Talking Point

My West Ham team of the Decade

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Goalkeeper: Lukasz Fabianski
He hasn’t been with us for long, but of all the goalkeepers we had in the last decade, he is the only one I can/could watch without peeping through my fingers from behind the sofa and my blood pressure going through the roof every time a ball comes or came near our penalty box. Very solid and reliable custodian. Consistent as clockwork. And Polish. I like Poland and its people.
Especially if they’re good goalkeepers. Without his injury things might have gone a lot better for us this season.

LB: George McCartney
Had three spells at West Ham and was very unlucky with injuries in the latter stages. But when he did play we got tremendous mileage out of him. Not a glamourous player, but certainly the best pure LB we’ve had at the position in a long time. Oh, and as a massive Beatles fan I had to give him bonus points for the name alone. Shame we never signed Lennon. Or a Harrison.

CB: Angelo Ogbonna
Calm, composed and currently our best and least error-prone defender. Vastly underrated. A player who may only truly be appreciated once he’s gone elsewhere. If only he was a bit more vocal on the pitch at times. Some of our players could do a lot worse than taking Ogbonna’s on-field advice on board.

CB: James Collins
This Welshman represents a vital part of what our club is all about. Not the most naturally gifted player you’ll ever see. Still, the brilliantly nicknamed Ginger Pele always put his body on the line for the Hammers’ cause to clear balls galore and block plenty of shots. Was an absolute rock for us and became a fan favourite because of that. Always had a great rapport with the fanbase and I am proud to say I was at his final game for us inside the London Stadium when unfortunately he didn’t quite get the appropriate send off from the club he would have deserved.

RB: Joey O’Brien
We haven’t exactly been spoiled for choice at the position in the last ten years, have we ? For whatever reason we never had a truly great RB at our club in that period. Joey wasn’t magnificent either, but he was a no-nonsense, versatile and reliable player doing a job for us in many games over several seasons, wherever needed. Which more often than not was at RB. Another chap I would happily put in my West Ham United Unsung Heroes XI, but not at RB, that spot I would always reserve with my German towel for Tim Breacker, of course! ;-)

DM: Mark Noble
I simply can’t ignore Mr.West Ham when picking this team and yes, it is as much due to what he represents for our club off the pitch than what he actually does on the pitch. There are faster runners, better passers, more accurate shooters and more clinical tacklers out there than him, but this Canning Town lad is a West Ham fan playing for his and our favourite club and, quite simply, we have more spirit and fight in the team whenever he puts on the claret and blue shirt.

DM: Declan Rice
I chose Rice not just based on the still small sample size of performances but also because of his sheer potential. With the right coaching and development (he might only find at another club) he could not just become a good player, but a great one in the not too distant future. And it’s always nice to see a lad from the Academy make the transition into the first team. With a massive helping of luck he could be our next skipper for years to come. Either way, I saw the second ever goal he scored for us, against Newcastle, in person at the game when they opened the Billy Bonds Stand at the London Stadium.
The resulting cheer of the crowd was probably the loudest I ever experienced at a home game.

Winger/Striker: Michail Antonio
Another rags to riches (or Nissan Micra to Lamborghini) success story, a player starting out at Tooting & Mitcham (that’s actually a London based semi-professional football club, not a funeral director) and arriving relatively late on the PL stage. But boy, is he fun to watch when his hamstrings are functional! Running his socks off, scoring all kinds of goals and doing the silliest goal celebrations you’ll ever see. Also, our main scoring threat these days.

Attacking midfielder: Dimitri Payet
He only graced us with his presence for a short spell, but THAT final season at the Boleyn alone will put him in most Hammers fans’ “Team of the Decade“. Payet made every player around him better, he helped us to snatch victory or at least draw from the jaws of defeat, time and time again. And by sheer brilliance he turned standard freekicks into penalty shots. His freekick against Crystal Palace in July 2016 was the best freekick goal I saw in person inside a football stadium, ever! And no matter how unceremoniously it all ended between him and West Ham, we can all be grateful for having had the opportunity to watch Payet in his absolute prime while he was playing for us.

