The Mike Ireson Column

NOTHING is happening at all

WHAT ARE YOU DOING BETWEEN NOW AND TUESDAY EVENING?

I do beg your pardon, I appear to be SHOUTING at you for no apparent REASON.

That is because I know that between now and Tuesday evening you will at some stage view Sky Sports News. Whether for 5 minutes or a longer time, you won’t be able to help yourself.

As we approach TRANSFER DEADLINE DAY, you, like I, will be suckered in to tuning in just in case there is some transfer news. Will we sign Adebayor on loan? Will we take some random we haven’t heard of off the hands of some Serie A club? Will Lionel Messi realise Upton Park is his true calling?

To try and instil some kind of excitement in to their coverage which has been dedicated to TRANSFER DEADLINE DAY for what seems like longer than the gestation period of an elephant, the presenters have to periodically SHOUT at you to snap you out of your boredom induced haze as nothing happens for hours on end.

Promises of ‘EXCLUSIVES’, ‘UP TO THE MINUTE NEWS’, ‘DONE DEALS’ thrown at you like an unexpected kebab on a drunken night, verbally slapping you in to submission and apathy.

Constant link ups to various grounds and training facilities where brave reporters tell you every fifteen minutes that nothing has happened there but ‘SENIOR SOURCES’ have promised something will happen.

You and I know that ‘SENIOR SOURCES’ are either a) bloke in pub or b) the security guard keeping said reporter from getting anywhere near either ground or training facility.

The most exciting thing the reporter and her cameraman at QPR had to offer us a few deadline days ago was the EXCLUSIVE footage of a delivery man from Domino’s lugging in enough pizzas to feed an army.

This of course meant SOMETHING EXCITING was going to happen, maybe not now but later if that amount of food was being delivered. Really? Doesn’t it just mean people were hungry?

Then there is the small throngs of fans who turn up to stand behind the reporters and gurn at the camera, wave to their mum’s and social workers, and just generally make you wish you had a gun and the ability to shoot through the screen.

God bless the people at Sky Sports for trying to make this a spectacle that clearly isn’t. Days of live TV to fill where absolutely nothing interesting happens is a big ask.

Their trump card is presenter Jim White. They will trail all day that he will be anchoring the last few hours. So Jim must be the one that has all the info? The brains? The best broadcaster?

No – he’s the best SHOUTER.

“DONT GO AWAY”

“EVERY MOVE AS IT HAPPENS” etc etc. Barking at the audience (and the studio crew) to try and keep them awake and interested.

“PIZZA DELIVERY IMINENT”

Then the constant checks of social media. As West Ham fans we know the best information will come from the twitter account of Sullivan minor. This then relayed by Sky Sports as if they were the only ones to have access to it.

If Gareth Bale were to tweet he had just enjoyed a full English for his breakfast this would be interpreted as his ‘YEARNING FOR A MOVE BACK TO ENGLAND’

Before Jim takes the helm they will inevitably cut to a shot of him behind the scenes feverishly talking in to his mobile phone. Getting the scoop from a manager/player/agent? Nope that will be Mrs White at the other end reminding him the local Tesco express is open till late and they are running a bit low on butter, and if they have some of those nice mint ice creams she is fond of to pick up one of those up too.

So if you wonder between now and Tuesday evening what is happening, I’ll tell you, probably NOTHING AT ALL

I’m done – EXCLUSIVE.


Talking Point

A great victory at Anfield, now for unfinished transfer business!

Well, what a great feeling, the 52 year hoodoo has finally been laid to rest and West Ham fans are thoroughly enjoying the moment. It was a formidable display of defensive solidarity and counter-attacking play. The nature of the job that we did on Liverpool is reflected in the fact that although they had the lion’s share of possession, they could only muster one decent goal scoring opportunity. Make no mistake. this was a thoroughly well deserved three points. But we can not rest on our laurels or allow this victory to make us in the slightest bit complacent in the transfer window.

