Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with the Swans

This week I spoke to Swans fan Peter Brooks

*1) Swansea are safe from relegation but where will you finish this season? *
We are only three points away from 11th placed Everton so 11th or 12th would be nice.

2) Which two teams do you think will suffer relegation along with Aston Villa this season?
I think Sunderland and Newcastle could go down with Villa which would make the Championship interesting next season.
Norwich might survive by the skin of their teeth.

3) How do you rate West Ham’s manager Slaven Bilic and his first season in charge of a Premier league team?
He has done very well in his first season, fair play to him, it speaks a lot of sense in his post match interviews but the real test is how he handles his second season in charge. The pressure will be on big time.

4) West Ham sit in sixth place after briefly occupying third but what league position can West Ham realistically achieve this season under Bilic?
I think you can finish fifth or sixth and get a European place, Fourth place and champions league is out of your reach this season, sorry.

5) If you could have any current West Ham player in your team who would you choose and who would you replace to slot them in to your first team?
I am sure everyone says Dimitri Payet and who wouldn’t want him in their team, personally I like the look of your left back Aaron Cresswell and Michail Antonio looks handy.

6) Do you understand what the ‘West Ham way is’ and what it means to Hammers fans. Do the Swans have their own way and if so what is it?
Yes, you like to play from the back like in the days of Bobby Moore and the swinging sixties, There is a ‘Swansea Way’ which involves dominating possession, first-time triangles and lots of co-ordinated interplay but it has been lost through a succession of manager changes.

7) What is the Swansea’s achilles heel?
Conceding from set pieces this season.

8) The OS deal for West Ham’s occupancy of the Olympic Stadium was published recently but does the fact that West Ham got a good deal bother you personally as a football fan?
Not in the slightest, I don’t pay London taxes so I didn’t pay for it for you. I am sure we would have done the same in the Olympics were in our back yard.

9) How do you expect the Swans to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation prediction?

Predicted Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1)

Fabianski – Taylor, Amat, Fernandez, Rangel – Fer, Cork – Britton, Barrow, Routledge – Ayew.

10) What is your score Prediction for Saturday?
1-1 Draw

My thanks to Peter for his answer but my prediction is a 2-1 win for the Hammers

Come on you Irons Sean @WestHamfootball

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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v Swansea

Blast from the past

West Ham United went into a Second Division fixture against this weekend’s opponents Swansea City (or Swansea Town as they were known then) on Saturday the 20th October 1934 in fine form having won their previous four matches. Scoring ten goals in the process, the Hammers had climbed to fifth in the table after a difficult start had seen them lose four of their opening six games.

On the day when former Eastenders actor Timothy West was born 81 years ago, the Hammers recorded a 2-0 victory in front of 21,227 at the Boleyn Ground. The goals came from centre-forward Hugh ‘Bunty’ Mills (pictured) and outside-left Jackie Morton. Scotsman Mills, 22 years of age at the time of this match, scored an impressive 12 goals in ten consecutive appearances for the Hammers between December 1933 and November 1934. He was to depart for Celtic at the end of the 1934/45 season having netted 17 times in 23 matches for the Irons, although Mills had to appeal to the English Football League to get West Ham to reduce the transfer fee they had placed on him – in the end, the League insisted he move for free!

Charlie Paynter’s Hammers would finish 3rd in the Second Division in 1934/35, missing out on promotion to Bolton on goal average, while Swansea would end the campaign in 17th. Full-backs Alf Chalkley and Albert Walker would be ever-presents for the Irons, along with wing-half Joe Cockroft. Outside-left Jimmy Ruffell was top scorer with 20 goals from 36 league appearances.

West Ham United: Herman Conway, Alf Chalkley, Albert Walker, Joe Cockroft, Jim Barrett, Jimmy Collins, John Foreman, Vic Watson, Hugh Mills, Jackie Morton, Jimmy Ruffell.

