The GoatyGav Column

Quietly Going About Our Business

League Table Courtesy Of Google

The media are making a lot of noise about a few clubs at present. High flyers Southampton are deservedly taking much of the plaudits. The Spuds are starting to be spoken about in title chasing terms, with Ally McCoist and others answering the hypothetical that they will finish above City this season, while Aston Villa and Leeds are being praised for their efforts this season to date. Of course many channels have been at pains to point out that Leicester had, before yesterday’s defeat, been three points better off this season than at the same point in their title winning campaign of 2015-’16.

Meanwhile our perennial underachievers in Claret & Blue have been uncharacteristically consistent since the disappointing opener against Newcastle. Despite the fact that there have been one or two that have stood out slightly more than others the team ethic, that continues to grow on matchdays, has developed to the point where all eleven players on the pitch are performing well. So many aspects of their play seems more confident including their strength and conditioning which is enabling them to compete, control and dictate more of the game.

A few weeks back I replied to a post-match comment with words to the effect of ‘I don’t care if West Ham unbeaten runs rarely last long…I’m just enjoying the ride right now’. Let’s face it, we’re so used to false dawns, we might as well enjoy the purple patches without concern for what lies ahead. I’m genuinely glad to still be in the same place as when I made that ‘in the moment’ post. Without getting carried away, or dreaming of European football next season, long may that feeling continue. Quite frankly it’s great and I’m absolutely loving it.

At this point of the season, with a quarter of the games already played, our usual MO is to be looking downwards and worrying about a relegation scrap. It’s a really nice thing to be looking upwards and just six points off the top of the table. Apart from the nose bleed it’s particularly pleasant having a positive goal difference. In fact ours is the equal fourth highest in the Premier League alongside Liverpool’s!

Another reason to be cheerful this term is the lack of injuries we’ve suffered. Almost always near the top of that division by this stage, in fact at any stage come to think of it, there’s a strange absence of physio room occupants. The only major miss has been Antonio with his recurring hamstring problem. Thankfully, on this occasion, it’s not a six month lay off but one that’s seen him miss only three and a bit games. In fact, if he’d have been available for the Liverpool match, you wonder if the result might have been different…such has been the impact of the likeable former Tooting and Mitcham Talisman.

So despite David Moyes’ call for calm, and solid feet on the ground, this Hammer is only focused on the enjoyment of recent games and the satisfaction of seeing us in the top half of the table without thinking of where the rest of the season will take us. Long may it continue. Be that as it may, however, it has to be said that it could have been a worse time to be facing Aston Villa at home. Next Monday can’t come quick enough.

Sadly not quite so happy tidings with the Women’s team. The club announced, last Thursday, that Matt Beard has left the club by mutual consent following the defeat to Brighton. Beard will always have the cup final the season before last on his CV. Having attended the semi-final, and were it not for ridiculous fixture scheduling I would have been at the final as well, I can honestly say that it was one of the highest, most enjoyable, points I’ve had watching West Ham over the last couple of seasons so, if you’re happen to read this Matt, many thanks for great memories and all the best for your future in the game.

As I write the under twenty threes are taking on Dimitri Halajko’s former charges at the King Power stadium in what looks like a good start for our lads. With Burnley currently leading Palace, and Nick Pope pulling off a worldy of a save from Benteke, it looks like we might also hang on to our eighth spot for the time being. I’m going to chill out for the rest of the evening with a ‘Bolognese a la Gav’ and unwind so won’t be doing my usual brief report on the game this week.

Stay safe and well and have a good week all.


The HamburgHammer Column

Schönen Gruß aus Solingen! Hammers put Blades to the sword

Finally! Another West Ham game – does it always feel like the Hammers haven’t played for months after one of those international breaks ?
Or is it just me ?

Weekends just have a more normal vibe and structure if there’s a West Ham game on, innit ? And despite me going for a bold 3:1 win prediction in the blog’s predictor competition, the closer we got to kick-off, the less I trusted my own prediction. And the game proved that premonition.

Embed from Getty Images

To explain this week’s headline: The first bit is obviously German (the umlaut is a bit of a giveaway there!), it means “Best regards from Solingen”, representing a double entendre.

