Talking Point

Who is your HOTY?

With all due respect to Scott Parker and Mark Noble, in recent seasons the Hammer of the Year award has been an almost foregone conclusion with little to no competition to the eventual winner. Between them they have won five of the last six awards and their never say die attitude has gone a long way to them being unopposed in their respective seasons. With eight games still to go this season it may be a little early to try and pick this seasons winner but what the heck, it is an International break isn’t it?

What a reflection on this season though? We can look at least six players this season who have a very decent shout of being this seasons HOTY. Whilst we have Sam lovers and Sam haters, it is refreshing to have so many worthy candidates. Perhaps this season has not been so bad after all? Let’s have a look at the players I think most would agree to being the contenders this season.

Aaron Cresswell has been a revelation at left back this season and is proving to be one of the buys of the season. It is no wonder Ipswich fans were so full of praise for him and so sorry to lose him. Ever present this season, his attacking raids from full back have earned rave reviews and he has adorned himself to the fans. He has been most consistent although he can be vulnerable in defence especially in the air. For mine he has not been used to full effect at set pieces but he has to be one of the favourites to win the award this season.

Diafra Sakho our leading goal scorer this season got off to a cracking start. His record equalling six goals in successive games earned him the Premier League player of the month in October. His trademark crossed arms Hammer salute goal celebration and the fact he cried when he thought he had missed his chance to join the club have made him a crowd favourite. For a forward his work rate is outstanding although his decision making at times shows he still has a lot to learn in the top flight. What a find though and to think he was playing in the French second tier last season? Another outstanding chance to win the HOTY.

Cheikhou Kouyate was a more high profile player arriving at Upton Park this season. Signed from Anderlecht he has been most adaptable, playing in different midfield roles and at centre back when required. The player is total class and his work rate is outstanding. When he plays in his preferred midfield role he glues the side together. A couple of knocks, the African Cup and the need to help out at centre back has unfortunately made it a bit of a stop start season for him, but his class is always there to see.

Adrian has really grown in stature this season and has probably become the fans favourite for the passion he shows. He has had a fine season and who could forget his gloves off approach to the winning penalty against Everton? Still a bit suspect at coming for a cross, his rapport with the fans could just get him over the line.

Other contenders would include Enner Valencia, Alex Song and Stewart Downing if all their form had not tailed off in recent months. However, with eight games still to go it is not too late for any of them to come into contention again. Song in particular was head and shoulders above any other player prior to Xmas and a return to form could put him back in with a shout. Downing’s early season form got him an England call up only to be played out of position. The wait for Andy Carroll to return was well worth it with a flurry of goals and top performances. Alas, you have to play more games than Andy does to be in with a chance.

The best roughie for me would be James Collins just for his die hard attitude on the pitch. Forever putting everything on the line he is not always Sam’s pick at centre half. He would be mine every time. Carl Jenkinson and James Tomkins have also had excellent seasons. Last but not least we have the players who have won the award the past two seasons. Mark Noble and Winston Reid. It has not been a bad season has it when these two past winners are probably outsiders at best?


Talking Point

The Men in Black

What do tennis, rugby union, rugby league and cricket have that we don’t? A video review of the most important decisions that affect a game of course, well apart from goal line technology which is in its infancy. The refereeing in the Premier League has been so bad this season that some are even alluding to the possibility of refs deliberately making a few hashes so as to heighten the need for video help. I find this assumption ridiculous at best but at least it highlights just how bad the referees have been. And it is getting worse. More than once this season the wrong player has been sent off in cases of misidentity.

Now, let’s have a look at the Premier League. Here we have a competition where the TV rights have escalated to over 5 billion pounds for the next three seasons and on average each game has a World viewing audience of over twelve million. We have matches comprising of twenty two of the finest and fastest athletes available and they play for an hour and a half with a fifteen minute break. These fit young men also practise falling over at the slightest of touches and if the ref does not give them what they want he and his team mates are allowed to surround him, point fingers and shout at him. He probably can’t hear much of what they are screaming as the 40,000 crowd that sit just a few yards away are hurling abuse at him and have started to chant “you don’t know what you are doing”! They are also questioning his parentage. The TV cameras have by now played twenty eight replays from 108 different angles and the whole place is going manic. Who is this ref, this man in black? Who is this balding, rotund 48 year old that has wires spouting from every orifice and carries around a can of foam? Often he was the young kid at school, you know the one, the one that loved to play football in the play ground but was never good enough to make the school team. He was the kid that decided “better become a referee if I can’t play”.

