Hi all, I missed the start of the match this week as I was stuck in traffic coming back from a few days away with the family. So, my usual photos of the teams coming out onto the pitch and the crowd around the stadium before the match are missing. The first four shots I took on my phone as I was rushing into the ground. So please accept my apologies. Hope you all still enjoy this weeks photo diary even if the result was very disappointing given how many chances we had to bury the match.
Let me get this out of the way. While I know West Ham told enough Porky’s during the Tevez saga to open a BBQ place, for the life of me I’ve NEVER understood why it mattered. Meaning, the issue of third party ownership. To my way of thinking, a league should have zero input on the contracts between a player and the club. I remember trying to explain it to my friends over here who only followed North American sports, and they looked utterly dumbfounded how this was a problem. So Saints fans, if for some reason you’re reading this, if you even dream of arguing this point with me I suggest you wake up.
A few weeks ago, after the Palace annoyance, I was chatting via text with my friend Rob. He is part of GraftWine, my customer in the UK. More importantly, he is a Sheffield United supporter. He said the stats at that time said we were not a top half club. In fact, certain numbers had us in the bottom half by some margin. I argued our merits, claiming the draw at Bournemouth for example would have been a loss other years.
“So I had sorted the table by xPTS. A measure of how many points you should expect to get in a game giving the xG. Your boys were 5th bottom, but that looks even worse now, following a poor performance today. It’s your expected goals against which is so poor. Only Norwich with a worse figure and that includes Watford’s 8-0 loss to Man City. I thought your boys were solid, but these stats say otherwise”
Based on today’s 90 minutes, I would tend to agree with Rob’s stats.
If Manuel Pellegrini wanted to tell his squad he was more than a little angry over recent performances, the starting eleven was a good start. No Lanzini, no Fredericks, no Ogbonna. And in the opening moments, Snodgrass looked a decent choice when he won a couple of corners and sent a decent ball in for Yarmolenko. But Noble gave the ball away, as did Anderson, so maybe three changes wasn’t enough.
West Ham looked decent in the opening ten minutes, but for all of their possession the home side created no chances. More worrying was the lack of space in the midfield and our inability to move the ball through it effectively. Both sides gave the impression they wanted a flowing game of football, but in the driving rain the game was yet to begin, so to speak.
West Ham won a fortuitous corner in the 21st minute after another Noble giveaway, but he won the ball back with a tough tackle. Anderson and Yarmolenko got in each other’s way, but somehow got the set piece. Sheffield United cleared, but The Hammers came back down and won another corner when Yarmolenko challenged the visitors back four. Moments later Anderson tried a strike from twenty yards out, and if it had gone in it would have been a wonder strike. Instead it sailed over the bar. A few minutes later Yarmolenko won yet another corner, but the 22 year old Henderson commanded his area well with a punch worthy of Ernie Shavers.
Sheffield won their first corner in the 28th minute after Noble was careless with the ball, and it required a very fine save from Roberto. The delivery went to Basham, who headed it to McGoldrick right in front of goal. He should have buried it, but Roberto got down with his right hand and made the save. Anderson eventually got the ball out of danger, but the visitors may look back at that chance with regret.
With ten minutes left in the half, the stats said we had 71% of the ball.
OK. If they said so.
In the 41st minute, Sheffield had another decent chance after Balbuena apparently thought Wilder had resigned his position as Blades manager and joined West Ham. After the resulting throw, the ball was rolled to Lundstram breaking in the box but his low shot went wide. Seconds later Lundstram swung a pass into the box towards Robinson. Roberto literally got the tip of one finger on the ball, which changed the trajectory just enough to send Robinson’s header wide.
Despite the possession advantage, one would have to say it was Sheffield United that deserved to go into the break with the lead. But when a long ball went off the head of Basham to Yarmolenko, the cagey Ukrainian (dangerous words over here at the moment I must add) one timed it to Snodgrass in the middle. The veteran Scot took full advantage of the opportunity and slid the shot past Henderson.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Sheffield continued to get behind the West Ham fullbacks but good defending by Zabaleta came to the rescue. Then Roberto became the helper when he got hold of a cross from McGoldrick before it could reach its target. But it was the visitors that looked for the equalizer more than West Ham looked for a second.