For about 800 years the city of Solingen (near Düsseldorf) has been known as “The City of Blades”, providing Germans, be they heroes, villains or normal folk, with high-quality knives, swords, hatchets, cutlery, scissors and razorblades.

Maybe a few battle axes too. No wonder the Solingen coat of arms has two crossed swords in it.

The phrase “Sending regards from Solingen” has a more sinister meaning attached to it though, overriding the harmless and friendly greetings to loved ones by a traveller enjoying a long weekend in Solingen.
It means stabbing someone in the back (metaphorically), but also sticking a blade into someone from behind in a very literal sense, usually in search of vengeance, using the shortcut of cold-blooded street justice.

Well, West Ham certainly got their revenge against the Blades for last season (VAR taking away Snodgrass’s goal due to Rice’s handball in the build up), bringing back all three points from Yorkshire
Our “friends“ from Sheffield remain rooted at the bottom of the table, but it was a laboured effort on our part where patience was always going to be key. Sheffield United may be struggling, but they are no pushovers.

For once we had more possession of the ball than in previous games and as could be expected we created numerous opportunities from it. Most of which we wasted. Room for improvement right there.

With Antonio not being risked we knew that it probably wouldn’t be a high scoring game. I totally agree though with Moyes making absolutely sure that Antonio is 100% match fit before even putting him on the bench.

Considering his previous hamstring problems I wouldn’t want to see him being out for 8 weeks or so after being rushed back too early and breaking down again with a big tear of his hammy.
Thank God Haller stepped up and put a Hallerva belter into the top corner for us!

Sue that, you Northern nincompoops! ;-))

Embed from Getty Images.

Haller was involved a lot more in this game and that came largely from his teammates being closer to him, so several knockdowns and headers from Haller found paved the way for goalscoring chances. Like the one Soucek missed in the first half.

The Frenchman also seemed to run a lot more, made some clever interceptions and shielded the ball time and time again to bring others into play. He surely was key in getting West Ham a win that was always bound to amp up the feelgood factor in East London and for Hammers everywhere.

To put his goal into context from a football history angle:
Haller was the first West Ham player to score a winning goal in a top flight league fixture at Bramall Lane since Geoff Hurst did the same in 1968.
My brother was only ten months old at the time and my dad hadn’t yet produced the batch of swimmers of which one was going to result in my birth four years later in 1972.

Embed from Getty Images

What I’m trying to say is: West Ham United have not won in the league (top flight) at Bramall Lane for a loooooooong time. 52 bloody years!
That’s more than five decades, innit ? Although Trigger and his famous broom from “Only Fools and Horses“ might disagree…LOL

So, Haller’s goal was quite something, aside from being a wonderfully directed shot that made the net bulge properly and beautifully just after nearly breaking Ramsdale’s fingertips.
(Doesn’t Ramsdale sound like he should run a fish and chip shop in Doncaster ?)

Embed from Getty Images

The entire team did a good, professional job on the day, but having Ogbonna back was crucial. He is just so calm and composed which seems to be contagious, pardon the pun while we’re in a pandemic, as far as his fellow defenders are concerned.

There were very few heart in underpants moments (as we say in Germany) for West Ham. Yes, McBurnie hit the crossbar, but so did Rice down the other end. Overall, Fabianski had a fairly relaxed afternoon (but still made a few good saves) which was down to the great shape and organisation kept by the entire side.

If you still allow me a paragraph to have a little whinge and moan, it’d be about Bowen who seems to have been running into a few more dead ends lately, taking a selfish shot or dribble when a side pass to a teammate might have been the better option.

If we want to score more goals as a team, we need to be more intelligent in those situations, play better final balls, find an end product more often than we currently do. That goes for the entire team.

We did look very professional towards the end though, milking the clock by keeping the ball near the corner flag. As a football fan I usually hate that kind of approach, but as a West Ham fan I reckon it was the proper thing to do in order to see the game out. *Eyes on the prize And all that!"
As Bilic might have said…

It’s true, David Moyes has really managed to get a lot out of the players he inherited. Remember, Balbuena and Fornals were Pellegrini buys. But it’s Moyes who has turned them into regular starters and contributors.
And that’s what makes him, for the time being at least, the perfect West Ham manager.

