The Brian Williams Column

Thanks for the memories

With the hunt now on for a new manager, and the fresh dawn that will bring, it is easy to forget that we are nearing the end of an era. This time next year the gates of Upton Park will have been locked for the final time and the bulldozers will be on their way. There will be no going back.

They say you don’t miss what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, but it’s not going to be as simple as that next season. For all of us who have a lifetime of loyal support invested in Upton Park the final game of next season is going to be one of the most emotional days of our lives. That’s not to say other matches won’t be poignant too, though.

In its way, each game is going to be a final game. It will be the last time we play Chelsea at Upton Park; the last time we play Man Utd; the last time we play Tottenham. With each game the recollections of past battles will come flooding back. For me that means Geoff Hurst v Chopper Harris; Bobby Moore v George Best & Co; Martin Peters and Jimmy Greaves playing for the “wrong” sides. When we entertain Newcastle I’ll allow myself the luxury of a journey back in time to 1986 and big Alvin’s hat-trick. Arsenal will give me the chance to privately salute Sir Trevor; Man City means Dean Ashton; Everton equates to Stuart Slater. And just about everybody will make me think of my personal king of Upton Park, William Arthur Bonds.

My advice is to soak up the atmosphere at every game; cherish the memories of our final season at the Boleyn Ground and lock them away somewhere very safe indeed. You never know when you might need them.

What are the memories you will take from this season, I wonder? Whether they are good or bad will much depend on whether you’re a glass half-full or half-empty kinda person. The early part of the season was terrific, of course – not just the results, but the brand of free-flowing attacking football that we were serving up under Sam Allardyce. There wasn’t a hoof to be seen as we dispatched Liverpool, Man City, Newcastle, Swansea and Leicester at Upton Park before Christmas. For the traveling supporters there were even a couple of away wins as well.

Yes, we had our tongues in our collective cheek as we warned Barcelona that we were coming for them. But it was fun, nevertheless.

You don’t need me to tell you the second half of the season was nowhere near as enjoyable. A toxic cocktail of injuries, loss of confidence and hurtful late goals saw the party turn into a hangover as we won just three league games. And a desperately disappointing exit from the FA Cup after we’d all started to believe this might just be our year to go back to Wembley induced nausea to go with the headache.

Would we have taken a comfortable mid-table position with no hint of relegation if we’d been offered it at the beginning of the season? It’s my bet most of us would. Also, whatever you think of Allardyce, there is no gainsaying that the standard of football was the best we have seen for several years. Even in some of the games we didn’t win, the quality was undeniable. We were exceptional against Man U, and excellent in the second half against Chelsea, for example.

However, the time has clearly come for a parting of the ways. The vital spark has gone from the team and, ultimately, the manager has to carry the can for that. As the season petered out we looked, as a side, to be too old, too slow, and too cautious. (There are those who would describe me in similar terms, but you don’t pay large lumps of money to watch me perform every week.)

There was a time I would have been desperate for a former West Ham favourite such as Slaven Bilic to take over. I’m not fussed these days – I just want someone who understands the club’s ethos and puts more emphasis on scoring goals than preventing them. I might even have a couple of bob on Michael Laudrup getting the job. I just hope the appointment is made sooner rather than later.

Alongside the question of who will be the manager comes the close season speculation about which players might be going and who may be joining. Somebody, somewhere, will doubtless put forward the suggestion we are about to sign Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele and Daniel Bentley (although I can’t see Bentley coming to Upton Park now Southend have secured promotion to League 1).

I like to kid myself that I will ignore the transfer gossip – telling myself I’m far too savvy to be taken in by all that stuff. But, try as I might, I won’t be able to resist the temptation to have a peek from time to time (Note to Miss Liddy: please note your spelling lesson did not go to waste.) I will endeavor not to believe every word of it, though. (Note to self: try not to let it ruin your summer when it transpires any rumour linking Carlos Tevez with a return to Upton Park is wide of the mark.)

Ah well, that’s the penultimate season done and dusted. I’m going to prepare for the next one – the final one at our beloved Boleyn Ground – by watching a bit of cricket and sparking up the barbecue when the weather allows. I hope you all have a brilliant summer, and I look forward to resuming our regular Tuesday get-togethers in August. As the man once said: COME ON YOU IRONS!

IAIN WRITES: If you’re wondering what to read on the beach this summer, why not try Brian’s book Nearly Reach The Sky – A Farewell to Upton Park? If it’s not in your local bookshop, you can order it online from publishers Biteback or Amazon.


