The priority for the West Ham recruitment team over the next few months is surely very simple. It is to recruit better players than we have already in a number of different positions. Sam Byram will be none to impressed that Pablo Zabaleta looks likely to be our first pre-season recruit, but can anyone really deny that he wouldn’t improve the quality of our first eleven. Hardly. And that’s what it’s all about.
So what other positions do we need to improve on? I’d say the goalkeeping position would be one, although it may not be the first priority. Excellent goalkeepers are hard to come by but if we could sign Begovic, Hart or Butland I’d certainly say they were better than either of our current goalkeepers. It’s good to see Adrian back in form, and he hasn’t really put too much of a foot wrong since his return, but given the choice of him or Begovic, I know which one I would go for. But any of the three keepers I have mentioned would cost relatively big money, so I am not holding my breath on that.
In central defence we certainly need to think about bringing in one top class defender. Jose Fonte has never looked the answer to our defensive problems and paying £8 million for a player his age looks to be verging on madness, given his performances since his arrival in January. Winston Reid continue to be injury prone and James Collins isn’t getting younger. Angelo Ogbonna has played really well but is also prone to injury. Reid has played 30 games, Collins 21 and Ogbonna 19. We have Reece Oxford and Reece Burke coming through and it’s surely time one of them became a key part of the squad. We also have Declan Rice who’s emerged this season. I still think we should be looking to bring in one top quality centre back.
At left back we are well covered with Cresswell and Masuaku, who to me has been a brilliant addition to the squad.
In central midfield we are also well served with Kouyate, Obiang, Noble and Fernandes. I suspect Nordtveit will be sold, but given Josh Cullen’s season at Bradford he is quite capable of stepping up to the plate.
Out wide it is certainly the truth that Feghouli, Snodgrass and Ayew have all been disappointments to one degree or another. Michaeil Antonio is rightly our player of the season and Lanzini has run him close, but again, a top quality wide player ought to be a must. If it were down to me I’d sell Feghouli, Snodgrass and Ayew and invest the money in one world class player.
Up front it all depends on who we sell. It would not surprise me if Carroll were sold to Newcastle and it may be that Sakho demands to go (again), but both their injury records are horrific. Hopefully we can offload Valencia, and Calleri has already gone. Ashley Fletcher hasn’t broken through, despite appearing very bright whenever he has come on. There’s no doubt we have been very short of quality up front and we certainly need one marquee striker to come in. Hopefully that will be Batshuayi, but I wouldn’t bet my mortgage on it.
So, a goalkeeper, a right back, a central defender, a winger and a striker (or two). I reckon we need to spend at least £80 million.
A couple of you have commented about the club’s finances, in which we have no say. Fair enough. But on the playing side we have plenty to say, and quite right too. However I believe the squad isn’t that bad. Now I say that with everybody being fit (and I felt you all shrug then!) But compared to some comparable clubs (i.e. not the top six) we should be doing better. It’s my opinion we have two major problem areas – injuries, which frankly over the years have always been there and always cost us and secondly mental competence. Now I’m not a Doctor so the injuries are for someone else to deal with, and I do wish the owners would get a grip on this as ultimately it’s costing them far more in table placings than new players. If we had Andy Carroll, Sakho and Antonio all fit every game this season does anyone not really believe we would not be pushing for top 8 minimum?
But it’s the mental side I want to address. We don’t seem to have any mental fortitude. We have thrown away so many points from leading positions its ridiculous. On the pitch we can score and get ahead, home and away, but we just can’t hang on. I fully accept we don’t have a real leader, other than Noble, but the players themselves have to look at themselves or more importantly their head shrink does.
Zlatan has his own personal head shrink and when you consider his success record just as a player in himself, his record is literally second to none. I am told that his influence at United has meant more players are looking at this side of the game and Rashford in particular. So, as in many other sports can we continue to ignore this part of the game? I already said that the overall quality of the squad isn’t that bad it just doesn’t perform to a higher level. I understand some will lay the blame at Slaven’s door, and I do on occasions, but ultimately if they won’t perform what can he do. Well he might consider the same approach himself and get a Psychologist who will inspire him to get amongst them when he needs to.
