The S J Chandos Column

Under Pellegrini the club's ethos needs to be adjusted!

The Brighton result was disappointing, but we should not get too despondent; yes we started slowly, over-elaborated in our passing (particularly in the first half) and lacked a cutting edge in the final third, but some times defeats like this can prove instructive in the long run. West Ham were riding high after the Manchester United victory and perhaps this was a timely reminder that we need to ‘turn up’ to beat our PL opponents, regardless who they may be. If you do not play with the same momentum and intensity against the likes of Brighton, as you do against Man Utd, then there is a very real possibility that you will come well and truly unstuck. The truth is that we started too slowly and the Brighton goal was very largely self-inflicted, but we really should have scored at least one goal in a second half that we dominated.

I genuinely thought that we would win at Brighton, but perhaps this defeat may prove to be beneficial watershed in the overall direction of our season. Many Hammers fans have said to me that the recent sequence of results is classic West Ham. They get positive results against the bigger teams, but blow it against those sides that they should rightly defeat. One fan stated that it is always the same pattern, regardless of who owns, manages or plays for the club – we are always consistently, inconsistent! It is part of our DNA as a football club. I recognise that observation has a lot of historical evidence to support it, but I am not that fatalistic. Personally, I think that we are on a journey with Pellegrini and it is one that will take us forward to a situation where we can eventually challenge the top six. It probably will not be this season, but we need to be patient and buy-in to his long-term project.

There has been a major over-haul of the squad this past summer and Pellegrini has acquired a lot of the players that are instrumental to playing his preferred system. However, I doubt that (privately) Pellegrini would consider the squad complete and ready to sustain a challenge for the PL title (and for a winner like him that has to be the ultimate objective and destination). I believe that will require a dedicated recruitment/youth development drive over the next 2-3 seasons, sustaining this summer’s level of player investment on a year-on-year basis. Some Hammers fans have an ingrained ‘defeatist’ mentality and would scoff at such a proposition. How many times on social media do you see alleged West Ham supporters stating that such and such a player, Lanzini, Anderson, Arnautovic, is ‘too good for the club.’ Could you imagine a Man U, Chelsea. or Tottenham fan coming out with a statement like that! To those so-called fans I say you really should go and follow Dagenham & Redbridge or Leyton Orient if you want to be a perpetual loser, not worthy of attracting or holding on to top class talent. I do not, I hope to see West Ham win a PL title before I ‘shuffle off this mortal coil’ and that should be the serious ambition of every single Hammers fan. We are not a ‘small club,’ whatever way you define that, we are one of the great clubs of English football. And, quite frankly it is an embarrassment that we have never won the title. And, to be equally honest, I am also increasingly embarrassed at way that we continually over-hype the valiant failure of 1985-86. We were very good that season and we should have won the title, but the ultimate truth is we failed. We were piped to the post by genuine, perpetual winners, Liverpool, who went on an incredible end of season unbeaten run to snatch the title from our grasp. Much like they snatched the FA Cup away from us in 2005-06, by digging in and being winners.

I am tired of being the classic romantic club, who regularly defeats the top clubs of the day and then capitulates to lesser opponents. In the 1960s, 1970s and even the 1980s West Ham were widely respected for our philosophy/traditions (regardless of our inconsistency). Now, in the ‘cut throat’ and cynical PL era we are commonly viewed dismissively and disrespectfully. So, much so that there really is no need whatsoever for our own fans to be defeatist/dismissive about our prospects. Its got to stop. We now have the manager and basic squad to start changing perceptions about our club and its future potential. It would be very positive if we could start that process this season by winning a domestic cup and pushing in to the top 10 of the PL (Thereby qualifying for next season’s Europa League). And do it playing the West Ham Way, which is more than possible under Pellegrini.

In short, the ethos of the club needs to be adjusted. This famous club of ours will always aspire to play the right way, but we need to add a winning mentality and a consistency to the mix. When we do that we can finally become the club that generations of Hammers fans have dreamt of following – one that plays attractive football, but is also consistent and seriously challenges for the major prizes of English and European football.

