Match Preview

OPPOSITION Q&A WITH WATFORD

The David Moyes era begins with a Sunday afternoon visit to Watford. West Ham fans will be hoping for a better display than last time out. Before the game I spoke to Jon Southwood from Watford fansite GloryHorns to discuss the match.
Hi Jon, you face West Ham after the replacement of Slaven Bilic with David Moyes as manager. Are you worried about the ‘new manager effect’, or confident that you can turn us over?
Generally the “new manager” effect is one I’d fear but not this time.
Talking of managers Watford seem to be have signed up for the Chelsea model, whereby you use the manager and kick him out, given that this seems to be working for you, I supposed you’re happy with this?
No I am personally not happy with it. It is a system which I guess you can say has worked for us so far but I would prefer less upheaval each summer. I appreciate that the owners have a philosophy whereby the club runs itself and a coach is just a replaceable part but I would like to see someone come in and stay a while. However, they are all given targets and go if they’re not met which is the modern world. I can’t see Siva being with us until the end of the season at the moment so there is little or no loyalty on either side these days.
Apart from your last 3 results the current manager, Marco Silva, seems to be doing a great job: how do you compare him with your other recent managers, and are you worried about the speculation linking him with Everton?
It seems everyone, club, manager/coach has their price so if Everton want him badly enough he’ll go. I think it would be a real shame as I believe he could be our best coach, certainly for many years. He seems to have a good presence around the players and is astute but at the end of the day has only just arrived and achieved absolutely zip so far. If he were to go now he wouldn’t even rank as a manager worth talking about in our history a few years down the line.
Do you think that David Moyes is a good appointment to replace Slaven Bilic?
I thought David Moyes was a brilliant manager at Everton and it almost seemed then that he was destined to succeed Ferguson. He did and went horribly wrong and is credibility has dropped ever since. So, no, sorry, I think you’ve bought a lemon. The way I feel about Everton at the moment I’d gladly have seen him go there and take them down!
You seem to have cemented your Premier League place, but where do you think Watford will finish in the Premier League this year?
I think we’ll be pretty comfortable this year and finish in the top 10
Where do you think West Ham can realistically finish the season?
Realistically a mid table position is achievable with a decent run. That’s the same for most of the sides in the division…can’t see the Hammers going down.
Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and who will lift the title this season?
Swansea, Palace, Bournemouth…can’t see anyone but City winning at the moment.
Are you happy with the current make-up of your squad? Which positions do you think need strengthening?
Our defence desperately needs strengthening. Prodl will improve things when he comes back but even when fully fit our defence is not up to much.
If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
Actually that’s a tough one. For perhaps the first time ever I would say none of them….Antonio I suppose but he’s no Richarlison
Any particular memories of West Ham/Watford games of the past?
So many memories of past games particularly in the 80’s. Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire, David Cross, BB and Frank Lampard…I loved that West Ham era and would have any of those players today. I always recall one game for probably the wrong reasons as i always loved watching our games. On this occasion , Geoff Pike was doing his usual good job of fouling everyone in sight when he went in late on Ian Bolton. Bolton was rock hard but didn’t appreciate the lunge and retaliated. Both left the field but only one was carried off.
How do you expect Watford to setup against West Ham on Saturday/Team/formation?
I think Watford will be looking for a good win having played well but lost the last 3 games. Not sure whether Gomes is fit but i would think it’ll be:
Gomes
Fermenia Kababsele Britos Holebas
Capoue Doucoure Cleverly Hughes Richarlison
Grey
Prediction for score?
Bad start for Moyes who will then say about the major job he has on his hands and “how the performance just wasn’t good enough for a club of this stature and history” 3-1 to Watford

Many thanks to Jon for his time. Good to speak to someone who has an obvious affection for West Ham. I can’t agree with his optimism for Watford though, and will take us to win 0 – 1. Come on you Irons!

