet - even he can manage 15 minutes and, given half a chance, I'd back him to take it over Cole.

Arsenal Snarl Like Wolves. McCarthy's & Wenger's Post Match Comments.

I must admit that Mick McCarthy had me laughing out loud when he responded to the fact that no Wolves players had been booked by saying something along the lines of, "I know, they went out and played the opposition off the park for 45 minutes with passing football. What did they think they were doing? That's not what I tell them to do!" It was the perfect riposte to Danny Murphy.

And meanwhile, Wenger, through gritted teeth, had to admit that Wilshire deserved to be sent off after a terrible and potential leg breaking challenge. Am I alone in seeing similarities between that challenge and the ones that broke Eduardo's and Ramsey's legs? Wenger conceded that it was a red card challenge, but I didn't hear him giving Wilshire the same abuse as he directed at Taylor and Shawcross.

At the time of the Ramsey break, I pointed to the hypocrisy of Wenger. Now, let's hear how Wilshire should be suspended for three months or banned from the game for life. We don't want these sorts of challenges in football do we Arsene? Meanwhile, Mr Murphy might like to add Wenger to his rogue's gallery of McCarthy, Allardyce and Pulis! He really shouldn't fire his players up so much, should he Danny?

And back to McCarthy. What game was he watching when he called the foul on Obinna a "soft penalty"? It was a nailed on penalty in my book, and Shearer, Lineker and Hansen all concurred. Perhaps McCarthy and Wenger have more in common than any of us realised. They certainly both need to go to Specsavers!

Wolves 1 West Ham 1 - We was Robbed!

He did it again! And I'm not talking about Clattenbung this time!

Once again, England's Number 666 cost us victory with a terrible, elementary error. Once again Rob Green was found wanting on a cross, handing, literally, a goal on a plate to the opposition.

Watch Green's flap again. He actually took the ball off the head of Gabbidon. There wasn't a Wolves player within five yards of them and, had Green not panicked, Gabbidon would have headed the ball behind for a corner.

And look at the flap! He went at that cross like a girl! He didn't punch the ball, he pushed it, flapped at it, waved at it! You can almost hear the girly squeal as you watch him! Anybody would think the ball was covered in dog ordure or was an unexploded ordinance!

Some will come back and say, "But what about his saves?" and "Everybody makes a mistake sometimes" but keepers can't afford to make those sorts of mistakes, and when they do, it is invariably costly in terms of points. Look at Van der Saar yesterday! As for the saves, well again they looked pretty routine to me - I would expect every Premiership keeper to make those saves 99 times out of 100.

How many times has Rob cost us already this season? He was at fault for Villa's first goal, for Chelsea's second and arguably for their first and third too, and now for this one. I don't think we can afford to replace him because Boffin and Stech are both so raw in terms of experience, but the guy is a liability and has been for more than 12 months now. He is in the England squad only by default - Robinson won't play and the others are crap - look at Carson yesterday!

Yesterday the whole of the press box should have stood as a man, and made a choreographed salute back to Green. I warned at the time of his "Up yours" gesture that  it was an unwise thing for Green to do and yesterday showed why. Green has technical flaws in his keeping and, until they are resolved, he will continue to cost us crucial points.

Wolves 1 West Ham 1 - Clattenburg Should Be Stood Down!

Clattenbung does it again! I wonder how much he was paid for this one! (His match "fee" I mean!) How the bloody hell he saw a handball, when he was directly behind Piquionne when our goal machine chest controlled the ball and dinked it into the net, only Clattencunt can explain. Has he got X Ray eyes perhaps? If so, they weren't functioning properly because he saw a handball that didn't exist!

The decision was utterly outrageous. A superb, match winning goal was struck off by the idiot with the whistle.

Avram was very diplomatic after the game but Clattenbugger should be called before a disciplinary panel to explain how he thought he was in a position to make that decision. The assistant referee, in a far better position to see, didn't flag, so what exactly was Clattenbung up to? To make that call and rule out a legitimate goal with the very last kick of the match, is tantamount to cheating.

