Talking Point

The indicators are good for the future - as long as we learn our lessons!

I sincerely hope that the squad will learn the short-term lessons, galvanize and put another winning run together between now and the end of the season. In the longer term, West Ham must maintain its forward movement as a club. As I wrote on here months ago, the board are duty bound to consider their options where the manager is considered. If a superior manager becomes available (and I assume that they are currently exploring that) they will seriously consider making the change. Whilst there is no point appointing a new manager who is not a significant upgrade on the current incumbent. And I feel that the management situation will ultimately be resolved this summer in these exact same terms. But what I will say is if they can attract the right candidate then I personally would favour change at this forthcoming juncture. Ideally, what I would like to see in a replacement is a manager/coach who can develop the club’s young players as well as operate effectively in the transfer market.

In terms of the playing staff, we must continue to upgrade the squad. We need a new keeper to compete with Adrian, whilst developing the potential of Spiegel and Howes in the longer-term. One of the successes this season has been the effectiveness of our full-back/wings. Jenkinson and Cresswell have been a revelation, this season, and brought a whole new dimension to our play. We must resist any bids from Man City for Cresswell and attempt to land Jenkinson on a permanent contract. The arrival of Stephen Hendrie should give us more strength in depth and selection options; while I would definitely sign another right-back, in addition to Jenkinson, and if Glen Johnson is available on a Bosman, he would be a good addition. That would give us real strength in depth in those key positions. And with the likes of Oscar Borg coming through the Academy the future looks promising.

If Winston Reid leaves in the summer (as looks likely) then we need a top quality addition. Diijk, at Celtic, has been linked with us, but the club almost certainly has a number of other targets identified. The important thing is to ensure that any addition is an upgrade on Reid. It was undoubtedly the right decision to retain Reid for the remainder of this season and, if necessary, secure a replacement who can settle in over pre-season. Encouragingly, Tomkins seems to be realising his full potential and we now have Don Henry, Reece Burke and (the exciting) Reece Oxford in the pipeline; while Collins is probably good cover for another season or two, while the younger players come through. Who knows, perhaps Reid might even confound us and sign a new deal, although that seems unlikely in the present circumstances.

In midfield, Alex Song is a class act and his addition in the summer would send out the right message. Noble has signed a new 5 year contract and Kouyate has become the influential player that I confidently predicted when he signed. Plus there is much more to come from Diego Poyet and hopefully he will figure more in the first team before the end of the season. Controversially (as far as some are concerned) there is an argument that Nolan should see out the final year of his contract, with the proviso that his role is as club Captain and impacting from the substitutes bench. Nolan is a great Captain and influence on the squad and it might be a good idea to keep him for another season. Of course, much will depend on Sam Allardyce’s future, the first team plans of a managerial successor and whether Nolan is happy to see out his contract on that basis? Amalfitano has done well this season (prior to his transgression against WBA) and could be offered a new contract. Similarly, the prospect of finally signing Lassana Diarra is an intriguing prospect. Further forward, it would be good to see another creative play-maker added to compete Stewart Downing. Might we resuscitate our earlier interest in Yevhen Konoplyanka or even go for a promising youngster like Derby County’s Will Hughes?

Up front, there are a number of questions. Firstly, can the club afford to continue with an expensive, injury prone, striker like Andy Carroll? That aside, does he facilitate a style of play that we want to see at the club? Personally, I think if he is fit then he stays, but not as a permanent fixture like under Allardyce. Carroll offers something different and can compliment our other strikers. Ultimately, it will be interesting to see if the Lakaku rumours are true? If so, then it could be that Carroll will eventually make way for him. In terms of our other strikers, we arguably need to retain the services of Sakho and Valencia.


Talking Point

Are you Hackett in disguise?

Last Thursday I attended an event called ‘You are the Ref’ at Riley’s Sports Bar in London. Two of the panelist’s were Sam Allardyce and infamous former referee Keith Hackett. While Allardyce did a quick exit at the end of the recording, guest WHTID poster Nigel Kahn and myself decided to door stop Keith Hackett with a request for an interview for his horrendous decision to send off Tony Gale in the 1991 FA Cup semi final.

