Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Burnley

The Predictor League for Burnley is open. Enter your team HERE. Deadline is Saturday at 1pm.

After managing to put to the sword a surprisingly strong Conference team in Stockport County on Monday, West Ham return to action with a trip up to the opposite side of Manchester when we visit Burnley for a Saturday afternoon game. Ahead of the game I spoke once again to Tony Scoles, editor of Uptheclarets to discuss everything Claret and Blue.
Well we’re just about at the halfway point of the season. Things were looking a bit dodgy for you a few weeks ago, but 3 wins and a draw in the last 5 games has hauled you out of the relegation zone. How do you sum up the season so far?
We’ve played 16 games and it can almost be split in two. We only had two points from the first seven games and since we’ve picked up 14 points from the last nine games although there is an explanation to that.
We started the season with so many injuries which included our two central defenders James Tarkowski and Ben Mee. We were shipping goals which meant losing games, it was really as simple as that.
We are still not back to full strength but we’ve only a couple missing now and things are starting to look much better, more Dyche like and that stands us in good stead.

Winning away against Arsenal seems to have sparked your recovery, what’s caused the big turn around in your performance?
By the time we’d arrived at Arsenal we’d beaten Crystal Palace and then drawn against Everton which was arguably one of our best performances this season, a game we possibly would have one but for one slip just before half time.
The change in fortunes is, as I said, really down to having enough players available although I have to say it was nice to get a first ever Premier League win against Arsenal. We’ve been done by them so often with late and extremely dubious decisions it was one definitely to savour.

As I mentioned you have opened up a bit of a gap at the bottom. Are you confident that your good fortune will last?
I can’t imagine we will have another run of injuries in the way we did at the start of the season so I see no reason why the improvement can’t continue. I do really believe we will be some way clear by the end of the season and I suspect we might climb a few more places yet.

Manchester United currently sit at the top of the table, were you impressed by them in your midweek match?
You have to be impressed with a team that can string a run of results together in the way United did. They looked a decent side against us last night but then again so did we and it did take a deflected effort from Paul Pogba to beat us. They are not a traditional Manchester United side on that evidence, more a difficult team to break down which is a massive change from how they were playing just a few weeks ago.

“Of the players that have recently played for Burnley, and are currently plying their trade elsewhere, the likes of Danny Ings, Michael Keane, etc, are there any that you wish were still turning out at Turf Moor?*
Danny Ings was terrific for us in the promotion team in 2013/14 and then had a decent season for us in the Premier League. He’s definitely stepped up his game at Southampton and now looks a very dangerous player. Michael Keane was also outstanding for us but if I could bring a player back it would be Kieran Trippier. He was brilliant for us and there’s nothing a Burnley fan likes more than to see a player with his commitment.

We’re in a transfer window at the moment: so far Burnley have made no purchases. If Sean Dyce does decide to buy, where do you most need strengthening?
I do think we could do with a younger right back and I’d like to see a right sided midfield player and a central defender. Those would be the first three options for me. It would give us options in all positions and give the squad more balance.

You will obviously be delighted with Sean Dyce’s long term performance as Burnley manager, how do you rate the performance of West Ham’s David Moyes after his return to the club?
Moyes is a good manager; he showed that at Everton before being sunk at United with things, as I saw it, outside his control. I thought he did a decent job keeping you up first time round and I’m not sure why you binned him for Pellegrini. I know he’s not the most popular manager you’ve had but he’s doing a decent job there.
How will Burnley line up against West Ham on Saturday? Players/formation please.
It was more like the Burnley team we would expect against Manchester United. We will almost certainly play 4-4-2 and it wouldn’t be a big surprise if it were the same team which was: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, J?hann Berg Guðmundsson, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Robbie Brady, Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes. If not, then Dwight McNeil is pushing for his place back on the left of midfield now fit again and there might be a change up front that could see either Jay Rodriguez or Mat?j Vydra preferred to Wood or Barnes.

Finally, you beat us last time out, are you confident you are going to repeat that feat this weekend? Prediction for score?
Why not. I think we are going to start scoring goals soon so a 2-0 win wouldn’t surprise me.

