The GoatyGav Column

Welcome Respite For England Supporting Hammers Fans

“We support, We support, We support our National Team, We support our National Team!” was often the reply to Manchester United fans, at Old Stretford, who sang about Ronaldo running rings around the English team. Truth be told that wasn’t my favourite retort to that chant. I had to admire the Stokies version. It went like this “He dives like a tart, he cries like a kiiiiid, your boy Ronaldo Loves Real Madrid!”

I enjoyed both of the England games over the last few days. Frankly it was a welcome respite from one of the worst runs of games for West Ham in quite some time. Most likely the worst since Mr Allardyce, pretty much, gave up at Christmas 2014 in the knowledge that he wasn’t going to get his contract renewed the following summer. I felt that was a shame as he could, potentially, have left a decent legacy and an enhanced reputation with us fans if he’d have made more of an effort to see things through to the end of that season from a strong fourth place. Personally I would have found it more easy, or at least quicker, to let his ‘deluded’ and ‘West Ham Way’ comments go if he’d have gone out on a high. Speaking of Mr Allardyce, and England, I genuinely believe that the best thing to happen to our national team was his dismissal after the controversial ‘Football for Sale’ investigation in to corruption in the English game.

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Gareth Southgate is a breath of fresh air. That said four games ago it was like the sky was falling in. We’d just gone down 2-1 away to an extremely impressive Czech Republic. In the game I watched the Czechs played some of the best football that England have been up against in many a year. Personally I saw no shame, at all, in the loss as it was a brilliant game to behold. It was also a great opportunity for Gareth Southgate, and his squad, to draw learning from. I’m convinced that those lessons were heeded and the learnings adopted to strengthen for the future.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not getting carried away. At least I’m not getting as carried away as the Kosovo manager was with our (most of our) Nation’s men’s footballing representatives. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard another manager evangelise the way that Bernard Challandes did last night. For those who haven’t heard the “best team,” comments yet you can watch the post match interview below (the “Best Team” part begins around 5.00 mins onwards) : -

Despite holding that smidgen of my optimism in check I have to admit that I’m really, really looking forward to next year’s European Championships. Those that remember the last, and the previous, time a tournament was in this country could but only be excited about the prospect. All three group matches will be played at ‘home’ at Wembley. Add to that the fact that England go in to the group stage draw as a tier 1 seed the team’s chances have taken a real boost from both the outcome, and manner, of their qualification.

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During that qualification campaign our own Declan Rice has been introduced in to the England first team fold. During his seven caps to date Deccers has had his ups and downs. After a steady start he has experienced criticism for his more recent run outs for the Three Lions. Some of that criticism, I feel, is warranted and some not. Against Kosovo he did very little wrong. When he got caught out of position, further up the field, several pundits picked up on the fact that he needed to focus on what he’s good at in his holding midfield role and stick to that job with more discipline. Last night I think his positional awareness was bang on. Rice has shown he’s worked hard and learned. From other areas our number fourty-one has had the ‘sideways and backwards’ finger of criticism raised against him. It seemed to escape many of those detractors notice that the twenty year old drove positively from his own half for twenty five yards before laying off to Sterling for Kane’s goal. It’s a question of the right ball, not always the forward one, and the lad is learning and growing in this respect all the time. Some only seem to be able to see the negative in certain players and, it appears, Lee Dixon and Roy Keane, along with others, are in this mind-set where Declan is concerned.

Back to West Ham the ladies had a toughie away to Man City. I watched the game on BBC Red Button and, to be fair to the Ironesses, our ladies played some decent stuff. It was the incisiveness in the final third and clinical finishing that was the big difference between the two teams as Man City ran out 5-0 winners. This is not a game to dwell upon for Matt Beard and his charges. On to the next one against Lewes at Rush Green on Wednesday night and then again at home vs Reading on Sunday.

No game to report for the PL2 team however a stiff test in the shape of a visit to Stoke City this coming weekend will be a real test for Dimi Halajko’s boys. Best of luck to them for that one.

