The David Hautzig Column

Maybe There Is A Plan Now?

Robbie Earle, one of Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang members, said something here as a studio analyst for NBC’s coverage of the Premier League that some might find crazy. He said, more than once, that this West Ham side should have been mid-table and challenging for Europe as opposed to surviving by the skin of our teeth. But is that crazy? While saying anything that could be construed as Pro GSB hurts me like one of those leg cramps you got growing up…growing pains my mom called them…I think I agree with him. And if that’s the case, what do I expect and want from this window?

Not a lot.

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In fact, if we did absolutely nothing I’d be less afraid of relegation than I was a few weeks ago. If Moyes has shown us anything in his two spells it’s that he is a good coach. Probably a far better coach than Bilic or Pellegrini in that he can take existing players and make them better when needed. Arnautovic as a striker? Why was Moyes the only one to think of this at any time through Arnie’s career? Other managers used Antonio up top in emergency situations, which at West Ham seem to occur every other Tuesday, but with no success. One thought right back was a stroke of genius. Bless him. Yet Moyes not only put him in the strikers seat, he also gave him specific instructions as to how he wanted him to play in that role. Antonio said as much after his goal explosion at Norwich.

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There are some other examples, notably Ogbonna and Rice, both of whom seemed to improve under Moyes tutelage. Yes, the additions of Soucek and Bowen were instrumental and helped support both Oggy and Dec, thus allowing them to work with far less angst. But if we are to blame managers when things go south, Moyes has to be given credit for Soucek and Bowen because he was at the helm when they joined.

I’m even cautiously optimistic Moyes could help Fredericks become a better defender if he stays, which I believe he will. Impossible, you say? Well, if you remember what a train wreck Winston Reid was under Moron Grant you know that such reclamation projects aren’t impossible. Regardless of what you think of his four years at the club, Sam taught Reid how to defend. Moyes might be able to do the same with Fredericks. If he can, that would truly be like a new signing, one that could help end the rot of losing more points than any other team from winning positions.

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Up front we have the curious case of Haller. Some have decided he is useless. A flop. A snowflake unable to handle the rigors of the EPL. Let me ask you something. If you owned a restaurant, would you hire a chef from a competing establishment that specializes is fine seafood and expect him/her to crank out Hawksmoor worthy steaks, cooked on a stove you bought at The Home Depot? Haller was fantastic, top drawer, when teamed with Jovic. Yet we wanted him to be Drogba 2.0, then quickly judged him as Zaza 2.0. If Moyes doesn’t think he’s up for it, fine. But I would much rather keep him and play him correctly, with Antonio lurking around the box as instructed by Moyes.

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Covid has turned our normal internal calendar into total mush, and mine has reset to something like this;

With only a few weeks to go until 2020/2021 kicks off, I think we have a chance to keep the form we showed for the final six matches. That form ended up being our lifeboat, because we very well might have gone down without that points haul. And under that lens, Soucek and Bowen are kind of like summer signings, and we are just taking an unusually long international break. Hate ‘em or just dislike ‘em (notice liking them isn’t an option), GSB did spend a ton of money on their Pellegrini Project and it did not go that well. So I understand the need for a little fiscal responsibility, even if that’s not palatable on Twitter.

My friend and West Ham Yoda, Nigel Kahn, has often said the focus each window should be on bringing in one or two better players, and then integrate them into a squad that is being improved by the manager and his staff. I think if we do that this summer, we could go to the next level. And before any of you lose your cookies over that, the word “next” is of the utmost importance. For us, that means somewhere above the bottom five. Then, it will mean mid-table. Then, if we are lucky, it will mean consistent top half with the occasional flirtation with Europe. Any ideas that we can do better than that anytime soon are likely pipe dreams.

That’s called a “plan” in case you’re reading this, Mr & Mrs Board.

Maybe it’s time we tried that.

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Nostalgia

Meeting Bobby Moore

I had an email from a susbcriber to my weekly newsletter, mainly about politics, but at the end he told this anecdote, which he has given me permission to share with you…

As I was born in East London I must admit to having a soft spot for the Hammers, even though I support Spurs, so glad they are safe now and can look forward to next season in the P.L. During my time In the Royal Navy as a Photographer I was lucky enough to meet the great Bobby Moore and actually sat next to him at a dinner. And three years later when I worked at the MOD in Whitehall I went to the local branch of Natwest in Trafalgar Square and while queuing I was tapped on the shoulder by – you guessed it! Bobby Moore, he asked me how I was and was my family OK, as you can imagine I was shocked he even remembered me, the kindest most humble man on gods earth. When he died I cried like a baby, he truly was my hero. We don’t have many role models these days do we? He was mine and I will always treasure those meetings, stay well, from one diabetic to another!


Talking Point

The Secret Meeting

Brady, Gold and Sullivan are hunched up together in the safe room in Sullivan’s house.

‘David, why are we meeting here?’, Brady asks.

‘Cos it’s secure and I don’t want any of this getting out. Look, we need a way to con fans…’

‘You mean ‘persuade, don’t you?, Gold interjected.

‘Yes, persuade fans to give us their season ticket money, as fast as we can.We have to invent some sort of scenario in which we persuade fans to give us the lolly. Now, Karen, you’re the brains of this organisation. I asked you to come up with a scenario.’

‘A scenario….That makes sense,’ Gold added.’ After all, we know this bloody virus is coming back and it’s unlikely fans will be allowed back to the stadium for some time yet.’

Brady nodded.’ So, this is what I have come up with. I’ve looked in my crystal ball and devined that the Government will allow only a limited crowd to come and watch games. I’ve decided 70% is a good figure, because the average fan will sense they will have a fair chance to see the game. We can say there will be a lottery – everybody likes a lottery.’