SJ. Chandos.

Dan Coker's Match Preview

Crossed Hammers & Three Lions: Frank Lampard Junior

Welcome to the latest in a series of articles designed for international weekends – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England.

Today, as England prepare to face Croatia in the Nations League, we look back at a former Hammers and England midfielder. Frank Lampard Junior was born in Romford to West Ham left-back Frank Senior and Pat on the 20th June 1978, a month after the Hammers’ relegation from the top flight. He joined West Ham’s Academy in 1994, spent a spell on loan with Swansea in 1995 and won the South East Counties League in 1996, making the FA Youth Cup Final in the same year, although the Irons lost to Liverpool.

Lampard made his Hammers debut at the age of 17 on 31st January 1996 as a substitute in a 3-2 home win over Coventry; he made one further sub appearance in 1995/96 and made 16 appearances in 1996/97, although his season was ended by a broken leg suffered at Aston Villa in March 1997.

Lampard was a key figure in the Hammers’ ever-improving team in 1997/98, scoring his first goal for the club a minute after stepping off the bench on the opening day of the season, the winner in a 2-1 victory at Barnsley. Lampard made 42 appearances as the Hammers finished eighth, scoring nine goals, including a hat-trick in the League Cup fourth round against Walsall, who had future Hammer Jimmy Walker in goal. Lampard also scored the opener in a 3-1 defeat at Leeds’ Elland Road, replicating his dad’s jig round the corner flag at the same ground in the 1980 FA Cup semi-final by way of celebration. He made his debut for England Under-21s during this campaign, going on to captain the side.

Lampard made 41 appearances as the Hammers finished fifth in 1998/99, scoring six goals. Becoming renowned for spectacular strikes from distance, he notched long range strikes in home victories over Leicester and Middlesbrough, and also scored a penalty at Anfield’s Kop End in a 2-2 draw against Liverpool.

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Arguably Lampard’s best season in claret and blue was the 1999/2000 campaign, scoring 14 goals from midfield in 49 matches. He started the season in style, scoring four goals by the end of August – three in the InterToto Cup against Jokerit, Heerenveen and Metz, as well as the winner in a 1-0 home triumph against Tottenham. He also scored in the UEFA Cup against Osijek and bagged winners in Upton Park goalfests against Sheffield Wednesday (4-3) in November 1999 and Bradford in February 2000 (5-4). Lampard also made his full England debut under Kevin Keegan in October 1999, starting and playing 76 minutes in a 2-1 win over Belgium at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light – his cousin, Jamie Redknapp, scored the winning goal.

Lampard’s final campaign in east London, 2000/01, saw him bag nine goals in 37 games. He scored his only brace for the club in a 2-1 win at Bradford in February 2001 and signed off as a Hammer with three goals in his final four games. His last goal for the Irons was a penalty in a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle on 16th April 2001, with his final match for the club being a 2-0 home defeat to Leeds on 21st April 2001 – the visitors had 22-year-old Lampard’s youth team colleague Rio Ferdinand in their ranks. Lampard made his second and final England appearance while with the Hammers in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s first match in charge, as a half-time substitute in a 3-0 win over Spain at Villa Park in February 2001.

A few weeks later, Lampard’s father and uncle (Frank Senior and Harry Redknapp respectively) both left the club. Feeling that his position as a player at the club was untenable, Lampard sought a move and rejected Aston Villa to sign for Chelsea for £11m in the summer of 2001 – he had scored 38 goals in 187 appearances for West Ham United. My video below shows 37 of these 38 goals.

Lampard went on to become Chelsea’s highest goalscorer of all-time, scoring 211 goals in 648 appearances. He won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, two Community Shields, one Champions League and one Europa League during his time in west London. He won 106 caps for England, scoring 29 goals for his country. He represented the Three Lions at the 2004 European Championships, and the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups. He missed the 2012 Euros through a thigh injury.

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Lampard spent a season with Manchester City before ending his career at New York City FC in the United States. Lampard, now 40, is currently manager of Championship side Derby.