Now, to be fair, I’m not a psychologist either and so to what levels you can take this I’m not sure but I will say this, this club through its previous managers especially Mr Greenwood have changed the face of football before and taken us to the next level with some fairly average players. If the club had the foresight and perhaps bravery to seriously look at bringing in quality sports psychologists (like, I should add Leicester City did last season through Loughborough University, and Andy Murray did when he finally became a winner), and it worked, West Ham could become so much better. The cost of these head shrinks would easily be covered by a single placing higher up the league .If the team made such a marked improvement and got us back into Europe then this means even more money but if you dare to dream (Leicester did) and we got top four, then who knows what we could achieve.
With the current owners we are just not going to get top class players coming to us until we can offer more than we do now. So this means (again like the Foxes) that the players we do have would have to step up and get to a new level by pulling together as a collective of individuals prepared to work as a team. Let’s face it from last season, Schmeichel aside, we had better players and even now I think we have. We just need to move them to a new level. And I might add that whatever the Under 23’s are doing (and they can come back from behind and hold a lead) is moving in the right direction. Perhaps because they are still in a learning mentality and trying to secure a future, they have more open minds to change and progress. If the first team had the same I still think we have a good enough squad (when fit) to move upwards and onwards. And to make the point clearer , if other clubs do it and we don’t , we’ll be back to becoming the next Sunderland , scraping around the bottom after a stadium move , and eventually getting relegated with nothing to come back up with.
We are now entering a really critical period for West Ham United. The owners are not going to change. We are no longer strangers to our home ground. We have a stable manager. We have a poorer training facility and weak backroom staff but the success of the loanees and under 23’s gives real hope on the playing side for next season. All you can do is dream.
There are enough of us on this site with football administration experience and player coaching/ management to truly recognise there really are major problems at the club. I’m very familiar with the Coventry City story. They were a long standing Premier club, who had greedy owners who moved the club to a new stadium without thinking it through long term. This lack of a ‘project’ has now badly backfired on them as they are in a sorry state. They don’t own a ground or training ground, have just got relegated again and have their fans flocking to the rugger or not returning at all. And I tell you this because this has our club written all over it.
I intended to write a review of the season but in truth you have to go back further than that and not just in time. We now have two owners who cannot take the club further. If you view them as using the club as a cash cow that is one angle, the other being they genuinely love the club but in truth do not have the money to take it further. They have also employed a number of people who have disrupted the club and its fan base with particularly poor judgement calls and lack of consultation/consideration with their clients, sorry supporters, which will now be difficult to put right. A number of these senior officials also look to be leaving for seemingly lower clubs so what’s the problem in retention?
The owners and Karren Brady have clearly used the club to promote themselves and their interests but by using their families and social media have opened a huge gap between having owners you can respect and those who keep embarrassing the club. What is ironic is the very comments they make with stupid speculating ultimately cost the club in terms of points, success and most importantly for them money, as these same outbursts stop these players from coming to us. I understand that as owners they can do what they want so why let hangers on do their bidding (and so badly) for them. It comes down to professionalism or vanity, and probably both for our club.
However, as owners, they are more than just that. The playing staff is just one area and frankly who knows or understands their thinking on how it works. For us last season it clearly didn’t.
This brings me to my other point. Just how does our behind the scenes team work? We have a frankly shocking injury record. Stop and think about this as it’s been going on for far too long. If you have a long term work issue that stops the production or productivity then you fix it and sharp about it. So why haven’t we? And it’s this lack of positive action that concerns me.
Being on the tele and social media is one thing but shouldn’t you be on the shop floor sorting out your grass root problems, or put another way, would you sit and do nothing if you were in charge? The fitness of our squad has been an issue ever since 41 year old Billy Bonds, who would still beat the entire first team squad in preseason running exercises, retired. Since then our preseasons have been very poor, our injury list no shorter and the fitness levels shocking. How many seasons have we got off to a good start and maintained it? Not many. So why aren’t the owners doing more about it?