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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Watford v West Ham

Blast from the past

Syd King’s West Ham United arrived at Cassio Road, the former home of this weekend’s opponents Watford, for a Southern League First Division fixture on 28th March 1908 while en route to a tenth-place finish. The first Scout troop outside the UK had been formed in Gibraltar the day before and British film director Sir David Lean was born three days earlier. Maurice Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole had recently received its premiere in Paris – it was one of Ravel’s first major works for orchestra.

With goalkeeper George Kitchen injured in an FA Cup second round defeat at Newcastle the previous month, understudy David Clarke continued his extended run between the posts. The Hammers recorded a 3-2 victory in front of 3,000 spectators. Len Jarvis (pictured) – or ‘Dick’ as he was popularly known – bagged a rare goal on this spring afternoon. The never-say-die half-back, who was employed at a Grays cement works before signing for West Ham, was one of the club’s most consistent performers but only scored five goals in his 140 appearances for the Hammers over six seasons. His spirit was typified in a match against Brighton when he sustained a deep cut which required several stitches after a kick to the face – he returned to the action, albeit heavily bandaged. His whole-hearted approach often landed him in hot water with the authorities – he gained attention and press coverage when he smashed Millwall’s Alf Dean against a metal advertising hoarding in a game on 13th October 1906. The incident was investigated by the Football Association and Jarvis was banned from playing for two weeks. This strike at Watford transpired to be Jarvis’ last goal for West Ham before a move into league football with First Division Bury over a year later, in the summer of 1909.

Outside-right Jim Frost was also on the scoresheet at Cassio Road – it was his second of four goals for the club, having made his debut just two months earlier. Centre-forward Harry Stapley completed the Hammers’ scoring with his last goal for the club – this was Stapley’s final appearance for West Ham before he moved into league football with Second Division Glossop, having scored 41 goals in 75 matches for the Irons. He retained his amateur status so he could continue working as a schoolteacher.

Watford would finish the 1907/08 campaign in 14th position, while Stapley would end the season as the Irons’ top goalscorer with ten goals in 25 games.

West Ham United: David Clarke, James Gault, Archie Taylor, Dick Jarvis, Tommy Allison, Bob Young, Jim Frost, Billy Grassam, Harry Stapley, Billy Brown, Fred Blackburn.

Club Connections

Former Hammer Mauro Zarate is now on Watford’s books, although the Argentine forward is currently with Dubai-based side Al Nasr on a season-long loan.

Other players to have represented both clubs, divided by position, include:

Goalkeepers: Billy Biggar, Ted Hufton, David James, Perry Suckling, Manuel Almunia, Jack Rutherford.

Defenders: Jon Harley, Calum Davenport, Lucas Neill, James McCrae, Chris Powell, Colin Foster.

Midfielders: Henri Lansbury, Alan Devonshire, Alessandro Diamanti, Stuart Slater, Jobi McAnuff, Jimmy Lindsay, Joe Blythe, David Noble, Jimmy Carr, Mark Robson, Valon Behrami, Carl Fletcher.

Strikers: James Reid, David Connolly, Jack Foster, Roger Hugo, Billy Jennings, Peter Kyle, Bertie Lyon.

Len Goulden played for West Ham and managed Watford, while Malky Mackay played for both clubs and went on to manage the Vicarage Road club. Glenn Roeder played for the Hornets and managed both clubs; Gianfranco Zola has managed both the Hammers and the Hornets.

This week’s focus though is on a goalkeeper who represented both clubs in the early years of the 20th century and serves as a tribute to those footballers, and indeed all, who have fought for our country at this time of Remembrance. Joe Webster was born in Ilkeston, Derbyshire in 1886 and started his career with his local club Ilkeston United in 1907. He moved to Watford in 1910 where he was signed as Billy Biggar’s replacement. Biggar was also a former Hammers goalkeeper himself, having made seven appearances in 1902/03 before becoming an outstanding servant at Watford, for whom he played 217 matches between 1904 and 1910, when he moved to Rochdale.

