On This Day, 8th August: Birthdays for a Hat-Trick of Hammer of the Year Winners

Happy 52nd Birthday Julian Dicks

Today’s focus falls on a player who was one of my childhood heroes, a hard-as-nails but talented left-back with a thunderous shot. Julian Dicks was born in Bristol on 8th August 1968 and was a £300,000 signing for West Ham United from Birmingham in March 1988. He made his debut at the age of 19 the following month in a 2-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. Dicks scored his first goal for the Hammers in a 2-1 defeat at Arsenal in February 1989 and followed that up with a goal in the 3-0 win over Millwall in April. The Irons were relegated at the end of the 1988/89 campaign and the manager who had signed Dicks, John Lyall, was sacked as a consequence.

Dicks became the club’s penalty-taker in 1989/90 under Lou Macari, his 14 goals going some way to seeing him voted Hammer of the Year as the Hammers adjusted to life in the second tier. He was also sent off in a 1-0 League Cup fourth round home win over Wimbledon, a game which saw an on-pitch brawl between the opposing players with the fighting sparked by a two-footed tackle by Wimbledon’s Dennis Wise on Dicks. With Billy Bonds having taken over the managerial reigns, Dicks suffered a knee injury in October 1990. In a match at Bristol City, Dicks hit a dip on the edge of the pitch, his foot going over the edge resulting in a loss of feeling in his left leg. He played on and was selected by Bonds for the next two games against Swindon and Blackburn although he had to be substituted in both. A knee operation followed which would keep him out for 14 months.

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By the time Dicks returned from injury, the Hammers had been promoted but were struggling in the top flight – he scored on his return, a penalty to claim a point in a 1-1 home draw with Sheffield United four days before Christmas 1991. The Hammers would be relegated in 1991/92; ‘The Terminator’ was voted Hammer of the Year for the second time and picked up two caps for the England ‘B’ team. The following season saw Dicks regularly at the centre of controversy – he was sent off three times during 1992/93. The first red card came at Newcastle in August 1992 for elbowing former Hammer Franz Carr, while the second came at Wolves two months later for a skirmish with Paul Birch and Steve Bull. Bonds had to run down the touchline to restrain Dicks from further trouble. Dicks’ third red card of the season came at Derby in January 1993 for two bad tackles on Ted McMinn and there were calls for the left-back to be banned from football permanently. Dicks sat out a number of matches through suspension but still scored 14 goals as the Hammers were promoted at the first time of asking.

Dicks left the Hammers in September 1993 to become Graeme Souness’ last signing for Liverpool in a player-plus-cash deal which was valued at £2.5m. The Hammers received left-back David Burrows and midfielder Mike Marsh from the Anfield club and spent the cash on strikers Lee Chapman and Jeroen Boere. During his first spell at West Ham, Dicks had scored 40 goals in 203 appearances. In the weeks before his departure, a training-ground tackle by Dicks broke the leg of new signing Simon Webster. Dicks scored three goals in 28 appearances for Liverpool and has the honour of scoring the last ever Liverpool goal in front of the old standing Kop, a penalty in a 1-0 win against Ipswich in April 1994.

After being isolated by new Liverpool manager Roy Evans, Dicks returned to east London to sign for Harry Redknapp in October 1994. Now sporting a shaven head, the left-back made his second debut for the club in the 2-0 home triumph over Southampton and scored his first goal since returning in a 1-0 home victory over Leicester the following month. Dicks helped the Hammers avoid relegation to ensure a successful first season back at the Boleyn.

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Dicks was superb the following season as the Hammers claimed a top-ten finish in 1995/96 – he even went in goal for more than half the match after Ludek Miklosko was sent off in the 3-0 defeat at Everton. He was again named Hammer of the Year but two controversial incidents at the start of the season – an alleged stamp on the head of Chelsea’s John Spencer (an allegation Dicks denies to this day) and a red card at Arsenal – played their part in ensuring Dicks was denied an England call-up in the build-up to Euro ’96.

