Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Huddersfield

What a la la! as my Jamaican grandmother would have said: West Ham failed to pass muster against an almost relegated Cardiff last time out. This Saturday we will try to make amends against the almost demoted Huddersfield, whose time in the top division is certainly coming to an end. Ahead of the game I once again chatted to our old friend John McNamarra of Huddersfield fanzine Terrierblog to get some home truths on the state of play for a fan of a team that has had an horrendous season, after two of fluctuating success.

Unfortunately it looks like Huddersfield will be returning to the Championship at the end of the season, what’s been the main difference between this season and last season?
Quite simply, momentum. We had 7 points from our first 3 games last season and that gave us a good platform to build on. As it turns out, we needed that good start as our form slipped down the pan just before Christmas last season. This time around we’ve had the wrong kind of momentum. We’ve grown accustomed to not scoring, not getting the rub of the green and most importantly not winning. Losing has become second nature to the players this season and unfortunately, that shows no sign of changing.

Does having to share your ground with a Rugby League team have any effect on the football team, or has it always been thus?
I went to my first Town game in spring 2004 and the pitch was pretty torn up from the Huddersfield Giants then. Fortunately that made little difference back then as we predominantly launched long balls to our prop forward Andy Booth! In the promotion season Dean Hoyle invested heavily into maintaining the pitch to mitigate the impact of rugby on the playing surface. It still isn’t ideal but I don’t think it’s had any significant impact on our fortunes this season.

It was sad to see David Wagner leave earlier on in the season: at least from where we stand it looks like he left on his own terms. Was he right to go? How do you sum up the David Wagner years?
You’re right, he did go out on his own terms after initially agreeing to see out the remainder of the season in private. It was unfortunate to see Wagner go as he is an absolute legend in Huddersfield. Without going into too much detail, David Wagner’s job was made 10 times harder this season than last through no fault of his own. I think he had just got to a point where he was burnt out and we bare no ill will towards him for looking out for his own peace of mind and leaving his post.

I suppose it was all too late for Jan Siewert to have any impact on your season, will Jan still be guiding you next season?
I feel sorry for Jan Siewert. His position is similar to that of Theresa May, he’s inherited a poisoned chalice. Can he really do anything to improve our season now? I don’t think so.
It’s all about next season in the Championship and Siewert’s success will very much depend on what he does in the transfer window. Perhaps with more focus on the departures rather than the incomings.

What have been your highlights if any over the past two years in the Premier League?
I think I mentioned it in a previous Q&A on your site, but I absolutely despise the Premier League. Real football fans and real football experiences are few and far between I’m afraid. I feel obliged to say that the highlight was beating Manchester United but any joy I had after that result was assuaged by the patronising punditry. I believe Ian Wright constantly referred to us as ‘Sundersfield’ on Match of the Day with no hint of irony.

Returning to the rest of the division, who have been the best players you’ve seen this year at The Kirklees Stadium?
Wilfried Zaha without a shadow of a doubt. It would be easy to pick a player who plays for one of the big clubs, but those players are surrounded by other quality operators. Zaha is playing in a limited side and he single handedly won the game at our stadium earlier this season.

Who is your pick to win the Premier League this year, and who are going to fill the other Champions League places?
I think it all depends on the Champions League. I think City would give anything to win the Champions League so if they go deeper in the competition than Liverpool I can see them slipping in the league. Apart from those two I firmly believe Arsenal will grab a top four finish, I’ve been impressed with their resolve under Emery and they have a favourable run-in. I’m also backing Manchester United to pip Spurs to the final top four spot. Whatever pact Daniel Levy made with the Devil, it’s surely wearing off now and Spurs simply cannot continue to overachieve as they have done now for so long.

Who are your favourites for the drop?
Fulham, Cardiff and Southampton… Only joking. Obviously we’ll finish rock bottom with Fulham just a few points ahead of us. I reckon Cardiff will slip away too, although that’s more of a hope to be honest because I cannot stand Neil Warnock.