Webster had big boots to fill but adapted admirably, making 148 appearances for Watford in the Southern League. Watford failed to forward Webster’s name for registration at the start of the 1912/13 season though and were fined by the Southern League authorities. Webster played alongside the young Arthur Grimsdell whilst at Watford – Grimsdell would go on to captain England and skippered Tottenham to FA Cup glory in 1921 before returning to Watford to serve on their board of directors between 1945 and 1951.

Webster (pictured) signed for West Ham United in 1914 and made his debut in a 2-1 win over Gillingham at Upton Park on 1st September that year. He made 17 Southern League appearances for the Hammers in 1914/15, keeping five clean sheets. One of these shutouts came in a 1-0 win at former club Watford on 28th November 1914.

World War One was to interrupt Webster’s West Ham career though – he had three years active service in France, serving in the 17th (Service) Battalion of the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment). This infantry battalion was a ‘Pals battalion’ – a specially constituted battalion of the British Army comprising men who had enlisted together in local recruiting drives, with the promise that they would be able to serve alongside their friends, neighbours and colleagues (‘pals’), rather than being arbitrarily allocated to battalions. Webster’s particular battalion was known as the ‘Football Battalion’.

During the First World War there had been an initial push by clubs for professional football to continue, in order to keep the public’s spirits up. This stance was not widely agreed with and public opinion turned against professional footballers. One soldier, serving in France, wrote to a British newspaper to complain that “hundreds of thousands of able-bodied young roughs were watching hirelings playing football” while others were serving their country. The suggestion was even made that King George V should cease being a patron of The Football Association. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, writer and creator of Sherlock Holmes, publicly objected and appealed for footballers to volunteer for service, saying “If a footballer has strength of limb, let them serve and march in the field of battle”.

Conservative MP for Brentford and future Home Secretary William Joynson-Hicks formed the battalion on 12th December 1914 at Fulham Town Hall after a suggestion by Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener. England international Frank Buckley became the first player to join with a further 30 players who signed up at its formation. The formation was announced to the general public on 1st January 1915 and approximately 150 more enlisted over the next few months, the battalion’s ranks further swelled by numerous amateur players, officials and fans. Webster’s fellow goalkeeper, Tommy Lonsdale, who had preceded Webster between the posts at Upton Park before signing for Southend, also signed up. Press complaints continued though, as there were some 1,800 eligible footballers – I have previously told the story of how George Hilsdon, formerly of West Ham and Chelsea, hid in a chicken run to avoid active service. Many footballers deliberately chose to avoid the battalion by joining other regiments, causing the War Office to initially have difficulties filling the ‘Football Battalion’.

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Webster fought as a Private on the Somme, at Vimy Ridge, at Ypres in the Battle of Passchendaele and at Cambrai. He survived these battles and, moreover, the Great War itself and re-joined West Ham after the Armistice, with the Hammers having now been elected to the Football League. He made two Second Division appearances, both at Upton Park, as deputy for Ted Hufton – these were against Huddersfield in a 1-1 draw on 27th December 1919 and Port Vale in a 3-1 Hammers win on 7th February 1920. The win over Port Vale would be Webster’s 19th and last match for the club – he went back to Watford as the club’s trainer at the end of the 1919/20 season and later held a similar role at Northampton. Joe Webster died following an appendix operation on 15th October 1927 in Northampton – with his exact date of birth unknown, he passed away at either the age of 40 or 41.

Referee

The referee on Sunday will be Andre Marriner; the 46-year-old’s most recent Hammers appointment was the 2-2 draw at David Moyes’ Sunderland in April, while he also took charge of our 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea in March, Boxing Day’s 4-1 win at Swansea and the 1-1 home draw with Stoke last November. Prior to that, in last season’s trip to Manchester City, he had failed to send off Sergio Aguero for an elbow on Winston Reid with the Hammers trailing 2-1 with 14 minutes remaining. The Argentine was retrospectively charged with violent conduct and suspended for three matches, a decision which did nothing to benefit West Ham. Marriner did, however, show leniency that day towards the visitors by failing to issue Arthur Masuaku with a second yellow card on more than one occasion.

