Opposition Q & A
After the international break we travel North to play our Claret and Blue cousins Burnley, this weekend. Ahead of the game I spoke to Burnley fan Tony Scholes editor of “www.uptheclarets.com”:https://www.uptheclarets.com …. I know, I know to discuss all things Claret and Blue.
This is now your fourth season back in the top flight since the early 1970s and the days of Ralph Coates, Leighton James, Martin Dobson et al; you must be delighted with your progress after the years in the wilderness.
Those names, and some of those who went in the decade before them, were the players we were able to hang our memories on during the dark days of the 1980s, a time when we almost became a non-league club or even worse.
I’m a Burnley supporter, no matter what, so I watched us play fourth division football just as I watch us now play in the top flight again, but. like all Burnley fans, I am absolutely delighted at the progress our club has made in these recent years.
You still have to pinch yourself at times. We beat Everton at Goodison Park in our last game; on the same weekend thirty years ago we lost a league game at Scarborough.
You’ve had a great start, but where do you think Burnley will finish at the end of the campaign?
The start has been incredible. Our first four away games have come at Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool and Everton and we are unbeaten. Given we won just the one away game last season, that is some start on the road for us.
Obviously we would like to finish as high as possible but I doubt many would expect us to finish the season in the sixth place we currently hold. We discussed this on the way back from Everton two weeks ago and, as much as we’d love to finish much higher, a comfortable 17th place would keep us in this league for another year and that always has to be a target for clubs like ours. I think we will be higher than that but I’m not expecting us to achieve a Champions League place our anything like that, the Leicester achievement was a very definite one off.
Where do you think West Ham can realistically finish the season?
When you look at last season’s final table, only six points separated Southampton in 8th place and Watford who were 17th. West Ham, like ourselves, were in that group and either of us could have finished in any of those positions and your win at Burnley on the final day of the season actually took you above us.
I really think the league will be similar this season with a middle group who could finish in any number of positions and I suspect West Ham will be in that group. So, on that basis, I’ll suggest similar to last season when you finished 11th.
Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and who will lift the title this season?
I could say I’m not too bothered as long as it isn’t us but I think most would now consider Crystal Palace to be in a very difficult position. Yes, they can get out of it, but no goals and no points going into the second international break suggests a major struggle.
Huddersfield are finding it more difficult now after winning their first two games and I think both they and Brighton will be close come the end of the season although I’m pleased to see Swansea down there after their manager’s fist pumping antics in front of our fans last season.
Will Bournemouth recover? I think they will find it difficult too but, if pushed, I’ll go for Brighton and Swansea to join Palace.
As for the title, I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t go to a North West club, and more specifically to one of the Manchester Clubs. If pushed, I’ll go for City to win it and United to finish second.
Are you happy with the make-up of your squad? Are there any areas in particular need of strengthening?
Like all clubs would probably say, it could do with strengthening. I do think we are a central defender short and I would have liked a wide player to have come in before the deadline; we were close on that one I believe. January will be key and, depending on the position in the league, it can make the difference between panic buying or squad building signings and I’m expecting the latter.
How do the fans rate Sean Dyche as manager? He is that rare creature not to be immediately sacked on being relegated, so I suppose the board must be behind him at least.
I think the board would have been publicly hanged in the town centre had they sacked him. His appointment in October 2012 was the best thing to happen to our football club in years. He fits the club perfectly in every way and his achievements with us now have supporters believing he’s the best manager we’ve ever had at Burnley.
Our fear now is not him being sacked but him moving on to a bigger club. It’s hearts in mouths every time a job becomes vacant.
How do you rate West Ham’s Slaven Bilic as our manager?
Everything seemed to be going well for him in his first season, but since he’s always seemed to be on that tightrope with constant suggestions he could lose his job.
In truth, I can’t really answer this one. Has the recruitment not been as good in the last two years and what was his role in that? Our manager oversees everything so rightly can be praised or blamed, I’m not sure on Bilic but he certainly has to deal with your two owners which I’m sure can’t be easy.
