Dan Coker's Match Preview

Crossed Hammers & Three Lions: Martin Peters

Welcome to the eighth in a series of articles designed for international matches – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England.

Today, as England prepare to face Panama in their second match of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, we look back at another true legend of West Ham United Football Club – Martin Peters. Born in Plaistow on 8th November 1943, Peters came through the ranks at his local club to sign as an apprentice under manager Ted Fenton in 1959. He made his first team debut on Good Friday, 20th April 1962 in a 4-1 home victory against Cardiff and played five games in the final weeks of the season as the Hammers finished eighth. He scored his first goal on 8th September of that year in a 6-1 win at Manchester City.

Peters’ versatility was such that he played in every position for the Hammers – including in goal in just his third game for the club when replacing the injured Brian Rhodes in a 3-0 defeat at Cardiff. Peters made 39 appearances (scoring nine goals) in 1962/63 and 36 (scoring three) in 1963/64, but would not be involved as the Hammers won the 1964 FA Cup. West Ham finished 12th and 14th in 1963 and 1964 respectively. He would not miss out on another Wembley triumph twelve months later though, as the Hammers defeated 1860 Munich by two goals to nil to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965. Peters was also voted as the Hammer of the Year at the end of this season, having scored six goals in 47 appearances as the Irons finished ninth.

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A further Final followed in 1966 when the Irons reached the League Cup Final, in those days played over two legs. Peters scored in the second game, but West Brom triumphed 5-3 on aggregate. West Ham finished 12th with Peters scoring 17 goals in 60 matches in 1965/66; he was runner-up to Sir Geoff Hurst in the 1966 Hammer of the Year voting; the pair, along with captain Bobby Moore, bounced back from the League Cup disappointment to lead England to World Cup glory.

Peters made his debut for England at the age of 22 in a 2-0 win over Yugoslavia at Wembley on 4th May 1966, two months before the start of the World Cup. He scored on his second England match, in a 3-0 win against Finland in Helsinki the following month. He was named in the squad for the Finals but missed out on playing in the opening game against Uruguay. He started the next match, a 2-0 win against Mexico, and kept his place for the rest of the tournament. Replicating a move tried and tested in east London, Peters provided the cross for Hurst’s near-post header which settled the quarter-final tie against Argentina (Peters is pictured below in this game) and scored what seemed set to be the winning goal in the Final himself before Wolfgang Weber levelled in the dying embers of normal time, Hurst going on to be the hat-trick hero in extra-time.

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Peters scored 16 goals in 49 matches in 1966/67 as the Hammers finished 16th and followed that up with 18 goals in 46 appearances in 1967/68, with West Ham finishing 12th. By the summer of ’68 Peters had taken his tally of England caps to 21, scoring a further six goals against Northern Ireland, Wales, the Soviet Union, Scotland, Spain (in the Bernabeu) and Sweden.

The 1968/69 season would be Peters’ most prolific for the Hammers, as he notched an incredible 24 goals from 48 matches including a hat-trick in a 4-0 home win over West Brom in August and a stunning volley past Peter Shilton in a 4-0 home victory over Leicester in November (included in my video below). The Irons finished eighth. Peters was nicknamed ‘The Ghost’ for his ability to drift undetected into the penalty area and it was around this period that England manager Sir Alf Ramsey stated that the midfielder was “ten years ahead of his time”. Peters scored three goals in the 1969 Home Championships matches, one against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park and two against Scotland at Wembley where doubles from Peters and Hurst gave England a 4-1 win over the Auld Enemy.

1969/70 saw Peters score seven goals in 34 games for the Hammers – however, in March 1970, at the age of 26, he was on the move to north London, as rivals Tottenham paid a world record fee of £200,000 (including Jimmy Greaves) for his services. His last goals for the Hammers came at Hillsborough on 10th January 1970, when he scored twice in a 3-2 win; his final match for the club was a 0-0 home draw with Ipswich on 14th March 1970. Peters had scored 100 goals in 364 appearances in all competitions for West Ham United.

My video below contains nine of Peters’ 100 goals for the Hammers – against Olympiakos (away, December 1965), Sheffield United (home, February 1966), Stoke (home, October 1967), Tottenham (home, September 1968), Chelsea (away, September 1968), QPR (home, November 1968), Leicester (home, November 1968), Derby (home, November 1969) and Tottenham (away, December 1969).

