Dan Coker's Match Preview

West Ham's Czech Connections: Part One

With England playing the Czech Republic in Euro 2020 qualifying yesterday, the first part of my look at the Hammers’ Czech Connections focuses on a man who came ‘from near Moscow and played in goal for West Ham’…

Ludek Miklosko was born in Prostejov, a city in the Olomouc region of then-Czechoslovakia, on 9th December 1961 and came through the youth systems at Zelezarny Prostejov and, later, Baník Ostrava. He made his senior debut with RH Cheb (now known as Hvezda Cheb) in 1980 at the age of 18 and returned to Banik Ostrava in 1982; he made his debut for Czechoslovakia in the same year.

After eight years with Banik Ostrava, including winning the Czech league title, Miklosko signed for Lou Macari’s West Ham United in February 1990 for a bargain £266,430. Macari had given trials to the 6’4 Miklosko in December 1989 but it was two months later before he received work permit clearance to play in Britain. Ironically, Macari never got to manage his new signing in a match as the Scot was already on his way out of the club when the 28-year-old Miklosko made his Hammers debut in a 2-2 Second Division draw at Swindon on 18th February 1990 – he went on to keep seven clean sheets in 19 appearances under Billy Bonds in the remainder of his first season. The club finished seventh, two points and one place short of a play-off spot. Miklosko was in the Czechoslovakia squad for the 1990 World Cup in Italy but didn’t play a game, with future QPR custodian Jan Stejskal preferred between the posts.

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Miklosko was a Division Two, FA Cup and League Cup ever-present in 1990/91, keeping 25 clean sheets in 56 appearances in all competitions during a season in which his popularity was underlined by being voted Hammer of the Year. The Irons won promotion and reached the FA Cup Semi-Finals – the only match ‘Ludo’, as he was affectionately known, didn’t play in was a 5-1 Full Members Cup defeat at Luton, when Allen McKnight came into the side. Ludo’s 22 league clean sheets equalled the club record previously set by Phil Parkes.

Renowned for his agility, shot-stopping and long kicks which could often reach the opposing penalty area, Miklosko experienced top flight football in England for the first time in the 1991/92 season but the Hammers would be relegated in bottom position. He missed six league matches, four of which were lost, with Tony Parks his new understudy. Ludo kept 12 clean sheets in his 46 appearances. He played a key role in denting Manchester United’s title hopes, making two fantastic saves from Mark Hughes and Ryan Giggs, with Kenny Brown scoring the Hammers’ winner in a 1-0 victory. Ludo also kept a clean sheet in a goalless draw at eventual champions Leeds.

1992/93 would again see Miklosko play every league and major cup match, missing only an Anglo-Italian Cup tie against Bristol Rovers when rookie Steve Banks donned the gloves. Bonds’ Hammers won an instant promotion to the Premier League, with Ludo in fine form, particularly when saving a penalty from Sunderland’s Don Goodman in a memorable, televised 6-0 home win over the Wearsiders in October 1992. Miklosko played 55 matches in all competitions, keeping 23 clean sheets. He also retired from international duty in December 1992 having won 40 caps for Czechoslovakia.

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Miklosko helped the Hammers establish themselves as a Premier League outfit in 1993/94, playing 51 matches and keeping 18 clean sheets as the Irons finished 13th and reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. ‘Ludo’ remained first choice under new manager Harry Redknapp in 1994/95, keeping 16 clean sheets in 48 games, playing a key role in the Hammers’ ultimate survival after a season-long battle against the drop. The Irons finished 14th but perhaps Ludo’s finest hour in a West Ham shirt arrived in the final game of that season when his fine saves from Lee Sharpe and Mark Hughes, and his role in the rearguard action against Andy Cole and his Manchester United team-mates denied the Red Devils the title in an incredible finish to the campaign.

