Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with The Saints

This weekend West Ham welcome Southampton to the London Stadium for our last home game of a mixed season. With a slight chance of overtaking Watford and scraping into 10th place, we will be hoping that we can build on that great victory last weekend against Spurs and finish our season with a flourish. Before the game I spoke to old friend and Saints season ticket holder Simon Lacey from Dance Company New Adventures to discuss the game and the season.

Hi Simon, the last shakings of the seasons’s sack are upon us, how would you judge the 2018/19 year from The Saints point of view?
To distort a cliche, A season of two halves, and it doesn’t take a genius to understand what that means.

Hasenhüttl seems to have done a good job for you since he was appointed – he’s another manager that your board seem to have picked from nowhere, what’s the word on him?
All positive at this stage – the team is organised tactically, he changes it within a game and from game to game, they play with energy and discipline with and without the ball and he gets the most out of players.

I (along with anyone else who has been watching the Champions League run in) noticed that Dusan Tadic has had a major impact on Ajax’s season. I remember him and Sadio Mane terrorising some-team or other a couple of years ago. He’s another one of your old players: was it a case of him leaving a bit prematurely? Did he not get on with Mark Hughes? What happened there?
St Dusan of Amsterdam was the last of the great Saints players left from our return to the Prem and following years, but even the best need others to be effective; we were shite last year so as the opportunity of Champions League football came along why not take it. No negative comments about the Saints like some money-grabbers when they left. He will always be loved at St Mary’s – I’ve been to Old Trafford (a tarted-up shithole by the way) only once and he scored the winner so won’t forget him in a hurry. What a particularly delicious irony it would be if he won the Champions League with unfancied Ajax whilst VVD, Lovren, Lallana, Mane, and Clyne still win nothing despite moving on “to win things”. Footnote: VVD said he was too good for the Saints, underrated and wanted to win things; will he now say only Barcelona are worthy of his genius, the arrogant non-winner?

Which player has got your vote for ‘Saint of the Season’ (or whatever you call your best performing player)? Who has run him close, and who has disappointed?
Nathan Redmond has overcome a couple of poor seasons lacking in confidence to be our main attacking spark (credit Hasenhüttl and perhaps Pep a little for that) but needs a few more goals, Hojberg is becoming a real beast in midfield, but I’d have to give it to the old cliche “one of our own” in Ward-Prowse – technically the most gifted passer of the ball at the club and arguably the best deadball taker in the Prem. Finally (again credit Hasenhüttl) he is considered a starter on the team sheet and we are utilising his strengths and receiving the rewards. I know some Irons fans don’t always rate Mark Noble, but I do: there are similarities and I hope he goes on to be just such a servant for the Saints. Disappointing: Elyanoussi this season.

Southampton are like West Ham were a few years ago when all our young stars seemed to be sold off to Chelsea and Spurs. Who’s going to be the next player from the Southampton conveyor belt to move to pastures new?
I don’t think at this stage any of them are as good as those from the recent past but I do like Valery, the young right back and if he continues to improve he will definitely be a target for bigger. I’d ask you, can you keep Rice? I’d hope so but Man United for one could do with him.

Where will Hasenhüttl look to strengthen in the post season? What are your priorities for next year?
We need at least one more striker particularly as Ings is injury-prone and he is the only one that I’d feel 100% happy with if fit. I’d like a fast wide/winger type midfielder and a real centre-half leader. My hope is Hasenhüttl will have some in mind that we may never have heard of – when Koeman took over he bought Tadic and Pelle (who? we said at the time) from Feyenoord for virtually nothing and Alderwerield (who?) from Atletico on a loan. That sort of thing would be great business.

What are your thoughts on the season as a whole? Who do you want or expect to win the League?
The gap between the 6 and the rest has become even more exaggerated so if you’re not one of those glory seekers, the aim is for 7th: Wolves or Watford richly deserve that this season whilst the likes of fallen so-called ’istorical greats Everchina spend bucket loads, poach managers and still continue to underperform and win nothing. Want: City. Will: City The BBC and other media are obsessed with Liverpoo.

Which other two teams are going to make up the other two Champions League spots?
Spurs and Arsenal; the former cos they are a cert, the latter more cos I hope Man Utd and Chelski don’t.

