Guest Post

Are the Next Few Games 'Make or Break'?

Guest Post by Benjamin Cronin

With a convincing second half performance that led to a comfortable victory against a struggling Hull side, talk of Europa League and (don’t say it too loud) Champions League football is on the lips of many a West Ham fan once again. We’re creeping closer to the the business end of the season and rather than concerning ourselves with those fabled relegation six pointers, Big Sam is looking up and thinking positive as he takes his side into possibly the most important seven games of the season. Granted, a good start or strong finish can always save a team or salvage one of those top four places. But what will these next few games tell us about West Ham?

Within the next month or so, The Mighty Irons will host Manchester United and the current leaders of the Premier League, Chelsea, as well as travelling to another three of the six sides who sit above us in the table; Southampton, Tottenham and Arsenal. As if this task didn’t seem daunting enough, it all kicks off with a trip to Anfield to face a side who sit just one place and one point below us. So, will the bubbles streaming from the Boleyn soon be burst or will even the most optimistic of Hammers fans be in for a shock come 24th May?

With Liverpool seemingly creeping towards their form of last year (albeit still a long way off), the trip to Anfield will be a lot more of a challenge than it would have appeared only a few weeks back, or certainly more than the reverse fixture when we had them beat within the first ten minutes in September. The Reds League Cup success could both help and hinder The Irons, another positive performance against Chelsea could see them reach the final and boost morale ahead of the encounter but a loss could deflate the side who will also be left with fitness concerns (assuming Rodgers plays Gerrard, it’s most likely he would need to be rested for the following game) after the second leg of their tie. In a game that is sure to be a close run thing, the likes of Carroll and Downing can return to what will undoubtedly be a frosty reception at Anfield and prove they do have the ability that earned them big money moves to Merseyside. As Liverpool currently sit second in the leagues form table, I would be looking for a strong defensive performance with avoiding defeat perhaps more important than trying to steal a win. Big Sam and the boys coming back to the East End with a point would be a positive but there’s always a chance of nabbing all three if we keep it close.

Next is a home game against Manchester United, which, bar the last two seasons, would usually only go one way. Although we’ve had numerous ‘big results’ back in the days of Ferguson, United would always seemingly scrape through (or score a 50-yard half volley) and get a result. They’ve had a few moments where they’ve played well and shown how Van Gaals much publicised ‘football philosophy’ could potentially work but there’s still no caparison to the side who, under Ferguson, could play terribly and come away with a 3-0 win. It tense game at Old Trafford, when two early goals put United in the driving seat and they managed to cling on for a win. It’s another game that I’d like to see the side of Allardyce that had many calling for his head last season. Defence should be given priority (as I’m sure it will with concerns over clean sheets coming to the fore over the last few weeks) and providing we take the chances that will undoubtedly be created, a win wouldn’t be a shock but again, I’d settle for a point.

Trips to St. Mary’s and White Hart Lane are always going to be difficult with both teams showing consistent form. Although no one can deny how impressive Southampton have been this season, Tottenham aren’t exactly cruising to victories (with a late 2-1 apparently popping up every week). Spurs are perhaps more accustomed to their current position but have a completely new squad to the one that reached the Champions League and have been there or thereabouts since, as well as a new manager who after a good few seasons in the Premier League still appears to divide opinion. With Crystal Palace following these two fixtures I would expect a minimum of four points out of the three games but between six and nine wouldn’t come as a surprise.

Southampton are perhaps one side who have come to the Boleyn this season and actually outplayed West Ham. Another side who have the potential to do the same is the current leaders and favourites for the title, Chelsea. In all honestly, West Ham were lucky to come back from Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day without being embarrassed like Swansea last weekend. Mourinho’s men ran the game and it was only thanks to Adrian that the deficit wasn’t more than two. If Chelsea turn up and play well, The Hammers will have to be at their resolute best for the entire 90 minutes to keep them out. Although the Blues have been by far the best team in the league this season, they have shown instances of struggling through games. Big Sam will be hoping that Jose and his team aren’t at their sleek and stylish best (an exit from the League Cup could help this) and that the crowd and our impressive home form can get us a result.

A trip to the emirates brings an end to this run of crucial fixtures and come mid-March, we could be expecting rather than speculating about the prospect of European football. It certainly doesn’t feel like it was eight-years ago that Bobby Zamora scored the goal that helped West Ham, then led by Curbishley, to be the first side to win at the Emirates, but in that time a lot has changed. We’ve been down and up and now, on the verge of our own ‘big move’, are a completely differently club. After Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher apparently jumped ship and started supporting Arsenal following their performance against City, I’m still yet to be convinced. City were far from at their best and although Arsenal took advantage of it, I’m sure Neville and Carragher will be picking holes in the Gunners defensive frailties in the not too distant future. It’s another game in which our multi-faceted approach could be key. A strong, physical defensive performance tends to result in Arsenal struggling and that, paired with Carrol and Valencia putting pressure on a notoriously (despite the pundits drastic change of opinion) defence, a positive result isn’t out of reach. Again, avoiding defeat must be given priority but it’s a game I can see us growing into and taking three points from.