Dicks was voted Hammer of the Year for a fourth time in 1996/97 as he played a significant role in ensuring the Hammers survived in the Premier League for another season, his two-goal salvo in a 4-3 win over Tottenham proving particularly inspirational while a penalty fired beyond Peter Schmeichel rescued a point in a 2-2 draw against champions Man Utd. Dicks’ season was ended in March 1997 by another knee injury and this was to keep him out of the entire 1997/98 campaign. He made his return after 18 months out in a 1-0 League Cup second round second leg win over Northampton at the Boleyn Ground but the Hammers were knocked out 2-1 on aggregate. He scored his final goal for the club in January 1999 at home against Swansea to earn an FA Cup third round replay which the Hammers went on to lose at the Vetch Field. His final appearance for the Hammers came in a 4-0 home defeat to Arsenal in February 1999. Over both spells with the Irons, Dicks scored 65 goals in 326 appearances in all competitions – a penalty king, he scored 35 of his spot-kicks while failing to convert just four. He announced his retirement at the age of 30 after eight operations on his left knee. My video below shows all 65 of Julian’s goals in claret and blue.

Dicks tried to come to terms with life outside football as he told Four Four Two: “When I quit West Ham I had enough money in the bank to never work again. Then, in 2001, I got divorced and my wife took it all. We’d set up professional kennels and were looking after other people’s dogs. I had 13 of them at one time and two young girls and there was never any problem. When the wife left she took the dogs too.” Dicks made an attempt at a new career playing golf but had to quit that sport as well due to the problems with his knees. He made a brief return to football in 2001 when he signed for non-league Canvey Island but only made four appearances for the Essex club.

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Dicks became a publican in Langham, Essex for a while before moving to Spain but returned to the non-league scene in January 2009 when he was appointed manager of Wivenhoe Town. Dicks steered the club away from relegation but left at the end of the season. He became manager of Conference club Grays Athletic in September 2009; the club were relegated in his first season and Dicks and Grays parted ways at the end of the 2010/11 season. He returned to the Hammers, where he managed the Ladies team in 2014/15 and was then appointed First Team Coaching Assistant under Super Slaven Bilic in the summer of 2015. He is now in a similar role at newly-promoted West Brom.

Happy Birthday also to 1981 Hammer of the Year Phil Parkes, who turns 70 today. 2006 winner Danny Gabbidon is 41 today.


The Last Line of Defence - 2000-2020

Guest Post by John Bayfield

I spent the last half-hour with the crowd spinning and bits of tongue falling off in my mouth but such is life as a goalkeeper, you are going to get these whacks – West Ham keeper Robert Green describes the after effects following a collision with West Bromwich Albion’s Jonas Olsson.

Shaka Hislop played the games either side of the millennium in West Ham’s goal, 28th December 1999 at home to Derby County and 3rd January 2000 at Newcastle United. Sasa Ilic and Ian Feuer were also on the clubs books during 2000. Having been part of the West Ham Youth Cup winners the previous season, Stephen Bywater made his first team debut against Bradford City in February 2000 after an unlucky injury to Shaka in the first half at Upton Park. The youngsters’ nerves showed as we went 1-4 down before a famous comeback to win 5-4, much remembered for the Di Canio/Lampard junior ‘chat’ about who was taking a penalty eventually scored by Paulo. England international David James joined us in the summer of 2001 and was our first choice for three seasons. Hislop played when James was absent and having been put down the pecking order Shaka left Upton Park in July 2002. In his two and a half seasons, James played 102 times in our goal. The season after we were relegated James joined Manchester City to play in the Premier League again. Didn’t want to affect his England chances did he!

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Bywater started most of the games after James left and Jimmy Walker, a popular keeper with the fans, filled in as and when including playing most of the championship play-off final win against Preston in 2005 with Bywater taking over for the injured Walker for the last few minutes. Not the tallest of keepers, Jimmy made up for it with agility and plenty of smiles along the way. Northern Ireland’s Roy Carroll arrived in 2005 but after a run of 19 games a back injury half way through the season let Hislop return to play out much of the remainder of 05/06 season culminating in the FA Cup Final defeat against Liverpool. After having a few well documented personal issues off the pitch, Carroll only made another 17 starts for the Hammers the following season and left the club to look for more first team football. I never thought that much of Carroll, a bit overrated even when he played for Manchester United so when we signed him I wasn’t jumping up with joy. I was though when he left. Sorry Roy.

The reason Carroll didn’t get much of a look in after the first few months of 06/07 was the summer signing of a promising keeper from Norwich. Having bought one of our best strikers in modern times, Dean Ashton, from Carrow Road earlier the same year, West Ham paid another decent amount of money, the equivalant of a hefty chunk of Delia Smith’s cook books for Robert Green. Having spent the best part of five seasons as first choice at Norwich, Green would play a pivotal role in helping West Ham remain in the Premier League much known as our great escape season. His excellent performance at Arsenal in our 1-0 win at the Emirates is frequently talked off as one of the best modern day keeper performances in our colours

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It’s disappointing to be dropped from any team – even my mates’ fantasy league team – Robert Green

Green amassed 216 first team appearances in his six years at Upton Park including the championship play-off win over Blackpool at Wembley in 2012. His humour publicly surfaced in 2008. After consistent good form for his club and being overlooked by the then England manager Fabio Capello, he donned the ‘number 6’ gloves at a league game to highlight what many so called pundits thought where he was in the England keepers pecking order but Hammer fans thought he deserved to be much higher than that. About five places.