How could Clattenburg be arrogant enough to make that decision? I don't think we will go down, but if we do, and are relegated by two points or less, then the repercussions of this will be enormous. Referees get things wrong, they are, as Avram says, human. But it is the arrogance that infuriates me. There is no way in the world that he was in a position to judge whether or not the ball had been handled, so why was he making the call?

Shocking, disgraceful, incompetent...all those words are appropriate. But, given Clattenburg thinks he can call somebody a cheat when he isn't cheating, I will settle, by Clattenburg's own standards, for cheating. He booked Piquionne for cheating,  for a deliberate handball, even though the ball wasn't handled. Who is going to bring Clattenburg to book for that decision, a decision that he was not in a position to make, a decision that cost us a certain victory? He called Piquionne a cheat incorrectly. So, why can't we call him a cheat when he makes an absurd decision that handed a draw to Wolves in a game that they had fairly lost?

Some will say, "Suspend him! Strike him off! Investigate payments into his bank account!" This is one dodgy decision too many from Clattenbung in my book, and maybe it is time he was shown a red!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Upson and Barerra out!

West Ham's Mark Noble (right) celebrates with teammate Danny Gabbidon (centre) after scoring from the penalty spot

Upson has a pain in the neck, Barerra is jet lagged. In come Ben Haim and Dyer! So Tomkins, Ilunga and Reid are well down the pecking order it seems!

Will Ben Haim or Gabbidon play left back? Worried that Jarvis and Doyle will have a field day irrespective of who plays where!

Cage Fighting with Wolves is Fraught with Dangers!

Never mind the risk of leg breaks, going in to the Molineux cage today is fraught with dangers because this Wolves side can play a bit. It is one of the oldest cliches in the game that the table does not lie but, this season, we are seeing the exception to the rule.

Liverpool are not a bottom three club. Sadly. We are not the worst team in the division. Happily. And Wolves are a much better side than their position in the table indicates. Worryingly.

I had the misfortune to witness our mauling at Upton Park in the must win six pointer last season. We were awful, with Tomkins, Behrami, Upson, McCarthy, Green, Diamanti and Spector and Stanislas, after they came on, the worst of a very bad bunch on the night. Only Franco looked half decent and he wasn't brought on by Zola until the game was lost.

However, credit where credit is due, Wolves played very well on the night. In Murphy's words, they were "fired up", in the right way, whilst our useless bunch looked as if Zola had slipped them a Mogodon each to help them cope with the stress of the relegation battle. It was like watching a pack of wolves tear a rabbit apart - cruel!  But ask me who played well on the night and, apart from Jarvis and Doyle, I couldn't tell you. The truth is, everybody did, the whole Wolves team hunted and chased and harried and played as a pack, whilst Behrami, Diamanti, Stanislas and company all ran up their individual blind alleys.

We are, of course, better than we were at that point last season - although our table position suggests otherwise. Jacobsen is talking about us finishing in the top 10 and, based on recent performances, that may not be a bad shout. However, Wolves are a better team too, having added Fletcher to their ranks. There is a question mark hanging over Doyle but, if fit, he scores against us for fun and, stretching back to his Reading days, he has many happy memories of games against West Ham! Those two pose a real threat to Da Costa and Upson.

That said, we must not play up their strengths. Player for player we at least match them, right across the pitch and, in many cases, our players are superior. When we played them last season, we didn't have a manager worthy of the name and that has been addressed too. Piquionne and Obinna must be a better pairing than a lame Carlton Cole and a sixteen stone Benni McCarthy. Our defence is stronger, our midfield is playing more as a unit. We can win this, just as we won the corresponding fixture last season, but if Wolves get in amongst us early, this match has the potential to burst our bubble of confidence.

Our players will have to stand up tall and be counted this afternoon. I don't agree with Murphy, I don't think this Wolves team is dirty. However, they are hard in the way that Stewart and Dicks and Bonds and Hartson and Repka and Cross were hard. If we flinch, they will maul us. We must stand tall, draw their teeth and then use our superior guile to slay them. But I'm nervous myself, and I don't have to get into the cage for the fight with Wolves!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Malcolm Allison - A Casestudy in Style over Substance

At the risk of being accused of being disrespectful, I am finding these eulogies for Allison more than a little stomach churning. Read some of the nonsense and you would think the guy was a coaching genius who stands alongside the likes of Shankly, Murinhio, Clough, Paisley and Ferguson for his achievements in the game. I've read stuff like "visionary" and "ahead of his time" but, the brutal truth is that Allison actually achieved precious little in the game.