1995/96 would see Miklosko miss his first league matches in four seasons, after a red card against Everton resulted in suspension. Julian Dicks took over in goal at Goodison Park, performing manfully as the Hammers went down to a 3-0 defeat in December 1995. 17-year-old Neil Finn started the New Year’s Day match at Manchester City in Miklosko’s absence, with Ludo’s wife helping to attach Finn’s name and number to his goalkeeper’s jersey in advance of the match – the Hammers narrowly lost 2-1. Les Sealey also got a game in goal at Newcastle, making several saves to keep the scoreline down to a 3-0 Magpies win. Miklosko saved a Keith Curle penalty when Manchester City were beaten 4-2 at Upton Park in March 1996 with the Hammers going on to finish in the top ten for the first time since 1985/86. Miklosko played 42 matches in all competitions, keeping 14 clean sheets.

The Hammers experienced a difficult 1996/97 season, finishing 14th and being knocked out of both cups by lower league opposition in Wrexham and Stockport. Miklosko missed two league matches and two League Cup matches through injury, with Sealey and Steve Mautone stepping in. Ludo kept nine clean sheets in his 41 appearances. It was around this time that Mikosko stepped out of international retirement to make two appearances for the newly-established Czech Republic.

1997/98 saw Craig Forrest join the club and, after only one clean sheet in 15 appearances in the first half of the season, the 35-year-old Ludo made his final Hammers appearance in a 2-0 defeat at Derby on 6th December 1997. Miklosko joined QPR in an initial loan deal in 1998, which was later made permanent for £50,000. He joins fellow West Ham goalkeeping greats Phil Parkes and Robert Green in having kept goal for both clubs.

Miklosko had made 373 appearances for West Ham in all competitions. He had kept 125 clean sheets, won the Hammer of the Year once and been promoted with the club twice. My video below is a compilation of some of Ludo’s saves in a West Ham shirt – it includes a rare interview with the man himself at a time when his English was in its fledgling phase, as well as plaudits from former team-mates Ian Bishop and Stewart Robson.

After three years at Loftus Road, Miklosko retired from playing and replaced Sealey as goalkeeping coach at West Ham under the new management of Glenn Roeder in the summer of 2001. He helped David James and Robert Green establish themselves in the England side during his time coaching at the club, which ended in March 2010, two months after the Sullivan/Gold takeover at the club. Now 57, Miklosko was back in east London for the re-naming of the Billy Bonds Stand earlier this month.

Dan Coker's Match Preview

Crossed Hammers & Three Lions: Rio Ferdinand

Welcome to the latest 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 the Czech Republic in their first Euro 2020 qualifier, we look back at a former Hammers and England defender. Rio Ferdinand was born in King’s College Hospital, Denmark Hill on 7th November 1978. He joined the West Ham United Academy in 1992 having been scouted by Frank Lampard Senior and made his first team debut on 5th May 1996 as a 17-year-old, coming on for Tony Cottee in the 68th minute of the final day 1-1 home draw with Sheffield Wednesday. Ferdinand’s first appearance for the club coincided with legendary centre-back Alvin Martin’s final outing in claret and blue – it was hoped that this was a symbolic changing of the guard, a passing of the baton with Rio seen as the long-term successor to ‘Stretch’, himself an England international. Further substitute appearances arrived in the early stages of 1996/97 at both Arsenal on the opening day and Sunderland a month later before a League Cup appearance from the bench in a 1-0 win over Barnet, with the winning goal in that game scored by Slaven Bilic.

Ferdinand joined Bournemouth on loan in November 1996 and Sir Alex Ferguson, who had Ferdinand watched during his two months with the Cherries, said he was “graceful, balanced, first touch like a centre-forward”. Having collected valuable first-team experience to go alongside his obvious natural talent, Ferdinand returned to Upton Park and made his first Hammers start in a disastrous 1-0 FA Cup third round replay defeat at the hands of Wrexham. With the Hammers also knocked out of the League Cup the previous month by another lower league side in Stockport and entrenched in a fierce battle for survival, Ferdinand had to grow up quickly. Coming on as a half-time substitute in midfield, he notched his first West Ham goal in a 2-1 defeat at Blackburn the following week, controlling a loose ball in the box expertly with his right foot before firing beyond Tim Flowers with his left. Ferdinand would miss only two of the remaining fourteen matches in 1996/97 (with the Hammers failing to win either of those he missed), with the young defender playing a crucial role alongside the likes of Bilic, Julian Dicks and new signings Paul Kitson, John Hartson and Steve Lomas in ensuring the Hammers successfully staved off the threat of relegation. My video below shows both of Rio’s goals in claret and blue.

