Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Brom v West Ham

Blast from the past

West Ham United arrived at the home of West Bromwich Albion for a Premier League fixture on Tuesday the 2nd December 2014 having lost only two of their previous ten matches. Take That were number one with ‘These Days’, Paddington topped the UK box office and former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe died on this day as victory in front of 23,975 at The Hawthorns pushed the Hammers into the top five.

Craig Dawson ended Albion’s 323-minute Premier League goal drought after just ten minutes when he glanced in Graham Dorrans’ free-kick but Kevin Nolan nodded in to equalise in the 35th minute after Ben Foster had pushed out Andy Carroll’s spectacular overhead kick. Academy product James Tomkins increased the pressure on Baggies boss Alan Irvine by heading in Stewart Downing’s corner in first-half stoppage time for his first goal in over two years.

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Sam Allardyce’s West Ham would move up to third five days later but would end the 2014/15 season in 12th position. West Brom would finish three points behind the Hammers in 13th place. Diafra Sakho was the Irons’ top goalscorer with 12 goals from 26 appearances. Aaron Cresswell was voted Hammer of the Year in his first season with the club, with Adrian runner-up for a second consecutive campaign. Chelsea secured the title and Arsenal won the 2015 FA Cup.

West Bromwich Albion: Ben Foster, Andre Wisdom, Craig Dawson, Joleon Lescott, Chris Baird (Brown Ideye), Graham Dorrans, Craig Gardner (Silvestre Varela), Chris Brunt (Youssouf Mulumbu), Saido Berahino, Stephane Sessegnon, Victor Anichebe.

West Ham United: Adrian, Carl Jenkinson, James Tomkins, Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell, Kevin Nolan, Cheikhou Kouyate, Morgan Amalfitano (James Collins), Mauro Zarate (Carlton Cole), Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll (Enner Valencia).

Club Connections

West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion have shared a decent number of players over the years. These include:

Defenders: Danny Gabbidon, Peter McManus, David Burrows, Steve Walford, Gary Strodder, Harry Kinsell.

Midfielders: Alan Dickens, Franz Carr, Freddie Fenton, Morgan Amalfitano, Nigel Quashie.

Strikers: Geoff Hurst, Tudor Martin, David Speedie, Jeroen Boere, Frank Nouble, John Hartson, Chippy Simmons, Vince Haynes, Tommy Green, David Cross.

Archie Macauley played for West Ham and managed West Brom, while Sam Allardyce played for the Baggies and managed the Hammers. Bobby Gould played for both clubs and also spent a period as manager at The Hawthorns.

Today’s focus though is on a player who played for both clubs in the 1990s. Peter Butler was born in Halifax on the 27th August 1966. He started out at Huddersfield in 1984 and spent two years with the Terriers, including a loan spell with Cambridge. He moved to Bury but stayed for a matter of months before making a permanent switch back to Cambridge. Butler signed for Southend in 1988 and spent four years with the Shrimpers, which included a loan spell back at Huddersfield.

The 25-year-old Butler, a 5’9 tenacious, tough-tackling midfielder, joined Billy Bonds’ West Ham United in the summer of 1992 in a £175,000 move and made his debut on the 16th August 1992 in a 1-0 win at Barnsley. He became a fixture in the side alongside Martin Allen in a central midfield brimming with steel and grit, making 44 appearances in all competitions in his first season, and scored his first goal for the club in a 2-1 home win over Peterborough on 9th February 1993. His second goal of the campaign came in a 4-0 triumph over Brentford, again at Upton Park, on 17th April 1993. Butler was part of the team which clinched promotion to the Premier League on the final day of the 1992/93 season against his former club Cambridge – the match was the last played in front of the old South Bank.

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‘Butts’ played in over half of the Hammers’ matches back in the big time as he savoured his first taste of top-flight football. He scored his only Premier League goal against Coventry in a 3-2 home victory on 11th December 1993 and was Man of the Match in a game watched by legendary Hungarian player Ferenc Puskas. Butler picked up a knee injury and missed the final month of 1993/94 but had more than played his part in establishing the Hammers as a Premier League side.

Butler made five appearances for new manager Harry Redknapp at the start of the following campaign, with his final match in claret and blue coming in a 1-0 home victory over Aston Villa on 17th September 1994. Butler has since stated on this very website that he “loved every minute” of his time with West Ham and “felt honoured to have put that claret and blue shirt on my back every game”. He departed for Notts County for a fee of £350,000 in October 1994. His mother was terminally ill at the time and passed away suddenly – Butler wanted to move nearer to home to be near his father who was also not well. Butler’s three goals for the Hammers can be viewed in my video below.

