The GoatyGav Column

To What Extent Do Players Shape Club Identity

When you think about a football club imagery tends to come to mind. The name, the badge, shots of their stadia can all paint pictures for the average football fan. If someone were to say ‘Stoke City’ to me a few thoughts spring up. The old Victoria as well as the new Britannia grounds, miserable driving rain, witty banter (namely the ‘Ronaldo’ retort they had for Manchester United fans’ “He plays on the left – he plays on the right!” Song) and fights between their’s and Port Vale’s fans in my Dad’s pub in Hanley City Centre are some. Then again images of Sir Stanley Matthews also pop up. Along with those thoughts I associate a strong, determined gentleman who gave up hundreds of hours of his own time, and energy, to export the very best values and ethics of our game to underprivileged regions of the globe.

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Manchester United are not the most popular of clubs when it comes to fans of others but players like Bobby Charlton, George Best and Duncan Edwards can only serve to warm you to the Red half of Manchester. In the case of Duncan Edwards the terrible Air Disaster of 1958 sent shockwaves around the footballing world. The event, as sickeningly awful as it was, helped contribute to the popularity of the club around the globe and played a part in growing the club to it’s current status of one of the biggest, and most marketable, names in the game.

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So when it comes to West Ham United I’m always interested to see how, true, fans of other clubs perceive us. I’m sure that images of the World Cup winning trio, especially Bobby Moore, would be forefront for many. Sir Trev and Billy Bonds must be others who fans have cognizance of. I’m sure that, in more modern times, people go back to players like Paulo DiCanio and many of Tony Carr’s 1999 F.A. Youth Cup winning side like Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand.

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It’s not always a positive thing. The vitriol spewed towards West Ham by Bernie Slaven has, unfortunately, not endeared Middlesboro to me at all. That’s not the only thing about them that I negatively associate. Their booing of our rendition of “Johnny Lyall’s Claret & Blue Army!” (always with an exclamation mark at the end) at Villa Park in the Semi-Final of the 2006 F.A. Cup, along with the fact that they couldn’t even fill their end when West Ham could have sold thousands more tickets, is another reason I’m not enamoured of them. But I’d probably have let that go without the former behaviour of their Scottish striker towards our club. On the single occasion I visited Middlesboro I had a really nice evening and was treated exceptionally well by the locals but as far as their club is concerned I have no affection for them.

Away from the players, and on the subject of West Ham fans, much of the time you hear phrases like “fiercely loyal,” “generation upon generation of fan,” “closely knit community,” and “passionate support,” uttered by people in the game. This may not always be the same. Over time it may well change. Should the club become successful then the ‘fierce’ and ‘passionate’ labels may become less prevalent.

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Opinions about West Ham’s owners have, I feel, shaped many a footballing individual’s interpretation of the club. They do, in fairness to them, appear to be making every effort to improve things by not ‘airing their laundry’ and keeping things a more behind closed doors. A wise approach, in my opinion, and one that I hope continues.
For me the players, more than any other aspect of a club, shape it’s profile and identity. Perhaps you disagree. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts?

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On to Saturday’s game it was a difficult result to swallow for me. Not just because of the opposition but also the fact that we deserved a draw at least. There’s no doubt that our neighbours from the borough of Harringey are on a higher level than our boys at the moment. They’ve consistently qualified for the Champion’s League for some time and for Europe even longer now. On Saturday you wouldn’t have known it. We created more good chances and were denied by an exceptional performance by Lloris. As for the goal you could point the finger of blame at two or three players who didn’t track Lamela. Nobes, who had a disappointing game by recent standards, and Declan Rice were two of them. Contributing to those two not having their best matches and the biggest miss, for me, was the absence of Pedro Obiang. The balance just wasn’t there compared to recent games, in midfield, for me. Only comment I made to my youngest, about the starting 11, was words to that effect. Don’t get me wrong, Snoddy put in a shift, but we didn’t click in the middle of the park the way we have been doing. Many Spuds fans have commented that their team weren’t at full strength – well neither were ours.

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Encouragingly the partnership developing at centre back looks full of promise. Balbuena and Diop are already playing very well together. I reckon there’s more to come from the pair. Og and Winston are going to have a real job on their hands if they’re going to displace either of these two.

I’m absolutely gutted to see Yarma out with injury. I guess I should have expected it, as a West Ham fan, but it was the biggest ‘head in hands’ moment during the game for me.
To finish on a positive there are players coming back from injury and Chicha, once up to the speed of the match, certainly didn’t look like a player who’s been out of the side for several weeks.