Embed from Getty Images Green was the fifth goalkeeper to be voted Hammer of the Year in 2008 and it was well deserved. Ruud Boffin, Peter Kuzucz, Stephen Henderson and former Arsenal stopper Manuel Almunia all filled in the short spells when Green was absent. The latter played the most out of the quintet with four games when Green was out for six weeks in the 2011/12 championship season.

A goalkeeper is a goalkeeper because he can’t play football – Ruud Gullit

Sam Allerdici bought Jussi Jaaskelainen to the club in June 2012 on an initial one year deal but he stayed at Upton Park until 2015. In that three year spell, JJ played 57 times in goal and was Hammer of the Year runner up in the 2012/13 season. He only played one game in his final season coming on after Adrian had been sent off at Southampton in February 2015. Adrian had become first choice at West Ham in the second half of the 2013/14 season. The Spaniard achieved cult status with the Hammers fans after scoring the winning goal in the home FA Cup 3rd round replay against Everton in the 9-8 penalty shootout in January 2015. After waiting a while to get his chance, Adrian would make 150 first team appearances for us.

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In the 2015/16 season Darren Randolph played as back up to Adrian, but the following 2016/17 season Randolph played six more Premier League games between the two of them. Joe Hart made a surprise loan move from Manchester City via Torino to Upton Park during the summer of 2017 and started ahead of Adrian for the first half of the campaign. Very rarely able to show us his former England form, Hart lost his place back to the Spaniard and departed at the end of that season. With the following quote, we should have had an idea what to expect; We didn’t expect so many mistakes from an England international – Torino president Urbano Cairo appraises Joe Hart’s stint at the club.

I never really thought we had a confident all round goalkeeper since Robert Green left us. Adrian and Jaaskelainen were good shot stoppers, Randolph was/is an ok number 2 and Hart was in freefall on ability. So when Lucasz Fabianski arrived at club in June 2018 after impressive displays for a few seasons behind a poor Swansea defence, Hammers fans had a bit more hope that the Polish international would be the quality keeper missing from our team in recent seasons past. The £7 million fee was justified during his first year at the London Stadium becoming only the sixth keeper to win Hammer of the Year award.

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As Adrian had left for Liverpool in the summer, Lucasz got a bad injury at Bournemouth and our replacement keeper was another Spanish lad whom I shall call Robert. The last letter of his name (not o but let’s call it zero in this piece) unfortunately summed up his first team West Ham experience. Zero clean sheets in 8 premier league appearances, zero confidence from the lads in front of him and zero enthusiasm from the fans. Flung himself around a bit, missed the ball a lot. Not many clubs start a game with ten players. For those 8 games, we did. Some things in life just don’t work out and this is a classic example. Third choice David Martin squeezed in a handful of games to make us and his dad proud, then Randolph returned for a second spell in east London. Fabianski was fit enough to play most games in the second half of the 19/20 season. If he stays clear of injuries, Fab could well keep his spot for a few more seasons and get the same fan adulation and respect as Miklosko and Green did. No one becomes an international by being average ability.

But no matter who is between our sticks, here’s hoping for many more claret and blue clean sheets. And some help from the eleven in front of him would be nice.


The Formative West Ham Matches Of My Childhood

Growing up as a West Ham fan in Bristol during the 2000s was to actively make yourself a target for playground mockery. With fans of City and Rovers as rare as a magnanimous press conference from Jose Mourinho, my Big Red Club supporting classmates took delight in countless defeats against teams few primary school children have any real conception of (Rotherham, Gillingham, Oldham).

It was no exaggeration to suggest that supporting the club accounted for 90% of my personality during school, my enthusiasm for the Hammers directly inverse to my own footballing ability. After years of discovery at university, conservative estimates say this proportion now stands at 70%.

Like many young fans, football was the portal through which a multitude of emotions were first discovered and life lessons learnt – even today, watching West Ham regularly provides one with the mild disappointment of a middle-aged man discovering his favourite song on the radio is by Ed Sheeran. However, it also taught you about pride, belonging and sticking together through thin and thinner.

