Dan Coker's Match Preview

Crossed Hammers & Three Lions: Alvin Martin

Welcome to the seventh in a series of articles designed for international matches – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England.

Today, as England prepare to face Tunisia in their opening match of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, we look back at a true legend of West Ham United Football Club – Alvin Martin. Alvin was born in Liverpool on 29th July 1958 and played schools football for Bootle and Lancashire and was attached to Everton as a schoolboy but left in 1974 after the Goodison Park club only offered him an apprenticeship on a part-time basis. An unsuccessful trial later that summer with Queens Park Rangers was followed by one for West Ham United, where he was awarded a contract as an apprentice on 19th August 1974, the year after Bobby Moore had left for Fulham. He appeared in the 1975 FA Youth Cup Final alongside Paul Brush, Alan Curbishley and Geoff Pike but the Hammers lost 5-1 over two legs to Ipswich. Alvin signed as a professional on 29th July 1976, his 18th birthday and made his first team debut at the age of 19 on 18th March 1978 as a substitute in a 4-1 defeat at Aston Villa. He scored on his first start for the club in a 2-1 win at Leeds on 8th April 1978 and made seven appearances towards the end of the 1977/78 season as the Hammers were relegated to the Second Division.

Strong in the air and a classy performer on the deck, Alvin made 23 appearances in 1978/79, scoring one goal in a 3-0 home win over Oldham on 24th February 1979. He became a firm fixture in the side the following season, making 55 appearances in a campaign which saw the Second Division Hammers win the FA Cup after victory in the Final against Arsenal at Wembley in 1980. Establishing himself at the heart of defence alongside skipper Billy Bonds, Alvin would be voted Hammer of the Year for the first time in 1979/80 and scored three goals that season, in a 2-1 win at Leicester in October 1979, a 2-1 home win over Sunderland in a League Cup fourth round replay on 5th November 1979 and a 2-1 home defeat to Birmingham on 22nd April 1980.

The Hammers would reach the League Cup Final the following season, Alvin’s header being handled on the line by Liverpool’s Terry McDermott with Ray Stewart scoring from the resultant penalty to force a replay, which the Irons lost at Villa Park. More happily though, the Hammers won promotion back to the First Division as second tier champions – Alvin scored twice in 60 appearances that season, in a 2-1 home win over Barnsley in the League Cup fourth round in October 1980 and in a 5-0 victory over Bristol City the following month. He would also taste European football for the only time in his career, playing all six of the Hammers’ matches in their run to the quarter-finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup. The 22-year-old was also given his first England cap by Ron Greenwood in a 1-0 defeat to Brazil at Wembley on 12th May 1981, with Zico scoring the winning goal. Alvin seemed a prime candidate to replace 34-year-old Southampton centre-back Dave Watson in the England team and received his second cap 11 days later as a half-time substitute in a 1-0 home defeat to Scotland.

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Alvin made 35 appearances in 1981/82 as the Hammers returned to top flight football and finished ninth. He scored four goals, all at the Boleyn Ground – one in a 1-1 draw with Everton in October 1981, a double in a 5-2 win over Coventry the following month and another in a 3-1 victory over Wolves in April 1982. He was also voted Hammer of the Year for the second time. Brighton centre-back Steve Foster and Ipswich pair Terry Butcher and Russell Osman were all getting nods for Greenwood’s England but Alvin played in a critical World Cup qualifier against Hungary at Wembley in November 1981, marshalling the defence superbly alongside Liverpool’s Phil Thompson as England won 1-0 to qualify for their first World Cup in 12 years. Alvin played in a 4-1 win over Finland in Helsinki in June 1982 but, alongside Osman and Watson, was left out of Greenwood’s squad for the World Cup in Spain with Foster getting the nod as reserve behind the established duo of Butcher and Thompson.