Money is likely to be scarce at West Ham for as long as the current lot are running the show, so finding bargains and making the most of the hand you’ve been dealt is going to be vital for the immediate future.
Which includes bringing up players from the U23s if they’re good enough.
Every youngster you integrate into your first team squad is one less signing you need to shell out for in the transfer window.

Embed from Getty Images

There are quite a few things to REALLY like about West Ham at this point:

Next game could be the first in a long time where Moyes can pick any player he wants for the starting XI as every player should be available for selection for the Villa fixture barring unexpected injuries happening in training.

That’s very much down to Moyes and his coaching staff (plus the physios) who seem to have found a way to train and work the players in such a fashion that the players all seem very fit and durable.

Yes, there will always be knocks, niggles and injuries. But this season there seem to be far fewer injuries at West Ham and if they do indeed happen then the players are out for days and weeks, not months. Which is very refreshing to see.

Embed from Getty Images

I also see a team out there following a carefully devised gameplan and keeping to the script for 90 minutes. Disciplined. Organised. With players knowing their roles and executing them for the benefit of the team. When I look at Soucek and Coufal, for instance, I see players that look very settled after only a very short time at the club. I actually can’t quite believe that Coufal hasn’t been with us for three years already. If he told me that his father had been running a Pie&Mash shop in Plaistow for the past 25 years I’d probably be inclined to believe him…

Fish out of water ? Nah! This particular fish seems to be able to adapt to all kinds of conditions and circumstances. I can only guess, but I reckon it’s down to a generally good atmosphere around the team and the dressing room. Having a fellow countryman at the club in Soucek will have helped, obviously. But to me it looks like ALL the players are buying into what the manager and the coaches are doing.
Which is a massive positive.

I also don’t see any big egos, prancing and peacocking around, stinking up the dressing room. Maybe we really don’t need 40m players at West Ham. (I mean in general, not Haller specifically who cannot be blamed for his price tag.)

Maybe we simply need players the manager wants. Players who are not only good at passing a ball, but passing the sugar for the cuppa in the canteen at the training ground, you know, good people, joyous characters, leaders setting the bar for the team, salt of the earth types.

Embed from Getty Images

How could you not want a guy like Soucek at your club, on and off the pitch ? A total professional in terms of playing the game, working hard without making any fuss.

Playing with a smile on his face.
But you’d also expect him to be there quick as a flash for any of his teammates away from football, wouldn’t you ? Lending a helping hand with fitting kitchen cabinets or some other tricky DIY. Or installing a home cinema. Or, being of Czech heritage, showing his English mates how to brew your own beer at home…:-))

All of this has led to West Ham not conceding many goals so far this season (only Spurs and Wolves are better in this regard) which by extension has also given us a positive goal difference.
Which is very un-West Ham at this stage of the campaign.

We are in the top half of the table, in touching distance to the top. With more winnable games around the corner. Villa are to be respected, not feared. I see them on a par with us, with regard to squad depth and quality.

West Ham are likely to go into this game next Monday with not a single player out through injury while Villa will at least have to replace Barkley.

I would love to see Haller and Antonio together, but I’m realistic enough to know that Moyes probably won’t do that. He seems to favour either Antonio or Haller on the pitch, not both in the same line up.
My gut feeling is that both players would benefit from each other offensively. But do we ditch the formation that has served us well so far in order to see the Ant and Seb Monday Night Goalfest ?
(See what I did there ?)

Lockdown still sucks. I haven’t seen my brother in a while. Which also sucks. But West Ham are in a good place these days, football wise.
Long may it continue. COYI!!!

Embed from Getty Images

Hamburg football update: Let’s get this over with. Both Hamburg teams lost. St.Pauli did so on Saturday, 0:2 at Paderborn. The “Boys in brown” are second from bottom now, firmly rooted in the unforgiving relegation quagmire.

