Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Stoke v West Ham

Blast from the past

23rd March 1957 – Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister, Tab Hunter was number one with ‘Young Love’ and Tyrone Power was starring in Seven Waves Away. West Ham United met Stoke City at the Victoria Ground for a Second Division encounter on the day Sir Patrick Abercrombie, a town planner best known for the post-World War Two re-planning of London, died.

Ted Fenton’s Hammers were to emerge victorious with a 1-0 victory at the home of the Potters in front of 19,794 with the winning goal coming courtesy of Geordie left-winger Malcolm Musgrove (pictured). Musgrove had scored a double on the same ground almost exactly two years previously. The 23-year-old ended the season with 10 goals from 44 appearances. Inside-left John Dick, absent for this game at Stoke, finished the campaign as the Irons’ top goalscorer with 13 goals in 41 matches.

West Ham would finish the 1956/57 Division Two season in eighth place, while Frank Taylor’s Stoke would end the campaign in fifth position. Leicester and Nottingham Forest would win promotion, Manchester United won the First Division title and Aston Villa won the FA Cup.

West Ham United: Ernie Gregory, John Bond, Malcolm Allison, Noel Cantwell, Andy Malcolm, John Smith, Mike Grice, Mick Newman, Billy Dare, Eddie Lewis, Malcolm Musgrove.

Club Connections

Glen Johnson should face the club with whom he started his career. A reasonable number of players have also worn the shirts of both Stoke City and West Ham United. These include:

Goalkeepers: Steve Banks, Lawrie Leslie, Bob Dixon.

Defenders: Clive Clarke, Danny Collins, Matthew Upson.

Midfielders: Luke Chadwick, Matthew Etherington, Paul Allen, Kevin Keen, Victor Moses.

Strikers: Lee Chapman, Sir Geoff Hurst, John Carew, Henri Camara, Frank Richardson, Nicky Morgan.

Lou Macari has also managed both clubs, with two spells in charge of the Potters.

Today’s focus though is on a defender who helped consolidate Stoke’s Premier League place and went on to play his part in a promotion season with West Ham. Abdoulaye Faye was born in Dakar, Senegal on the 26th February 1978. He began his career at Senegalese clubs, ASEC Ndiambour and Jeanne d’Arc. He moved to French football in 2002, signing for Lens where he would team up with fellow Senegalese international and future West Ham team-mate Papa Bouba Diop. Following a loan spell at Istres, Faye moved to England in 2005, joining Sam Allardyce’s Bolton. He followed Big Sam to Newcastle in 2007.

The 30-year-old Faye was on the move again the following summer, signing for Tony Pulis’ newly-promoted Stoke on 15th August 2008 for £2.25m. He made his Potters debut later that month in a 3-2 win over Aston Villa. He scored his first goal for his new club against the side he’d just left, salvaging a 2-2 draw in the last minute at Newcastle on 6th December 2008. Faye repeated the feat in the reverse fixture, scoring in a 1-1 home draw against the Magpies on 11th April 2009 – Andy Carroll scored the late equaliser for the visitors that day. In between those goals against his former employers, Faye also scored against his future club, heading home unmarked from a corner against West Ham at Upton Park before strikes from Carlton Cole and Diego Tristan turned the match in favour of the Hammers after Ricardo Fuller had been sent off for slapping Andy Griffin, his own team-mate. Faye ended an impressive first season by collecting both Players’ and Fans’ Player of the Season Awards. He was named captain for the 2009/10 campaign, replacing Griffin, but injuries disrupted his season and Ryan Shawcross assumed the armband in 2010/11. Faye helped Stoke to the 2011 FA Cup Final before departing the club, having scored six goals in 84 appearances in all competitions.

Faye was released in the summer of 2011 and teamed up with Allardyce for a third time, becoming the new West Ham United manager’s first signing at Upton Park. The 33-year-old made his debut as a substitute in a 4-0 win at Watford on 16th August 2011 and made his first start in a 0-0 draw at Millwall the following month. A strong, uncompromising, formidable centre-half, Faye made 29 appearances for West Ham in all competitions, helping the side to 11 clean sheets in those games. His final match for the Irons was in a 3-3 home draw with Birmingham on 9th April 2012.

As the Hammers secured promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking via the play-offs, Faye was deemed surplus to requirements and released at the end of his one-year contract. He stayed in the Championship, signing for Hull, and helped the Tigers secure promotion to the top flight in his first season and to the FA Cup Final in his second. He was released at the end of the 2013/14 campaign and joined Malaysia Premier League side Sabah FA six months later. Faye, now 39, retired in 2015.