Peters’ run of success would continue at White Hart Lane as he won the League Cup in 1971 and 1973 and the UEFA Cup in 1972. He scored his last England goal on 19th May 1973 in a 1-0 win over Scotland at Wembley and played his last game for his country against Scotland too, in a 2-0 defeat at Hampden Park. Peters won 67 England caps, scoring 20 goals and captained his country on four occasions.

My video below shows 16 of Peters’ 20 England goals, scored against West Germany (World Cup, July 1966), the Soviet Union (home, December 1967), Scotland (away, February 1968), Spain (away, May 1968), Sweden (home, May 1968), Northern Ireland (away, May 1969), Scotland (two goals, home, May 1969), Northern Ireland (home, April 1970), Colombia (two goals, away, May 1970), West Germany (World Cup, June 1970), East Germany (home, November 1970), Malta (away, February 1971), Scotland (home, May 1971), and Scotland again (home, May 1973).

At the age of 31, Peters left Tottenham in March 1975 for a fee of £50,000 to join former Hammers team-mate John Bond, who was manager of Second Division Norwich, and went on to help the club secure promotion to the top flight in his first few months at the club. The Canaries claimed 10th spot in the First Division in 1975/76 and remained a top flight side under Bond for the rest of Peters’ five-year spell in East Anglia. Peters scored 50 goals in 232 matches for the Canaries and was twice voted the club’s Player of the Year. He left Carrow Road to become player-coach at Sheffield United in August 1980 – Norwich were relegated the season after he left.

Peters ended his professional career with total statistics of 220 goals from 882 games when departing Bramall Lane in June 1981. He later worked in the insurance business and the motor industry and has spent time on the board at Tottenham and as a matchday host at Upton Park. Peters, now 74 and sadly suffering from Alzheimer’s, was acknowledged with the Lifetime Achievement Award by West Ham United in 2015. He is pictured below with Sir Geoff Hurst during the final season at Upton Park.

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Panama v England

England face Panama this lunchtime in their opening match of the 2018 World Cup – it will be the first meeting between the two nations. The last time England beat opposition from the CONCACAF federation was in the 2006 World Cup when they met Shaka Hislop’s Trinidad and Tobago on 15th June 2006, the Three Lions’ second game in Group B. Nelly Furtado was number one with ‘Maneater’, The Omen topped the UK box office and the BBC announced that Billie Piper would leave her role as Rose Tyler on Doctor Who at the end of the second series the following month.

Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England took the lead with seven minutes to go courtesy of Peter Crouch. Real Madrid midfielder and England captain David Beckham’s cross found 25-year-old Lverpool striker Crouch rising at the back post to power his header beyond West Ham’s Shaka Hislop in the Trinidad and Tobago goal. It was the sixth of his 22 England goals, in the ninth of his 42 caps.

Hislop’s nemesis from the FA Cup Final the month before, Liverpool’s 26-year-old midfielder Steven Gerrard scored England’s second in this 2-0 win, hitting a powerful left-footed drive beyond Hislop and into the corner of the net in the last minute of the match.

England: Paul Robinson (Tottenham), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd), John Terry (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Arsenal), David Beckham (Real Madrid), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Michael Owen (Newcastle), Peter Crouch (Liverpool).

Subs: Aaron Lennon (Tottenham) for Carragher; Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) for Owen; Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough) for Joe Cole.

Trinidad and Tobago: Shaka Hislop (West Ham), Carlos Edwards (Luton), Brent Sancho (Gillingham), Dennis Lawrence (Wrexham), Cyd Gray (San Juan Jabloteh), Chris Birchall (Port Vale), Densill Theobald (Falkirk), Aurtis Whitley (San Juan Jabloteh), Stern John (Coventry), Kenwyne Jones (Southampton), Dwight Yorke (Sydney).

Subs: Cornell Glen (LA Galaxy) for Jones; Evans Wise (Waldhof Mannheim) for Theobald.