Parish Notice

May Issue of Blowing Bubbles

Jack Collison believes he can still play a vital role as part of Wales’ golden generation.

In an interview with West Ham magazine Blowing Bubbles Monthly, the midfielder, who is currently without a club, said he is focusing on making sure he is in the best possible shape to make a comeback next season.

If Collison needed any further incentive to get his career back on track, he need only look at his Welsh international team-mates, who are currently in with a fantastic chance of qualifying for the 2016 European Championships, which would be their first major tournament appearance since 1958.

“It’s a bit tough to watch at times, but it’s great to see the lads I came through the ranks with, like Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale, doing so well,” said Collison, who left West Ham 12 months ago and won the last of his 16 caps in March 2014.

“This was always Wales’s golden generation, John Toshack blooded them young and now Chris Coleman is reaping the rewards. I’m confident in my ability, so if I can get a decent run of games, I don’t see any reason why I can’t get back into the squad.”

There is also a Cup Winners Cup Final special where Blowing Bubbles caught up with Ronnie Boyce, Brian Dear and Jack Burkett to relive the magical night the Hammers conquered Europe.

Elsewhere in the May issue of the magazine, Julian Dicks uses his regular column to talk about his highs and lows during his first year as manager of the West Ham Ladies team but will he remain manager for the Ladies’ next campaign? “Whether I will be manager next season remains to be seen,” he wrote this month

Sky Sports’ Bianca Westwood writes in her column that Aaron Cresswell has been fabulous this season and fully deserved Hammer of the Year. She believes England manager Roy Hodgson must consider taking him to the next England squad.

She also criticises manager Sam Allardyce for not doing more to adhere himself to the fans. “He could’ve spoken about our great fans or our wonderful history and all the other great things about West Ham, but his comments about ‘what’s the point playing the West Ham way if you get beat every week’ might have been part of his downfall,” she wrote. “It’s all well not playing the West Ham way if you are winning matches but we haven’t been.”

Meanwhile Blowing Bubbles also asks whether Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel and Dan Potts deserve new deals at West Ham and will the Hammers ever solve the big Enner Valencia enigma?

The latest issue of Blowing Bubbles Monthly is now available to read for FREE on your computer, tablet or mobile phone.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Newcastle 2, West Ham 0. Finished With A Whimper.

What did I want today? Of course a West Ham victory is what I want every time. In theory. But hey, I’m human. The idea of Mo Diame going down after his various temper tantrums while with us did make me smile. Yet at the same time, watching the train wreck that is Newcastle speed into the abyss also had its appeal. It stimulated the same part of the brain that vibrates when watching reality TV shows about natural disasters. In the end a funnel cloud and Mike Ashley aren’t that different. With all that was riding on today’s fixture at St. James Park, it says something that the only memorable and significant part of the match from West Ham’s point of view came three minutes or so after the final whistle.

Newcastle began the match with far more purpose and endeavor than West Ham. In the 2nd minute, Cisse made a run down the right side and passed to Riviere in the box. Riviere sent a low shot across the goalmouth but nobody was there to tap it in. Five minutes later Riviere was again on the end of a ball from Cisse but his overhead attempt went wide. In the 12th minute, Janmaat moved up to join the attack but his long range effort was deflected by Nolan and into the arms of Adrian. Then in the 17th he worked a one-two with Riviere before sending the ball into the heart of the box. Gutierrez got to the ball and fired but his shot was blocked. Janmaat got on the end of the rebound but sent his low shot wide of the far post. If Newcastle had not been in such dire straits and were playing with confidence they might have been up by a goal or two.

The Hammers began asking a few questions…well, maybe only one… in the 24th minute when Song sent a lovely pass out wide for Cresswell who then sent Downing into the box past the Newcastle back line. Tim Krul came out to cut off the angle, however, and made the save.

Newcastle continued to create half chances. In the 32nd minute Janmaat continued his strong attacking play when he overlapped with Riviere and sent a pass into the area intended for the Frenchman that was mis-hit and rolled to Adrian. A few minutes later Newcastle were awarded a free kick after a foul on Cisse by Reid, but Colback’s delivery was pathetic and didn’t even come close to the penalty area. In the 40th minute, Colback made a decent run down the left and sent a cross into the area but Janmaat’s header sailed high over the bar. Finally, in the only minute of added time, it was Janmaat again at the center of the action. He sprinted down the right before cutting into the center. His shot, however, didn’t match the buildup and rolled harmlessly wide for a goal kick

Halftime. Newcastle 0, West Ham 0.