An eighth-placed finish followed in 1982/83 with Alvin scoring three goals in 45 matches and retaining his Hammer of the Year title, winning the award for the third time in four seasons – his three goals came in the space of six matches, in a 5-0 home win over Birmingham in September 1982, followed the following month by strikes in a 3-2 win at Arsenal and 3-1 home win over Liverpool, which took the Irons into the top two. He was sent off for the first time in his career in a 2-0 home win over Everton in November 1982. Bobby Robson had taken over as England manager and started Alvin in five consecutive matches between November 1982 and April 1983, four of them European Championship qualifiers.

1983/84 saw Martin record the exact same statistics as two seasons previously – four goals in 35 appearances – with the Hammers ironically again finishing ninth, as they had in 1981/82. Again, he scored all four at Upton Park in a 4-0 win over Birmingham in August 1983, the famous 10-0 League Cup second round second leg victory over Bury two months later, a 4-1 New Year’s Eve win over Tottenham and 3-1 triumph against Luton in April 1984. Alvin also won a further three England caps that season. The Hammers would dip the following season, finishing 16th in 1984/85 with Alvin scoring one goal in 49 appearances, in a 2-2 draw at Luton in November 1984. With Robson testing out Tottenham’s Graham Roberts, Norwich’s Dave Watson and Southampton’s Mark Wright, Alvin only played once for England that season, in a 1-0 win at Windsor Park as the Three Lions beat Northern Ireland in a World Cup qualifier.

1985/86 would go down as the finest league season in West Ham United’s history as the Irons recorded their highest ever finish of third. Captain of the side and having established a strong central defensive partnership with Tony Gale, Alvin made 50 appearances, scoring four goals, all at the Boleyn and all in the crucial, exciting run-in. He was sent off in a 1-0 defeat at Arsenal in March 1986 but scored an important winner in a 1-0 win over Southampton in April 1986. Later that month, on 21st April 1986, Alvin’s ‘quiz question’ moment arrived – he scored the only hat-trick of his career with each goal being scored against a different goalkeeper in a terrific 8-1 win over Newcastle. His first two goals were headers from set-pieces but his third was a penalty – not the assigned penalty-taker, the ball was handed to Alvin by Ray Stewart with the crowd chanting the skipper’s name to claim his rare and unusual hat-trick, scoring past England colleague Peter Beardsley.

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Alvin started two England matches in the run-up to the 1986 World Cup and was named in Robson’s squad for the tournament in Mexico. QPR’s Terry Fenwick was the man preferred alongside Butcher until Fenwick was suspended for the second round match against Paraguay. Alvin stepped in and helped England to a clean sheet and a quarter-final spot as the Three Lions defeated the South Americans 3-0. Robson dropped him for the clash with Argentina though, with Fenwick restored to the starting XI – Diego Maradona scored twice and England were knocked out.

The Hammers would drop dramatically in the league in 1986/87, finishing 15th in the First Division. Alvin scored twice in 20 matches – in a 2-2 draw at Sheffield Wednesday in September 1986 and 3-1 defeat at Manchester City in December. He was also sent off in a 2-0 home win over Luton in September and missed a total of six months of the campaign due to problems with his instep. With Arsenal’s Tony Adams emerging on the international scene, Alvin won his 17th and final England cap in a 1-0 defeat to Sweden in Stockholm in September 1986. The injury problems continued into 1987/88 with a series of operations and further setbacks limiting ‘Stretch’, as he was nicknamed, to making 18 appearances without scoring. Alvin has this to say about West Ham’s failure to build on the 1985/86 campaign:

“If you have a good team, we knew you needed maybe one or two players to strengthen it the following season, but I don’t really believe that John Lyall was given the brief or the funds to say, “Right, OK, go and get us the title next year.” I think West Ham’s mentality at that time was, “OK, we’ve had a good season, let’s settle for where we are, we’ll more or less stay in the top half of the table.” I think that was the way the club was run, on a firm financial footing where they didn’t want to take any risks. There was money spent the following year but I don’t think they went out with a view that said, “We have a title-winning side here, let’s push it on.” Maybe another board would have done it. I think the board was financially astute and was running a club that wasn’t going to lose money. If they wanted to push on, they’d have had to spent big on two or three positions. We had a generation of players who all totally trusted the manager, John Lyall, who was a father figure. John’s word was taken and never opposed because we all had so much respect for him. We always just left all the football stuff to John and then he’d deal with the board and do the contracts and spend the money. But John spent money as if it was his own. He felt a real responsibility to the club and to the fans, which is admirable. I wish he was still around now because a lot of people think spending will save their job, whereas John always made every decision in West Ham’s interest and in the fans’ interest."