The likes of Adrian, Cresswell, Jenkinson, Song, Downing and Carroll have stood out for me this season but I feel the next few games will be decided by smart tactics and Big Sam can show just what a great manager he can be. The much maligned solid and compact system from last year may well return over the next few weeks and although many fans would like to see us continue our attacking football against the likes of; Liverpool, Manchester United, Southampton, Tottenham and Chelsea it will instead be the ability to provide disciplined defensive performances that will define our season. If the side manage to get through the next month or so with only one or two extra losses on the record, there is a great possibility of kicking on and finishing the season strongly. The consistency of the first half of the season must remain, those influential players previous mentioned need to avoid the inevitable injuries and with a little bit of luck (turning draws against the likes of Swansea and West Brom into victories), The Boleyn could be hosting some of Europe’s finest next year.


Predictor League Competition

Predictor League Open for Bristol City

Please enter your team by 12.30pm on Sunday.

Due to the unfairness of people who’ve only made five or six entries dominating the top of the league we have changed the scoring system at the request of several of you. The new method, devised by Heedsy is much fairer. The cumulative score is now an average of the player’s best scores based on 75% of the available matches, rounded up to the nearest whole number.

Suppose there are 12 matches…

If a player submits 12 predictions, their top 9 scores are summed and divided by 9.

If a player submits 10 predictions, their top 9 scores are summed and divided by 9.

If a player submits 9 predictions, all 9 of their scores are summed and divided by 9.

If a player submits 2 predictions, both are summed and also divided by 9 (not 2).

If there are 13 matches, the scores are divided by 10 (13 * 0.75 = 9.75, round up to 10)

Hope that makes sense.

Click here to view the leaderboard

Transfer Gossip

MacDonald blasts West Ham

Hamliton Vice Chairman Ronnie MacDonald has called West Ham shambolic for their handling of a £2m plus deal for Stephen Hendrie.

He told the Daily Express

“We had agreed terms with Crystal Palace for Stephen to go there once the transfer window opened but unfortunately Neil Warnock lost his job so that fell away.But prior to that West Ham had expressed an interest so we then opened a dialogue with them, they made an offer which was acceptable and our representatives met with their representatives in London. The fee was agreed, Stephen agreed personal terms through his agent and they were meant to come up to our place on New Year’s Day to sign off the deal and didn’t appear. They then said they would up on the 4th but didn’t appear so I just cancelled the deal.I’m getting phone calls from London saying they want to resurrect it but as fas as I’m concerned it’s off. I’m presuming they have seen Stephen playing against Celtic when he did really well for a kid and changed their mind but I have not changed my mind.I always like to deal woth add-ons and with add-ons the fee for Stephen wuld have been well in excess of £2million. We are sorry for the boy because he is not getting his big move.I think West Ham are shambolic and if that’s how they carry on their business that’s up to them, They should do things properly.”

Media reports yesterday suggested West Ham had a £2million bid rejected for the Hamilton left-back Stephen Hendrie. The Scottish 20-year-old is out of contract in the summer and is said to be attracting interest from a number of Premier League clubs including West Ham, Crystal Palace and Swansea. Hendrie has made more than 100 appearances for the Scottish Premiership club but has made it clear he is ready to move to a bigger club.

Speaking before his 20th birthday in January Hendrie said: ‘I’m 20 next week, I don’t think that’s too young or too old to move from Hamilton.I’m a Celtic fan and obviously the Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world. That’s my dream – you want to reach as high a level as you can and if I can get to the Premier League that would be brilliant. But the Accies would need to see if it’s the right offer. If it is, they say they’ll never stand in anybody’s way. They are a great club like that. If they accepted it, there is not much I could do. It’s good massive clubs are getting mentioned. But I just want to get my head down and keep doing well.Just now, the Accies are flying and I’m loving every minute of it. We just want to finish as high as we can.”

An West Ham insider told ClaretandHugh this morning

“We didn’t value the player at £2m, he’s a Bosman in the summer. We only saw him as back- up. They were too greedy and will now get a token fee in the Summer as its across border move."


Nostalgia

The Ted Fenton Legacy

Guest Post from TeddyBard

A recent post on WHTID reminded me of a former hero many on here won’t remember. Born in Forest Gate, Ted Fenton played for England schoolboys as a forward but converted to wing half after joining West Ham in 1934. He played five times for England in the late 1930s and was a member of the West Ham team that beat Blackburn 1-0 in the 1940 FA Cup Final.