Now perhaps I am being a bit unfair? These men in black are remarkably fit for their age and know the rules of the game much better than the fans watching and indeed the pundits in the TV box. But come on! When are we going to realise that the speed of the game has passed these poor fellows by? Not to mention the so called professionalism of some of the tactics employed by shrewd coaches trying to con him. They need a hand. Every mistake they make is scrutinised by the video replays, the very replays that could help them make the right decisions!

One of the perceived downsides of allowing a referee or a 4th official the luxury of these replays is that it will slow the game down. My view is I would not care providing we get the right decision and it was only used for the major decisions where a referee requires assistance. My view is also that if we cut out the surrounding of referees by players waving imaginary cards at them, it might help speed the game up sufficiently to make up for any said video review. And don’t get me started on players rolling around on the ground, taking the ball into the corner post and all other forms of time wasting. The surrounding of the refs will stop, as will the need for a 4th official trying to contain an irate manager on the sideline if everyone knew “we were going upstairs” for clarification. If ever the video ref does come into play in our game it will still not be perfect. There will be the odd mistakes made as it will still be a human being that officiates them. But it will be a whole lot better than what we are enduring at the moment. Or will we miss our favourite post match pastime too much? You know, the right to moan after the game to everyone and anybody that will listen, that we were robbed again?


The Brian Williams Column

WHY DEFOE FAILED TO SCORE ON SATURDAY – EXCLUSIVE

Okay, hands up everyone who feared Jermaine Defoe would get the winner for Sunderland on Saturday.

When he got in behind our back four after 15 minutes no one who had seen Defoe in his prime expected him to miss the way he did. However, he’s clearly not lost the greed that once made him a formidable striker and the way our luck has been going lately you had to be a serious optimist to be truly confident he wouldn’t nick one. I for one was relieved when he finally got the hook in the 88th minute.

It wasn’t until we were enjoying a celebratory pint in the Denmark after the game that I discovered my son Geoff had taken serious preventative action by actually backing Defoe to score – working on the tried and tested premise that any wager placed by a member of the Williams family is guaranteed to put the mockers on the predicted outcome. I’d like you all to join me now in thanking the fruit of my loins for his selfless action in the name of West Ham United.

Didn’t it make a welcome change to keep a clean sheet for once? I always feel as if a dagger has been plunged into my heart when the opposition puts the ball in our net. When the goalscorer is a former Iron the pain is worse. And if that ex-Hammer is a genuine turncoat it’s akin to being stabbed with a rusty breadknife.

I really don’t care for Jermaine Defoe. I know I should be grateful for the goals he scored on our behalf, not least the header that gave us a rare 1-0 win at Old Trafford win at the end of 2001.

However, the way he left us did lack a certain amount of class. Perhaps those three red cards he was shown after having his transfer request turned down were purely coincidental, but anyone with a suspicious nature could be forgiven for thinking there might have been something more to it than that. Was he trying to tell us something?

As a Tottenham player he developed quite a knack of scoring against us after he got his ticket out of E13 – including a goal in his first game back at Upton Park. This was the lasagne-gate game which, happily, we won 2-1.

You will recall that Tottenham complained bitterly because several of their players had been laid low by the pre-match catering. It would appear Mr Defoe went for the vegetarian option that day, because he was fit to play. However the following season, at White Hart Lane, he felt he was entitled to try some Argentinian beef and sunk his teeth into Javier Mascherano’s shoulder – much to the South American’s annoyance. As with the lasagne and his team-mates, Mascherano clearly didn’t agree with him.

Never mind Jermaine. Much as we dislike you, there is no chance of you being anything more than Public Enemy No 2 at Upton Park. Securing a transfer by being repeatedly sent off is bad enough. Being photographed in another club’s shirt in an effort to accelerate your exit takes treachery to a whole new level.

Paul Ince really got the treatment every time he returned to Upton Park – and I’m not ashamed to say I was one of those who took the chance to make my feelings known about the way he had behaved.

On each occasion we played Man Utd after he’d joined them I prayed that long-suffering West Ham supporters wouldn’t have to put up with the indignity of seeing him score. It worked for several years. Then what little faith I had in God’s infinite wisdom and mercy was finally shattered one chilly afternoon in February 1994 when, with us leading 2-1 with only three minutes left, the little Red Devil popped up and grabbed the equaliser. It is fair to say he did not receive a sporting round of applause from those of us in claret and blue.

