Match Thread

Match thread: West Ham v Stoke

West Ham v Stoke
FA Premier League
London Stadium
KO: 8pm
TV: Sky Sports
Radio: BBC Five Live

Please comment on the game as it progresses.

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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v Stoke

Blast from the past

23rd October 1954 – the day West Germany joined NATO and four days after Britain agreed to end its military occupation of the Suez Canal, Don Cornell was number one with ‘Hold My Hand’, Robert Donat was in UK cinemas in Lease of Life and West Ham United met Stoke City at the Boleyn Ground for a Second Division encounter in front of 27,005.

The Hammers were to emerge victorious with a 3-0 victory with two goals coming courtesy of 24-year-old inside-forward John Dick (pictured) and another from fellow striker Dave Sexton. The win would take the Hammers into the second tier’s top eight. Govan-born Dick would end the campaign as the Irons’ top goalscorer with 26 goals from 41 appearances.

West Ham would indeed finish the 1954/55 Division Two season in eighth place, while Stoke would end the campaign in fifth position. Birmingham and Luton would win promotion, Chelsea won the First Division title and Newcastle won the FA Cup.

West Ham United: George Taylor, John Bond, Ken Brown, Harry Kinsell, Andy Malcolm, Frank O’Farrell, Harry Hooper, Albert Foan, Dave Sexton, John Dick, Jimmy Andrews.

Club Connections

Marko Arnautovic welcomes the club he left in the summer, while Glen Johnson visits the club with whom he started his career. A reasonable number of players have also worn the shirts of both Stoke City and West Ham United. These include:

Goalkeepers: Tony Parks, Steve Banks, Lawrie Leslie, Pat McMahon, Bob Dixon.

Defenders: Clive Clarke, Abdoulaye Faye, Danny Collins, Billy Cope, Matthew Upson.

Midfielders: Luke Chadwick, Paul Allen, Kevin Keen, Victor Moses.

Strikers: Frank Richardson, Lee Chapman, Jack Farrell, Sir Geoff Hurst, John Carew, Wilf Phillips, Henri Camara, Nicky Morgan.

Lou Macari has also managed both clubs, with two spells in charge of the Potters.

Today’s focus falls on a man who enjoyed successful playing spells at both clubs. Matthew Etherington began his career at Peterborough, making his debut in May 1997 at 15 years and 262 days. He played 58 games for the Posh before joining Tottenham in December 1999. After three and a half years at White Hart Lane, which included a loan spell at Bradford, Etherington signed for Glenn Roeder’s West Ham in August 2003 – he was valued at £500,000 in the deal which took Frederic Kanoute to north London in the aftermath of the Hammers’ relegation. Peterborough made a formal complaint to the FA regarding the valuation placed on Etherington as they would have benefited from a sell-on clause had it been greater than the £500,000 they had sold Etherington to Tottenham for in 1999.

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Etherington made his debut in claret and blue in a 2-1 opening-day win at Preston in August 2003 and, after Trevor Brooking took caretaker control, he scored his first goal for the Hammers in a 3-0 win at Crewe the following month. With Alan Pardew now at the helm, he was sent off in a 1-1 draw at Norwich in February 2004 but scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 home win against Wimbledon the following month. The left-winger also scored in a 2-1 home victory against Gillingham and was voted the Hammer of the Year for the 2003/04 season. Etherington scored with a stunning strike in the 2-0 play-off semi-final second leg win against Ipswich at Upton Park, played out in front of a raucous midweek atmosphere under the lights – one of my favourite Boleyn Ground memories. The Hammers would be defeated in the Final by Crystal Palace and miss out on promotion.

The former England Under-21 man would score three goals the following season – against Derby in a 1-1 away draw, Nottingham Forest in a 3-2 Boxing Day home win and at Ipswich in a 2-0 triumph on New Year’s Day – Alan Pardew’s Irons achieved promotion at the second time of asking, with Etherington supplying the cross for Bobby Zamora’s winning goal in the Play-Off Final against Preston. Etherington would again score three goals in the following campaign, with Premier League strikes in the curtain-raising 3-1 home win against Blackburn and 3-2 victory at Highbury supplemented by an FA Cup goal as Blackburn were knocked out 4-2 in the fourth round at the Boleyn Ground – the Hammers would go on to make the Final against Liverpool, with Etherington recovering from injury to play a significant part in a memorable Irons performance.