At West Ham he is remembered affectionately as a mentor of Moore and for his stylish approach to the bruising business of playing centre half. No doubt Allison played his part in developing Moore as a player - but he also had a part in leading the young man astray too. Allison was always a superstar in his own mind and loved the playboy lifestyle. In that sense, he was ahead of his time, a forerunner of the mega ego merchants who see themselves as bigger than the game that provides them with a living. What did Malc win as a player at West Ham? The same as we have won for the last thirty years - nowt!

And so to management. Allison was the brilliant coach who guided Man City to the old First Division title and FA Cup glory but, oddly, when he replaced the aged Joe Mercer as manager, Man City's fortunes nosedived. If you want a modern parallel,  look no further than Redknapp and his "super coach" Glenn Roeder! 'Arry had a thing or two to say when Roeder was appointed and none of it was terribly complimentary. I remember something along the lines of "Coaching aint management and no coach has ever won anything." As a manager, Allison lasted less than a season at Man City - he just was not up to the job. Yes the players liked him but, as Zola showed, popularity with the players aint the same as winning!

And so began a career of failure as a manager - apart from a taste of glory at Sporting. That apart, what did Allison every achieve? Club after club were duped into appointing him, only to relieve him of his duties in next to no time - a bit like Glenn Roeder actually! Yes he took Crystal palace to an FA Cup semifinal but so what? John Duncan managed that with Chesterfield and he wasn't a guru in footballing coaching and management was he? Allison took Palace down to the old Third Division and failed to win promotion in his first spell and only lasted two months when he returned to the club. The Fedora hat nonsense was the enduring image of not only the cup run but of Allison's entire career as a manager. Never mind trophies, Allison wore a silly hat!

Allison was also a "visionary" because, in his second spell at Man City, he single handedly ushered in the era of the mega transfer fee, paying silly money at the time for Joe Ordinary players like Michael Robinson and Steve Daley, offering them absurd salaries into the bargain. He also recruited foreign players with big reputations but with no passion for the club or fans. Welcome to the modern era! Thanks Malcolm, the fans owe you everything!

Then there were the relationships with "celebrity" models and porn stars. In fact, if you look closely at everything that is considered wrong with modern football, you will see Allison's finger prints. He even introduced training regimes designed to manufacture the super fit, athletic footballer. Typically, he was also an alcoholic.

So great player? No, he won nothing and was never capped at international level. Great manager? No, beneath that Fedora, Allison was dressed in the King's new clothes. Great man? No. He knifed his mentor Joe Mercer in the back and always put himself first: before the club that employed him, before the players, before the fans and before the best interests of the game that made him into a superstar in his own egotistical universe. The media loved him because Allison and the media fed off each other.

It is a shame that Allison has died but a bright light in the football firmament has not been extinguished. He was a B Movie actor dressed as a Hollywood superstar but when it came to saying his lines, he was always found wanting.

Rest in peace Malcolm Allison - you will be missed no doubt by some, but not really by the game that you milked for all it was worth.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Move Over Dyer, Hitzlsperger's Here!

Well suddenly it all makes sense doesn't it? We were scratching our heads wondering why a German international with 50 plus caps ended up at West Ham...and now we know! The guy is the latest in a line of damaged goods bought off the back of a lorry, with no money back guarantees.

I remember the sense of utter amazement when Stewart Robson, a projected Arsenal and England captain joined us for £700,000 in January of 87. It seemed like a late Christmas present at the time, but it turned out that Arsenal knew the lad was carrying a deep seated and career threatening injury. 61 games later, spread over four and a half seasons, and Robson was sent to Coventry on a free. True he was Hammer of the Year in 88, but the injury was a ticking time bomb that exploded in our faces.