Enjoy the rest of the week. COYI!


Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

From The Stands Photography Project

When my mum passed away my brother and I spent quite some time going through her things. Never an easy thing to do but to be honest, I was grateful to share this time with my brother to remember my mum and what she meant to us both.

Memories, locked within so many different everyday things like my mums scarf – the smell took me back to when I would get a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek, the smell of her scarf filling my nostrils. Smells, like some many other things we often take for granted, can carry powerful memories that can bring a smile, a laugh, a tear and many other emotions to the surface.

My mum was a hoarder of things – artwork, for example from my children and of photographs of the family. Boxes and boxes of faded, folded, torn, worn black and white photos and prints with that sixties and seventies faded chromatic colour all stacked on top of each other and pushed together in no particular order.

There were some powerful memories, plenty of tears and a longing for those days to come back to fill our childhood home with the bustle of life as we knew it. Of course, time must move on but with the faded photos I found myself easily slipping back in time, a wedding, christening, Christmas, birthday and New Year’s Eve party all captured and preserved in faded colours of those dog eared and worn images.

We all have significant life events captured in a catalogue of photos, many stored away and rarely seen. But now with technology as it is, photos are easy to take but still not so easily remembered. Sharing a blurred photo taken on your phone through social media doesn’t have the same excitement we had waiting for the prints to be developed at the local chemist. If only to realise that they were all too dark, blurred or everyone’s heads were cut out of the frame. I’m sure we all have some of those in a box in the loft.

I liken my photography to capturing moments in time, everyday moments that tell a story, filled with emotion that would otherwise be lost. Or just a series of images that record how things change or have changed. This is what I try to do through my photography and it’s been great to develop my skill to be able to capture the world around me one click at a time.

Going to the matches and using my camera to record the match day experience is part of my attempt to record the everyday so that is serves as a valuable memory of the past. The joy of a goal and a win, the low of a defeat and frustration, sometimes angrily expressed at the players and the manager. Capturing these moments against the backdrop of the match serve as a valuable reminder of how we invest our passion for West Ham United that has been passed down from generations or picked up for the first time within us and the people we know.

I’m interested in people and their stories, fans who have come to West Ham through their own personal journeys. By the time we settle in front of the screen, or singing out ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’ arms held aloft as the players come out into the pitch, we are locked into the emotion of the game. We are part of a family and the connection we feel fuels our passion and builds the excitement.

We arrive at that point in time holding our history within us and all the life events that have lead us to that moment. In our dedication we wear a favourite scarf, carry a lucky charm, have our match day rituals and sing as hard as we can as if this will inspire the team to victory.

I want to tell those stories that people have inside them, share and preserve them for others to experience. It seems that despite it being so easy to record our lives through our phones, the speed of social media takes us further away from the memories themselves. So many photos and videos of our lives that we don’t really stop to talk about amongst the likes and shares on Facebook.

From The Stands is an Idea I have been working on for a while and I want to be able to capture some of those moments in time that tell a story that will be enriched with the memories of fans. I want to match some of those memories to key moments in the history of the club, so that history comes to life. Personal stories and recollections that we can relate to but help create a living history of the family to whom we all feel a part of in some way.

I met a 92 year old Hammer as I was putting my photos up for a little exhibition at Canary Wharf Idea Store and he was telling me about how he managed to get in to see the World Cup Final at Wembley in 1966 without a ticket. It reminded me of the times I used to slip into the Boleyn Ground once the matches had started as the security would open the large gates a nudge and let fans into the ground for a couple of quid.

These memories can be passed down but when matched with a visual reminder, bound to moments we all share or can relate to, they become powerful and timeless. They become part of a history to which we all can feel some belonging to.

If you’d like to be part of project this please let me know. I know on here there are people with very different, diverse and varied experiences that would serve as a wonderful history of our club seen through the eyes of fans. At those times when we get frustrated with the club and the players it’s worth remembering why we are here, why we support the club and what it means to us and those who we share that with.