Are Cardiff going to join Fulham and Huddersfield in dropping down to the Championship? Any preferences?
They will almost certainly drop though I’d prefer Brighton to as they are dullness personified. We all know what Warnock is but they have had some pretty outrageous decisions against them recently and I do think the big teams and big players get decisions in their favour that the likes of Cardiff don’t. He is entertainment too.

What have been your personal highlights and lowlights in the current football year, either from a Saints point of view, generally, or both?
Totally dominating Everchina at St Marys was fun given what they had spent and their fans’ distorted sense of their own importance but the highlight has to be coming from behind to beat Spurs at St Marys as they arrogantly thought they had won it by scoring first. Beating Arsenal at St Mary’s a close second and Palace away was fun. The lowlights were virtually the whole of the season up to Hughes’s sacking; nothing worse than turning up to watch your team, fearing the worst and that being turned into reality. A highlight will be Liverpoo winning FA again (and that ain’t the Cup!).

I notice Portsmouth are on the way back up, are you hoping you can get a few ‘Solent Derbies’ in a couple more seasons if they keep up their progression?
Up? They have just missed out on automatic promotion. They might scrape in to the Championship but that is the limit of Kenny Jacketts’ ability (witness Wolves and Millwall under him). I don’t care if we never have to play them again but a good beating of the Skates in a Cup would be fun.

Good to see that the old Pompey/Saints animosity still runs deep. How are The Saints going to line up against West Ham this weekend? Team/Formation?
Gunn, Valery, Bednarek, Yoshida, Bertrand, Romeo, Hojberg, Ward-Prowse, Lamina, Redmind, Ings (4, 4, 1, 1) but possibly Vestergaard if fit again of Targett in place of Lemina (5, 3, 1, 1)*

Are you feeling confident for the victory? Prediction for score?
Bearing in mind the result is of little real importance for either team, I could see any result but if you support a team you have to think positive so 2-3.

Well thanks to Simon for his time. Another big up for Mark Noble from an opposition fan highlights that Nobes has had his best season for a while. And of course no West Ham fan would want to see Declan Rice move on in the near future, if at all! I will have to disagree with his prediction though. I am going for a 3 -1 victory to West Ham. COYI!

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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v Southampton

Blast from the past

5th December 1987 – Doctor Who and Avengers star Karen Gillan had been born the week before, T’Pau were number one with ‘China In Your Hand’ and Dennis Quaid, Martin Short and Meg Ryan were in UK cinemas in Innerspace.

John Lyall’s mid-table West Ham United took on Chris Nicholl’s Southampton in front of 14,975 at The Boleyn Ground – there was a club connection in the visitors’ line-up with Kevin Bond, son of former Hammer John Bond, captaining the Saints.

The hosts took the lead after 13 minutes when Tony Cottee nodded on for 20-year-old Kevin Keen to smash home his first league goal for the Hammers – Keen had already scored in both the FA Cup and the League Cup before this First Division strike against Southampton. The Saints were soon level when Stewart Robson’s poor backpass was intercepted by Andy Townsend – Tom McAlister could only palm Townsend’s cross into the path of Danny Wallace, who hooked home the equaliser.

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Cottee was twice denied by excellent saves by Southampton goalkeeper John Burridge, with Keen also having an effort stopped and Robson flashing wide. The Hammers claimed their winner when George Parris’ pass found Alan Dickens (pictured above) and he tickled a low shot beyond the grasp of Burridge and into the far corner of the net. Mark Ward was sent off for the second time in his West Ham career. The goals from this match can be viewed in my video below.

West Ham went on to finish the 1987/88 season in 16th position. Cottee was the club’s top goalscorer with 15 goals from 44 matches; Robson was voted Hammer of the Year, with Billy Bonds runner-up. Southampton finished 12th, Liverpool won the league and Wimbledon won the FA Cup.

West Ham United: Tom McAlister, Ray Stewart, Gary Strodder, Billy Bonds, George Parris, Mark Ward, Alan Dickens, Paul Ince, Stewart Robson, Kevin Keen, Tony Cottee.

Southampton: John Burridge, Gerry Forrest, Kevin Moore, Kevin Bond, Derek Statham, Jimmy Case, Glenn Cockerill, Graham Baker, Andy Townsend, Danny Wallace, Colin Clarke.