Then there was Ashton, who arrived wrapped in more bandages than an Egyptian mummy. Once again, there was this sense of "Bloody hell" when we landed him for a tasty £7.25m. This boy was good. This boy would play for England. This boy belonged at Liverpool or Manchester United. But this boy was as fragile as a porcelain bowl in a bull ring and the clubs in the know nodded sagely and allowed dopey West Ham to take the gamble. True, again, it looked like a major coup for a while, but after just 43 starts in all competitions, Ashton's career was over.

And don't forget Nigel Quashie. Who could forget Queasy? £2m and £20k a week for a man relegated with three different clubs! Thank God injuries limited him to just 8 starts!

And then came Ljungberg, the man who collapsed at a whiff of cheese! £3m to buy, £4m to buy out his contract, and £5.5m in wages, all in return for 25 starts and 2 goals!

And along came Dyer too, for a fee of between £6m and £7m and an annual salary of over £4m. Now in his fourth season, Kieron has made just 13 starts and has not yet completed 90 minutes. This one had "Fragile, handle with care" written all over him but what the hell, we bought him and paid him a King's ransom regardless.

And then in waddles McBenni! Pound for pound, a bargain at £2m and £43k per week for an eighteen stone striker! Two starts, five appearances as a sub and no goals to date! And we mustn't forget Mido! He was only being paid a grand a week but that was a grand a week too much!

And now we have Dyer's German equivalent, less Der Hammer and more Derr Heishandicapped! When we landed him, we were assured that Hitzs had fully recovered from his injury problems and was raring to go. But, like Dyer, he performed in a handful of pre season friendlies and then, when the real action was just about to start...oops there goes another thigh muscle!

There are others of course. Bellyache missed more games than he played. Upson was bought to save us from relegation but only made two starts in the Great Escape season. Boogers was on day release from an asylum. Jimmy Greaves was a piss head when we took him from Tottenham. Dale Gordon managed just 9 starts after being bought for £750,000; he left for Bournemouth on a free. Don Hutchison made just 13 starts after we resigned him. Gary Charles was signed for £1.2m and made 3 starts! Ilunga was unbreakable when on loan but once he had that full time contract his body suddenly fell apart. Rob Jones managed just one start after joining from Liverpool. Savio had nappy rash and Taricco lasted half a game, a defeat to Millwall of all teams!

We should know by now: if it looks too good to be true, it bloody well is. This is West Ham!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Why would we want Tottenham's O'Hara?

Is this just lazy journalism or are we really still sniffing around Jamie O'Hara? When Tottenham wanted Parker, I could see some sense in the deal, but with Super Scotty left high and dry at Upton Park after Spurs snapped up Van der Vaart instead, why do we need yet another huff and puff merchant in midfield?

Okay, we look likely to shed Valedictory Behrami in January but we still have Parker, Noble, Hitzlespurger (assuming he will play again), Boa, Collison, Dyer (if he hasn't got M.E. or Maleria or the Plague), Stanislas, Kovac and Barerra. How many midfielders do we need exactly?

These rumours have been incredibly persistent though. I would rather see a flair player signed than the frankly workmanlike O'Hara however, and the injury record of the Tottenham man alone should be enough to persuade us to avoid him like the...well like a Kieron Dyer disease!

So why exactly would we want to sign Jamie O'Hara? Looking at that picture, I could understand it if Pardew was still in charge!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Liverpool Taken To Penalties!

Well their fans appear before the beak for benefit fraud and burglary on a weekly basis and their players have spent their share of time in the dock, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before Liverpool FC itself ended up in court!

What a shame Gerrard was on England duty otherwise he could have been a star witness in the case. "Eee I didn't head butt him like, eee I was just leaning forward to say something to him in the bar and his nose eee like came in contact with my forehead." Wrong case Stevie, wrong case! "Eeee sorry like, eeee I never had sexual relations with that 16 year old girl. Eeeee I..." What are you talking about Stevie? This is about Hicks and Gillet! "Eeee, sorry. Eeeee I didn't know the razor blades was hooky like, eeee, this guy was selling them in the pub and eeee I thought he worked for Gillette like." Next witness!