In summary I haven’t changed my mind about us getting ‘Our West Ham’ back. I like what’s happening with the Pellegrini revolution and am looking forward to the Leicester game.

‘Til then have a great week.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!

Talking Point

Twice is carelessness

I think that history will probably view Saturday’s encounter as a typically hard-fought close London derby which could have gone either way, a true one-nil which was settled just before the break- after an enforced substitution. I also think that looking at the game as a whole there were many missed opportunities and on the whole there was very little to choose between the two sides and its just one of those results you have to put up with. However, looking at the last two games together we begin to unfold a worrying pattern. We have ceased to be able to grind out results, if we ignore the fact we haven’t been terribly proficient in the old result grinding business in the last few seasons and concentrate purely on the outcomes and nature of outcomes from the last two matches only, we must ask the question what could have caused this?

Our fortunes have plateaued

I would argue three key reasons for this.

We have genuinely been unlucky and are likely to respond and make our own luck at some point, in addition to this the performances of Gross for Brighton and the opposition keeper Saturday were outstanding and cost us goals pure and simple.

Secondly Obiang not playing had an adverse effect on the midfield. In an attempt to remedy this the option was either give Obiang 20 Leeches Friday night and hope he recovers or order Snodgrass to do exactly what he was brought to the club to do and run around wildly, occasionally winning corners and generally being an ineffective replacement for a decent player. This certainly affected us and the lack of coherence caused Noble to be robbed for the first although by then the Yarmolenko crisis had unfolded which certainly didn’t help.

The third reason is the most important in my view. For the second game in a row we were out thought, out planned and out psyched by a shrewd manager who had done his homework thoroughly. This was made all the worse by facing a team of first-team fringers desperate enough to follow it to the last detail rather than be side-tracked by their own ego’s. Last week at Brighton Hughton told them to clatter Yarmolenko and Obiang to shut down our creativity. Saturday the opposition midfield were onto Anderson immediately. They were so badly all over him the geezer just basically fell apart and had to be taken off. I will say its one of the few off days he’s had and creative geniuses hate clever bullies so maybe against nicer teams, once he’s practised a few corners Anderson should live to fight another day.

You’ve gotta know how to hold’em… Know how to fold’em!

Would we have lost both of those games under Moyes? Under Billic almost certainly, under Allardyce almost certainly not but it wouldn’t have mattered as we probably wouldn’t have watched it. Under Moyes I think we may well have grabbed a few points. Go back to the Bournemouth and Wolves games I think Moyes would have got at least a couple more. Pellegrini has proven in some games he has the know-how and the talent required to make us a great side. As much as I moan about the opposition Saturday they have one of the best records in the league and a wealth of international players. Pellegrini’s style and tactics made them look like Brighton or Wolves but still they nicked one and turned us over. It seems Pellegrini needs to address the mental side of the set-up, possibly himself included. We need to be harder, tougher, more streetwise. Pellegrini needs to go out for beers with Danny Dyer or something. More Phil Mitchell less Billy. Leicester away is the perfect place and the type of game for us to instigate another revival (and to go out for beers with Danny Dyer). We can do it but we need to bring in a bit of support for Arnie who is looking stretched and stressed in the lone striker role. Hopefully Hernandez will return to form and Carroll should be back giving us some options. Four or even six points from the next two matches is now the clear expectation and is rapidly becoming a necessity as winnable games are being crossed off the list quickly.

Pellegrini does do the difficult things well

A major positive in Manuel’s book of tactical niceties is his willingness to give players a chance. Bringing on Diangana was like a breath of fresh air in managerial terms, Allardyce and Billic too often opted for the experienced yet boring replacement and more often than not in the case of the former actually wanted them to fail to prove a point. I’ve always been a great believer in baptism of fire, sink or swim: it maketh a person. Diop is continuing to look good and I thought Rice did have a good game on Saturday and his current role is another MP masterstroke as he creates immense havoc in nomansland breaking up play and restarting moves. If Declan Rice was a machine he would be the thing which picks up the skittles after bowling and sorts them out again, you have to look closely but he is always influencing the game and this bodes well.

White elephant for sale?