After three goals in 78 appearances for West Ham United, Butler spent two years at Meadow Lane, taking in loan spells at Grimsby and West Brom. He made his move to The Hawthorns permanent in 1996, making 65 appearances for the club in total. He enjoyed two-and-a-half good seasons with West Brom before being offered a coaching position at hometown team Halifax.

He left Halifax in 2000 and was offered a three-year appointment on a sporting visa in Australia, joining Sorrento in the northern suburbs of Perth, West Australia as Director of Youth Development. Butler played for the club too, hanging up his boots in 2002. From there, he took a Technical Director position at the East Malaysian FA before moving to Bali. He moved on again, this time to Singapore where he coached the Singapore Armed Forces side for eight months in 2004/05. Three months of consultancy work back with the East Malaysian FA was followed by a move to Indonesia in 2006 to coach Persiba Balikpapan. Butler, who can speak Malaysian and Indonesian, moved on to Kelantan in Malaysia in 2008 before becoming Technical Director of Burmese club Yangon United a year later.

Since 2010, Butler has managed Thai club BEC Tero Sasana, returned to Kelantan and Persiba Balikpapan for second spells and managed Malaysian outfits Terengganu and T-Team. He was manager of the Botswana national team from 2014 until earlier this year. Butler, now 51, left his job as manager of South African club Platinum Stars last week.


Saturday’s referee is Paul Tierney. The Lancashire-based official has been the man in the middle for one Championship and two League Two matches so far this season. The 36-year-old has refereed the Hammers once before, in the 1-1 draw with Everton in November 2015 which saw James McCarthy’s tackle on Dimitri Payet put the Frenchman out of action for two months.

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Possible line-ups

West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis has a doubt over Nacer Chadli while Gareth McAuley is lacking match fitness. Oliver Burke and James McClean should be available.

Slaven Bilic is without Mark Noble, Edimilson Fernandes and Manuel Lanzini. Andre Ayew claimed a goal and an assist from the bench against Huddersfield on Monday and is pushing for a return to the starting line-up. Marko Arnautovic is available after suspension.

Possible West Bromwich Albion XI: Foster; Dawson, Hegazy, Evans, Nyom; Krychowiak; Phillips, Barry, Livermore, Rodriguez; Rondon.

Possible West Ham United XI: Hart; Fonte, Reid, Collins; Zabaleta, Kouyate, Obiang, Cresswell; Antonio, Carroll, Ayew.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!

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The GoatyGav Column

Skill Affluence – Things Ain’t What They Used To Be

One of my best ever football playing memories was one from the streets. My good mate and I used to play footie together often. We developed quite a good understanding. If we weren’t down the rec we were playing jumpers for goalpost games. We also played small sided matches on the road outside our houses with tennis balls. The particular memory was triggered by a Facebook post by Graybo in which there was, of all things, a link to a Daily Mail piece on ‘The West Ham Way’ developing, in part, in the Stadium car park in the early ‘60s and onwards. You can read it at the following link https://tinyurl.com/y9wxjehk .

Some preparation for those cup adventures came from the club car park – Harry Redknapp
- Mail Online Article, 14th Sept ’17.

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On a hot Summer school holiday afternoon my mate and I were challenged to a game by three lads who all played for their respective school teams. Despite becoming a reasonably good, and definitely quite lanky and quick, winger, I never got a game for my school. My German teacher ran the team from the first year through to the end of the fifth and, let’s just say, we didn’t get on very well. Despite both male games and PE teachers putting pressure on him to play me the German teaching football team manager never gave me a single minute. Got on the bench once against Alsager school where our lads played out a frustrating 0-0 draw. A half decent and quick winger might well have made a difference but, nope, not a sniff of an appearance sadly. Anyway, enough of my baggage/issues, back to the ‘overload’ game.

My mate and I stroked the tennis ball around and moved well. We’d played footie together countless times and developed a good understanding along with the difficult soft touch needed for the smaller, difficult to control, ball. We absolutely smashed it in the, first to ten, game. Barely gave the three players a touch. Ended up winning by ten goals to seven. Ok – so we made ‘extra men’ with wall passes against the kerb but that was all part of the game that we’d developed. Thinking about this now I’m pretty sure those games contributed to my preference to a quick, slick pass and move style. I try my best to coach it in to the U13 team that I manage (another challenge altogether).