Remember when Robbie Keane somehow managed to miss an easy tap in against Villa late in the season under Moron Grant? That’s what I thought of in the 51st minute. Anita passed to Janmaat, who did well to beat the challenge of Cresswell and find himself wide open. He sent a terrific pass right onto the feet of Riviere right in front of goal. Missing it was in some ways harder than tapping it in. But missed it he did and the ball rolled harmlessly wide.

Three minutes, Newcastle got the goal that released the pressure cooker that was St. James Park. Gutierrez sent a cross into the box that Sissoko was able to head home, beating both Reid and Cresswell.

The next twenty minutes seemed to glide by without anything notable, or even memorable, happening on the pitch. In that time, Sam was able to make his final odd substitutions as West Ham manager. Down a goal and you took off the striker you’re playing wide for another midfielder? A straight swap of central defenders? At least Lee was given some dignity. If Hull had managed to score and a draw by us would have kept them up, me thinks Brucey would have given his mate Sam a beatin’.

West Ham had their only chance of the second half in the 80th minute when Cole laid the ball off for Nolan but his chance for his 100th EPL goal but it sailed wide of the far post.

Newcastle put the game on ice in the 85th minute when Gutierrez sent a left footed effort from outside the area that deflected off Jenkinson before settling into the bottom corner of the net. Considering what he has gone through recently, it was nice on a human level to see.

Final Score. Newcastle 2, West Ham 0.

And that concludes the first season of Match Reports By Some American Guy. I’ve enjoyed being that much more immersed in the world of West Ham United, and I hope you enjoyed my somewhat quirky style. It was Iain’s desire to have a different type of report on his site, and that’s what I tried to provide. If our fearless leader is so inclined, I’ll do it again next season.

Come On You Irons.

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Talking Point

Allardyce: "I told the Owners I'm Off"

An interesting, reflective interview from Sam Allardyce in which he reacts to the news after the game that he is leaving the club. He says it’s a mutual decision but then more than hints it was actually his own decision to leave. Hmmm. But he thanks everyone, including the owners, players and fans and he doesn’t seem consumed by any bitterness.


Talking Point

And That's The End For Sam Allardyce


The club have just issued a statement which tells us that after four seasons Sam Allardyce is leaving the club. Some might say it was released in undue haste after the the final whistle at St James’s Park. It took them all of four minutes, leaving Sam to face the press pack with them all knowing. Nice.

I’d post the full statement here, but the club’s website won’t load, no doubt due to so many people trying to access it.

It’s a sad end, but in many ways inevitable. After the first half of the season which promised so much, we have only won three times since Christmas. You can’t just put it down to injuries, although they have played their part. The truth is we’d be in the relegation zone if we hadn’t accumulated so many points in the first few months.

We should be graceful and thank Sam for what he did for us. He got us promotion and stabilised the club. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to give us the sort of football we are used to, or take us to the next stage, but he did the job he was employed to do.

Goodbye Sam, hello….?

UPDATE: Club Statement in full

“West Ham United will begin the search for a new manager after the Club decided not to renew the contract of Sam Allardyce following the conclusion of the 2014/15 season.

Joint-Chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold will now oversee the recruitment process for a new manager to lead the Club into one of the most exciting eras in its history. The Hammers will bid an emotional farewell to the Boleyn Ground, their home of more than 110 years, next season before the Club moves to London’s premier state-of-the-art 54,000 seater stadium on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in August 2016.

The Board has already compiled a shortlist of replacements for Allardyce and will be making significant transfer funds available for the successful candidate.

In a statement, Joint-Chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold have paid tribute to Allardyce’s contributions and explained what they will be looking for in their new manager.

“We would like to start by thanking Sam Allardyce for his valuable work since arriving at the Boleyn Ground four years ago,” they said.

“He leaves the Club in a considerably better state then when he arrived and, for that, the Board are truly grateful.

“However, we have made the decision not to renew his contract, so we now have the chance to appoint a new manager with a new philosophy to lead us into two of the most exciting years in our great Club’s history.

“Our target is to recruit a manager that will build a team capable of saying a fitting farewell to the Boleyn Ground next year and do justice to the outstanding surrounds we will call home from August 2016.

“We have already been impressed with the quality of candidates that have expressed an interest in the role and fully expect to appoint a manager with the credentials to take this Club on to new heights.

“From our point of view there isn’t a more exciting job in the Premier League at present.”


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