After rounding off the 1996/97 campaign with a 2-0 defeat at the home of champions Manchester United, Ferdinand became a transfer target of Old Trafford boss Ferguson. Writing in his autobiography, Fergie states “Martin [Edwards, former Manchester United chairman] called the West Ham chairman, Terry Brown, who said: ‘Give us a million plus David Beckham.’ In other words: he’s not for sale”. Ferdinand made 35 Premier League appearances in 1997/98 as the Hammers improved and finished eighth and, at the age of 19, was voted Hammer of the Year by the club’s supporters – he remains, to this day, the youngest-ever recipient of the prestigious award. The 19-year-old Ferdinand had made his full international debut in a 2-0 Wembley win against Cameroon on 15th November 1997 and manager Glenn Hoddle went on to name Rio alongside cousin, and future Hammer, Les in his World Cup squad for France ’98, although the young centre-half did not receive any game time at the tournament.

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Ferdinand played a key role in securing West Ham’s highest-ever Premier League finish of fifth in 1998/99 and subsequently experienced European football with the Hammers the following season, playing every match in the successful Intertoto Cup campaign and appearing in three of the club’s four UEFA Cup fixtures. He played 47 games in total in 1999/2000, which was to prove his final full campaign in east London, but was left out of Kevin Keegan’s England squad for Euro 2000. His last game for the club was to be against his next employers, as West Ham went to Elland Road in November 2000 and beat big spenders Leeds 1-0 – Ferdinand was outstanding as Nigel Winterburn’s sole strike for the club won the match and, by the end of the following week, Rio was heading north for a fee of £18m, a transfer record between two British clubs at the time. It was also a world record fee for a defender. Rio had made 158 appearances for West Ham United in all competitions, scoring two goals. Chairman Terry Brown and manager Harry Redknapp claimed that, due to the uncertainty regarding the transfer system at the time, there was a possibility that no club would be in a position to be offered that type of money again. Nearly 19 years on, the current world record fee stands at £198m…

The transfer heralded the beginning of the end for West Ham United’s modern-day Golden Generation – six months later, Redknapp had left and Ferdinand’s team-mate from youth team to first team, Frank Lampard Junior, was quick to follow. Within two further years, Joe Cole and Glen Johnson had departed, with Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe also consigned to Upton Park history by the end of summer 2004. This collection of players have earned a total of 388 England caps, winning the Champions League, Europa League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup between them along the way. The proceeds from Ferdinand’s sale were spent on Christian Dailly, Rigobert Song, Titi Camara, Ragnvald Soma and Svetoslav Todorov – only one of those players (Dailly) made more than 25 league appearances for West Ham. The West Stand was coined by some fans as ‘The Rio Stand’ with many believing that some of the funds generated from Ferdinand’s transfer had helped complete a side of the ground which stood for just 15 years before it was knocked down.

Having been named in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s squad for the 2002 World Cup, Ferdinand established himself on the global stage – he had an excellent tournament and scored his first international goal in the 3-0 second round win over Denmark in Niigata on 15th June 2002. England were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Brazil.

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As Leeds struggled financially, Ferdinand left the Elland Road club just under two years after signing for them, moving on to Manchester United for a fee of £29.1m – manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s long-standing interest had not waned. In September 2003, however, he missed a drugs test and was banned from competitive football for eight months from January until September 2004, causing him to miss half a Premier League season, Manchester United’s FA Cup triumph, and Euro 2004.

Ferdinand again reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2006 in Germany, and scored his second goal for his country in a 3-0 Euro 2008 qualifying victory over Russia at Wembley on 12th September 2007, with Steve McClaren now in charge. England would ultimately fail to qualify for the tournament but, under the stewardship of Fabio Capello, Ferdinand scored his third and final England goal in a 5-1 World Cup 2010 qualifier against Kazakhstan at Wembley on 11th October 2008, a match which saw the stylish centre-half captain his country for the second time (his first captaincy had been in a friendly match in Paris against France seven months earlier). Ferdinand’s final appearance for the Three Lions came at the age of 32 in a 2-2 Euro 2012 qualifying draw with Switzerland at Wembley on 4th June 2011.