West Ham broke well on the counter in the 52nd minute when Anderson got on the end of a long pass and broke in on the Sheffield United penalty area. But he waited a bit too long to pass to Haller, and by the time the ball found the West Ham striker the defense had re-organized. Haller passed to Yarmolenko in the box, but Egan put his body on the line and made the block. Down at the other end, Fleck had an open look at the West Ham goal but his shot was partially blocked by Roberto and Cresswell’s…..uhhhh…..yeah.
West Ham should have scored a second in the 57th minute when Anderson was sent in behind the Sheffield defense by Yarmolenko and had nobody to beat but Henderson. Yet Anderson could not break his goal drought and sent his shot right into the visiting keeper.
Sheffield United wasted another chance in the 62nd minute when McGoldrick slid a pass to Baldock on the right side of the West Ham eighteen yard box. He had space. He had time. But he hadn’t scored a goal in over a year, and he gave a hint as to why that might be when he sliced his shot wide.
The equalizer that Sheffield deserved finally came in the 69th minute. The play started on the right as it had all day, with a cross from Baldock. Stevens got on the end of it, and headed it to Mousset on the left. Roberto did not position himself well, was very slow to react, and he paid the price when the bouncing shot bounced by him and into the net.
West Ham came back down and came close to regaining the lead in the 73rd when Yarmolenko sent a beautifully weighted cross to Cresswell in the box. But when a one timer would have been the correct decision, Cresswell took a second touch and Henderson had the time needed to get in front of the shot. In the 80th minute West Ham had another chance when Fornals sent a low cross from the right. Yarmolenko couldn’t quite reach it, but the ball rolled through the goalmouth where Snodgrass raced to meet it but couldn’t quite reach the finish line.
Snodgrass made his final contribution to the match in the 86th minute when he won a corner, but was replaced by Ajeti before the set piece was taken. Sheffield took care of business, and the final minutes rolled on.
In the final minute of added time, the Blades won a couple of corners. On the second, they made a strange decision when they kept the ball and tried to run time off the clock. With their good attacking play on the day, one had to wonder why they didn’t go for goal.
In the final moments, Haller won a free kick from Steven 35 yards out. The delivery ended up with Fornals, who took a bit too much time and then looked for a handball gift that wasn’t to be.
West Ham 1
Sheffield United 1
I don’t want to sound too many alarm bells….OK, maybe I do….but a point at home against a newly promoted team that had more significant chances than us is a problem. Our seemingly good start was clearly not that good. And to think there will be January help is pure folly. The truth is that despite the money spent, we are in all likelihood looking at a typical season with more disappointments than joy.
This weekend West Ham welcome Sheffield United to the London Stadium. After two successive defeats we will be hoping that we will see a return to the form that had us threatening to break into the top four a couple of games ago. Ahead of the game I spoke to Sam Parry of the Sheffield United Blog Dem Blades to discuss the season past, present and future. Hi Sam, before we start, let’s recognise the elephant in the room: you’re not going to have a go at me for the almost forgotten act of West Ham failing to dot a couple of i’s and cross a few t’s in the signing of Carlos Tevez in the season you were relegated, are you?
It might be better that I plead the fifth on that one. Not to stop myself from having a go at you, but because the whole of that period – crappy as it was that the FA dealt with the matter with all the backbone of [insert invertebrate here] – was an era I’d rather not dwell on. Let’s focus on the here and now. Good answer! Now that’s been dealt with, at what stage last season were you confident that you would be promoted?
Honestly, it was January. At least, January was the month where I turned my back on any superstition and confided in my partner in crime at Dem Blades (also called Sam) that ‘I have a feeling’. West Ham have recent enough experience of life outside the top-flight to know what that feeling is like. You just know. It was heart confidence over head confidence.
What’s the biggest difference that you’ve noticed in the Premier League in the years you’ve been away?