Club Connections

Michail Antonio welcomes his former club. An array of West Ham United’s good, bad and ugly have also turned out for Southampton:

Goalkeepers: Richard Wright, George Kitchen.

Defenders: Richard Hall, Christian Dailly, Joe Kirkup, Wayne Bridge, Neil Ruddock, Jose Fonte, Ian Pearce, Bill Adams, Darren Powell, Albie Roles, Horace Glover, Calum Davenport.

Midfielders: Bobby Weale, Luis Boa Morte, Nigel Quashie, Eyal Berkovic, Robbie Slater, Peter Cowper, Paul Allen.

Strikers: Vic Watson, Justin Fashanu, David Speedie, David Connolly, Viv Gibbins, Iain Dowie, Ted MacDougall, Henri Camara, Alex McDonald, Frank Costello, Fred Harrison, Walter Pollard, Arthur Wilson, Jimmy Harris, Jack Foster, Jack Farrell.

In addition, George Kay played for the Hammers and managed the Saints while Harry Redknapp and Alan Pardew have managed both clubs.

Today’s focus though is on a player who turned out for West Ham before representing Southampton later in his career. Jimmy Carr was an outside-left who was born on 19th December 1893 in Maryhill, Glasgow. He joined Watford in 1908 at the age of 14 and made his Southern League debut as a 16-year-old. The 20-year-old Carr moved to West Ham United in 1914 and made his debut in a 1-1 home draw with Swindon on 26th September 1914. With the perfect build for a winger at 5’7 in height and weighing in at 10st, he scored his only Hammers goal in his sixth appearance, a 2-0 win over Plymouth at Upton Park on 5th December 1914 (73 years to the day before this preview’s featured match, above). His ninth and final appearance for the Irons was on the 30th January 1915, in a 1-1 draw at Swindon, the same opposition and result as his debut.

During World War One, Carr was enlisted into the Army as a Private and played as a guest for Portsmouth and Kilmarnock in the Wartime Leagues. After the cessation of hostilities, Carr joined Reading in 1919, spending four years in Berkshire and making over 100 appearances for the club before moving to Southampton at the age of 29 in June 1923, where he teamed up with former Reading team-mate Jimmy Andrews (Carr is pictured during his Reading days).

Having played in every match from the start of the 1923/24 campaign, a serious knee injury in January required an operation and put Carr out for the rest of the season. He returned for the start of 1924/25 but his season was again disrupted by injuries – he did, however, play a significant part in the Saints’ run to the FA Cup Semi-Finals in 1925, where they were defeated 2-0 by Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge. After three years at The Dell, the 32-year-old Carr was released and switched to Swansea Town, as they were then known, in May 1926. He had scored ten goals in 86 league games for Southampton.

Carr scored one goal in seven appearances for the Swans but, with the end of his career approaching, he took the unprecedented step of placing an advertisement in the Athletic News, stating that he would ‘assist a club outside the League in exchange for a business’. Carr was soon playing for Southall and running The Red Lion Hotel in the town. Jimmy Carr passed away in Harrow on 26th June 1980, at the age of 86.


The referee on Saturday will be Stuart Attwell. The Birmingham-based official will take charge of a West Ham game for only the eighth time – he has sent off a Hammers striker in two of his other seven games officiating the Irons. He refereed our 1-0 victory at Wigan in March 2009 and our 3-1 win at Blackpool in February 2011. The 36-year-old sent off the Latics’ Lee Cattermole for a shocking challenge on Scott Parker, while the Hammers’ Carlton Cole also received his marching orders during the aforementioned win at Wigan. Even Latics boss Steve Bruce criticised the decision to dismiss the Irons striker. Attwell also issued a first-half red card to Andy Carroll in our 1-1 draw at Burnley in October 2017.

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Attwell also awarded an infamous ‘phantom’ goal for Reading in a Championship match against Watford in September 2008. He was the youngest-ever Premier League referee but was demoted from the Select Group in 2012. He refereed the Hammers in August in our 2-1 home defeat to Bournemouth, when he awarded the Irons a penalty which was converted by Marko Arnautovic, and in our 3-1 League Cup home defeat to Tottenham in October. Attwell’s most recent Hammers appointment saw him award a dubious match-winning penalty to Manchester City at the Etihad in February.

