The Mike Ireson Column

Breaking All The Rules

Like many people I watched England’s opening game of the rugby World Cup, not the best game of rugby you’ll ever see but the right result.

Now I don’t watch a lot of rugby. Normally the England games and maybe the odd part of a game when channel surfing. So I’m often left wondering about the exact rules when various decisions are given but I get by.

What strikes me though without fail and it’s something that as an avid football fan I find amazing, is the discipline of the players.

The contrast between football and rugby in this respect is like night and day. In the rugby you have 30 brutes of men involved in a heavy contact sport knocking seven shades out of each other, but doing it with the manners of country gentlemen.

Some of the contact is eye watering to the bystander but you don’t see one player rolling around clutching a leg or head. They dust themselves off and carry on. Compare this to our beloved football and it can quite frankly be embarrassing.

An aggressive sneeze inducing some players to throw themselves to the ground like they have been shot by a sniper on the upper tier of the stand.

And then there is the attitude of the players. One fascinating thing with rugby is having the referee’s miked up. This allows us a wonderful insight in to how the game is officiated and the reaction of players to decisions.

Everything is done through the captain and the player involved. Both stand attentively, listen to what the referee says then conclude with a “yes sir” and off they go.
In Friday’s game after a decision went against England the referee called captain Chris Robshaw and the player involved over. The referee, explained what he saw happen and what decision he was giving. Robshaw got a few words in to questioning (in a polite manner) the decision. The referee looked at him squarely, said “you don’t get to make the rules up”, Robshaw looked to the floor like a puppy that had been chastened for weeing on the carpet, and shuffled off, scolded and put in his place.

Now compare this scene to the one a few weeks ago at Anfield when Mark Noble was sent off. The referee was surrounded by a pack of slobbering wolves trying to tear at the carcass of a deer. Despite the crackdown this year on players surrounding the referee we failed at the first hurdle.

Can you imagine if the referee was miked up at that moment? It would have been a wonderful insight but the guy on Match of The Day tasked with having his finger on the beep machine would still be off work to this day with repetitive strain injury.

Of course the incident cost the club a £50,000 fine and let’s be honest there will be plenty more fines given out, and not just to us across the season. Footballers at this moment in time just can’t stop themselves.

It’s a discussion I’ve had with a few people as to whether football could ever emulate rugby and change the discipline and manner in which the game is played. The conclusion is usually not and it begs the further question that if it did would it benefit the game.

How would we react if Mark Noble were stood like a naughty schoolboy next to referee whilst the error of his and his team mates ways were pointed out.
We as a crowd play our part in this difference. We will bay for blood at injustices to our team, vehemently defend our boys when they transgress the rules. And that is wholly part of the event.

What would happen if the England rugby team played a game at the Boleyn. And not in front of their usual crowd but in front of us. If we acted the same as we do for football, the cauldron of atmosphere, the passion at each decision and good/poor performance.

Would that transfer on to the pitch? Would players subconsciously begin to act more as footballers do and play up to/along with the crowd? Would that passion from the stands influence the players/referee?

Or is that type of discipline instilled so hard upon those players that no factors could change how they behaved?

And on the flip side what makes footballers lose their discipline? Is it just football culture, are they influenced by the crowd, or are referee’s perceived as weak and susceptible to giving a decision they shouldn’t?

Would a rugby referee change what happened if they officiated a football match, or would every game just end up abandoned with not enough players left on the pitch to be able to carry on?

I suspect the latter.

As much as we bemoan the way football is played would we change it? I suspect not.


Come on England

Talking Point

Wins at The Emirates, Anfield and The Etihad

Note from Iain: This is Zaman Siddiqui’s first post for the site. He will be writing a regular Sunday column. Please make him welcome

Glancing at the fixture list before the start of the season, not many would’ve backed us to finish within the top half after six games. The highest position we can finish is at the end of Week 6 is 2nd, whilst the lowest position we can end in is 4th. Slaven Bilic will be most pleased with the stunning away victories, not least because no team in the last ten years has won at the Emirates, Anfield and Etihad in the same season. What will stun most is that the only two goals conceded by Manchester City this season have been scored by us. It’s safe to say that not many could have expected City to go under the Hammer: most bookmakers were very optimistic the Citizens would win this match comfortably. We have broken so many records recently that I can almost envisage David Gold do a Delia Smith next week against the Canaries.

