Talking Point

In Praise of the Second Striker/Goal poacher

There is clearly a great deal of frustration amongst West Ham about the formation that Sam Allardyce almost uniformly adopts. Call it 4-3-3, 4-5-1 or even 4-4-1-1, but the common denominator appears to be the lone centre-forward supported from the flanks and from midfield (particularly by Kevin Nolan). At its best (mostly at Upton Park) it has worked well, with Nolan in particular benefiting. At its worst (mostly in away games) the centre forward gets isolated and disengaged from midfield and it just does not deliver the necessary attacking threat and encourages the opposition to attack us.

The common complaint is that Sam Allardyce only plays it one way and does not appear to be able to change to a different formation. Invariably, 4-4-2 then comes in to the equation and the issue of the absence of a second striker on the pitch. Finally, Kevin Nolan’s selection, and his role playing behind the centre forward, is seen as a particular obstacle to the inclusion of that much extolled second striker. Where it is used most successfully on the continent, the centre forward is supported by two mobile forwards, who invariably have the dual ability to go wide and/or give support and make and take chances in more central striking positions. In the West Ham system that is the element that is arguably missing, with the likes of Jarvis and Downing attacking down the flanks and looking to deliver crosses in to the target man and midfield runners.

So, what is it about 4-4-2 that is so dear to most Hammers fans? I am sure that you would solicit a number of different responds to that question. However, the core common element would probably relate to a preference for a strike partnership up front. There is an old saying that strikers best hunt in pairs and that has certainly been true at West Ham, where partnerships such as Keeble/Dick, Hurst/Byrne, Hurst/Best, Hurst/Robson, Gould or Taylor/Jennings, Cross/Robson, Cross/Pearson, Cross/Goddard, McAvennie/Cottee, Hartson/Kitson, Kanoute/Di Canio, Zamora/Harewood, Ashton/Harewood and Cole/Vaz Te are legendary and integral to the club’s history. We are all familiar with the big man/little man combination, the target man and the goal poacher that feeds off of him. Admittedly they were not all like that though not all partners conform to that dichotomy. The obvious example being the pacy, mobile partnership between Cottee and McAvennie; where both players thrived on running on to the through ball and were equally proficient at finishing. While other partnerships such as that between Geoff Hurst and Clyde Best was between two target men in effect, although Hurst had the ability to play both roles.

Pop Robson

However, the ‘big man/little man’ partnership is one that sticks in the memory and affections. And I also had a real admiration for the mobile goal poacher in the partnership. West Ham have been blessed with some great, great strikers in the poacher mould. For instance, Johnny Byrne, who had electric pace, beautiful technique and deadly finishing skills. Johnny Dick, who although not particularly fast, thrived feeding off Vic Keeble and was a natural goal scorer with his deadly left peg. My personal favourite was Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson, a penalty box predator, who I believe was one of the greatest two or three finishers to play for West Ham, certainly in the modern era. Then there was Alan Taylor, who although not of the quality of some of the aforementioned greats, had genuine pace and an uncanny ability to be in ‘the right place at the right time’ to conceptualise on goal scoring opportunities. Of course, he will always be remembered for those three crucial goal braces in the quarter-Final (Vs Arsenal), semi-Final (Vs Ipswich Town) and Final (Vs Fulham) of the 1975 FA Cup victory.

Tony Cottee

Most Hammers these days, will recall the goal scoring heroics of Tony Cottee. Not only the successful partnership with McAvennie, but all of his goal scoring achievements across his two spells at the club. When I think of Cottee, I automatically recall the youngster who scored against Spurs on his first team debut, the partnership with Frankie Mac in 1985-86 and the later Cottee, whose had such a fruitful second coming at his boyhood club. I recall the two overseas goal scoring wizards that was Di Canio and Tevez, both were world class talents and left so many good memories behind them. But the other ‘second’ striker that I really admired was Paul Goddard. That guy had everything, pace, technique, a good football brain and excellent finishing ability. I will always remember his goal in the 2nd leg of the League Cup, at Upton Park, Vs Coventry City. We were trailing 3-2 from the first leg and Coventry City were defending very well and frustration/anxiety was starting to grow as the match proceeded. Until Goddard received the ball centrally on the edge of the box, pushed the ball slightly to his left and tightly turned and hit a guided missile of a shot in the top left hand corner of the opposition net. It was the decisive moment of that tie and we went on to win the semi-final with a late Jimmy Neighbour winner.