Any tips for West Ham fans making the trip up to Burnley?
You won’t look out of place, that’s for sure, you’ll find plenty of claret and blue around the place. It’s certainly nothing like it will be for our supporters going to the reverse fixture. You can park virtually outside Turf Moor and you will find yourselves very close to the action inside Turf Moor.
Do you have any particular memories of West Ham/Burnley games of the past?
I missed the win at the Boleyn Ground in 2011 through illness so the only time I’ve seen us win there was in 1973 when a Colin Waldron goal gave us a 1-0 win. That one was a feisty affair that was shown on Match of the Day.
At home, a 3-1 win in this very week in 1968 proved to be a memorable one. It was a midweek fixture following a 4-0 home defeat against Liverpool. Due to injuries, we were forced into making about five changes and brought in some of the kids who had won the youth cup in the previous year.
We played superbly to win the game and that kicked off a run of eight consecutive wins. You mentioned Martin Dobson in your first question, and a young Dobson was in the team that night along with players such as Dave Thomas, who went on to play for England, and Steve Kindon.
If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
Whilst appreciating the talents of such as Manuel Lanzini, the one player I would choose is without doubt Michail Antonio. HIs pace, his assists and goals would be perfect for our side and I still shudder at a performance he gave against us for Sheffield Wednesday in the month before Sean Dyche arrived at Burnley.
Which Burnley player(s) will be key to your hopes this season?
It’s very much a team ethic at Burnley and in the few games this season it has been different players coming to the fore when needed which makes it very difficult to pick out individuals although I do think the midfield partnership between Jack Cork and Steven Defour is making a big contribution to the way we are playing.
How do you expect Burnley to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation? What is your prediction for the final score?
We are not a team to make too many changes and I would think there is every chance the team will be the one that started at Everton in the last game, provided the international players have all returned fully fit.
That would mean a 4-4-1-1 formation with Jeff Hendrick playing behind the lone striker Chris Wood. If so, that team is: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Robbie Brady, Steven Defour, Jack Cork, Scott Arfield, Jeff Hendrick, Chris Wood.
As for the result, I don’t really enjoy doing predictions but you wouldn’t expect me to go for anything other than a Burnley win, and I’ll go for 2-0.
Thanks for your time Tony. It’s great to hear from such a hard-core fan. (Tony told me he saw his first Burnley game 57 years ago this weekend!)
I’m afraid I will have to disagree with him though. I’m hoping that last minute goal by Diafra against Swansea can spark us on to a more convincing victory: I’m going for 1 – 2 to the Hammers. Come on you Irons!
Dan Coker's Match Preview
Blast from the past
In today’s preview, we travel back almost exactly three years to 18th October 2014: Meghan Trainor was number one with ‘All About That Bass’, Gone Girl topped the UK box office and West Ham United beat Burnley 3-1 at Turf Moor.
The Hammers came under pressure in the opening minutes, with George Boyd smashing a shot against the underside of the crossbar for the home side. The visitors took time to gain a foothold in the match, although Stewart Downing did strike the outside of the far post after cutting in from the right flank.
Sam Allardyce’s men were clinical in the second half though and were two goals up before the hour mark. Diafra Sakho scored his sixth goal in six starts in the 49th minute, heading home a pinpoint Aaron Cresswell cross to put the Hammers ahead. Sakho would go on to be the Irons’ top scorer in 2014/15, scoring 12 goals in 26 appearances. The visitors doubled their advantage just five minutes later, Carl Jenkinson crossing for Enner Valencia to bullet home a stunning header.
Burnley halved the deficit on the hour-mark when Adrian spilt a Michael Kightly corner and Boyd fired into the net. The Hammers secured maximum points ten minutes later – Morgan Amalfitano’s deep corner was headed back into the danger area by Sakho for Carlton Cole to bravely nod in from close range. Cole is pictured below celebrating with skipper Mark Noble, who was making his 200th Premier League appearance for West Ham United in this game to take him just three behind Steve Potts’ club’s record.