I will be sharing my photos and the stories of fans through a blog and a regular zine printed throughout the season. It is called From The Stands and the first edition is out which will contain photos from the exhibition. The blog is only just up and I’d appreciate some views and comments. You can find it here: https://fromthestands.blog/

Dawud


Talking Point

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here”

I try my hardest to be optimistic about West Ham but Pellegrini is making it near impossible to view the upcoming league games after the international break with any real confidence and excitement. As West Ham fans we’ve been accustomed to peaks and troughs as a football club, with the peaks few and far between in recent history, but it looks particularly grim as we begin to look towards a busy festive schedule with tough games.

I’ve no doubt regardless of how hard some fans will have tried to stop thinking about West Ham and the miserable state of affairs going on at the club, we have all seen the speculation about Pellegrini’s future, and who might eventually replace him. You have to think the board will stick with the Chilean for as long as possible, especially given it will reportedly cost anywhere up to £20 million pounds to get rid of the 66 year old and his backroom staff. However, if the former Man City manager cannot arrest the depressing slump in form which personally I don’t think he will, he’ll have to be shown the door because of both poor results and performances that’ll see us perhaps in a relegation battle. I have no doubt I’m repeating what most fans have already seen or feel, but to achieve 1 point out of a possible 12 against Everton, Sheffield United, Newcastle and Burnley is unacceptable. I do subscribe to the view that sections of the fan base overrate our team and chances of competing for the European spots and I certainly have done for quite a while. Although, when our manager is on around £7 million a year and I believe is the best paid manager after Guardiola and Klopp, we understandably should expect better results and performances.

With the exception of Norwich at home, I’m not sure we’ve actually played well in any other game. The wins against Watford and Manchester United were more about the opposition being poor as opposed to us playing extremely well. With Spurs at home up first after the break, obviously we always want to win and especially against them but I think we’ll struggle if the manager persists with his stubborn tactics and formation which sees Haller consistently isolated.

One way or another I don’t think Pellegrini will be managing us come the end of the season but, if he is, I would expect a new man in the dugout for the start of the 2020/2021 campaign. We’ve got some great results under the Chilean’s stewardship but he is not flexible enough with changing formation and his substitutions are often poor and incredibly predictable. Questions that I imagine most of us fans have asked this campaign about Pellegrini include his bizarre inclusion of 34 year old Zabaleta who is painfully slow up against Saint Maximin who is rapid. Other decisions include Balbuena’s return to the team when Ogbonna had been our best centre half; you feel the Italian surely has to return to the starting line-up against Spurs.

In an attempt to look for a glimpse of optimism, I thought while writing this about the routes to us getting better… When the London stadium announcer declaims Fabianski’s name in a starting 11 that may well get the biggest cheer all season as he will certainly help. I tried to defend Roberto but after his outing at Turf Moor and the previous week against Newcastle he is indefensible. He is just bad, he has made some reasonable saves but he flaps at everything and gives the defence no confidence whatsoever. Our Polish No. 1 has been superb for us and has been missed massively, both last season and up until his injury he was covering up how poor the defence has been and continues to be. A statistic to prove how bad our defending has been: Burnley average 4.1 shots on target and against us had 12, likewise Newcastle were averaging 3.4 and had 9 at the London Stadium. Those statistics are a damning indictment on this team’s ability to defend.

Whether it’s in January or in the summer, the club must look for a dynamic midfield partner for Declan Rice. In interviews recently, Mark Noble has effectively admitted he did not expect to be playing as much football this season and, while he always puts in a shift, the midfield desperately needs more balance. A dynamic and energetic midfielder would lift some of the pressure off Rice who at the moment has to cover every blade of grass to cover for Noble’s lack of mobility, while also allowing the attacking players more license to stay forward a bit more at times. Look at the likes of Ndidi at Leicester, his elite defensive contribution allows the likes of Tielemans and Maddison to go forward. Even Nakamba at Aston Villa who is dynamic and wins the ball back well has improved them. We need a player like that who can play alongside Rice and immediately we would look a more balanced side, my concern is that under our current manager this crucial issue has not been addressed.