Which way will the decision go tomorrow? Who knows! It's a court case of two halves, it could go either way, but one thing is guaranteed, what ever the result, come the final whistle one side or the other will be moaning about the officials!

Can it go to an appeal? Let's hope the bank forecloses on that loan and Liverpool suffer a nine point deduction! Wouldn't it be great to be above Liverpool in the table?

More Question Marks Against Capello

Tell me, given he has no intention of leading us into the World Cup, what exactly is the point in keeping Capello in charge through to the European Championship finals? Where is his motivation to build a team to win a World Cup exactly? He isn't English so he doesn't give a damn about the nation and, given he will not be around, why will he put the emphasis on youth?

I backed the selection of Davies because I like the guy. He is passionate. He gets stuck in. he fights for the shirt. And he is not without ability. But he is 33!

Tell me, as well as he played tonight, where is the point in "re-appointing" Ferdinand as captain? He may be around for Capello's big farewell but what chance is there of him leading us to the next World Cup? Virtually zero I would say.

But never mind the dubious personel, what is most worrying is Capello's utter lack of a plan B. Remember all that talk of 4-5-1 and 4-3-3 at the last World Cup? Remember the campaign to get Gerrard playing higher up the pitch? Capello doesn't! Gerrard sat as deep as Barry through-out the first half and only really started to get forward in the last 15 minutes.

When it clearly was not working, Capello had the chance to change things. But what did he do? Davies for Crouch - like for like; and Wright-Phillips for Young. The only difference was that we were ten inches shorter as a team after the substitutions!

Tell me, what is the point of having a manager if that is the best he can come up with? Any thought of taking off Crouch for a midfielder and moving Gerrard forward? Nope.

Let's jettison Capello now. Make Pearce the "coach" and ask 'Arry to manage the team on a part time basis. We couldn't do any worse!

Official Site spinning for all it is worth!

Don't you just love the headline, "Perfect preparation for Wolves"? To be fair, the article refers principally to the victory over the mighty Daggers, but it does sort of gloss over a few important details.

Little matters like Winston Reid and Barerra flying half way around the word to compete in international fixtures. Then there is the continued absence of Hitzlespurger and Dyer. And the continued goal draught of Carlton No Goals - although according to the OS, 45 minutes of goal-less action against D&R sees Cole putting increased pressure on Piquionne and Obinna.

If I was outlining the perfect preparation for a crucial six pointer relegation battle, it wouldn't involve any game on the Monday before and nor would it include Green, Da Costa, Barerra, Reid and Jacobsen being away on international duty.

I don't want to put a reverse negative spin on things - I am sure there were some pluses, not least the three goals, with McBenni rounding off a 23 pass move from the kick off the highlight. I just wish the OS would stop spinning like New Labour on speed. 

Monday, 11 October 2010

Dagenham & Redbridge 2 West Ham 3 - Still no sign of Der Hammer or Dyer

I'm not too sure of the wisdom of the friendly / testimonial personally - how daft would it have been if a key player had suffered an injury - but we won again and so I suppose we can count that as another confidence boost - well for most anyway.

Sadly, Carlton went another 45 minutes without finding the net. True he had a hand in setting up McBenni for any early goal, but what he desperately needed was a goal himself to boost his confidence. Let's face it, scoring against the Daggers can't be that hard because even Freddie Sears managed it tonight!

The other Freddie was on target too, with Piquionne burying yet another header. Carlton must be feeling pig sick right now, or Dyer sick at any rate!

Conceding two goals against D&R doesn't look too clever, but there were a lot of kids out there come the end, with a young keeper between the sticks so we shouldn't read too much into that.

The major disappointment, Cole apart, was the failure of either Hitzlespurger or Dyer to make an appearance. What price Dyer now has ME? As for the German, you wouldn't have wanted him with you at Stalingrad would you?

Another potentially significant absentee was Faubert. I've not heard anything about him being injured and he wasn't on international duty was he? A touch of the Gallic sulks perhaps?

What about Green Street?

In all the talk about the pros and cons of moving to the Olympic Stadium, I've heard nothing about the effect the move would have on the businesses in Green Street, the Barking Road and the surrounding area. West Ham fans may reply, "That's not our concern" but that would be a mean spirited reply given the way we have benefited from the fantastic service from some of the pubs and eateries in the area.

