David Hautzig's Match Report

Manchester United 1, West Ham 0. Thy Cup Is Empty Again.

One of the best memories of childhood growing up in New York was a snow day. They were very rare in Manhattan, but when they happened they were glorious. Today I had a full day of sales appointments set up, starting with my friend, and Fulham supporter, William. Snow started at sunrise, and with only a few inches in the forecast I prepared to hit the road. But William texted me and said the roads were slick, and that rescheduling was in order. The rest of my customers concurred when I checked in with them. Instead of a day playing tackle football in the snow in Riverside Park, my grownup reward was having the FA Cup on various TV’s in the house. In the end, those childhood snow days were a lot better.

The starting eleven was not a surprise. We all saw Antonio feel his hamstring at Craven Cottage and then signal to come off. The response on Twitter was equally predictable, with rampant criticism at the decision not to sign a striker in January. I had very little problem with that decision, considering our abysmal record with cold weather transfers. What did bother me a bit was the priority shown by Moyes. I would have used today’s lineup against Fulham, even against Sheffield United as well, in order to go after today’s match with 100% commitment.

The first sniff of a chance came in the 12th minute when Martial was sent in after a quick set of passes between Telles and Rashford. Fabianski came out to meet him, but so did Ogbonna. Martial’s boot caught Ogbonna on the ankle, and despite him trying to walk it off his day, and God knows we hope that’s all it will be, was done. A few minutes later the home side was back in the West Ham eighteen yard box with Greenwood looking to get a shot on target, but Cresswell made the block.

For the opening 25 minutes, West Ham looked much more like a side that was languishing near the bottom of the table and hoping to just get today over with than a side fighting for a top six spot on merit. Maybe the fatigue Moyes mentioned and was somewhat ridiculed for was a real factor. In the 26th minute Fabianski made a stunning save off a header from Lindelof that deflected off Dawson and was headed in, but his diving touch pushed it off the post.

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West Ham won their first corner in the 37th minute, and the only thing that came out of that set piece was the possibility of seeing the new concussion substitution protocol tested when Diop and Martial banged heads. But both were OK to continue at that point.

Halftime
Manchester United 0
West Ham 0

The second half started with a number of West Ham substitutions, including the first ever concussion substitute with Diop coming off despite playing 15 minutes after his clash with Martial. Johnson and Fredericks were introduced, with Bowen joining Diop on the bench. The most notable thing to come out of the first moments of the second half on the pitch was yet another West Ham player laying on he ground. This time it was Yarmolenko, who rolled around a few times before indicating that he too was done. If there was to be a silver lining to all of the changes it would come in the form of 18 year old Mipo Odubeko. Perhaps the experience of today without any real expectations will pay dividends down the road. Unfortunately the road travelled by the young man today should be forgotten.

West Ham were able to break with numbers in the 68th minute, but as has happened enough times in the past Fornals was not able to make the final pass to create the opportunity. But as lackluster as West Ham had looked to that point, despite solid play defensively, it was a small feat to be deadlocked at nil-nil. A few minutes later an errant clearance from Wan Bissaka led to a West Ham corner, but Cresswell’s delivery didn’t beat the first man and the men in red cleared.

The home side kept up the pressure, with shot attempts from Martial and Fernandes. But Dawson put his body on the line and made the necessary blocks. West Ham tried to create some pressure of their own, but while the possession numbers were better than the first half there wasn’t a shot, on or off target, to be found. Back down towards West Ham’s end, Telles found Martial with a cross but the header went wide. Was Moyes lulling the hosts to sleep? Maybe he was lulling me to sleep and I got confused.

West Ham won a corner in the dying embers of normal time, and after waiting for a brief VAR look at a possible hand ball by Wan Bissaka, Noble sent a decent ball into the box. Dawson rose high to get to it, but his header was cleared by Telles.

Full Time
Manchester United 0
West Ham 0

It’s kind of amazing what a single bad touch can mean. In the 8th minute of added time, Benrahma rolled a pass to Rice near the top of the Manchester United box. The West Ham Wunderkind’s first touch was heavy, he lost possession, and United broke with numbers. After the initial attack was deflected up high, Soucek’s attempted clearance was gathered up by Rashford, who then tapped a pass to McTominay. His low, hard shot finally beat the resolute Fabianski.