On a completely separate note there have been murmurs in the press about us buying the stadium blah blah. All I’ve heard from the media footballing community and rival fans are stories of the London Stadium not being built to watch football. When I purchased my band 4 season ticket I feared the worst and expected most of the game to be relayed back via telescope so far I would be from the action. Well its not great at Stratford but it is certainly not terrible. I say this because I went to Wembley for the NFL game between the Chargers and Titans. Now i admit not ever going to the New Wembley which is a bit of a poor show, last time I went I saw Roger Millar lose to a Robbie Fowler inspired England. However the views from the upper tier astounded me, far worse than Stratford, green overlay which is apparently dangerous!? Although we would have to knock at least half of the existing ground down the Upper Tier views at Stratford are better than Wembley and the only real change is reducing the distance from the pitch. I’m no engineer and I know the chances of that sort of money being spent are fanciful but maybe one day the London Legacy Olympic people, Seb Coe and his mates will all go out for a run and just keep going allowing us to turn a mediocre football stadium into a much better one. Until then lets get the Hammers winning again and hope our injury crisis doesn’t turn out to be as bad as first feared. COYI!

Update 4PM Monday: oh god, looking like Stig’s gonna be down in the dumps. Was Sakho’s supercar parked on Gypsy land or something? Now Yarmolenko and Sanchez not back until at least Easter more likely next season. Lost for words.

The HamburgHammer Column

The return of the badger against the cockerel - we should be on Holby City!

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Please forgive me readers if you happen to find the odd typo or two in this edition of my column – I have been bonkers enough to get up at the ungodly hour of 6am on a Sunday to watch women’s football (more of that further down in the Hamburg section of the article), so I am still knackered as I’m trying to gather my thoughts after our narrow 1:0 defeat against Spurs.

Home games against Spurs are usually the ones I haven’t wanted to miss in recent times and more often than not I’ve seen us dishing out the reverse scoreline at the London Stadium, beating our irritating North London neighbours by one goal to nil (which is the most common scoreline whenever I come over to watch West Ham in person!).

I cannot even put my pinky on the reason why I didn’t make it over for the derby this time around, so if you wanna blame me for the result, go right ahead! I’ve long given up the notion that West Ham are going to win any game just because I happen to be in the stadium in person, I no longer buy into the concept of superstition – it’s bound to bring rotten luck, innit ? ;-))
And so it ultimately turned out on the day, losing Yarmolenko to a nasty injury (ruptured achilles by the looks of it), keeping him out for up to six months – bloomin’ marvellous!

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It looks like that bloody cursed badger is still wielding its otherworldly paws, claws, whatever a badger actually uses to beat up his opponents, by the way, in a fight between badger and cockerel, who is the most likely to win in that particular episode of Animal Fight Club ? Sorry, I am digressing…

To summarise my thoughts about the game: Yes, it wasn’t Spurs’ best line up, but neither was ours (with Lanzini, Wilshere and yes, Andy Carroll still out), but overall we weren’t really second best in the game, were we ?I remember numerous games in the past when Spurs used to wipe the floor with us, not anymore it seems!
I remember two really dangerous goalscoring opportunities from Spurs all game: One led to the goal, the other was kept out with a fantastic double save by Fabianski.
Other than that I felt we had the better scoring chances, Arnautovic fluffing quite a few of them when maybe he could sometimes try and look for a pass to a teammate in a better position rather than trying to score a wonder goal from a tight angle.

The areas where we lost the game I felt were:
a) Offside awareness, or rather lack of it.
b) Being wasteful with our set pieces. A free kick or corner kick should be a distinctive advantage to your team. It’s also an area which can be worked on in training to yield better deliveries into the box more regularly.

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As for the effort I think we tried everything, but it just was (another) one of these days I suppose. But let’s not get too frustrated at this point in time folks!
I would have liked to see us put a few more points in the bank from our games so far, thank you very much! We shouldn’t forget though that we have had to play a ridiculously tough early set of fixtures and we are now approaching a spell with a number of games that should be slightly easier, at least on paper.

I still cannot get my head around our injury luck/curse which has hit us regular like clockwork yet again. I know it happens to other teams as well. Sometimes.
With some players. Occasionally.
With us we start the season with players on the (long term) treatment table, we have a long list of players out throughout the season and I have yet to see us finish a season with a full selection of players to choose from by the manager.

With us the injuries happen left, right and centre, they come thick and fast and they are rarely just knocks that only last a week or two. This season is still young, yet already it is a particularly bad vintage in that regard. Lanzini, Carroll, Reid, Byram, Wilshere, Sanchez and now Yarmolenko – all out at some stage this season for months rather than weeks.
Looking at the U23 level you can also add young Dan Kemp and Nathan Holland to the list who thankfully are both apparently back now from long spells on the sidelines.