Club Connections

A small number of players have worn the shirts of both West Ham United and Swansea City. These include:

Goalkeeper: Noel Dwyer.

Defenders: Andy Melville, Shaun Byrne.

Midfielders: Matthew Rush, Frank Lampard Junior.

Strikers: Frank Nouble, Lee Chapman.

With a nod to the final season at the Boleyn Ground, this season’s match previews for home games will focus on one of the more high-profile names to have represented both clubs. John Bond was born in Dedham, in rural Essex on 17th December 1932. A schoolboy footballer with North-East Essex and Essex Army cadets, he played for non-league Colchester Casuals before being spotted by West Ham assistant manager Ted Fenton, who convinced manager Charlie Paynter to offer Bond a professional contract with West Ham in March 1950. He made his debut on 9th February 1952 at the age of 19 in a 2-1 Second Division win at Coventry. Bond’s first goal for the Hammers was the winner in a 1-0 victory at Hull on 13th September 1954. A goalscoring right-back known as ‘Muffin’ after children’s TV’s ‘Muffin the Mule’ for his powerful kick, Bond (pictured with a young Bobby Moore) missed only one game and scored nine goals in the 1957/58 promotion campaign, including a brace in a 3-1 home triumph over Notts County on 4th April 1958.

Bond adapted well to top-flight football, scoring 14 goals in two seasons including four penalties. He bagged a brace in a 4-3 home win over Bolton on 21st March 1959 and notched a hat-trick in a 4-2 victory over Chelsea at the Boleyn Ground on 6th February 1960 – Bond played up front in both of these games. After being left out of the side, Bond fell out with manager Ron Greenwood – during a meeting that Bond was summoned to with Greenwood and chairman Reg Pratt, Greenwood asked Bond, “don’t you think I was ever left out when I played?”, to which Bond responded with “yeah but you couldn’t play”. Having played 30 league games or more in each of his previous seven seasons, Bond consequently found himself demoted to the ‘A’ team and he made only 14 league appearances in 1962/63.

Realising his arrogance had done him few favours, Bond knuckled down and forced his way back into the first team, scoring in his first appearance of 1963/64 in a 2-0 League Cup third round win at Aston Villa on 16th October 1963. He played in every game of the Hammers’ run to the 1964 FA Cup Final, including the 3-2 Wembley win over Preston. Bond experienced European football in his 14th season with the Hammers, playing both legs against La Gantoise of Belgium and Czechoslovakia’s Sparta Prague, and scoring in the 2-0 second round first leg win at home against the Czechs. His final appearance for the club came in a 1-0 defeat at Leicester on 17th April 1965. After 449 appearances and 39 goals for West Ham, a 33-year-old Bond signed for former team-mate Frank O’Farrell’s Torquay in January 1966 and saw out his playing days with the Gulls, helping them to promotion and opening a sweet shop, Bondy’s Tuck Shop, in the Torre area of the seaside town.

Bond’s coaching career began when he joined the staff at Gillingham (having been turned down on applying for the manager’s job at Torquay) and, in May 1970, he replaced Freddie Cox as manager of Bournemouth, leaving the Cherries in November 1973 to become manager of Norwich. Known for his flamboyant style, went on to manage Manchester City and Burnley before taking up the managerial reigns at Swansea.

After a fairytale rise through the divisions which culminated in a sixth-placed finish in the top flight in 1981/82, the Swans were on the slide and faced going out of business. Bond arrived at the Vetch Field in December 1984 with the club in the Third Division and in danger of dropping back into the bottom tier after two successive relegations. Against the backdrop of ongoing financial problems, several court appearances and the threat of liquidation, Bond steered Swansea to safety on the final day of the campaign by virtue of a nail-biting draw with Bristol City. This result ensured the Swans finished one point clear of Burnley, Bond’s previous club. He left the following December and went on to manage Birmingham and Shrewsbury.