Which of your players will get your vote for club player of the season? Which other players have got a look in?
Christopher Schindler. He is without doubt our best and most committed player. If he had a higher level of ambition he would be plying his trade at a much better club than ours.
Unfortunately for Town fans, there is not one single player in the squad that has come even close to matching his levels of consistency this season.

Which players do you think will be on their way during the summer?
Brace yourself, here’s my list of players that I’ll happy drive to their next clubs; Zanka, Hadergjonaj, Diakhaby, Mbenza, Mounie, Depoitre, Pritchard and Durm.

Are we going to have to wait another 45 years or so years to see Huddersfield come back to the top flight? Do you think these past couple of years have laid down the structure for your rapid return?
It all depends on Jan Siewert’s first transfer window, until then we won’t really know what to expect in the Championship. What’s certain is we need to get rid of a lot of deadwood if we are to mount a serious challenge to return next season.
The players we currently have are far too familiar with losing every week, so something needs to change in that regard. To be honest though, I’d be happy enough to flirt with the play-offs rather than get promoted. The Premier League isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

What will your priorities be for next season back in the Championship?
Score some goals, have a bit of fun, win a couple of matches and compete in every game we play. The beauty of the Championship is that a Preston fan can go to promotion chasing Middlesborough and watch their side win.
Fans go into every game knowing that there’s a chance of their team winning. Can any of your fans honestly say the same about a trip to the Etihad?

How are Huddersfield going to line up against West Ham on Saturday? Players/Formation?
I have no idea. Siewert has changed his formation several times and the playing personnel as well. He seems to have lost his rag with a couple of senior pros recently and has been happy to replace them with youth.
Don’t be surprised to see a couple of players with squad numbers in the 40s facing off against your lot.

Are you going to follow Cardiff and give us an unexpected beating? Prediction for result?
No, of course not. Bet your wage, your savings and your house on West Ham to win to nil. We certainly will not score, the amount of goals you get all depends on how up for it your players are.

Well thanks once again to John for his thoughts: he didi warn me they might be a bit on the glum side. Despite wrongly having predicted us to beat Cardiff surely we can put Huddersfield away this weekend. I’m going for the ridiculously optimistic shout of 4 – 0 to West Ham. COYI

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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v Huddersfield

Blast from the past

30th August 1930 – the first British Empire Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games) had just been held in Canada, while the nine days before this date saw the births of Princess Margaret and actors Sean Connery and Windsor Davies. The summer had also seen the death of Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Meanwhile, at Upton Park, Syd King’s West Ham United opened the 1930/31 season with a 2-1 First Division victory over Huddersfield Town. Vic Watson (pictured below) bagged a brace in front of 18,023 – the Hammers’ greatest ever goalscorer would go on to score 14 goals in 18 matches during this campaign. The match also saw a debut for inside-left Wilf James who had joined the Irons from Notts County during the close season – he would score seven goals in 41 appearances for the club and won both his Welsh international caps during his stay in east London. He moved to Charlton in February 1932.

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The Hammers went on to finish the 1930/31 season in 18th place, while Clem Stephenson’s Huddersfield ended up fifth – Manchester United were relegated in bottom position. Viv Gibbins was the Irons’ top goalscorer with 19 goals from 22 appearances. Arsenal won the First Division title and West Brom won the FA Cup.

West Ham United: Bob Dixon, Alfred Earl, Bill Cox, Jimmy Collins, Jim Barrett, Albert Cadwell, Tommy Yews, Stan Earle, Vic Watson, Wilf James, Jimmy Ruffell.

Club Connections

A small number of players have worn the shirts of both West Ham United and Huddersfield Town. Those who have represented both clubs include:

Defenders: Dickie Pudan, Archie Taylor, Simon Webster, Elliott Ward, Steve Walford, David Unsworth.

Midfielders: Peter Butler, Diego Poyet, Mark Ward.