If the medical team cannot reduce the injury list then bring in a new team. It should be the same with the conditioning team. I also want to include the statistical review teams and scouts, who don’t seem to being providing the right information to support the pregame routine.
And if anything the other huge area for improvement is our psychologist department (if we even have one). If you consider that statistically the best player in the Premiership has his own personal one, then why haven’t we been progressive enough to recruit in this direction. If the other departments cannot perform at this level at least if the head shrinks do that will improve the on field levels. The rest are doing it, we must raise the bar on this.
And if it’s the training ground then spend some money on improving or moving it. It’s the source of our problems and keeps being ignored. So too does the standard of the coaching staff. This has to change more than anything else. It’s the starting point for everything. I heard that Julian Dicks doesn’t take ‘defending but ’crossing exercises!
Whatever is going on the ‘intensity’ argument will rage on. On face value there isn’t any. SB may be a laid back sort of guy, but that shouldn’t stop his coaches pushing the squad. The whole kids in the tunnel v Liverpool seems to top off the real attitude of the playing side, it’s all haphazard and we’ll see how we go. Where is the real structure to what is going on? I wouldn’t argue with SB’s Managers assistant, as that’s more about support for him, but the rest of his team are lacking. Is Chris Woods appropriate for the keepers we have? Possibly. Is Julian Dicks, if he’s not helping in defence, then no frankly? We are crap in defence so why was Rio’s offer turned down? Without fit strikers to work with it must be difficult but we haven’t been anywhere near last season’s levels and you have to question why? If I was the owners I would demand answers not let someone bring it up in a Saturday rag as an excuse.
The players will soon be swanning off on their second holiday this year. The first was the disastrous jolly to Dubai, which proved form the results straight after it that’s it’s a complete waste of time and money. Again a lack of discipline and pandering to the players. So as they do go off again for a well-earned break ( not) isn’t this the time to get the backroom teams, give each a proper review , sack the ones who can’t improve and let them work across the summer to improve the set up before the players return , before the preseason holiday to wherever.
I have deliberately not commented on the players performances as that’s a row for another day but if you take them out of the equation and look at what’s left its pretty much a shambles. We have owners who won’t progress because they don’t have the money or ambition and are happy to stick to tried and failed practises in pandering to family and hanger ons. They have not truly engaged with their client base (you stopped being supporters when you left Upton Park) and if the seating arrangements are not sorted by the chief hanger on, then the cycle starts again and we continue from the wrong place. Regardless of whether we like it or not the Stadium has to be an asset to the clients and club. Keeping her away from it would help unless like the others she can prove she can vastly improve her performance.
If the owners can put the backroom facilities and staff right over the summer, then I would be much happier than having to wait for Jack and her to start spouting over who we aren’t getting in. No point in having good players if they aren’t kept fit or motivated mentally and physically. When all said and done its just simple working practises. Keep your production up to date and working efficiently. The end product will produce the goods. Then look to improve the process with better and better and repeat. Anything that holds up the process, get rid. Do this and you keep your client base happy and keep coming back. Fail to do this and everything like in the cases of Coventry, Leeds, Forest, Wednesday, the O’s you will fail. The first season at the new place is done. Now it’s time to be more honest and get it right next season. Personally I won’t be looking at which aging ex Worldy we will be bidding for but how the club looks at the picture as I see it above. I want the youths to be given a real chance and to see the club either improves or fails. If this season was a big one, next season will be even harder if we don’t prepare properly. You all know the phrase, like many of you am sure you used it in your own training sessions. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Over to you the owners of this magnificent club.
NOTEFROMIAIN: These are Rugby’s views and do not represent those of WHTID. Free speech can be a terrible thing sometimes… :)
The weekend started stormy for me on Friday evening, literally. Final day of the Hamburg Oberliga season, a final meaningless home game against already relegated opposition. Even the 50 or so spectators who had made their way to the ground more by force of habit rather than uncontrollable enthusiasm for the game didn’t look like they wanted to be there. Neither did the two teams. Due to the very obscure local noise control regulations the game had to be played on the adjoining grass pitch rather than the artificial one usually used on the premises as it was a Friday evening game.