For those who don’t know, Keith Hackett caused a storm that continues to haunt many West Ham fans when he sent Hammers defender Tony Gale for an early bath in the 1991 FA Cup semi-final v Nottingham Forest for bringing down Gary Crosby. Gale became the first ever footballer to be instantly dismissed for what is now known as the DOGSO rule (Denial Of Goal-Scoring Opportunity)

Hackett blamed the FA for his decision that day and explained he was made a scape goat but he did apologise and shoulders his part of the blame for the fateful decision.

After the match in the car park Hackett says:

“A guy from the FA came up to me and said, listen if you hadn’t sent him off we would have suspended you, I told him where to go off!” explained Hackett

“I then said there should never be a point of where a law interpretation or law change should be introduced during a season and clubs must be made aware of changes”

“Believe it or not I worked in Romford so I can imagine going into the works area and getting absolutely castigated by the staff, it was not a happy time for me and one of my biggest regrets that I was put in that position and left with no alternative other then to dismiss”

“Behind the scenes I was in touch with the F.A, I said look I am the sacrificial cow here, we’ve gained nothing, the game has gained nothing through your change at such a late stage of the season”

“The facts are a player gets an opportunity to go to Wembley maybe once in his career, my decision affected the opportunity of that player to go to Wembley and perhaps to get a winners medal but the other side is that is look at all those fans that have come up from London, paid good money, all the things that happen and I’ve cocked it up and that’s why I am pretty harsh against refereeing now”

“West Ham fans rightly gave me a lot of stick on the day and for months afterwards, someone sent me a recording with a chant every time a referee gave a bad decision at West Ham it was “Are you Hackett in disguise?” I find that mildly amusing but at the same time it reminds me perhaps of the worst decision I ever had to make in my career and i had 34 years of active refereeing"

“There are many who watched West Ham and I ruined their day and I apologise for that, but at the same time I shoulder some of the blame at the end of the day I put blame on to the FA for making that change and the player not knowing, neither player knowing and neither manager knew about that interpretation. I remember going to the FA room and saying wow we didn’t except that was going to happen did we? that was the risk!. When we sat in that room on the Thursday [before the game] we should of said ‘Get Lost Mate’ [To the FA] we will change next season and we should have done that”

Following the interview which will broadcast in full on West Ham podcast Moore Than Just A Podcast on Monday I called up Tony Gale to get his reaction.

Tony responded.

“It’s a quarter of a century too late, I appreciate the apology now but it still really hard to accept, I know Keith said it was the FA that said to him in the car park afterwards that you hadn’t have sent off Tony then probably you wouldn’t of refereed again but I find that a bit hard to believe. I still thought it was a decision where it was an egotistical decision where he thought he would be the first to make that decision after that ruling came up. I still don’t think by today’s standards I would be sent off and I still don’t think I fouled him. There is nothing you can do about it now, there is never in a million years I would say that was a sending off!”

Both interviews can be heard in full on the West Ham Podcast Moore Than Just A Podcast on Monday evening March 2, 2015 moorethanjustapodcast.co.uk

Here is the sending off incident 24 years ago if you need reminding or you weren’t alive in 1991. Let us know your views, Is it time to forgive and forget?


Talking Point

The Consequences of the Board Not Supporting Sam

Guest Post by Brian Jones

So, after such a great first half of the season, what’s gone wrong? Is it Sam or the players? Well, I’m not a Sam fan, and a couple of years ago, I put up a post on here calling for him to go. But I’m going to cut him some slack and shift the focus to the Board, the third part of the equation. If you were Sam, what would you be thinking right now? “I’ve met all the targets I was set, I’ve even tried to promote some free flowing , attacking football, but the buggers don’t love me!”