Croatia v England

England face Croatia this evening in the Nations League – it will be the ninth meeting between the two nations. The first competitive meeting between the pair resulted in a 4-2 win for the Three Lions in front of 57,047 at Lisbon’s Estadio da Luz on 21st June 2004, in their final Group B match of the 2004 European Championships. Britney Spears was number one with ‘Everytime’, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban topped the UK box office and Wimbledon were officially renamed as Milton Keynes Dons.

England were dealt an early blow when Hertha Berlin’s Niko Kovac gave Otto Baric’s Croatia the lead in the fifth minute. Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England equalised through Manchester United’s Paul Scholes five minutes before the interval before Everton wonderkid Wayne Rooney gave England the lead with a strike from distance right on half-time.

Rooney raced clear to make it 3-1 after 68 minutes but Juventus’ Igor Tudor pulled one back five minutes later. Former Hammer Frank Lampard Junior, the feature of today’s piece, wrapped up the win with 11 minutes left to make it 4-2. England would be knocked out by hosts Portugal in the quarter-finals.

Croatia: Tomislav Butina (Club Brugge), Josip Simunic (Hertha Berlin), Dario Simic (Milan), Boris Zivkovic (captain, Stuttgart), Robert Kovac (Bayern Munich), Igor Tudor (Juventus), Dovani Roso (Maccabi Haifa), Milan Rapaic (Ancona), Niko Kovac (Hertha Berlin), Tomislav Sokota (Benfica), Dado Prso (Monaco).

Subs: Ivica Mornar (Portsmouth) for Robert Kovac; Ivica Olic (CSKA Moscow) for Rapaic; Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk) for Simic.

England: David James (Man City), Gary Neville (Man Utd), Sol Campbell (Arsenal), John Terry (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Arsenal), David Beckham (Real Madrid), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Paul Scholes (Man Utd), Michael Owen (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (Everton).

Subs: Ledley King (Tottenham) for Scholes; Darius Vassell (Aston Villa) for Rooney; Phil Neville (Man Utd) for Lampard.

The previous articles in the series are:

Jack Tresadern
Ken Brown
Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne
Bobby Moore
Martin Peters
Sir Trevor Brooking
Alan Devonshire
Alvin Martin
Paul Goddard
Stuart Pearce
Joe Cole
David James
Robert Green

Dan Coker's Match Preview

West Ham's Croatian Connections: Part One

With England playing Croatia in the Nations League tomorrow, the first part of my look at West Ham’s Croatian Connections focuses on two former Hammers who also played for and managed their country.

Slaven Bilic

Slaven Bilic was born in Split on 11th September 1968 and began his professional career with Hajduk Split, making his first appearance for the club in the 1988/89 season, following loan spells with Primorac and Sibenik. After 109 appearances for Hajduk, the central defender moved to German club Karlsruhe in 1993 for a fee of £750,000. Bilic was soon appointed as the club’s captain and, in doing so, became the first-ever foreign player to be named club captain in Bundesliga history. He was voted the best centre-back in the Bundesliga after helping Karlsruhe reach the semi-final of the 1993/94 UEFA Cup.

Bilic, a law graduate fluent in German, English and Italian as well as his native Croatian, signed for Harry Redknapp’s West Ham United for £1.3m in January 1996. Due to a delay in the granting of his work permit, the 27-year-old had to wait a few weeks for his first start before making his debut in the 1-0 win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane on 12th February 1996, playing a part in Dani’s early winning goal. Bilic did not taste defeat in any of his first five matches as a Hammer as the club went on to beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge and defeat title hopefuls Newcastle 2-0 at the Boleyn Ground, before a 2-2 draw at Coventry and 2-0 home victory against Middlesbrough. Indeed Bilic would not be part of a losing Hammers team at home until September 1996 when Wimbledon triumphed 2-0 in east London. Bilic would also play every minute of Croatia’s run to the quarter-finals of Euro ’96, where they would be defeated by eventual winners Germany.