Well many thanks once again to Tony for his time. I’m hoping that the extra bit of rest the West Ham players will have after our respective games will prove to be to our advantage, so I’m going for 1 – 2 to West Ham. COYI

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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v Burnley

The Predictor League for Burnley is open. Enter your team HERE. Deadline is Saturday at 1pm.

Blast from the past

In today’s featured match, we travel back to 15th March 1975, when The Bay City Rollers were number one with ‘Bye Bye Baby’, Led Zeppelin had just released ‘Physical Graffiti’ and The Towering Inferno was in UK cinemas. Eva Longoria and will.i.am were born on this day as West Ham United welcomed Burnley to east London. Hong Kong Phooey made its UK television debut two days later and, the following week, a large National Front rally was held in London in protest against European integration.

The Hammers went into the game on the back of a 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final win over Arsenal at Highbury the weekend before. They ran out 2-1 winners in front of 28,830 spectators at Upton Park courtesy of goals from future Burnley striker Alan Taylor (pictured below) and Keith Robson; Doug Collins was on the scoresheet for the visitors. The Irons did not win any of their following six matches, until they defeated Ipswich in an FA Cup semi-final replay nearly a month later.

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John Lyall’s West Ham would go on to finish 13th in a 1974/75 campaign that saw them win the FA Cup with a 2-0 triumph over Fulham at Wembley. 19-year-old goalkeeper Mervyn Day would also win the PFA Young Player of the Year Award and finish runner-up to Billy Bonds in the Hammer of the Year voting for the second season in succession. Jimmy Adamson’s Clarets ended the season in tenth position; Derby won the league title.

West Ham United: Mervyn Day, John McDowell, Tommy Taylor, Kevin Lock, Frank Lampard, Graham Paddon, Billy Bonds (Bobby Gould), Trevor Brooking, Billy Jennings, Alan Taylor, Keith Robson.

Burnley: Alan Stevenson, Keith Newton, Colin Waldron, Jim Thomson, Doug Collins, Billy Ingham, Brian Flynn, Leighton James, Peter Noble, Ray Hankin, Paul Fletcher.

Club Connections

A small collection of players have turned out for the Hammers and the Clarets. They include:

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Frank Birchenough, Tommy Hampson and Herman Conway.

Defenders: David Unsworth, Tommy Dunn, Tyrone Mears, Joe Gallagher, Jack Tresadern, Jon Harley and Mitchell Thomas.

Midfielders: Junior Stanislas, Reg Attwell, Matt Taylor and Luke Chadwick.

Strikers: Alan Taylor, Sam Jennings, Walter Pollard, Ian Wright, Ian Moore and Zavon Hines.

John Bond played for the Hammers and managed the Clarets.

Today’s focus, though, falls on a player who spent two spells with Burnley either side of a stint at West Ham United. Bill Jenkinson was born in Chesterfield on 11th April 1874 and began his career with Belgian side Antwerp. Predominantly a centre-forward, he moved to Burnley in 1898 and spent three years at the club, helping them to a third-placed finish in the First Division in his first season. The Clarets could not repeat the success of their 1898/99 campaign and were relegated in 17th position the following season. Jenkinson, who featured at left-back on occasions, was a member of the squad which ended up third in the Second Division in 1900/01, missing out on an immediate return to the top flight by four points. He scored 11 goals in 33 appearances during his first spell with Burnley.

The 27-year-old Jenkinson (pictured) moved to West Ham United, then of the Southern League First Division, in 1901 and made his Hammers debut at inside-left in a 2-0 home defeat to Millwall on 26th October 1901. He was tried in three different positions in his first three games, all of which ended in defeat. He played centre-forward in his next match, a 3-0 defeat at Reading on 23rd November, and was moved to left-half for a 4-0 loss at Southampton two weeks later. He eventually settled down at inside-left as the Hammers finished the season by going unbeaten for the last 11 matches to secure a fourth-placed finish. Jenkinson scored his first goal for the Irons in a 2-1 win at Tottenham on 15th February 1902 and was also on the scoresheet in a 2-0 victory at Brentford on 3rd March 1902. Jenkinson’s last appearance for the Hammers came in a 1-1 draw with Portsmouth at the Memorial Grounds on 12th April 1902. At the end of the season, having scored two goals in 19 appearances for West Ham United, Jenkinson returned to league football with Burnley.