Disaster struck in 1988/89 as the Irons were relegated from the top flight and John Lyall, who Alvin had worked with for more than a decade, was sacked. The season began with Alvin’s first testimonial with the club, a 2-0 win over Tottenham in August 1988. Alvin returned to the side more regularly, making 38 appearances and scoring three goals – two in a 5-0 League Cup third round win over Derby in November 1988 at Upton Park and one in a 4-1 defeat at Luton later the same month.

Life under Lou Macari was short-lived, with Alvin’s former defensive partner Bonds taking over the top job in February 1990. Alvin scored twice in 43 appearances as the Hammers returned to the second tier, with both strikes coming in cup competitions and both at the Boleyn – his first goal of 1989/90 came in a 5-2 win over Plymouth in the Full Members Cup in November 1989 with his other strike arriving in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final against Oldham in March 1990, a match the Hammers won 3-0, but a tie they lost 6-3 on aggregate after the ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre’ at Boundary Park in the first leg. The Hammers would win promotion under Bonds in 1990/91, with ‘Stretch’ making 23 appearances and scoring one goal, in a 1-1 home draw with Wolves in September 1990.

Alvin was to suffer a significant spell out of the side through injury though, not playing for 16 months between December 1990 and April 1992 due to an Achilles injury. The Hammers were adrift at the bottom of the First Division and well on their way to relegation by the time of his comeback game, a 4-0 win over Norwich which was the Hammers’ biggest win of the season. He played seven games in 1991/92 including the full 90 minutes of a 1-0 win over Manchester United too, a result which dealt a massive blow to the Red Devils’ title dreams.

1992/93 was a generally happier campaign all round, with Alvin making 32 appearances as the Hammers secured promotion to the Premier League but he would miss the final four months of the season with another Achilles injury. ‘Stretch’ scored one goal that season, in a 6-0 home win over Sunderland in October 1992. He made 11 top flight appearances in 1993/94, scoring two goals – one in a 2-0 win over Oldham in November 1993 and another in a 4-2 defeat to Newcastle in March 1994. The Hammers would finish 13th on their return to the top flight. With Alvin’s hairline having receded significantly over his time with the club, the Hammers supporters, who adored him, had a new ditty for their hero:

Alvin Martin, Alvin Martin
Alvin, Alvin Martin
He’s got no hair
But we don’t care
Alvin, Alvin Martin!

‘Stretch’ would make 28 appearances under new manager Harry Redknapp in 1994/95, being given a frankly ridiculous red card ten minutes into a game against Sheffield Wednesday in January 1995 when he stumbled inside the Owls half and inadvertently brought down Mark Bright – referee Paul Danson somehow viewed this as denying a goalscoring opportunity! The Irons would go on to lose 2-0 with the later dismissal of Tim Breacker sending the Hammers down to nine men. The Hammers finished 14th at the end of the season.

Alvin played 17 matches in 1995/96 as the Irons finished in the top ten – his final appearance for the club came on 5th May 1996 as an 88th-minute substitute for Iain Dowie but Jon Newsome would score an equaliser a minute later for Sheffield Wednesday in a 1-1 draw, a game which saw young pretender Rio Ferdinand make his senior debut. Earlier that season, Alvin had enjoyed his second testimonial with the club with a match against Chelsea – in the club’s history, only he and Bonds have been afforded two testimonials. Chris Waddle, Jamie Redknapp and Steve McManaman all turned out in claret and blue, while the lesser-spotted Marco Boogers netted in a 3-3 draw – Danny Williamson and Don Hutchison also scored for the Hammers. Looking back on his time at West Ham, Alvin had this to say:

“I had opportunities to leave and other clubs could have bought me. There were times when I could have joined the top clubs. Tottenham approached West Ham three times during my career. I could have gone to Arsenal. But once John said, ‘No, we’re building a team around you’ I was happy because it was where I wanted to be. Even now, I have no regrets. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at West Ham. Twenty-two years on, I have links and have stayed around the area and have a close bond with the supporters. These days, because players sometimes only stay for a year or two they don’t really gain a position of trust with the supporters. I was with a group of players who – seven or eight of them – stayed for 10 years or more. They’re synonymous with the name West Ham and some of the modern-day players don’t get that. They get better financial rewards, but they don’t get the link with the community or the supporters.”

Alvin Martin made 596 appearances for West Ham United in all competitions, scoring 34 goals. 15 of these goals can be seen in my video below, alongside footage from his second testimonial. Alvin is fifth on the all-time list of appearances for the Irons, behind only Bonds, Frank Lampard, Bobby Moore and Sir Trevor Brooking. He was also named Hammer of the Year three times – only Brooking, Moore, Bonds and Julian Dicks have won it on more occasions.

Alvin would move to Leyton Orient on a free transfer in 1996 at the age of 37, spending a season at Brisbane Road before being named manager of Southend in 1997. Since leaving the Shrimpers Martin, who turns 60 next month, has been a radio regular on TalkSport. His elder son, 32-year-old David Martin, is currently a goalkeeper at Millwall – he represented England from Under-16 to Under-19 levels and made over 200 appearances at MK Dons. David has also turned out for Wimbledon and had loan spells with Accrington, Leicester, Tranmere, Leeds and Derby while he was on Liverpool’s books. Alvin’s younger son, 29-year-old Joe Martin, is currently at Stevenage – he represented England at Under-16 and Under-17 levels and made over 150 appearances for Gillingham, as well as representing Blackpool and Millwall.

Tunisia v England

England face Tunisia this evening in their opening match of the 2018 World Cup – it will be the third meeting between the two nations. The pair have met once before in the World Cup, just over 20 years ago on 15th June 1998, ironically also in the Three Lions’ opening game in Group G. Baddiel & Skinner & The Lightning Seeds were number one with ‘Three Lions ‘98’, The Wedding Singer topped the UK box office and cartoonist Reg Smythe, who created the Andy Capp comic series, had died two days earlier at the age of 80.

Glenn Hoddle’s England took the lead three minutes before half-time courtesy of captain Alan Shearer. Chelsea left wing-back Graeme Le Saux’s free-kick found 27-year-old Newcastle striker Shearer rising at the back post and his header clipped the inside of the post on its way past the prematurely-diving Esperance and Tunisia goalkeeper Chokri El Ouaer. It was the 19th of his 30 England goals, in the 40th of his 63 caps.

Former Hammer Paul Ince was the creator of England’s second in this 2-0 win, the Liverpool midfielder setting up 23-year-old Manchester United man Paul Scholes to curl an exquisite effort beyond El Ouaer and into the corner of the net.

England: David Seaman (Arsenal), Gareth Southgate (Aston Villa), Tony Adams (Arsenal), Sol Campbell (Tottenham), Darren Anderton (Tottenham), Paul Ince (Liverpool), David Batty (Newcastle), Paul Scholes (Man Utd), Graeme Le Saux (Chelsea), Teddy Sheringham (Man Utd), Alan Shearer (Newcastle).

Sub: Michael Owen (Liverpool) for Sheringham.

Tunisia: Chokri El Ouaer (Esperance), Hatem Trabelsi (CS Sfaxien), Mounir Boukadida (Etoile Sahel), Khaled Badra (Esperance), Sami Trabelsi (captain, CS Sfaxien), Jose Clayton (Etoile Sahel), Kaies Ghodhbane (Etoile Sahel), Skander Souayah (CS Sfaxien), Sirajeddine Chihi (Esperance), Adel Sellimi (Real Jaen), Mehdi Ben Slimane (Freiburg).