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Bilic’s first goal in claret and blue arrived on the 25th September 1996 in a 1-0 League Cup second-round second-leg encounter with Barnet at Upton Park, the Hammers going through 2-1 on aggregate. The classy, commanding defender scored his first Premier League goal just four days later but Liverpool went on to record a 2-1 win in east London. As the club became embroiled in a winter relegation scrap and were dumped out of the League Cup by lowly Stockport, ‘Super Slav’ set the side on the way to a crucial home win over fellow strugglers Sunderland, scoring the first goal in a 2-0 victory on 28th December 1996. It was to be his final goal in a West Ham shirt. Experiencing further cup embarrassment at the hands of Wrexham in the third round of the FA Cup, the signings of John Hartson, Paul Kitson and Steve Lomas ensured the Hammers’ Premier League survival – Bilic was named runner-up to Julian Dicks in the Hammer of the Year poll for 1996/97, signing off at Upton Park by keeping Alan Shearer quiet in a 0-0 draw with Newcastle. Bilic’s final game for West Ham came in a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford against champions Manchester United on 11th May 1997.

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After three goals in 54 West Ham United appearances, Bilic signed for Everton in a £4.5m deal in the summer of 1997 – these three goals can be seen in my video below. The move had been agreed in March with then-Everton boss Joe Royle but Bilic claimed he had a debt of loyalty to West Ham to stay with the club until the end of the season to ensure the Hammers’ top-flight status was preserved. When he signed for Everton, the late Howard Kendall had taken over for a third spell with the Merseyside club.

Bilic impressed as Croatia reached the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup in France; however, his exaggerated response to a raised hand by Laurent Blanc in the semi-final against the host nation ensured the French defender was sent off and consequently missed the final. Bilic went on to ensure Croatia finished third in the tournament. Bilic looked set for a return to West Ham in July 1999 as Harry Redknapp sought to reunite him with the ever-developing Rio Ferdinand but concerns about the Croatian’s long-term fitness, and doubts about securing insurance following his pelvic problems, scuppered the deal. Redknapp signed Bilic’s international team-mate Igor Stimac instead while Bilic remained in limbo for the next six months, until an agreement for a £1m pay-off was reached in February 2000, representing around half of the balance remaining on his Everton contract which still had just over two years to run. After 28 appearances for the Toffees, Bilic re-joined Hajduk Split 48 hours later, playing nine matches before announcing his retirement.

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Bilic, a rhythm guitarist in a Croatian rock band and self-proclaimed socialist, began his managerial career with Hajduk Split in 2001 and became coach of the Croatian Under-21 side in 2004. After two years he took over the reigns of the full Croatia side, enjoying a successful six-year spell which included knocking England out at the qualification stage for Euro 2008. He was appointed manager of Lokomotiv Moscow in 2012 where he spent a season before joining Besiktas.

After two years in Turkey, Bilic was announced as Sam Allardyce’s replacement at West Ham United. ‘Super Slav’ made an excellent start, defeating Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City away from home, making West Ham the first team to win at those three Premier League clubs in the same season for ten years, since Chelsea in 2005/06. The win at Anfield was the Hammers’ first there for 52 years – Bilic stated that “we parked the bus but we didn’t put the handbrake on”. Home wins over reigning champions Chelsea and Tottenham served to further endear Bilic to the Upton Park faithful before a 3-2 win over Manchester United in the final Boleyn match of all-time saw Super Slav in tears on the touchline at the final whistle. The Hammers finished seventh and reached the FA Cup quarter-finals, having knocked out Europa League finalists Liverpool along the way – it was the Hammers’ highest league finish for 14 years and the club’s first top-flight positive goal difference since 1985/86.

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Following the move to London Stadium, Slav led the Irons to another cup quarter-final and an 11th-placed finish, becoming the first manager in Hammers history to record top-11 finishes in his first two top-flight seasons. Slav’s Hammers beat Tottenham at Wembley in October 2017 to reach the last eight of the League Cup, the first time the club had reached Cup quarter-finals in three consecutive seasons since 1989-91. Slav and the club parted ways in November 2017 – now 50, he was part of ITV’s team at the 2018 World Cup and is currently manager of Al-Ittihad in the Saudi Professional League.