The victory, coupled with moving into the Premier League’s top four, was the perfect present for Hammers boss Sam Allardyce, who celebrated his 60th birthday the following day. West Ham would go on to finish 12th in a 2014/15 campaign that saw 25-year-old left-back Cresswell voted Hammer of the Year with 28-year-old goalkeeper Adrian runner-up for the second successive season. Burnley finished 19th and were relegated alongside QPR and Hull. Chelsea won the Premier League title and Arsenal won the FA Cup.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Jason Shackell, Michael Duff, Ben Mee, George Boyd, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Michael Kightly (Nathaniel Chalobah), Danny Ings (Marvin Sordell), Lukas Jutkiewicz (Ashley Barnes).
West Ham United: Adrian, Carl Jenkinson, James Collins, Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell, Alex Song (Kevin Nolan), Mark Noble, Morgan Amalfitano, Stewart Downing, Enner Valencia (Carlton Cole), Diafra Sakho.
A small collection of players have turned out for the Hammers and the Clarets. They include:
Goalkeepers: Herman Conway and Frank Birchenough.
Defenders: Tyrone Mears, Joe Gallagher, David Unsworth, Tommy Dunn, Jack Tresadern, Jon Harley and Mitchell Thomas.
Midfielders: Junior Stanislas, Reg Attwell, Matt Taylor and Luke Chadwick.
Strikers: Alan Taylor, Bill Jenkinson, Sam Jennings, Walter Pollard, Ian Wright, Ian Moore and Zavon Hines.
John Bond played for the Hammers and managed the Clarets.
Today’s focus, though, falls on a player who enjoyed spells at both clubs in the 1920s. Tommy Hampson was born in Bury on 2nd May 1898 and was the younger brother of full-backs Walker and Billy – all three brothers played in the same Leeds City side three times in April 1918.
Goalkeeper Tommy had been playing mainly in the North Eastern League with South Shields and Walker Celtic when he began guesting with Leeds City in March 1917. Hampson moved to Second Division West Ham in 1920 as understudy to legendary custodian Ted Hufton, making his debut in a 1-0 win at Clapton Orient on 15th January 1921. He made four appearances in 1920/21, nine in 1921/22 and only three in the promotion campaign of 1922/23.
Hampson’s big break came shortly before Christmas 1923 when England international Hufton suffered a serious knee injury. He played 30 games in 1923/24, keeping 11 clean sheets and more than playing his part in consolidating West Ham’s top-flight status as the Hammers finished 13th in their maiden season at English football’s top table. With Hufton kept out for 16 months, Hampson (pictured right) kept his place in the side until March 1925 and continued to prove an able deputy – he kept twelve clean sheets in his 33 appearances in the 1924/25 campaign. His 79th and final appearance for the Irons came in a 5-4 defeat ironically at Burnley on 28th February 1925.
Hampson left Upton Park to join Blackburn in 1925 but failed to make an appearance for Rovers and quickly moved on to Annfield Plain and then Burnley, for whom he made six appearances in 1925/26. He went on to play for West Stanley, Darlington and Cardiff, where he spent two years before leaving for Notts County in 1929. He then moved into non-league football in 1930 with Notts Co-op Dairy. Tommy’s date of death is unknown.
The referee on Saturday will be Stuart Attwell. The Birmingham-based official will take charge of a West Ham game for only the third time, having also refereed our 1-0 victory at Wigan in March 2009 and our 3-1 win at Blackpool in February 2011. The 35-year-old sent off the Latics’ Lee Cattermole for a shocking challenge on Scott Parker, while the Hammers’ Carlton Cole also received his marching orders during the aforementioned win at Wigan. Even Latics boss Steve Bruce criticised the decision to dismiss the Irons striker.