I hope everyone enjoys not having to watch West Ham this weekend but we must hope that we can get three points against Spurs. Ultimately though I think it’s going to get worse before hopefully getting better. We must keep hoping despite how difficult the board, manager and players make it!

Trust everyone is well, and has a good week!


The GoatyGav Column

Billy Big Ballsers Or Basically Besieged And Battered

I don’t know about you but it feels like 2019 has kicked the crap out of me. As a nation we’ve become the butt of numerous jokes, have endured unprecedented levels of uncertainty in our economy, have had to put up with important procedural decisions being delayed because of that uncertainty, felt at my fellow Britons’ throats in this divisive environment and have lost any kind of optimism about the short and medium term future. To top it all off the weather is bringing even more misery than usual – especially for those poor souls having to endure flooding. Overall not a million miles away from how we’re currently feeling as West Ham fans.

In last week’s article I put forward one aspect of why I believe the team’s confidence has nosedived. Like any kind of crash, however, it’s never down to one single factor.

Since his arrival Manuel Pellegrini has spoken of installing a ‘Big Team’ mentality to the squad. Frankly I like the cut of his jib in this respect. He’s very familiar with this kind of self-belief due to his previous managerial roles in the game. You don’t get as far as he has without knowing what you’re talking about and I’m sure that he has utter conviction in his belief that he can get the players in to this mind-set. But will this work for every player, at all times, or is there a negative aspect of this ‘confident’ attitude? I wonder if some of the players started to believe their own hype a little and found that, all of a sudden, they went off the boil due to their ‘I’m the man now’ arrogance. There’s a very fine line between confidence and arrogance and the latter can often have a negative effect.

As I’ve watched recent matches player’s energy levels seemed to have dropped away. Earlier in the season there was a zip and a crispness about our pass and move that’s been absent for some time. The team weren’t converting every chance but were creating so many good opportunities that it didn’t seem to matter and was enough to win games. More recently it appears that the team are desperately short on ideas as the ball appears to be moving much slower. The whole approach seems laboured and lethargic to my eyes. What’s gone on to create this I’ve no idea. Has the dressing room been hit by colds and flu bugs? Are training sessions ‘coaching’ the intensity out of the team? Are the players simply not in sufficiently top condition to give the same, energetic, performances that took us to fifth place in the Prem? Whatever the reason is the first team are in an extremely worrying trough at the moment as all concerned, staff and fans alike, are starting to look down the table, instead of up it, with major apprehension.

When the going gets tough the tough get going. Question is exactly how tough, or resilient, is this squad. This needs turning around and turning around immediately. Last time out the international break came at a most inconvenient time. The team were playing confidently and well so we really could have done without the squad breaking up to go and play for their national sides. This time it’s just about the best thing that could have happened to West Ham. Players can get away to fresh environments, play for their respective countries and come back to ‘go again’ against the Spuds on the 23rd. The upcoming fixture list looks daunting however that’s usually the time that West Ham knuckle down and ‘put it in’. Let’s hope the lads can use this change, break, or whatever you want to call it to reset and return to go at it with alacrity.

Nothing further to report on the Ladies or PL2 teams this week, as they have not played any fixtures since my last post on here, however the U21 squad travel to Exeter to play their EFL ‘Leasing.Com’ Trophy match against the team at the top of group M. Since getting off to a flyer in League two this season Exeter City have only won once in their last four League fixtures. Earning a creditable draw away to fellow League two opposition, Cambridge United, in the F.A. Cup last weekend fortunes may be turning for the Grecians ahead of the visit of Dimitri Halajko’s charges and, one suspects, a stern challenge awaits. Despite this Exeter are without players due to international duty so I’m hopeful our youngsters can put the Devon side to the sword. Halajko’s teams have played some really attacking and entertaining football so far this season. Sadly it looks like the game won’t be streamed but I’ll certainly be keeping tabs on it via the official site’s live blog and wish the boys all the best in this final group match.

Have a good (at least better) week everyone.