Subs: Zoubeir Beya (Freiburg) for Souayah; Imed Ben Younes (Etoile Sahel) for Ben Slimane; Tarek Thabet (Esperance) for H. Trabelsi.

The previous articles in the series are:
Ken Brown
Sir Trevor Brooking
Bobby Moore
David James
Alan Devonshire
Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne


The HamburgHammer Column

West Ham Episode MMXVIII - A NEW HOPE

Hello my friends! I’m back and no, I have not been hiding under a rock the past few weeks and neither have I been abducted by aliens and forced to become a Coventry City supporter. In fact I was hoping that today there would actually be lots of new signings to discuss at West Ham but, alas, this is West Ham and signings are never quite as straightforward and quick as they seem to happen at most other clubs.

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But two of the more important decisions have already been made anyway: In Manuel Pellegrini we now have a highly experienced and respected manager at the helm plus a well connected Director of Football in Marco Husillos. Both are very good appointments in my book and the upcoming week will be very telling in a number of ways with regard to how things are going to work at West Ham from now on. Apparently as much as five new signings are in the pipeline at this point, in various states of completion, from being a decent possibility or being real close to nearly or factually done.

If we get all those rumoured (yes, I know) signings over the line (or none of them) will at least give us somewhat of an idea of the new West Ham team for the season.
I understand that Pellegrini made sure certain conditions of his were met by our board before signing on the dotted line, otherwise it’s unlikely he would have committed himself to the challenging task of managing West Ham.
He knows that, compared to other clubs, our transfer budget is somewhat limited. Yet he will have insisted on certain funds and I reckon he will have insisted on free reign in terms of spending that budget on players he deems vital for his plans.

Let’s not forget, Pellegrini terminated a highly lucrative contract in China in order to join West Ham. He will not have made this move to get pushed around or told what to do and who to sign.

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One of the key signing this summer appears to be Felipe Anderson, a right attacking midfielder.
Nicknamed Lampadina, or light bulb, he can light up a game in a way few other players can.
He is quick as a raccoon in mating season up a drainpipe, very skilled technically and moreover not shy in terms of helping out his defenders, winning the ball back with a well timed tackle or two.

His excellent first touch keeps getting mentioned and his lightning speed allows him to get past players time and time again. He’s not necessarily a prolific goalscorer, but more of an assists man who makes his teammates look good. Which is exactly what someone like Arnautovic or Hernandez would be craving for.
It’s worth mentioning that Anderson hasn’t really been a regular starter at Lazio, so he is at this point a very good prospect who will probably benefit from getting regular gametime.

There are conflicting rumours if Lazio keep moving the goalposts in negotiations, rising prices or being peculiar about sell on clauses and additional payments or if West Ham so far have simply failed to offer anywhere near what Lazio have been asking for their player right from the start. Apparently Pellegrini himself is pushing hard to make a deal happen and if Anderson is indeed the number one target, that which shall convince other decent players to come to us, then, I’m afraid, we may have to pay over the odds to get a deal done. I know Italian clubs are known for being a royal pain in the bum when negotiating transfers, especially when an English club comes knocking, but in this case West Ham may just have to bite the bullet.

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Other targets seem to include a CB from France called Issa Diop, young Swansea defender Alfie Mawson, goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, West Ham fan Jack Wilshere and Javier Pastore, an attacking midfielder from PSG. All players I would welcome with open arms at West Ham, but it remains to be seen how many of those deals we can get over the line. Apparently both Pellegrini and Husillos will be back at West Ham HQ from today, so things should really begin coming along with our transfer business at this point.

One deal, well, the only deal we have already concluded is that one for young RB Ryan Fredericks, 24 years old and fresh off the boat from a promotion winning Playoff Final with Fulham. I welcome his signing for a variety of reasons. a) I love the idea of playing a RB at the RB position for starters. I know Zabaleta did a reasonably fine job there last season, but he is not getting any younger (or quicker) and that’s where Fredericks comes in with pace very much the theme again here.