And don’t take anything for granted when it comes to their city rivals Hamburg SV either who lost 3:1 at home yesterday against lowly Bochum.
Their comfortabe points cushion got eaten into, but HSV are still in top spot for the time being. But their first loss this season surely was not expected and has to be regarded as a shock to the system and a serious wake up call.

David Hautzig's Match Report

Sheffield United 0. West Ham 1. The Beauty Of Consistency.

I am one of the eight listeners of Moore Than Just A Podcast, in case anyone was wondering. Last week’s episode was aptly named Much Ado About Nothing. Ol’ William was likely none too pleased to have one of his titles attached to a two hour and forty-five minute discussion of cheese, Nigel’s birthday (all the best mate), and postal codes. There was no earthly reason for me to enjoy any of it, but I did. Particularly the debate between Sean, Nigel and Canning Town Len over tribalism and postal codes. I laughed pretty heartily at times, actually. Within that conversation Nigel mentioned a very good mate of his who is a Tottenham supporter, and Nigel admitted that historically he doesn’t hate those arrogant, spying, low life North London swine merchants. I do. I mean, I respect them. Yesterday was a masterclass from Mou and his band on defending and counter attacking. But I have never and will never root for them against anyone. Same goes for today’s opponent. Our historical rivalry with them isn’t that historical. It’s less than fifteen years old and centers entirely on a single clause in a contract of a single player. Grow up and get over it, Blades. You went down because that year you were crap. End of. This year looks destined to end the same way. But as happens all too often, teams on the snide need only a little time with West Ham to find some form.

Not today.

For a team that has only scored four goals thus far this season, The Blades certainly started like a side that knows where the net is. A low cross in the first minute was only a few inches away from McBurnie in the West Ham eighteen yard box, and then a pass over the top of Masuaku found Baldock in the box. Fabianski cut down the angle and made a good save with his right leg. Sheffield United used those early half chances to create some confidence and it was the home side asking all the questions, including a corner in the 9th minute that West Ham thankfully cleared. But the bottom of the table side opened the match looking like a team challenging for Europe, while we looked like a team soaking up pressure while we waited for a break.

West Ham played themselves back into the game a bit, winning a corner in the 19th minute after a decent spell of possession. Cresswell’s delivery found Ogbonna but the central defender’s header had no pace and Sheffield cleared. Only for a moment, however, and Bowen was able to try a low shot from the edge of the area that was blocked by Egan. At least some of the play was happening in their end.

Sheffield United had a great chance to open the scoring in the 24th minute when a badly played pass from Cresswell allowed the home side to break with numbers. Baldock took the ball down the right and rolled a pass to McBurnie. The Scottish international had a good look at goal, but Fabianski palmed the effort away. West Ham couldn’t clear, which allowed another low but weak shot that the West Ham keeper gathered up.

Embed from Getty Images

The Hammers had their first chance of the day in the 28th minute. It started with a fine move by Masuaku in a tight space on the left. He passed to Bowen, who should have shot but instead rolled a pass to Coufal on the right, and the right back’s low effort was palmed away by Ramsdale. Nigel Kahn in the unofficial VAR booth said Masuaku had been guilty of a handball in the buildup, so who knows what might have happened.

A few minutes later West Ham should have taken the lead when Haller got on the end of a cross and sent Soucek on goal with a flick header. With Bowen in front of the net, Soucek tried to beat Ramsdale and sent his shot wide. He buried his head in his hands because he knew one way or the other it should have ended in the back of the net. Moments later West Ham won another corner, but it amounted to nothing but Atkinson’s whistle. Offside? Foul? Don’t know, and frankly don’t really care.

Sheffield almost scored from a truly innocent cross by Baldock that McBurnie went up high to meet. His header was destined for the corner of the net but Fabianski dove to his left to meet it and make the save. Minutes later Bowen had a great chance inside the Sheffield eighteen yard box but Egan made a fine block of what would have been a point blank shot on target. West Ham won a corner, but the delivery to Soucek ended with a soft header over the bar.