A disappointing, and goalless, 2006/07 season followed as the Hammers narrowly avoided relegation in a turbulent campaign but Etherington returned to his three-goals-in-a-season routine in 2007/08, scoring twice in a 3-0 win at Reading in September 2007 before notching once in the 5-0 rout at Derby two months later. He made a promising start to life under Gianfranco Zola in 2008/09, scoring in successive September league wins against Newcastle (3-1) and at Fulham (2-1) but departed in January 2009 after personal problems necessitated a move away. He had made 195 appearances for the Hammers in all competitions, scoring 18 goals. My video below contains all 18 of Etherington’s goals for West Ham United, including his hat-trick against Wimbledon and double against Reading, as well as his Play-Off Semi-Final stunner against Ipswich.

The 27-year-old Etherington signed for Tony Pulis’ Stoke for £3m in January 2009. He made his debut in a 0-0 draw with Liverpool and was sent off in a 2-0 defeat to Sunderland for kicking Danny Collins, another player who played for both the Hammers and the Potters. He scored his first Stoke goal in a 4-3 League Cup win over Blackpool the following season and his first league goal in a 2-2 draw with Wolves. He was named Stoke’s Player of the Year for 2009/10, his first full campaign with the club. The following season saw him score a last-minute equaliser at Manchester City and the first goal in the 5-0 Wembley win over Bolton in the FA Cup semi-final – just as in 2006, Etherington would face a fitness race for the 2011 Final. He did play but would again receive a runners-up medal as Stoke lost 1-0 to Manchester City. Etherington also saw a penalty saved by Robert Green in the quarter-final as his Stoke side knocked out the Hammers on a controversial afternoon at the Britannia – Etherington’s own fall under Scott Parker’s ‘challenge’ to win the penalty was dubious in itself!

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Etherington’s form started to dip and starting appearances became more sporadic before he left the club at the end of his contract in the summer of 2014 – he had made 176 appearances for the Potters, scoring 16 goals. On 3rd December 2014, after turning down an offer from Millwall, Etherington admitted a back injury had got the better of him and announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 33. Speaking personally, I always looked forward to watching Matty’s pace and trickery down the left wing, regularly giving his full-back a hard time – Etherington, now 36, remains one of my favourite Hammers of the last 15 years.

Referee

The referee on Monday will be Michael Oliver. Since West Ham United achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 Oliver has refereed 11 of our league matches, officiating in two wins for the Hammers, one draw and eight defeats.

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Oliver was the man in the middle for the Irons’ 2-0 reverse at Chelsea three seasons ago and also sent off Kevin Nolan at Anfield four seasons ago. His only Hammers appointments in 2015/16 were for the 2-1 home victory over Southampton in December and the 4-1 home defeat to Swansea in May. His only games in charge of the Irons last season were our 5-0 home defeat to Manchester City in the FA Cup third round and the 2-2 home draw with West Brom in February. He most recently refereed our 4-0 defeat at Everton in December 2017 and, prior to that, our 3-2 home defeat to Tottenham in September, sending off Spurs’ Serge Aurier but failing to award the Hammers a penalty in the dying minutes for a push on Andy Carroll.

Possible line-ups

For West Ham United, Sam Byram, Winston Reid, Pedro Obiang and Michail Antonio are unavailable through injury. James Collins, Aaron Cresswell, Manuel Lanzini and Andy Carroll should all be available. Former Stoke player Marko Arnautovic has been involved in 13 Premier League goals this season, five more than any other West Ham player.

Stoke, who have only recorded one clean sheet in their last eight games, will be without Lee Grant, Konstantinos Stafylidis and Eric Choupo-Moting, while Ibrahim Afellay and Jese have been internally suspended. Charlie Adam completes the final game of a three-match ban. Stoke are unbeaten in their last five league visits to face West Ham, although four of those matches were draws. However, the Potters have lost on their last seven Premier League visits to London, conceding 26 goals while scoring just five in reply. They have not won in the Premier League since 20th January, when they defeated Huddersfield.

Possible West Ham United XI: Hart; Zabaleta, Rice, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Masuaku; Fernandes, Kouyate, Noble, Mario; Arnautovic.

Possible Stoke City XI: Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Bauer, Allen, Ndiaye, Sobhi; Shaqiri; Diouf .

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With Stoke

This weekend West Ham welcome Stoke City to the London Stadium for a Monday Night game. We will be looking to future cement our tenure in the Premier League with a win against a team who are looking increasingly likely to go down. Ahead of the game I spoke to long time friend and hard core Stoke fan Neil Adams, currently living in exile in Thailand, to discuss Stoke’s current malaise and the game.
Hi Neil. It’s not looking too good for Stoke at the moment to say the least: are you resigned to going down, or as it’s so close do you think you can still escape?
After the home defeat against Everton a couple of weeks ago, I have been resigned to going down. Our last games are against teams who will also be scrapping for survival, so I just can’t see us staying up. 4 points adrift and terrible goal difference. Of course, there’s always hope!