I wouldn’t have been asked ten years ago to write for a West Ham publication. Then again, I hadn’t finished my A-levels either. There’s a serious point in there somewhere; the internet’s gone flippin mad in the time we’ve been away. The predominance of online, colourless, hyperwaffle, packaged into tidy SEO bundles, is astonishing.
(If you were hoping for an answer about the football in there, here goes: it’s just as competitive, the players are slightly quicker and they tend to have more facial hair.) You’ve certainly been through a few managers since that relegation 12 years or so ago. Tell us a bit about Chris Wilder, and how he compares to the others.
He doesn’t compare with the others, they contrast with him. I guess one thing that is worth pointing out to opposition fans is that he is nothing like Neil Warnock. One: he is a proper fan. Two: he is a proper modern manager. Three: he only knows success. You’ve had a couple of excellent results, as well as a couple of disappointments. What have been the highlights and lowlights if the season so far?
I can’t really count many lowlights. We played better than Southampton and lost 0-1. We had a great second half against Leicester and lost 1-2. We were brilliant against Liverpool and Dean Henderson, our keeper on loan from Man United, dropped a clanger. All disappointing but not lowlights, it’s been a great season. The highlight for me, even though it seems like ages ago now, was our first game of the season where Billy Sharp scored his first top flight goal. From what you’ve seen so far do you think Sheffield United are equipped to stay in the Premier League? In what position do you think you will finish the season? YES. 15th.
Which players are going to have to be at their best if you are to have a successful season?
The whole of the back five are crucial really. Enda Stevens – our player of the season to date (closely run by Oliver Norwood) – is a very important cog in the wheel at left wing-back. Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham, our wide centre backs, spend a lot of time overlapping and getting themselves close to the opposition’s box, so they do a lot more running than your average player. They’re crucial to our system. Are there any areas of your team that you still think need improving come January?
It’s hard to tell. We’ve had a lot of players since league one and the same again from last year in the championship. I’d like to see us sign some younger players, but that might be risky. If we aren’t firing on all cylinders then we’ll have to sign another stirker. Which West Ham players, if any would you like to see pulling on the red and white shirt of Sheffield United and why?
Can I be frank? I don’t really pay attention to any other teams. I’m a cultural Blades more than I am PL fan. From the bits I’ve seen on MOTD, I like the look of Haller a lot. Who at this early stage of the season are your picks for the top four places, in order?
From top to fourth: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Leicester.
Who are your favourites for relegation?
18th to Bottom: Norwich, Newcastle, Watford
How will Sheffield United line up against West Ham on Saturday? Team/formation
It’ll be 3-5-2. The same back three as forever. Norwood, Fleck, Lundstram in the middle. I think Wilder will stick with the same two up top, David McGoldrick and Lys Mousset.
After beating Arsenal last week, are you confident you can follow that up with a victory on the road? Prediction for score?
I am actually, yes. At least, I wouldn’t take the draw if you offered it. If we score first, I can’t see us losing. That’s no slight on West Ham, but I’ve watched our back five make proven top-flight goalscorers Aubameyang, Mane, Salah, Firminho, Callum Wilson appear anonymous. I don’t see why that changes this weekend, but you never know. Anyway, I look forward to the game. I will be there, you might notice me, I will be the bloke tutting if a pyro goes off.
Ha ha! Well many thanks to Sam for his time and comments. You can understand his confidence, it reminds me of how I was feeling 3 weeks ago. But I think West Ham will be fitting on all cylinders for this game, and a 3 – 0 victory will return us to the top half of the table, and will make my return flight from a weeks sunshine in Croatia a more enjoyable one. COYI
19th February 1966: Nancy Sinatra was number one with ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’, George Segal and Tom Courtenay were in UK cinemas in King Rat and supermodel Cindy Crawford was born the following day. Meanwhile, West Ham United took on Sheffield United at Upton Park – the Hammers had just been knocked out of the FA Cup having lost 4-1 in a fourth round replay at Blackburn three days earlier, but had a two-legged League Cup Final against West Brom to look forward to and were also set to face East German side Magdeburg in the quarter-finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
The Blades arrived in east London competing at the top end of the First Division table but having just been knocked out of the FA Cup themselves by Wolves. Goalkeeper Alan Hodgkinson was an England international who had been part of the Three Lions squad for the 1958 and 1962 World Cups; 37-year-old club legend Joe Shaw was playing his 632nd and final game for the visitors; brothers Barry and Tony Wagstaff teamed up in midfield; future Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Leicester man Alan Birchenall was also in the starting line-up, as was Welsh international winger Gil Reece; Alan Woodward, who would go on to be Sheffield United’s leading post-war goalscorer, started on the right flank; and future Leeds striker Mick Jones, already capped by England, was up front.