Attwell also awarded an infamous ‘phantom’ goal for Reading in a Championship match against Watford in September 2008. He was the youngest-ever Premier League referee but was demoted from the Select Group in 2012. He has refereed six matches so far this season – two in the Premier League, two in the Championship and one each in the League Cup and Checkatrade Trophy.
Burnley are without England international Tom Heaton and Republic of Ireland forward Jonathan Walters, while Dean Marney and Nahki Wells will make returns from injuries in an Under-23 game this evening. The Clarets have lost just once in seven league games so far this term. Burnley’s only home victory against the Hammers in the last 39 years was a 2-1 win in February 2010.
West Ham United are close to boasting a full squad – James Collins is the only senior player in the treatment room, with Pedro Obiang and Edimilson Fernandes now back in training. Chicharito only returned from international duty yesterday but will be named in the squad. Pablo Zabaleta is one yellow card away from a one-match suspension. The Hammers have won 14, drawn three and lost just two of their last 19 matches against Burnley home and away in all competitions, stretching back to 1979.
Possible Burnley XI: Pope; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Ward; Brady, Defour, Cork, Arfield; Hendrick; Wood.
Possible West Ham United XI: Hart; Zabaleta, Fonte, Reid, Cresswell; Antonio, Kouyate, Lanzini, Arnautovic; Sakho, Chicharito.
Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!
The GoatyGav Column
Being a top level Football manager nowadays is a high pressure job. Like any other manager you get flack from all angles. Flack from higher management. Flack from colleagues. Flack from staff and flack from customers. Internally and externally there’s usually stuff hitting the fan from everywhere. When it comes to the Premier League, and other top Football leagues, this is intensified hugely. It really isn’t a job for the faint hearted. The scrutiny is massive with examination of every aspect under the microscope. In all fairness, with contracts at several £M to do the job, that’s fair game and to be expected.
Elsewhere, unlike many other clubs, our opponents this weekend have stuck by their man.
On top of all of the analysis, to the nth degree, there’s then all the speculation to put up with. This is the part where things can get a little nasty in my opinion. Rumours about who said what to who begin and gain momentum. Before you know it the Chinese whisper effect has kicked in and the manager is about to get the sack. Some, so called fans, even begin to hope for the team to lose to speed up a Manager’s demise. Something I never have, and would never, call for. Plain stupidity, and ‘turning on your own’ to do so IMHO.
It’s not unreasonable to expect that a Football manager will lose his job if he doesn’t do well. Hard as it may seem to believe even a Manager who won the Premier League the previous season, and progresses his team beyond the group stages of the Champion’s League, is not immune to the tin tack if their team is loitering in or around the relegation zone for too long. Success will buy you a certain amount of time, nowadays, but a losing streak will do the opposite. So what constitutes a witch-hunt and, conversely, what is justifiable criticism? Personally I believe that the true barometer is what gets said at games. Dissatisfaction will creep in and you’ll hear it. I totally get fan frustration at matches. Although I’ve never done it myself even booing a team can happen. On two occasions the OS/LS crowd have booed the substitution of Chicha. Both times, however, those subs have proven exactly the right thing to do. Whether Javier is being utilised correctly in match may be another matter and, perhaps, has drawn justifiable criticism. I’m sure that situation will continue to be scrutinised in the coming games which may lead to even more ‘speculation’ and ‘rumours’ of Hernandez wanting away.
If England don’t win the World Cup as, by the time next Summer’s tournament comes around, they will be expected to do then the same media outlets raising expectation will be calling for Gareth Southgate’s head. Optimism ahead of a major tournament is ok but when it becomes unrealistic then it’s damaging. I’d far rather hear “let’s qualify through the group and take it from there,” than “we’re going to win the World Cup,” when next Summer comes around.