Strikers: Dave Mangnall, Jack Foster, George Crowther.

Lou Macari managed both clubs, while Chris Powell played for West Ham and managed Huddersfield. Sam Allardyce played for the Terriers and managed the Hammers.

Today’s focus though is on a full-back who played for West Ham in the 1990s and had a loan spell with Huddersfield. Kenny Brown was born on 11th July 1967 in Barking – his father Ken made 474 appearances for the Hammers between 1953 and 1967, winning the FA Cup in 1964 and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965. Kenny began his career with Norwich under his father’s management in 1986 before moving to Plymouth in 1988. He made over 100 appearances for the Pilgrims before moving to First Division West Ham United in August 1991, initially on loan. The Browns would be the third father-and-son pairing to play for West Ham after Jim Barrett Senior and Junior, and Bill Lansdowne and Billy Lansdowne. They have since been joined by Frank Lampard Senior and Junior, Steve and Dan Potts, John and George Moncur, and Rob and Elliot Lee.

The 24-year-old Kenny made his debut in a 0-0 opening day draw with Luton at Upton Park on 17th August 1991 and scored his first goal for the club in his fourth appearance in a 3-1 win over Aston Villa at Upton Park 11 days later. His move was made permanent for what would become an eventual fee of £235,000. His second goal for Billy Bonds’ men was the first West Ham goal I ever saw, in a 2-1 home defeat to Manchester City on 21st September 1991. Kenny had to wait seven months for his next goal but it was one that went down in Hammers folklore – the winner in a 1-0 triumph over Manchester United which helped deny the Red Devils the title and handed it on a plate to Leeds. The Irons’ relegation would be confirmed just three days later. Kenny made 33 appearances in all competitions in 1991/92.

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Predominantly a right-back but happy to fill in at left-back or in midfield, Kenny made 19 appearances the following season and scored two crucial goals in the promotion run-in. His late long-range strike at Birmingham on 3rd April 1993 sparked a dramatic comeback from 1-0 down to an eventual 2-1 win and he bagged the third in a 3-1 win at Swindon on 2nd May on the penultimate weekend of the season – the Hammers were promoted by virtue of scoring one more goal than nearest rivals Portsmouth.

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Kenny found game time hard to come by in the following two seasons, making 12 appearances in each of the 1993/94 and 1994/95 campaigns. Harry Redknapp had taken over from Bonds by the time Kenny scored his last goal in claret and blue, in a 2-0 FA Cup third round win at Wycombe on 7th January 1995 (he is pictured above, celebrating with Alvin Martin). A flurry of loan spells followed – Kenny made five appearances for tomorrow’s opponents Huddersfield in 1995 and also spent time at Reading, Southend, Crystal Palace, Reading again and Birmingham before signing permanently for the Blues in a £75,000 move in January 1997. Kenny’s final appearance for West Ham had been in a 1-0 home win over Nottingham Forest on 3rd February 1996. He had made 79 appearances for the Hammers in all competitions, scoring six goals. My video below is a compilation of Kenny’s six strikes in claret and blue.

The 29-year-old Kenny quickly realised he had made a mistake in moving to St Andrew’s, the club then being owned by David Sullivan and David Gold – he teamed up again with Bonds at Millwall just four months later. His last action in the Football League came at Gillingham, where he spent the final months of the 1998/99 season. Kenny signed for non-league Kingstonian before moving to Ireland with Portadown, then on to Wales with Barry Town. Kenny became player-coach and later manager at Barry, winning the Welsh League and Cup double in consecutive seasons. He resigned after a turbulent change of ownership which saw the club unable to pay its players. Kenny returned to England, signing for Tilbury, and ended his playing days in Spain with Torrevieja, an hour south of Benidorm.

