Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Liverpool

West Ham sit in the bottom three, and to rub salt into a suppurating wound we travel to Anfield this Monday evening to try to put the blocks on a runaway Liverpool team in a fixture that in my 57 years we have won precisely twice! Ahead of the game I spoke to lifelong Liverpool fan John Watson who has married into the same family of Evertonians as I have to discuss the fixture and the season.

Hi John, Liverpool seem to be having another memorable season, whilst West Ham fans will be hoping that this will not end up being a disaster. Last year’s points total would have won the title during most seasons, are you really that much better this season? What do you put the improvement down to?
The main area of improvement has just been the mentality of the squad. Even with 5,10,15 minutes to go at 0-0 you still feel like the goal is coming whereas last season that didn’t feel like the case.

You had a difficult game, and loss against Athletico last week: would you prioritise staying in the Champions League over having an unbeaten record over the Premier League season?
Yeah it was a tough game. Only thing I would say is last season we might have let the atmosphere get to us after the 1st goal went in and conceded 2 or 3 (ie. Barcelona away) We kept ourselves in the tie and I would fancy us to go through. I’d sooner stay in the CL to be honest. I understand the whole invincibles thing but I’d rather have a 7th european cup.

I expect you will assume that you have the title sewn up? Who will join you in the Champion’s League spots next year?
Not sewn up yet! Learnt that the hard way as a Liverpool fan but yes I’d expect us to win in. Got to be Man City and Leicester in 2nd and 3rd. Chelsea seem to be coming good at the right time and I’d expect them to get 4th. If 5th gets in the CL, I hate to say it but with Spurs injuries and Sheff Utd’s lack of goals I think Man Utd will sneak 5th.

You must be worried for next year that Everton finally seem to have a manager that can once again restore them to their former status?
I’m not sure worried is the word I’d use! Seriously though he’s the best manager they’ve had in years. Still think they’ve got a way to go before being able to challenge the top 4 though.

Is Everton’s former boss David Moyes going to keep West Ham in the Premier League next year? What if anything did you think about his appointment as our manager?
It seemed a strange appointment to me. Your board didn’t renew his contract because you didn’t think he was the right person to take you forward but 18 months later they decide he is! Very short term appointment in my eyes. He might have the skills to guide you out of trouble like last time but I’d be surprised if he lasted past this season either way

Following on from that, who are your favourites for the drop?
Norwich seem a certainty. Then any two from Watford, West Ham, Aston Villa and Bournemouth. If I had to guess I’d say Watford and Aston Villa

Which of this current squad would you put up there with Anfield greats of the past?
I wasn’t born when we had domination in the late 70’s and 80’s so it’s hard to say but Van Dijk is the best centre half I’ve ever seen. The thing that sets him apart is he never seems rushed; no panic whatsoever. I’d say in time Trent could be up there as well. Great to have a local lad doing so well. Whilst he doesn’t get the plaudits others do Jordan Henderson has gone from nearly being sold to Fulham a few years ago to captaining us to European Cup and a (likely) Premier League trophy. Made up for him because he’s had so many people saying he wasn’t good enough since he signed.

Where if anywhere will Jürgen Klopp look to strengthen your team for next season?
I think we could do with another top attacking option. Whether that means someone like Timo Werner and dropping Firmino into a deeper role possibly.

How will Liverpool line up against us on Monday evening? Team/formation?
We will have had 6 days since Madrid so I hope full strength but he might rotate the midfield a bit. Alisson, Trent, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Keita, Milner, Mane, Salah, Firmino

As West Ham have had success at Anfield twice in the past 50 odd years, you will probably not be too worried that we will sneak a win against you this week. Prediction for score?

Well many thanks to John for his time and thoughts. I’m sure many West Ham fans will agree with his thoughts about David Moyes appointment whilst we languish in the bottom three. It’s hard to argue against his prediction of a win, though I hope it won’t be a thrashing. I’m hoping for at least one shot on goal. COYI

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Parish Notice

Crowdfundraiser Update - Please Help Secure the Future of WHTID

Dear WHTID reader,

The West Ham Till I Die blog is an institution but is in need of a revamp. I’m crowdfunding the cost of this and hope you might contribute!