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There’s something to be said about the link between the lack of skill developed by British players, over the last thirty to forty years, and the disappearance of ‘Street Football’

The above anecdote is, no doubt, one of millions of ‘stories from the street’. “That’s great Gav but where are you going with all this?” you might ask. Well I’m convinced that there’s definitely something to be said about the link between the lack of skill developed by British players, over the last thirty to forty years, and the disappearance of ‘Street Football’. Anyone who has read Paulo DiCanio’s autobiography, published in 2000, will recall the fond memories for street football that the mercurial Italian recounted. He put a good deal of the skill he developed down to having to dribble the ball on concrete and up and down steps whilst avoiding concrete bollards, walls, kerbs and the occasional washing line of the Quarticciolo district whilst taking on opponents one on one. Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand the reasons for Street Football disappearing. Compare the picture of the street above with the one below and one of the key reasons becomes obvious.

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Playing small sided matches with tennis balls on concrete, or tarmac, surely developed touch, awareness and intelligent movement. The kids who used to play in these games didn’t need to be taken to clubs to train. There was no cost for fees and kit involved. When they finally got to the clubs many of the raw materials were already in place – the clubs developed and adapted those skills in to the eleven a side game.

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When my two lads started their school days I soon found out that playing football in the playground was a weekly privilege. I guess this was for health and safety reasons. Now around GCSE age this hasn’t changed much. The playground Football games were simply an extension of the street football games – often played with tennis balls as well.
So how much did playing in the street help develop ball skills in the last century compared with how kids can develop today? Personally I feel that, in today’s game, there’s higher level skill development for the elite only. I accept it. After all Sir Trevor Brooking was a strong advocate of this ‘skill affluence’ during his time in charge of development at the FA. I once had a sniff of making this point to Sir Trev, who I idolised, but didn’t get the opportunity at the annual Pro Am Golf day the company I worked for used to organise as others were monopolising the conversation with him. Sadly the one and only time I’ve ever had the opportunity to chat with the great man.

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As a youth team manager myself I endeavour to give the lads I coach the best I can. I do need to do more FA courses which I’m determined to complete but on reflection there’s no way they could get the Football education that many of us who grew up in the last century had. It’s a lament, I know, and the only constant is change which leads me to wonder what environment the kids playing the game in thirty to forty year’s time will be in? Whatever or wherever that may be the over-riding aim is that they keep ‘Loving The Game’ even if they never get to the affluent elite level.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!

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The Blind Hammer Column

Three’s A Crowd

Blind Hammer Celebrates Bilic’s return to 3 at the back. And argues that Arnautovic has to wait.

There is a school of thought that our victory against Huddersfield was due to luck. I couldn’t disagree more. When I arrived at the LS on Monday night and heard the team announcement, a weird calm serenity swept over me. All my nervousness and anxiety about the match dissipated. Possibly this had to do with the strong pain killers I had taken for my hip but I think it was much more to do with relief. At last Bilic had returned to a tried and secure defensive formation.

In the days before the match I was shouting in frustration at my keyboard as I heard website after website, pundit after pundit, all recommending variations of a flat back four. It made me want to tear my hair out. I could not understand why people seem blind to an obvious reality. With 4 at the back we are a defensive nightmare, shipping all sorts of goals from all sorts of positions. With 3 at the back our record is not at all shabby.

Three at the back was tried and failed in away games against Chelsea and Manchester City last Season but at least the margin of defeat was not humiliating. In recent months we had much more success. We defeated an in form Spurs 1-0. We shut out and similarly in form Everton, including and on fire Lukaku in a creditable 0-0, a result crucial at the time to allay fears of relegation. Now again with three at the back, we achieved a crucial 2-0 win against Huddersfield. In other words by using three at the back in recent games at the LS, we have achieved 3 clean sheets in 4 games.

The exception was of course the heavy defeat to Liverpool but even here we only experienced our eventual predictable thumping when, after falling behind, we switched to a flat back 4 in a failed effort to chase the game.

The game against Huddersfield was interesting for a number of reasons. First of all the idea that Zabaleta could not play alongside 3 at the back was actively, for the time being at least, disproved. The second was the realisation that just as in the games against Tottenham and Everton, Fonte immediately transformed from an apparent slow and aged “has been” into a quality Premiership performer.

Time after time I heard Fonte Collins and Reid all covering each other. If Reid slipped or was beaten, Collins was there to cover and vice versa. Fonte was able to operate smoothly with Zabaleta whilst Cresswell showed that he could operate at the standard he previously showed at the Boleyn. Post match both Zabaleta and Collins publically supported the three at the back system. Collins in particular seemd extremely relieved that we had returned to what had worked at the end of last season.

The result was that the familiar dramatic chaos around our goal virtually disappeared. Huddersfield mounted no serious threat throughout the entire first half. They were literally crowded out.