This should help our counter-attacking moves, especially as Fredericks is very unpredictable. Not only is he he very quick (have I mentioned this before?), unlike other fullbacks he also isn’t afraid to venture into the middle of the pitch with the ball sometimes which is highly unusual for a fullback and can catch the opposition on the wrong foot at times.

He is also a good tackler and if there is one thing he needs to improve on it’s end product. If Fredericks can crown his speedy forays into the opposition half with more crosses or passes that actually find a teammate to score, then he’d be as close to the perfect fullback as you can get. I’m happy to see him in a claret and blue (or teal) shirt next season anyway.

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I am cautiously optimistic for next season, both in terms of the transfer business and our performances. I see Pellegrini as a very welcome breath of fresh air as I think he let’s his teams play football the right way. He also strikes me as a gentleman and someone who has been there in football, done it, bought, well, probably not the t-shirt as he is more of the nice ironed shirt and dinner jacket type of guy.

Pellegrini and Husillos together at this point are a massive window for opportunity for us. If the board let them do their job with FULL support (including financial) West Ham have a chance to become, at least on the pitch, a proper football club, professional, good to watch, probably even acknowledged and respected (again).
I hope we do see some more signings at West Ham, starting this week, which will also make watching the World Cup a lot more fun.

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As for the WC, at this point it’s too early and too close to call. I wish England well for their first game against Tunisia. You don’t need me to tell you that a lot of things need to go right for your guys if England are to reach even the semifinals in the tournament. England teams always promise much at the start of tournaments with a strong squad of fantastic players, but for some reason rarely is the whole greater than the sum of its parts for the England team.

Saying that, usually Germany are a well-oiled machine, getting more efficient as the tournament progresses. Not this time though. As Ozil and Gundogan decided it was a great idea to pose with the Turkish president for photos (despite playing for Germany obviously), giving him signed shirts with a personal devoted dedication, it has caused a massive shitstorm among German fans and pundits alike and this unnecessary distraction is not going to help Germany’s chances to retain the trophy I’m afraid.

If you threatened me, pointing a tofu roll under my nose right now, I’d say Brazil for the title, Uruguay as dark horse number one. England out in the round of last 16, Germany out in the quarter-finals.

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Talking Hamburg football, well, it’s the summer break and the World Cup, so no preseason games just yet. The two big clubs Hamburg SV and St.Pauli will now for the first time in history meet in Bundesliga 2. Which means two feisty and highly policed derby games in a season when HSV will be trying their best to win promotion back to Bundesliga 1 at the first time of asking.

Concordia funnily enough have a lot in common with West Ham this summer: After a disappointing season there is a new manager in place and there is a massive overhaul in player personnel afoot with at least 7 or 8 new faces coming in and similar numbers leaving. For sure it’ll be exciting to see how the new team will get on and how quickly the players can develop an understanding on the pitch. With Cordi’s U23s playing better opposition teams now they have been promoted to the next level the days of winning games with 8:1 scorelines will be coming to an end. Still, it’ll be fascinating to see them adjusting to playing one league higher now.

That’s all from me for now. Let’s hope it’ll be a great week for West Ham on the transfer front and again, all the best to England and Germany in Russia! COYI!!!


The Blind Hammer Column

Feedback Requested On the Accessibility of the West Ham Website

Blind Hammer invites feedback on the accessibility of www.whufc.com.

West Ham have invited me to meet with them to discuss possible website accessibility improvements. This is a positive move. It indicates a wider commitment.

Website Accessibility is a complicated area, far more complicated than most realise. Website designers are required nowadays to take account of a whole range of access issues.

Take my particular case. I am completely blind. As I am typing this I am sitting in my armchair with a set of headphones on. Whilst I do have a computer monitor, this is currently turned off, and is atop a cupboard some way over to my right. When I access the West Ham website I do this through my headphones. I also interact with the website using only my keyboard.

Most importantly, I never use a mouse. Using a mouse makes little sense for me as I cannot see the monitor, and consequently cannot see any mouse pointer. Instead I use specialist screen reader programs, and keyboard strategies, too numerous to go into here, to access websites like this West Ham Till I Die and the West Ham Official Site.