Referee

Saturday’s referee will be Lee Probert, who will take on only his second Premier League appointment in the last two seasons following injury. He has mostly refereed in the lower leagues this campaign but made his return to top flight officiating on 1st April in Watford’s 1-0 home win over Sunderland. His last match in charge of the Hammers was our 3-0 win at Tottenham in October 2013. He had previously refereed our 3-2 home defeat to Liverpool in December 2012, awarding the Hammers a penalty for a Joe Allen handball. Probert also took charge of our 1-0 home victory over Swansea in February 2013 and our 2-2 home draw with Manchester United in April 2013, when he allowed Robin van Persie’s late equaliser to stand despite the Dutchman being in an offside position.

Probert sent off Matt Taylor for a push on Billy Sharp in the aftermath of awarding the Hammers a penalty in a 1-1 home draw with Southampton in February 2012. The 44-year-old Wiltshire-based official is pictured above issuing a red card to Tamir Cohen in our 2-1 home defeat to Bolton in March 2010.

Possible line-ups

Stoke, who have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last six games, will be without Stephen Ireland and Ibrahim Afellay, while Jonathan Walters is doubtful. Saido Berahino is yet to score in 11 appearances for Stoke since signing in January. Stoke are unbeaten in their last seven league meetings against the Hammers.

For West Ham United, Angelo Ogbonna, Pedro Obiang, Gokhan Tore, Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll are on the injured list. Robert Snodgrass is a doubt while Sofiane Feghouli faces a late fitness test. Sam Byram and Mark Noble return from suspension and Diafra Sakho may be fit enough to start, although would probably not last the 90 minutes as he continues to build up match fitness. The Hammers are unbeaten in their last three games.

Possible Stoke City XI: Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Shaqiri, Cameron, Allen, Sobhi; Crouch, Arnautovic.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; Fonte, Reid, Collins; Fernandes, Nordtveit, Kouyate, Masuaku; Lanzini, Ayew; Sakho.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!

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Talking Point

Slav's Pre-Potters Presser

Slaven Bilic has completed his pre-Stoke press conference. Here are the highlights from Super Slav’s pre-Potters presser:

“Mark Noble is definitely going to be back in the squad on Saturday.”

“Unfortunately it doesn’t look as if Andy Carroll is going to quite make the game against Stoke. It’s come too soon.”

“With the goalkeepers, I met with both of them and they have both taken the situation really well, Randolph too.”

“We are not panicking, but none of the teams, until mathematically, are safe. Maybe we have enough, but we can’t be sure. We’re three games unbeaten, and of course the confidence is higher. It’s related to the way we are training and the games we play.”

“Arthur Masuaku was relatively unknown here and he’s done everything that position requires. He is quick and strong.”

So… should skipper Mark Noble make an immediate return to the starting line-up? Or will he have to be satisfied with a place on the bench after Havard Nordtveit’s fine performance on Saturday against Everton?

Will Diafra Sakho start only his third game in eleven months at Stoke? Andy Carroll, regularly ridiculed by some for his own injury issues, has started 18 matches in the same timescale. Or will Jonathan Calleri retain his place in the XI?

Is Adrian back to stay? The Spaniard has kept three clean sheets in his last five Premier League games, either side of his omission from the side. Randolph has kept the same number of clean sheets in his last 17 matches.

And can Arthur Masuaku maintain his impressive performance level against Everton until the end of the season?

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Development Squad

Why Premier League 2 Play-Off Promotion Is Key To Our Youngsters' Development

West Ham United’s Under-23s ensured a play-off place in the Second Division of ‘Premier League 2’ last night by defeating West Bromwich Albion by four goals to nil at The Hawthorns.

The Hammers are currently in the second tier of the Under-23 hierarchy and, as such, our young players are not testing themselves against the best in their age category on a consistent basis. In turn, this makes the jump to Premier League football with the first team that much bigger and is probably why so many of our kids have been loaned out to gain experience at a more competitive level in the Championship, League One and League Two, to varying degrees of success.

The Irons were one of four clubs contesting the two remaining play-off places and started yesterday evening a point and a place behind fifth-placed Blackburn, outside the play-off positions. Two goals from Martin Samuelsen and one each from Dan Kemp and Nathan Holland (pictured above) ensured the Hammers claimed the final play-off spot, finishing in fifth place and ousting Blackburn, who drew 0-0 at home against Aston Villa.

West Ham will now travel to second-placed Wolves at Molineux in a one-off tie on a date to be arranged. Should the young Hammers progress through to the Final, they will meet either Newcastle or Fulham, again in a one-off tie to be played at either St James’ Park or Craven Cottage (the final takes place at the home ground of the team who finished highest in the league). All play-off matches are one-off ties, decided by extra-time and then penalties if the match is level after 120 minutes.

The likes of Reece Burke, George Dobson and Toni Martinez (pictured below scoring against our play-off opponents Wolves) should be able to play as they will no longer have commitments with their loan clubs. However, Reece Oxford and Josh Cullen may be involved in Football League play-off matches with Reading and Bradford respectively.