Bond then worked as a football commentator for BBC Radio Five Live before returning to coaching in November 1998 as manager at Witton Albion, who were struggling in the Northern Premier League First Division but eventually finished in a healthy eighth place. John Bond died on the 25th September 2012, at the age of 79.

The video below is an excerpt from an interview that the brilliant ‘EX-Hammers’ magazine conducted with Bond.


The referee on Saturday will be Michael Oliver. Since West Ham United achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 Oliver has refereed seven of our league matches, officiating in two wins for the Hammers and five defeats. He was the man in the middle for the Irons’ 2-0 reverse at Chelsea last season and also sent off Kevin Nolan at Anfield two seasons ago. His only Hammers appointment this season was for the 2-1 home victory over Southampton in December.

Possible line-ups

Slaven Bilic will hope to name an unchanged side for the third successive match. West Ham United are unbeaten in their last six matches against Swansea, while Andy Carroll has scored four goals in four league appearances against the south Wales club for the Hammers.

Swansea City manager Francesco Guidolin has stated that he will rest skipper Ashley Williams while left-back Neil Taylor (groin), midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson (shoulder) and striker Alberto Paloschi (hamstring) are all out. Kyle Naughton, Stephen Kingsley and Jordi Amat could start while Leon Britton, a former West Ham youth player, is tipped to captain the Swans in the absence of Williams. Leroy Fer and Jefferson Montero are doubts with hamstring problems. Swansea have won their last two league games against London clubs, versus Arsenal and Chelsea, having not won any of their previous eight.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; Antonio, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Kouyate, Noble; Sakho, Lanzini, Payet; Carroll.

Possible Swansea City XI: Fabianski; Naughton, Amat, Fernandez, Kingsley; Britton, Cork, Ki; Routledge, Montero; Ayew.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

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Blowing Bubbles Publishes 'Farewell Boleyn' Issue

Blowing Bubbles Monthly’s May issue pays homage to Upton Park with a special issue celebrating the Boleyn Ground, which is due out later this week.

’Nearly reach the sky’ author Brian Williams, Sky Sports reporter Bianca Westwood, Hammers legend George Parris, and the rest of the team all sharing their memories of the stadium ahead of the Hammers move to the Olympic Stadium this summer.

Also in the magazine is a photo special of the final final at the Boleyn and fans from Derby, Sunderland and Southampton reveal what it is like to move grounds while there are also articles on the 20th anniversary of Rio Ferdinand’s debut and looking ahead to the summer transfer window.

Tears will surely flow when West Ham host Manchester United but the bumper commemorative issue should give fans a special souvenir as they prepare to say their own goodbyes. David Blackmore, Editor of Blowing Bubbles Monthly, said:

“I must admit the brilliant season we’ve had has, at times, distracted the magazine from the fact this is our final season at Upton Park. Our push for Europe, our excellent cup run, away victories at Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Everton, and the brilliance of Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini has given our team plenty to write about since August. But we were all keen to ensure this issue was dedicated to a home we’ve all got wonderful memories of. I hope you feel we’ve done enough.”

Secure your commemorative issue here <http://www.blowing-bubbles.co.uk/hard-copies-201516.html>

For the first time, Blowing Bubbles Monthly are making a single issue available for people living in Europe and around the world to purchase.

You can also secure a subscription to make sure you not only get the last issue at the Boleyn Ground, but also the first at the Olympic Stadium. For those without PayPal, email editor@blowing-bubbles.co.uk to arrange alternative payment.

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Talking Point

Can West Ham Compete With The Giants Of Europe?

Blind Hammer looks at the financial power of the rivals lurking in the Stadiums of Europe.

It may be tempting fate to count chickens but it looks like West Ham will be returning to the Stadiums of Europe again next season. Given the relatively short lived experience of our two previous European Campaigns, last year we exited the Europa League against Astra Giurgiu before even the start of the Premier League Season, and before that in 2006 we did not past the first round of the UEAFA Cup, losing 4-0 to Palermo, it is reasonable to ask what we can reasonably expect from anew European Campaign.