In May 2006, Kenny was appointed Director of Football at Javea, near Alicante, and ran a summer school there with Julian Dicks. Kenny was appointed Dicks’ assistant at Grays in September 2009 and was named assistant manager at Concord Rangers in June 2012. Just a month later though, he was appointed Lead Development Coach at Barnet. After a season with the Bees, Kenny moved to Chelmsford to be assistant manager to Dean Holdsworth but departed before Christmas 2013 when Holdsworth left the club. Kenny joined Dagenham and Redbridge as Academy Manager in the summer of 2014, working with the Under-12s to Under-16s. Kenny completed his UEFA Pro Licence in the same group as Thierry Henry and Mikel Arteta. Now aged 51, he is currently Head of Coaching at Millwall.


The referee on Saturday will be Jonathan Moss. The Yorkshire-based official has sent off a player in six of his last 13 appointments involving the Hammers – the 4-3 defeat to Bournemouth in August 2015 saw Carl Jenkinson sent off, while the 2-1 win over Chelsea in October 2015 saw Nemanja Matic dismissed (then-Blues manager Jose Mourinho was also sent to the stands). Moss issued a red card to Jordan Ayew of Aston Villa in February 2016 with the Hammers going on to win 2-0 while, going further back, Burnley’s Michael Duff was also sent off by Moss in our 1-0 home win over the Clarets in May 2015.

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Moss also issued a red card to Cheikhou Kouyate in the 5-1 FA Cup fifth round win at Blackburn in February 2016, although this was later rescinded. Arguably the 48-year-old’s most controversial Hammers appointment was the 2-2 draw at Leicester in April 2016 when he sent off Jamie Vardy and awarded two penalties, the second arriving deep into stoppage time as the Foxes rescued a precious point. Moss’ matches in charge of the Hammers last season were December 2017’s goalless draw with Arsenal at London Stadium, our 4-1 win at Huddersfield last January, our 3-0 home win over Southampton last March and our 0-0 home draw with Manchester United in May. His most recent Hammers appointment was our 1-0 home win over Arsenal in January.

Possible line-ups

Manuel Pellegrini is without Winston Reid, Carlos Sanchez, Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarmolenko and Andy Carroll.

Huddersfield manager Jan Siewert is without right-back Demeaco Duhaney, central midfielders Danny Williams and Jonathan Hogg, winger Isaac Mbenza and centre-forwards Laurent Depoitre and Adama Diakhaby through injury. Full-back Erik Durm and centre-half Terence Kongolo are doubts.

Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Zabaleta, Balbuena, Diop, Cresswell; Rice, Noble; Snodgrass, Lanzini, Anderson; Arnautovic.

Possible Huddersfield XI: Lossl; Durm, Schindler, Zanka, Lowe; Billing, Stankovic, Mooy; Pritchard; Grant, Mounie.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

The Blind Hammer Column

Time For Youth?

Blind Hammer argues for prioritising youth.

One, for me less welcome, historic change in English football was the increased jeopardy following top flight restructuring.

The old first Division hosted 22 teams but only 2 were relegated. In contrast, now 3 out of 20 face the trapdoor.

The fear consequent upon Losing 3 from 20 feels greater than that in the old structure. Nowadays the jeopardy of relegation clutches at more teams higher up the table.

Even if 2 teams are cut adrift, 1 team typically remains scrapping, drawing in other lower mid-table strugglers late into the relegation dogfight.

The situation is worsened by financial anxiety. In the past relegation was a competitive disappointment. It was not a financial disaster of the scale that now looms. Today relegation, without a prompt return, threatens the very existence of clubs. Some have to recover after falling into administration.

In previous times, with less jeopardy, with less financial consequences for each league placing, Wes Ham could use end of season matches to “blood” young players.

Modern financial pressures makes this strategy difficult . It is a rare Manager who will gamble their job to give youth a chance.

In recent seasons the opportunity for safe “blooding” has rarely arisen. Yet this is precisely our current situation. not only are we secure from relegation, we also have relatively little to play for.