Like West Ham you have parted company with your manager, albeit at a later stage of the season, are you glad to see him go? How do you sum up the Hughes years? What went wrong in the end for him?

Yes, glad to see him go. A lot of Stoke fans seem to have forgotten that he actually brought some great football to the Potteries during his second year and made a couple of decent signings. He initially, at least, greatly evolved our football from the Pulis era, which was what most Stoke fans were crying out for. But that petered our and the last season and a half were dire and he was lucky to last as long as he did.
What went wrong? Just about everything. He spent a lot of money on some poor signings – Wimmer, Imbula, Berahino, Jese – without improving the squad and our defence went to pieces. The same back four who have been tight and resolute under Lambert were a disjointed shambles under Hughes, leaving us with a shocking goal difference. And despite his attempts to bring in a decent striker, we are left with a well-past-his-best Crouch, a barely premiership standard Diouf and two sulky ‘big name’ signings who don’t even make the squad half the time due to various misdemeanors or personal problems off the field (Jese and Berahino). At least Diouf tries, which is what many of the shop window signings seemed to have stopped doing under Hughes. No attack, poor defence, Apart from that, perfect.
I should mention 2 defining moments that signalled the end for Sparky. One was his decision to ‘throw in the hat’ by fielding a weakened team away to Chelsea (we lost by a demoralising 5 goals to nil) so that his best players would be fresh to face relegation rivals Newcastle at home a few days later. We lost that one 0-1 and were abject. The gamble backfired badly. The other was the classic ‘dead man walking’ quote from Hughes just before he left: ‘if they sack me, who else is going to do the job?’ Brilliant!

I expect you wish you had held on to Tony Pulis, even though he did not appear to be a fan of the type of football played by the Great Stanley Matthews?
Not at all. I don’t think most of us could have stood another season (let alone another 4) of Pulis-ball. He was just what we needed when we went up in 2009 and I believe most Stokies are grateful for what he did for the club. But his style of football became unwatchable and he seemed unable to evolve his style of play. Ask any West Brom fan!

How do you rate Paul Lambert so far as your manager?
Well, he’s a slight improvement, but it’s come too late. He has brought a new determination to the team, more discipline, and tighter defence. But his record of one win in 10 shows he is no magician. He made some poor decisions, like playing Charlie Adam against Everton (he got sent off as expected and we lost as a result), but at least he is making sure we go down with a fight.

What do you reckon to the job David Moyes has done for West Ham, and in football generally?
I think Moyes is one of the many merry-go-round British managers who do a below average job, get sacked, then turn up somewhere else and do another below-average job. You are welcome to him!

Who have been the players that have lived up to expectation this season, and conversely who have disappointed?
You mean at Stoke? Shaqiri (just), Joe Allen (our best, most hard-working player), Jack Butland and loan signing Kurt Zouma. Martins Indi has recently come good and new signing Moritz Bauer has done well. Everyone else has disappointed, but special mention must go to Berahino and Jese Rodriques,

What have been the highlights (if any) and lowlights of the season?
Beating Arsenal 1-0 early in the season gave us all hope but that really is about it. The rest has all be one long and very low lowlight.

Apart from Marco Arnautovic, are there any West Ham players who you would like to see at Stoke?
Ha! Very funny! You can keep Arnautovic, too! He had some great games at Stoke, but some poor ones too, and his shooting was wayward a lot of the time. He can shine, yes, but he is not a team player and his self-centred, brattish attitude sometimes lets him and the team down. We’ve got enough of those characters at Stoke already. To be honest, I don’t see any West Ham player doing much to improve our squad. No offence, but you haven’t exactly lit up the Premiership this year, have you?!

The top of the table seems settled, but who’s going down this season, and where do you see Stoke and West Ham finishing?
I think West Ham will stay up. Stoke, Southampton and West Brom down.

It’s a big 6 pointer between us on Monday night, what’s your prediction for the:
Team/formation/score?

I predict a frustrating draw, 1-1. I think Stoke will stick with this line up:
Butland
Johnson Shawcross Indi Pieters
Sobhi Allen Ndiaye Bauer
Shaqiri
Diouf

Well many thanks to Neil for his thoughts. He doesn’t seem to believe that Stoke have any chance of staying up! I think he is being a bit optimistic on Stoke’s behalf going for a draw, I think we should be able to back up our away thrashing of them with a good win. 2-0 to the Hammers. COYI!