The WHTID blog began its life in 2006. It’s undergone several revamps since then, the last being in 2013. This time, however, the technology is creaking and it needs a complete rebuild and redesign and to be put on a new server. We hope to add some exciting new features too.

Up to now I’ve managed to either fund the site myself or abuse the good will of my friendly web designer. But he operates as a professional business and is not an intern. So I want the rebuild to be done on a proper commercial basis.

I will be contibuting to the cost myself, but as a reader of the site I hope you will also be willing to contibute whatever you can afford.

Given the number of readers we have I’d like to think we can reach the £5k target quite quickly so we can then get on to actually commission the site. If we don’t… well, I don’t know. It’s not feasible to continue to run the site on its current, very creaky server.

If you have any questions you can contact me by email at info@iaindale.com.

Once the new site is live – which will hopefully be sometime in the Spring or early Summer – we’ll be recruiting a few new contributors too.

Thank you so much in advance for your support. I’m not going to do a Bob Geldof, but please donate whatever you can afford to. We’re on the home strait. As I post this, we’ve reached £4100, so only £900 more to go. I’d love to think that we can reach the target by the time we play (and beat!) Liverpool on Monday evening.

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All the best

Iain Dale


Blowing Bubbles Magazine reaches 100th issue

For West Ham fans, the last few years have had their ups and downs, to put it mildly. And through all the striker hissy-fits, fan protests and managerial comings and goings, “Blowing Bubbles”:https://blowing-bubbles.co.uk/subscribe/ has watched, reflected and written about all that has gone on at Upton Park and more recently the London Stadium.

The monthly publication, in print and digitally, celebrates its 100th issue this month, and editor David Blackmore, whose idea it was more than seven years ago, says the magazine’s longevity has proved a point that even in the modern era, fans still liked something in-depth to read and get their teeth into.

Blowing Bubbles editor David Blackmore

“We offer something different that people do thoroughly enjoy reading from cover to cover each month. Being monthly, we are able to think about more outside of the box with our features,” he said.

Initially, “Blowing Bubbles”:https://blowing-bubbles.co.uk/subscribe/ was planned as being a digital-only publication, around matches, but over the last seven and a bit years it has evolved into a monthly print and digital offering with hundreds of dedicated readers, across both formats, where fans can come for content written by a dedicated team of West Ham fans, for West Ham fans.

“We’d just won promotion to the Premier League and I was on the train home when I decided to fully commit to actioning the idea I’d had for a while,” said Blackmore. “I then started to find writers who could help provide the content for our magazine. Twitter was my saviour. Searches on there helped me to recruit the likes of Lucy Woolford, Brian Williams and Geoff Hillyer who have written for us ever since, and along the way we’ve picked up more great writers.”

The cover of Blowing Bubbles' 100th issue

Former Irons greats George Parris and Phil Parkes write monthly columns for “Blowing Bubbles”:https://blowing-bubbles.co.uk/subscribe/, and not only was it shortlisted for Fanzine of the Year by the Football Supporters’ Federation, but it is held in high enough regard by the club for co-owner David Gold to grant Blackmore regular one-on-one exclusive interviews, something for which Blackmore says he is deeply appreciative.

“I understand the feelings of the supporters towards our co-chairmen but I will always be grateful for the time Mr Gold gives to me each season and for answering the questions that I know the fans want me to ask,” he said. “Do I always get the answers I think supporters would like? No but he is always brutally honest with me – much to the dismay of the press team at West Ham!”

As for his birthday wish list? “I would love to add another ex Hammer to our team. We’ve got Phil and George, who are brilliant and their columns each month are very popular but I’d love to get in someone like Jack Collison or Joe Cole,” he said.

“And despite having spoken to so many of the biggest names in the club’s history, the one we’ve somehow managed to miss out on all this time is Mr West Ham himself. No, not Mark Noble, in fact I have a photo of him holding a copy of the magazine with him on the cover, but Billy Bonds. He’s always hiding, I’ve looked everywhere. So if you’re reading this Billy, please get in touch so we can arrange something. You’d make someone’s 100th birthday wish come true.”