The disappointment of the Cardiff result makes us clear second favourites for 7th spot. It may be controversial, but I believe our current squad is not yet robust enough to support a European Challenge anyway. We are not ready to compete on 3 let alone 4 fronts. Early summer European tournament qualification, only a few short months away will deprive our battered squad of necessary recovery time. Ambition needs to be framed realistically. The first step is a squad which can compete successfully on 2 fronts.

I am still mentally scarred by the Wimbledon debacle and the opportunity missed in one of the most open FA Cups in years. Next season’s priority should be to sustain our league improvement but for once also compete seriously in the cups. To realise even this, more limited, ambition will require squad development. We do not have mega resources but Rice’s elevation to the england Squad has sown what is possible. Some of the current crop of Academy contenders may, if given opportunity, also strengthen our prospects.

Pellegrini has shown more courage than most in giving youth a chance. Diangana, Silva and Johnson have joined rice in providing a youthful feed into the squad.

Yet the bench against Cardiff was strikingly shorn of any Academy products. This is prioritising the present rather than the future. This strategy should now reverse.

The return of Balbuena and Arnautovic was understandable. Other options were less straight forward.

As the season peters out, the case for retaining a probably departing Adrián is not clear. Surely the emergence of Trott, provided he is fit, should find reward? Masuaku should certainly find his place on the bench under pressure from Johnson,
Similarly Obiang should not be a fixture with the potential talents of Coventry and others available to compete. Nasri and Antonio should also find their bench places threatened by Holland and Diangana.

In normal circumstances Obiang would be ahead in selection. However we are not in normal circumstances. Pellegrini could reassure Obiang, and certainly both Nasri and Antonio of their importance in his short and medium term plans.

Pellegrini should grasp this opportunity, and announce his intention to blood selected young aspiring hopefuls.
David Griffith

The GoatyGav Column

XG Still Doesn't Quite Cut It

Prompted by the stats in recent games I decided to look at, what exactly, constitutes an XG (expected goals) stat in a match. In particular the Newcastle game surprised me in that the XG for Newcastle was 1.08 and for West Ham 2.01. When subsequently factoring in Newcastle’s 17 attempts at goal and 2 on target against West Ham’s 10 & 4, respectively, the stats, for me, were skewed.

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Originally developed as a predictive tool for betting the way the XG figure is put together has to do with the number, and position, of shots at goal. Headed attempts, strikes from further distance and from wider areas score lower XG than shots, attempts from closer to the goal and more central efforts respectively. The pitch is split in to various zones. A shot from the zone directly in front of, and closest to, the goal will provide a high XG whereas an attempt from the zone covering the corner of the pitch yields a low XG.

Although expected goals are meant to be an indicator over a period of between five to ten games, and undoubtedly a relevant indicator of goals that can be expected by a team, many factors are not taken in to consideration. Some of the problem with the system is that it is now being used out of context by television and media organisations. XG is quoted for a single game as an analysis of what’s occurred over the ninety plus minutes of that match where, as detailed above, the system was designed to indicate goal expectation over much higher numbers of fixtures. Not the end of the world however that’s just part of the picture.

It would be understating it to say that association football is a dynamic sport. This is true to a greater degree, in general, in the moments before a shot at goal. With play building to such a crescendo before the ‘trigger is pulled’, and so many variables contributing to the final shot how can two goal attempts from the same zone be compared? For starters the striker’s body position will vary. Then you have the difference in the pace of the ball when it’s struck adding, or taking away, from the difficulty of the chance. Then there’s the consideration of whether the ball is hit off the ground or on the volley/half volley. The severity of a bounce and when the ball is hit during it’s arc in the air. Looking back at Romelu Lukaku’s second goal against Crystal Palace a couple of weeks ago was from a high XG scoring area however the finish was far from easy as the Belgian striker had to take the ball up high and close, with an acrobatic technique, to steer it home. The stats would suggest that was, what OPTA describe as, a ‘big chance’ however it was far from it. It should be noted that OPTA are not the only game in town and not all XG systems are the same with some more sophisticated than others but all, in my op

One of Pep Guardiola’s tenets is the creation of better scoring chances. Overall Manchester City’s XG reflects this despite, not always, living up to the expectation with finishing falling below the suggested level. Perhaps a more easy to follow stat, resulting from the former Barca and Bayern gaffer’s philosophy, is, now regular, season scoring tallies over 100 goals. Football from another planet? Maybe not but it’s pretty special and you wouldn’t complain if it was West Ham.