Striker: Marko Arnautovic
This is no popularity contest and you all know I never really liked the guy as a person. But as a player the Austrian with Serbian roots simply worked for us, when being in the mood and playing upfront instead of on the wing. Try to ignore all the phoney crossed hammers goal celebrations or his stroppy demeanour at times and you end up having to admit that Arnautovic was our most effective forward in a long time. Despite practically inventing the throwing-toys-out-of-pram-to-achieve-personal-advantage routine along the way. The arrogant git! ;-)

Striker: Andy Carroll
One silly injury after another. Early morning photos taken in nightclubs. And minor knocks leading to the player being out for another 3-4 months. It would be oh so simple to put Andy Carroll in a West Ham United Flops of the Decade XI as well, if you think about all the games he missed for us. If you instead choose to mainly remember the games he DID actually play in, you will never be able to forget the thundering headed goals and THAT bicycle kick against Crystal Palace. If only he could have given us 50 more games or so during his many years at the club…

Subs

Goalkeeper: Robert Green
An intelligent footballer who prefered books to booze or BMW cars. I never was quite as relaxed watching him trying to marshall his box as when seeing Fabianski do just that (as Green was prone to the odd gaffe) but overall Greeno gave us years of solid enough goalkeeping. I will never forget witnessing him protecting our 1:0 away victory at Arsenal in 2007 (Arsenal’s first home defeat at The Emirates) when he made what felt like 98 brilliant reaction saves. Unreal! He’s got a street named after him near our old ground, apparently…

CB: Winston Reid
The Winston Reid BEFORE his most recent injury was as solid a defender as they come in the PL. It took him a while to adjust to that level, but once he had done that he was a joy to watch and a ball clearing machine. And of course he will forever be enshrined in Upton Park folklore as the final ever goalscorer at our old ground. Probably the most unlikely goalscorer of all players out there on the pitch that day, bar the goalkeepers.
But this is West Ham, so maybe it was perfectly adequate that a CB of all people should provide the final bulging of the net at the Boleyn.

LB: Aaron Cresswell
My Final Boleyn Season shirt has his name and number on the back and that is mainly down to his crossing ability and his uncanny knack for chipping in with vital and unexpected goals (and my penchant for rooting for defenders in general who all too often get overlooked). If only that Karlsruhe butcher dressed up as a footballer hadn’t chopped at his leg and confidence in that meaningless preseason game, Aaron would most likely have become even more of a stalwart for us, subsequently ending up in my starting XI after all.

Midfielder: Scott Parker
Energetic, skillful, tenacious and hard-working player who ended up being too good for us really. If only we could have built a proper side around him, but alas, it wasn’t to be. IF ONLY should probably be our club motto, emblazoned in blue letters on our crest, in Latin of course (Si modo).

Midfielder: Thomas Hitzlsperger
As a German, how could I leave out my fellow countryman, especially if that guy was nicknamed DER HAMMER due to his fearsome piledrivers from distance ? Strangely enough, we never had many Krauts running out for West Ham in the first place – Dieter Eckstein and Savio Nsereko were the only other Germans at the club. Hitz was another player unfortunately held back by injuries. Hitzlsperger also is a genuinely nice guy who used to talk a lot of sense as a pundit on German telly for games of the German national side.
He is now CEO at one of Germany’s traditional big clubs, VFB Stuttgart, aiming to get them promoted back to the Bundesliga where they belong.

Midfielder: Manuel Lanzini
He could have been a star for Argentina in the last World Cup. But he twisted his knee in training before the tournament had even started. Injuries to West Ham players, a recurring theme. But Lanzini, on his day, is a guy who can still get fans out of their seats when receiving the ball in midfield with space to roam. Graceful player in the Devonshire mould. Plus, he has a tendency to score against Spurs. Which is a surefire way to get onto any West Ham team-sheet.