If anybody denigrates the challenge of |Huddersfield we should remember that this team had, until their visit to the LS, conceded no goals and were sitting in a very respectable table position.

With the attacking threat of Huddersfield nullified it was a question of matching our offensive quality against their proven defensive solidity. Huddersfield actually had a majority possession statistics for the match but it did not feel like that, especially in the first half where West Ham was from a secure defensive base, was able to completely dominate the game.

In the second half Huddersfield managed to enter the game more, a fact I largely attributed to lack of peak match fitness for several of our crucial players. I still felt confident though. Unlike all of our previous games our defensive solidity meant that we were not chasing the game, not behind and having to take increasingly desperate risks to get back on terms.

Even then, though, I would not have predicted Obiang and Ayew in particular as our match winners. Ayew’s performance has come under recent scrutiny with suggestions he has “fatigue”. However if he can continue to make a similar impact from the bench I will be happy. Above all though his impact proved what can happen when a team start from a sound defensive platform.

Moving forward Bilic will soon have some attacking options. Arnautovic will be available for the West Brom game, and Lanzini will hopefully return to fitness. Yet the biggest threat to the progress finally made on Monday night is their availability. If Bilic is tempted to revert to his disastrous defensive setup to accommodate Arnautovic then he would have proved he has learnt nothing. Others are also reluctant to learn. Even after the game on Monday I saw a post on Claret and Hugh calling for a return to a back 4 against West Brom.

We must resist the disruption to a stable defence. To my mind Arnautovic would do well to ponder the consequences of his stupidity against Southampton from the comfort of the bench.

It is clear that 3 at the back will not allow all of Carroll, Chico, Lanzini, Antonio, Arnautovic and even Sakho to play if we want to retain at least a modicum of midfield cover.

I want Bilic to succeed so that he can retain his job. For me this requires that he understands that, for the time being, Collins organising a back 3 is more important than the talents of Arnautovic or Lanzini. My hope is that eventually Lanzini will become the complete centre midfield playmaker able to dominate games, but in the meantime we may need Obiang more.

The attacking riches are there for Bilic to refresh and deploy from the bench. I only hope that Collins avoids his habitual hamstring injury. Rice may soon have to learn very rapidly on the job.


David Griffith

The Mike Ireson Column

Custard Creams and Carpet Bowls

Well wasn’t that a sight to behold?

No I’m not talking about our long overdue victory (although of course it was very welcome and pleasing), I’m talking about Slaven Bilic on the touchline, rain bucketing down and him, resplendent in a jumper and smart trousers like he was taking a late summer evening stroll down by the beach.

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He had started off sporting the standard issue West Ham blazer but when this turned out to be more absorbent than the most efficient sponge known to man, he discarded it. Then, as usual, he prowled and paced the technical area, oblivious to the downpour, almost daring it to rain harder and throw in a bit of thunder and lightning.

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This kind of thing makes me like him that bit more. I want to like our manager, whoever that might be.

It doesn’t feel quite right when the man steering the ship isn’t your sort of guy. And lets face it we’ve had our fair share of the type of manager that you just can’t really like.

And it isn’t just us, I’m sure fans of every other club too would prefer to have a manager who just feels right. We, after all, invest our lives in this club and as we trundle along that journey we want to do so with people we feel share our passion. Can you imagine every manager we have being an Avram Grant? Jesus wept.

Slaven obviously had a hand in sealing the impression of another manager as one who you just couldn’t warm to. I am of course referring to the wally with the brolly, Steve McClaren.

That infamous night 10 years ago at Wembley where Slaven, then Croatia manager, strode around the touchline in the rain with no protection and McClaren chose to shelter under an umbrella. Slaven giving the impression, as he did on Monday, that he was prepared to take the soaking with the players and show a bond and unity.

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McClaren was ridiculed for being a wimp under the brolly.

This was of course more to do with hair than anything else. McClaren thought then, as he does now, that by overgrowing and over styling the remaining 14 strands of hair in the middle of your head that we would all think he still has a full head of hair, and a normal fringe.

Should such a downpour effect itself upon the McClaren head then this elaborate smoke and mirrors deception would be cruelly exposed to the world. Steve, save yourself a ton of money in hairspray and just give it up mate.

Monday’s victory also saved us from getting dragged in to a media hyped Crystal Palace type saga. We would have looked as foolish as they did by hitting the panic button after just 4 games.

The major lesson to be learned here is that there are very few candidates out there to replace your manager should you decide to give them the old heave ho.