The game was played under a constant supply of drizzling rain. It was as exciting as a wet weekend in Wigan and then middle of the second half with the score at 1:1 the heavens opened for a furious crescendo. Freezing cold water hitting us from all sides, accompanied by heavy thunder and lightning, directly above the pitch. The referee had no other option than to abandon the game (and thus most likely end the season) and to tell the truth not a single soul was unhappy with that. The Concordia lads will now have to do some reshuffling over the summer, replacing some departing players, in order to then strive for promotion again next season.
The Concordia vice president once again told me over a beer he was very much looking forward to joining me on one of my West Ham trips next season with a few more guys from the Cordi hierarchy, so I may be asking you for some help with regard to providing a few tickets for that cause sometime next season.
As for our West Ham game I was in the bizarre situation of not being able to watch via one of my usual streams and I wasn’t confident enough about using some of the other suggestions as I didn’t want to put my laptop at risk of being attacked by spy- or ransomware. So I “watched” the game via the stats screen of the betting site I use which is a bit like watching one of those dodgy first video games that came out on one of those old Atari gaming consoles, but coupled with the WHTID thread it did the trick.
By all accounts we delivered a solid performance with the bare bones outfit we sent out onto that pitch, we were even one man short on the bench – with one of those substitutes being a rather short man too in the shape of my favourite youth player, young Dan Kemp. I was chuffed to bits for the lad even though he didn’t get to play, but we got a good win at Burnley which not only pushed us up the table into a very respectable 11th place but the result alone should send Hammers far and wide into the summer in a much happier mood compared to the mindset we might have had to endure after yet another defeat or draw in that final game.
Apparently we now have an additional £19 million to spend in the summer, either on transfers or to pay off some more debt. I don’t want to go over the season just ended in meticulous detail, and at the hazard of sounding like a broken record I need to reiterate that I consider it a minor miracle how we ended up in 11th place after this shambles of a season.
Now be honest: If I had told you at the start of the season that our best player in recent years, Payet, would leave the club in acrimonious circumstances after going on strike in January, that there would be fighting with rival fans, also among Hammers fans, coupled with trouble concerning the stewarding and fan segregation at the London Stadium, that we would have ELEVEN players out through injury for at least two months each over the course of the season, that our Number One striker Andy Carroll once again would be unavailable for more than half of the games this season, that we would ship goals left, right and center to suffer an unhealthy number of maulings against several sides in the league, then throw in a tax raid at London Stadium hyped up for the media to create maximum effect and finish it off with the lack of effort, pressing and even running shown by our team in far too many games this season – and if I then still offered you 11th place in the table, you wouldn’t just have snatched my arm off, but probably a bit of the shoulder and a leg as well.
We all have differing opinions on who is to blame to what degree for the various issues affecting our club this season. I will make no secret of the fact that I doff my cap to Slaven Bilic for the dignity and courage he displayed in what must have been a season from hell for any manager. I maintain that the best managers in the world would have struggled in the same situation, maybe even crumbled and collapsed under the pressure encountered by Slav. But he rarely moaned or pointed fingers at others. He did his best and carried on managing the team. Although I get the impression that maybe he treats his players too well at times, is too much of a mate rather than the manager and chief in command.
Maybe he needs to put his foot down on them more at times, demanding more effort and fight. But maybe that just isn’t his way. He still offers a lot more good than bad traits as a manager as far as I’m concerned.
Let’s not forget, all of the above while suffering from a bad hip, the pain caused by which I dare not even imagine. Bilic deserves a clean slate now (don’t we all?) and apparently he is headed for the notorious end of season review talks in Sullivan’s office today. For me there can only be one outcome here: Keep Bilic and support him with the money to bring in 3 or 4 quality signings. That’s all we need really. Eliminate the negative factors mentioned above, add quality players where we need them (RB and strikers mainly) and we should be well equipped for a top 8 finish next season.