There are outstanding issues with the strength in-depth of the squad and they need to be resolved before Tuesday’s transfer deadline. It appears to me that, as a minimum, we need to sign two strikers (x1 permanent and x1 on loan), a wide player and probably another midfielder. If we could manage to sign Hernandez from Man Utd, Matri from AC Milan (on loan), Victor Moses from Chelsea and Alex Song (on a free) from Barca, I think that would probably see the squad sorted.

We do not need another keeper. Randolph has proven himself a perfectly adequate deputy. However, I would ideally like to see us sign additional cover at right-back, with Sam Byram of Leeds Utd being my preferred option. But if transfer monies are tight, I am sure that Jenkinson and O’Brien will suffice, with Hendrie, Chambers and Tomkins as additional cover. Augmenting the strike force is the single most pressing imperative. With Valencia, Carroll and Zarate not available, and Maiga sold on, our position precariously relies on Sakho’s continuing form and fitness. Hernandez is definitely the type of quality striker that I would like to see join the club. Failing that, I would not turn my nose up at the acquisition of Jelavic from Hull City. Jelavic is a good striker and could excel with better players around him. However, I am also clear that we need an extra loan striker. And acquiring Matri from AC Milan would be a perfectly good one year loan option. Of course there is also talk of the impending loan signing of Adebayor, but in truth it is unclear whether that move is ever likely to happen, considering Spur’s hostility and intransigence?

Arguably We also need to add another wide player to the squad. We will presumably retain Matt Jarvis, but we could do with another option There has been a lot of talk about a £6m bid for Chelsea’s Victor Moses. Moses is a player with a lot of talent, but he needs stability and a club where he can settle and play his best football. West Ham and Moses are a good fit and I would accordingly welcome the move. Another wide player linked with West Ham is Aaron Lennon, but I think his final destination is more likely to be Goodison.

Finally, with Poyet placed out on loan, there is a need for another defensive midfielder. I think that the preferred option is to sign Alex Song from Barca on a three year deal. As we all know, the complicating factor is the fact that Song is currently recovering from knee surgery. This means that there are problems with him passing a medical and the club are waiting until 1 September 2015 before conducting the medical. Personally, I rate Song and would welcome us signing him permanently. He may not be fit to play until November 2015, but a player of his quality is well worth the wait.

So, the key questions to be posed are: do you agree with the stated transfer priorities and the preferred targets identified? Or are there other priorities/targets that you think should be pursued?

SJ Chandos.


Talking Point

Ways People Celebrate When West Ham Win Away: No 94

Well, he said he’d get a tattoo if we won at Anfield for the first time in 52 years. And he did. Respect.


David Hautzig's Match Report

Liverpool 0, West Ham 3. Pass The Lithium.

It was hard to wake up over here and be really excited for today’s match. We hadn’t won at Anfield for a billion years, we are savaged by injuries yet again, and the transfer window has proven to be not only discouraging from a players-in perspective but also from PR standpoint. I never used to believe those that talked about deliberate spin coming from on high. But now? In my mind, I was preparing a scathing indictment of the board and their recent headlines as part of a recap on a predictable loss.

Time to hit the reset button.

The opening moments of most games are a time to settle in. For the players, too. You need to find the best spot on the couch. You need to have your phone ready to text or call during vital moments. You need a beverage of some kind for nervous sipping. I was up to the beverage part when Payet sent a cross into the box that Skrtel tried to clear, but his weak header went straight to last weeks villain, Cresswell. The cape came out to transform him back to a hero when he sent a low cross into the box. It was Gomez’s job to mark Lanzini coming into the box, but he failed and the newcomer from Argentina got around Gomez and poked the ball behind Mignolet for West Ham’s first goal at Anfield since 2006.