There were some similarities that were playing on my mind before the match between this evening’s match and the one played at Upton Park in October. Firstly, Manchester City had to play midweek against CSKA Moscow – they drew 2-2. This meant that City were mentally fatigued, as they didn’t get an expected win, and had another match short after. This gave us a psychological boost, as we didn’t expect City to be on top form. We ended up as the victors that day with a 2-1 victory. The Sky Blues lost to Juventus 2-1 midweek, much to City’s dismay, given their fabulous league record. A small air of confidence, a feeling of debonair if you will, must have been throughout the West Ham camp, though we know we can’t rest on our laurels. Secondly, we won our last two games before playing City winning a third, so form was building. Likewise, our form has been strong winning our previous two matches against Liverpool and Newcastle. We needed sheer determination and enthusiasm within our squad if we were to win. Thankfully, we only needed to look back at our matches this season under Bilic to find a source of inspiration. Even as I write, I have a feeling we will be high-flyers for at least the first half of the season.

Both clubs have spent quite a lot of money by their standards to try and reach their targets. City have bought the two most expensive players who are currently playing in the BPL (Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling), as well as the two most expensive CB’s in Otamendi and Mangala. The squad rotation they have is amongst the best in the league with quality and quantity. The term “Squad Rotation” didn’t have much meaning in the Sam Allardyce era (unless you remember that 5-0 thrashing against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup with those youngsters). With the acquisitions of Obiang, Payet, Ogbonna, Lanzini, and the foursome we signed on Deadline Day which had Jim White in hysterics as ever, we can alter our style of play to be able to deal with injuries more proficiently. The recruitment as ever has been amazing this season. Bilic didn’t think we would have been able to sign Payet, not to mention Lanzini and Obiang who are 22 and 23 respectively with bags of potential.

Going into the match, Payet was unsurprisingly the 5th best in the league, with Kouyate in second position for the club according to the BPL Player Performance Index. A Kouyate injury was most unwelcome news considering we have never won at the Ethiad Stadium in the Premier League. The Senegalese midfielder was allegedly approached with a £15M bid from Daniel Levy after missing out on Victor Wanyama. Obiang was a good replacement for him. David Silva injured himself during warm-up, which prompted the return of Jesús Navas back in. This was one of the reasons why the Citizens weren’t able to perform at their best: Navas was the worst player in the box, failing to create any good chances. Silva scored a wonderful goal in the box last season turning and scoring from a fairly tight angle back at Upton Park. His inclusion ensured an easier match. Nonetheless, nothing better than our best would have won us the game this evening. Having Adrián back in the squad was of massive importance, as City were bound to score and get a few one-on-one’s which he dealt with like a fierce lion. All the plaudits shouldn’t go the Spaniard, as Reid kept a solid line of defence. There were a few fortunate ricochets and admirable clearances which slowed Man City down to regroup. The pick of the lot was a one-handed punch away from Adrián in the dying embers of the game. Pellegrini said his side played “too fast” at times. He is not wrong: City had by far most of the possession. They should have utilised it much better. Our 4 wins have come in the matches with very little possession.

Click here to view the leaderboard

David Hautzig's Match Report

Manchester City 1, West Ham 2. Did That Really Happen?

My mind has always done funny things when playing a top club. I’m calmer. More at ease with whatever the day may bring. Because I start the day depressed and accept anything good as a pleasant surprise. By contrast, matches against clubs I feel we need to get something from usually fill me with terror. Today was different. Unlike many on Twitter who were oozing with confidence, I had no expectations. I figured we would lose. But unlike the recent embarrassing capitulations at The Etihad, I expected West Ham to give everything they had. If it wasn’t enough to get a result, so be it. We would at least head back to London with our heads held high and some lessons learned. As it turned out, the lesson we all learned was that we could be on the verge of a very special and fun season.

The opening minutes saw West Ham as the aggressor. Payet sent Sakho through with a tidy pass, and he sent the ball over the area to Moses on the right, but City closed down on their disorganized start and cleared. City responded with Sagna on the right hand side. He crossed to De Bruyne, whose shot was deflected out for a corner. The ensuing set piece found Mangala in the box but Adrian did well to punch it out of danger.

Even the most optimistic supporter would not have put any money on West Ham scoring early against a City team that hadn’t allowed a single goal in the Premier League. In the 6th minute, West Ham started a counter with Obiang passing to Lanzini. The man they call The Jewel flipped a pass to Payet, who found Moses 30 yards out and utterly alone. Two steps to his right, and my fantasy man let loose a low shot that beat Joe Hart and hit the bar at the bottom of the net. The Etihad was so quiet you could actually hear the clang of that bar.