English sides no longer dominate Europe as they once did. Manchester City’s exit to Real Madrid has meant that once again an English side has failed to get to the Champion’s League Final. English teams Performance in Europe over the last few seasons have placed the fourth qualifying place for the Champion’s League under threat. Italy is breathing down our necks to try and claim this place.

On one level it is the very competitiveness of the Premier League which may be detracting from English success in Europe. Seth Fàbregas was confident in believing that if Barcelona were playing in the Premiership they would not have the squad who would be able to win it. Barcelona has a squad of gifted players who can rise to the challenge of playing a Madrid, or Manchester United and give them a footballing lesson. However over a season they would be ground down by the constant and unremitting demands of the Premier League as well as the English climate. As Fàbregas described it, Barcelona would not win at Stoke on a cold Tuesday evening in February.

If we look at transfer and wage resources we can see Fàbregas’ point. The competitiveness of English Clubs is underpinned by massive financial clout compared to European leagues. According to a Financial Report from the Football Observatory West Ham are the ninth highest spenders in the Premier League, with a player transfer spend of 143 million euros. If we compare the spend in other European Leagues the disparity is startling. In Spain the equivalent club in ninth position is Celta Vigo who only deployed a seventh of this at 20 million Euros. In France the ninth club is Lorient who again only spent 27 million Euros. In Italy the ninth club is Torino who spent just over a third of West Ham’s budget at 57 million Euros, and finally in Germany Hanover spent about a quarter of West Ham’s budget at 38 million Euros.

So West Ham, just in relation to their transfer budget, is already a major player in European terms, looking at the data in another way if West Ham played in Germany they would be the third highest spenders, dwarfing most sides, and even exceeding sides like Borussia Dortmund, Leverkusen and Schalke. Only Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg spent more than West Ham.

Similarly if playing in Italy, West Ham’s spending power would place them in fifth place behind Juventus, Inter, Napoli and Roma, their spend actually eclipsing sides such as AC Milan, and Lazio. Even in the powerhouse of European football, Spain, West Ham would still be in fifth place, behind Barcelona, Real and Athletico Madrid and Valencia. They would be jostling with the resources of the Spanish elite, with a spend double that of sides like Sevilla at 77 million Euros and Real Sociedad at 51 million Euros.

The feature of many European Leagues is that there is a far greater inequality in resources between teams at the top and those in the middle and bottom. In Spain Real Madrid dominate to an amazing extent with a transfer spend of 587 million Euros. Barcelona follow with 394 million, Valencia with 226 million, Athletico Madrid with 182 million Euros, but after that the spend collapses. With teams like Rayo Vallecano and Gijon only spending a meagre 5 million Euros. The team with the lowest spend in the Premier League; Bournemouth still spent 7 times as much as this at 36 million Euros.

There is a similar picture in Germany with Darmstadt spending only 5 million Euros and Bayern spending 337 million Euros. Here 12 of the Premiership teams spent over 100 million Euros, and even the lowest spenders Bournemouth outspend teams like Stuttgart at 28 million Euros.

So what does this mean for West Ham’s European adventures? To my mind there are two countervailing pressures. On the negative side the generalised financial clout of nearly all teams in the Premier League means that they attract the cream of talent, certainly from Europe and potentially, with work permits, the World. This undeniably places much more competitive strain on Premiership squads, who from top to the bottom of the league, are strengthened by this attraction of global talent. It is impossible to prove but my suspicion that even the disaster that has been Aston Villa this year would have been comfortable if their squad have had to play in say Spain or Italy or Germany. They would have struggled against the biggest teams in each of these leagues but would have faced much weaker mid table and bottom of the table opponents.

