Talking Point

Latest Issue of Blowing Bubbles

This is the latest issue of Blowing Bubbles. Truly excellent.

Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Manchester City

Blast from the past

The week beginning 16th March 1970 was an eventful one in the history of West Ham United. Tuesday 17th March saw Hammers legend Martin Peters, who will collect the Lifetime Achievement prize at this year’s End of Season Awards, break the British transfer record by becoming the country’s first £200,000 footballer when he departed for Tottenham. West Ham received £150,000 in cash plus the £50,000-rated Jimmy Greaves. Appropriately in this week of big name transfers, Lee Marvin’s ‘Wand’rin’ Star’ was number one in the charts.

The following Saturday saw Peters score on his debut as Tottenham beat Coventry 2-1 at White Hart Lane. West Ham United, meanwhile, had acquired the king of the debut goal in Greaves – the goalscoring great had struck on his maiden appearances for Chelsea, AC Milan, Tottenham and England and was not to disappoint for the Hammers at Maine Road in front of 28,353 on the 21st March 1970.

The Hammers emerged victorious from the First Division encounter against Manchester City with a 5-1 win on a mudbath of a pitch. West Ham opened the scoring when Pat Holland broke free down the right and his low cross was calmly controlled by Greaves, putting one onrushing defender on his backside, before slotting beyond Joe Corrigan to register his debut strike. City equalised when Tommy Doyle found Francis Lee whose long-range effort sneaked under the body of Peter Grotier. The Hammers regained the lead when a long ball into the Sky Blues’ penalty area wasn’t dealt with, Geoff Hurst prodded against Corrigan and the ball broke invitingly for that man Greaves to find the same corner as he had with his first goal, passing the ball in with his left foot. Hurst himself notched West Ham’s third before half-time with a diving header from Ronnie Boyce’s lofted pass.

The Hammers’ fourth goal has to go down as one of the best and certainly most audacious in the club’s history. Corrigan’s drop-kick clearance was poor and Boyce fired it straight back, on the volley, from just outside the centre circle into the unguarded net. West Ham made it five when Billy Bonds drove down the right and delivered a cross that was only partially cleared to Hurst who hammered home with a ferocious left-foot strike.

While the match marked the West Ham debut of world superstar Greaves, it would also signal the first appearance in claret and blue of David Llewellyn. Born in Cardiff, Llewellyn would make six appearances for the Hammers in the early 1970s before signing for Peterborough, where he opened a gym after retiring from football in 1976. He also coached in the USA for 11 summers but stopped this to take up the coaching of the Great Britain Medical Football team in 2006 and has seen them win the World Football Medical Championships in South Korea 2010 and come runners up in Austria 2011.

The Hammers went on to finish in 17th place in 1969/70 while City ended up in 10th and won the League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup. The video below shows the goals from this match, courtesy of KUMB’s excellent 100 Greatest Moments series.

West Ham United: Peter Grotier, Billy Bonds, Bobby Moore, Bobby Howe, Alan Stephenson, Frank Lampard, Peter Eustace (David Llewellyn), Ronnie Boyce, Pat Holland, Jimmy Greaves, Geoff Hurst.

Club Connections

A large group of players have turned out for West Ham United and Manchester City. Divided by playing position, they include:

Goalkeepers – David James, Perry Suckling.

Defenders – Stuart Pearce, Wayne Bridge, Tal Ben Haim, Tyrone Mears.

Midfielders – Marc-Vivien Foe, Kevin Horlock, Mark Ward, Steve Lomas, Michael Hughes, Ian Bishop, Eyal Berkovic.

Strikers – Carlos Tevez, Craig Bellamy, Phil Woosnam, Justin Fashanu, Trevor Morley, Paulo Wanchope, Clive Allen, David Cross, George Webb.

Ex-Hammers Frank Lampard and Richard Wright are currently on the Citizens’ playing staff. Malcolm Allison and John Bond join Pearce as West Ham players who have gone on to manage City.

Today’s focus though is on one of my favourite players, an England international who excelled with the Hammers before joining City in 2003. Trevor Sinclair began his career with Blackpool in 1989, becoming the club’s youngest ever player aged 16 years and 5 months, before moving to QPR in 1993. His stunning overhead kick from outside the penalty area in an FA Cup fourth round match against Barnsley was declared the ‘Goal of the Season’ for 1996/97.

