Talking Point

West Ham Seeks Pot of Gold, but No Rainbow in North Carolina

Guest Post by Darren Styles

Springsteen boycotts, Obama sues, but the Premier League’s West Ham United follow the money? to North Carolina anyway… Darren Styles, Winq Publishing Editor, a life-long fan, isn’t impressed.

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. So goes the adage. Another suggests all that glitters is not gold. As Premier League West Ham United? may shortly find out – having agreed to play a pre-season friendly football (soccer) match in North Carolina on 12th July.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to grow our brand in a developing market,” the club coos. “There’s such a strong grass roots game in North Carolina, and it’s a place where – off the back of a great season – we can come and enjoy absolutely first-rate facilities and quality opponents in the Carolina RailHawks.”

The speaker, in a live radio interview with a North Carolina radio station, is West Ham United’s Commercial Director, Felicity Barnard. You can hear her enthusiasm for the opening of a new market, you can imagine the projections for a replica kit sales uplift, you can take for granted the glee of the new residents of the Olympic Stadium ?at their foresight of adding the word ‘London’ to the club badge ahead of the move to Stratford. North Carolina residents having heard of London. Probably.

As someone who first visited West Ham’s just-defunct Boleyn Ground in 1973, and who has been – variously – a season-ticket holder and/or box holder since, I know exactly where Green Street, E13, is. But then I’m not the target audience in North Carolina. Or, for that matter, in North Korea. Where, Felicity failed to mention, even they haven’t just imposed draconian and discriminatory anti-LGBT laws. Because, for all the world’s wrestling with a problem like North Korea, it’s in North Carolina that LGBT life has recently moved significantly backwards.

Oh Carolina.?

It’s not gone well. As a result of what North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has done to remove protections from, and legislate against, LGBT rights, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Demi Lovato and the Cirque de Soleil have all cancelled major events in the State, and the National Basketball Association (the NBA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have said they’ll not sanction a single sporting contest there until the law is reversed. Apple, PayPal, Deutsche Bank and the Bank of America are boycotting too.

And now the President is coming for North Carolina. It seems passing a law that deliberately invalidates several anti-discrimination measures designed to protect gay and transgender people hasn’t played well in the Oval Office. The law suit from the capital vs North Carolina is in.

“What this law does is inflict further indignity on a population that has suffered far more than its fair share,” says Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “But we see you, we stand with you, and we will do everything we can to protect you. [This piece of] State legislation puts North Carolina in direct conflict with federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity, and state-sanctioned discrimination never works and never looks good in hindsight.”

Oh Carolina. You should have invited Millwall, not West Ham. They are the team that sings “nobody likes us, and we don’t care.” A much better fit.


Talking Point

Excitement, Expectation And A Lot Of Work To Be Done

I almost felt like I had to go to confession on Saturday evening. I never thought I would be in the position of cheering on Manchester United and it still feels slightly wrong to admit that I let out a cheer once Jesse Lingard popped up with that extra-time winner. I’ve previously expressed the opinion that I believe we had a successful campaign this year and 7th position in the Premier League was a credible achievement, not least because of the football that we saw over the 38-game season. It felt like one thing was missing, the players and coaching staff had worked so hard and deserved Europa League (if not Champions League) qualification for their efforts. Although our final position in the table didn’t confirm the prospect of European football in our first season at the Olympic Stadium, a Manchester United victory on Saturday did. Entering the tournament at the third-round qualification stage may not be ideal but we’re there nonetheless and it makes a huge difference to next season. Now that we know the extent of our commitments, the club can properly plan ahead for what is certainly an exciting period for West Ham United. But what needs to be done to give us the best possible chance of competing in all four of the competitions we find ourselves in?

First things first, I’m not going to delve into the politics of fixture arrangements and what will be the official ‘curtain-raiser’ for our new stadium in Stratford. That subject has already been touched upon on this site and although, like everyone else, I have my own opinion on the matter, I’d rather focus on what matters most. The football. The chairmen didn’t hang about in getting their face in the press after Palace failed to capitalise on taking a 1-0 lead in the FA Cup final. ‘Optimism’ and ‘expectation’ seemed to be the buzz words dished out to them by the PR team as they both made bold claims about providing additional funds to help strengthen the squad and ensure we have both the quality and quantity of players needed to cope with the demands that European football brings.

