Talking Point

My Top Ten Hammers

This is what is known as a ‘Dubai filler’…

In the last thread I said that Dimitri Payet was well on the way to becoming a Hammers legend – someone who might in the future feature in an all time Top 5 Hammers. Well for lack of anything else to write about, I decided to compile my list of my all time Top 10 Hammers. Well, I say ‘all time’, what I really mean is my Top Ten Hammers that I have actually seen play for West Ham. Having said that I will include Bobby Moore, even though I never saw him play for West Ham, as my first game was in March 1974, after he had left the club. I’ll play him as my joker!

1. Bobby Moore
2. Billy Bonds
3. Trevor Brooking
4. Paolo Di Canio
5. Alan Devonshire
6. Tony Cottee
7. Alvin Martin
8. Julian Dicks
9. Rio Ferdinand
10. Dimitri Payet

Yes, I know, I know, how could I include Payet after what I wrote yesterday? Harold Wilson once said ’a week is a long time in politics". Well, a day is a long time in consistent football commentary!

So that’s my top ten. Am I mad?

Talking Point

Payet: Not Missing You Already

There was no greater fan of Payet than me. He was beginning to rival Paolo Di Canio in the hero stakes. He was undoubtedly in the top 5 players I have ever seen play for West Ham. I felt that he really bought into the whole West Ham project. How could I have been so naive? Admittedly, he hadn’t shown his form of last season but he was still capable of producing more than the odd moment of magic. He was fast on the way to becoming a West Ham legend.

And then he blew it.

I cannot remember a West Ham player going from hero to zero in such a short time. Refusing to play for a team which had embraced him, nurtured him, given him everything he could have ever wanted, was beyond the pale. Unforgivable. From the moment he refused to play, I never wanted to see him in a West Ham shirt again. He became a non person to me. A traitor. Strong words, maybe, but I felt jilted.

Since then we have looked like a changed team. We’ve won most of our games and apart from the two Manchester City games, we look transformed. We’ve actually played as a team, like the players know each other and pulled together. We may not be performing quite as we did last season, but if anyone had told us at the end of November that we’d now be in 9th or 10th place I’m not sure many of us would have believed them. This is due to many reasons, but the main one is that our attacking midfield players have stepped up to the plate and performed brilliantly. It wouldn’t be possible to replace Payet with a single player. But Snodgrass can take the set pieces and dribble. Lanzini can score from distance and run a defence. Feghouli had improved with every game he has played and like Antonio causes panic to occur in the opposing defence. These three players have performed in a way where few of us have missed Payet.

But there is one other piece to the jigsaw, which has seen us change from a relegation-threatened team to one which with a fair wind could challenge for a Europa League place, and his name is Andy Carroll. Payet out, Carroll in. That’s why we’re doing so well now. If Andy Carroll had played on Saturday I have little doubt we’d have beaten West Bromwich Albion. For me Carroll has been the missing link. His form has been nothing short of a revelation. If he gets called up for England it will be no more than he deserves. But the main thing is that he keeps fit and keeps banging in the goals for West Ham. However it’s his all round play which is so important. He wins everything in the air, he has a great first touch and can hold the ball up in a way few others can. And what’s more he’s scoring goals.

What’s not to like.

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Dimitri who?
That’s football…

Tony Hanna's Musings

The Break, Predictors and Question Time

Well after the game against West Brom we have two weeks to amuse ourselves until the next game at Watford. Normally it is the International breaks that test our patience but of course this time it is because next weekend is Cup week. It would be nice to be able sit back and watch Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea or the Moaning ones getting knocked out but when you look at their fixtures it is difficult to see any of them not making the quarter finals? Even Man City got a favourable draw and despite the unusualness of the top clubs all getting drawn away, somehow they all managed to avoid each other! Feel free to complain about our luck with Cup draws.

Looking forward to the game against Watford and it will be interesting to see if Andy Carroll is fit to play? Protecting a player from a groin niggle would be the natural course of action for any manager but Andy’s history has often told us things are always more complicated than that. It looks like Fonte and Snodgrass have settled well into the team and Kouyate is proving to be as versatile as Antonio. The latter appears to have dropped his form in the last few and I do wonder if he is struggling a bit with burn out? If that is the case then this trip to Dubai and the two week break should do him the World of good. Whilst we have all been harping on about the right back position for longer than we care, what is becoming as much as a problem is the form of Aaron Cresswell at left back. In my opinion he has never been a top class defender but his attacking threat down the left and his excellent crossing ability has always covered the cracks in his defensive game. I am not sure whether the injury he suffered earlier this season is behind it or whether it is a confidence thing? Either way it is fast becoming another problem for Slaven Bilic.

I had a few moments to spare the other day and I completed a Premier League predictor table. If you want to have a go yourself click here. It calculates the ongoing league table depending on the results you put into it. Just a bit of fun and only takes about ten minutes to complete and you will end up with all the finishing positions for the end of the season. For what is worth my predictions ended up with Chelsea winning the PL and just five points separating Man City, Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal in that order. If I am right then Arsenal and the Moaners will miss out on the Champions League spots. Down the other end Sunderland, Leicester and Middlesbrough go down but anything could happen there as only four points separated 18th and 13th. I had West Ham to finish 11th and at this point in time I would be fairly happy with that considering all the turmoil at the club this season. If you have a go, post your predictions on here and I will look back at this thread at the end of the season to see who fared the best and report back.

Later this week Eddie Bovington has agreed to take part in a Q&A with me. I will post it as an article hopefully during this two week break. Eddie played in the Cup Final win against Preston in 1964 and made 184 appearances for the Hammers in the 1960’s. If any of our readers want to put forward any of their own questions to Eddie just let me know on this thread. If we get a few good ones I will pick the best three to go alongside the ones I have already prepared.