This last point cannot be stressed enough – once relegation was confirmed in 2011 (the day before my sixteenth birthday), one friend idly asked me which team I was going to support now. While the merits of competitive tiddlywinks had never seemed so tempting, it was a question only a person not indoctrinated into football fandom could ask.

Ultimately, supporting a team as frequently hapless as West Ham provides an early grounding in the realities of life. Here are five matches that shaped my own outlook:

West Ham United 2-2 Arsenal – Saturday 24th August 2002 (Premiership)

I have vague recollections of watching this on The Premiership, ITV’s ill-fated highlights show that fuelled a short-lived appreciation of U2. Sadly, Andy Townsend and his tactics truck were absent. This was a thrilling match and one that distilled the essence of supporting West Ham into ninety minutes – you cannot say I wasn’t warned from an early age.

Facing the league and cup holders Arsenal, a team packed full of talented individuals were excellent for over an hour and led 2-0 through Joe Cole and Freddie Kanoute. As so often, West Ham had raised their performance to ‘obscene levels’ against superior opposition – the trio of Cole, Michael Carrick and Trevor Sinclair less of a midfield than a symphony orchestra.

Despite Thierry Henry netting a spectacular goal, West Ham quickly won a penalty to restore their two-goal lead only for Kanoute to scuff a mole murdering effort down the throat of David Seaman. It was probable that an incapacitated badger would also have saved it.

Cue a time-honoured collapse. Arsenal equalised two minutes before the end and defeat was only avoided through a string of saves from David James. This was arguably the game that saw romantic notions of the West Ham Way die. Minutes away from an impressive victory, the Hammers did not win at home until late January and were relegated with a points total unmatched since. The playing squad has rarely possessed similar levels of potential as on that sunny August afternoon.

An early lesson in suppressing premature excitement.

Reading 3-1 West Ham United – Saturday 12th March 2005 (Championship)

Last November a housemate accompanied me to our match at Burnley. The resulting afternoon provided numerous tropes of West Ham awayday that are strangely reassuring in a constantly changing world: a freezing cold day in northern England, insipid defending, meek surrender on the pitch, gallows humour in the stands and a delayed train back home. It seems unwritten that for every awayday success, there will be five more which provoke a similar reaction to banging your head on a door frame. My housemate had a great time.

This match was the first of such days, also cementing my irrational dislike of Reading Football Club that supersedes almost all others. Rivals in the play-off race, Reading had not won a league game since Boxing Day and faced a West Ham team whose efforts that season redefined the word ‘underwhelming’. With depressing predictability, the following ninety minutes left the Reading fans more gleeful than Montgomery Burns after a hit of laughing gas.

Dave Kitson, the type of striker for whom playing against the Hammers is akin to discovering water in the Sahara, scored a hat-trick – the first of which involved leaning over a hopelessly mismatched Hayden Mullins to nod home. The consolation effort from Teddy Sheringham was deemed so irrelevant it was not included on the season review DVD.

Yet, my main memory from the day was of our supporters themselves. Whether acting from belligerence, perverse pride or protest, the song ‘We are West Ham’s Claret and Blue Army’ reverberated around the Madjeski Stadium, pointedly excluding manager Alan Pardew. Here, the lesson was that the performances of the team and actions of the club rarely deserve the loyal backing they receive.

Liverpool 3-3 West Ham United – Saturday 13th May 2006 (FA Cup Final)

F*** sake.

West Ham United 3-4 Tottenham Hotspur – Sunday 4th March 2007 (Premier League)

Inadvertently, the sentiment behind supporting an unsuccessful club was best described by John Cleese. During the 1986 film Clockwise, in which Cleese plays a strictly punctual headmaster called Brian, the apparent West Ham ‘fanatic’ utters the immortal line ‘it’s not the despair. I can cope with the despair. It’s the hope that kills you’. It is a quote that speaks to your very soul and the very essence of human experience. It also perfectly encapsulated a staggering late winter’s afternoon over a decade ago.

Even by West Ham standards, this match was ridiculous. Rooted in the relegation zone, having been winless in the league since Christmas, the Hammers took the game directly to their North London opponents. Having been fortunate not to have fallen behind early on, a sprightly Mark Noble opened the scoring after rifling home from a deft touch from the Adam’s Apple of Carlos Tevez.