Unlike some, I have confidence in our board to help the club progress. That’s not to say they go about things in completely the right way. Yes, they could take a different approach to achieve the same goals but they’d still be towards the top of my list for preferable owners given a selection from every other Premier League club. I’d like to think there is substance to some of the claims that have been made recently. A marquee signing is definitely needed and there’s been so much talk about it, I can’t imagine we’d see the usual tricks of pursuing big name players, only to end up with a cheap alternative. Although the majority of premature transfer talk has been about an incoming striker, there’s several areas of the squad that need strengthening. An out-and-out goalscorer is one, with an experienced right-back, a proven centre-back and an understudy left-back just the start. I’d also like to see a wide player for either side of midfield join as well as another forward option and versatile central midfielder to guard against injury, suspension and the guaranteed fatigue that will come about from constant midweek fixtures.

We haven’t even made it to the start of the transfer window yet and everyone seems rather fed-up with the rumours flying about already. I must admit, I quite enjoy all the theories doing the rounds and the various ‘inside sources’ providing their contradictory reports. We can all play manager, scout and chairman but regardless of who is most popular in a forum or who we’ve signed and been impressed with on a computer game, the decision makers we’ve got at the club have the final say and seem to be doing alright in that department. One of the highlights of this season for me was the success of our recruitment. Payet is the obvious one, but Lanzini looks sure to go on to big things, Antonio has proven to be a real gem and Ogbonna was one of our best players towards the end of the season. I have confidence that Sam Byram will fulfil his potential and even though he was given little opportunity, Pedro Obiang showed real quality when he was on the pitch. I have faith that whoever ends up signing in this window, Bilic will make sure that they are right for our team, our style and our desire to grow as a club.

One thing I feel is imperative is that we get business done early. It’s certainly an approach Bilic has confirmed he would like to implement but with Euro 2016 kicking off in a matter of weeks, it might be easier said than done. Havard Nordveit is a done deal and a great way to get the ball rolling, especially on a free. I’m not too sure what constitutes a transfer ‘war chest’ but my understanding from those ever-creative tabloid journalists is that it must be around the £150m mark. Unfortunately, our rumoured £50m is more of a transfer kitty, but it’s one that can still make a huge difference if spent well. It may well be that sizeable offers from China for the likes of Enner Valencia and the now confirmed Europa League qualification could boost that figure even further. It’s easy to get carried away in a market of overinflated prices but everyone is in the same boat and I have faith that those who contribute towards our transfer recruitment won’t be caught out.

I know you’re all expecting my suggestions or preference for potential signings. I debated not including them but I know that deep down, you all want to read the names everyone else has been mentioning. Lacazette seems unlikely but would be a great addition, failing that, I’d take Mauro Icardi as our ‘marquee signing’. Mathieu Debuchy offers experience and value to rotate the right-back position with Sam Byram while Marc Batra would be an investment worth making at £10m (due to limited appearances at Barcelona, a clause can be triggered in his contract). Celtic’s Kieran Tierney has developed rapidly this season and the 18-year-old would be a useful option at left-back after Aaron Cresswell. I believe Gokhan Tore will be one of the first signings we make and one I’m certainly looking forward to. I know I’m already around the £55m mark but if we could stretch to Callum Wilson, as well a loan deal for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (cheeky, I know), I’d be more than pleased with our business. Yes, slightly unrealistic but it’s not a million miles away from what we should be aiming for.

Whilst signing new players is of great importance, keeping hold of existing ones is also essential. I’m sad to read about (although it may only be rumours) the club ‘listening to offers’ for James Tomkins and Pedro Obiang. Granted, they may not be starting XI players but they definitely posses the kind of quality we should keep hold of and have ready for when those who have performed slightly better than them need a rest or are forced into a spell on the sidelines. It may well be that the aforementioned players want regular game time and you can’t begrudge them of that, but I’d like to think the club is sensible enough to keep hold of them for next season if they can. Another player who falls into that category is Reece Oxford. He’s certainly a player of great promise and indeed confidence in his own ability if media reports are to be trusted. In the games I’ve watched for the development squad, the 17-year-old looks a cut above the rest. Who can blame him for wanting the chance to cement a position in the team, I firmly believe that if he was given the chance, he’d rise to the occasion.