Jenkinson made 17 appearances for Second Division Burnley in his second spell, scoring once, to take his Clarets totals to 12 goals in 50 matches. He later played for Colne. Bill Jenkinson died between April and June of 1960, aged 85 or 86.

Referee

The referee tomorrow will be Christopher Kavanagh. The Manchester-born official has refereed the Hammers on ten previous occasions, most recently for our 3-0 defeat at Chelsea last month. He also refereed the Irons on our last two trips to Vicarage Road, one of which was a 4-1 win in May 2019, when he sent off the Hornets’ Jose Holebas and awarded the Irons a penalty, converted by Mark Noble after a foul on Michail Antonio. Prior to that, Kavanagh officiated our 2-0 defeat at Chelsea in April 2019 and our 2-0 home win over Newcastle the month before, a game in which he also awarded the Hammers a penalty for a foul on Chicharito which was again converted by Noble.

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Kavanagh had previously been in charge for our 2-2 home draw with Brighton in January 2019, our 1-1 draw at Huddersfield in November 2018 and our 1-0 home defeat to Wolves in September 2018. He was the man in the middle for our 2-0 win at Leicester in May 2018 and also issued Arthur Masuaku with a red card for spitting in an FA Cup fourth round defeat at Wigan in January 2018.

Possible line-ups

West Ham United are without Fabian Balbuena and Arthur Masuaku, while Ryan Fredericks and Issa Diop are doubts. Lukasz Fabianski could be available.

Burnley have doubts over Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Jimmy Dunne and Charlie Taylor. Chris Wood has scored six goals in his six games against West Ham. The Clarets have scored just four goals in eight away league games so far this season

Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Coufal, Dawson, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Soucek, Rice; Bowen, Fornals, Benrahma; Antonio.

Possible Burnley XI: Pope; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Gudmundsson, Westwood, Brownhill, McNeil; Wood, Barnes.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!


Nigel Kahn’s Column

Back to Normal

The Predictor League for Burnley is open. Enter your team HERE. Deadline is Saturday at 1pm.

Hurrah, finally it has arrived. No, not the cup win against lower league opposition but this coming Saturday we have a Saturday game that kicks off at 3 pm, the time-honoured traditional kick-off time that many of us still pine for.

No big shock though as with the current situation the country finds itself in, the mass televising of football has been welcomed it seems by the fans, but when/if we ever get back to where we were pre March 2020 with fans allowed on mass in the stadium how will the traditional 3 pm Saturday kick-off be treated?

Short History lesson. The reason why games kicked off at 3 pm on a Saturday was that it allowed factory workers to make the matches. The 1850 Factories Act stopped the working day on a Saturday at 2 pm so when organised football took off in the late 19th century, it made sense to put kick-off times to when your audience could attend.

Fast forward to the early 1960s and the non televising of football games live that kicked off at 3pm was partly brought about to protect the clubs to keep fee-paying match attending fans going to games and not staying at home to watch. Burnley’s owner at the time, a man called Bob Lord, was the big pusher of this and to the point, he refused any TV cameras into Turf Moor, basically Match of the Day cameras, until the late 60s. There appears to be no legal reason to not televise 3pm Saturday games just an agreement between the league administrators to not allow it.

Now with fans only able to see games by watching on TV, the fans are getting used to the new way of consuming the game to the extent when we are back in the ground will the previous status quo resume.

Most fans of any club do not attend games, and I do not include the foreign legions that now follow us, as they always watched on TV.

Will the home-based fans that generally don’t attend but have for the past year and the rest of this season going forward got used to seeing every game accept when fans are back in the ground and the game is not one of the 5 TV picks you can’t watch it (legally).

Should the 3 o’clock kick-off go back to being protected by a TV blackout or do you think that with the change we have seen in the past year in televising every game, that the administrators and clubs should find a way to continue?

Currently, we are having top-flight teams playing nearly every day of the week either cup or Premier league games. Should that be allowed to continue once fans can attend again? Let us know in the comments.