With West Ham enjoying a successful season in 1997/98, Harry Redknapp’s signing of Sinclair in January of that season represented an exciting coup for the club. The deal was valued at £2.7m with QPR receiving £2.3m in cash and fringe players Iain Dowie and Keith Rowland. Sinclair’s West Ham career got off to a flying start, scoring both goals in a 2-2 home draw with Everton on 31st January 1998 and finishing the campaign with 7 goals from 14 starts. Sinclair’s first full season in east London, 1998/99, saw the Hammers finish fifth with ‘Tricky Trev’ contributing 7 goals in 40 appearances, including doubles in a 2-1 home win over Tottenham and the final-day 4-0 triumph over Middlesbrough.

1999/2000 saw Sinclair named runner-up in the Hammer of the Year voting as he notched 8 goals in 51 appearances. These included last-minute equalisers at Aston Villa and at home against Sunderland as well as the winner against Liverpool and a crucial strike in the away leg of the InterToto Cup final against Metz, which the Hammers won 3-1 to qualify for the UEFA Cup. He was also sent off in a 2-1 defeat at Highbury in May 2000. The following season, 2000/01, was a tough one for West Ham and Sinclair – the Hammers slumped from three consecutive top-half finishes to a 15th-placed finish in the league while Sinclair was injured in January 2001 and missed the remainder of the season. His three goals in 23 matches all came in victories though; a 4-1 win over Manchester City, a 3-2 triumph at Southampton and a stunning volley in a 5-0 Boxing Day demolition of Charlton (video below).

2001/02 signalled a new era for West Ham with Glenn Roeder replacing the sacked Redknapp. Frustrated by the sales of Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard and the departure of the manager who had brought him to the club, coupled with a burning desire to claim England’s problem position on the left wing in time for the 2002 World Cup, a disillusioned Sinclair requested a move in October 2001. West Ham’s price tag of £8m did just enough to detract suitors Newcastle, Leeds and Sunderland and it took Sinclair until Boxing Day to register his first goal of the season. One year on from his volley against Charlton, it was another Christmas cracker as the ball never touched the ground from the moment Paolo Di Canio’s corner found Joe Cole who crossed for Sinclair to launch an acrobatic, horizontal scissor-kick volley into the net (video below). Sinclair scored 5 goals in 37 appearances in 2001/02 and withdrew his transfer request in February 2002.

At the end of that season Sinclair realised his dream of playing for England at the World Cup in Japan & South Korea. He had made his Three Lions debut in November 2001, in a 1-1 draw with Sweden at Old Trafford and also appeared in matches against Italy and Paraguay. Sinclair was, however, initially excluded from Sven-Goran Eriksson’s provisional 23-man World Cup squad with Danny Murphy on standby. Kieron Dyer and Steven Gerrard then picked up injuries in their final league games of the season, with Murphy deputising for Gerrard and Sinclair joining the party as standby for Dyer. Sinclair flew home to his pregnant wife but, the very next day, Murphy fell awkwardly in training and broke a metatarsal. Having just completed a 6,000-mile journey home because the injured Dyer had been picked ahead of him, Sinclair was summoned to re-join the squad in Japan as a replacement for Murphy, the original standby. Sinclair was an unused sub in England’s opening game against Sweden but replaced the injured Owen Hargreaves after 19 minutes of the next match against Argentina and helped transform England’s tournament – England famously won the game 1-0 and Sinclair started the remaining matches, playing the full 90 minutes in both the 0-0 draw with Nigeria and the 3-0 second round victory over Denmark before being replaced by Dyer after 56 minutes of the 2-1 quarter-final defeat to Brazil. Sinclair won 12 caps in total, 11 of them while with West Ham.

2002/03 saw Sinclair notch 8 goals in 41 appearances as the Hammers were relegated from the Premier League. He bagged a brace in a 2-1 win at West Brom and struck winning goals at Sunderland and at home against Middlesbrough, which proved to be his final goal in claret and blue. Having played at right wing-back, left wing, right wing and striker over his five and a half seasons, scoring 38 goals in 206 appearances for West Ham United, Sinclair joined the mass exodus from Upton Park in the summer of 2003, signing for Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City for £2.5m.

Sinclair scored for his boyhood heroes in their first game at the City of Manchester (now Etihad) Stadium in a UEFA Cup tie against Total Network Solutions. He scored 5 goals in 82 appearances during an injury-hit four years with City before joining Cardiff at the age of 34, with whom he made a brief substitute appearance in the FA Cup final a year later. Now 42, Sinclair is currently working in the media and is assistant manager of Lancaster City.