Terry Westley’s Hammers will go into the play-off semi-final with confidence from their two previous matches with Scott Sellars’ Wolves earlier this campaign – a 2-2 draw was recorded at home back in September and the young Irons won the away match 4-0 in December.

Looking ahead to potential Final opponents, West Ham beat Peter Beardsley’s Newcastle 3-1 at home back in August and recorded a battling 0-0 draw at St James’ Park despite Arthur Masuaku’s first-half dismissal. The Magpies did knock the Hammers out of the Premier League Cup last month though, with a 3-2 win. Fulham, meanwhile, beat West Ham 4-1 at Craven Cottage in November, although the young Hammers won the home match 2-0 in February. The Cottagers’ Under-23 manager is Peter Grant, who was Alan Pardew’s assistant when West Ham won promotion in 2005 and reached the FA Cup Final the following year.

Swansea won promotion automatically by winning Division 2 and will now compete with the likes of Everton, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Man Utd in Division One next season. Promotion, and consequently exposure to playing against the best in their age group, will be of great importance to the development of West Ham United’s young players, both now and in the future, and cannot be underestimated. Our Under-18s are currently fourth in the Southern Division of their league, behind only Chelsea, Arsenal and Reading, and three points clear of Tottenham. It would be a shame if they had to go from performing well at the top end against such clubs to competing in the second tier of the Under-23 league.

Promotion and the subsequent place at the top table at Under-23 level will provide an extra key stepping stone for our current Under-23s to use towards hopefully developing into first-team Premier League players at our club, while paving the way for the current Under-18s (and future Under-23 team) to maintain their own progress by continuing to play against the best the country has to offer.

Here’s to wishing our next generation all the very best over the coming crucial days and weeks – Come On You Irons!


Player Analysis

Havard Nordtveit Finally Comes Good - Watch Out Mark Noble!

I was quite excited when I heard we had signed the Borussia Moenchengladbach captain, Havard Nordtveit. What was not to like? People don’t become captain of their side without having something about them. And he could play in a variety of positions. Just the sort of player we needed. Or so I thought.

In pre-season he looked totally out of sorts. As the season started he didn’t improve. Every performance was terrible. He looked hapless. What a turkey, we all thought. But there was a nagging doubt in my mind. He mainly played at right back and once or twice in central defence. But wasn’t he a central midfielder? Wasn’t that his preferred position? Clearly with Kouyate, Noble and Obiang playing well, he didn’t get a look in there. Until Saturday.

Against Everton I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was as if Nordtveit had become a different player. Cool, calm and tenacious. Spraying balls over the field. Running with the ball. Attacking. Shooting. He wasn’t far off being my man of the match. On that performance he deserves to keep his place and the chance to show us more of what he can do.

Mark Noble is under real pressure. Edimilson Fernandes, and now Nordtveit, have shown that there is real competition for the second central midfield space. And that is surely only a good thing.

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The HamburgHammer Column

Will it be a cool or a cruel summer ? To chop and change or remain calm.

A 0:0 draw in general should not be the kind of game lingering in the memory of the common football fan for a long time. This one will be if you are a West Ham fan.
Why ? Because after plenty of disappointing performances this season this draw against Everton was a very good and disciplined showing from our lads.
Bilic got the gameplan spot on and got grit, fight and effort from every player out there which basically were the ones not injured or suspended.
We were scraping at the bottom of the barrel, line up wise, but everyone knew what he had to do on the pitch and we nullified a very good side on the day.

So, we can play a bit after all, as long as we don’t play players out of position and also give those a fighting chance who have featured very little so far this season, not in their prefered position anyway. Havard Nordtveit was the standout performer for me on the day, not in absolute terms as probably Masuaku, Collins or Lanzini were ahead of Nordtveit in terms of overall contribution.

However, considering the criticism hurled at him throughout the course of the season, it was a massive relief to see him perform like this. I knew when we signed him from Moenchengladbach that he was a very decent player, not one of the obvious stars selling shirts by the thousands, but one of the much needed workhorses that every team needs but who rarely get noticed until they are out and you only then realise what you are missing out on.

Nordtveit is not there to provide assists and goals, he is there to help us keep the ball (or win it back) and it is also in his job description to stop the opposition team doing their thing, playing and running circles around our midfielders. Given a run of consecutive games in his prefered position I can see him adding a lot of composure and solidity to our side. Plus we may also see another one of his traits that made him a cornerstone of the Moenchengladbach team: A fierce shot from distance, not unsimilar to the strikes delivered by The Hammer, former West Ham and Aston Villa legend Thomas Hitzlsperger. Which also applies to freekicks.