Striker: Carlton Cole
One of them cult heroes at West Ham. Scored 68 goals for West Ham in 293 appearances for the club, so actually one of our Top 20 goalscorers in our history, ahead of the likes of DiCanio or McAvennie.
CC initially came to West Ham probably with a plan to use us as a springboard to catapult him to a bigger club eventually, but somehow he got stuck with us. So, in return, we gave him a nice song for his valiant efforts, singing his name to a famous Spandau Ballet tune. Once that happens, you know as a player where you belong. The fans will always fondly remember Carlton Cole and he, I believe, will never have a bad word to say about West Ham.

Manager of the Decade: Slaven Bilic
What was not to like ? A manager that did get this club and the fans. Who acknowledged and appreciated the merits of our old stadium.
I knew Bilic when we signed him the first time from his playing days at Karlsruhe. I met him briefly once at Chadwell Heath and those 90 seconds or so confirmed my view that Bilic is not only a smart, multilingual guy but also a thoroughly nice person. Maybe a bit too nice to make it at a top club.
He gave us one of the most memorable seasons in our history.
You know I do have this romantic/naive/stupid view on football sometimes.
And despite his managerial setbacks and tactical flaws I still consider him one of the best fits West Ham ever had at the position, a modern day Lyall.
I’d have Bilic back at our club in a heartbeat.

Moment of the Decade: The opening of the Billy Bonds Stand
I could have picked a big event with dramatic effect, scenes of chaos or despair, or days that made us feel sad, like the cancelled march, the pitch invasions at the Burnley game or the passing of our oldest supporter, Mabel Arnold. Or I could have picked our rare victory away at Liverpool, a much happier occasion. A bittersweet and truly historical day, like the final game at the Boleyn.
Instead I’m choosing a less obvious or spectacular moment, but still a highly emotional one. It was seeing Bonzo walking out onto that giant vastness that is the London Stadium pitch, clearly overcome with emotion, joined by his kids, to witness the opening of the biggest stand at our new home stadium, dwarfing the Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking Stand.
For the older fans among us, Billy Bonds is probably now the most loved and respected former player ever, due to his traits and performances as a player, but also because of the man he is, down to earth, honest, modest – a guy you’d gladly have in your section of the trench anytime. Or just to have him in the same room, talking football and West Ham. My heart was filled with joy and pride while my eyes were welling up with salty liquid when watching Bonzo on that pitch, waving at the crowd before wiping off his own tears with the same hand. And we even won that game for him after the ceremony.
Finally, when I met Bonzo at one of those “Meet the Legends“ evenings in Dagenham, he had me stuttering and stumbling my way through asking him to sign that famous black and white picture for me, showing him post-game with a band aid above his eye and some blood trickling down from under it.
No mean feat to get me into a state where I’m unable to put a coherent sentence or two together…Billy Bonds did just that. COYI!!!


The GoatyGav Column

Things To Be Thankful To Manuel Pellegrini For

I mentioned it at the time but I felt it was a shame that Pellegrini failed to get West Ham in to the top six to eight in the Premier League. I realise that he wasn’t everyone’s cuppa but I liked the way he handled himself. When he first joined I thought that the ‘project’ undertaken was one that would take us to the next level of securing European football by finishing sixth or seventh, which often delivers a Europa League place with a view to top four finishes thereafter. I also said that people should look at what MP did at Malaga and Villareal, with relatively limited budgets, to get both sides to semi-finals of Champion’s Leagues outside of his title win with Man City and the record points total delivered at Real Madrid.

Everywhere Pellegrini has been he’s bought wisely. With big, and more modest, budgets he’s had an eye for a good player and has been extremely successful in the transfer markets. West Ham has been no exception to this. Good money has been spent but the quality of those brought in has been extremely high. I believe with all my heart that the squad that Manuel has left behind is one of the strongest we’ve seen at the club.