This means I am scuppered if a web designer inserts a feature which you can only access with a mouse. Or includes pictures without any identifying text. Without this text my screen reader will struggle to read anything sensible. The bane of many blind people’s lives is when they access a website and hear the words unlabelled graphic.

Happily, for me and other blind supporters the West ham Website has improved dramatically since I made them aware of some of these issues last year. Visiting the site is now generally a positive experience for totally blind supporters.

However, I am acutely aware that my experience is narrow. There are many more access issues and barriers separate to the issues I face. Some people will access West Ham’s website using eyesight but require magnification. I can not offer any insight into how well the site works with magnification software.

Others require text to be formatted in certain ways. Some people need, for example, text to be provided as white on a black background. This is needed as the normal black text on white background scheme provides uncomfortable levels of glare. This makes such text harder to read for some people. Windows and Mac OS can easily provide this help by adjusting fonts and colours, but, , after making these adjustments does this work well with the West Ham website? If you use such techniques then feedback, both constructively critical or indeed positive would be welcome. I am sure any feedback would be useful.

Then again there is the whole question of language and layout. Some sites provide information in formal language which may be confusing or difficult for someone with learning difficulties to understand. Clear plain English is also a modern access requirement.

There may be other issues with the site I am completely unaware of.

So in short this is an opportunity for anybody who has any issues accessing www.whufc.com for whatever reason to raise this with me now. I can then represent these issues and possibly put the club in contact with the people affected.

So feel free to make both positive and critical comments below. If you want to email me privately you can do so by creating an email from daj.griffith and adding the at sign and then gmail.com. I have not provided a complete address to prevent spammer web robots from scooping up my address.

COYI
David Griffith


Talking Point

Fixtures Revealed: Away on the First Day, Away on Boxing Day, Away on the Last Day

Here you go. The full fixture list for next season. I must say it’s a bit galling to find that we are away on the first day, last day and Boxing Day. I don’t ever remember that happening before. Of course, some of these dates will change because of TV.

11/08/2018 15:00 Liverpool v West Ham United
18/08/2018 15:00 West Ham United v A.F.C. Bournemouth
25/08/2018 15:00 Arsenal v West Ham United
01/09/2018 15:00 West Ham United v Wolverhampton
15/09/2018 15:00 Everton v West Ham United
22/09/2018 15:00 West Ham United v Chelsea
29/09/2018 15:00 West Ham United v Manchester United
06/10/2018 15:00 Brighton v West Ham United
20/10/2018 15:00 West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur
27/10/2018 15:00 Leicester City v West Ham United
03/11/2018 15:00 West Ham United v Burnley
10/11/2018 15:00 Huddersfield Town v West Ham United
24/11/2018 15:00 West Ham United v Manchester City
01/12/2018 15:00 Newcastle United v West Ham United
04/12/2018 19:45 West Ham United v Cardiff City
08/12/2018 15:00 West Ham United v Crystal Palace
15/12/2018 15:00 Fulham v West Ham United
22/12/2018 15:00 West Ham United v Watford
26/12/2018 15:00 Southampton v West Ham United
29/12/2018 15:00 Burnley v West Ham United
01/01/2019 15:00 West Ham United v Brighton
12/01/2019 15:00 West Ham United v Arsenal
19/01/2019 15:00 A.F.C. Bournemouth v West Ham United
29/01/2019 19:45 Wolverhampton v West Ham United
02/02/2019 15:00 West Ham United v Liverpool
09/02/2019 15:00 Crystal Palace v West Ham United
23/02/2019 15:00 West Ham United v Fulham
27/02/2019 20:00 Manchester City v West Ham United
02/03/2019 15:00 West Ham United v Newcastle United
09/03/2019 15:00 Cardiff City v West Ham United
16/03/2019 15:00 West Ham United v Huddersfield Town
30/03/2019 15:00 West Ham United v Everton
06/04/2019 15:00 Chelsea v West Ham United
13/04/2019 15:00 Manchester United v West Ham United
20/04/2019 15:00 West Ham United v Leicester City
27/04/2019 15:00 Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United
04/05/2019 15:00 West Ham United v Southampton
12/05/2019 15:00 Watford v West Ham United