Frank De Boer is further example that being successful elsewhere is no preparation for the Premier League. It takes time to adjust and time to adapt a team to play a different way. Time he didn’t get. And who have Palace now turned to? Well they have rescued Roy Hodgson from a retirement home somewhere on the south coast and he is now charged with turning round a failing Premier League team rather than waiting for the tea and custard creams to be brought round before the afternoon games of bingo and carpet bowls.

No disrespect to Roy, but who does the next team to sack their manager turn to? Kevin Keegan? Terry Venables?

Steve – dust your brolly off.


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The S J Chandos Column

An evening of power and intensity, and little guile/creativity, but a 'win is a win' all the same!

The Hammers scored a much needed 2-0 victory over Huddersfield Town on Monday evening. However, the victory owed much to power and intensity (and a rare slice of luck for Obiang’s opener), but little in the way of guile/creativity. Do not get me wrong, a ‘win is a win,’ and it was self-evident that we badly needed the victory to improve confidence and get those initial three points on the board. So, it is mission accomplished and some of those ‘positives’ that I discussed in a recent article came to the fore. Namely, the power and pace of Antonio, the goal scoring of Ayew and realising some of the potential of our strike force (in the form of a strong display by Andy Carroll). In addition, Bilic also addressed the problematic issues associated with our defending, putting out a back three, with Cresswell and Zabaletta pushing forward down the flanks.

A back three really does seem to suit West Ham and they appear solid and convincing, in a way that they never seem to be with a flat back four. All three centre-backs played well and I thought Fonte had by far his best game in a West Ham shirt. While Cresswell looked stylish down the left and Zabaletta finally looked the class act that we all know him to be. Similarly, I thought Obiang and Kouyate were very competitive in midfield and gave us an edge with their industry and willingness to battle for the cause. This certainly looked like a very different proposition to the abject Hammers team that tamely surrendered at St James Park. Here, they defended well, won the key tackles and played with an intensity and purpose that has hitherto been missing this season.

In contrast, although Hernandez was undoubtedly willing and worked hard, it was to prove to be a evening of frustration for him. I feel that part of the problem was that Bilic’s game plan was to use Carroll’s height and physical strength up front and this saw much of the play pass-by Hernandez. His best chance of scoring was to get on the end of a second ball or a defensive mistake, especially in the almost complete absence of the skilled and ‘killer’ balls that he might expect to feed on from the likes of Lanzini. The truth is that we have too few creative midfielders in the senior squad and that places an enormous importance upon Lanzini’s quick return to fitness. It may have been a disappointing night, personally, for Hernandez, but I am sure that he knows that he will do far better in the upcoming matches, and that getting the result for the team was the all-important thing. The challenge now is to retain the defensive solidarity and intensity/power and combine it successfully with a bit more guile and creativity in the final third. If we can get that right, then results will definitely take an upturn in the coming weeks.

The other important thing up until January 2018, is that we keep injuries to a bare minimum. We only have a senior squad of 22 players. That means that there are three unfilled places, which is a lot to carry. There is an obvious danger that an injury crisis could massively over-stretch us in key positions and impact on results. So, lets hope that we have a bit of luck, for once, in that area, and we get to avoid that particular pit fall. If not then, then we will just have to battle through and rectify the situation in the winter transfer window. There is talk on Hammers social media that William Carvalho is still keen on a move to the club in January and Bilic obviously still wants the player. The question is whether sufficient bridges can be re-built with Sporting Lisbon to make a deal happen. Regardless, the winter window is a difficult time to recruit players and one hopes that results up to January are sufficiently good to ensure that we go into that window without too much added pressure to deliver incoming deals.

I see that Sakho got a bit of a mixed reception when he came on as a late substitute. The truth is that the fans need to be bigger than to engage in a vendetta. He is still a Hammers player and his good form could prove vital to our cause. So, lets just forget the Rennes incident and get behind him. Bilic allegedly spelt it out clearly for Sakho after the window closed. He is a Hammers player until at least January and it is in his own personal self-interest to knuckle down, improve his form and score some goals. It is only by doing that that he will earn a new Hammers contract or a possible move. Hopefully, those points have been taken on board by Mr Sakho and West Ham will start reaping the rewards before too long.

So, it is WBA away next in the PL. Hopefully we can secure at least a draw at the Hawthorns and set ourselves up nicely for a run of PL home fixtures. There is also the League Cup (or whatever they are calling it this season?) 3rd Round tie against Bolton Wanderers at the LS. It would be nice to think that we can get some ‘kinder’ draws this season and make progress in the competition. Who knows, we might even see a youngster or two get a run out from the substitutes bench. COYI!

SJ. Chandos.

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