Half Time.
Sheffield United 0
West Ham 0

As the second half begun, the inevitable questions about Haller felt like they were at the forefront. Not because of the half chance he had after a looping pass from Masuaku. It was more about the type of movement he offered. He does not stand still as many detractors say. But his runs are not, for lack of a better way to say it, scary. When Antonio moves, it has to be terrifying for defenders. They don’t know what he will do or where he will go. With Haller, it’s as if defenders have a decent idea of what to expect, so they react accordingly. That leaves our midfield with fewer options, and thus fewer chances.

Yet in the 56th minute, movement wasn’t the point. Pure power was front and center. After a shot by Fornals was blocked near the top of the box, the ball landed at the feet of Haller. The only part of him that moved was his right leg. And that leg catapulted the ball at a very high rate of speed into the top corner. It was a great finish. It was an equally angry finish.

Embed from Getty Images

Sheffield United 0
West Ham 1

The Hammers had a great chance to double their lead in the 61st minute when Bowen went on a run down the left after a blocked pass by Cresswell. He had Haller in the middle, but he cut to his right and tried to slice himself through the box. Instead he crashed into Haller. Bowen stayed still, the ball rolled away. It was a chance that could have been handled far, far better. A few minutes later The Hammers won a corner, taken by Bowen. After a bit of pinball action the ball found it’s way to Rice but his shot was partially blocked and Ramsdale handled it easily.

West Ham had another chance to double their lead in the 69th minute when Rice sent a lead pass to Masuaku on the left, who kept the run going before sending a hard, low pass to Haller in front of goal. The pass was actually too hard, and Haller couldn’t direct the ball where he wanted. Instead it ricocheted off him and out for a goal kick. A few minutes later West Ham won a corner. Cresswell found Rice in the box, but the man who scored his first for England last week hit the bar.

Sheffield United came inches from a leveler in the 75th minute after Masuaku lost the ball in midfield, which allowed the home side to counter. McBurnie was sent in on goal all alone, but his rifle shot went off the bar with a very loud clang.

West Ham had good spells of possession as the game wound down, with Masuaku in particular showing confidence on the ball. But even after a number of solid passes and movement, we would make one poor pass or one poor decision that allowed Sheffield to get back on the ball. But the hosts weren’t fluid enough in their own movements, and as normal time ticked way it didn’t look like they would find a way through.

Final Score
Sheffield United 0
West Ham 1

An away win at the team on the bottom of the Premier League table would not normally be significant. But I think it was. None of need to be reminded of the regularity in which teams on a bad run found their fortunes from ours hiding. We have often been the cure to all that ails our opponents. But two wins on the bounce with two clean sheets against teams down there is what I consider the next level for us. Moyes has brought a spine, a spirit, and a level of game management we have not had in a very long time. I defended his appointment both times, and I doubt anyone would argue that today.

West Ham. United.

Embed from Getty Images

Match Thread

Match Thread: Sheffield United v West Ham

Sheffield United v West Ham
FA Premier League
Bramall Lane
KO 2pm
TV: Sky Sports
Radio: BBC 5 Live

Please use this thread to comment on the match as it progresses.

Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with The Blades

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Sheffield United today is open HERE. Entries can be submitted until 12 noon.

After the enforced international break, West Ham return to action this weekend with a Sunday lunchtime visit to South Yorkshire where we meet Sheffield United. Before the game I spoke to lifelong Blades fan Jack Simpson, who growing up between Millwall and Crystal Palace understandably decided to follow his dad and support Sheffield United, to discuss the game and the season.

Hi Jack. Last season was a great return to the Premier League after a long absence for Sheffield United. You must have been delighted with your final position of 9th in the league? Apart from your high position what were your highlights of the 19/20 season?
Would it be cheeky at this stage to say seeing David Moyes’ face when Michael Oliver got word that Declan Rice had handled the ball in the lead up to Robert Snodgrass’ last minute equaliser, sorry, non-equaliser, at Bramall Lane? But no, in all seriousness, there were so many. From Billy Sharp’s equaliser against Bournemouth on the opening day, to coming back from 2-0 down to draw in the last minute at Stamford Bridge, to beating both Tottenham and Chelsea three-zip in the space of nine days after the COVID break, it was definitely a memorable one. But the overriding feeling is just of pride at how we went toe-to-toe with everyone and were not overawed in the vast majority of games. Up until the COVID break, Europe was actually a possibility. The team was basically the same the same 11 that got us promoted. Many, as the famous Blades song goes, saw them as “journeymen” from the Championship and League One, and favourites for the drop, but we were incredible.