Liverpool 0, West Ham 1

Liverpool came very close to leveling the score in the 9th minute when Firmino picked up the ball 25 yards out from goal. He cut to his right, and then quickly back to his left before firing on goal. Randolph was beaten, and the shot looked destined for the top corner. But perhaps Bobby decided to take some time off from above to watch the match and nudged it a bit. It banged off the post. A minute later, Lucas fed Benteke in the area. He turned on the ball but went down from a very slight touch from Reid. Any West Ham fan had a right to be concerned a penalty was on the way. But Kevin Friend was right there, staring at the proceedings, and did nothing. Reid gave Benteke and earful as well, adding to the notion it was a flop.

From a sheer skill standpoint, the one thing West Ham have lacked recently has been players comfortable with the ball at their feet. Such skills were not of the highest priority under our previous manager. But Bilic wants us to play our way out of trouble when possible. Payet and Lanzini are two players capable of doing that. In the 12th minute, they combined with some quick passing and movement to win a free kick. A few minutes later, Lanzini broke on the counter from a failed Liverpool corner and did what no West Ham midfielder has done freely since Benayoun. He ran at the defenders, causing them to back up. Lanzini, with space in front of him, fired a long shot on goal that went wide. He had a right to be disappointed in himself for not testing Mignolet.

Liverpool then had a spell of possession. But on each occasion where danger could have been lurking, West Ham pressed and got numbers near the ball. In the 20th minute Clyne won a corner off Reid, but Lovren was called for a push as the ball sailed into the box. Minutes later, another Clyne cross deflected off Tomkins for another corner. From a defensive point of view, West Ham looked comfortable and compact.

In the 29th minute, West Ham happiness turned to unfettered joy when Lanzini harassed Lovren along the sideline. After Lanzini tumbled over the linesman, Lovren likely assumed he was free and clear. Lanzini had other ideas and ran in front of the shocked Lovren and grabbed the ball. Running down the touchline, Lanzini sent a low cross intended for Sakho. The ball was deflected out to Noble, who calmly side footed to ball past Mignolet.

Liverpool 0, West Ham 2.

While it likely didn’t effect the outcome of the game, Lanzini followed up his brilliant offensive display in the 37th minute with some equally impressive defensive work. Twice he won the ball back deep in West Ham territory, the second time clearing to Kouyate to diffuse any Liverpool aggression.

The final moments of the half saw Coutinho shown yellow, which would become pivotal later on.

Halftime. Liverpool 0, West Ham 2.

The halftime stats said West Ham only had the ball for 29% of the first half. Yet it didn’t fell like a West Ham bus garage. When on the ball, West Ham players looked comfortable. None more so than Payet, who in the 49th minute was able to dribble through Liverpool players the way pros often dribble through hordes of small children. He attempted a through ball to Kouyate but Moreno put in a good challenge to prevent him from charging into the Liverpool area. That kind of ability on the ball obviously creates scoring opportunities, which Payet did last season better than anyone in Europe.

But it has ancillary benefits as well.

In the 52nd minute, Liverpool’s day looked like it could be over and done with when Coutinho recklessly took Payet down from behind and saw red for a second yellow card. Replays showed the card could have been soft, and on another day play might have continued.

Ancillary benefits indeed.

Liverpool responded to the red card with lots of possession. It so happened to only be in midfield, nowhere near a trouble zone for West Ham. The frustration of not being able to break through the West Ham defence looked to get the better of Lovren when he unleashed a prayer of a long shot directly at Randolph. Two minutes later Liverpool finally got a cross into their new target man, Benteke, but after chesting the ball down to his feet his shot was blocked by Ogbonna. The ball came out to Clyne but his attempt sailed over Randolph and out for a goal kick.

Liverpool came close in the 63rd minute after winning a throw in the West Ham half. A Moreno cross came to Ings, who had replaced Firmino, at the top of the area. Ings laid it off for Milner, and with time on the ball sent a low shot towards the West Ham goal that slid wide. Even with a man advantage, West Ham had stopped pressuring Liverpool. They had stopped closing down. Kouyate took matters into his own hands and won possession, ran the ball deep into the Liverpool half and won a corner. Minutes later, Sakho and Lanzini combined at the top of the Liverpool box. The ball popped out to Kouyate, but his shot didn’t have enough power to trouble Mignolet.