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Manchester United 1
West Ham 0

By the halfway point of the second stretch of added time, I realized I hadn’t written anything or paid a great deal of attention. A couple of work related phone calls forced me to turn down the volume. The sight of Lanzini replacing Mipo did, however, grab my attention and not in a positive way. I hope Moyes pulls him aside after tonight and tells him not be discouraged, that it was a tough spot to throw him into the deep end. I suspect he will.

Benrahma was able to put his head on a cross from Johnson with five minutes left, but beyond that West Ham had no end product.

And no more FA Cup in 2021.

Would today have been different had we had a fit Antonio? Maybe. Would today have been different had we purchased another striker in January? Again, maybe. In a season that has exceeded all expectations thus far, it’s easy to feel let down. But I won’t do that. The West Ham we have now is far better than any West Ham we have had in quite some time. If this season is about steadying the ship and consolidation, which is what it really needed to be, then patience is needed.

Mama said there’d be days like this.

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Book Review

Match Thread: Manchester United v West Ham

Manchester United v West Ham
FA Cup 5th Round
Old Trafford
TV: BBC1
Radio: BBC 5 Live

Please use this thread to comment on the game as it progresses.


Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Man Utd v West Ham

The Predictor League for Manchester United is open. Enter your team HERE. Deadline is 5.30pm today.

Blast from the past

Manchester United have knocked West Ham United out of the FA Cup on five occasions, with the Hammers proving victorious four times. West Ham prevailed in 1911, 1964, 1986 and 2001 while the Red Devils marched on in 1983, 1985, 2003, 2013 and 2016. The Irons travel to Old Trafford tonight, aiming to restore parity from the current 5-4 deficit.

Today’s focus takes us back nearly 35 years, to a fifth round replay on 9th March 1986. Diana Ross was number one with ‘Chain Reaction’, United States Navy divers found the largely intact but heavily damaged crew compartment of the Space Shuttle Challenger with the bodies of all seven astronauts still inside and Dire Straits were in the middle of ten weeks at the top of the UK album chart with Brothers In Arms. The Hammers, meanwhile, travelled north after a goal apiece from Franks McAvennie and Stapleton in the original tie at Upton Park ensured a 1-1 draw and a re-match at Old Trafford in front of 30,441. After some early scares, the Hammers took the lead after 18 minutes – Mark Ward’s corner from the right found Geoff Pike on the edge of the box and the midfielder’s firm header sailed over Arthur Albiston on the line and into the net at the Stretford End.

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Five minutes into the second half, Alvin Martin was pushed in the Manchester United penalty area and the Hammers were awarded a penalty in front of their own travelling supporters. With Ray Stewart (pictured above) stepping up, the result was never in doubt – ‘Tonka’ didn’t disappoint, blasting his penalty to the right of Chris Turner. The action from this match can be viewed in the video below.

Three days later, the Hammers would lose their quarter-final tie 2-1 away to Sheffield Wednesday. Liverpool went on to win the FA Cup Final of 1986, beating Everton 3-1 in the Final at Wembley to claim a league and cup double. Tony Cottee was voted Hammer of the Year, with Frank McAvennie runner-up – McAvennie would finish as top scorer with 28 goals from 51 appearances.

Man Utd: Chris Turner, Mike Duxbury, Mark Higgins (Clayton Blackmore), Paul McGrath, Arthur Albiston, Gordon Strachan, Colin Gibson, Norman Whiteside, Jesper Olsen, Mark Hughes, Frank Stapleton.

West Ham United: Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart, Alvin Martin, Tony Gale, George Parris, Mark Ward, Geoff Pike, Alan Dickens, Alan Devonshire, Tony Cottee, Frank McAvennie.