Hammers United are starting the drip-feed release of the results of their Survey. Currently, we don’t know how many took the survey so we don’t know how much of a snapshot of the fanbase it is. Once we have all the info, only then can us so-called commentators of the club try to put together our take on it. We also have not heard the club’s results of their survey that was produced at the same time so kudos to HU in starting to get their information out to the public.

*The circus is back in business people, it’s transfer window season and the people that make a living from giving you the news either exclusively or 1st or maybe both, are jockeying for position as the go-to person for the best info, but how much of that info is real or how much of that information have they put together with educated guesses.
We are currently linked with 5 forward players – Josh King, Giroud, Baku, Dia and Sima. Frankly which one we get I care not one jot. I’ll leave that to the club to chose. Hopefully, they will make the right choice, but I doubt it if their previous track record of signing strikers is anything to go by and while fans beg for info on who we are signing the club announces new directors to sit on the board.

These directors are not shareholders in the club or will be directors of the WH Holdings that own the club but will be directors of the football club itself which I think is classed as a subsidiary of the main company. Why have they done this? Is this a sign of future-proofing the club in the case of one or both the Daves being incapacitated.

The truth it seems is that they want their wife and son and mates to be able to go to games. Quite why Eve wants to go I’m not sure because I cant say I’ve ever seen a photo of her smiling at a game.

It seems only directors of the club can currently attend games so to get them into the ground the only way to do that was to make them directors. They won’t have any say in any way the club is run, so it seems the hashtag #GSBOUT is safe and does not need expanding to #GSBVSDCOUT.

Still, nice to see we are all in it together.


The Jimmy Cooney Column

The Mood Savers, and the Culture of Priority

The Predictor League for Burnley is open. Enter your team HERE. Deadline is Saturday at 1pm.

Greetings.

I assume most of “Hammerdom” is quite satisfied with Monday night’s result, I am, quite, I’m a bit upset that I missed the match, albeit, during the goal, which was a work of splendid treachery and art, and, was one where I would definitely have noticed the absence of a crowd, especially for the Dawson goal (another assist for Bowen) and, me, even as THE top boy of the ICF, (Inner Couch Firm) :)) I agree, as Bowen said, is is what the FA Cup is all about, and as someone to not be able to claim an Away match, let alone an Away Cup Tie, up northwest, in January!

However, according to the extended highlights, I’ve seen, and accounts I’ve read, given the weather conditions, and Stockport really playing “hard to break down”, hence, another Yorkshire/Lancashire/Greater Manchester “banana peel” was successfully negotiated. (With at least one more to come! Hopefully 2)

Included in this list of reasons of missing the match, is making the mistake of not only being born 20 years too late, but apparently 3957 odd miles to the southwest, placing me in the “exclusion” club, ;)) there was no TV coverage here in my neck of the States to DVR, and even if I wasn’t busy, it would have no doubt been a headache finding a free stream, that doesn’t route through Russia.

I know there’s options, steaming ESPN plus wouldn’t accept my c.c., cos, well, I’m financially ruined, and my payment obviously hasn’t cleared!!! :)) and after the 2011-12 C’ship campaign, I picked up more viruses than I would have going maskless, condomnless, and sharing needles with everyone in the various dope dens and safe houses of iniquity under the “EL” Stations, along the “Market&Frankford Line” (yes the elevated trains and bars shown in “Rockys’” “I”, “V”, and “Rocky Balboa”) in the Kensington section of Philadelphia (it’s a far cry from the section in London called Kensington, I assure you). Add this to the fact that I’ve JUST started to take self tutorials on my new LT, and I’m a bit gun shy to try streaming just yet.

Even as technology savvy as someone in the Early 1980’s at best, “the years force a certain amount of wisdom upon you, whether you like it or not”. And my wisdom and knowledge is definitely improving….. I’m far from Yoda, but somewhere between “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” perhaps….. ;) , And in the case if my interest in English culture, as I’ve always had a curiosity of since I can remember.