Igor Stimac

Igor Stimac was born in Metkovic on 6th September 1967 and began his professional career with Hajduk Split in the mid-1980s. He also had a loan spell at Dinamo Vinkovci. After 64 appearances for Hajduk, the central defender moved to Spanish club Cadiz in 1992.

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Stimac returned to Hajduk two years later before signing for Derby in October 1995 for £1.5m, helping the Rams to promotion to the Premier League in his first season. Stimac won 53 caps for Croatia, scoring two goals and appearing for his country at Euro ’96 and the 1998 World Cup.

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After four years in the east Midlands, Stimac joined West Ham in late August 1999 for £600,000. With the Hammers experiencing a defensive injury crisis, the 32-year-old made his debut in a 1-0 home win over Watford on 11th September 1999. Stimac scored his only goal for the Irons in a 2-2 draw at Newcastle on 3rd January 2000, a match which also saw him captain the team – this goal can be seen in my video below. He was sent off twice for the Hammers – once in a goalless home draw with Chelsea on 18th March 2000 and again in a 1-0 home defeat to Leicester on 23rd August 2000. His final appearance for the club came in a 3-0 home win over Southampton on 5th May 2001. Having made 52 appearances for West Ham, scoring one goal, Stimac returned to his home country for a third spell at Hajduk Split in the summer of 2001.

Stimac became manager of Hajduk Split in 2005 before becoming boss of fellow Croatian side Cibalia the following year. He was named manager of NK Zagreb in 2009, spending a year with the club. Stimac replaced Bilic as Croatia manager in 2012 but, a year later, he tendered his resignation to Davor Suker, his former West Ham and Croatia team-mate and president of the Croatian FA (more on Suker in Part 2).

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Stimac was named manager of Croatian club side Zadar in 2015 but quit after six months. He became head coach of Iranian club Sepahan in November 2015 but resigned in April 2016. Now 51, Stimac was most recently manager of Qatari club Al-Shahania, joining the side in 2016 before leaving the following year.

The Blind Hammer Column

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

Blind Hammer uses stats to measure progress despite the Brighton reverse.

Football is an emotional game and reactions to the Brighton defeat included anger and disappointment. This was born out of widespread optimism that we would win comfortably. Some disappointed fans described our performance as “royally messing up”, amongst other negative descriptors.

We have an unfortunate habit of losing games just before an International break but despite this a more nuanced view is required.

Professional sportsmen learn not to get too up after a success, but equally not too down after a reverse. The much maligned Arsine Wenger argued that performance was always more important than the vagaries of any result.

Against Brighton West Ham had, arguably, their most powerful and dominant performance of the season.

West Ham achieved, at 64.6 , by some margin, their highest rate of possession this season. This was 20 higher than in our successful visit to Everton.

Some, after my piece last week, tried to dismiss possession as an irrelevant stat. They argued that the only relevant stat is the goals stats. This to my mind is profoundly simplistic and does not understand the pressures caused in modern football by the loss of possession. None of the top six sides set out to surrender possession, but instead seek to dominate possession. These Teams will win far more games than they will lose.

Obviously, possession has to have and end result, and simply passing amongst defenders in your own half only protects your goal.

This, however, does not describe West Ham’s performance against Brighton. West Ham mounted 17 efforts on goal. This was by some margin their greatest goal attempts tally this season. It was disappointing that only 4 of these efforts were on target with over 3 times as many efforts, 13, off target.

We can then, criticize West Ham for lacking clinical finishing.

Yet this is not a general negative trend. Against Everton we produced only 4 efforts on target but converted 3 of them. This clinical finishing represented a 75% conversion rate of efforts on target and 33.3% of all goal attempts. In that context West Ham mounting of 17 attempts against Brighton without achieving a single goal seem an anomaly. West ham will, over time, win many more games than lose with such domination of both possession and goal attempts.

Certainly this is not a time for panic and there is no need to go back to the drawing board just yet.
David Griffith

The GoatyGav Column

Falling Back In Love With West Ham

It’s been a long, tough road. There have been moments, fleeting promise of ‘The West Ham Way’, for so long the memories start to fade.