So if you want something a bit different to Lanzini’s swerving efforts, why not give Nordtveit a go? Mind you, he may take the opposition goalkeeper’s Loaf off, should that geezer be stupid enough trying to stop those shots!

The Everton game has also given me food for thought about our goalkeeping situation and I am in a bit of a dilemma there. Both of our custodians are prone to some mindblowing blunders. None of them is the finished article. Everton didn’t manage a shot on goal all game. So even I would have finished that game with a clean sheet if I had been playing on the day. There was an early incident where Adrian nearly lost the ball in his own box before ruthlessly claiming the ball, charging in fiercely.

While I still hate his tendency to play keepy uppy with a back pass (which I see as unnecessary and risky showboating really) I like his presence in the box.
Adrian wouldn’t have allowed the opposition to boss him around prior to a cornerkick like Randolph did against Sunderland. I am not saying that overall Adrian is the better goalkeeper, it’s really a case of six of one, half a dozen of the other here. But a clean sheet is a clean sheet and Adrian should stay in goal now for the next few games.

Another tricky one for me, especially thinking forward to our summer transfer window, is Sakho. We all know what he can bring to our side, if healthy and in the right frame of mind minus any attitude. I still think he will get back to his best, for me all his frustrations stem from the hunger and desire to play and perform for the fans and his teammates.
That long back injury didn’t exactly help his confidence I’m sure, especially considering it might have been dealt with a lot sooner if Sakho had only agreed to go through with that surgical repair straight away when it apparently was recommended to him by doctors.

The good thing about Sakho is that we know what he is capable of. He already is at the club and doesn’t cost a transfer fee, probably just a moderate wage rise is necessary to keep him happy. Sakho strikes me as a very proud player who tends to be too much on edge at times. I still see him as a very good striker which is the main thing for me.
Striker will be one of those positions we need to address in the summer and I suppose it’s fair to say we can no longer seriously rely on Carroll being our Number One striker to build our gameplan around for next season – his injury record simply doesn’t allow us to do that anymore.

I know Carroll and his family are happy in London and it’d take a ludicrous financial offer for him to even contemplate moving to China for a season or two. But if I had to decide about a striker leaving it would be Carroll. Depending on how many strikers we let go (Calleri, Carroll, Sakho, maybe even Fletcher) we will surely see two or three strikers coming in over the summer. Let’s hope we get it right this time.

Which brings me to the headline of this week’s column. This summer will be very much a make or break moment for our club. Everyone needs to and should learn from this disastrous season. Numerous mistakes have been made by various people within the club hierarchy, in the boardroom and on the training pitches.
Pointing fingers is one thing. I’d rather like to see a constructive approach here.

None of us wants a repeat of this season which is unlikely anyway as we will not move stadium again anytime soon. Which is one distracting factor out of the way.
Of course you could gamble a bit (or a lot), let the manager go, bring in a new manager with a new team of backroom staff, replace half the team with new arrivals, shake it all up and hope it’ll all miraculously improve.

Or you could trust that things will improve if you continue to put your trust in Bilic, support him with transfers in the summer and let him make a fresh start, maybe with a few tweaks to his staff of assistant managers and coaches. It’s been a tough old season on various fronts and I have said before, how in God’s name Bilic took everything thrown at him (while suffering more personal pain through his hip problems which should be sorted out over the summer as well), took it on the chin, rarely moaned or complained at the circumstances but carried on trying to do his best for West Ham, well, it’s quite amazing to see.

I cannot help but admire the way Bilic has been handling it all in such a dignified professional manner. Yes, I sometimes was frustrated with his choice of lineup or substitutions made like most of us fans were, but to hear a pundit mention during the game that Bilic had to make do without eleven different first team players this season who were each missing at least two months through injury, not to mention the Payet issue, the new surroundings of the OS (basically taking home advantage away from us all season), it is a minor miracle we are still in touching distance to finishing in tenth place at this point.

Other managers in the situation might well have had a nervous breakdown or possibly walked away months ago. Not Slaven Bilic. I am convinced he has done more than enough to deserve the chance to see out his contract at least. If things don’t improve next season, find a new manager to replace him. I know modern football is harsh and fickle and there rarely is room for sentiment, loyalty or decency in this day and age. But as for Bilic I hope he will get the opportunity to turn things around and deliver better times for our club and its loyal fanbase. Slaven in my book is one of the very few decent people still associated with our club at this point.

But of course the board will make this decision without paying too much attention to blogs or social media. And neither should they be. They should ask themselves though:
Can we really bring in the kind of manager who is likely to do better than Bilic while having to work under the financial constraints of a club like ours ?

If I haven’t mentioned Concordia yet, well, there is a good reason for that. They lost at home to Dassendorf (not to be confused with Duesseldorf) by a 0:4 scoreline which was also the halftime result. That’s all you really need to know about that particular game. COYI!

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