After leaving the Hammers in 2000, Ferdinand went on to be named in the Premier League PFA Team of the Year six times by his fellow professionals, won six Premier League titles, three League Cups, six Community Shields, one Champions League and one FIFA Club World Cup. He won 81 caps for England, scoring three goals, and captained his country on seven occasions. After twelve years, 455 appearances and eight goals with the Red Devils, he left Old Trafford for QPR in 2014, spending one year at Loftus Road before hanging up his boots in the summer of 2015. Now 40, Ferdinand worked as a BBC pundit during the 2018 World Cup. Former Manchester United and England team-mate Paul Scholes said of Ferdinand:

“He was such a pleasure to play with and play in front of. To play in front of him, he made your job so easy. He was a great player, without a doubt the best centre-half I ever played with. I would say for a time as well he was the best centre-half in the world.”

England v Czech Republic

England face the Czech Republic this evening in their first qualification match for the 2020 European Championships – it will be the third post-Czechoslovakia meeting between the two nations. The pair have met twice before in friendlies, with the first match being a 2-0 win for England featuring the focus of today’s piece, Rio Ferdinand, and came in front of 38,535 at Wembley on 18th November 1998. Cher was number one with ‘Believe’, Antz topped the UK box office and the National Grid reported a surge in the use of electricity at 8pm, as the Coronation Street episode featuring the death of Des Barnes reached its conclusion.

Glenn Hoddle took charge of what transpired to be his final match as England manager and the Three Lions took the lead after 22 minutes. West Ham striker Ian Wright, winning his 33rd and final cap, centred from the left and Tottenham’s Darren Anderton finished low and left-footed into the corner past Petr Kouba. It was Anderton’s seventh and final goal for his country, in the 26th of his 30 caps.

The lead was doubled when Wright broke free down the left again – his cross found Dion Dublin who beat future Hammer Tomas Repka in the air to find Aston Villa team-mate Paul Merson, who finished with aplomb into the corner of Kouba’s net. Dublin and Merson were to both join Wright in winning their final caps for their country in this match. It was Merson’s third goal in his 21st cap. Lee Hendrie replaced Merson in the second half to win his only England cap.

England: Nigel Martyn (Leeds), Martin Keown (Arsenal), Rio Ferdinand (West Ham), Sol Campbell (captain, Tottenham), Darren Anderton (Tottenham), David Beckham (Man Utd), Nicky Butt (Man Utd), Graeme Le Saux (Chelsea), Paul Merson (Aston Villa), Dion Dublin (Aston Villa), Ian Wright (West Ham).

Subs: Robbie Fowler (Liverpool) for Wright; Lee Hendrie (Aston Villa) for Merson.

Czech Republic: Petr Kouba (Viktoria Zizkov), Tomas Repka (Fiorentina), Tomas Votava (Sparta Prague), Jiri Novotny (Sparta Prague), Jiri Nemec (captain, Schalke), Karel Poborsky (Benfica), Radek Bejbl (Atletico Madrid), Patrik Berger (Liverpool), Radoslav Latal (Schalke), Vladimir Smicer (Lens), Pavel Kuka (Nurnberg).

Subs: Martin Kotulek (Sigma Olomouc) for Novotny; Miroslav Baranek (Sparta Prague) for Latal; Roman Vonasek (Lokeren) for Nemec; Vratislav Lokvenc (Sparta Prague) for Smicer; Radek Sloncik (Banik Ostrava) for Kuka.

The previous articles in the series are:

Vic Watson
Jack Tresadern
Billy Moore
Ken Brown
Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne
Bobby Moore
Martin Peters
Frank Lampard Senior
Sir Trevor Brooking
Alan Devonshire
Alvin Martin
Paul Goddard
Stuart Pearce
Frank Lampard Junior
Joe Cole
David James
Robert Green

The Blind Hammer Column

Resilient Hammers

Blind Hammer defends Squad’s character

After the disappointment of the Cardiff result West Ham’s character, commitment and attitude was questioned.