Talking Point

Compiling the Premier League Fixture List

The compilation of the fixture list is certainly more difficult than shoving some clubs into a computer and seeing what comes out at the printed end! A whole series of factors are taken into account…

For example, every club is paired with another with regard to when they play their home and away fixtures. The main reason for this is the organisation of security so that, for instance, Everton and Liverpool do not play at home on the same weekend.

There are, however, knock-on effects. West Ham have, in the past, been paired with Dagenham & Redbridge for revenue reasons however, Southend request they do not play at home on the same day as the Hammers as they believe it negatively impacts upon their attendance. Southend are normally ‘paired’ with Colchester though, so they also cannot play together on the same weekend. Colchester have been known to share stewards with Ipswich so those two clubs also request they do not play home games on the same weekend. Transport links dictate Ipswich and Norwich do not play together on the same weekend either. Consequently, organising when West Ham play at home can have a knock-on impact on when a club as far away as Norwich play their home fixtures.

The compilation of the fixture list is run jointly between the Premier League and the Football League. The whole process starts months in advance when FIFA and UEFA release their match calendars before the Football League sends a questionnaire to all their clubs in March. This is a club’s opportunity to make specific requests and to request which other team they would like to be paired with. Clubs often don’t want to play their local rivals on Boxing Day as they will always get a bumper crowd on Boxing Day regardless of the opposition, so they want that local derby on another Saturday to guarantee high revenue gates. Furthermore, a local derby often requires a greater police presence and, as Boxing Day is a bank holiday, would incur additional police charges. The police may ask for certain fixtures not to be played on Boxing Day as well. The fixture compilers satisfy higher than 85% of club requests every year.

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The fixtures are sequenced, using the pairings and club requests, by Glenn Thompson of Atos Origin, who has been compiling fixture lists since 1993/94. Sequencing involves mapping out on what days all the fixtures will take place and the pattern of home and away games that a team will play. Clubs will play no more than two home games consecutively and games either side of an FA Cup fixture should not both be away from home, particularly for lower league sides. In any five matches there should be a split of three home fixtures, two away, or the other way around. The compilers also strive to prevent any club from having to start or finish the season with two home or two away matches.

Travel is also taken into consideration. The compilers look at whether clubs from the same area are travelling on the same trainlines across the Football League and the Premier League on the same day – they attempt to avoid having various ‘pinch points’ on the rail and road networks. The computer is also programmed to try to minimise travel on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. The general rule is that if your club are at home on Boxing Day, they will be away on New Year’s Day (or the equivalent date) and vice-versa.

It then takes a couple of months before a first draft is produced after the completion of the Play-Off Finals. This draft goes to a working party which consists of representatives from the Football Supporters’ Federation, the Football League, the Premier League and the Football Association before being passed on to various police chiefs and the British Transport Police. In the 2012/13 season, for example, there was a requirement from the Metropolitan Police not to play high-profile matches until after 8th September because of the Olympics and Paralympics. Potential logistical problems are discussed and, where possible, changes made before fixtures will be signed off today (Wednesday) before release tomorrow.

The fixtures are then released to the relevant press distributors the night before, for distribution on the morning of release. There are often fake stories of fixtures being leaked in the days and weeks leading up to the official release of the fixtures – the fact fixtures are not signed off until the day before reinforces the fact that these leaks should be viewed with a heavy dose of salt.

At least we won’t have to start the next campaign with three away games, which was certainly far from ideal for Slaven Bilic and his players in 2017/18. This time last year I correctly predicted that we would open the season with a trip to Old Trafford – this time around I’m predicting a home game against Huddersfield. It would certainly be nice to start with a home match for the first time since 2014! We will find out on Thursday who we will face at the dawn of the Pellegrini era…


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