I would actually consider keeping players like Feghouli, Nordtveit and Fletcher as they have rarely been given a run in the side and I reckon there is enough quality in them to be very decent squad players for us.
One of the biggest elephants in the room though is the high number of injuries buggering us constantly over the years. We have moved training grounds, so that’s one cause eliminated.
Is it just bad luck or rotten karma ? I don’t really believe that. The most likely reason for me is a combination of inadequate training/warmup routines and a dodgy medical setup. That’s easy for me to say, with no professional background in physiotherapy or medical science, but this constant flow of long-term injuries has been following our club for years now, so the medical team surely warrants some serious looking at during the summer, same as Slaven’s backroom staff.
But it all starts and ends with the owners. They are the ones who ultimately have to decide what kind of club we want to be and how we can achieve that vision, if they have one for West Ham that is. Talk alone will not do anymore. Social media snippets won’t do. Aloof bragging in newspapers about capacity at London Stadium, number of punters on the notorious Waiting List, sizes of digital screens or increasing net worth of West Ham won’t do. In the style of a famous quote by Bill Clinton:
“It’s the football, stupid!”
The Premier League is a money business like never before in its history. If you want to tango with the big boys, you need to spend big and on top of that you need to spend wisely too. If you are very lucky sometimes you can get away with spending reasonably little money as long as you are still spending it extremly smartly. But that surely is a pretty rare event and a makeshift approach that will not get you up the table long term.
Now the summer is upon us then. A long summer with very little football to be found. Of course there is always the silly season, but I sincerely hope West Ham will have learned their lesson and will only come out with stuff once players have actually signed on the dotted line, holding that shirt up while grinning like a Cheshire Cat (why are cats in other counties not capable of the same facial expression I wonder).
So I reckon I won’t be writing my column quite as regularly as normal throughout the summer, unless there is West Ham related stuff to discuss of course. I am still surprised that people actually read my articles and sometimes even seem to enjoy them, so hopefully I can continue in the same vein, with renewed hope and enthusiasm next season.
As a final bit of fun, I’ve been talking in previous comments about a German TV host and comedian being the spitting image (in my view) of our skipper, Canning Town’s own Mark Noble. The guy is called Jan Boehmermann and I have to admit the likeness somewhat varies, depending on what the guy is wearing, from what angle you watch him, how he’s moving etc.
But I still think he looks like one of Mark’s brothers, separated at birth and shipped off to Germany…LOL
Judge for yourselves!
Wishing you all a lovely summer and I hope to see you all again next season!
Or online of course if you occasionally still feel you want to talk about West Ham on a warm summer’s day. COYI!!!
Last day of the season. A season that most of us cannot wait to see in our rear view mirror. What could today have offered to at least give us something to pay attention to for 90 minutes? Youth. Almost all of my friends on Twitter and various podcasts have agreed that the additional three million pounds we could earn if we finish 11th, which realistically is the highest we could end up due to goal differential, would pale in comparison to the experience a couple of kids could get. I wanted to do a match report that acted as one of those cameras focused on a single player or two. I wanted to follow Rice or Quina. Calleri’s not even in the squad, so Fletcher should have started, right? Then yesterday David Gold put out that truly idiotic Tweet about not playing kids, which made the starting eleven no shock. Thus, since the result itself was of little consequence I saw no reason to focus on details. If something notable happened, I’ll mention it. To be honest, I’m actually looking forward to things like yard work and laundry on the weekends as opposed to what we have experienced.
In the 6th minute, Feghouli had a decent look at goal after a Lanzini cross and forced a save from Heaton. I’m undecided on Feghouli. Good article the other day on The West Ham Way about him. Worth a read if you haven’t seen it.
Cresswell has not had a memorable campaign. No news there. A lot has been down to poor decisions. Like in the 14th minute when he was sent in by Ogbonna down the left. But he tried a low cross that The Road Runner wouldn’t have reached let alone Ayew, while Snodgrass was unmarked ten yards out from goal. The former Hull man looked rightfully annoyed.