Aside from this fifth round replay win in 1986, West Ham’s remaining FA Cup record against Man Utd is as follows:

1911 – West Ham 2-1 Man Utd (3rd round)
1964 – Man Utd 1-3 West Ham (Semi-Final, Hillsborough)
1983 – Man Utd 2-0 West Ham (3rd round)
1985 – Man Utd 4-2 West Ham (Quarter-Final)
1986 – West Ham 1-1 Man Utd (5th round)
2001 – Man Utd 0-1 West Ham (4th round)
2003 – Man Utd 6-0 West Ham (4th round)
2013 – West Ham 2-2 Man Utd (3rd round)
2013 – Man Utd 1-0 West Ham (3rd round replay)
2016 – Man Utd 1-1 West Ham (Quarter-Final)
2016 – West Ham 1-2 Man Utd (Quarter-Final Replay)

Club Connections

West Ham United manager David Moyes returns to the club he managed for most of the 2013/14 season, while Manchester United coach Michael Carrick welcomes his first professional club to Old Trafford. Jesse Lingard, currently on loan with the Hammers from the Red Devils, is cup-tied. A largely impressive list of players join the trio in having represented both West Ham United and Manchester United over the years. These include:

Goalkeepers: Roy Carroll, Les Sealey.

Defenders: Patrice Evra, Fred Milnes, Jonathan Spector, Rio Ferdinand.

Midfielders: James McCrae, Bill McCartney, Paul Ince, Ralph Milne, Luke Chadwick, Ravel Morrison.

Strikers: Charlie Mackie, Billy Grassam, Stuart Pearson, Javier Hernandez, Ted MacDougall, Teddy Sheringham, David Bellion, Carlos Tevez.

In addition, Frank O’Farrell and Dave Sexton played for the Hammers before going on to manage the Red Devils. Lou Macari played for the Old Trafford club before managing the Irons.

Today’s focus is on an Irish international who signed for Manchester United from West Ham United. Noel Cantwell was born on the 28th February 1932 in Cork and educated at the Roman Catholic Presentation Brothers College. He was an outstanding young sportsman, excelling at rugby, athletics, cricket and football. He joined local Irish League side Cork Athletic at a time when West Ham had significant Irish representation in their ranks – Hammers players Frank O’Farrell and Tommy Moroney often used to turn out for Cork when they returned to Ireland and, on one such visit, played alongside Cantwell in a friendly against Birmingham. At the time, Cantwell was set to embark on an insurance role with the Norwich Union whilst playing amateur rugby but glowing reports from the Hammers’ representatives led to Ted Fenton persuading the teenager to move to east London – West Ham paid Cork £750 for the promising left-back.

Cantwell went into digs with Moroney, who became his mentor, and made his debut at the age of 20 in a 3-2 win at Colchester in the Essex Professional Cup on 13th November 1952. His league debut came in another 3-2 victory, this time at Fulham on 6th April 1953. He became a regular in the side in the 1953/54 campaign, defending with maturity, and soon earned the first of his 36 caps for the Republic of Ireland. He was sent off in a 1-1 draw at Bristol Rovers on 10th December 1955 but scored his first goal for the club the following season in a 3-2 win over Sheffield United at the Boleyn Ground on 9th February 1957. Cantwell also played cricket for Ireland five times between 1956 and 1959.

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The swashbuckling Cantwell replaced Malcolm Allison as club captain in the 1957/58 promotion season, having formed a successful full-back partnership with John Bond. He scored four goals in 38 appearances as he led the Hammers to the Second Division title. These goals were all scored in victories at Upton Park – 2-1 over Derby and 3-2 against Fulham (both in September 1957), 5-2 against Huddersfield two months later and 6-2 over Swansea in January 1958.