Sunday’s referee will be Anthony Taylor. The Cheshire-based official was the referee who had not one, but two red cards rescinded from the same game after he had sent off Carlton Cole and Darron Gibson in the Hammers’ 2-1 home defeat to Everton in December 2012. He was also in charge when awarding Liverpool a controversial, and ultimately match-winning penalty, against the Irons in April 2014. There was also controversy surrounding Guy Demel’s equaliser for West Ham in that game. Taylor has officiated in two matches involving the Hammers this season, those being the 2-0 home win over QPR and the 1-1 FA Cup third round tie at Everton. He also replaced the injured Chris Foy during the second half of the 3-0 defeat at Arsenal.

Possible line-ups

Manchester City are expected to be without the injured Vincent Kompany, Gael Clichy, James Milner, Stevan Jovetic and Wilfried Bony. Eliaquim Mangala, Aleksandar Kolarov and Samir Nasri could come into the side, while Edin Dzeko is another option should Manuel Pellegrini decide to go with two up front.

West Ham United have seen Diafra Sakho join Andy Carroll and James Tomkins on the injury list, while Enner Valencia may not be risked from the start. Sam Allardyce could put out the same defence and midfield that started at Leicester earlier this month, with Carlton Cole ploughing a lone furrow up front.

Possible Manchester City XI: Hart; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Mangala, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Toure; Navas, Silva, Nasri; Aguero.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; Jenkinson, Collins, Reid, Cresswell; Noble, Song, Kouyate; Downing, Nolan; Cole.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

Submit your match prediction

Predictor League Competition

Predictor League for Man City

The Predictor League for Manchester City is now open. You have until midday on Sunday to enter.

Submit your match prediction

Guest Post

Just How Good Are We?

Guest Post by Littlefork

So just how good are we?

Bianca has had the whinge, guest poster VoR has looked at who we should keep at the club and there has been so much posted about our changing fortunes- 4th at Christmas and now struggling to hold a mid table spot.

But have we actually found our right level in the PL given the players we have? At the end of this piece I ask the serious question, player by player, how many of them would displace their counterpart in any of the teams above us in the league?

I have spouted my own views on why our 4th place at Xmas was such a false position and I’ll quickly repeat them:

a) the fixture Gods were incredibly kind to us
b) our new players hit the ground running and seemed to find form very quickly
c) the usual “top teams” were incredibly slow out of the blocks
d) we had the “surprise” factor, teams hadn’t worked us out and
e) all of our wins (Liverpool and Citeh excepted) were against teams in the bottom third of the table.

So that’s why we were flying high. Our expectations had been exceeded, there was a great feeling of optimism—would we at worst qualify for the Europa league? This was the best football we had seen from a West Ham team for decades and we were winning games.

And then come Boxing Day the results started to go away from us. Performances seemed to drop, teams had worked out how to stop Downing at the tip of that shiny new diamond and then we picked up a string of injuries. And when players lost form they couldn’t really be displaced in the side by other fringe players “just as good”. We couldn’t play a solid 90 minutes of good football. Clean sheets were a thing of last season, consigned to the archives. Players got twitchy when we went ahead in a game and started defending deeper and deeper and now we expect to concede in the 90+ minute of a game; and I am sure the players expect it too.

Some will say it’s all the manager’s fault, and to be sure the buck does stop with him. But does it tell the whole story? A manager can only work within the confines of the budget he has. For PL success you need to have a squad of excellent players…that’s 25 top players who can all come into the team at any time and keep the run going, with no tailing off in performance or results. Squad rotation is vitally important when fixtures pile up because of cup runs etc. It’s also important to keep players fresh and competitive.

So, of our squad of 25 players how many of them would get regular first team playing time elsewhere in the teams above us? In fact you only have to really ask that question about our regular 13 of Adrian, Creswell, Collins/Tomkins, Reid, Jenkinson, Kouyate, Song, Nolan/Noble, Downing, Sakho, Valencia. There’s no point in looking at those who keep our bench warm…..Jussi, JOB, Demel, Jarvis, Cole, Nene, Amalfitano.

I doubt that many of our entire squad would get regular outings. A look at the OPTA rankings quickly shows how we are doing. Only Tonks is in the top 20, Noble’s in the 90s, Collins is higher than Reid. But ignoring the stats and going with what we see and feel in our hearts what would we say?