The previous articles in the series are:

Ken Brown
Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne
Bobby Moore
Sir Trevor Brooking
Alan Devonshire
Alvin Martin
David James

Talking Point

Welcome To Lukasz Fabianski

There are just some players that a football supporter doesn’t rate. We’ve all got them; players we’ve seen playing for other clubs that seem to live up to our low expectations every time we see them play. Players who we are grateful are testing the nerves of supporters at other clubs, rather than at the Hammers.

One of those players for me has been Lukasz Fabianski. I’ve been watching the Polish goalkeeper since he occasionally broke into the side at Arsenal and have never been impressed. When watching Champions League matches with friends or family, I’d often see his name on the team-sheet and confidently proclaim that he would drop a cross or come off his line at a set-piece and get hopelessly nowhere near the ball. Invariably, he did and seemingly often he would be at fault for a goal.

To be fair, he was a young goalkeeper learning his trade in those days. And, while on a conciliatory approach, he does arrive in east London on the back of what appears to be a successful season for him individually – even if it was a disaster for his team. He won Swansea’s Player of the Year award in 2017/18 – not an onerous task given the departure of Gylfi Sigurdsson who had won it the previous two seasons, the Icelandic midfielder having done much to help the club survive previously. Fabianski was also second in last season’s ‘Most Saves’ table with 137, behind only Jack Butland’s 144. I thought I’d take this opportunity to provide readers with a run-through of his career to date…

Lukasz Fabianski was born in Kostrzyn nad Odra, western Poland on 18th April 1985; after starting his career with Polonia Slubice, Fabianski joined the noted independent football academy MSP Szamotuly at age 14 before signing for Lech Poznan in 2004/05. In the winter of 2005, Fabianski was signed by Legia Warsaw, where he competed with Artur Boruc for a place in the team. He made his debut at the age of 19 in a 4-1 Polish Cup win over Arka Gdynia on 6th October 2004. Fabianski took over the goalkeeping gloves after Boruc was sold to Celtic, making his league debut on 24th July 2005 against the same team as he had on his cup debut, Arka Gdynia, in a 0-0 draw. He helped Legia win the Polish league championship in the 2005/06 season, conceding 22 goals in 32 matches and keeping 19 clean sheets. Fabianski’s performances for his club soon saw him making his debut for Poland in a friendly against Saudi Arabia on 29th March 2006. He has since won 45 caps for his country, playing four of his country’s five matches at Euro 2016. He is currently in Russia as reserve goalkeeper to Wojciech Szczesny, who played less than half of Juventus’ matches last season. The 2006/07 campaign saw Fabianski concede 37 goals in 30 matches, keeping eight clean sheets. His performances led to him being awarded the ‘Football Oscar’ for the best goalkeeper in the Ekstraklasa in both the 2005/06 and 2006/07 seasons.

In May 2007, the 22-year-old Fabianski signed for Arsenal in a £2.1m deal. He made his debut in a 2-0 home win over Newcastle in the League Cup third round on 25th September 2007 and would remain the Gunners’ goalkeeper for that competition that season until a disastrous 5-1 defeat to arch-rivals Tottenham in the second leg of the semi-finals, which saw Spurs progress to the Final 6-2 on aggregate. He made his Premier League debut in a 6-2 win at Derby on 28th April 2008. He conceded ten goals in eight games in 2007/08, keeping four clean sheets.

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Fabianski was described as “much-maligned” by the BBC in 2008/09 after a horror show against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final gifted the west Londoners a place in the Final. With Arsenal leading 1-0, he was beaten at his near post by Florent Malouda for the equaliser and unnecessarily came haring out of his area with seven minutes to go only for Didier Drogba to beat him to the ball and give Chelsea victory. Three days later he conceded four at Anfield in a 4-4 draw with Liverpool and again conceded four a month later in a 4-1 home defeat to Chelsea. Fabianski made 18 appearances in 2008/09, conceding 16 goals and keeping ten clean sheets. He was Arsenal’s goalkeeper for domestic cups but, alongside their FA Cup exit to Chelsea, they were beaten 2-0 at Burnley in the League Cup.