Before anyone accuses me of wearing the rose tinteds I would also like to put on record my huge disappointment in the football that was being delivered of late. The squad looked dispirited, lacked confidence and performances have been lacklustre to say the least. I’ll never really know if the ‘dressing room was lost’ or if something else was going on but I do have eyes and could clearly see the lack of commitment and effort on the pitch from many of the players.

At the start of this season I was more optimistic than I can remember being about the campaign compared to previous years. In the first half a dozen matches it appeared that the team were going to push on from the strong finish of the previous term. Then Fabianski got injured, confidence and belief visually ebbed away and never seemed to return. Perhaps MP has learned that he requires bigger budgets to play the kind of football that he, patently, believes in, and sticks rigidly to, to be successful in the Premier League.

All things boiled down, however, we did manage to attract a top manager, with winning credentials, to our club and that has to be viewed as a positive. So it’s a big thank you, from me, to Manuel Pellegrini for what he’s done for West Ham United and the condition he’s left us in. Thanks for showing faith, and playing a huge part in the development of, Declan Rice. We’ve got a holding midfielder of true Premiership quality who, if he continues to develop, will become one of the best in the game. Thanks for bringing Lucasz Fabianski, Felipe Anderson, Sebastien Haller, Pablo Fornals, Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena to our club. Ok, maybe not Roberto, who I do feel extremely sorry for, but a manager will never get every single one of his signings right. Whatever Manuel moves on to do I wish him all the best. He’s a top manager and, I’m sure, will go on to further successes in the future.

No game for the Ladies last weekend as sickness ravaged the squad to the point where the scheduled match with Everton Women was postponed. Hopefully the Ironesses will be fully recovered for their visit to Tottenham Women scheduled for Sunday. The prospect of three points against Tottenham are always highly motivational however a win in that one, by a two goal margin, and the ladies will go above their opponents in the table. I’m sure they’ll be more than up for it when next Sunday arrives.

Happy tidings to report for the mighty Under twenty-threes. Yesterday saw the lads play their home match against title rivals, Manchester United, at Dagenham. A brilliant team performance saw the young Hammers run out two-nil winners against a Manyoo team who were on an amazing seven game winning run. Unsure of whether Nathan Holland would be risked ahead of his loan to Oxford United the former Everton youngster put the game to bed by scoring the second goal, after his assist for the first, before moving to the Kassam Stadium for the remainder of the season. I wish him every success in his time at title challenging Oxford where I’m sure he’ll do really well. Holland is the type of player that I really enjoy watching when running at opposition defenders. He creates opportunities for others as well as bagging his fair share of goals himself and, like Grady Diangana, I’d love to see him eventually make the grade at West Ham. The Under twenty-threes have now opened up a four point lead over the Red Devils having played fourteen of the twenty two game season. The only negative from yesterday was Jo Anang collecting a second yellow card in the game and being, subsequently, dismissed. However it was great to see centre back Akinola return to the fold after a year long lay off. The next couple of games are going to be very important without the keeper and Holland and I wish Dan Halajko’s charges all the best for those challenging matches. Next up a visit to eighth placed Reading.

Have a good week all.

COYI!


Talking Point

Ten-point Pledge Ten years on

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As we approach the ten-year anniversary of the West Ham ownership of David Sullivan and David Gold I have given my own personal review the ten-point pledge they made back in 2010 to see how they have done.

The pledge and how they have fared is subjective but I have attempted to give a balanced review.

1. Appoint the right manager

Our efforts are focused on recruiting a high-calibre manager with the necessary experience to deliver good football and, most importantly, results. A shortlist of candidates has been identified and the appointment will be made with enough time to prepare for pre-season.

Verdict: They got off to bad start with Avram Grant but Sam Allardyce while unpopular did was what needed at the time and did the job that was asked of him. Slaven Bilic was a popular choice and they also showed ambition with Manuel Pellegrini despite it ultimately ending infailure. Th e jury is still out on David Moyes but we hope he comes good and proves a lot of people wrong. On balance they scrape a PASS on this pledge.