Aside from buying and keeping players, we need to use the right ones we’ve already got in the various competitions we will be playing in. This season offers a great chance to develop the youth prospects we have at the club and enable them to show what they can do. Loans for Martin Samuelsen and Reece Burke proved just what talented players they are and although another loan spell at a Championship club might be a good idea, I feel they should stay with the squad in the earlier part of the season and be given a chance in the cup competitions.

Finally, while the club has a great deal of planning and work to do before next season begins, we to, as fans, can play our part. Expectation can be dangerous and so often has a negative impact on players and their performances. Whilst it’s easy to get carried away after one great season, we need to keep our feet on the ground and be realistic. We might be the only team moving to a wonderful new stadium this year but everyone around us has the same ambition and the same, if not more, amount of money. Certain teams may have had a poor season this year and although we’d want to improve on a 7th place finish, I’m sure the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool will have something to say about that. In an ideal world, I’d like a nice run in each of the cups (obviously a trophy would be great but I’d take a semi-final), 6th-8th is my realistic expectation and one I’d be happy with if it came into fruition.

COYI!


Talking Point

Is It Right to Sell Off the West Ham Silver?

Guest Post by Nigel Kahn

As a kid coming to games I spent a lot of time standing in front of the old West Stand on the concourse. I can still picture it now, the sliding doors at the bottom of the exit stairs and the turnstiles to the left of those doors, to the right was a small ticket collection box or Dick’s office as I knew it. Dick was the man that handed out the complimentary tickets and the press entrance passes, I know this as I used to sit in there waiting for my Uncle to collect me to take me to the game. It was handy for me as well as Dick would call me over to get my programme signed by players dropping off family tickets or those collecting not in that day’s team.

Why am I recalling this, I hear you ask? Ok I don’t, but I will tell you anyway. On the wall outside Dick’s office was screwed a train plaque taken from the steam train named West Ham United built in 1937. It worked the railway yards around the East End of London out into East Anglia before being scrapped in 1960 in Stratford railway depot just a stone’s throw away from the Olympic Stadium. According to Steve Marsh’s great website “They fly so High” the plaque remained on the West Stand wall until its demolition when it was removed, re-stored back to the engine’s green colour scheme and then hung in the board-room of the new West Stand where it stayed until at some point being put into storage until now. It is included in the auction the club are holding to sell off Boleyn ground artefacts no longer required as the club moves.

So for a starting price of £5,000 a piece of West Ham social history is available to buy. Is it right that the plaque be sold and do the current owners really have the right to sell it, along with other items that form part of our heritage?

In buying the club in 2010 the two Daves inherited a lot of memorabilia that after the demise of the club’s own museum was put into a storage unit, where, I believe it sits today until its sold. But in buying the club did they buy the right to sell off some of these items? They may own the club but the club’s history should not bought and sold as a commodity. In buying the club they become the guardians of that history, tasked with keeping it alive and commemorating it in the right way, not selling it to the highest bidder.

I understand they cant take everything from the Boleyn ground with them and see the sense in selling the signs from around the ground as well as pictures and programme stalls, turnstiles goal posts etc etc but also in this auction are included the 3 remaining Lyall gates from the front of the concourse, presents given to the club by opposition teams to commemorate games played and also trophies the club have won from Junior level upwards. Even the Bobby Moore trophy, first played for in the memorial game and then awarded to the Young Hammer player of the year up until 2009 has been listed to be sold off.

So fellow Hammers fans, I ask this question. Is it right the club sell these items, or should they be kept as a collection until such time a suitable area is found to display them? That may be once our current owners have left, but no one can predict the future. Once all the items are sold they will never be able to be seen together again. David Gold saw fit to buy the original F.A Cup trophy that he proudly displays in his open house days so why would he treat West Ham’s history this way?