2009/10 again saw Fabianski in the role of Arsenal’s cup ‘keeper – they were knocked out of the FA Cup at Stoke, losing 3-1 in the fourth round and dumped out of the League Cup in the quarter-finals after a 3-0 defeat at Man City. He also played two matches in the Champions League, scoring an own goal in a 2-1 defeat at Porto in the first leg of the last 16 tie – with the ball coming square across his six-yard box, Fabianski palmed the ball into his own net. Later in the same game he picked up a backpass by Sol Campbell with Porto scoring their second from the resulting free-kick. Arsenal won the second leg 5-0 to progress to the quarter-finals, with Fabianski left out of the side. He made ten appearances in 2009/10, conceding 16 goals and keeping just two clean sheets.

Fabianski enjoyed a stronger start to 2010/11 but would only play one domestic cup game, in a 4-1 win at Tottenham in the League Cup third round. Ironically, Arsenal would reach a Cup Final without him, although they lost in the same competition to Birmingham at Wembley. He played in five of Arsenal’s six Champions League group stage matches, and also made 14 Premier League appearances, but a shoulder injury picked up in January kept him out for the rest of the season. He made 20 appearances in 2010/11, conceding 22 goals and keeping five clean sheets.

2011/12 was a season to forget for Fabianski as, despite recovering from his injury in time for the season’s start, he only made six appearances, conceding eight goals and failing to keep a clean sheet. He was once again Arsenal’s domestic cup custodian but they were beaten 2-0 at Sunderland in the FA Cup fifth round and lost 1-0 at home to Manchester City in the League Cup quarter-finals. 2012/13 was a similar tale of woe for the Pole as shoulder, ankle and rib injuries restricted him to just five appearances, all in the Premier League or Champions League, conceding three goals and keeping two clean sheets.

Fabianski made 11 appearances for Arsenal in his final season at the club, finally reaching a Cup Final as his penalty shoot-out saves in the semi-final against Wigan (including one from Jack Collison) sent the Gunners to the FA Cup Final. Arsenal won the FA Cup following a 3-2 win after extra-time in the Final against Hull. Arsenal found themselves 2-0 down and Hull also hit the post before the Gunners came back to win – not without a final Fabianski scare though as, 3-2 up and with five minutes left of extra-time, Fabianski came racing out of his goal towards the touchline only to be beaten by Sone Aluko, who saw his effort from distance drift agonisingly past the far post. Fabianski conceded 11 goals in his 11 games in 2013/14, keeping three clean sheets.

In his seven years at Arsenal, Fabianski made 78 appearances, conceding 86 goals and keeping 26 clean sheets. He signed for Swansea at the age of 29 on a Bosman free transfer in May 2014. He made his debut in a 2-1 win at Manchester United on the opening day of the 2014/15 season. He received the first red card of his career at Upton Park in December 2014, again racing unnecessarily from his goal to impede Diafra Sakho. The Hammers, already 2-1 up through an Andy Carroll double, went on to win the match 3-1. He made 38 appearances in league and cup in 2014/15, conceding 46 goals and keeping 13 clean sheets.

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2015/16 saw more goals conceded and less clean sheets as Swansea dropped from eighth the previous campaign to 12th. Fabianski played 37 Premier League games, conceding 51 goals and keeping nine clean sheets. He made four errors which led directly to goals – only fellow Pole Artur Boruc, at Bournemouth, made more. The exact same pattern continued in 2016/17 – more goals conceded, less clean sheets, second in the league for errors leading to goals. This time Fabianski again made 37 league appearances, conceding 69 goals and keeping eight clean sheets. He made three errors leading directly to goals, second only to West Ham’s Darren Randolph, as Swansea dropped again to 15th.

Last season was undoubtedly a better season for Fabianski on a personal level, even though his club were relegated. He made 38 appearances, conceded 56 goals, kept nine clean sheets and made no errors leading directly to goals. Since signing for Swansea in 2014 though, he has made ten errors which led directly to goals – double the amount of Adrian in the same time period. During his time at Swansea he made 150 appearances, conceded 222 goals and kept 39 clean sheets.