However, every once in a while, topics of the little differences in our cultures pop up within our support base, and how we view things….. in particular, and the only one I cannot fully “agree with” for lack of better term is the notion of “I’d rather lose 5-4 and watch a complete cracker,than win 1-0 or 2-1”, a bit ugly,or scrappy, which would appear to mostly come from the English purists supporter, who was at least 5 years old at the time of the 1980 FA Cup finals. (Those I tend to very respectfully refer to as "The Old Guard, of which I am old enough to be a part of). I was 7 and remember VERY clearly in 1980, when the Phillies won the World Series against Kansas City Royals, the Eagles lost Super Bowl XV to the Oakland Raiders, The 76’ers lost the 1980-81 NBA Championship to the L.A. Lakers, and the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers lost to the New York Islanders due to the fact that the deciding game six was marred by one of the most infamous blown official calls in NHL playoff history. With the game tied 1-1, the Islanders Butch Goring picked up a drop pass from New York left wing Clark Gillies which had clearly gone back over the Flyers’ defensive zone blue line into center ice. Linesman Leon Stickle waved the play as safe and Goring threaded a pass to right wing Duane Sutter who beat Philadelphia goalie Pete Peeters for a 2-1 New York lead. The Flyers argued vehemently to no avail. (Sound familiar to anyone? See why identify with y’all!?!?!) :))

I admit, years ago, while a “Patawan Learner”, to the now “Premier League” (who was Ronin, btw) :)) I had some difficulty grasping this concept at first, (as has the few people I’ve tried to convert, cos they don’t understand….) they understand “playoffs”, worst club gets the first “draft pick”, and some cash, etc, to keep parity, There is one “Big Prize” at the end called a Championship, 2 contests, regular season, playoffs, Champ final, is what spawns the American sports fan asks is "so….what is the “endgame in ‘soccer’?!?!” outside of the playoff system in place in the MLS) however, having been to football camps between 1980-86 and played until High School, I picked a lot up pretty damn quickly, I began to understand and appreciate the difference of financial reward, the points system, 2 Cups, and European and Champs League depending on your position in the top 5, (even if relegation made it harder to follow), over the years, it came clear rather quickly, and instead of confusing me, it intrigued me, and the loyalty in loss I found to be a very important lesson.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying there is ANY right or wrong in this, its just different perceptions and tastes, some think Antonio sucks, some think he’s our best player of the last 5 years. Some hate C.C. Some think he’s one of the most important players of the “’Teens”, I’m just pointing out a different mindsets, the vast difference in how 3 people, one with seats in the Bobby Moore lower, one with seats up in the “nosebleed” in the Booking stand, and one who watched on t.v., all view things from quite different angles, I’ve noticed. We all see things our own way. If this site doesn’t prove that, not sure what will! ;)

Where I agree, sadly, I don’t believe the modern game (i.e., owners, shareholders, and whatever corporate demons sent here by Belial…..[do not say its name out loud….. please trust me.]), to tack up these wonderful designed yearly kits, to cover them with billboards for gambling online, and seemingly, the next on-line stock trading firm destined for failure, and yes, adverts for “tyres”…. (its "tires, y’all) :)) etc…..

It’s a bloody shame that not everyone finds the same potential magic that most of those who who PAY to have hope, travel, and brave weather only U.S. Spec Forces, British SAS, U.S. Navy SEALS, Royal or U.S. Marines train in, and now, just hoping the match goes on due to a worsening Global Pandemic.

The FA Cup, as I remember the waning mentality that the FA Cup is an even more important work of Silver than the Top Flight Championship has been on for some time. (In spite of the fact that only 8 clubs who were not in the top flight, both Divisions and PL era, have ever won the FA Cup, our beloved Hammers being the last, in 1980 and all 8 clubs were no lower than the 2 tier).