Talking Point

Time for a Counter Offensive

OK, I know watching the game against Man City was akin to a trip to the dentist or having the same emotions as a man about to get shot, but we have to remain confident. On Monday, against Liverpool, it will be another trip to the dentist.

We have 24 points and, if the last two seasons are anything to go by, we need 36 points to stay up. For those who struggle with arithmetic, that’s 12 points required. And it’s going to go down to the wire because three of our last four games are against Norwich(away), Watford(home) and finally Aston Villa(home). We have to achieve six points out of these.

We can draw with Newcastle (away) and Burnley(home) and one draw against Chelsea (home) Spurs(away), Arsenal(away), Wolves(home) and Man U(away).

That leaves the next home game against Southampton as being an absolutely vital win.

I am reading a book about Stalingrad at the moment. Victory finally came when the Russians launched a counter offensive against the Germans on their flanks, where there were weaker Romanian and Hungarian regiments and finally the surrounded the Nazis. This was the turning point of the war.

Now we have our turning point. We are not going to win by adopting the tactics employed against Man City. We were lucky to only concede two. And I wouldn’t like to see us end the season with a whimper. That means forget about leaving one man up front. It’s an impossible job. Get in our fresh blood. On that score, I can’t for the life of me understand why, after a brilliant performance, Ngakia has disappeared.

We must understand we are only going to stay up if we are prepared to attack. I liked the sight of Rice charging forward, which seemed to be the most positive point to come out of the Man City game. And we have to dispense with the players who lack pace and you know who I mean.

We can do it. But David Moyes needs to do the arithmetic and be bold. I do believe he has brought a new spirit and commitment to the team. But now he has to inject confidence that we have the talent to score goals.

Now, as far as Man City are concerned, it has been established they cheated the way to the top. It would be akin to David Gold arranging a sponsorship deal with Ann Summers for £100 million a year. One wonders how the same verdict can’t be made of many other clubs in Europe. Do you think Man City should be relegated to League 2?

We believe football is awash with money. But the Premier League are only the third highest in terms of income in the world. The National Football League in the USA earns £11.4 billion and Major League Baseball earns £9.2 billion.

That is why there has been speculation that the Premier League could go to a direct to consumer model rather than selling the TV rights to broadcasters. Look out for when they test it in one of their markets. This could lead to a doubling of income for each club and the first £1 million a week footballer. Wouldn’t that be a shame for Sullivan and Gold, if we ended up as a Championship side?

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Talking Point

After Half Time At City, I Couldn't Take it Any Longer

Guest post by Brian Jones

I became a fan in 1964 with the FA Cup final win over Preston North End. I went to my first game at the Boleyn at Christmas 1966, a 4-0 win over Bolton. I managed to get my dad, a Chelsea fan to take me. Since then I was at the FA Cup Final win over Fulham, went to some dire games in the 2nd division and then then Championship and was privileged to get a ticket for the last game at the Boleyn, flying 10,000 miles there and back to be there and paying a lot of money at the exchange rate.

So – I’m West Ham through and through despite coming from West London! I’m fortunate that in southern Africa we have a splendid satellite TV system and I can watch every Hammers game.

But after half-time against City I stopped watching for the first time. Why? Because there was nothing there. We gave away a poor goal and then every time we went forward it was wasted. I couldn’t carry on watching the results of the decade under GSB. After they scored we carried on defending as if we were 2-0 up! I don’t necessarily blame Moyes, but I look to the people who promised us top 6 and Champions League. I feel betrayed by false hope, and that is what spoils my enjoyment of West Ham. I bought into the move to the OS, but although I have yet to get there for a game, it seems to stand for failure.

I am WHTID, but my enjoyment, hope and excitement have gone. I used to wear my Bobby Moore shirt and a scarf and drape my other scarfs over the TV and the TV cabinet for games. Now I don’t even bother with a scarf. I’ll probably get over to England for my 65th and take in a game. But it just won’t be the same. I remember, Moore, Hurst and Peters, Brooking, Billy Bonds and Devonshire. I played with Devonshire as a teenager. Not sure what I’m going to remember from the last decade except Bilic and Payet and that final game at the Boleyn with a win over Man Utd. Full house inside and thousands outside. But where has it taken us? I still don’t know.

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