So I ask a couple of questions. Where’s the balance and realism gone in fan expectation at West Ham and where do you draw the line between fair criticism and a witch-hunt? SJ Chandos’ great piece about John Lyall earlier this week outlined what a mistake it was to let him go – especially in the manner that he was dismissed. At the time of his dismissal he was the longest serving manager in the game. Alex Ferguson had contacted John Lyall on more than one occasion for advice. Under his tenure West Ham won trophies and had their highest ever league position finish to a season. I wonder what West Ham would have achieved were it not for sacking one of their greatest managers and, like SJ Suggests, how John Lyall might have brought on the next West Ham manager to follow him. We can only speculate but I’ll strongly suggest that we wouldn’t have been following ‘Division 1’ football in the Premier League’s inaugural season. One poster outlined the ‘Lyall Out’ chants that could be heard by the fans in that final year – despite the overwhelming support he got, with his name being sung to the rafters, in his final home game against Luton and the 5 wins in the final 7 games.
Last season Slaven publically called out the Arsene Wenger witch-hunt for what it was. Elsewhere, unlike many other clubs, our opponents this weekend have stuck by their man. Sean Dyche remained in charge at Burnley despite being relegated and, low and behold, bounced straight back the following season. Newcastle have hardly been the model of managerial stability for the last few years however they did the same with Rafa Benitez and were similarly rewarded with an immediate return to the top flight. The same club made mistakes beforehand by getting rid of good managers before they’d really got a chance to influence a season properly. Despite not being his biggest fan I saw Mike Ashley’s dismissal of Sam Allardyce as a prime example of ‘hitting the panic button’ early.I wonder how the next couple of months are going to play out for Slaven Bilic. I suspect that we’ll pick up sufficient points to keep most happy. The run of games that we have were described as ‘winnable’ however, if the team don’t do well in this period, pressure could become significant enough for the board to act. Inwardly I’m sure Slaven has been affected by the media pressure but like John Lyall all those years ago he is dignified, professional and calm under pressure. You can only admire the way that Super Slav deals with the intensely difficult situation that he has found himself in. The results so far this season, as in ’88-’89, have been poor. Let’s hope this season doesn’t finish the same way that one did. The injury list in that relegation campaign bordered on the ridiculous but, unlike back then, you can’t go out and buy replacement players at any point (despite Frankie Mac struggling before getting injured himself after his return from Celtic). Conversely the squads, nowadays, are much larger to help cope with the loss of players to the physio room.
Lastly, completely off topic, I saw a brief interview with Reece Oxford on SSN last night. From what he said he’s fighting hard to get in to the team at Menchengladbach. Best of luck to him – great lad who I hope has a successful time in Germany.
COYI – West Ham 4 The Cup!
The Blind Hammer Column
Blind hammer argues that we all need to manage expectations.
What are the common factors which unites our last game against Swansea with our notorious game against Hull in 2014? Well in both games there was a clear expectation that West Ham should win. In both games we were in the end considered to have and below par performance. In both games we ultimately won all 3 points. Arguably the 3 points gained against Hull was our luckiest ever. We went ahead after 30 minutes with a penalty which should have been disallowed for handball earlier. As a result the Hull keeper was sent off yet despite this double setback Hull dominated the game, equalised and West Ham only won through a flukey own goal scored on a rare foray.
Swansea also dominated possession and the game for long periods, only succumbing to a last gasp winner from Sakho. In both games our supporters condemned the team with a chorus of boos, famously against Hull even after full time when all 3 points were secured. This is the time that Allardyce finally fell out with many West Ham fans by sarcastically cupping his hand to his ear.
This was the time that Allardyce lost a lot of credit with me. This had nothing, however, to do with his cupping his ear antics. I was instead stunned when he widely announced, 24 hours before kick-off that this game was a “must win” game and that not winning would have disastrous consequences for the club. Prior to this game West ham had suffered 3 successive defeats. It was yet another season with which we were flirting with relegation.
For Allardyce, a competent science led sports technician in so, many other areas to get such basic sports psychology wrong was staggering to me. I groaned when I read Allardyce’s comments and predicted that we were going to suffer a fear laden performance, with players paralysed by the season defining consequences of a misplace pass or mistake. The script was laid out for a cautious effort with apprehensive players fearful of errors. Players sought the safe rather than the inventive, the wary side or back pass rather than more risky, daring and ultimately more successful move.