Happy Valentine's Day From Michail Antonio


The HamburgHammer Column

Can we have some balance please ?

Proud. Gutted. Angry. Confused. Confident. This is just a sample of the rollercoaster of emotions I went through during and in the immediate aftermath of the West Brom game. (And it wasn’t much different for the Concordia game the day after.)

Our best striker was out. So we started the game with no outright striker on the pitch. But we had a lot going for us. We had passion, endeavour, spirit, spark, especially in the second half. We even made good use of the length and breadth of the pitch. The atmosphere in the stadium was, from what I could gather at home, rocking.

Even though we didn’t get the win, it was a hugely entertaining game, well worth the price for a ticket.

There were quite a few major incidents all of which were, when in doubt, decided in West Brom’s favour, albeit most of those rightly so. There’s no need for me to go into detail as that has been discussed at length in previous threads. I am sick and tired of having to mention game-defining (bad) calls from the referees every other week. Once again it has cost us points or at least contributed to us losing points. Plus our manager and his assistant who are likely to get some sort of touchline ban for the upcoming games.

I don’t blame Bilic and Nikola Jurcevic, his assistant, for losing their composure. Don’t get me wrong: We battled back, we took the lead with only a few minutes to go and we failed to hang on and bring the points home. That is the responsibility of our players who simply need to show better focus and professionalism. Then again we shouldn’t have been behind in the first place, their player clearly fouling Feghouli in the buildup to their goal in my opinion, you see those given quite regularly.

A first half equaliser for us was waived off by way of a controversial offside call (watching the replay it was still a pretty close call, but maybe the right one actually, still harsh on us) and even their second goal came from a dubious throw in decision a few moments earlier.

Thankfully video referees will eventually arrive and it won’t be a moment too soon and I’ll leave it at that. As for our team I cannot name a single player who didn’t put in a shift and performance. I will write the same now as I would have done if we had indeed won the game as for me that draw was undeserved on West Brom’s part, I very much see West Ham as the morale winners here which doesn’t give us th three points of course but at least we can all be proud of a very decent performance under testing circumstances.

In terms of defending Reid was, as usual, the rock we could depend on, it wasn’t a perfect performance, but a very creditable one again. Noble was my personal MotM.
For all his detractors he was in the middle of everything, covering every blade of grass, driving the team on and without bothering to look up the official stats there can’t have been another player out there touching the ball more often than he did.
Feghouli seems to lack a fanclub at West Ham for the time being, but I reckon he is slowly beginning to win the Hammers faithful over. He did a lot of things against West Brom, and he did a lot of things right, being a constant nuisance to West Brom.

And Lanzini is stepping up beautifully and wearing those Payet boots very well indeed – and I mean that purely in footballing terms. Another class goal. He is our creative outlet and we will hopefully see a lot more from Manuel in the next few years, preferably in a West Ham shirt.
An honourable mention goes to Calleri who showed a lot of effort but looks decidedly lightweight and is unlikely to be a long term fix for us anyway.

Which brings me to the headline of my column. We need some balance here – and not just in terms of calling for Bilic’s head (in some quarters at least) or calling West Ham players mingers after one or two underwhelming performances. No, we definitely need some balance to our squad and that will need to be addressed and sorted out in the summer. No more deluded hoping that our players will not suffer injuries next season. No resting easy in the knowledge that certain players may fill in at RB or upfront for half a season or so.

Right now we have a plethora of midfielders, jostling for gametime in various positions, DM, winger, wingback, attacking midfielder, makeshift striker, but not enough reliable experienced strikers. We have Carroll who is a monster of a forward when he plays, but as we all know he cannot be relied upon staying fit and he cannot even train regularly for fear of straining his delicate bones and muscles. Ankle issues, groin niggles, thigh strains, you name it, he gets it. So we cannot and shouldn’t build our team around Carroll next season.

Same goes for the defending positions, especially the RB spot. Yes, we have players who can fill in there like Kouyate or Nordtveit. But when you consider injuries and off-field issues, we only have Byram who himself is injury prone. At LB Masuaku is only just coming back (from injury, what else?) providing some welcome competition for Cresswell who just hasn’t been the same confident player ever since being kicked heavily into the new season in that summer “friendly” against Karlsruhe.

So I would just like to ask our board to make sure we have all positions in our squad covered adequately next season. Even if that costs money. Proper RBs playing at RB for starters.

Proper strikers who can convert the opportunities we create and who can also stay fit for the vast majority of the season. Preferably players who can grow and develop with the club, not stop gaps filling in for a season or two before retiring.

If we had started the West Brom game with a proper striker, I am convinced we would have won. Our season is now drifting further towards midtable insignificance.
We are too far away to catch the likes of Everton and we won’t be involved in a relegation dogfight. 10th or 9th is where we will finish which, on paper, is fine for a team moving to a new home stadium and losing their superstar creative player midseason in the process as well.

But the question is: Have our board seriously done enough on their part to give our team the best chance and a conducive environment to succeed this season?
I’m really not sure…

Finally, for those of you interested, the Concordia game, kicking off the second half of the season after the end of the winter break, was unfortunately another scissor kick in the guts for yours truly. The lads could have earned themselves a significant cushion at the top of the Oberliga Hamburg table with a win or at least a draw as our fiercest promotion rival unexpectedly lost to a so called lesser side on Friday.

Cordi, however, subsequently failed to do their bit yesterday, losing 2:1 to a lesser side as well, after taking a one goal lead late in the second half, only to see the home team score two late goals in heartbreaking fashion, pouncing on some shocking defensive and goalkeeping blunders on Concordia’s part.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, are Concordia West Ham in disguise ? At least Hamburg SV and St.Pauli won their games, so it’s not all bad…COYI!

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