However, there is something very special and unique about the FA Cup and even as an American, as a matter of fact ESPECIALLY cos I’m American, and I guess I just wished it was more the “great equalizer” It once had been, with little dynasties here and there, but a variety of clubs winning, and getting to quarter and semi finals, still, I find it special BECAUSE of football’s quintessential English qualities, not in spite of them. Admittedly, the FA Cup Ties in the Divisions era definitely had more potential for “Giant Slaying” and showed such in ties all through the rounds. However, I’d be “over the moon” if we could buck that trend front the first time since Wigan won in ’12 (got relegated, but won the Cup!!!) So, there still is some magic……

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Now back to our current form and style of play, Of course, I’d rather watch more fluid games, especially ones where we score more goals, some sitters from Haller, and Fornals could have us in the European conversation right now, however, with the come from behind/no one thought we had a chance at anything, draws and wins being included with this statement, I’d rather grind out a 1-0, 2-1 win (mostly cos I really respect good defensive play a lot more than the “glitter”), then be “let down” by an 9 goal emotional rollercoaster ride where West Ham comes out on the short end, I mean, between West Ham, the Philadelphia Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, where victory, and further advancement and success, that I witnessed and can remember any number of historical events since 1978, literally snatched from the jaws of victory, on multiple occasions from all clubs, which doesn’t kill my loyalty, but it puts me in a foul humor until the next fixture, game, match, etc……

I’ve been around long enough to have learned to respect and actually celebrate good score draws, (Tottenham, away in October, anyone?) :) and will give credit during a good hard fought 5-4 loss on occasion, if we left it all out there, and, we are in good shape, however, it’s still a loss, therefore, 2-4 of those a season, cool, but 10??? Nonsense. The game is played to be won.

This being said, the whole year is a marathon, not a sprint. Of which, I find the “chess” aspect of English football a lot more intriguing at this point in my life than I do the COMPLETE BLOODY 3 RING CIRCUS that the NFL has been since the Mid to late 1990’s

O.K. on to the striker issues, it’s a good thing we have a bunch of flying defensive Iron, picking up the slack as far as finishing, and Soucek to be pulling out these great match winning assaults, and performances, however our striker (singular), is wonderful, albeit as he ages, I don’t see the hamstring issue improving, therefore we can train Benny to be the “Fox in the Box” in a 3-5-2 with he and Antonio, Bowen or Yarmo up front, meanwhile, we find the suitable striker to see us to at least a top 10 finish and a Cup win. I think it’s more likely than us finishing any higher than 8th, unless once we reach Liverpool or Manchester United (every year, it seems, if we make it to the 5th round, we draw either one of the Manchester’s or Liverpool, or am I mad?) I suppose the good news is if we beat the Satan Worshipers, or LiVARpool, the Cup shall be ours.

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However , I’m not saying that we don’t need one or two strikers, and I do fear no signings will be made, of which there’s only one I’m staunchly opposed to signing and that is Marko Arnautovic, I’m sorry, I don’t want to see the balance of this squad thrown off.

Well, this is where I kind of check out, and let the discussions about whether or not we need a LB, DMF, and Striker, or in my opinion, a DMF and a “cold weather striker” (who, I leave that to the ITK’s in our tribe, to guess, debate, and criticize what ever choice is made), cos, from what I’ve read, REALISTICALLY if we even have the cabbage to buy King, who’s probably the most realistic option, to cover for Antonio when he has his “Festive Fixture” Time 2-4 months off, I’m not holding my breath for any sensational signings, hopefully, at least one or two offensive move are made, with a CMF’er as a bonus, so long as it doesn’t mess with the “Esprit de Corps” that is this sides biggest advantage right now.

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I think the defense is pretty squared away, and, is slightly deeper than the attack (now that WHOMEVER, decided it would a a good idea to get rid of 2 attacking players, without having at least ONE on the grill was smoking crystal meth, unless there’s a plan that “Slick Moyes” has up his sleeve……) :)) Besides, all the goals, as I’ve said, seem to be coming from the defensive players, and we rule the set piece. However, the former anomaly of defenders carrying the lions share of the scoring, will not continue.

Of course, a slick move for a solid striker could mean bigger things for this club this season, during a time in history, especially, where literally one of the only things keeping me in something that resembles a good mood, is that West Ham United F.C. has become quite the formidable club, whether you like the gaffer, style or players or not.

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LOVE YOU ALL

COYI

Jimmy


The HamburgHammer Column

After an evening swim at Edgeley Park - where do West Ham go from here ?