Possible line-ups

Manuel Pellegrini is without Winston Reid, Andriy Yarmolenko and Andy Carroll. Carlos Sanchez made an appearance for the Development Squad on Monday, while Aaron Cresswell, Manuel Lanzini and Samir Nasri are all available. There has still been no news on Robert Snodgrass’ suspension appeal.

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl is likely to be without Alex McCarthy, Jannik Vestergaard, Maya Yoshida and Michael Obafemi.

Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Fredericks, Balbuena, Diop, Masuaku; Rice; Antonio, Noble, Snodgrass, Anderson; Arnautovic.

Possible Southampton XI: Gunn; Valery, Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand; Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Hojbjerg; Long, Ings, Redmond.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!

Nigel Kahn’s Column

The Greatest of Weeks to Remember.

This week sees the anniversaries of two of the most important games in my West Ham attending history – Liverpool at Upton Park in 1978 and Ipswich Town’s visit in that never to be forgotten night, back in 1986. The two games had the most extreme outcomes when compared. One game relegated the club after the longest period of top-flight service West Ham had ever had, the other left us on the brink of the elusive title win in a never to be repeated season of overachievement. I hope you enjoy reading my memories of both games.

29/04/1978 WHU V LIVERPOOL

That season was the first season of my regular attendance of WHU home games, one that still persists 42 years later. It started with 4 defeats – where have we heard that stat before? Though the first game I remember was losing to Man City at home. I think perhaps looking back that being 7 years old I was too young to really appreciate how lucky I was to be not only living in the long shadow of the ground, but also going to games. I was taken by my uncle. My own dad wasn’t a) a football fan or b) in my life at that time. I didn’t get to every home game but with every game the enjoyment of going grew. Looking back now, it wasn’t the greatest of seasons. The FA cup win of 1975 was now a distant memory and the club was in free fall. Only one win in the opening 12 games had us hanging around the relegation area most of the season, but in typical West Ham style they rallied late in the season – six wins from our last nine games left us needing to win our last game of the season, at home to the reigning European Champions who would retain the trophy again that year, Liverpool.

It was a hot day, the sun was out and I was collected by my uncle. He drove the short distance from Canning Town to park his VW Beetle in the car park above Queens Road market. The queue stretched down the ramp and in those days you paid the man in the hut at the top of the ramp. My uncle was not a patient man, so he drove up the down ramp. The man jumped out of the hut to stop him, but upon seeing it was my uncle, he obviously knew him, he waved him up and actually showed him where to park his car.
We walked down Green Street from the market up to and through the gates onto the forecourt. Now this was the forecourt long before the portacabins were shops and so many people were standing around queueing to get into the biggest game of our season, my uncle took me to the ticket collection office, manned by a man called Dick, whose job was to distribute the players tickets to their families and issue the press tickets. I was collected sometime later and we were in to take our seats West stand upper, Block A tight in the corner looking down onto the Southbank. Madly we had had Liverpool fans sitting around us but there was no hint of trouble that might occur these days in the ground when opposition fans sit in the home end. In fact, the Liverpool fans added to the day for me, displaying good humour and laughing at my attempts to cheer on the Hammers.

Alas though, it was to be one game too far for my heroes. Brooking & Bonds failed to drive us on as Robson failed to pop one in. I suppose it was always a tall order but 8-year-old Nigel never thought of that, in fact, I had no idea of what relegation actually meant, all I was concerned about was watching the game.

As the final whistle condemned the Hammers, the fans instead of jeering or booing, applauded the teams, but as was the tradition back then, the team, instead of walking down the tunnel they turned & walked out to the middle to wave to all four stands to thank the fans for our efforts for the season. The fans responded in cheering them off the pitch. I don’t remember hearing any criticism insults or booing just the cheers.

The history books show we lost 2-0 and were to be relegated into Division 2, but what the history books don’t reveal is that one game was the real start of the obsessive love affair with this 8-year-old boy. Of course, in 1978 we didn’t know the great days that lay ahead, but I for one couldn’t wait till August to get back to my own theatre of dreams.


I don’t think I can do it justice in trying to set the scene for this night of nights, but i’ll try.