Ince actually managed to score against us for three different clubs. After he left Man Utd he scored for Liverpool in May 1998, when he got their fifth as we took a 5-0 hiding at Anfield. And then in 2005 – 16 years after his controversial departure from East London – he got Wolves’ third as we endured a 4-2 mauling at Molineux. However, the good news on this occasion is that we had the last laugh – securing promotion through the play-offs as Mr Ince was left to languish in the second tier. Perhaps there is a god after all.

If we were handing out medals to former players who have scaled the heights of unpopularity with the West Ham faithful, you would certainly have to reserve a place on the rostrum for Frank Lampard Jnr.

I wasn’t looking forward to 2006 with much enthusiasm, knowing it would be the year I turned 50. And just when I thought I couldn’t feel any more miserable Lampard scored for Chelsea as they won 3-1 at Upton Park on January 2. A new year doesn’t get off to a worse start than that.

He scored several more against us after that, of course – marked either by kissing the Chelsea badge or a skyward dedication to his late lamented Mum. I shall keep my thoughts about his goal celebrations to myself.

In our first season back in the Prem after the play-off final against Blackpool we were particularly prone to conceding goals scored by ex-Hammers. Defoe got two at White Hart Lane; Joe Cole scored for Liverpool at Upton Park – and Glen Johnson got a screamer in the same game. Curiously, young Glen had the decency not to score against us for Chelsea, but after moving on to Anfield he clearly developed the taste for it – that effort was the third time he left a West Ham keeper grasping at thin air.

It really does seem that anyone who’s played for West Ham feels entitled to score when they play us. Like Defoe after him (and Sir Geoff Hurst previously), Rio Ferdinand scored on his first game back at the Boleyn – that was in 2001. Yossi Benayoun notched up one for Liverpool at Anfield in 2009. Even full-back Paul Konchesky got in the act when he let fly from outside territorial waters to score for Fulham at Upton Park a few months beforehand.

Some former Irons get a better reception than others, of course. I remember Tony Cottee scoring twice for Leicester at Upton Park towards in the late Nineties and getting the biggest cheer of the afternoon at the end of it all. True, we had won 4-3 and it was the last game of the season – but you have to be a proper East End legend to hit two and still get a standing ovation.

And then there’s Carlos Tevez. Oh, how we loved that man. He didn’t use his first game back at Upton Park as a Man Utd player as an excuse to score. Not Carlos. He crossed his arms to replicate the crossed hammers on our badge and turned to all four corners of the ground to show everyone he still had West Ham in his heart. Now that’s style.

He scored for both Manchester clubs against us, but always refused to celebrate. In fact he looked positively crestfallen. To be honest, if I had been his manager I’d have subbed him after those goals. You got the feeling that Tevez felt so bad about scoring against us that he must have thought seriously about demanding the ball from the kick-off, dribbling around his bemused team-mates and smashing it into his own net just to level things up. Unlike some, he understood what we have always known: once an Iron, always an Iron.


News

March Issue of Blowing Bubbles Available for Download

The main thing BB is pushing this month is their Blowing Bubbles for Bobby campaign. Think of the Ice Bucket Challenge but rather than pouring ice over yourself, you blow bubbles wherever you like and text BBFB66 £3 to 70070. All the money is going to the Bobby Moore Fund.

Gangnam Style. Charity wrist bands. The ice bucket challenge. Simple ideas that went viral and ended up – for a while – taking over the world. And, hopefully, joining that list soon will be Blowing Bubbles for Bobby.

The idea for the scheme, run in aid of the Bobby Moore Fund, is very simple – film yourself blowing bubbles in an imaginative and unlikely place, make a financial pledge by texting BBFB66 £3 to 70070, call out five friends to do the same, and upload it to your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube account and help spread the news about this fundraising drive.

Appropriately enough, given what it involves, the scheme is the brainchild of the editor of the Blowing Bubbles Magazine, David Blackmore. David’s connection to the cause is not just the obvious claret and blue one – he has previously volunteered for the Bobby Moore Fund on school building projects in South Africa (2010) and Namibia (2011).

“The success of the ice bucket challenge was astonishing – there can’t have been a single person in the country last summer who hadn’t heard about it, and it raised a huge amount of money and awareness for motor neurone disease,” David explained. “Because of my club and personal connections to the Bobby Moore Fund, I’ve been looking for a way to do something similar for them, and what more Bobby-friendly way could there be than blowing bubbles in honour of West Ham’s greatest ever player?