I have been amazed each time I have visited the Queens Fish Bar by the speed of service, the quality of the food, the size of the portions and the great value for money. Who could blame a business for raising prices on match days, but Queens play it straight down the line and allow fans to enjoy the same great deals as the Monday lunch time punters. How easy would it be to say the meal deals don't apply on match days? But no, Queens play fair by West Ham fans and hold both the prices and honour the special deals. How many of us have had our match day experiences enhanced in this way? But if the club up sticks and buggers off, what happens to this business? And others like it?

Where do you have your pint on a match day? The Boleyn, the Duke of Edinburgh, another pub in the area? What about the pie and mash joints? The owners of these businesses have no say in what is going to happen. Shouldn't we be concerned about them? Don't they deserve a voice in this process?

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Carlton Cole to join Match of the Day panel!

Carlton has revealed that being dropped from Capello's squad came as no surprise, that he was even expecting the axe. Goodness me, such foresight, such prescience!

You do wonder how Cole reached this conclusion ahead of the announcement. No goals scored, a missed penalty, unable to get into the team of the club that currently sits at the bottom of the Premiership - and Carlton managed, through incredible powers of deduction, to conclude that Capello would not see him as the man to lead England's attack!

It seems to me that Carlton must have a career in football punditry. With this uncanny ability to understand the sub text of the game, he is surely ideally qualified to join messers Hansen, Shearer, Lawrence and Lineker. Of course, Alan and Gary could have no end of fun comparing their scoring records at club and international level with Carlton's and the two former Liverpool centre backs would revel in reminding Cole of how many times in his career he has scored against Woy's Weds - once in a West Ham shirt, in a 2-3 home defeat.

Cole & Upson Stock Continues To Plummet

Every now and then, I look in on Redmayne Bentley's recommendations on which stock to buy, which to hold and which to sell. Success and failure in the stock market hinges on timing. Buy at the wrong time and you are dead, sell at the right time and you can make a mint. Unfortunately, at West Ham we have excelled in getting it wrong over the years!

Look at the sale of Carrick, Johnson and Cole. How much did we bank for those three? A combined total of £15m! Carrick alone was sold for £16m when he joined Man Utd from Spurs, and Johnson, laughably in my opinion, cost Liverpool £17m! Did we even insert sell on clauses when we allowed our London neighbours to steal them away from us? Of course not, this is West Ham!

In the case of Cole and Upson, we have done the reverse. Not so very long ago, there were rumours of £15million bids for Carlton. He was looking good, scoring goals and was a fixture in Capello's England's squad. Did we sell? Of course not! Why sell when your stock is touching maximum value, let's wait until the value plummets and then let him go for a fraction of the price.

Look at Carlton now, he isn't in the England squad, isn't scoring goals and can't even get into our starting eleven. Who, apart from Woy, is interested in Carlton now? And when Woy is shown the door by Liverpool, who would buy Carlton then? I suspect that we would be lucky to get £5million for Cole now, a depreciation of £10million in the space of 10 months!

Upson is another prime example. The former England man might just command a transfer fee of £3million now, even with a long term contract. But with his contract running down, he will be available on a Bosman come next June. Like Cole, he has lost his place in the England squad, and like Cole he has been exposed as little better than ordinary.

I will put my hands up here and admit to being a fan of Cole. But, as highly as I have rated him in the past, I have always said that, at the right price, we should cash in. Instead we have played him out of form and missed our opportunity to bank enough funds to buy a high quality replacement.

Want an example of how we get it wrong in the opposite direction? Look no further than McBenni. Never mind the transfer fee, how much have we wasted on that guy's wages since January?

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Zola Makes Case For Clarke

Gianfranco is playing golf in Scotland and has interrupted his out nine to endorse Clarke's application to become the next Hibernian manager.  Zola said:

"He has been a brilliant assistant manager for me and I believe he is ready to go into management in his own right. His experience and knowledge of the game is huge and I believe he will be a good manager, whether it is for Hibs or somewhere else. I think his best qualities are his organisation, he is extremely thorough and his training sessions are brilliant. Players enjoy working with him. He was a great help for me as a young manager. Having worked with a great manager like Mourinho he knew the game well from every position and I will always be grateful for all the help and guidance he gave me."