West Ham had Ronnie Boyce back in midfield, starting his first league game in five months after injury. It took the Hammers only eight minutes to take the lead, and the opening goal came in bizarre fashion. Under no pressure from an opponent, Blades defender Reg Matthewson placed his backpass too wide of Hodgkinson in the visitors’ goal and the ball trickled into the net. Matthewson went on to play for Fulham and Chester – he passed away in August 2016 at the age of 77.
The Irons doubled their lead when skipper Bobby Moore sent an exquisite outside-of-the-boot pass down the left channel for Peter Brabrook (pictured above) to advance into the visitors’ penalty area and lift his shot beyond Hodgkinson and into the net. It was three for the Hammers before half-time when Martin Peters played in Johnny Sissons who provided a square pass for Geoff Hurst to convert. Hurst would be the club’s top goalscorer in 1965/66, scoring 40 goals in 59 matches.
West Ham made it 4-0 in the second half when Peters intercepted a Birchenall pass in midfield, played a one-two with Hurst and hit a rising left-footed effort from distance into the top corner. Hurst made his England debut four days later, with Peters winning his first cap in early May 1966. Hurst was voted Hammer of the Year at the end of the 1965/66 season, with Peters runner-up. Both would go on to have the summer of their lives as they both played key roles in England’s World Cup triumph. Peters would later play for and manage the Blades. The goals from this match can be viewed in my video below.
Ron Greenwood’s Hammers went on to finish in 12th place in the 1965/66 Division One season while John Harris’ Sheffield United ended up in ninth. Liverpool won the league title and Everton won the FA Cup.
West Ham United: Jim Standen, Dennis Burnett, Bobby Moore, Ken Brown, Jack Burkett, Peter Brabrook, Martin Peters, Ron Boyce, John Sissons, Geoff Hurst, Johnny Byrne.
Sheffield United: Alan Hodgkinson, Len Badger, Reg Matthewson, Joe Shaw, Ken Mallender, Alan Woodward, Barry Wagstaff, Tony Wagstaff, Gil Reece, Alan Birchenall, Mick Jones.
West Ham United and Sheffield United have shared a number of personnel over the years. Ravel Morrison could face his former club, while a run-through of others who have represented both clubs includes:
Goalkeepers: Ted Hufton, Tom McAlister, Bill Biggar, Richard Wright and Mervyn Day.
Defenders: Jon Harley, Matthew Kilgallon, David Unsworth, Jimmy Holmes, Wayne Quinn, Simon Webster and Fred Milnes.
Midfielders: Kyel Reid, George Ratcliffe, Joe Cockroft, Herbert Winterhalder, Lou Raisbeck, Don Hutchison and Jim Simmons.
Strikers: Billy Barnes, Henri Camara, David Kelly, Brian Deane, Peter Kyle, Dick Leafe and Kenny McKay.
Martin Peters played for West Ham and Sheffield United; he also managed the Blades.
This week’s focus though is on a player who had a relatively short stint at Upton Park. Franz Carr was born in Preston on 24th September 1966 – he was a winger who could run the 100m in 10.02 seconds but who his ex-Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough described as “the best bloody corner-flag hitter in the country”. He won the League Cup with Forest in 1989 and 1990 but the writing was on the wall when he was locked in a City Ground boiler room by Clough after a dismal performance against Oldham. He had a 12-game loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday before joining the Second Division Hammers in another loan deal in March 1991 after injury had sidelined Trevor Morley.