The online and print media are rife with stories about rifts between Sam and David Sullivan. Sullivan is supposed to have brought in players that Sam didn’t want. Sam was supposed to have stuck two fingers up to Sullivan over whether Nene was fit or not. There is speculation everywhere as to whether the Board are going to replace Sam now or at the end of the season. Some media outlets are convinced Sam is already a dead duck. So what effect does this have on the team? Well, James Tomkins was quoted in the media as saying it doesn’t affect the team and they just get on with the job. I wonder if this is really the case?

Surely all this speculation does have an effect on the team? Don’t they wonder what the future is and don’t they struggle to get really motivated if there is a pall of uncertainty over Sam’s position? Surely one of the roles of the Board is to ensure there is a positive atmosphere at the club, an environment in which everyone feels positive about the future and wants to do their best to bring on higher achievements. Why is Winston Reid stalling on a new contract? Supposedly there have been no bids for him. Is he just waiting to see the way the wind blows?

Right now the role of the Board should be to tell the media, the players and everyone else, that there is no problem, Sam is our man and we are going onwards and upwards and any other clichés they can think of – even if they don’t mean it. Because that would be positive for the club and address all the uncertainty that is there at the moment. If they are not happy with Sam, they should be keeping that to themselves. But all this “we will assess the situation at the end of the year” and the deafening silence about whether Sam is our man or not is helping to create a negative atmosphere at the club. It helps to lead to uncertainty among the players and with Sam himself. His laid back (literally) body language at matches surely speaks for itself. When did he last wear a West Ham tie at a match? Why should he when he doesn’t know if the Board support him or not? Or maybe he does know and realises he is just filling in time?

Whether Sam stays or not, I want the Board to play their role in creating a positive atmosphere in which the players can flourish. I don’t see them doing that right now.


David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 1, Crystal Palace 3. Losing Ugly.

There are matches that simply haunt me for weeks, sometimes months. The 4-3 loss to Spurs at home during the Great Escape year tortured me, and if we had gone down that year I might have needed medication to survive. Last Sunday was almost as bad. All week I’ve replayed those last few moments in my mind, envisioning a different outcome. Alex Song ignoring Harry Kane. Adrian holding onto the penalty kick. In my mind I could see those things happening. And then reality takes over again. I was hoping West Ham would be able to shed the demons of White Hart Lane against the men from Selhurst Park. Instead they added insult to injury with one of the, if not the worst performance of the season.

Since I’m not a real journalist I don’t have to even pretend to be objective. So here’s the deal. I cannot stand Alan Pardew. I took immense pleasure when Charlton went down under him. Equally so when Southampton floundered with him in charge. I heard a story from a mate at a pub in Manhattan a few months after he was sacked by Eggy, and then heard the same one from supporters while in Toronto to watch us play the MLS All Stars. When Pards was summoned by the board, instead of trying to plead his case he sat down and simply asked how much compensation he was getting. I have no idea if the story is true, but it seemed consistent with other things we had heard about him. I bought it then, and I’ve bought it since then. But with the way he has galvanized Palace into the team we saw today, I’m going to shed that idea and admit he is a talented manager on many levels.

The first real chance of the game came in the 12th minute when Cresswell intercepted a poor pass by Puncheon. The Palace defense rightfully expected him to look for a pass or a cross into the box. Instead he unleashed a good shot that curled over the bar. Two minutes later, after some interplay between Sakho and Valencia and a foul on Noble, the skipper on the day launched a free kick that beat Speroni only to ricochet off the cross bar.

West Ham’s fine form at the start of the season was due largely to the kind of passing on the floor that supporters had wanted to see more of. Today, however, it looked like the very notion of technical ability was completely lost on them. Sloppy passing and awful first touches by the very players we expect to be able to do those things is what has replaced it. In the 25th minute a Valencia giveaway led to a Palace counter. Puncheon burst into the West Ham half and sent a through ball in for Glen Murray, but Reid was able to nudge the Palace striker just enough for him to send his shot wide.