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Since we achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 the Birmingham-based official has been far from a good omen for West Ham – he has refereed 15 of our league matches, officiating in only three wins for the Hammers, five draws and seven defeats.

Possible line-ups

Tommy Hoban, Craig Cathcart, Younes Kaboul, Nathaniel Chalobah and Isaac Success are out injured for Watford, while Troy Deeney is suspended. Goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, centre-half Christian Kabasele and attacking midfielder Roberto Pereyra are all expected to be fit but centre-half Sebastian Prodl and winger Andre Carrillo face late fitness tests. Richarlison has had 39 attempts on goal in the Premier League this season, second only to Harry Kane’s 59 – the Brazilian has scored with four of his seven efforts on target.

For West Ham United, Winston Reid and Diafra Sakho should be available after international duty but Chicharito is out with a hamstring injury. Sam Byram, Jose Fonte and Michail Antonio are also unavailable. James Collins is back in training but is not yet ready for selection after seven weeks out. Pablo Zabaleta returns from suspension. David Moyes will take charge of West Ham for the first time in his 500th match as a Premier League manager – a tally only surpassed by Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and former Irons boss Harry Redknapp. The Hammers have lost only one of their last 13 league matches at Watford.

Possible Watford XI: Gomes; Femenia, Kabasele, Britos, Holebas; Doucoure; Pereyra, Cleverley, Hughes, Richarlison; Gray.

Possible West Ham United XI: Hart; Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Noble, Kouyate, Obiang; Lanzini, Carroll, Ayew.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!

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The GoatyGav Column

Turning Tide For Youth Development?

It often seems that times are grim. Technically superior sides playing us off the park. Unimaginably highly paid players strolling around and putting little effort in. Little pride taken in club or country’s good names by their respective boards/authority members. Power struggles and corruption at the top of the sport. Agents taking huge wedges of cash from, ultimately, the fans on the ground. Grass roots football hugely underinvested in compared to the affluence at the top of the game. It’s tough being a football supporter nowadays. Always was but, in my opinion, there’s even more to contend with when following the modern game. So when something positive happens it’s worthy of focus and attention.

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The last two England Internationals has seen the introduction of a number of players from the, highly successful, younger age groups. In a year that’s seen England win the World Cups at U20 and U17 level more players are being introduced, by way, or not, of absence of players who might be considered first choice, and are gaining valuable experience.
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You could argue that Germany are the most successful international side of all. Yes – Brazil have won 5 World Cups but Germany have more appearances in finals and haven’t failed to be involved in, at least, a semi-final since ’98 when they were knocked out in the quarters. Since that QF ‘failure’, which England would currently consider progress, in France they have introduced a system of production of top level youth athletes who also have the technical ability to compete with the best in the world. They have then brought these gifted players through to the full international squad together – creating a great understanding within their squad.

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Back here in old Blighty youth development, at the very elite level, has seen some serious investment. The players who won those World Cups this year have all benefitted from St George’s Park and Sir Trev deserves much acclaim for his work on the plan to get our elite youth competing with the best in the World both technically and athletically. I might be very critical of what little investment that there is below elite level but I can’t argue with the results we’re starting to see at the top of the game. Over the last two ‘Friendlies’, Gareth Southgate has begun to call in the likes of Dominic Solanke, Lewis Cook, Tammy Abraham and Angus Gunn, the excellent Jordan Pickford, who was outstanding against Germany, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who was England’s MOTM against Germany and Joe Gomez who, in my opinion, had the best performance of all, over both games but, especially against Neymar and Brazil.