Despite the Hammers enjoying a successful season which would end in promotion for Billy Bonds’ side, the 24-year-old Carr did not taste victory in any of his three matches as a West Ham player. His debut would represent his only start, in a 2-1 defeat at Oxford on 13th March 1991; he made a substitute appearance in a 3-1 home loss to Sheffield Wednesday three days later before his third and final appearance for the club, also from the bench, in a 0-0 draw at Hull on 23rd March 1991. He would return to his parent club who would go on to beat the Hammers in the FA Cup semi-final the following month.
Carr, who also scored one goal in nine matches for England Under-21s, left the City Ground in the summer of 1991 to sign for Ossie Ardiles’ Newcastle for a fee of £250,000. Three games into the 1992/93 First Division season, the Magpies led West Ham by two goals to nil at St James’ Park (the second coming from fellow former Hammer and Blade David Kelly) when Julian Dicks was given his first red card of three in 1992/93. Julian takes up the story about what he describes as his only regret in football:
“I remember playing at Newcastle one day and little Franz Carr was giving me the runaround. He could give me seven yards start and still beat me over ten. In the end I remember him coming towards me and I just decided to elbow him in the face. I remember it so clearly, I just had to do it. It was so premeditated and right in front of the Newcastle fans. I didn’t bother waiting for the red card, I just walked off!”
Kevin Keegan’s signing of future Hammer Rob Lee from Charlton would spell the beginning of the end for Carr on Tyneside, having scored three goals in 25 games. He departed for Premier League side Sheffield United in January 1993 and made his debut for the Blades in a 3-0 win over John Lyall’s Ipswich at Bramall Lane on 16th January 1993. He scored his first goal for the club in a 2-1 defeat to eventual champions Manchester United at Old Trafford on 6th February 1993 and followed that up with another strike in a 2-0 home win over Middlesbrough three days later. Carr scored his third goal for the Blades in a 6-0 win over Tottenham on 2nd March. He is pictured above playing at Wembley in the all-Sheffield FA Cup semi-final on 3rd April 1993, an encounter won 2-1 by Sheffield Wednesday after extra-time.
Carr scored one goal for the Blades in the 1993/94 season, in a 3-2 defeat at Ipswich on 26th February 1994. His last game for the club was a 2-1 home defeat to Aston Villa on 16th April 1994 – the Blades were relegated at the end of the campaign. After four goals in 22 appearances for Sheffield United, Carr moved to Leicester later in 1994 before going on to play for Aston Villa, Reggiana, Bolton, West Brom and Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Now 53, Carr now works in sports management.
The referee on Saturday will be David Coote. The Nottingham-based official will take charge of a West Ham game for only the third time – his only other Hammers appointments were for our 2-0 defeat at Burnley last December and, more recently, our 3-0 loss at Wolves in January.
Coote has refereed three Premier League matches so far this season – he has issued nine yellow cards, one red and awarded no penalties.
For West Ham United, Aaron Cresswell is available but Lukasz Fabianski, Winston Reid and Michail Antonio are all out. The Hammers have won just one of their last seven home meetings with Sheffield United in all competitions. The Irons haven’t lost consecutive league games at London Stadium since September 2018 but have also won none of their last nine Premier League games in October, since winning 1-0 against Sunderland in October 2016.
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has a fully fit squad to select from. Right wing-back George Baldock is the younger brother of former Hammers striker Sam Baldock. Ex-Hammer Ravel Morrison is unlikely to start against his former club but could feature from the bench. The Blades are unbeaten away from home this season, winning one and drawing three of their matches away from Bramall Lane – the last newly-promoted team to avoid defeat in their first five away games was Hull back in 2008/09. However, Sheffield United are winless in their last 16 top-flight games in London, drawing five and losing 11 since a 2-1 win at Chelsea in October 1992.
Possible West Ham United XI: Roberto; Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Masuaku; Rice; Yarmolenko, Noble, Lanzini, Anderson; Haller.
Possible Sheffield United XI: Henderson; O’Connell, Basham, Egan; Baldock, Fleck, Lundstram, Norwood, Stevens; Mousset, McGoldrick.