This competitive pressure is, I believe, the biggest factor in the enigma of Premiership teams slipping from their position of European dominance. Putting it simply Bayern, Barcelona, Real Madrid and so on do not experience anything like the same pressure from their mid and lower table opponents compared to the pressure Manchester United and City or Arsenal now have to cope with.

The expansion of TV money to teams like West Ham means that it is far more likely that we will be able to attract the talent which enables us to go to Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool and win on their own grounds. This domestic pressure can tell on English teams in Europe. Unlike in other leagues there are no easy rides here. We were struggling to beat Aston Villa until they imploded and had their best player sent off.

However our success in winning against the cream of Premiership sides this season tells us also that, at full strength, we have little to fear from most teams in Europe. The crucial phrase here is full strength.

So to my mind there is a need for a far greater squad depth amongst English Teams competing in Europe to succeed in all of Premiership, Cup, and European challenges.

We have some grounds for optimism here. It is interesting that we have over-performed in terms of transfer spend. We have spent less than not just the top four but also teams like Newcastle, Southampton and Liverpool, all of which are below us in the table. The recruitment team has played a blinder over the last couple of seasons.

The new TV deal will bring even more, never before seen, riches to Premiership clubs when compared to our European rivals. We may query the morality of such resources going to a few Football clubs to this but this is the competitive environment West Ham has to operate in. It should provide even more capacity to develop the strength of our squad.

If the recruitment can be just as spectacular as over the last two seasons, we may dare to hope that it is not only amongst top clubs in England that respect and wariness of the skills of West Ham will grow.

David Griffith

The figures in this article are drawn from the Football Observatory Report. Due to my need to use a screenreader I have had to use virtual scanning software for the figures to appear correctly but these are accurate as far as I can tell. The report is available HERE

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My Upton Park Memories

I'm Forever Boleyn Bubbles...

“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain”…

For me and my family, West Ham United goes back to 1964 (as far as we know) when my Dad (John, a regular commenter on this site) decided the lure of an FA Cup-winning side containing the captain of England was too strong. The picture below shows my Dad as a young lad at the Boleyn Ground, pressed up against the left shoulder of Warren Mitchell (in Alf Garnett mode) as my late Grandad, with his roll-up cigarette in his mouth, looks on at Alf.

My Dad attended games in the 1960s and ‘70s with my Grandad and also his friends ‘Bubs’ and ‘Chalky’, amongst others. Although Dad idolised Bobby Moore (‘God’) as much as everyone, a young right-back signed from Charlton by the name of Billy Bonds would go on to be his all-time favourite Hammer. When pushed for his most memorable Boleyn experience, the words ‘Eintracht Frankfurt’ immediately follow as two goals from another favourite, Trevor Brooking, and one from Keith Robson sent a packed Upton Park into raucous raptures in 1976. Robson’s namesake ‘Pop’ would partner Geoff Hurst in Dad’s all-time greatest strikeforce.

Relegation in 1978 did not stop the conveyor belt of heroes as Phil Parkes and David Cross were signed while Alvin Martin and Geoff Pike came through as kids – four more of my Dad’s Boleyn belters. With the dawn of the 1980s, Dad was joined by my Uncle Mark and my cousin Geoff, normally on the West side but one season saw a season ticket in the Chicken Run.

I attended my first game as an eight-year-old, a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in September 1991 – Kenny Brown scored, Colin Foster was sent off and we lost to a last-minute goal. Hope and despair have been a theme ever since in my 25 years as a Hammer; fortune has almost always been hiding. That first season was arguably the worst in the club’s history – the Bond scheme combining with relegation, although both Man Utd and Tottenham were defeated at Upton Park. I was hooked – standing on the old wooden seats at the back of the West Stand singing ‘Billy Bonds’ Claret and Blue Army’, going home with a programme and the smells of fried onions and tobacco still filling the nostrils – Mum could somehow always tell if I’d had a greasy burger too!