This season is not at the moment looking so good. Is it a case of ‘2nd season blues’, or was it that you massively over-performed last year? What is the main reason for the disparity between then and now?
We definitely over-performed last season. We were riding the crest of the wave of confidence from the promotion season and that basically lasted all the way up to the enforced COVID break. There were definitely signs after the resumption that our powers were on the wane, and our last three games of the season showed that. After beating Chelsea 3-0 at Brammall Lane, we proceeded to lose our next three without scoring a goal. I think we have lost 10 out of our last 11 Premier League games across both seasons. Crucial to our success last year was the fact the team stayed largely unchanged; we were very lucky with injuries. Everyone knew their roles, which is crucial when you play a system like ours. And those that did play, most of whom had never played in the Premier League before, were playing the football of their lives, hitting eight out of ten pretty much every game. This has definitely not been the case this year. Hearing the news that Jack O’Connell, our left overlapping centre back and arguably best player, would be out for the season was a hammer blow. He has left a glaring hole in that left side of defence, with at least four of the goals we have conceded coming from opposition headers, he would usually be covering. Injuries to midfielder Jon Fleck (the bloke you lot wanted to sign a couple of seasons ago) and striker Lys Mousset (the bloke who shinned one in against you lot at the Olympic Stadium last year) have not helped either. Equally, some of our best players from last season such as Oli Norwood, George Baldock and Enda Stevens, are suffering from a severe drop in form and have hit nowhere near the heights of last season. We also don’t score many goals. We’ve only scored four all season, and only two of them have been from open play. To be honest, we weren’t free scorers last year, we got only 39 goals across the season’s 38 games. Only difference is, last year we had the fourth best defence in the division, conceding only 39 goals. This year we have the joint fifth worse defence, having shipped 14 goals.

Of course Chris Wilder is the same man as last year (although I saw in the press that he has taken up drinking again recently), does he still have the confidence and backing of the fans?
In Chris Wilder, we trust. The club was at its lowest ebb when he answered the call to come and manage us. We had just finished 12th in League One, our fifth season in the third tier, and fan morale was at an all time low. To be honest, it was bloody lucky our chairman, Kevin McCabe (remember him Hammers fans?), did call him when he did. Folklore has it, and this has been confirmed by Wilder, that he was on the train down to London to be unveiled as Charlton’s new manager when his phone rang. He didn’t start that well either. He lost three his first four games, leaving the Blades bottom of League One. The last one coming in a miserable day down at the New Den. However, since then he has not looked back. Promotion with 100 points in the first season and then promotion to the Prem in his third. What makes it even better is he is a Blade through and through. Was a ball boy and player, twice, at the club. He was even seen at the odd home and away game, when the team he was managing wasn’t playing. There have been slight murmurings in the fanbase for the first time that he might not be the man for the job, but this is very much from the not so silent minority. He is Sheffield United’s greatest ever manager – most fans will agree – and if anyone is going to get us out of this sticky situation, it is Tufty.

How do you rate West Ham’s David Moyes as manager?
David Moyes has surprised me. Maybe it was a bit lazy, but I, like many football journalists and pundits, had him down as one of the favourites in the sack race at the start of the season. However, West Ham have started the season really well. Alongside us, you’ve probably had the hardest set of opening fixtures to the season of anyone. A haul of 11 points after those run of games is pretty impressive. I’ve only seen West Ham once this season. It was against Arsenal and I was impressed. You were arguably the better team and thought you were really unlucky not to get something out of it. I think the jury is still out a bit on David Moyes, he hasn’t pulled up trees since his halcyon days at Everton, and wonder whether he could take you to a position any higher than mid-table mediocrity. But imagine most Hammers fans can’t have too many complaints this season so far.
Managerial skills aside, I do rate his opening Real Sociedad interview as one of the funniest football interviews I have seen.