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Can anyone remember the last time a West Ham manager could genuinely pick our strongest side for a game ? I can’t. And while I know it’s as futile to bemoan our injury luck as it is trying to teach an asthmatic to play the trombone, I still find this utterly baffling and incredibly frustrating. But the show must go on and the injury situation obviously opens a path for other players to grab their opportunity with both feet: Guys like Grady Diangana, Nathan Holland, Antonio all should feature plenty in the upcoming games and if our lads can develop a “Now more than ever!”-attitude we should be able to get something good out of the shower of rotten luck that’s been raining on us in the early part of the season! COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Hamburg SV drew 0:0 at home with Bochum, HSV are now two points from top spot and in 4th place currently. Their local rivals St.Pauli can overtake them if they win their away game later this evening at Duisburg.
Concordia’s first team drew a tough fixture against Barmbek on Friday, 1:1. It was intense, with Cordi losing their best defender within the first five minutes to what looks like a nasty ankle injury after getting caught late in a tackle. Cordi also had a player sent off near the end after a second bookable offence and their keeper secured the draw in the dying minutes when saving a penalty, caused by our new American midfielder who made his debut as a substitute.
Cordi’s U23s won a tight game 2:1 and at least remain an outside candidate for promotion.

I cannot remember the last time I got up at 6am on a Sunday. But I woke at that time for some reason and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided I might just as well drive into town to cheer on the Concordia girls in their early bird away fixture at the unusual kick off time of 9am in what is Hamburg’s hipster area of Sternschanze (think of Soho, but with more kebab shops and tramps). The girls in red and black won at a canter, 9:0 which was both bloody nice to watch and highly unexpected too against that particular opposition.

Why have I begun watching more women’s football in recent weeks ? Because they have this wonderful young lady named Michelle Hille in the team who is a joy to watch.
She is technically very gifted which is no surprise as she’s been kicking a football for ten years now and she has even played for a team as high up as the second level of women’s football in Germany before and as a fan of the game I can just marvel open-mouthed at what she can do with a ball, getting past three or four players at ease with a deft touch, a cheeky dummy, a backheel. Unlike Ronaldo though she can take a tackle or two as opponents have to foul her regularly in order to stop her in her tracks, if they can reach her that is…

She’s playing with a big smile on her face all the time, cracking the odd joke on the pitch a la John Moncur, she is a fantastic team player as well and still she’s not much taller than your average parking meter, about five feet being generous which has earned her the fitting nickname “Mini”.
She’s only 21 years old at this point and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see her go places in the game, either in Germany or abroad. It’s so easy to fall out of love with football, especially when following the big leagues these days.

That’s why I love watching the women’s game too now even at the lower league level as the Cordi girls are displaying on the pitch all the fun, determination, spirit of fair play and unswerving joy to partake in the beautiful game that’s been lacking from the professional game all too often I find.

Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

Hammers Struggle To Break Down Spurs As Lloris Denies Arnautovic

David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 0, Tottenham 1. We Deserved Something.

When we lose, which I know is often, I often shut football out of my life for rest of the weekend. I don’t watch any other matches, I don’t read any blogs or sites (sorry Iain), and I certainly stay off Twitter in terms of West Ham. So a loss on a Friday before an international break gave me a whole extra day to be angry. Definitely not something I needed. You know what I did? I watched baseball. The Red Sox in particular. I’m not a Sox fan per se. I’m a Mets fan. But the enemy of your enemy is your friend, and in that regard I’m a Red Sox guy all the way. And Boston has plowed through the opposition with delicious rage, and it has allowed me to kind of pretend what it feels like to support a team that used to define suffering but now wins. Boy, would that be nice.

The opening minutes were full of energy if not quality. Snodgrass ran like he wanted to show that ground covered was the most important statistic known to man. Arnautovic as always tried to make runs behind the Spurs defense. On the other side Moura showed energy and a willingness to test Zabaleta. The first real opportunity came in the 11th minute when Spurs won a corner from a deflected shot by Sissoko. Fabianski came out to punch the delivery away for a Spurs throw, but eventually it all died down thanks to an offside flag.