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Ahh – but these are not top Premier League players I hear many say. How can they go on to compete with the world’s best when they don’t ply their trade in the top leagues? Well – if Gareth Southgate is going to be brave enough to put two or three youngsters in to the World Cup squad then two or three more in the Euro Qualifiers thereafter I believe it won’t be long before those players are sought after by clubs in top European leagues, even if the likes of Chelski, Arsenal and Man City won’t play them, and we’re in the same situation that Germany have been for the last three World Cups – where they’ve made every single final.

I’d love to see Tony Martinez get a crack at the whip and Nathan Holland, who Moyes will have no doubt seen in his time at Everton, hopefully unleashed in one of the cups
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I think it’s likely that Declan Rice will feature a few more times this season but I’d love to see Tony Martinez get a crack at the whip

I was as annoyed and disheartened as the next Hammer when Tony Carr was released, then subsequently stripped of his ‘Club Ambassador’ role, by the board. Terry Westley was not a West Ham man before he joined the club and, understandably therefore, many fans didn’t take to him immediately. Looking at the U23s (PL2) squad there are many players who are making strides in a competition which gives academy players much needed experience against men who have been full professionals for a number of years, in the Checkatrade Trophy, as well as the country’s other elite academy teams. A glance at the results, and further viewing of some of the matches played in the accompanying videos, on the club site which you can find when you click here . shows some very encouraging signs. Considering the range of types of goals that Martinez scores, many on view at the development squad page, I believe he has all the attributes to make it as a top level striker. The image below is of a goal against Bristol Rovers that, when viewed on the video footage, shows TM’s hunger and bravery after he was second favourite in a one on one with their keeper. West Ham’s PL2 squad, unlike many in the league who field a number of first team players, is almost totally made up of academy products still to make their first team bow. David Moyes hinted, in his first press conference, that he is open to giving the kids a chance. I think it’s likely that Declan Rice will feature a few more times this season but I’d love to see Tony Martinez get a crack at the whip and Nathan Holland, who Moyes will have no doubt seen in his time at Everton, hopefully unleashed in one of the cups when he returns from his hamstring injury (we would need to be the later rounds as he’s reportedly out for 3 months). In time it would also be good to see Samuelson realise his undoubted potential. For me there are too many critics of how kids are not given experience against fully developed men. With the Checkatrade and PL2, along with U23 & U21’s, I feel that things are heading in the right direction.

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Considering the range and types of goals that Martinez scores, many on view at the development squad page, I believe he has all the attributes to make it as a top level striker.

At a time when many fans are asking if we’ll ever see our youth players come through in numbers there would seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s hope so – both for England and for West Ham.

Lastly apologies for the similarities within this piece to SJ’s yesterday (although it does come at the subject from some different angles). I started writing the article a few days ago and so the crossover wasn’t intentional.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!

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The Blind Hammer Column

Train In Vain?

Blind Hammer looks at the training challenges Moyes will face.

The publicity following David Moyes appointment has focussed on the revolution in intensity he and his team will bring to training. Sergeant Major Moyes alongside Drill Sergeants Pearce, Irvine and McKinley are presented as the “hard men” who will brook no slackers and wrought a transformation in fitness.

Nobody could, now, argue that fitness was not an issue under Bilic’s team. Too many players revealed that training was too relaxed after they departed. The evidence of running stats and the visible, proof of players jogging rather than sprinting to cover during recent games was a damning indictment.

However the capacity of Moyes’ to transform our squad through a fitness regime is vastly overblown. New standards of fitness will be a long rather than a short term fix. Moyes reflected that he has only been able to work with 8 first team players during this International break. More importantly when the squad finally re-assembles for the Watford game we will undertake a period of fixture congestions which will provide the biggest fitness challenge of the season. Little if any time will be available to rebuild fitness.

Starting with the game on the 19th November we will play 11 fixtures in 42 days, averaging a game every 3.9 days. The opener against Watford will be followed closely by games against Leicester and Everton. Then we will be hard into what some are describing as nil points December. We will play Arsenal in both cup and league, alongside games against Manchester city, Chelsea and Tottenham. Less daunting challenges will be provided by Stoke, Newcastle and Bournemouth.