‘Mmmm, that’s not bad,’ Sullivan decided.’ Yeh, we can take advantage of their loyalty. As long as we take their money, I don’t give two hoots.’

‘But we must promise to give the money back, if fans aren’t allowed back to games’, Brady added

Gold and Sullivan laughed. ‘Yeh, we’ll promise automatic refunds as long as they ring a number, which we’ll never connect,’ Gold said chuckling.

Brady’s raised her eyebrows,’ I must ask the question about those fans who have lost their jobs during the lockdown. It’s a bit of a blow to them asking for money upfront, when we know we can’t deliver.’

‘ Poor sods. Their loss is nothing compared to how my property portfolio has gone down. What about the fans who don’t trust us?’, Sullivan asked.

They all looked aghast.

Brady nodded,’ I thought about those f**kers. We’ll get them to pay 30% to secure their season ticket and they can go and swing as far as attending any matches. And I’m going to make them only able to renew by ringing up and the average waiting time will be 59 minutes.’

Gold and Sullivan rubbed their hands together.’ Yeh, that will do nicely’, Sullivan concluded.

’Let’s hope none of the fans query what happens to the credit they are due for the past season’s lost games.’ Brady added.


The GoatyGav Column

Can We Not Give Away Twenty Six Points From Winning Positions?

Top of the League! Usually a phrase that’s a welcome one to the ears of West Ham fans. Sadly the table that I’m referring to, in which West Ham led the way, is the one for teams that gave away the most points from winning positions. A whopping twenty-six additional points would have been bagged if our boys had have held on for victories having led matches.

A more encouraging stat, however, is that only four of those points were conceded in the last nine games played after the lockdown re-start. If you count every match, including those where the team hadn’t established a lead, then that equates to just over 0.44 points per game lost. Pre Covid 19 outbreak that number almost doubles to 0.76 with twenty-two points dropped in twenty-nine matches.

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If I were to generalise then the over-arching reason for the change, highlighted above, has been a lack of confidence. Many have pointed the finger of blame, for the team’s shaky performances, as having started when Lucasz Fabianski got injured. I’m not inclined to disagree.

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When I watched Roberto in pre-season I remember thinking to myself ‘I really hope this keeper doesn’t end up between the sticks for the first team’. Sadly my fears were realised when Manuel Pellergrini decided to use Roberto to deputise in super Fab’s absence.

It wasn’t so much the flapping uncertainty as to whether he would spill a cross, drop a shot or position himself poorly but more the lack of confidence that Jiminez gave to the defence and, subsequently, the rest of the team. The team looked good in the early games but after Fab’s hip injury things immediately deteriorated. By the time Lucasz had returned to the team the players had not only lost confidence but had also lost faith in MP’s system of play that he was rigidly sticking to. The team’s fragilities were exposed, even when going ahead early, and points were dropped as quickly as our league position.

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Added to the above there appeared to be players who seemed unconcerned by the team’s plight. Passengers, if you like, who just weren’t putting in the graft needed to get us out of the rut. The current speculation around whether Felipe Anderson will remain at the club is warranted due to his inconsistent performances. I feel this is a great shame and am uncertain as to the reason why he’s struggled. When in full flow he’s an exciting player, and a classy act, that I love watching. Is it a footballing cultural issue with his style not suiting the Premier League? Has he just not been bothered to put the work in? Is it the wrong team, or system, for him? Has it been a confidence thing? Does Felipe even know what it has been himself?

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By contrast there were a few battlers who gave their all, and left nothing on the pitch, for the cause. Robert Snodgrass, for me, was one of the most committed on the pitch…absolutely running his legs off until he couldn’t run any more every time he took the field. The trio of Rice, Antonio and Og should have been joined, in the race for Hammer Of The Year, by Snodders in my humble opinion.

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Looking back to this time last year I was filled with optimism for the season ahead. By December I almost felt shellshock at the disappointing let-down. Like most occasions I backed the manager, in the hope he could turn things around, until the point of no return. Right now I’m not sure how I feel about the forthcoming campaign. One thing I do know is that if the team can stop giving away points from winning positions we’ll finish 2020-21 in a far higher position than we did this term.

Perhaps I should be more confident. The defence seem to be improving with every game and I’m convinced that this is down to David Moyes’ coaching, guidance and organisation. He’s also got an eye for a full-back and I expect far more genuine competition for places, and more solid defending, in those areas come the kick off in September. After all…if we hadn’t have dropped any points from those winning situations we’d have finished above Leicester and only a single point off the Champion’s League places this time around.

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It’s time for me to have a little break from posting during the closed season. As you may have read in previous seasons I’m not one for transfer tittle-tattle so I’ll leave that to those happier to keep up with the speculation. Once players are signed I’m always happy to comment but I’ll leave the gossip to the ITKs and those happy to discuss the transfer rumours.

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Just before signing off I would, however, like to send my huge congratulations to Declan Rice for his well deserved HOTY award. I’m also very pleased for Michail Antonio for the runner-up spot. Completely made up for both of them and certainly hope to see them both enjoying their football with West Ham next term.

Until next time I wish all WHTIDers a happy, healthy and fun Summer break, albeit a short one, and hope to see you all in the run-up to Season 2020-21.

COYI!


Book Review

The Result of the WHTID Hammer of the Year Poll

And congratulations to Declan Rice!

1. Declan Rice 38%
2. Angelo Ogbonna 33%
3. Michaeil Antonio 24%
4. Others 5%

A deserved winner, although Ogbonna ran him close!


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