Man City 0, West Ham 1.

I can’t remember the exact year, but in the 90’s we went to Old Trafford and got pummeled 7-1. But West Ham opened the scoring that day. Wanchope, I think. I was at the pub in Manhattan watching, and after the goal someone turned to me and said “they’re going to destroy us now because we made them mad”. Over the next few minutes, City seemed downright furious. In the 9th, Cresswell looked like he might repeat his mare against Bournemouth when his defensive header went right to Aguero, who ran at Adrian and then around him. Perhaps it was divine intervention, but his shot rolled wide. A minute later, De Bruyne ran menacingly down the left before Tomkins got a toe in to poke it away. Two minutes later, Aguero won another corner trying to spin away from Reid at the top of the box. Navas sent the corner into the box but Otamendi’s attempt went over the bar.

If we wanted to make a motion picture based on this game, the title would likely be Blocked By Reid. The number of times De Bruyne found Aguero in the box only for Reid to get in the way would probably take three hands to count. It happened in the 18th minute for sure, and a dozen or so more times throughout the match.

West Ham finally sent the action in the other direction in the 22nd minute when Sakho stole the ball from Fernandinho and broke into the City half. But with no support getting there quickly enough he lost possession. City came back down, and two minutes later Navas tried to beat Reid but the would be brick wall stood firm and knocked the ball to safety. Then Sagna tried a cross from the right, and had Sterling been two feet taller he might have gotten his head there.

We are so accustomed to feeling hard done by referees it’s with very little to no guilt that we can all say that in the 31st minute, after a decent spell of possession, West Ham were awarded a corner that should have been a throw in. Reid got his head on the corner, but only slightly. Obiang worked hard to keep it alive in front of Hart, which prevented City from clearing. The ball rolled to Sakho who guided it more than shot it behind Hart.

Man City 0, West Ham 2.

City continued to pile on the pressure, however, and had more than a few chances. In the 39th minute, De Bruyne again found himself with the ball on the right side of the area. This time he passed to Navas who let loose. Adrian made the save but pushed the ball right to Sterling on the left, who then slid a pass to Aguero but his shot went high and wide. A minute later, some unseen force intervened again when Sagna found Aguero right in front of Adrian. The Argentine had two cracks at it from point blank range. Adrian saved both.

It’s a cliché used in pretty much every sport. “It’s a game of inches”. In the 43rd minute, West Ham came inches away from a 3-0 lead when Payet sent Sakho in on goal with a lovely through ball. Mangala made a vital tackle from behind, getting nothing but the ball despite protests from every West Ham supporter in the cosmos.

In first half added on time, the De Bruyne – Aguero tandem hooked up yet again. Only this time the roles were reversed, and Aguero was on the right and passed to De Bruyne near the top of the area. The 57 million pound man (or whatever the hell it was) fired a low shot that beat Adrian to his right.

Halftime. Man City 1, West Ham 2.

The reality of the second half was that there was so much pressure put on by City, and so much defending done by Reid and others, that if I wrote about all of it this report would be more like James Joyce than a football article.

In the 48th minute, Toure and Fernandinho worked a one two before Toure let a low shot go that went wide, but was close enough to cause a few heart flutters. A minute later Reid cleared out another Navas cross for a corner. The corner itself read the same way. In by Navas, out by Reid. Two minutes later Sterling crossed to Toure but his shot was blocked by Tomkins. Moses finally took the pressure off for his new club when he tried to break but was taken down by Kolarov, who was shown a yellow card.

Man City kept up their relentless pressure in the 55th minute when Sterling fed Toure coming in through the middle. He muscled past Cresswell, but Adrian came out and beat him to the ball. Minutes later it was Sakho’s turn to break in on goal on a brilliant pass from Payet and Hart’s turn to come out. Sakho tried to put the ball past the City keeper but his weak shot went wide.

In the 65th minute, a cross from Navas hit Adrian and came close to going in for an own goal. De Bruyne then played in Navas but Adrian was able to push the ball wide at the near post.

I love Diafra Sakho. For some reason I knew he would come good after Sam tried to sabotage the move in favor of Wickham. But sometimes I want to shake him out of frustration. In the 67th minute, he found himself all alone on the right side of the City penalty area. He could have moved in on goal, forcing the defender to commit. He could have waited for help. But no. He crossed to nobody, and Hart comfortably gathered it in.