Speaking personally, if we have signed Fabianski to be a back-up goalkeeper to Adrian and/or to provide competition, I think it’s a very good signing. He has Premier League, Champions League and international experience and is a good addition to the squad. However, if he’s been brought in to be parachuted into the number one spot, I have to say I have my doubts. He is a very impressive shot-stopper, as supported by his excellent ‘number of saves’ statistic but, over the years, is prone to some major errors on crosses, decision-making and with the ball at his feet. I appreciate that the same criticisms can be levelled at Adrian but I just don’t see Fabianski as an improvement. Fabianski also has a touch of the Roy Carroll about him, in that he tends to parry balls back into the danger area rather than push the ball wide of his goalmouth. I’m sure many of us can also recall hoping Andy Carroll would be fit whenever we’ve played Swansea in recent seasons as Fabianski and his defence never looked comfortable dealing with that aerial threat.

From a transfer strategy perspective, signing Fabianski with the view of starting him will unsettle Adrian. The position of goalkeeper is like no other in a squad – centre-halves, central midfielders and strikers have more opportunities to play. There are more of them on the pitch, they get more injuries so their replacements get more game time and it is easier to drop an outfield player if they are out of form. It’s different for a goalkeeper – if you’re out of the side, you probably won’t play again for months. At 31, I can appreciate that Adrian may seek a move and don’t agree with those who may criticise him for wanting to move for a better chance of first-team football – he would be protecting himself and his career and has been messed about enough of late with inadequate replacements. The Spanish stopper has one year remaining on his contract. If it does become clear that Fabianski has been bought to start, then we may find ourselves in the position of having to buy a second goalkeeper.

If we were going to sign a new starting goalkeeper, I would personally have preferred it to be someone who would be a clear and obvious improvement. Nevertheless, as with all other new signings, I wish Lukasz Fabianski all the very best during his time at West Ham United.

To finish on a positive note: firstly, well done to the board for signing their first goalkeeper for more than a nominal fee since taking over the club eight and a half years ago. The last goalkeeper we spent more than a million on was Robert Green back in 2006, who arrived for a £2m fee and went on to become a Hammers hero. Since the current owners took over, they have brought in Jussi Jaaskelainen, Adrian and Darren Randolph on free transfers and Manuel Almunia and Joe Hart on loan, while Ruud Boffin and Stephen Henderson were signed for nominal fees. As a second positive to end with, here are some of Lukasz Fabianski’s saves from the 2017/18 season.

The Blind Hammer Column

Financial Fair Play-A spanner in Pellegrini’s Works?

Blind Hammer looks at whether FFP will restrict Pellegrini’s Project.

The signings of Ryan Fredericks, Issa Diop and Fabianski indicate that West Ham are serious in at least starting a refresh of Pellegrini’s squad. It is likely that the most difficult and important business is still to come. As always the pot of money finally available will determine options. The spectre of Financial Fair Play is often invoked by PL club directors. The dark suspicion of many supporters is that FFP is rolled out to excuse a stingy reluctance to invest.

Yet FFP cannot be dismissed so easily. One of the few failure points of Pellegrini’s managerial CV was the financial meltdown during his latter days at Malaga. After hefty initial investment Malaga had to Fire sell their expensively acquired Stars. For a while the Malaga players, and indeed, Pellegrini himself, did not receive any wages. FFP was blame for this meltdown but in reality Malaga’s plight was probably just as much due to devolving their financial security to an Oil rich investor. This is a Case Study that those desperate for foreign investment would do well to ponder.

FFP is not a single set of rules but separate codes established at UEFA, Premier and Championship Level. The regulations attempt to restrict reckless spending of TV Money. Since FFP’s introduction the number of clubs entering Administration has diminished. This is all to the good. Administration has wider victims. The recovery of clubs like Leeds disguises those who never see any redress. It is the smaller fry rather than the Football Millionaires who suffer.

So what are FFP Rules? Surprisingly the Premier League Handbook makes no reference to Financial Fair Play anywhere. Despite this we can infer rules. Those who have, in recent weeks, quoted the available TV Monies as the “war chest” available to Pellegrini, are wide of the mark.

The Handbook lays out spending restrictions. The first is what is described as the Profitability and Sustainability Rules. Under these rules West Ham and other clubs are not allowed to make a loss of more than £105m over a three-year period. In theory the PL are cracking down on Real Madrid creative accounting ruses such as sponsoring the training ground for enormous sums to get around this.

Probably more relevantly is the Short Term Cost Control rules (STCC). These rules are designed to restrict the arms race on player salaries, often considered the biggest threat to clubs financial stability.