Moments later West Ham created a chance of their own. Arnautovic tried to attack inside the box but Sanchez timed his tackle perfectly. Yarmolenko got to the ball and lofted it into the box, and Alderweireld took the safe route and sent it out for a corner. Anderson’s delivery was poor, yet it somehow led to a second corner. Unfortunately the second delivery was worse than the first.

The Cresswell v Masuaku debate isn’t a simple one. Defensively it’s a clear advantage for Cresswell. But Masuaku can be as good on the ball as anyone in Claret and Blue. With Masuaku having supposedly taken a knock, Cresswell was called back into action at left back. In the 21st minute he nutmegged Dier and won a free kick. The delivery found Arnautovic in the box to right of the goal, but Arnie seemed caught in the middle of either a pass or a shot and he did neither as the ball flew over the bar and out for a goal kick.

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And moments later Anderson’s third corner was remarkably worse than the previous two. At that rate he looked destined to eventually score an own goal from a Hammers corner.

Defending can often be overlooked by the media and many supporters during a transfer window. In the 27th minute Kane got the ball near the West Ham eighteen yard box and looked certain to get a clear shot on goal. But then came Diop, and the 21 year old made the kind of tackle and clearance in the box that was as valuable as a goal. The combination of Diop and Balbuena is quite literally the best thing that happened to West Ham over the summer. I think.

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In the 38th minute, West Ham won another corner. I had hoped to be able to make some snide comment about another poor Anderson corner. Pellegrini took that chance away from me when Snodgrass took the set piece, and it was indeed better. Balbuena got his head to it, and it bounced towards Yarmolenko near the far post. The Ukrainian tried to find his feet and the ball, but the former failed him. His right foot looked to collapse under him and he went down. At first I thought ankle, but the word on the street leaned towards achilles. From the look of it, whatever it was we won’t be seeing him anytime soon.

The only semi positive was that Pellegrini chose to give Diangana the spot over Antonio.

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The first 40minutes of the half were fine by our standards. The final five were more typical. The loss of Yarmolenko started it. Then in the 44th minute, Anderson’s horrible day got worse when Sissoko turned him inside out before sending a pass into the box that Lamela guided past Fabianski with his head.

West Ham 0
Tottenham 1

Moments later West Ham were very, very fortunate not to give up a second when Lamela beat Diop on the right side of the box. Fabianski made a great stop, but couldn’t hold onto the ball and pushed it right to Sanchez. But Fabianski was up to the challenge and made another fine save to keep the deficit at one.

West Ham 0
Tottenham 1

The second half began with Cresswell giving Pellegrini reason to think he may be a good fit after all when he won the ball deep in the Spurs half and sent a cross into the box that Arnautovic headed towards the top corner. Only a diving Lloris save kept the Hammers off the scoreboard.

In the 52nd minute, it looked almost certain Anderson could do nothing well this afternoon. So when he ran the ball out for a Spurs throw, with nobody around him, I decided the only way to deal with the Brazilian today was to embrace the horror and hope for better down the road. He was replaced by Chicharito, who hadn’t played for seven weeks due to a viral infection. That kind of said it all.

For Snodgrass to come back to us after his loan spell at Villa, with all of the inappropriate nonsense thrown at him by our de facto DOF owner, and work his socks off the way he has says a lot about his character. In the 57th minute he won a corner by sheer will. Minutes later, West Ham won a second after Lloris made another diving save on a low shot by Arnautovic. The set piece delivery by the Scot was good enough to land on the head of Balbuena but the attempt went wide.

West Ham won their 8th corner of the afternoon in the 71st minute, once again due to the hard work of Snodgrass. The delivery hit Diop in the box but his header went wide. The relevant point there was the number 8. And less than half of them led to even an attempt on goal, let alone on target. Needless to say, we need to do far better on set pieces.

As the game wound down, West Ham continued to work hard, close down, and make Spurs work to keep their advantage. But they didn’t have enough at the very end to find the equalizer. The offside goal worked by Arnautovic and Hernandez showed what could be, but so often isn’t. Then in added time Arnautovic was sent in by Hernandez and Lloris made an exceptional save to keep Spurs on top. In the final seconds Antonio fired a long shot that went over the bar. It was both terribly frustrating and not entirely surprising.

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Final Score
West Ham 0
Tottenham 1

We probably don’t have as many points so far as we deserve. But isn’t that also The West Ham Way? The next twelve league matches will come against teams outside the top six. In all likelihood those matches will give us all a better idea of where we deserve to be in the table.

Back to baseball.

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