I had an after-school job at Duthie Hart & Duthie solicitors based across the road from the Green Gate pub on the Barking road. I don’t think I franked the post that day quicker than I had ever done. I deposited it over to the Post office across the road. I then ran (yes people, I could run back then) the short journey up the Barking Road to the ground. I got to the forecourt to see the queue for my stand of choice back then, the North Bank, snaking its way nearly back to the gates. This was a full hour before the turnstiles opened around half six. Now I must admit, I had a dilemma anyway and upon seeing the queue my mind was made up. I wasn’t going to risk queuing to be disappointed. I found my Uncle out-side the ground and he gave me a seat for the West Lower, Row T, which was back row on the lower West I think, and great view as I was sitting just above the tunnel, right on the halfway line.

I’m now 16, and with older age comes the nervousness of understanding what football means and what rests on the outcome of this game. Victory would leave us on the cusp of perhaps the greatest prize in English football: Champions of England – a trophy harder to win than any other trophy in football for me.

As the late spring sun gave way, so the floodlights illuminated for me the greatest of nights on that ground up until possibly the last night. Ipswich needed points to avoid, funnily enough, being relegated, and the game would be a battle of nerves for different reasons for both teams and fans.

Perhaps the fact we went behind made is so special, perhaps it was the late soft penalty decision that gave us the victory that made is even sweeter, but for me, what makes it one of, if not THE, greatest night at The Boleyn Ground, was the fact after the whistle confirmed our win, the massed army of West Ham fans piled onto the pitch to celebrate, not only the win but without doubt, the greatest season, in my opinion, the club has ever had.

To stand on the pitch and sing, “we’re going to win the league, we’re going to win the league, & now your going to believe us, & now your going to believe us, & now your going to believe usssssssssssss, we’re going to win the league ” and actually believe it that we’re finally, after 86 years of being in existence, we were going to do it. It seems like we were on the pitch for hours, and I couldn’t actually say how long we were there but my memory of that night does not fade.

If I was ever given the option of jumping in the Tardis and returning back to just one game to relive again, not change anything, but just live that day/night again the choice would be tough between the above two games, but at a push, it would be the Ipswich game. While the Liverpool game was the start of the love affair as such, nothing will ever beat that night after that season, after that game and the shared celebrations with thousands on the pitch that I didn’t know but loved as well.

Extra game added
02/05/1981 WHU V WREXHAM
Purely by coincidence in researching pictures for this article I came across pictures from the day I was the mascot. I’m adding this game in, onto the end of the Article purely as it’s 38 years ago this very day.

I don’t think I slept very much the night before, I was too excited. I had known since January that this game was to be the day I got to walk out with my heroes. To get dressed I wore my West Ham tracksuit over my West Ham kit. I remember my mum saying to me that they were giving me a kit as part of the package but I was insistent on wearing it.

My mum was taking me to the game, and luckily she got to park in the player’s car park or the St Edwards playground as we knew it. Walking in through the players door just to the right of Dick’s ticket box my usual hangout, there was a small reception area with a door that led into a tight tunnel, I was shown into John Lyall’s office to get changed, not that I needed to as I had my kit on already.

Lyall came in and sat at his desk and chatted to me as if he had known me for years, asked me if I had enjoyed the season and was I excited to be leading the team out. My mum gave me one of her looks when I had said the wrong thing. All I said was I thought Clive Thomas was a cheat & he was out of order for sending Lyall Off. Lyall laughed it off as nothing and said Thomas had every right to do that as Lyall had let his emotions get the best of him. Best left alone.

Lyall took me then to meet the players in the dressing room. The main memory was Ray Stewart walking in late and giving an excuse that I understood not one word of as his accent was as thick Scottish as you can get.

Wrexham formed a guard of honour as we walked on the pitch & Dai Davis their keeper stuck his hand out and shook mine. “Well done son,” he said, though to be honest I was more in awe of the fact my other hand was being held by Billy Bonds as we marched to the middle of the pitch to wave to all four corners of the ground, as was the tradition for the last home game of the season.

They used a 10p coin for the toss-up to kick off, and off I ran across the pitch and back down the tunnel, quickly change into my tracksuit then back up to my usual seat, Block A still in the West upper but now we had managed to get to Row L. My uncle was waiting for me. He hadn’t been allowed pitch side and all the regulars we sat with made a fuss of me.

38 years and yet it is like the two games above, burned into the memory banks of my mind. I might not be able to remember the vegetables I am supposed to pick up from the supermarket but i’ll never forget even the smallest of details from those happy days of supporting West Ham as a child.