It is those type of goal poachers that we miss, along with dangerous striking partnerships and the threat that they conveyed. That is probably why supporters, more recently, have identified with the Baldocks and Maynards and been critical their relative lack of first team opportunity and early transfers out of the club; it is also an explanation why many supporters sympathised with Vaz Te and his recent assertion that he is a central striker, not a wide player! For many, there is just too much missing in the typical 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 Allardyce formation. While others have no problem starting with that formation, but seek evidence of the manager’s ability to tactically ‘change it’ and revert to a 4-4-2, with a second striker alongside the centre forward. And, as I have already stated, that hostility towards Nolan is largely because it is perceived that his inclusion, and Allardyce’s apparent assistance upon playing him, is a perceived barrier to adopting a 4-4-2 system, with the deployment of a 2nd striker.

Ironically, the failure to finish off the summer transfer business with the acquisition of an appropriate striker, means that we have two fit strikers, in the form of Vaz Te and Maiga, whose strengths are predominantly playing as second strikers. While we are currently inadequately provided with a target man in Carroll’s injury absence! It is an absolutely ridiculous that we have allowed ourselves to get in that position. And it really does necessitate the signing of an adequate free agent striker to cover for Andy Carroll. There are more reports this evening that the club will bring in the Romania international striker, Cirprian Marica, who scored his side’s opening goal in their 3-0 win over Hungary yesterday evening.

Marica is obviously fit and ready to play, so the club would do a lot worse than to sign the striker as a matter of urgency. If we can sign him, and possibly Carlton Cole when he improves/proves his fitness, then we can go forward with a bit more confidence until the January window opens.

SJ. Chandos.


West Ham's Pay Day Loans with Vibrac Corporation

On Wednesday the Sun carried a small story that was probably missed by most football fans. The unassuming piece explained that West Ham had cleared its existing loan with the mysterious Vibrac Corporation and then immediately took out a new loan which they claimed could be as much as £70 million.

In March this year, Nick Harris from the Daily Mail wrote a story how West Ham had reached an agreement with this offshore lending company in the British Virgin Islands to borrow all £60million of our current season’s Premier League television money in advance.Nick claimed at the time that the revelation that West Ham set up this facility in September last year underlined why West Ham’s owners were at the forefront of campaigners within the League’s 20 clubs to bring in Financial Fair Play spending restrictions on wages this season.

Stories about the Vibrac Corporation are nothing new. Everton borrowed £13 million back in 2011 at a rate of 10% interest and have renewed that facility every year since.
A copy of the Everton mortgage documentation for that transaction filed with companies house can be found here

It is not known who owns the Vibrac corporation but they are based in the same building as BCR Sports, the company through which Robert Earl controls his stake in Everton FC.

In April 2012, a facility was also provided to Southampton by the Vibrac Corporation. Saints fans called for transparency over a mysterious financial document lodged by the club at Companies House at the time.

In April this year, a similar facility was also provided to Fulham to enable the club to borrow against future guaranteed income. However it is claimed this facility was settled early when Shahid Khan purchased Fulham last month.In the Fulham transaction they authorised the Premier League to pay £16million into Vibrac’s account with Barclays. Fulham put up Craven Cottage itself as security for the loan. In the draft mortgage document submitted to Companies House, an accountant named Robert Heppel is named as a witness to Vibrac’s side of the agreement.