Cantwell played his own part in the development of arguably West Ham’s finest son, Bobby Moore. With Allison recovering from tuberculosis and 17-year-old Moore waiting in the wings to replace him, manager Ted Fenton asked Cantwell for a recommendation on who to play against Manchester United on 8th September 1958. Cantwell, despite being a big friend of Allison’s, famously replied, “play the kid”. An attack-minded full-back who also played the occasional game for club and country as a forward, Cantwell scored four goals in 45 matches in his first season as a First Division player, scoring in a 6-3 win over Blackburn on 4th October 1958, a 2-1 win at Aston Villa on 3rd January 1959 and a 5-1 thrashing of Manchester City on 20th April 1959. He also scored in the Final of the Essex Professional Cup as the Irons defeated Leyton Orient by four goals to one on 21st September 1959. The hugely popular Cantwell scored three goals in 1959/60 – all penalties – in a 4-1 home win over Manchester City on 7th November 1959, a 5-2 home defeat to Burnley on 2nd January 1960 and a 5-3 loss at Manchester United on 18th April 1960, his last goal in claret and blue.

The 28-year-old Cantwell played his final match for West Ham in a 4-1 defeat at Everton on 24th September 1960. He had scored twelve goals in 278 appearances during his nine years with the Hammers. He departed east London for Manchester United, the team he had supported as a boy. Reconstructing his Red Devils team following the tragedy of the Munich air crash, Matt Busby spent £29,500 to take Cantwell to Old Trafford – a record fee at the time for a full-back. He made his Manchester United debut in a 3-0 defeat at Cardiff on 26th November 1960 and scored his first goal for the club in a 3-0 FA Cup win over Middlesbrough at Old Trafford on 7th January 1961. He scored a penalty in the next round in a 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday.

Cantwell’s next goal didn’t arrive until April 1962, in a 3-1 win at Burnley. He only had to wait two days for his next goal, scored in a 3-2 home defeat to Arsenal. He only scored once in 1962/63, in a 3-0 home win over Bolton, but captained the side as they beat Leicester 3-1 in the 1963 FA Cup Final at Wembley. Cantwell was so highly regarded by his fellow professionals that he was elected chairman of the PFA in 1963. He made 35 appearances in 1963/64, the most of any of his seasons at the club, but failed to score. He missed a year of football between April 1964 and April 1965 but scored in his comeback match, a 4-2 win at Birmingham on 19th April 1965. He scored twice in 1965/66, both in April – once in a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa and the other, his last for Manchester United, came on familiar territory at Upton Park on 30th April 1966, but a Geoff Hurst double and a ‘Budgie’ Byrne penalty ensured the Hammers won the match 3-2.

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The 34-year-old Cantwell’s last appearance for Manchester United came in a 2-1 win at Southampton on 19th November 1966. He had made 146 appearances for the Red Devils, scoring eight goals. He managed Coventry between 1967 and 1972 before moving to the USA to briefly manage the New England Tea Men. He returned to England to manage Peterborough from 1972 to 1977 before returning to the New England Tea Men. He managed the Jacksonville Tea Men in the early 1980s before ending his management career back at Peterborough in 1988 after two years at the club. He became a publican in Peterborough and also did some scouting for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England set-up. Noel Cantwell died of cancer at the age of 73 on 8th September 2005.

Referee

Tuesday’s referee is 40-year-old Paul Tierney. The Lancashire-based official has refereed the Hammers on nine previous occasions. His most recent Irons appointment was our 3-3 draw at Tottenham in October. Prior to that, he took charge of our 1-1 draw at Manchester United in July, awarding the Hammers a penalty which was converted by Michail Antonio. He also refereed our 2-0 home win against Norwich in August 2019 and our 2-0 defeat at Everton in October 2019. Tierney was also in charge for our 2-0 defeat to Everton in east London in March 2019 and also refereed our 3-0 win at Newcastle in December 2018.

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Tierney’s first West Ham appointment was for the 1-1 draw with Everton in November 2015 which saw James McCarthy’s tackle on Dimitri Payet put the Frenchman out of action for two months. His second Irons game was our 0-0 draw at West Brom in September 2017, when he chose to issue just a yellow card to Ben Foster for his late tackle on Javier Hernandez. He also refereed our goalless draw at Shrewsbury in the third round of the FA Cup in January 2018.

Possible line-ups

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is likely to name a strong side, seeing as the 12-times FA Cup winners are yet to lift a trophy since he took over as manager. Phil Jones, Eric Bailly and Paul Pogba are out injured. Anthony Martial has been involved in nine goals in ten appearances against West Ham in all competitions (six goals, three assists), however he has not found the net in any of his past four games against the Hammers.