The following campaign saw the loss of Bobby Moore – I vividly recall the flowers adorning the gates and the impeccable minute’s silence before the 3-1 win over Wolves. From then on, I always wore number six in my Sunday League games and, later, when playing for my university team.

My early heroes were Julian Dicks (The Terminator still possibly my all-time favourite), Alvin Martin, Stevie Potts and Trevor Morley. We had attended almost every home game for three years so Dad decided to get our first season ticket together, in the recently-opened Bobby Moore Lower for 1994/95. My sister, Natalie (who has since played for West Ham Ladies), attended her first game in March that season as two late Tony Cottee strikes earned a 2-2 draw with Norwich.

The main Boleyn heartache has been in the FA Cup – losing on penalties in a quarter-final replay under the lights to Arsenal hurt like hell in 1998. The game had everything – a red card for Dennis Bergkamp, a stunning late strike from John Hartson, the old acquaintance Hope turned up again when Arsenal missed two spot-kicks, only for the old adversary Despair to rear its ugly head as Berkovic, Hartson and, finally, Abou all failed from 12 yards. ‘Everybody Hurts’ by REM was played over the PA as we trudged for the exits and that song still takes me back to that night when Wembley dreams were dashed. Incidentally, I’m almost certain that Bill Prosser, the old DJ, only owned tracks by M People, REM and latterly Blur!

There have been great times too – Raducioiu scoring before a particularly thunderous Dicks penalty rescued a 2-2 draw with Man Utd in 1996; defending our six-yard box for the last ten minutes as Ludo, Michael Hughes et al denied the same opposition the title on the final day of 1994/95; watching the development of the young Rio Ferdinand and the silky skills of the enigmatic Joey Cole and the brilliant Paolo Di Canio; seeing ageing England heroes from my childhood, Stuart Pearce and Teddy Sheringham, don the claret and blue with great distinction; the noise at the play-off semi-final second leg with Ipswich in 2004; and the unforgettable victories this season against Chelsea and Tottenham. I’ve met two of the game’s greats in and around the Boleyn Ground – Kevin Keegan, who came across as such a kind man when I was on a stadium tour at the age of 11 and he was manager of Newcastle, and Sir Trevor Brooking last season who, when talking to my Dad and referring to me shortly before this photograph was taken, quipped that he “wouldn’t like to mark him at a corner kick”.

As soon as I finished university and my teacher training in 2005, the first thing I wanted was a season ticket – I’ve sat in the same seat in the West Lower for the last 11 years, right next to the Bobby Moore stand, since when my favourites have included Matty Etherington, Rob Green, Super Scotty Parker, the marvellous Mark Noble and, this season, the talismanic Dimitri Payet. My Dad and sister, having attended many games as members during this time, have joined me for the past two seasons as season ticket holders when, thankfully, seats in my row became available.

We all have our own pre-match routines – most recently, ours is to join the queue at Ercan’s for some chips before heading into the ground to meet my cousin Geoff and his young son George, a member of the next generation of Hammers supporters and Adrian’s number one fan!

After all those years and all those ups and downs however, as well as having bought two consecutive season tickets with the final ever Boleyn game in mind, my Dad will sadly not be able to be at the Boleyn for the Manchester United game next Tuesday. Last week he found out that he has to be in Yorkshire from the Monday to the Wednesday for unavoidable work commitments. For me and my sister, it just won’t feel the same next Tuesday night – if David Gold is reading this and your helicopter fancies doing a return trip to Yorkshire next Tuesday, please let us know!

In the build-up to next Tuesday, and on the night itself, we will all recall our favourite memories – not just of games and players, but of the people we shared those special moments with. Perhaps the saddest thing is that, come Wednesday morning, we will all know that there will be no more memories left to make in E13. However and wherever you take in Tuesday’s game, I hope you savour your own farewell and enjoy your own personal walks down Memory Lane.

Goodbye Upton Park and – as my Grandad used to say – God Bless…

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