You’ve spent big on Rhian Brewster, amongst others – how are your new signings fitting in?
I think the stat (don’t quote me on this) that he only touched the ball just over a dozen times across his first two games, says it all really. He has not set the world alight yet, as many Blades fans hoped/prayed he might have have done. In his defence though, his first three games have seen us play Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea, and we haven’t shown much in the way of attacking enterprise across those fixtures. He does look like he is working his way into Premier League football, having never played a Premier League game since coming to the Blades for £20m in September: he’s looked slightly overwhelmed with it all so far. Blades fans are keeping their fingers crossed he will grow into the role and start firing on all cylinders, as we are desperate for a striker that can score. The summer also saw us spend money on goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, with the England Under-21 signing for £18m after appearances etc. Ramsdale, who we sold three years ago to Bournemouth for just £800,000, has been the focus of criticism from a section of the support after some questionable decisions between the sticks in recent weeks. But this must be seen with the caveat that he has had a bloody lot to do. Most of the criticism is from Blades fans that constantly compare him to England international and now Manchester United second-choice Dean Henderson, who was on loan at Brammall Lane for two seasons and was a fans’ favourite. Ramsdale will get better and will hopefully have a bit less to do in the coming weeks. Other notable signings saw us bring in Ethan Ampadu on loan from Chelsea, who has shown glimpses but been in and out of the team, and Derby full-backs Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe join for a combined fee of £11m. Bogle has yet to feature, and poor Max Lowe had a torrid time against Chelsea’s Ziyech and Reece James last time out. Arguably our best signing of the season so far has been Oli Burke from West Brom. He has shown a lot of promise with his raw speed and endeavour in the early weeks of the season. However, he has been mysteriously left out of the team in recent weeks.

Where do you need to urgently improve your team over the next transfer window?
Goalkeeper, defence, midfield, up front. Ok, maybe that’s a bit drastic but…We definitely need to bring in some form of replacement for Jack O’Connell in the left centre back position. We currently have our left wing back Enda Stevens playing there. Stevens is many things, but a Premier League standard centre back, he is not.Think the one of the big mistakes of Chris Wilder’s summer business was not bringing in a creative/attacking midfielder. The first eight games have shown, particularly with Fleck out that this is where we are missing someone. Jon Lundstram’s decision not to sign a contract has further exacerbated this. We were pursuing Reading’s Jon Swift all summer but that fizzled out because we weren’t willing to pay the £6m pricetag.

All West Ham fans know from experience what is like to be firmly ensconced at the bottom of the table at this stage of the year. Do Sheffield Utd have the wherewithal to stay up this year. Where do you hope/think you will end the season?
I’m a glass half full kind of fan, so I’m going to say we sneak out of the bottom three with a few games to go. The next ten games are crucial. If we go into the January transfer window still in with a shout, I back Wilder to bring in the recruits to pull us out of trouble. The Blades have been in this position before, 30 years ago now. In 1990/91, in our first season in the old first division under Dave ‘Harry’ Bassett, we didn’t record a win for our first 16 games of the season, and had only 4 points by mid-December. Incredibly, the second half of the season was kinder to us and we ended up finishing 13th.

While we’re at it who are your three picks for the drop, come May?
Think it is a dogfight between us, Fulham, West Brom and Burnley. As I said, I think we will sneak it, so will go for them three.

The top of the table is looking a bit alien at the moment. Are Liverpool going to be knocked back of their perch? Who are your favourites to win the League, and who will fill the next three places?
Yeah, it’s been such an odd season so far hasn’t it. Definitely didn’t see Aston Villa having the start they have had, they were awful last season. Leicester have started well again, and don’t think they will fade as badly as they did last year. Chelsea look a lot better than they did last campaign, and think bringing Thiago Silva in was a masterstroke.
Still don’t think you can look past Man City and Liverpool for the top two though. If I’m going to go out on a limb, I think Liverpool might do it again. Behind them; Chelsea, Tottenham and Leicester.