The most memorable and important moment of the game was the 38th minute when both sets of supporters rose to their feet to offer a minutes applause in the memory of Dylan Tombides. It was a touching moment made all the more memorable by the involvement of the opposition. While it’s cliché to say, it made the game seem trivial.

Aaron Cresswell has been one of the brightest spots for West Ham this season, so much so that rumors of interest from Manchester City have sprung up in recent weeks. But as we’ve seen a few times this season when me messes up, he messes up big time. In the 41st minute, after Palace earned themselves a corner, the free kick into the box came to Glen Murray. His header seemed to be floating right at Adrian, but Cresswell completely missed his attempt to clear it and sent the ball spinning past our keeper and into the net.

West Ham 0, Crystal Palace 1.

During the halftime break, there was talk on Twitter of how Sam would give them a swift kick in the arse and that would give us hope of a better second half. That optimism disappeared five minutes after the break when Zaha sprinted down the right and won what would be the first of two quick corners. The first was headed towards goal by Scott Dann but cleared out by Reid. The second corner was a replay of the first, only this time Dann’s header went into the back of the net.

West Ham 0, Crystal Palace 2.

The decline in form for Alex Song has been shocking, not only due to it actually occurring but for how quickly it has happened. It’s as if one moment we had this on field general pulling all the right strings, and the next we have someone that has forgotten what to do. In the 56th minute, Song did what any child playing on a Sunday knows not to do. He stopped playing. He just stopped playing. That allowed Ward to run past him and pick up the loose ball before Noble was forced to foul him. Jedinak then came inches away from a third Palace goal when his resulting free kick went just wide of a diving Adrian. Minutes later, Song was replaced by Nene. The man most of us said we should sign this summer regardless of the cost, replaced by a free agent striker that Sam reportedly didn’t want.

That just about personified our day.

Before the game today, the inclusion of Glen Murray in the Palace starting eleven at the expense of Dwight Gayle raised many an eyebrow. The television commentators talked about it, and West Ham supporters on Twitter thought we had been handed a gift. In the 63rd minute, Murray slammed the book shut on that argument when he earned a free kick after creating contact with Kouyate outside the West Ham penalty area. It might have been soft, but anyone complaining about the referee today should reconsider. Puncheon curled the free kick into the box, where Murray was able to meet it with a diving header that beat Adrian.

West Ham 0, Crystal Palace 3.

At that point I threw down my pen and stopped taking notes. Yes, Nene hit the outside of the post. And Murray saw a second yellow and Palace had to play the final 21 minutes with ten men. When Valencia scored in the 76th minute, I admit I thought maybe. Just maybe. And perhaps if Jenkinson had chipped the ball over Speroni in the 82nd minute we could have had an exciting final 8 minutes plus stoppage time. Instead, we left the game wondering what on earth happened to the team that should have beaten both Manchester United and Tottenham.

Final Score: West Ham 1, Crystal Palace 3.

Before I sat down to write this, my best mate Jon called me. He threw these thoughts at me. The last two games have seen us blow a 2-0 lead and today give up three goals from set pieces. Two things that are decidedly not Sam things to happen. Could he know he’s gone? Has the board actually told him that, and if so could he be shutting down a bit? And if that’s a possibility, could the players know that as well and thus their concentration has dipped? And if all of that is a possibility, could some fault lie with the board for leaking stuff to the media about it? In truth, more of the blame today lies with the players. They were, almost to a man, awful.

Wednesday could be ugly.

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Match Report

Ten Questions from the Palace Match

1. WTF!
2. Why didn’t we play the previous 75 minutes like we did the last 15?
3. What on earth has happened to Alex Song?
4. Why was Stewart Downing played on the right. Again?
5. Why do we play brilliantly against the top teams but can’t manage it against average ones?
6. Would we like to see Alan Pardew back at Upton Park one day?
7. Did any West Ham player really deserve to be named Man of the Match?
8. Was this our worst performance of the season?
9. Perhaps this means we’ll turn over Chelsea?
10. How far is it to Beachy Head?


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