Perhaps in the comments below, if you could jump into the Tardis and revisit your one game, let us know what game it would be. Not to change the outcome but just to watch and revisit the great memories we all hold.

Talking Point

Moving Forward with the Forwards

In each and every transfer window most Premier League clubs search for that treasured ten to fifteen goal a season striker. Like a packet of Rolos, there are unfortunately never enough to go round.

Moving forward, what will happen to Arnautovic this summer. As Joe Strummer might have had it: will he stay or will he go? His proposed move to China and the subsequent media malaise with fans and his brother/agent certainly had a detrimental impact on the team. If the Austrian is to depart this summer, we will not get the quoted £50 million but he will still be the most expensive departure. Like a Wagner opera, he has given us good moments and, if he does leave, the arrival of a player like Aleksandar Mitrovic or Maxi Gómez would be welcome in my eyes.

The Fulham striker has scored eleven and assisted three in a woeful side that has seen three managers at the helm this campaign, significant rotation all over the pitch, and yet the Serbian has scored a very respectable amount. It’s been said before about other players, but imagine his goal tally next season playing in front of Anderson, Lanzini, Yarmolenko etc. I’m sure Fulham’s No. 9 would be popular in East London as he’s passionate and plays with his heart on his sleeve (much like Arnie, Dicks, Bonds etc.) whilst he would bring an aerial threat which will we miss with Carroll’s seemingly imminent departure. According to WhoScored, the Serbian takes 3.6 shots per game which is decent for a side that has struggled, but also highlights that his choice of shots and shot location is intelligent.

Similarly, we have also been linked with Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gómez. The Uruguayan attacker has scored twelve goals and provided five assists and, much like Mitrovic, he has done it in a side threatened by relegation. Both of these forwards would be strong additions and would bring interesting dynamics to the forward line. I believe Gómez would be more expensive but is Pellegrini’s first choice in terms of a striker.

One of my very good friends is a big fan of Lucas Pérez due to the fact that the former Arsenal man had a successful spell in my mate’s FIFA Ultimate Team scoring 193 goals in 184 games! Due to the success the Spaniard had in his team, my mate purchased a Deportivo de La Coruña shirt with Pérez’s name and number! My point is that through Rhys’ constant defence of him as a good player, I’ve grown to like him. He was wrongly disallowed what would have been his second goal against Leicester and his fourth league goal. Six goals in all competitions is decent for a player with limited minutes and, of late, he’s looked more focused and personally I wouldn’t mind him staying, as surely one forward will have to.

Hernández is another name that might want to leave the club this summer. I distinctly remember when the club announced the Mexican international: it was July 2017, I was already a way through the long summer between my first and second year at University. I recall fans being very happy as the previous summer saw us continuously linked with Carlos Bacca, so it was brilliant to finally capture a striker with real pedigree, as opposed to Jonathan Calleri! Chicharito, as he’s otherwise known, appeared the answer to the problems. We had the prolific striker we had longed for. Had Moyes remained at the helm, the ‘little pea’ undoubtedly would have left.

Pellegrini has been vocal about keeping Mexico’s all-time top goal scorer and I firmly believe we should unless he definitely (correct spelling, unlike Line of Duty) wants to leave. He’s worked hard in games, I remember specifically at home to Liverpool he worked very well for the team. Equally, even if Arnie departs and one of the two strikers already discussed comes in, Hernández has proved he is a fantastic option off the bench.

Most West Ham fans know that this summer will be a defining window and you could make convincing arguments that Arnautovi?, Hernández and Pérez all may want a move elsewhere. Carroll’s contract is expiring and his unfortunate injury record will see him leave. Ultimately, if Arnautovi? builds on his brilliant assist for Antonio in the 0-1 away victory to Spurs and is willing to apply himself for the final two games and into next season, he can stay clearly. However, if he elects to move, then the club will need a talisman in the mould of a Gómez or Mitrovi?, and I could see either one but particularly Gómez prospering in England under Pellegrini’s tutelage and with better creators around him.

There clearly are other interesting strikers that the club will look at, and I’d be interested to hear other suggestions in the comments. Indeed I think it’s important to recognise that a young player such as Xande Silva could definitely step up and be an answer to a problem and have an impressive campaign. Here’s hoping…

Hope everyone is still enjoying the Spurs victory!