Moyes has, then, the worst period of the season to work on fitness. Of the 42 days 33 will be unavailable for intense training. These are the 11 match days, the 11 post match recovery days, and the 11 pre match light training session. This leaves 9 days out of which we will have to remove days spent travelling to Watford, Liverpool (Everton), Manchester Stoke and Bournemouth. This leaves a maximum of 4 days, probably less, in these 42 days where anything like intense training could be considered. This also assumes that players get no leave apart from recovery days, an unlikely scenario over the Christmas period.

In reality there will be no opportunity for any boot camp style fitness program. So expecting Moyes to wave immediate fitness magic over the squad is unrealistic in the extreme.

Practically the weeks ahead will focus on injury recovery and injury management. Gary Lewin and his medical team will be busier in ensuring fitness than Moyes, Pearce et al.

What Moyes can and probably will do is identify a cohort of players who will not make the 11 on any match day and work with those more intensively. Those who are to be substitutes on the day can also have their preparation slightly stepped up, though there are risks associated with the need for an early substitution. In contrast those who are not to be involved at all can be subjected to greater intensity. In this way the hope could be that when they are eventually called upon they will demonstrate more fitness for purpose.

So, an immediate physical fitness transformation for key players is unlikely. Nevertheless opportunities for improvement persist. Moyes and his team can crucially improve mental capability. Increased tactical awareness and organisation are nowadays facilitated through video analysis. Players are taken through real life game examples of not only what they did badly but what they did well. Improved organisation, decision making, game management and tactical consciousness, are all aspects of the game which can be studied even if a player is injured. It is in this area of mental strength and confidence that Moyes and his team can drive improvement over the next season defining weeks.

We must hope that they are up for this challenge.
COYI
David Griffith


Talking Point

The Return of 'Psycho': Moyes' Coaching Appointments

Back in June 2015, I wrote a piece introducing Bilic’s Backroom Boys. Now that David Moyes has confirmed his own backroom team, I thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce the new coaching team at West Ham United.

First up – Alan Irvine. The Glasgow-born 59-year-old was a winger who started his career with Queen’s Park in 1977 before spending three years at Everton between 1981 and 1984. He moved to Crystal Palace, making over 100 appearances for the Eagles, before returning to Scotland in 1987 with Dundee United. He closed his career with a three-year spell at Blackburn, retiring in 1992 after helping Kenny Dalglish’s men win promotion to the Premier League.

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Irvine was Academy Director at Ewood Park between 1993 and 1998 and held a similar role at Newcastle from 2001 to 2005, bringing through Steven Taylor and Peter Ramage. He then moved to Everton in 2005 where he became David Moyes’ assistant. He graduated to management in November 2007 with Preston, guiding them from a relegation battle to 15th place at the end of his first season. He took them to the play-offs in his only full campaign in charge, but lost to Sheffield United in the semi-final. After a run of one win in ten games, he was sacked in December 2009.

Irvine was appointed manager of Sheffield Wednesday in January 2010 but the club were relegated to League One at the end of the season. He was dismissed in February 2011. He returned to Everton in the summer of 2011 to become manager of the club’s academy. Three years later, Irvine was back in management, this time at Premier League level with West Bromwich Albion. He was sacked after seven months, in late December 2014. In the summer of 2016 he became assistant manager at Norwich and became caretaker manager eight months later after the departure of Alex Neil, steering the Canaries through the final two months of the campaign.

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Billy McKinlay is a 48-year-old former midfielder who won 29 caps for Scotland, appearing for his country at Euro ’96 and the World Cup in 1998. Like Moyes and Irvine, he was born in Glasgow. Starting his career with Dundee United, for whom he made over 200 appearances, McKinlay moved south of the border to reigning Premier League champions Blackburn in 1995. He spent five years with Rovers before spells at Bradford, Clydebank, Leicester and Fulham. His coaching career began as reserve team manager at Craven Cottage and he was also named as assistant manager of Northern Ireland. He left Fulham in December 2013 and was appointed first team coach at Watford nine months later. He was very quickly named head coach after the departure of Oscar Garcia, but was himself replaced after just eight days in charge, Slavisa Jokanovic being named as his replacement.