David Moyes, who is yet to win as a visiting manager at Old Trafford, has stated that Michail Antonio is suffering from fatigue having only recently returned from injury. Jesse Lingard is cup-tied, Arthur Masuaku is injured and Darren Randolph is a doubt. West Ham have not won any of their past eight away FA Cup games against Premier League opponents (drawing three and losing five) since beating Manchester City 2-1 in March 2006 on the way to reaching the Final.

Possible Manchester United XI: Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles; van de Beek, Fred; Rashford, Fernandes, Martial; Cavani.

Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Coufal, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Johnson; Soucek, Rice; Bowen, Benrahma, Fornals; Yarmolenko.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!


Talking Point

Briefly, on VAR

As Peter Drury articulated excellently on a recent episode of The Athletic’s Football Cliches podcast, the automatic disdain for referees at all levels is a stain on football and the way in which we consume it.

And societally, we have arrived at a place with an exceptionally low level of tolerance for mistakes. Perfection has become an expectation. One that is unrealistic at best and damaging to the notional value of correctness at worst.

Given this, it was amusing that the arguments for the introduction of VAR were so compassionate towards referees. Standardly so maligned, expressly there with the primary intention of ruining every fan’s day, the referees “needed help”. These were human errors. And the implementation of video review technology would depreciate the centrality of their role and impact by helping them to make objectively correct decisions.

Unfortunately, midway through the second season since its introduction, we are again negotiating the kind of hysteria that suggests the technology is brutally murdering the very soul of the game. As though this were something remotely tangible.

And while I could do without the game being gone again for the umpteenth time, I can appreciate the sentiment here. I feel it too.

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VAR has unarguably taken something from the fan experience. Whether it be a severance of the instaneousness of the emotional reactions of a matchday experience, or just a protraction of the space between them and the event… Regardless, it’s a hindrance to the degree to which football fans can submit themselves to the undulating emotional escape of a football match.

We can’t quite switch off into the blissfully ignorant arms of the game as we once could. Questions of validity now pervade the experience and have dismantled what minimal trust we once had.

And if we were achieving some kind of unanimously understood objective correctness or fairness at this cost, then maybe it would be worth it. But football is a game of subjective governance. Why does it work in cricket? Because if the ball hits the leg before the wicket, it’s out. In football we are debating the tightness of a clenched fist prior to a red card.

Layering subjectivity (a first and a second referee’s opinion) has not and will not draw us closer to any objective truths and thus, it has become a farce.


The HamburgHammer Column

Fatigued in Fulham - can Hammers bounce back against the Mancs ?

The Predictor League for Manchester United is open. Enter your team HERE. Deadline is 5.30pm tomorrow.

I really don’t want to dwell too much on the Fulham game as such. It was a bit of an anti-climax all around, wasn’t it ? We can blame Moyes and his brilliant work so far this season for our sense of disappointment. The gaffer has been whetting our collective appetites for more scintillating and winning football in recent weeks. We quickly got used to West Ham finding ways to get all three points, even if we weren’t always at our best. Now we are miffed that our team only managed a draw at Fulham…

We certainly weren’t our usual confident self at Craven Cottage. Most of our players looked worn out and off the pace. Energy levels depleted.
Please recharge batteries ASAP their body language seemed to beg.

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Fulham, it has to be said, were fighting for their lives. They were a tough opponent, running, tackling, busting a gut as if there was no tomorrow.
If they do get relegated it won’t be for lack of effort. They actually looked more likely to score throughout the contest. So I prefer to be content with keeping another clean sheet in difficult conditions rather than being overly critical this Monday morning.

Another away point in the bag. Where I’m from a draw away from home is never to be sniffed at. It was one of those games where the cookie simply didn’t seem to crumble in our favour. West Ham didn’t get the rub of the green on the day. And not just in terms of the actual football…

Our players didn’t perform to their usual high standard and that applies pretty much to the entire team on the day. Application was fine, but there was precious little end product or quality in terms of build up play.
It happens. Maybe some players already had their minds on the upcoming FA Cup game, who knows ?