In Sections E18, E19 and E20 rules for spending on wages and transfers are laid out.

These Sections specify that from a starting point of £67 million in 2016-20177, a club is only allowed to increase spending on their squad by £7 million a year. So for 2017-2018 the limit is £74 million. The limit for next season is £81 million. This includes both wages and transfers costs, though the cost of a transfer is spread across the life of a player’s contract.

These rules highlight why Clubs are eager to remove players from their wage bill, as much as they are eager to sign new recruits.

Of course we all know that clubs spend much more than this. The get out clause in the Handbook is section E20 which allows extra payments which are “funded only by Club Own Revenue Uplift and/or Averaged Three Year Player Trading Profit.”

So transfer revenues are boosted massively by profitable transfer income. I wrote last year about the myth of “selling and buying” clubs. In reality it is also the top 6 clubs who take in most from incoming transfer payments. This is especially the case at Chelsea who gather massive funds from hoovering up the world’s young talent, loaning them out, earning lucrative loan fees and eventually selling these players on for significant profit.

West Ham has massively underperformed in the Transfer Arms Race over the last 5 years. They have to raise their game in talent recruitment. Over the 3 years of his contract Pellegrini’s transfer options will be most affected by the quality of his recruitment and the sell on value of players enlisted rather than any massive cash input from the Board.

So will Pellegrini face any immediate shackling of his squad building project? To an important extent this will depend on the extent to which West ham can release value external to Television revenues. In theory at least West Ham should have a competitive advantage against teams such as Tottenham. Tottenham have a marvellous new Stadium but the latest estimates for the building costs now exceed £1 Billion and there is already speculation that optimism on Stadium naming rights etc. will not sufficiently redress the heavy weight of funding this massive infrastructural investment over the next 10-20 years will place on their squad development. In contrast West Ham paid £15 million for use of the London Stadium usage with average overhead costs of about £3 million a year moving forward.

In theory the opportunities for Pellegrini and any competitive advantage for West ham will arise from the commercial growing of the club external to FFP controlled TV Revenues. There is a big caveat though. The effectiveness of any system of rules is in the end only determined by their enforcement. It seems that clubs are sailing very close to the wind with FFP compliance. However there seems little if any appetite from the PL to tackle these clubs and enforce sanctions. The game in the end for West Ham may involve pushing the envelope of FFP enough to make the difference for Pellegrini whilst not attracting any ire from the PL. Whatever the case it should be interesting to see how West Ham struggle for wriggle room against the shacckles of FFP in the weeks ahead.
David Griffith

The S J Chandos Column

A New Era? - It is looking that way!

Prior to last season’s conclusion, I raised the issue of the future of David Moyes in my column. At the time I had not come to a conclusion about whether the experienced Scot should be offered a new deal. but merely raised the issue because it seemed obvious to me that the club had to take a crucial (branching point) decision at the season’s end. If they were to attempt to carry on as they had for the past two seasons (signing free transfers, loans and long shots, mixed with the odd quality buy like Arnautovic, then Moyes was probably as good a managerial choice as they were likely to secure. If, on the other hand, the club wanted to start living up to their previous big statements, and promises, then we had to start showing ambition and push the boat out financially. That latter option would probably necessitate the recruitment of a top class manager to guarantee the success of the endeavour.

We now know that the Hammers board opted for a new course/direction and subsequently recruited Manuel Pellegrini to head it. A top manager like Pellegrini was always likely to insist on a substantial transfer budget and the signings to drastically improve the quality of the squad at his disposal. The Chilean manager is an advocate of an exciting, expansive, attacking style of play that Hammers fans will love. And it was obvious that major additions were necessary to enable him to play that way. That is not to say that the cardboard, that he inherited, was totally bare! The likes of Hernandez, Arnautovic, Antonio, Rice, Lanzini, Zabaletta, Byram (if he can get and stay fit), Mario (if he returns to the club) Cresswell, Masuaku and Ogbonna are all equipped to play in his system. Others such as Kouyate, Reid and Noble also have a possibility of adapting to it. While there is also the bonus of the potential that we have at U-21 level. in players such as Holland, Quina, Pask, Browne, Haksabanovic, Samuelson, Martinez and (even) Oxford that he will assess for first team readiness. Below them are youngsters of arguably even greater potential like Lewis and Johnson that could emerge as first team options over the next couple of seasons. It is significant that the new manager has put an embargo on the U-21s going out loan until he has assessed their potential and current stage of development. Finally, a decision needs to be urgently made on the futures of youngsters like Burke and Cullen that have been around the edges of the first team squad for some time. This needs to be done not only in the interests of the club, but equally importantly, the interests of the youngsters themselves.