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McKinlay worked under Moyes at Real Sociedad between November 2014 and November 2015. After leaving Spain he was named manager of Norwegian side Stabaek but he resigned in July 2016 after less than eight months with the club. He worked as a scout under Moyes at Sunderland and became first team coach at the Stadium of Light just last month – he was appointed joint caretaker manager alongside former Hammer Robbie Stockdale but has since relinquished this role to move to the Hammers.

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And last but not least – Stuart Pearce. ‘Psycho’ needs very little introduction to West Ham supporters, having spent two years at the club between 1999 and 2001. He made his Hammers debut in a 1-0 win over Tottenham on the opening day of the 1999/2000 season and even made an England return in September 1999 at the age of 37 – he was the third-oldest outfield player to appear for England after Stanley Matthews and Leslie Compton. The official West Ham United website this week released a ‘Six things you probably didn’t know about Stuart Pearce’ article – point three on the list was that Pearce played for the Hammers in Europe as a member of the InterToto Cup-winning side which got the Hammers into the UEFA Cup. This is, in fact, not true – ‘Psycho’ did not play a single minute of any of the six InterToto games and was out with a broken leg when the Hammers competed in the UEFA Cup.

Pearce made five league appearances in claret and blue before suffering the aforementioned broken leg against Watford – typically, he wanted to carry on playing! He made a return to action in February 2000 but only lasted three games before breaking the same leg. 2000/01 saw better times for Pearce though – he played in 34 of the Irons’ Premier League matches, with a further eight appearances coming in the domestic cups. Pearce ended the season as a 39-year-old but had played 40 matches at the top level of English football. He also scored three goals for the club: a consolation direct from a free-kick in a 2-1 home defeat to Arsenal in October 2000; a typically thunderous strike to give the Hammers a 2-1 lead at Southampton a month later in a game the Hammers would win 3-2; and an equaliser to make it 1-1 in an FA Cup quarter-final with Tottenham at a rain-drenched Upton Park in March 2001, a game the Irons would sadly lose 3-2. He was voted Hammer of the Year at the end of the 2000/01 season.

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Hammersmith-born Pearce had started his career at non-league Wealdstone in 1978 before moving to Coventry in 1983. Two years later he was signed by Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest and he would make over 400 appearances for the club. He turned down a move to the Hammers in 1997 to sign for Newcastle but did team up with Harry Redknapp two years later. After being beaten to the vacant managerial post at Upton Park by Glenn Roeder in the summer of 2001, Pearce left east London after 50 appearances to end his playing days with Manchester City, who romped to the First Division title and promotion to the Premier League under Kevin Keegan. Pearce had also won 78 caps for England and was part of the team which reached the World Cup semi-finals in 1990 and the last four of Euro ‘96 – England’s two greatest performances at a tournament since 1966.

Pearce’s first stint as a manager came as caretaker at Nottingham Forest in 1997. He became a coach under Keegan at Manchester City before becoming manager of the club in 2005. He became manager of the England Under-21 team in February 2007 whilst still in charge at City but was sacked by his club three months later. He guided the Under-21s to the semi-finals of the European Championships in 2007 and the Final in 2009 – his captains at both tournaments were provided by the Hammers, Nigel Reo-Coker and Mark Noble respectively. He also worked as a coach with the England senior team under Fabio Capello and managed the Great Britain Olympic team at London 2012. He left his role as Under-21 manager in the summer of 2013 and spent seven months back in charge at Forest in the 2014/15 campaign.

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Welcome to all three, and good luck. Best wishes too to Winston Reid tonight, as his New Zealand side look to claim the last remaining place at the 2018 World Cup in their play-off in Peru.

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