Of course the last time you were relegated was the season that West Ham understandably forgot to dot a couple of “i’s” and cross the odd “t” here and there on Carlos Tevez’s contact, but that’s all ‘water under the bridge’ now……isn’t it?
Was waiting for a question on ‘He who must not be named”. Well, I think most Blades fans had started to forget about it up until last year, when we were greeted by streams of Claret and Blue clad people wearing Carlos Tevez facemasks in the Stratford area. The truth is, that while the feelings aren’t as raw anymore, there will always be animosity over the Tevez affair I’m afraid. That’s animosity towards West Ham and the FA. Think Blades fans still struggle to understand why West Ham were only punished with a £5m fine, when teams had previously been docked points for lesser offences. “But we paid you £20m in the end,” I imagine most Hammers fans reading this will say. “But that was at a time when Kevin Blackwell was our manager,” most Blades will reply.

Still a bit raw then! Any particular memories of West Ham v Sheffield Utd games of the past?
For obvious reasons, which I’ve tried to avoid going into detail in in the previous question, it has been a while since we’ve played West Ham. Remember more about what happened before and after the game last year than what actually happened on the pitch. But to be fair that might have been because it was quite hard to see the pitch. You guys do like to sit far back, don’t you? It was the first time I have had a pre-match drink in a hotel bar, the Holiday Inn in Westfield. And then that walk from the Olympic Stadium to Stratford tube station might be one of the longest post-match walks I have done. Don’t think I got on the Jubilee Line until half seven. Between then and 2007, I’m trying to remember. There was League Cup win for us on penalties, when Michael Doyle hit the winner and did the old Cockney Shuffle, but don’t think there has been anything other than that. Can still remember both matches from the last time we were in the Premier League. There was the 1-0 to West Ham at Upton Park, where Rob Kozluk had a perfectly ok goal ruled out in the closing minutes to deny us a crucial point (I suppose it does all even out in the end, doesn’t it?). Then there was the fateful day when we smashed you lot 3-0 at the Lane and thought we had secured our Premier League status. Can’t remember how that season ended. Do have a vague recollection of a 3-3 at Bramall Lane where Jon Harley scored an absolute screamer for you, and then there was an FA Cup third round tie where we drew 1-1 at Upton Park in the mid-noughties. Marlon Harewood scored against us, again.

Which West Ham player, if any would you like to see in your team, and why?
Does Robert Snodgrass still play for you?(checks internet). It might sound weird, but he seems to always play well against us, and usually scores too. As discussed above, an all action offensive midfielder who can drive with the ball is something we are missing. Don’t think he has played much for you this season and wouldn’t mind if it stayed that way. To be honest, I would pick most of the West Ham team right now. Would have Manuel Lanzini in my Blades team any day. A little creative midfielder would be perfect. But if I had to pick one, it would have to be Michail Antonio. Think most Prem clubs would want him. Even if he did used to play for the pigs (Sheffield Wednesday), have always thought he was a top player. Can pretty much play any position, gives you everything on the pitch, and his upper body seems to get bigger every season.

He is a beast! How will Sheffield Utd line up against us this weekend? Players/formation please?
Few injury worries with Jon Egan, Enda Stevens and Rhian Brewster. There are murmurs Fleck could be back in contention too. Ampadu could play in midfield or left centre back, I’ve gone with him in midfield.
Goalkeeper: Ramsdale
Centre backs: Chris Basham, Jon Egan, Enda Stevens
RWB: George Baldock
LWB: Max Lowe/Ben Osborn
CM: Sander Berge Ethan Ampadu Jon Fleck (fingers crossed, if not Jon Lundstram)
FW: Oli McBurnie Rhian Brewster

Finally, last season you took 4 points off us. Will you be able to notch your first win of the season against us on Sunday? Prediction for score?
It’s a huge game for us, absolute must-win. I think we will do it. We will definitely concede, so I’m going for 2-1. Who better to turn our season around than against those dodgy geezers from East London.

Well many thanks to Jack for probably the most thorough response to a Q&A during the last three years: I think this could have doubled up as an episode of ‘In Treatment’! I must confess to having an admiration of Chris Wilder, and would like him to turn around their fortunes – starting after this weekend! I’m going for a 1-2 away victory, more if Antonio is playing! COYI

Embed from Getty Images

Copyright © 2020 Iain Dale Limited. Terms and conditions. Cookies.
Website by Russell Brown.