“The club has fans all over the world, and people love to wear their colours in far-flung places so that there’s a corner of a foreign field that is forever claret and blue. Add to that the England angle, and the status in which Bobby is held in other countries – Franz Beckenbauer called him the best defender in the history of the game, and Pele said he was the most difficult defender he ever played against – and I think Bubbles for Bobby could really take off – no pun intended!”.


Talking Point

Fifty Years Since Swiss Side Seen Off As Sakho Sinks Sunderland

West Ham United returned to winning ways on Saturday with a welcome 1-0 triumph over struggling Sunderland. The Wearsiders were always going to be a different proposition from the side that lost 4-0 at home to Aston Villa the previous weekend, with Gus Poyet sacked and a new manager appointed in the experienced Dick Advocaat. The Hammers dominated the game, particularly in the second half, and deserved the victory, although admittedly lacking somewhat in creativity against a defensive rearguard who would have been content to claim a point. The home side should have been awarded a penalty when Kevin Nolan was judged to be in an offside position when wrestled to the ground by Santiago Vergini, despite the knock-on coming from a Sunderland player in John O’Shea – another example of ineptitude from the match officials which is becoming all too familiar, not just at Upton Park but across the country this season. Diafra Sakho, who worked tirelessly on Saturday and at the Emirates last weekend, was rewarded for his efforts when the ball broke for him in the 88th minute and he finished clinically. It was great to see West Ham securing points in the latter stages after being the victims of recent late strikes against Manchester United and Tottenham. The win puts the Hammers on 42 points, the earliest stage we have hit that number of Premier League points since 2006 when we went on to finish ninth.

The Sunday papers linked West Ham United with moves for Tottenham’s Emmanuel Adebayor and Newcastle’s Cheick Tiote. Any move for the latter would suggest the Hammers would be unsuccessful in their efforts to permanently sign loanee Alex Song, with a fee of £7.5m mooted for the Ivory Coast midfielder who, at 29 this summer, is two years older than Song. While Song has been out of sorts since Christmas, he is undoubtedly a superior option to Tiote if his transfer fee and wage demands are realistic. The season-long loan move for Adebayor could be a strategy designed to enhance the club’s chances of keeping Song with the pair reported as being close friends from their time together at Arsenal. With crowd favourite Carlton Cole set to be released in the summer, Adebayor could be seen as an upgrade having scored at a rate of one in two in four of his last eight seasons. His league record at Tottenham stands at:

2011/12 – 17 goals in 33 matches
2012/13 – 5 goals in 25 matches
2013/14 – 11 goals in 21 matches
2014/15 so far – 2 goals in 8 matches

Elsewhere, the 23rd March marks the 50th anniversary of the Hammers’ European Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final second leg against Lausanne of Switzerland. With the Londoners 2-1 up from the first leg, 31,780 supporters crammed into the Boleyn Ground with the vast majority concerned to see Dutch international striker Pierre Kerkhoffs give the visitors the lead on 37 minutes to level the tie on aggregate. The Hammers would take a firm grip on the tie by half-time though, an Ely Tacchella own goal on 41 minutes restoring the aggregate lead before Brian Dear struck on the stroke of half-time to put West Ham 2-1 up on the night and 4-2 ahead on aggregate.

The second half saw no end to the drama, Charles Hertig putting the tie back in the balance with a goal in the 49th minute. Martin Peters eased the home side’s nerves with a strike on the hour but Norbert Eschmann scored with ten minutes remaining to ensure a tense finish. One more goal for Lausanne would see the tie go to a play-off but Dear had the final word with a minute to go, making it 4-3 with his second of the night and his third over the tie to seal the Hammers’ passage to the semi-finals, 6-4 on aggregate.

The other quarter-final second leg results were:

Cardiff City 0-1 Real Zaragoza (2-3 on aggregate)
1860 Munich 0-0 Legia Warsaw (4-0 on aggregate)
Dinamo Zagreb 1-2 Torino (2-3 on aggregate)

West Ham United: Jim Standen, Bobby Moore, Ken Brown, Joe Kirkup, Alan Sealey, Martin Peters, Ronnie Boyce, Johnny Sissons, Geoff Hurst, Johnny Byrne, Brian Dear.

Lausanne: Rene Kunzi, Kurt Hunziker, Heinz Schneiter, Ely Tacchella, Andre Grobety, Kurt Armbruster, Richard Durr, Charles Hertig, Pierre Kerkhoffs, Norbert Eschmann, Robert Hosp.


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