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Talking Point

Never take anything for granted

In football one thing is for sure: you never can take anything for granted. The Champions League and Europa League ties last week again proved very well that even the highest favoured teams, leading by a comfortable margin from the first leg, may struggle or be eliminated against all odds. And as West Ham fans we know only too well that never opposition should be taken lightly, especially in cup games. And the game under the floodlights on Monday at the London Stadium is a cup final.

Well, West Ham’s engagement in the domestic cups didn’t really set the world alight this season, and the Hammers have no more cup ties to play at this stage of the proceedings. And they haven’t won a real cup final since 1980. But now we virtually have a cup final – or at least a semifinal – on Monday night! If the Irons manage to win the crucial game against second from bottom Stoke City, their unwanted flirt with relegation will be more or less over and our season is saved.

The other results this weekend could have gone a little better so far from West Ham’s perspective (if Crystal Palace and Huddersfield had dropped points and Swansea had lost, there would still be a gap of 2 or 3 points between these teams and West Ham before the Stoke game). But with third from bottom Southampton losing 2-3 at home to Chelsea (squandering a two goal lead) the gap of 6 points between the Hammers and the relegation zone is still there before the game against Stoke. Alas, in case of winning on Monday night West Ham will be 9 points away from the drop zone with only 5 games to play until the end of the season! And with playing at home against a team that has managed only one win in 15 games since Christmas and has the worst defensive record of the league, this win should be all but ensured.

But as we said before, in football never anything can be taken for granted, and West Ham have already lost games with similar prospects and expected outcomes this season (just think of losing to Newcastle, Swansea, and Burnley – or drawing with Crystal Palace at home). And we also should be aware that West Ham haven’t managed any back to back Premier League home wins since December 2016, and have not won twice in one season over Stoke City since the Potters’ first PL campaign in 2008/09.

But the last two games can make us quite optimistic with Marko Arnautovic still in top form, benefiting from Arthur Masuaku’s return from suspension and thriving in his role as a central striker which David Moyes has handed to the Austrian international. Arnie has completely lost his odeur of instability and sloppiness, of wasting chances and disappearing for large parts of games. Asked on my thoughts about him when he came to West Ham last summer I praised him as Austria’s recently most talented player, but I added that I had been happy that I was made angry by him only some times a season (when I watched him in the Austrian national team), and now I was going to be disappointed or annoyed by him every weekend… He seemed to prove me right right from the beginning of his West Ham career, but since David Moyes has come in as the new gaffer and lined up the record signing as West Ham’s central striker, Arnie has supplied nine goals and five assists from 14 starts. Statistics say that since gameweek 16, only three players have fired more shots on target: Harry Kane with 36, Mohamed Salah with 28, and Sergio Aguero with 25. And since the Austrian’s return from injury in gameweek 27, no player can better Arnautovic’s 12 shots on target. He has been directly involved in 13 PL goals this season, with nine goals and four assists.

That playing him in the central and only striker role has proven so successful doesn’t make it easy for the manager to include Chicharito in the starting eleven. „Little pea“ is a born goal scorer with an impressive record of scoring from inside the box and his inclusion in the starting eleven is requested by a lot of fans and, I think, also expected by himself. He has already got 8 goals this season though he has been played out of position under Slaven Bilic, been injured and often only has come from the bench. It will be very interesting to see if David Moyes will find a system in which West Ham‘s two top scorers can work together in the last 6 games of the season…

David Moyes’s team selection against Chelsea last Sunday (the third game in London I was able to fly over for and watch live this season by the way) has been spot on, and bringing Hernandez in the second half has proved highly successful. I was very sceptical about the appointment of Moyes back in November, but, as was said in a previous post here, „he has brought improvement to a number of players, steadied the ship, improved morale and also given a few opportunities to youngsters which we have all been asking for“.

If he could do at West Haw what he achieved at Everton from 2002-2013 (8 top seven finishes in his eleven seasons) that would be the „next step“ that West Ham realistically can make. Promising us more, even Champions League football, was a highly unrealistic vision that has not gone well with the problems West Ham’s supporters faced with the loss of Upton Park, the transition to the new stadium which has not emerged as a proper football ground so far and the underachievement in the transfer market with a lack of clever and sufficient investment. Karren Brady, Sullivan and Gold have underachieved (to put it mildly) in the first two seasons in the London Stadium. This summer, after having secured Premier League football, will be crucial for the direction in which West Ham is heading.