Whilst West Ham’s inconsistency is undeniable, attributing this to lack of character is unfair.
This is a resilient West Ham .

This has gone strangely under the Radar.

In previous seasons, under other regimes, I feared going behind. Then a squad, bereft of confidence, rarely recovered. This is not the current West Ham.

This failure to acknowledge our new battling qualities probably contributed to the early departure of thousands when we conceded a 1-3 lead to Huddersfield. There was little faith. There was an unwarranted pessimism that we could not recover.

In contrast to this strange pessimism , this team has repeatedly shown all season that they can bounce back from adversity, they regularly rescue points, and even win from losing positions.

For example, in the reverse fixture at Huddersfield Pritchard scored after only 6 minutes but we still scramble a point when Anderson equalised.

At home against Burnley we were twice pegged back, but despite Wood’s late equaliser, West Ham had enough commitment to power on to score 2 even later goals to win.

In our home game against Crystal Palace we again reached the break 0-1 down. Yet we overcame this with a powerful second half performance.

In our away game against Southampton we again fell behind, facing embarrassing defeat. This was averted by Anderson’s brilliant second half double.

At home against Brighton we seemed to faced certain defeat when first Dale Stephens, and then Shane Duffy scored from set pieces. Despite this the Hammers could not be written off and after astute substitutions by Pellegrini, an Arnautovic brace rescued a point.

At home against Liverpool we conceded a blatantly off side goal. In previous season this would have presaged a collapse in confidence and probable heavy defeat. Not this season, Antonio’s strike recovered yet another point.

We faced an unexpected challenge at home against Fulham. Here, Ryan Babel produced a shock early lead, but surely, by now, West Ham ability to not only equalise, but win all 3 points should not have surprised.

I cannot remember a season in when West Ham have recovered so many points from losing positions. Even in the League Cup we progress after surrendering an early goal against Wimbledon, a feat we were sadly unable to replicate in the FA Cup rematch.

The team has also shown Fabianski inspired tenacity in defending leads. Early in Pellegrini’s tenure we surrendered leads both to Arsenal and Bournemouth. Yet after these early August reverses we have never lost from a winning position. For example the team defended a lead for 53 minutes against Leicester with 10 men, succumbing to a equaliser only in injury time. WE were also under the cosh at Palace, but dug deep in the second half to protect a point.

There is a separate question as to why we concede early, but that is entirely different from questions of the team’s character. Character is surely best measured by the squad’s ability to recover from the more pressured, tougher challenge of adversity.

There may be issues with concentration. Player tiredness may be an issue. Personally I believe that our inconsistency simply reflects inadequacies in our current squad. We face different ttypes of challenges from each of our 19 Premier League competitors. This season has proved that we are better at meeting some challenges more than others.

Players such as Rice, Diop, Diangana, and Fredericks are still on a learning curve. In addition we have again suffered injuries. The squad needs strengthening.

We cannot regularly dominate patterns of play across the league. We instead have to, on occasion, scrap and battle. Teams have learnt to their cost that they cannot relax against this West Ham. Repeatedly this team has delivered late goals to cement or recover points.

In that context the recovery against Huddersfield was entirely expected and predictable. We should celebrate our fighting qualities.

David Griffith


2019 London Stadium Supporters' Survey

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Just over two years ago we ran the first London Stadium survey in March 2017.

Supported by a number of different West Ham websites, blogs and social media accounts, the survey was completed by over 10,000 match-going supporters in previous years.

The 2018 survey results were published last year at www.westhamtillidie.com/posts/2018/05/01/london-stadium-survey-2018-the-results

The 2019 survey takes around three minutes to fill out and is designed only for those who have visited the London Stadium in person to sample one or more West Ham games this season. Please base your answers on your most recent visit to the London stadium to recognise areas which may have improved.