The Predictor League for Burnley is open. Enter your team HERE. Deadline is Saturday at 1pm.

I am not a big fan of Monday games, especially late kick-offs. I will still try and rustle up a column, sort of, typing a few paragraphs down prior to the game at Stockport and a few bits and bobs after the final whistle.

Stockport then, eh? Dan Coker led us down memory lane earlier in yet another excellent match preview of his yesterday.

One of the strongest West Ham memories of my Barking days in 1996 leads me back to The Bull, one of many Barking pubs that was still selling pints in 1996, but is unfortunately no more in 2021 and hasn’t been open for business for many years. The building was/is located right opposite the old Barking Abbey. I suppose some of you who are local will remember the place. Apparently it closed as a pub in 2010, briefly reopened as a nightclub in 2017 only to find itself boarded up again today.

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It’s in that pub where I did watch most of the games of Euro 96 (“Football’s coming home” and all that!) and where, just a week before Christmas and a flight back home to celebrate with the family, I witnessed our painful exit from the League Cup on a wet and windy day night on a muddy pitch against Stockport County at Edgeley Park.

I watched the drama unfold in the random company of a total stranger, an elderly chap, over a pint and the football conversations we had turned out to be more entertaining than the game. Dowie’s bullet of a header to this day is still the most astonishing own goal I have ever seen. Down the other end it would have been a brilliant finish, going into West Ham’s own net it was mindblowing.

You know sometimes when a goalscoring opportunity is blasted over the bar from five yards out, the pundits say it was the finishing of a defender. Dowie’s attempt to head the ball out of danger showed that there is something like a striker’s clearance at the back as well. There is a reason after all why defenders defend and strikers mainly focus on scoring goals…

Job done! That’s the best you can say about last night’s performance on an occasion where oop north it was coming down in stair rods as Paddington Bear might have described it before biting into a marmalade sandwich.

We found it hard to break down a very organised and gutsy Stockport team and it took a late set piece by substitute Bowen, finished off by a bullet of a header by Dawson, this one going in at the right end though.
How apt that it was a defender scoring the winner! ;-))

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This, by the way, was Dawson’s third start for West Ham resulting in our third clean sheet. This one already looks like a loan deal working in our favour.

We also caught a brief glimpse of forward prospect Ademipo Odubeko.
Due to our squad size we might see the lad more often now methinks.
His little cameo was too short to evaluate how he might cope against the likes of Burnley or West Brom.

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After cracking this particular tough nut in the FA Cup we are now facing Doncaster at home first and if we can take care of that fixture it’ll either be Liverpool or Manchester away. Nice one, Crouchy!

To be fair, I always thought if you are serious about winning the trophy, you cannot be picky about the opposition at any stage. A favourable draw is nice if you can get it, but if you beat one of the big clubs on the way to the final, that’s when you really know you deserve to be there.

And besides. IF we were to get past Doncaster, who can say what the situation is going to be in terms of squad availability for the teams involved, players being injured or self-isolating ?

Liverpool may decide to field a weakened side to focus on their Champions League exploits. Manchester United may want to rest players to focus on their league fixtures to cement their position near the top.

To summarise: I am not fazed by the cup draw at all. In fact I’m looking forward to it. This year we can really go for it and field our best side in every round. I reckon that’s what every West Ham fan would be expecting now since relegation fears are no longer a viable excuse this time around…

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A quick word on the players who we let go so far in January, first name obviously being Sebastien Haller.

The player has probably been discussed, defended, mocked, criticised and argued over more than any player on this blog in the past three years.
So far we don’t know the exact circumstances of how the deal came about, but Ajax must have made a financial offer that by all accounts suited all parties just fine although it leaves us very short in the striking department.

A parting of ways was always on the cards though and as one of his biggest supporters on the blog I will gladly admit that it just didn’t click for Haller at West Ham. I still think it was mainly about the way we were lining up rather than him being a bad player or the PL being too fast or physical for him.

I reckon there are several sides in the PL where Haller would have been just as successful (or more so) as he used to be at Frankfurt. I know the overall quality of the PL is superior to that of the Bundesliga, but it’s not like every PL team out there has world-class defences. Haller could have done a lot better, for instance like he did in the games when playing together with Antonio, but our manager obviously wasn’t keen on going down that road, so Haller had to be sold. Fair enough!
I’m sure Haller will be a great striker at Ajax.