While we didn’t win, we also didn’t lose. We are bloody hard to beat these days and that’s something to be very pleased with. Mind you, I can’t say the same about Mike Dean and VAR official Lee Mason.

“The Dean&Mason Show“ sounds like an exciting Las Vegas attraction, with white tigers doing pirouettes on stage, women being sawn in half or a group of artists spinning 112 porcelain plates on long wooden sticks, perched on their heads, hands and feet while singing Dead or Alive’s Eighties classic “You spin me round“. Sounds like fun!

Unfortunately Dean and Mason are not doing magic tricks in the Nevada desert. They referee football games in England.

Which is no fun at all. Not anymore.

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The sending-off of Tomas Soucek was very harsh indeed. To put it mildly. It was a travesty really which is the slightly less mild way of putting it.
What I really want to write is: WTF ??? Is this where football is going ?
If it is, I’d rather start following dressage in future, it sounds more appealing and less biased at this point. Not as exciting maybe, but less controversial.

Soucek had never seen a red card in his professional career prior to this, he’s not that kind of player. He doesn’t seem to have a bad bone in his body, judging him on his time at West Ham so far.
He probably didn’t even nick his sister’s favourite toy as a kid to tease her.

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I didn’t see any intent from Soucek to hit out at Mitrovic at all. Mitrovic made the most of it, like unfortunately most players would these days.
It’s professional, it’s instinct, trying to gain an advantage anyway you can, innit ?

Acting like you had just been hit on the Loaf with a giant pipe wrench or cricket bat when in fact it was merely an accidental brush from the opponent’s elbow. Not a pleasant experience to have an elbow in your face, granted, but I’m sure Mitrovic will live to tell the tale…

Any young boy hitting the floor of the local playground in this fashion after similar contact would be laughed right out of the sandpit by his mates – and told not to forget his Hello Kitty shovel and bucket before buggering off home to mum for tea and biscuits.

You could see from Soucek’s instant reaction that he didn’t mean to even touch Mitrovic, he merely wanted to get his arm free, I reckon, to avoid any shenanigans for the impending free kick – but by doing just that somehow contact was initiated and the Fulham striker unsurprisingly made a proper three course meal of it, with salad on the side and a pint of bitter.

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But the referee still had a chance to do the right thing. Dean watched several replays, just like we all did. Apparently only an endless repeat of the split-second when Soucek’s elbow hit Mirovic’s face. Obviously you can’t tell if it was intentional from that split second, you need the two seconds before and after for context…

Still Dean went for glory and yet another moment of look-at-me-I’m-running-this-show fame for his personal collection. How he must have enjoyed it all! I can’t for the life of me understand how you can give a red card after seeing the replays. A yellow card for clumsiness, maybe, fair enough.

But this may now cost us Soucek for several games unless the card gets rescinded as it bloody well should! Apparently we can expect a decision, one way or another, as early as today. Tomorrow at the latest.
Indications are that Mike Dean has been told by his superiors at the PMGOL that he got it wrong, clearing the path for the card getting indeed rescinded and Soucek escaping a ban.

Still, I have been saying all along that the proof in the pudding for West Ham will come once injuries and suspensions to key players start to happen. This could have been one of those situations. We have nobody in the squad who can replace Soucek like for like.

This would require Moyes to think on his feet and find an alternative.
It would likely have to be Noble, Fornals or even Balbuena or Diop.

Whatever the decision might be, it’d have an impact on Rice’s performances as well. The chemistry between Rice and Soucek would be difficult if not impossible to recreate. But it’s a potential dilemma we have brought upon ourselves, we’ve ordered this particular bowl of broth, now we gotta finish it as ordered. We didn’t sign a DM in January and we also didn’t sign a striker.

So what happens if Antonio got injured again, doing his hamstrings ?
“A striker, a striker, my kingdom for a striker!“ as a certain Mr.Shakespeare might have put it…

As much as Moyes might prefer to work with a small squad – this will be his challenge now whenever a player becomes unavailable. You can’t predict that a referee is going to strike with an unfortunate call or when a player might go down with an impact- or fatigue-related injury, but you gotta be prepared for the possibility it can and will likely happen to your team at some point in time.