Perhaps during Alan Pardew’s time it was attacking football. Then again was that really the enterprising, pass and move, stuff that West Ham were historically renowned for or was it just about speed and power going forward? Somewhere betwixt the two?

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For me it was just before, and during, the turn of the Millennia when we last played truly entertaining football on a regular basis. When I look back at that squad I practically drool. Signings like Berkovic, Trevor Sinclair and Signor Di Canio alongside the academy products of Cole, Lampard jr, Rio and Carrick provided great options. It wasn’t too shabby at the back, either, with Steve Potts coming to the end of his career, Psycho at full back and the steele of Stimac and Ruddock in the mix. In the middle the likes of Marc-Viviene Foe (will never forget when Roy Keane, all of a sudden, didn’t fancy it following him going in for ‘afters’ with M-V F) and Steve Lomas provided bite. The inimitable John Moncur always brings a smile back and Stan ‘Skippy’ Laziridis was a good player to watch. Several other decent players contributed to the 8th, followed by 5th & 9th place finishes around that time including Marc Keller, Wanchope, Kanoute and Minto with Defoe coming through after Ian Wright left. Despite ‘Arry’s howlers, when it came to signings, that was a really decent squad which I enjoyed watching immensely.

Always makes me smile :) .

Following that time it’s been a real struggle. Yes, there have been fleeting moments of unadulterated joy, including the 2006 F.A. Cup run, but nothing sustained.

Once again I’m excited however. It’s not just the players that have come in this season. This squad has been slowly building for a couple of years now. The Summer spending spree brought some fantastic talent to our club. I’ve wanted Yarmalenko to sign since I saw him play when he’d just broken through from youth ranks at Kyiv. In a game in 2012 Arsenal had absolutely no answer to him as he tore them apart in a European tie for Dynamo Kyiv. The North London club pursued the signature of the Ukraine international for years but never managed to get the deal over the line until his form, and his stock, dropped in the Bundesliga playing for Borussia Dortmund. Form, as they say, is temporary but Class is permanent. He’s a classy player in my view.

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I have to admit to not knowing too much about Fellippe Anderson before his arrival. What I saw I liked but, without following a player closely, it’s hard to judge for sure. It’s also hard to know if players will make it in the Premier League. I am, however, completely convinced that he’s going to prove a huge star for West Ham – easily as big a player as some of the aforementioned signings by Harry Redknapp.

With all that money spent, and mouthwatering talent signed, it’s more about how the team are playing that is getting the juices flowing now though. We’re starting to see some enterprising passing and movement in and around opposition penalty areas once more.

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I spent Saturday afternoon with a mate, Rick, who’s moved South from Manchester, watching Alan Devnonshire’s Maidenhead United lose 2-0 to Leyton Orient. I’d only ever been to York Road once before, for a pre-season friendly against Harry Redknapp’s West Ham. On that occasion I was with my two nephews who went to school with Adam Newton – who made a second half appearance in the game. The only other, notable, event during that game, outside of some very tasty tackles by Stimac, was the streaker who ran the entire length of the pitch pursued by stewards before jumping in to the West Ham fan’s stand then being given a jacket to put on to assist his evasion of the authorities. Anyway, back in the room, Rick & I discussed his team, Manchester City, at length and got on to the subject of Manuel Pellegrini’s time as their manager. Rick was certainly of the opinion that the football on show under the Chilean gaffer was far more pleasing on the eye than that served up by Roberto Mancini. As popular as the Italian boss was Pellegrini’s time there was a good deal more enjoyable than what preceded.

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I’m hugely positive about the way things are going at West Ham. It’s not only the quality of the squad that’s improving – it’s also the fayre that’s being served up. As the team gels, which is visibly happening from game to game, and other options are starting to return from injury, there’s a definite feeling of optimism for the season ahead. I genuinely believe that ‘The West Ham Way’ is returning to East London. Happy days Hammers.

I’m dreaming of a Claret & Blue Wembley.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!

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