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Then there’s Robert Snodgrass, the Tartan Pele.
I am happy he left because the lad deserves more game time in the PL.
I love players like him to bits because you could always expect to see 100% from him on the pitch. From what I have heard he was a brilliant character on the training pitch and in the dressing room. A proper competitor and textbook professional. The kind of player every team needs to complement the tricksters, the finesse passers and the tough-tackling defenders.

I can only wish Snodders all the best in his future endeavours at West Brom which is hard for me to do as that would correspond with an upturn in the fortunes of a certain Samuel Allardyce…;-))

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So, two players gone, only one defender in (Frederik Alves Ibsen) so far. Make no mistake, we still have a small and unbalanced squad, we all know that we’re practically brassic as a club, so it’s not that unlikely we don’t sign anyone else in January. We may see a lot of U23 players on matchday first team benches in the next few months as a result…

I think we can all agree that David Moyes is doing a fine job in very trying circumstances. The gaffer clearly has ambition and he wants to improve the squad but he is being hamstrung, pardon the pun, by a lack of striker alternatives to Antonio (He of the dodgy hamstrings) and very limited funds to make amends.

Moyes, by all accounts, isn’t keen to bring in just any old player to make up the numbers, only those who genuinely improve the team. He said he’d be happy if we didn’t sign anybody else this window. That is admirable, but coupled with our financial situation it creates a conundrum.

As indeed Moyes may not be able to bring his targets in due to them being too high quality and too dear in price whereas the players he will be offered left, right and centre by agents, clubs and the owners (Sullivan/Salthouse punts) may be in our price bracket, but not be what the gaffer has in mind.

THIS is where as a board you have to come to the fore and support the gaffer. Not with big words or inches in a newspaper column, but actions and £££.

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All of this is even more disappointing as we are doing really well so far and could make a push up the table with the right January signings, as we did with bringing in Soucek and Coufal late in successive windows.

We certainly could do with another striker or two, a left back and a defensive midfielder. Don’t hold your breath though. And I guess it’s safe to say we can all go to bed throughout this transfer window at our regular bedtimes without fear of missing much.

I don’t expect much activity in terms of players coming in. We are essentially gambling on Moyes working his magic with the squad he still has at his disposal, we are hoping that Antonio’s hamstrings will last a few more months (like an old Vauxhall Vivaro approaching its next MOT test) and we pray no other players will go down with long term injuries.
Good luck with all of that!

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In terms of the league fixtures we are now entering a stretch with very winnable games, on paper at least. We should be able to establish ourselves firmly in the top half of the table and banish any lingering fears of relegation within the next four weeks or so. Our next few results may also affect our transfer business. If we do well it might lead to a sense of security within the club hierarchy that could result in the owners keeping their hands firmly in their pockets in January.

I don’t even think that Moyes would kick up a fuss if that were the case. He will know by now how the cookie crumbles at West Ham. He will focus on working with the players at his disposal and consider his options. Which might lie at a different PL club if he continues to do well in trying circumstances.

That’s a very useful trait for a football manager to have in these challenging times. I have no doubt that other clubs will approach Moyes and make him offers he may not be able to refuse.
David Sullivan, watch out! Even Moyes may outgrow your ambition very soon. Which isn’t that difficult to begin with of course…

COYI

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Hamburg football update: A very mediocre weekend for the Hamburg clubs, HSV could only muster a draw at Nuremberg which was still enough to keep them at the top of the league table for now,however, with traditional Ruhr Valley club Bochum (Dortmund’s poor cousin) gaining ground and giving Hamburg a proper run for their money. The promotion race is heating up nicely.

As for St.Pauli they managed a highly unexpected draw against promotion chasing Holstein Kiel. The team from Hamburg’s red light district are still second from bottom, four points adrift of a non-relegation place. It’ll continue to be tough for them, but there’s still life in that team with everything still to fight for. They have also brought in several new signings to help them with their push up the table.


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