We took the gamble, we decided to play with fire and we might get our fingers burned as a result. Tough. But not surprising.

Still no penalty for West Ham all season, but now a truly questionable/embarrassing sending-off to our detriment.
This is much more like the old West Ham!
I had almost forgotten what it feels like…

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Talking of feelings – it’s still lockdown here in Germany. And it will be with us Krauts for a while longer, until Easter at least by the looks of it. On top of that the coming days will bring heavy snowstorms and dropping temperatures to my neck of the woods. It’ll be so cold that cats all over Hamburg will be happily retreating into their human tin openers’ fridge just to warm themselves up for a while. The forecast is predicting snow galore and we are still advised to stay at home as much as possible.

Oh, and my brother still hasn’t heard back from his doctor about how and when his next phase of therapy is likely to go ahead. Not the news I wanted to hear. Let’s say I am not looking forward to the next seven days with any kind of joy or excitement.

A healthy dose of joy though arrived on Saturday by way of our dear friend BSB who called me up unexpectedly on the old dog and bone, so we could chat away for 45 minutes, mainly about West Ham of course. It was really lovely to hear my favourite cabby’s voice again – but don’t forget that due to the lockdown situation and no trips to Blighty for me in a while, I haven’t actually been speaking English to anyone for over a year now. (Muttering to myself on matchdays during our games doesn’t count!)
Typing away on a keyboard is one thing, but chewing the fat on the phone is a different matter altogether.

I’m pleased to say though that after an initial phase of struggling for words and phrases, the conversation began to flow along nicely, like West Ham’s attacking play throughout our great January run of games.
I gotta give thanks to BSB for this chinwag.
It may not sound like much, this simple phone call, but sometimes little gestures like this one mean a lot. It certainly gave my mood a proper lift. Cheers for that, me old mucker!

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No rest for the wicked though, another game tomorrow, FA Cup duty away at Old Trafford. A free hit as far as I am concerned. Most people would still expect Man United to win this fairly comfortably. With our league position we really have nothing to lose here and winning the Cup would not only be a bloody nice achievement in itself and give us a beautiful trophy to parade, it may also be a more likely route to European football for West Ham than final league position.

I am reasonably confident. We weren’t really firing on all cylinders against Fulham and somehow I can’t see a Moyes team having two subpar performances in a row.

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I know it’s Manchester United, I know they’re a bloody good team and they are “at home”. Still, the number of games surely is having an impact on their squad too. Pogba might be out for them after leaving their game at the weekend with an injury. And their 3:3 draw against Everton with the visitors scoring a very dramatic late equaliser, might have knocked their confidence a bit as well.

Anything can happen tomorrow and I for one will be watching full of hope and, yes, expectation. Again, that’s what Moyes has done – he has raised our expectation levels in terms of what this team can achieve against all the odds. We will see a strong starting XI (under the circumstances) and surely Michail Antonio, if he starts, is due another goal eventually.
Or two! ;-))

With Lingard out for this one, I would expect Fornals or Lanzini getting the nod. Time to grab your opportunity with both feet, lads! Get us into the quarter-final round so we can be look forward to blowing some more bubbles this season!

With a bit of luck and common sense prevailing, even Soucek might be allowed to play at Old Trafford…

COYI

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Hamburg football update; Pretty good weekend for the two Hamburg outfits. Hamburger SV got a point away at East German team Erzgebirge Aue, sharing the spoils in a wild 3:3 draw (after being 3:1 up at half-time). With their fiercest promotion rival Bochum winning their fixture, the gap has narrowed again with HSV still on top with Bochum right on their heels and only two points behind.

The St.Pauli boys maintained their impressive run of form, beating Sandhausen 2:1. That’s an impressive four wins out of five now, getting them into 14th place with a cushion of four points between them and the relegation playoff place. Nice to see both Hamburg clubs doing reasonably well again!


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