Now let’s hope for our first back to back wins at the new ground after almost one and a half year!

A cup final ahead

As I’ve already said, Monday under the lights is a cup final for West Ham. Though West Ham haven’t won a real cup final since 1980, the Hammers have won a final back in 2012 when they beat Blackpool in the play offs at Wembley to secure their comeback to the Premier League.

Monday’s game is of similiar significance, I would not only call it a “six pointer” but a nine or ten pointer: a win will move the Irons 10 points away from the Potters and 9 points away from the drop zone. One more win is all but important and could make us virtually sure that the fear of relegation is over! And with the confidence the win over Southampton and the draw at Stamford Bridge have brought, the squad looks capable of seizing this opportunity to make a giant step towards safety.

This massive game must be won. But you know, in football and especially with West Ham nothing can be taken for granted.

Come on you Irons!

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The GoatyGav Column

A Dedication & An Article 'A Strong Finish Tees You Up Nicely'

Before I go in to the main article I wanted to make a dedication to a fellow Hammer. I also thought that a little credit was deserved by West Ham United. In this time of heavy criticism of the club it was good to hear, yesterday (today as I amend this post), that a sense of community and decency remains. Sadly I lost a cousin at the age of 35 just over a fortnight ago. He was West Ham through and through. His sister called the club to order a large flag for the coffin. To the club’s credit they promised that the flag would arrive on time for the funeral on Thursday and wouldn’t take payment for it. It meant a lot to my cousin – a lovely gesture that was greatly appreciated by her. We’ll all be wearing club colours at the ceremony – even my cousin’s Man Utd supporting husband has agreed to wear a claret top with a bit of blue in the outfit. I’m hoping the boys can send him off with a good win on Monday night. You can see Alan, pictured right, his brother John and sister Debbie, at her wedding, in the photo below: -

Alan at his Sister's Wedding

He was a gentleman and a gentle man – one of the nicest and best people you could ever wish to meet. He went to his first West Ham game vs Exeter City at the age of 9 with his borther, John, where he got his photo taken with Harry Redknapp. RIP Alan Thurston – peaceful journey fella.


Recent form is good. The players look hungry. We’ve won and drawn the last two and pulled 6 points clear of the relegation zone.
There’s a way to go until we’re safe but there’s a dangerous historical pattern that should serve as a warning to West Ham or any of those who take their foot off the gas too early.

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Relief is an extremely commonplace experience for successful teams and sports professionals. Upon getting over the line, whether that’s to win or to simply survive, the feeling can kick in simultaneously whilst acting as a release of highly charged emotions. Occasionally players, if sufficiently wound up, can physically collapse when the final whistle, bell, kick, throw or step happens.

The start of a football season is often influenced by the end of the previous one. The stimulus for a good start to a campaign has been the run in to a preceding one countless times.

Should West Ham make their Premier League status, for 2018-19, safe with games to spare, which I’m sure many will hope comes to pass, there’s a real danger that the relief and release could contribute to a poor end to this, eminently forgettable, term. Without any real momentum going in to September we could quickly find ourselves in a similar position to that of 2017-18.

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Ok, It’s far too early to start looking beyond the huge game we have at home to Stoke next Monday night, but should the job get done, and the 3 points be secured, would the temptation to let go of all those pent up feelings be too much to avoid? Amidst the relief of being well clear of relegation, with so few games remaining, is there a danger that momentum will be lost and a bad run in ensue. Arsenal, Man City and Leicester away before Man United looks an incredibly tough run. For my money it wouldn’t bode well for next season going in to those games with the feeling that the job had been done. Under those circumstances it would not be an easy test for David Moyes and his coaching staff to get the players completely mentally prepared.

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Stoke City at home is a huge game but the fixtures afterwards are also important. Pre-season is nowhere near as important to early season form as the run in to a previous campaign. I’ll be over the moon if we come away with maximum points next Monday night but there will still be a job to do after that.

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Lastly a word on Chelsea. The weekend was great. Joe Hart was class. An imperious, man of the match winning, performance in my book. We could easily have come away with a good tonking but, instead, came away feeling like we’d won. Recent form over Chelsea is extremely good – long may it continue. Our fans were brilliant. Every player in a West Ham shirt was terrific – a great team performance. Chicha, once again, proved he is the most deadly striker we’ve had at the club in quite some time. If the team can put in the same, determined and hungry, performances in the last six matches I’ll be a very happy Hammer.

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Have a great weekend all.

COYI!

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