At present there are lots of links and negotiations pertaining to flair players like Anderson (at Lazio), Pastore (PSG) and, the youngster, Diaz (Man City). These are presumably at various stages or, in Pastore’s case, proving abortive. Very sensibly, Pellegrini has began by augmenting West Ham’s leaky defence. We only managed to stem the flood of opposition goals, and gain some defensive cohesion, last season by perfecting a three at the back system. The new manager will presumably want to move away from that and play a far more flexible 4-2-2-2 system, with strong central defenders, who can play the ball out from the back and full-backs that get forward and offer width, to allow the wide players (like Anderson and Antonio) to cut insider and attack through more central positions and support the strikers.

To date, he has signed Fredericks (a player perfect for this system), Issa Diop (a strong, ball playing centre back, with huge potential to become a real star) and Fabianski, (the Polish international keeper). In addition, we have been linked with Marlon (of Barca), Mawson (of Swansea) and, another keeper, Jimenez (of Espanyol). It is possible that we could sign another centre-back and keeper to further revolutionise our defensive options next season. There has also been rumours that Rice will be primarily used as a defensive midfielder, rather than a centre-back, and Oxford will be very closely scrutinised before a decision is made on his future. It could be that Oxford exits to Germany (to raise additional funds) and we bring in another player like Anderlect’s Dendocker, who is apparently available for c.£16-18m.

In terms of attacking midfield/wide options, the injury to Lanzini (our most creative player) is a huge blow. And it is a blow that the club has had to adapt its transfer strategy to ameliorate. The seemingly endless haggling with Lazio is nearly at a conclusion. The latest reports suggest that we have offered 30m euros and add on clauses and a 10% sell on that meets Lazio’s demand for a overall fee of 42m euros. If this offer is rejected then the club is likely to reluctantly walk away and pursue other targets. As such, Lazio have a major decision to make. At the time of writing, the Pastore deal looks dead in the water, with the player preferring a returm to Serie A with Roma. While rumours persist that Pellegrini might seek a season long loan for Man City’s young play-maker, Diaz and there is the possibility of Wilshire signing on a free transfer from Arsenal. Plus, there is the outstanding question of Mario’s future and Spurs’ supposed alternative interest in the player, which could derail the prospect of his return to the club next season. The picture was further complicated yesterday by news that we are being linked to a number of other exciting midfield targets.

In terms of strikers, there seems to be an assumption that Pellegrini will continue with the existing striking triumvirate of Arnautovic, Hernandez and Carroll. In practice, that could see a arnautovic-Hernandez partnership up front, with Carroll (injuries allowing) adding something a bit different/more direct from the bench. That, of course, supposes that both Arnautovic and Hernandez remain at the club? As yet the much mooted interest from Man Utd in Arnautovic has not materialised (although there is now another link to Inter-Milan) and one can only hope that Pellegrini can talk Hernandez out of his Moyes induced strop of last season! It is a reasonable question to pose whether the manager will stick with Carroll? is he really Pelligrini’s type of striker and does he fit in to his preferred system of play? In terms of links with new strikers, we have been connected with a number, including Senegal’s Konate, Argentina’s Pavon and Celtic and France’s Moussa Dembele. Whether we move on these or any other striking targets remains to be seen.

In all honesty, I have tried to map some of the key links/negotiations in which we we are involved, but it is a frantic, frenetic process that is chucking up new names each day. Sorting the ‘wheat from the chaff’’ of rumours is difficult and, of course, who we line up/recruit is likely to have an undoubted influence on the players that we put up for sale. And there is always the unexpected developments coming out of left field, like yesterday evening’s reports that agents were ‘offering’ Arnautovic to Inter-Milan. Stories like that are likely baseless, but until they are officially discounted they are a factor for consideration!