So if the Daily Mail & Sun stories about West Ham’s dealings with Vibrac are taken at face value we could have borrowed up to £130 million as ‘pay day loans’ from Vibrac Corporation over 2 years and we could be paying as much as £13 million in interest if the 10% fee from Everton 2011 loan is anything to go by.

If the interest paid by West Ham is anything close to £13 million I see many questions being asked of our board of directors .

All should be made clear soon as WH Holding Ltd will need to submit their financial accounts year ending 31st May 2013. The first loan and any interest paid will need to be declared in those accounts.

Last year’s accounts weren’t published on the companies house website until 28th Feb this year so we have some time to wait before we know the true extent and scale of our mysterious dealing with Vibrac Corporation.

Note from Iain: I’d like to welcome Sean to the site. He will be posting regular articles on the finances of West Ham.

Player Analysis



The Day a Fan Played For West Ham

Steve Davies

Do you remember back in 1994 Harry Redknapp subsitituted Lee Chapman in a pre-season friendly against Oxford City? In his place he picked someone from the crowd – a chap called Steve Davies. Well a journalist from Los Angeles has tracked him down and written a fascinating (and very lengthy article) about the experience. It even includes a short interview with the less than legendary Hammers signing Joey Beachamp, as well as Harry’s own story of the match.

“I slung a leg over the barrier and Harry walked me down the tunnel,” says Steve. “What’s your name, son?” Harry asked, sizing up this apparent hooligan. “I couldn’t believe it. Inside the dressing room, the players were sat down resting at half-time.” West Ham were two-nil up, but the team was carrying injuries. “Then Harry and says, ‘Lee you’re off; Steve you’re on.’”

Chapman, shirtless, just nodded. “I asked him, what size boots are you, son?” Redknapp recalls. The kit manager brought Steve a uniform. “Alvin Martin was sat next to me, and as we stood up, he smacked me on the back of the head, like a little livener. We come on up the tunnel and I still thought Harry was having a laugh with me. I didn’t think I was actually gonna get on, or I thought I might get a minute or two as a joke.” The crowd broke into applause as the teams appeared once again.

Read the full feature article HERE

Match Report

Victories at Espanyol and Colchester Utd!

West Ham Utd squads won excellent victories in yesterday evening’s friendly matches held during the current international break. While the full squad, including a number of U-21 regulars, were in Spain, playing Espanyol, a joint U-21/U-18 squad were taking on Colchester Utd.

In Barcelona, the full squad secured a 0-1 win, characterised by a much improved display of passing, movement and invention.Three qualities decidedly lacking against Stoke City. There were good displays from Adrian, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Ravel Morrison and Matt Jarvis. Notably, the defensive unit operated effectively, marshalled by the superb Tomkins, and the overall team performance was far more cohesive. While youngsters like Ruddock, Famino, Moncur and Lee all contributed mature and promising performances, which further underlined their potential. The match was won by a Mark Noble penalty, after a Espanyol defender handled a Matt Jarvis cross in to the box.

Meanwhile, in Essex, the U-21 Squad scored a convincing 0-3 win over Colchester Utd. The goals were scored by Burke, Whitehead and Tombides. It was similarly a good all-round team performance and the ‘stand out’ moment was Dylan Tombides beating the Colchester keeper with a great chip. It was a goal of great composure and skill from the Australian U-19 international forward.

So, it was a good evening all round for the club. Unfortunately, it would appear that the prior SSN report that Andy Carroll would be fit for the next match versus Southampton, on 15 September 2013, was premature. The latest rumour is that he may not actually be ready until mid-October 2013 at the earliest. That news, if true, makes the failure of Carlton Cole to prove his fitness, to facilitate a swift return to the club, even more disappointing. So, it appears that the chickens of West Ham’s transfer deadline day failure are flying home to roost! the search continues for a free agent striker, no doubt the manager will be setting up his team to capitalise upon the strengths of the strikers that we do actually have available at the club?

In the meantime, just hope that all of our players on international duty return back to the club unscathed. The last thing that we need is further injuries to key players like Reid, Rat or Collins.

SJ. Chandos.

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