A minute later Toure once again got the ball in the West Ham area. He tried a back heel pass but it came off Reid and right back to Toure, who let a shot go that deflected off Reid. In the 75th minute, Sakho showed that a striker that comes back to help on defense is as valuable as The Hope Diamond. De Bruyne sent Kolarov down the left, but Sakho stayed with him. Kolarov must have felt Sakho’s breath coming from his left nostril and tumbled down from the force. Which is to say he should have seen a second yellow for diving.

Bilic made three substitutions in the second half, two of which looked odd at the time. Antonio coming on for Lanzini seemed logical. Antonio coming on for Moses did not. Jelavic coming on for Sakho seemed logical. Jelavic coming on for Lanzini did not. But both moves seemed to work out. In the 80th minute, Sakho sent Jelavic in on Hart and the England number one just beat him to the ball. The third sub was needed, when Collins came on for the injured Jenkinson. Defensive subs right before a corner usually come back to bite us. They always did under Sam. Today, just fine.

The final minutes were mostly a blur of City attacks and Reid defending. In my opinion, Reid had the game of his life. Payet broke the monotony with a terrific long-range effort that Hart pushed out for a corner. Even with only seconds remaining, it was hard to believe West Ham would hold on.

They did.

Final Score. Manchester City 1, West Ham United 2.

Like many of you, I found myself almost speechless after the game. Did we just do what I saw us do? I mean, if you put ten pounds on West Ham winning their first three road games as they have, you’d likely be able to retire on the winnings. Before the match, my best mate Jon texted me this. Verbatim. “Silva out! Aguero rusty. Kompany out! 2-1, Hammers!” He may claim he was serious, but I’ll never believe him. Yet we now have a squad of players that can compete on a very high level, a manager who is tactically flexible, and a board who trusts that manager enough to spend money on those players.

Be careful what you wish for, we were told. I’m wondering if it’s not us that need to be careful.

Click here to view the leaderboard

Match Report

Manchester City 1 West Ham 2 - Outstanding!

Well I said I thought we’d get something out of this game and boy was I right. How unusual. But when City scored their goal, who thought we wouldn’t concede at least another. Every minute I looked at the clock, willing the time to pass. And eventually it did. Heroes the lot of them. And we’re second in the league. We have the second best goal difference, and we’ve scored more goals than any other team in the Premier League. Just savour that while it lasts, and last it may very well do.

I’ve just seen Mark Noble’s post match interview in which he said that Bobby Zamora always used to say

Get it and give it to the good players

Niall Quinn said…

You could have given eleven man of the matches. They operate as one. An incredible performance to win these three matches away from home.

Well today all eleven players weren’t just good, but they were excellent. It was a team performance, and a performance in which all eleven players played their part in keeping a rampant Manchester City at bay. And in the second half they were truly rampant. It was almost impossible to see them going 45 minutes without scoring. But they did. It almost seems invidious to pick out individual performances but you have to say that both Winston Reid and Adrian were superb. Time and again Reid headed or kicked the ball away and Adrian saved at least two apparently certain goals. It was fantastic to see Moses and Payet put in real defensive shifts too. Payet only had one shot but was brilliant at gaining and then retaining possession.

I’m not going to go on much more because David Hautzig will cover all the detail later, but like all of you I am a very happy Hammer tonight. What we must do now is build on this this truly wonderful start to the season. Just imagine if we had got anything out of the Bournemouth and Leicester games!

Adrian 10
Reid 10
Tomkins 10
Cresswell 10
Jenkinson 10
Lanzini 10
Noble 10
Payet 10
Obiang 10
Sakho 10
Moses 10

Click here to view the leaderboard

Match Thread

Match Thread: Manchester City v West Ham

Manchester City v West Ham
The Etihad
KO: 5.30pm
Referee: Bobby Madley
TV: Sky Sports 1
Radio: talkSport

Team: Adrian, Cresswell, Jenkinson, Reid, Tomkins, Obiang, Noble, Lanzini, Moses, Payet, Sakho
Subs: Randolph, Collins, Oxford, Antonio, Carroll, Zarate, Jelavic

No Kouyate :(

Please use this thread to comment as the game progresses.

Copyright © 2015 Iain Dale Limited. Terms and conditions. Cookies.
Website by Russell Brown.