Minutes before half-time, Tevez hooked home a free-kick to double West Ham’s lead. After a tumultuous experience in East London, the Argentine’s first goal for the club was met with rapturous celebration – in scenes reminiscent of a slightly flabby Hulk, Tevez ripped off his shirt and jumped joyously into the crowd, the striker quickly buried under a sea of Burberry.

The mood at half-time felt too close to over-confidence for comfort, a sense of cockiness usually held by those walking directly into the path of a banana skin. So it proved. Tottenham started the second-half reinvigorated and were soon level – firstly from a Jermain Defoe penalty, mindlessly conceded by Lee Bowyer, which was followed by a classy team effort finished by Teemu Tainio. As if delivered by an overseeing power keen to reinforce order, the decision to live briefly in the moment had been ruthlessly punished.

Just when events appeared to be heading one way, another twist. With ten minutes remaining, another Tevez delivery was met by the bald head of Bobby Zamora, diverting the ball into the net. 3-2. Having diced with disaster, it appeared it would be West Ham’s day after all.

Not quite. As the clock ticked into its final sixty seconds, Tottenham won a cheap free kick on the very edge of the penalty area. Dimitar Berbatov, a player so languid he appeared to be without bones whatsoever, proceeded to curl an exquisite effort beyond the despairing efforts of Paul Konchesky on the line.

Two more vital points dropped? If only. As West Ham frantically searched for a winner, a wasted corner led to Defoe racing up the pitch with only one defender to beat. His shot was saved but ran desperately into the path of the trundling Paul Stalteri, who bundled home an improbable winner. Having been denied Champions League football the previous season after defeat at Upton Park, Tottenham proved that revenge is a dish best served cruel.

West Ham, having performed so valiantly, had produced a masterclass in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. A cartoon in the following day’s Daily Mail depicted fans leaving the stadium and walking straight into the Samaritans office. Objectively speaking, this was one of the most thrilling matches of the Premier League era and one that provided the impetus for West Ham’s miraculous escape from relegation.

Objectivity does not stop an eleven-year-old boy weeping into his Sunday dinner.

West Ham United 4-0 Manchester United – Tuesday 30th November 2010 (League Cup)

Tony Pulis is not usually renowned as one of life’s great philosophers. However, when addressing fan disgruntlement during his time at Stoke City, the Welshman observed that ‘if you’re given steak and chips every day, steak and chips become the norm’. Ignoring the fact Pulisball is about as appetising as uncooked rice, Tony had hit upon an essential truism: that most joys of life are dulled by repetition. Many great moments and experiences are magnified by their rarity.

Take football. Witness Chelsea supporters regarding finals as the minimum expectation rather than generational events. Witness Manchester City greeting domestic cup success with an increasingly indifferent shrug. As incomprehensible as this opinion must be to the spoilt element of their online fanbases, they are missing out. Success is enhanced by the tribulations that precede it. Finishing tenth one season does not count.

Which leads me to my final choice. As exasperating as West Ham ultimately are, they do have the redeeming tendency to produce unexpected triumphs. None more so than this League Cup quarter-final in 2010 – hosting Manchester United, who had won the competition in the two previous years, West Ham demolished the league leaders 4-0 with a display described by The Guardian as ‘rampant’.

Jonathan Spector, an extraordinarily unremarkable utility man, opened the scoring with a header that was his first career goal in English football. His second arrived fifteen minutes later. The unforeseen transformation of Spector and the falling snow that dusted the pitch added to the surreal nature of the occasion. The only object redder than Ferguson’s nose was his United branded bobble hat.

This time West Ham did not collapse when two goals ahead. Assisted by the sporadically decent Victor Obinna, Carlton Cole achieved his own double in the second half and gave Jonny Evans such a roasting that the Northern Irishman could have been served with potatoes and seasonal veg.

It must be stated that this was not a vintage Manchester United team – their title winning team that year was forgettable by their standards and their reserves played in this game. However, our own line-up contained Hammers legends such as Pablo Barrera, Radoslav Kovac and Tal Ben-Haim and finished rock bottom of the league. This was still a thrashing more shocking than a January heatwave.

Best of all, it riled the hordes of plastic United fans at my secondary school. Upon walking into class the next day, the smile across my face betraying efforts to exude an air of false modesty, one lad exclaimed ‘pipe down you runt!’, indication that my very presence had gotten under the thinnest of skins. Sadly, the success of your football team does not stop some people from being irredeemable pricks.

My emotions that day provided my final childhood lesson – that, despite it all, I wouldn’t swap supporting West Ham for anyone else.

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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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!

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