Fenton left West Ham in 1946 to manage Colchester United, then of the Southern League and reached the fifth round of the FA Cup in the 1947-48 season; with a 3-2 win over neighbours Chelmsford in the fourth qualifying round watched by a Layer Road crowd of 10,396. Wrexham, of the Third Division North were the next visitors to Layer Road and they were duly dispatched by a Bob Curry goal (1-0) with both sides missing penalties. First Division Huddersfield were next up (1-0), again with Bob Curry hitting the winning goal. It was the first time that a non-league side had beaten a First Division club. in the fourth round tie with Second Division Bradford Park Avenue Ted’s Colchester won 3-2. The fifth round draw was awaited with bated breath; and a Blackpool side featuring Stanley Matthews were the ultimate victors, with a 5-0 victory in front of a 30,000 sell-out crowd.

Ted joined West Ham that season as assistant manager to Charlie Paynter in 1948 (when I was 2) and became manager in 1950. His greatest achievement as manager was returning the club to the First Division in 1957-58; winning the Division Two championship and scoring 101 goals. Following promotion West Ham went on to score 59 goals at home the next season; the start of the good times in my opinion.

Perhaps his other major achievement came during the time that Fenton was responsible for establishing “The Academy” and the development of the youth teams. West Ham reached the FA Youth Cup Final twice in three years over the period 1956–59.

Manchester United v West Ham United 8-2

Blackburn Rovers v West Ham United 2-1

Sadly both losses but the foundation had been laid for the 1963 win.

West Ham United v Liverpool 6-5

With the help of Chairman Reg Pratt he was also responsible for encouraging as many players as possible to take their FA coaching badges to ensure that the players had something to fall back on when their playing days were over. Ted Fenton was sacked in March 1961 (no details were made available).

Seven of the West Ham 1964 FA Cup winning team had either been signed by Ted Fenton from other clubs or had worked their way up from the Academy during his time as manager.

GK 1 Jim Standen
RB 2 John Bond
LB 3 Jack Burkett
RH 4 Eddie Bovington
CH 5 Ken Brown
LH 6 Bobby Moore ©
OR 7 Peter Brabrook
IR 8 Ronnie Boyce
CF 9 Johnny Byrne
IL 10 Geoff Hurst
OL 11 John Sissons
Manager: Ron Greenwood

His brother Benny Fenton signed for Colchester Town in 1934, moving to West Ham United a year later. Benny made his professional debut for West Ham United on 9 October 1937, playing alongside his older brother Ted, as an inside forward in a match against Fulham.

Ted Died in a car crash in Leicestershire in 1992 and Benny died in Dorset in 2000.

We all have our favourites but this was the manager of the first West Ham team I ever saw.


Talking Point

Why we need a big scalp over the next two months

My earliest memories of supporting West Ham, in the mid-1990s, were of famous victories or draws against the bigger clubs: the time we stopped Sir Alex from winning the title in 1995; Di Canio scoring a brace in a 2-1 victory over Arsenal in 1999. That was the West Ham way: perform well for the big clubs, struggle against the minnows. It was even something Sir Alex accused us of.

Cometh this season and that mantra still holds true – slightly. Yes, this season we beat Liverpool and Manchester City at home, both impressively, but to be a pessimist – as I always am – we played both sides at the right time, before they both began to turn their seasons around. What seems to be different about this season is not necessarily results like those, but the fact that we haven’t slipped up against the teams that are struggling. Our only losses have come against Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Southampton and Everton. All are in the top six, bar the Toffees, but they have always been our bogey team.

As I wrote before, we’ve got a tough run of games coming up – Liverpool, Southampton, Spurs, Arsenal away; Manchester United and Chelsea at home. They will all be difficult, but they will be informative in determining just how good a side we are. We have shown so far this season that we have what it takes to grind out wins after playing poorly – take Hull this week, for example. We have shown how we have what it takes to not be a bottom-ten side, having not yet lost to any of them. We have shown that we don’t have to worry about relegation.

Yet what else can we show? A few months back we were being compared to Southampton, and many scoffed at the idea of either one of us being in the top four come May. That was especially true when the Saints hit a run of games against the big sides and lost quite a few. Yet where are they now? They have shown they can test the Premier League elite: 1-1 draw with Chelsea, 2-0 defeat of Arsenal and that impressive 1-0 away victory against Manchester United. They have the metal to wallop the minnows (8-0 against Sunderland) as well as the big boys.

Southampton beat United away for the first time since 1988. How about we rewrite our own history by beating Liverpool next weekend? We haven’t won at Anfield since 1964. Surely it’s time? How about even testing the Saints themselves? We were roundly beaten by them at home 3-;, how about we show that we are just as surprise a package this season as they are? We’d all love to recreate the scenes at the Boleyn when we beat Chelsea 3-1 a few years back and we’d all revel in another victory at White Hart Lane.

Arsenal showed against Manchester City that even if you are missing key players, it’s crucial to work as a team: making a side greater than the sum of its individual parts. If this team really is serious about having transitioned this season, and if the owners are honest when they say they want us to push for Europe, then these run of results gives the club a perfect opportunity to prove just that. Chelsea and Manchester United at home are good chances: neither are playing particularly well away. The four away games – against Southampton, Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool – are teams that are hitting their stride, similar to how we did in October and November.

Let’s hope this February is as good as last year.


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