23rd minute. Poor touch from Lanzini led to Burnley counter. Burnley counter led to poor defending from West Ham. Poor defending from West Ham led to Vokes goal.
Whoa. In the 24th minute West Ham looked very good in scoring an equalizer. Fernandes threaded a ball in between a bunch of Burnley defenders to find Ayew, who back heeled the ball to Feghouli running into the box, and the Algerian Freebie finished it. Take a bow guys.
Bobby Madley stinks. He really stinks. Westwood should have been sent off in the 31st minute for a high boot into Ginge’s thigh. And that was just one of many reasons the man should consider a career change.
OK Sofiane. I want to like you. I even think there’s an argument that in a stronger side you could be valuable. But considering how good your finish was to score, your sky bound shot in the 33rd from the same area was terrible.
West Ham 1
For all the complaining we do about offside calls, I must say it’s a tough job for the linesman. Early in the second half Ayew was flagged offside and I had no idea how that could be. He was. Other than 100% video technology taking over that call I cannot see how it can improve.
Remember what I said about Feghouli before? How he might be with more quality around him? Ayew might be the same. Clever players need more clever players around them. Their minds work on different wavelengths than players who get “stuck in”. Both are needed. I’m just stream of consciousness writing now.
Something occurred to me around minute 65 when Byram made a nice sliding tackle to break up a Burnley counter and then headed the ball clear from inside our eighteen-yard box. He’s a good young player. I’d be more than happy with him as our second choice right back next season. Slaven was wrong, in my opinion, to screw with the kids confidence by playing everyone but Jack Sullivan at right back earlier in the year.
Back to Ayew. The man is lucky. Which is fine. Famous quote here from an old baseball manager, “I’d rather be lucky than good”. He likely is both. But when the ball bounced softly off the crossbar after a good effort from Fernandes, all Ayew had to do was stand there and put it in. He’s had similar good fortunes not hiding this season.
You know what I felt when Lanzini stepped up to take a free kick from 25 yards out in the 82nd minute? The same kind of excited energy I felt when Darth Dimitri used to step up. That’s gotta be a good sign.
Four minutes of added time? From what? At least Rice will have made his senior debut for us in those mysterious minutes.
We won on the last day of the season for the first time in years. We finished 11th on 45 points. We ended eleven points clear of the drop zone, in stark contrast to the fear I felt going into the Spurs match two weeks ago as Swansea was surging and we were dropping. In a vacuum, that’s not that bad for a season of utter turmoil and angst.
But we don’t live in a vacuum, do we?
There is no way any of you are more interested in what happened at Turf Moor today than what will happen behind the scenes in Stratford starting tomorrow. Bilic in or Bilic out? Batshuayi? Zabaleta? A new keeper? That guy from Belgium? All possible ingredients in what we hope will be a better meal next season. Or as some believe, more decoys while less expensive options are worked on behind the scenes to serve us dressed up fast food.
Here I go again with my damned metaphors. And to make it more annoying, I’m going to delve into my silly food comparisons again.
Our board say they will build a Michelin Starred operation. I believe they sincerely want that to happen. But when chefs set out to do that, they never compromise on the food they use. Every detail is meticulously thought out. Things we might consider mundane, like butter or onions, are sourced as if the success of the entire operation rests on that choice. If something costs more, they simply build that into their financial structure. Guests at such restaurants accept that as part of the deal and don’t blink when the bill comes.
This is not a judgment on my part. Our board do not have to do such things if they don’t want to, or have concluded they can’t based on their comfort level with the financial reality at the club. They are, by and large, good businessmen. Karen Brady could not have achieved what she has without being a very smart woman. If they do spend large sums of money on fees and wages to attract players we would be genuinely excited, and probably a little shocked to see join, then that would be a departure from their past. Can it happen? Yes. Should we expect it? Only if disappointment is an emotion you seek out.
I think Slaven will be back. I think the board will be more judicious in their dealings with the press and supporters regarding transfers this summer. But next season I will only expect a meal that I enjoy, served in a timely manner by pleasant and professional servers. Anything beyond that will be treated as a pleasant surprise.