Adrian…. Threw his gloves down and blasted in his “shoot out” penalty. Became a Boleyn hero. But which top team keeper do we honestly think he could keep on the bench?

Cresswell…has been outstanding for us this year, in his first PL season. But he’s still learning and I don’t think any top team would give him the playing time he needs to continue his development.

Collins….we all love Ginge, the total commitment to the cause. Those shuddering block tackles. Gets a lot of playing time with us because of injuries. I think a top team might possibly use him as CB back up.

Tomkins..Our highest placed OPTA stats individual who is the most likely to get regular playing time in a club above us.

Reid….I really thought I’d be saying he’d be another nailed on certainty to keep a current top team CB on the bench. But now I am not so sure, what do you think?

Jenkinson….really like the lad, hope he stays with us, but like Cresswell he’s still learning and he would not be a first team regular in a higher placed team.

Kouyate….YES! Thank goodness he’s tied down for a few years. A real powerhouse of a player, full of energy and getting better all the time.

Song…Without doubt he would hold down a regular place in a top PL team and with better players around him he would show even more. I have been “wowed’ and disappointed with him in equal measure.

Nolan…a good captain, has put in some good performances for us but his time has been and gone. He would not feature in a top team.

Noble…a true “hammer” and we love him for that. With so much midfield skill in bucket loads in the teams above us, I am afraid Mark would not get much regular time either.

Sakho….too early to judge in my opinion. Blistering pace and not short of confidence. Good in the air and high work rate. If he moved to a top team now he’d be on the bench a fair bit.

Valencia…would he secure a number one spot straight away with any team above us? Chelsea are alleged to have made noises about him but he wouldn’t be their number one striker.

What do you say about Andy Carroll? Does his style “fit” with the best teams in the PL? Would his injury record consign him to the bench or physio table too much?

So, looking at our 25 man squad as a whole, is it any wonder that we are mid table team at best? We have very few players indeed (maybe 3 or 4?) who would get regular first team exposure in a team above us in the premier league.

The Sullivans are aware of how much steady building they need to do. It has to be a 5 year plan at least to grow the squad into something strong and talented enough to compete with the top 6 clubs.

When you look at the players we have and compare them with their counterparts in the teams above us, then it puts our expected season end position into perspective. A different manager might be able to extract more in terms of performance from the team, given that a team is supposed to be stronger than its constituent parts.

The future looks promising, but let’s not kid ourselves. The rebuilding work has only just begun.

Talking Point

Balotelli Bargain

Guest Post by Jim Stuart

I’m aware this is a seemingly random post, but the season is winding down, West Ham continue to concede goals after 90 minutes, there are no English teams left in Europe, and no senior International football in the summer.

Thus I have arrived at the conclusion West Ham should sign Mario Balotelli in the summer.

Realistically would Liverpool accept an offer of £8m, so they recoup half of their original investment. He took a wage cut to join Liverpool, and to escape I’m sure he would be able to be convinced to take another.

Despite his obvious talent, Mario admittedly does often come across slovenly, walking around the pitch, getting obviously frustrated when things don’t go his way, and sailing dangerously close to red cards. But the talent remains. He is a difficult beast to tame, lets not pretend, but he is capable of the spectacular. The reason I think he could really kick on at West Ham as opposed to any of his former clubs is because of our biggest asset, our fans.

If we at West Ham feel a connection to a player, feel he is special, we make him feel special. Why is it Carlos Tevez is still happy to reminisce about his West Ham days, despite only scoring 7 goals, in a relegation dog fight. He received the adoration of every West Ham fan, for 90 minutes a match, even before he scored a single goal ‘One Carlos Tevez’ was bellowed down from the stands. I know Liverpool are supposed to be excellent fans, the Kop laa di da di daa. But I genuinely believe at West Ham, we the fans are the most capable at appreciating a player that gives everything for us, just ask Di Canio’s tattoo, or Julian Dicks to name but a few.

I think Mario Balotelli has similar traits to the aforementioned players, if he felt the connection with us, I think he would wear his heart on his sleeve and really play for the colours, and be excellent. But hey, that’s just my end of season feelings, I can’t see it happening and many may disagree. I’d get him on my shirt though.

Copyright © 2015 Iain Dale Limited. Terms and conditions. Cookies.
Website by Russell Brown.