Wonderful stuff, you would give Clarke the job on the back of that ringing endorsement wouldn't you? Unless, of course, you looked at the results we achieved under the management team of Zola and Clarke. Let's just look at a little word substitution here shall we?

"He was a great help for me as a young manager in finishing with the worst win ratio of any manager in the history of West Ham United football club. Having worked with a great manager like Mourinho, he knew the game well from every position and I will always be grateful for all the help and guidance he gave me in achieving the lowest points total any West Ham side has accumulated over a full Premiership season."

There, that cuts through the bull and gives a slightly clearer picture, doesn't it? If club chairmen look at the record book, Zola will be tartan around his former assistant until the highland cattle come home!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Liverpool FC, the New Brookside!

I well remember Brookside. Like Liverpool FC, it was always second best to its Manchester equivalent, but it was always good for a laugh, always good for ridiculous drama. Watching Scousers and Scallies tear each other apart had a certain amusement value.

Brookside was buried beneath the TV concrete patio some years ago now, but Liverpool FC have stepped into the breach and become our twice weekly whiney voiced soap. We thought they had plumbed the depths when they crashed to defeat at home to Blackpool, but now we have the glorious spectacle of the American owners trying to snatch Administration from out of the jaws of a sale.

Now I don't understand, personally, how the club can be sold without the approval of the owners; it seems a bit like a lodger selling a house without the landlady's consent. Nor do I understand how Administration would suit Gillet and Hicks better than a sale. But what I do know is, it is bloody funny watching it all go off from the outside.

I hope the Yanks win this legal battle and Liverpool are deducted the 9 points for Administration. Who knows, they might then become live relegation candidates if Torres flounces off in January and Gerrard picks up a few injuries. How the mighty have fallen?

The question actually is, how much further might they yet fall?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Craig Levein Fury Over Scotland Team Selection Leak

Not surprisingly, Scotland manager Craig Levein is angry at the leak by a newspaper of his proposed team for the game against the Czech Republic. It is obviously going to help the Czechs to know that Scotland will take the field with the following team:

McCrap: McCrap, McCrap, McCrap, McCrap: McCrap, McCrap: McCrap, McCrap: McCrap and McCrapiest of the lot!

Sullivan & Gold could learn from Chichester City!

Loved this story from Yahoo News!

"Non-league side Chichester City may have made football history by becoming the first club to sack their manager with a phone call during a match. Boss Mark Poulton was in the dugout for last month's Sussex Charity Cup match against Redhill when he got the call from club director Gary Walker telling him they were reinstating his predecessor, Adie Girdler, who had been sacked at the end of last season.

Poulton told The Sun: "I must be the first manager in football history to receive a call during a game to say that he had been fired. I couldn't believe it. The club are a complete mess and a shambles - I'm better off out of it. During the second half I had a call from Gary Walker, one of the directors, who said he was sorry to interrupt me and then told me I'd been sacked."

City were winning 2-1 at the time of the call, just when Poulton had serious on-pitch matters to deal with. "It could not have come at a worse time as one of my young players, Nathan Paxton, had just been taken to hospital after breaking his jaw, cheekbone, nose and eye socket in a collision with their keeper. But there had been a lot going on ever since I started at Chichester and I feared it might end like this."

The shock dismissal is another chapter in a tumultuous year for the Sussex County League One side. Girdler, a significant shareholder in the club, was sacked at the end of last season and replaced by Poulton in the £200-a-week job. Club chairman John Hutter was then suspended by the board in early September as the row over Girdler's sacking escalated.

Poulton is currently looking for a new role in the game as he continues his day job of running a security firm."

Will Avram have his phone switched off during games in future I wonder. I could just imagine Sullivan reading this and getting a twitchy finger the next time we fall behind in a game! "Oy Avram, you're sacked, as a major shareholder I'm in charge of team affairs from now on. Before you go, get that cnut Upson off and send on Ben Haim!"