Allardyce got an entirely predictable performance after the cack handedness of his psychological preparation. If anybody was lucky in how events panned out
In our unlikely victory it was Allardyce.
So you can imagine my chagrin when I learnt that the club hierarchy had similarly designated the Swansea game as a “must win” with implied consequences for Bilic arising from any failure.
The paralysing impact of this was immediately obvious for all to see in the first half against Swansea. Rather than relying on play that was instinctive and decisive, we were instead laboured and predictable. It seems we find it difficult to learn the lessons of even recent history.
Bilic is not stupid. He will not need to be told of “must win” games. If he truly needs this pressure then it should be applied privately out of sight of both fans and team. If Bilic is really a manager who needs pressure poured on him to perform then perhaps we do have the wrong manager. I think it is more likely that Bilic, an intelligent man is perfectly aware of expectations. What we saw from Allardyce in the case of Hull, and the Board in the case of Swansea, was seemingly an attempt to distance themselves from the likely performance of a team not yet firing on all cylinders. . In other words get excuses in early, making statement that appears to absolve responsibility for any negative performance.
Personally I thought some of the weirder and wonderful predictions of our result before the Swansea game had, in any case, rather more to do with wishful thinking than any serous football analysis. This led to completely unrealistic expectations. Whatever their weaknesses may be up front, clement had organised Swansea into one of the most difficult defensive outfits in the league. They had nullified the Spurs attack at Wembley, forcing a 0-0 draw, a defensive feat which we had singularly failed to replicate, conceding 3 in our own game against the self-same Spurs line-up only 7 days earlier. I had no idea on what form book those forecasting a goal feast for West Ham were relying on.
The problem is that fear is one of the most crippling problems in football. For a period Roberto Martínez managed Wigan Athletic to an extent where they massively punched above their weight in the Premiership. Martínez himself ascribed this success to the fact that he consistently was able to motivate his Wigan team to play without fear, without the weight of expectation, and as a consequence they consistently exceeded hopes. Martínez was unable to consistently achieve the same result against the weight of expectations when he moved to Everton. Ronald Koeman identified a similar problem and described a recent below par performance in the Europa League as due to his players being “scared.”
This is why I have never personally booed either players or the team. This is not because I am not disappointed but because I believe it is massively counterproductive. By erecting a wall of hostility towards our team we are simply providing one more obstacle for them to overcome if they are to become ultimately successful.
Allardyce actually described this well in his analysis of booing in the 2014 Hull game. He explained’
“We don’t need them on players’ backs when we are coming off three defeats. They have to stay and help them win.”
“At half-time, the players were talking more about fans booing them than the game. I had to make sure they kept focused on the field.”
So booing made it harder for a team to perform in a way that pleased the crowd. It is odd that Allardyce could understand this but fail to grasp his own counterproductive psychological methodology.
The constant brinkmanship of Bilic’s future is probably causing lapse of judgement. In recent weeks both Antonio and Carroll have played despite obviously not being 100% fit. Bilic is probably motivated to play these key players, even whilst unfit, in response to the pressure he is under.
The West Ham Board must show decisiveness. They should either back Bilic or not place pressure on the team, or they should show resolution now and sack him. What is crippling for the team’s confidence and development is the drip drip of leaks about games being “must win” games, or the 4 games to save Bilic’s job scenario from alleged insider sources. This ultimatum must at least remain private.
We are playing in the most competitive league in the world. It is sheer nonsense to imagine that there are so called “easy games”. We should manage expectations accordingly. Our next opponents Burnley have delighted in shocking several “big clubs” who have underestimated them. However we have quality players who have all recently demonstrated their undoubted abilities in the recent internationals for their national sides. If we want the free flowing instinctive football we would all have joy in then we need to eliminate the fear of failure. We must dare to succeed.