If these items are to be removed from the sale and saved, time is of the essence. If enough fans can come together to point out the clubs error of its way you never know what could happen.

On a lighter note, on Friday 1st of July I am organising a Charity Golf day on behalf of the National Autistic Society in Thurrock to raise funds for the great work they do. It is a charity that is close to my heart as my 13 year old Son is on the spectrum and my wife puts in hours after hours of voluntary time to help run the Thurrock branch. Only recently they have just enabled 10 local kids have four golf lessons with the Belhus Woods golf pro Shaun Westfall, which they all loved.

The branch has to self fund to enable them to continue to offer support, not just to the children but also to the parents as well. They do this through support groups, parent workshops, Lego group plus much more.

Feel free to check out their Website They will welcome any offers of support, donations or fund raising.

For just £25 at the golf day you will be fed on arrival, bacon roll and refreshments, then in groups of 4 play the 18 hole course at Belhus Park during which there will be additional competitions such as, Longest Drive, nearest the Pin on par 3 hole and possible even more. Once back in the bar a hot lunch will be served before finishing with prize giving and Raffle, so any raffle donations will be welcome.

There was talk by BSB of having a WHTID golf day, well it could be combined with this day and if enough users of this site sign up I will even arrange a WHTID golf trophy to be presented on the day for the best golfer off this site.

Feel free to contact me to book your place on the day.


Parish Notice

This Site Over the Summer

Hi all,

Some of our regular writers are taking a bit of a break over the summer, but obviously I’d like to keep to posting at least two articles a day. Last year we did this by taking one off guest articles from you all. It seemed to work quite well, so I thought we’d try again this year. You can submit them by using the Contact link at the top of the page. Please do proof read your article for spellings and grammatical mistakes before you send it, or get someone else to.

Russell and I are also thinking of making some changes to the design of the site and bringing in some new features. If you’d like to suggest any changes or improvements, please use the comments section in this thread.

All the best,

Iain


Player Analysis

West Ham's Goalkeeping Conundrum - The Future of Darren Randolph

Last summer West Ham pulled off a bit of transfer coup, signing Birmingham City keeper Darren Randolph on a free transfer. I suspect that few of us were too familiar with him and wondered how good he would be. Despite a couple of slightly dodgy performances in the Europa League qualifiers, he proved himself by stepping in for Adrian after he was sent off at the beginning of the season. He played in all our League and FA Cup ties, and also came back in the first team at the end of the season. All in all he has played 15 games, six of them in the Premier League.

He’s now off the Euros to play for the Republic of Ireland and is likely to be their first choice keeper. He’s 29 and will surely now be looking for first team football. I imagine we could get at least £2 million for him. Robert Green, just released by QPR, might be a very good replacement. What do you think?

This graphic shows how all of the Premier League goalkeepers have performed this season. It’s been compiled by Barrie Smith using data from Opta Stats. Here are some of the more interesting stats…

  • Adrian conceded a goal every 74 minutes. Randolph every 45 mins (in the Premier League)
  • Adrian had 9 clean sheets in 32 games, Randolph 2 in 6.
  • Adrian makes 2.5 saves per goal conceded. Randolph 1.1.

If you compare Adrian’s stats to the other main Premier League goalkeepers he compares reasonably well. On saves per goal conceded he scores identically to David de Gea. However, on goals conceded per minute he’s only in tenth place. On clean sheets he’s in ninth. On most saves made he’s in fifth. On save per centage he’s in eighth.

I doubt whether anyone would consider selling Adrian, even if he still gives me the collywobbles at times. His shot stopping and penalty saving abilities are beyond criticism, but sometimes he fails to do the simple things. No goalkeeper is faultless and I think we all love Adrian’s commitment and bond with the fans.

As for Darren Randolph, my feeling is that up until the last three games of the season some of us might have considered him to be a rival for the Number 1 shirt. I’m not sure he could really be faulted for any of the Swansea goals, but the same could not be said for the Stoke game. I’d be happy to keep him at Upton Park as the Number 2 goalkeeper, but I suspect if he has any ambition he won’t settle for that for a second season running. And I couldn’t blame him.


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