COYI!


The HamburgHammer Column

All around shambles - the circus is still in town, but the clowns are no longer funny

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I have to apologise to you all before I begin. This column will be neither original nor amusing, the pun quota will be non existent and the number of wise remarks low because, frankly, I’m running out of clever things to say fast here.

I am shell-shocked, dumbfounded, bemused and frustrated. But to a certain degree I feel quite indifferent too. Or maybe just numb. The slump for our club continues regardless. Our team can no longer play football. They look like complete strangers on the pitch.

We concede goals galore and the reason for that is partly our shaky backup goalkeeper. But make no mistake, Roberto is a problem, not the problem.
We don’t defend well as a team which means lack of pressing, chasing, covering the opposition players and it doesn’t apply solely to our defenders, the entire team is guilty in that respect.

As bad as we are at defending we are not much better at attacking. Or even at stringing a few passes together. Crosses are either five metres short or ten metres too long. We cover less distance than any other team in the league.
We have plenty of the ball, but appear to be clueless about what to do with it when we have it.

When you’re already down, being outplayed and outclassed in the pouring rain, at West Ham that is usually the signal for Lady Luck to casually stroll by, raise a knee and take a swing, kicking us in the teeth while giggling like a maniac. In this case both Noble and Lanzini had to leave the game with what looked like serious injuries.

And as fantastic a goalkeeper as Fabianski is, he alone couldn’t have saved us in this slump. Unless he has learned by now how to score goals upfront as well as preventing them down the other end. West Ham are the black mamba of Premier League football, lethally toxic once again. And very grumpy with it.

At least a black mamba knows how to defend itself and strike out at its opponent…we are currently more like a black rabbit with a bad limp, caught in the headlights of a speeding car on a wet road in the middle of the night.

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I don’t remember another West Ham game in the last ten years when I watched proceedings with so little interest and expectation levels at minus 7. The game was on my custard alright, but I was only glancing up occasionally, basically whenever the commentator got a bit excited about something, raising his voice.

I browsed the internet on my tablet. Flicking through the pages of the newspaper. I also was on the phone to my brother for half an hour, during halftime and the first 20 minutes of the second half. I had no shred of hope left in my mind that we might at least score a consolation goal, even if we had played on for an additional two hours. Would it even have mattered ?

Would it bowlocks!

And it began to dawn on me that once again a Burnley game could prove to be a turning point for us. Every West Ham fan for sure remembers THAT game at the London Stadium, on the day of “the march that wasn’t“ with several fans invading the pitch and a corner flag ending up in the center circle.

It might be argued that it was this game that made our board step up their efforts to sign Pellegrini and finally pipe down in terms of rabbiting to the media 24/7. Could Saturday’s horror show prove to be the beginning of the end for Pellegrini already ?

But what, or rather, who next ?

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I wish I could put my finger on what exactly it is that is wrong with our club at the moment. But I now have to concede that Pellegrini is indeed part of the wider problem. Can he still be part of the solution as well though ? I honestly don’t know.

It seems to be the most convenient and common option to follow for a club in freefall to simply change the manager. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. Let’s also not forget how incredibly tight the league still is, with merely four points separating 16th place (us) from 5th (Sheffield United) as things stand.

However, judging on our recent performances, getting any more points on the board at all will be a tall order for our team in its momentary predicament.
A team which actually is still made up of various very decent footballers on paper. Shame we still have to play on grass…

Should any of you good people have any suggestions as to how to get the club back on track, feel free to leave your masterplan in the comments below.

Or if you have anything else in your locker, however random, to cheer up your fellow supporters on this cold and miserable Monday morning (as it is here in Hamburg), please come forward and put a smile back on our collective faces because the team is failing spectacularly to do so at the moment. But still: COYI!!! (What else can we do ?)

I can’t be arsed to post the Hamburg football update this week, most of you aren’t bothered anyway and should I feel better about it later on, I might post the results in the comments in the afternoon or later this evening.

It’s no pleasure cruise being a West Ham fan in November 2019…


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