We would like to encourage as many season ticket holders, claret members and general admission ticket supporters to answer this questionnaire as possible so please spread the word far and wide on forums and social media. This is designed to be an independent survey of supporters and not affiliated one particular West Ham site, blog or social media channel.

A copy of the results of this survey including all comments will be shared with the West Ham board of directors at the closing date of 31st March.

Fill in the 2019 London Stadium Survey at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Y6JN8JG

The GoatyGav Column

Panto Villains - Your Least Favourite Opposition Players

So I fancied a break and am posting a, mainly, negative article today. Good to be a bad guy occasionally, after all, and this piece is all about the bad guys.

My least favourite player to have played against is, undoubtedly, Bernie Slaven. Every time I hear from him he seems to be having a pop at West Ham United. The bloke really needs to let it go and chill out but his head looks like it’s about to explode every time he’s drawn on the subject of the hammers. For me it started in an evening match at Upton Park in the late ‘80’s while he was at Middlesboro. He scored both the goals in a 2-1 Boro win but it was his actions that really wound me up. After both goals he came up to us in the corner between the North Bank and West Stand to celebrate and fist pump towards us at length. The referee of that game had to, practically, drag him back to his own half for the ensuing kick off. Several fans were extremely angry and on the brink of invading the pitch. He can count himself lucky he didn’t incite a pitch invasion.

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I don’t know what his dislike of our club comes from, and perhaps he was like that towards all opposing teams, but there was no mistaking it. On a couple of occasions since that game, thirty years ago, I’ve witnessed Slaven’s loathing for our club. At a televised ‘football masters’ veteran tournament where Slaven, who was a pundit, was clearly backing every team that West Ham played and took clear delight in anything that went against us. When we ended up winning the final it looked like his head was about to explode.

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He’s certainly not the only one to show an aversion to our club but, for me, he stands above all others in my ‘wouldn’t give him the time of day’ stakes.

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Not anti-West Ham in particular Jamie Carragher is another who gets Goaty’s goat. Apart from some of his antics it was his retirement from England before his change of heart just before the 2010, South Africa, World Cup when he ‘temporarily’ came out of retirement. As a man who couldn’t be bothered to help England qualify it really got on my nerves that he, suddenly, decided that a World Cup appearance was something he was ‘prepared’ to do. More like he fancied the profile it brought him and the jaunt to the southern hemisphere IMO. The fact he was given the opportunity at all only irritated me further. When he ended up warming the bench for so much of that competition it was of some consolation.

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A player that I have no issues with at all, but is viewed by a few in a dim light, is Eric Cantona. The admirer of trawler following seagulls was, perhaps, most famous for his Kung-Fu kick on Crystal Palace supporting Matthew Simmons rather than any kick of a ball. I was listening to the, once enthralling, commentary of Jonathan Pearce (his commentary is now just top quality – not as enthralling as it used to be) live on Capital Gold when I first learned of Cantona’s attack on Simmons. There were those who wanted ‘King Eric’ banned from the game for life. I’m pleased that never happened as, I believe, we’d have missed out on so many special moments he subsequently brought to the English game.

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Phil Neville can be quite intense. Running the length of the pitch to celebrate a goal in front of the Liverpool fans will certainly not have improved the Merseysiders’ view of the player. His actions may, or may not, have been the inspiration for Emmanuel Adebayor to do the same against his former club, Arsenal, for Manchester City but, either way, it didn’t endear him to the Gooners.

These Pantomime Villains add a certain spice to footballing rivalries. Without them the game would be missing something. So which player, or ex-player, gets under your skin most and why?

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Saturday’s game was frustrating. There were patches of decent play but I struggle to remember the last time the team made so many stray passes. Disjointed would be the word I’d use to describe it. Fabianski and Chicha are the only players who can truly hold their heads up after that one. That said all’s well that ends well and it turned out to be a memorable and entertaining game in the end. Big improvement needed against Everton however I fully expect one. Goodness knows we need the three points before the boys visit Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford thereafter.

A week of no West Ham to endure now but let’s hope for an enjoyable England appearance for Declan. A well deserved call up if ever there was one.


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