West Ham came close to a third goal in the 76th minute when Cresswell got onto a long pass from Noble inside the Liverpool penalty area. He cut twice and tried to beat Mignolet on the short side when sending the ball across the face of goal might have been better. West Ham won multiple corners before a Reid header went out for a goal kick.

If West Ham’s day was going to implode, it would have started in the 78th minute when Kevin Friend showed Noble a straight red card. [He had earlier picked up a yellow]. It wasn’t a two footed challenge, and it wasn’t dangerous play. The card was unjustified. But West Ham fooled around on the ball in a dangerous area when a good old fashioned hoof was in order, probably by Kouyate who was right there.

In the 83rd minute, a Milner corner found Benteke in the box but his header went wide. Minutes later West Ham broke on the counter when Cresswell sent Payet and Kouyate towards the Liverpool area. Payet was brought down from behind by Ings, which ended Payet’s day and saw the introduction of Jarvis.

The 90th minute saw Liverpool squander their final half chance when Lucas and Moreno tried a one-two but the final pass deflected off Ogbanna and into the waiting arms of Randolph.

Seeing out a 2-0 win at Anfield would have been epic enough. The only icing on the cake would have been a goal by Sakho to get his EPL campaign started. As if they all heard my inner thoughts, a long pass from Oxford (who had come in for Lanzini) found Jarvis. Jarvis worked the ball to Kouyate, which then deflected into the path of Sakho. Skrtel backed off Sakho, inviting him to shoot. Which he did, rolling it past the helpless Mignolet.

Liverpool 0, West Ham 3.

An epic and euphoric day in so many ways it’s hard to list them. Instead, I wondered why Liverpool decided to follow the strategy of Arsenal, with a compact and narrow midfield, instead of the wide game both Leicester City and Bournemouth used to beat us. Bilic did say he would sort things out after last week, and maybe he did. In any event, the thrilling feelings that we all had after The Emirates are back.

West Ham have had their share of sponsor issues in the past few years. Alpari last year, that travel company a few years back. Well, if Betway goes south I’ve got it all figured out. Bipolar.org.uk. It is apparently the leading charity in the UK supporting individuals with Bipolar Disorder. I get the feeling they could help both the club right now as well as us supporters. The stunning highs of Arsenal and today, the depressive lows of the two games at home.

Let’s hope there’s more of the former to come.

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Match Report

Liverpool 0 West Ham 3 - No, You're Not Dreaming

Well I never! As soon as I predicted a 3-0 defeat in the Predictor League I started feeling in my water that it might turn out a little differently. And boy did it. One nil up within three minutes, two nil up after half an hour, and then Coutinho gets sent off. But life is never simple, is it? Mark Noble was then sent off with ten minutes to go in an outrageous decision by Kevin Friend, which must surely be overturned. But justice prevailed and Sakho sealed it with a third in injury time. Just wow.

The main thing is we got a result at a ground we haven’t won at since I was one year old, back in September 1963. And we now have 6 points and are firmly in the top half.

David Hautzig will post his full match report a bit later but in the meantime, here are some talking points, and it would be good to hear from people who actually saw the game.

* Manuel Lanzini scored on his Europa League debut. He’s now scored on his Premier League debut, and by all accounts had a stormer of a game. How good did he look?
* Was there any justification for Mark Noble’s sending off – our 6th so far this season and we’re only at the end of August
* How good was the overall performance, bearing in mind no one gave us a hope before the game?
* How did we look defensively?
* How did Payet do, and did Sakho look fit?

And finally, how on earth can we beat both Arsenal and Liverpool, yet lose to Leicester and Bournemouth? Same old West Ham…

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