There appears to be a consensus that Pellegrini has been handed a c.£75m transfer budget. However, with three players signed and, according to reports yesterday evening, another 3-5 new signings on the way, then it is likely that this will need to be supplemented by generating some funds from players sales. So, who are the main candidates for a departure. Well, Adrian’s future at the club needs to be confirmed. It could be that he will compete with Fabianski next season for the keeper’s jersey. However, if Adrian is not happy with that or the club pursue their interest in Jimenez then he could exit, most likely back to former club Real Betis. Both Byram and Reid would probably be on most people’s list of possible exits, but I hope that they are retained, Reid to provide strength in depth at the back and Byram to be given another chance to get over his injuries and fulfil his potential, especially in Pellegrin’s new system of play. One player that could exit is Pedro Obiang, if we commit to playing Rice in that position and we secure a better alternative like Dendocker. There is interest in Obiang from Italian and Spanish clubs and he could raise a significant transfer fee. If Pellegrini gives the green light, the club could sell the youngsters Burke, Cullen and Oxford. A Crystal Palace bid for Antonio has been much anticipated, but again, he could be a good player to have in Pellegrini’s system. Yes, he was injured for much of last season and, when he did play, his standards slipped in comparison with the previous two seasons, but hopefully he can regain his former fitness and form. One player almost certain to be sold is Snodgrass, who is currently interesting Cardiff City. Although there has been the interesting suggestion on social media sites that we could try to trade him in a part-exchange deal for Celtic’s Moussa Dembele. Then there is Jordan Hugill and, the Swiss international, Emilison Fernandes who could both be off-loaded. And finally, might the club be tempted to accept a £8-10m bid for Carroll, if it came in, from a club like Newcastle Utd? The club will want to raise additional funds and they will need to assess who we can sell, for what fee, based on which players are incoming. At the end of the day Pellegrini has to significantly raise both the quality and the depth of the squad. That necessarily requires a careful balancing act.

So, all the indications are that we are looking at brave new era for the club. There is still a lot of business to transact, but it would seem that the squad will have a major refit prior to the commencement of the new season. Certainly pre-season will be fascinating to follow this season, as Pellegrini finalises his squad and gets down to the business of building team spirit, embedding his tactics and style of play and moulding them in to an effective and cohesive unit.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we have turned a corner and significantly better times lie ahead for the club and its supporters? We can but live in hope – as always! Only this time the hope appears to have some ambition, top-level management, hard cash and quality recruitment behind it.

SJ. Chandos.

Guest Post

Blowing Bubbles’ massive Summer Annual will help you beat the post-season blues!

Blowing Bubbles Magazine are producing a monster Summer Annual which comes out next week. This will be a must have for all West Ham fans this summer to fend off the post-season blues, and it will be one of the biggest editions the team at Blowing Bubbles has ever pulled together!

Editor David Blackmore with a previous copy of Blowing Bubbles Monthly

There is some brilliant exclusive content as well as the best articles from the past season. There are interviews with Pele, Julian Dicks, Kieron Dyer, David Gold, Dean Ashton, Don Hutchison, Lou Macari, David Cross, comedian Adam Hills, and many more.

This extraordinary issue – the fourth annual they’ve pulled together – will cost £10 for UK residents (including postage and packing) and is out on Friday 29 June.

David Blackmore, editor of Blowing Bubbles Monthly, said: "It’s not been the best season for West Ham on the pitch but it’s been another incredible season for Blowing Bubbles Monthly off it. As West Ham stuttered and stumbled our way through the season, we’ve gained significantly more readers, and more subscribers than we’ve ever had before.

“The response to some of our issues this season has been absolutely extraordinary. To be honest, the feedback we’ve received all season has been incredibly pleasing – people like what we do and it’s given us the confidence to keep doing it.

“Every year we’ve looked to make our Summer Annual the biggest and best issue we’ve ever had and our team are excited about pulling together this massive edition.”

Following the huge demand from overseas Hammers for last year’s summer annual, they are once again making this issue available for people living in Europe and around the world to purchase.

Orders MUST be placed before 11pm on Sunday 24 June. Secure your Summer Annual here

You can also secure a season-long subscription for our 2017/18 campaign by clicking here.

For those without PayPal, email editor@blowing-bubbles.co.uk to arrange alternative payment.

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