I’m not suggesting, for a moment, that expected goals is a useless statistic. Far from it however it’s a system that is open to vast improvement. I do feel that it’s being, slightly, misused when applied to isolated matches, as it is every Saturday night on Match Of The Day, but it certainly has it’s place. Frankly, with my history of regular weekend punts on the footie, perhaps I should pay more attention to it.

Back to the example that I gave in the opening paragraph of the recent home win over the team from Tyneside. Reflecting on the quality of the chances created, and the dominance which West Ham showed that day, perhaps the numbers were not so skewed. If anything I’d suggest that our boys were even better than the 1.08XG vs 2.01. More recently, in Saturday’s fixture in Cardiff, there was an XG of 4.10 vs 0.34. No prizes for guessing which one was which but, bearing in mind our dominance over Newcastle the previous weekend, was that an accurate description of the chances? Cardiff over twelve times more likely to score than our boys? I’ll leave that one with you.

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Moving along, as I believe that we should now, this coming Saturday’s game offers a great chance to put another three on the board and place some pressure on Wolves and Watford, who play in the F.A. Cup, above us. We need to see a statement of intent from the team. A decent run in could still see us finish seventh and qualify for next season’s Europa League. Some European nights under the floodlights anyone?


Match Report

The West Ham Version of Lumpy Custard

I like to make my own custard. The secret is when you pour in the milk, take the custard off the heat, otherwise you will get a curdled mess. And keep whisking because you need to get just the right consistency.

So, football is the same. You get all your ingredients, a Brazilian trickster, a Mexican cheat, a Polish wall, an Argentinian playmaker, et al, stir them all together and hope you get consistency. Unfortunately, for the chef, he can’t seem to make progress. And for those tasting the custard, the lumps are still there.

Now, Cardiff is 3 degrees of longitude west of London. So, in real time that’s a time difference of 12 minutes, as one degree of longitude is 4 minutes in time. So, the only conclusion I can come to is that the West Ham side were suffering from jet lag for the first twenty minutes of the game.

I did hear the West Ham coach only arrived an hour before the game. Even if that is not true, there is something wrong with the preparation. Perhaps, they should travel the day before, so they can adjust to the climate.

I think we can say there is something amiss with Arnautovic. It’s actually painful to watch. He should have started, as the combination of him and Lanzini could be lethal. My belief is that the club have agreed he can leave in the next transfer window and have already agreed a fee with the Chinese club for £35 million. This would be a bargain as he is now probably worth about £10 million and probably is a real downer in the dressing room.

I must say, I’m getting bored. The only home game I’ve missed this year was against Fulham. I missed the fact the game was on a Friday night and agreed to a dinner date. Strangely, I realised I wasn’t that bothered. The games now are at such varying times. Soon, we’ll have midnight games to please fans in Bora Bora.

I apologise for my little jibe against Hernandez. But, for a player who prays on the centre line before a game, he has got a strange set of morals. Wasn’t the eleventh commandment ‘I shall not cheat’?There really should be a greater sanction against such players. A fine would be in order.

Looking to next season, we have got some great players as a base – Diop, Balbuena, Rice, Fabianski, Lanzini and Anderson. But we’ll have to spend another £100 million, or £50 million net after selling players. We certainly haven’t got the depth to compete for the Europa cup.We couldn’t even beat AFC Wimbledon with a second string.

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