The GoatyGav Column

How Does The Teamsheet Affect Your Expectation?

It’s been a topsy-turvy season. The only constant has been inconsistency. If you were to generalise then you’d say that home form has been better than what we’ve witnessed on the road but the over-arching trend has been one of uncertainty as to which West Ham were, or are, going to turn up. Notwithstanding this statement of the bleedin’ obvious certain indicators have had a little influence on how we’ve played in season 2018-19.

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Go compare the general mood of the West Ham faithful between the Everton and Spuds games. When the teamsheet hit against the Blue Scouse you could literally feel the combined groan of those in and around the London stadium. We weren’t happy. Perez starting up top with Arnie and Obiang behind them didn’t inspire confidence and the looks on the faces of fellow Hammers reflected that nervousness (or did I misread despairing looks for nervousness?). The full line-up was Super Fabianski, Zabba, Diop, Ogbonna, Cressers, Snodders, Obiang, Declan, Manu, Perez, Arnie. A team with no kind of anything. No real bite (Declan excepted). No incisive finisher. No width to speak of. No pace. Not much balance to speak of. Hit the fast forward from 30th March to last Saturday and my reaction, in contrast to Everton, was “that eleven are gonna have a proper go at this today.” It looked menacing. Fab, Fredericks, Diop, Balbuena, Artur, Declan, Michail, Nobes, Snodders, Anderson, Arnie. Pace to burn, plenty of bite, great shape, solid pairing at the back (I’m not sure we need three there – just the right two, but that’s a discussion for another time), attacking intent and energy. Granted that some of the same players were in both sides, and put in very different shifts between the two games, but the shape of the team was far better and well composed.

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Ok – so benefit of hindsight is a great thing. I’ve used among the two most extreme examples that this season could probably throw up. I have to admit that sometimes it looks really good on paper and delivers a load of rubbish but as things progress at the club, with Manuel Pellegrini’s influence constantly growing, it’s becoming easier to predict the kind of performance we’re going to get when seeing the starting eleven.

So how do you generally view it? How much do you read in to the team announcements? How much importance do you place on the players on the bench? I’ve not really mentioned that yet but do you take in to consideration how much impact the substitutes may have? This can be a tactic to affect games all on it’s own.

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Going back to the Spuds game it’s generally the case that we’re going to have a go at them anyway but looking at that line-up I felt positive from the off. Perhaps that’s it. It’s just a feeling of positivity that the intent there is to take the game to the opposition. As it transpired we pressed them surprisingly high up the pitch which stifled their ability to control the game. All credit to Pellegrini and the boys for that. Job well done.

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When you consider individual performances last weekend it was also like chalk and cheese compared to recent matches. Diop’s man of the match awards were well merited. Already the pundits are talking about ‘big’ clubs coming in for him along with Rice and Anderson this Summer. That’s not such a bad thing in my humble opinion. It’s now down to Pellegrini and his team to convince those players that West Ham is going to be the place to be next season. Elsewhere Balbuena looked solid, with a great goal-line clearance as the clock was running out. Fabianski was awesome as always. Rice looked back ‘on it’ after a couple of below par games for his high standards. Fredericks was tremendous and just needs a few games to build his confidence under the guidance of the hugely experienced Zabba. Artur combined well with Felippe. Nobes was Nobes against the Spuds. It looks like Antonio’s hamstring issues have been consigned to the past and he has his pace and power back. Great to see him enjoying his football again. Overall great cheer for those Hammers inside, and out, of the, impressive, new stadium of our neighbours from Harringey. Let’s hope for a good end to the season with a couple more energetic performances and, hopefully, the points.

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Last, but definitely not least, I want to wish the West Ham Women all the very best for their big final this Saturday. In their last game against Bristol City, who sit a couple of places above our Ladies in the league, they showed great character again to come back from a goal down to win 2-1. Absolutely gutted that I won’t be able to see the game and very annoyed at the F.A. for their poor scheduling of the match. And they’re trying to raise the profile of the Women’s game? Try harder I say! There’s a great spirit in and around Matt Beard’s squad and I hope that the Ladies all play a blinder this weekend. Win or Lose they can be rightly proud of themselves and know that they’ve had a great season and things are looking very positive for their future.


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