2. Sign new players
For too long, the focus has been on players leaving rather than arriving. We will strengthen in the right areas to ensure an exciting and balanced squad that is well placed to cope with the rigours of a Premier League season. Our main aim will be to bring in players hungry to do well who share our ambitions and aspirations.

Verdict: In the last 10 years, they have invested £285m net spend on the playing squad. Since the move to London Stadium, there has been a net spend of £210.4m demonstrating how the move has allowed the Board to accelerate its investment in the squad. I am sure many people will argue that many of these players have failed to produce but when you accept the pledge was to sign new players I think he has to be a PASS.

3. More investment in the Academy
Tony Carr remains at the heart of the club and his work in developing future first-team players remains essential for the long-term success of this club. We will make sure homegrown talent nurtured in the West Ham way will always be given the chance to complement established players brought in from elsewhere.

Verdict: There has been an investment of over £10m investment across training facilities, £4m of which is on Chadwell Heath. The Board say they are absolutely committed to ensuring the Academy goes from strength to strength and that the Club continues to recruit and develop the best young players. Last season saw Declan Rice make his senior England debut and four Academy graduates made their first team debuts. Many will argue that West Ham don’t spend enough and remain behind the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs but we don’t have their financial power so have to life within our means. As the pledge as more investment in the Academy and didn’t promise to compete with the top six it has to be a PASS too.

4. Continue to clear the debt
We have a responsibility to ensure this club is never again placed in a perilous position. Great strides have been taken to get us on a sound financial footing but there is still a way to go. Difficult decisions have had to be made – and that will continue to be the case – but our bottom line on the bottom line is to ensure the club survives.

Verdict: In 2010, the Club was £110m in debt and heading towards administration and in an awful financial state in hands of the Icelandic’s. Today, the Club is financial stable and
sustainable, bank debt is paid down and they have attracted further investment to help make it sustainable. The only remaining debt is owed to share holders which is deferred. £45m owed to Sullivan and Gold while £9.5m owed to Tripp Smith. Has to be a PASS

5. Freeze season ticket prices for renewals
We are delighted we have been able to freeze season ticket prices, save for the VAT increase, but we will not stop there. We are looking at more ways of rewarding those fans who make such a long-term commitment and have excellent offers for younger supporters, who are the lifeblood of this club. Member benefits will also improve.

Verdict: I am not sure this was ever supposed to be a commitment to freeze season ticket prices forever. They were frozen for many years and the price rises have been well below inflation when factored over the ten years. West Ham say they are extremely proud to be the home of affordable family football in London and the Premier League.

West Ham welcomes around 10,000 children and young adults to London Stadium every week for just £5.21 per game on average with their £99 under 16s season ticket. 
The Club also comes out very favourably in terms of the average season ticket prices for under 21s and over 65s, with those supporters able to enjoy each match at London Stadium from as little as £8.42 as part of a season ticket – almost one-and-a-half times less than the average Premier League price of £21 per match.

An adult-supporting Hammer can watch their team for just under half the average price across the league, which works out at just £16.84 per match if they purchase a £320 season ticket, which is the cheapest available season ticket in the Premier League. Another PASS

6. Build the status and image of the club
Our standing at home and abroad is rightly built on our proud history and our commitment to young talent. The values of the Academy of Football developed since the days of Bobby Moore define what we are all about. With the world's spotlight set to shine on this part of London, the time is right to spread the word further.

Verdict: This one is highly subjective but there is no doubt the West Ham brand has become more well-known worldwide in the last ten years although much of this could be said to be the proliferation and popularity of the Premier League. There is no arguing that 60,000 tickets are sold out each week for every League game with plans to raise this to 62,500. There are 54,000 season tickets. West Ham have the 7 th highest total attendance in Europe. The Hammers have the 2 nd highest attendance in the Premier League

The club have grown a digital audience of over 7.7m over the past ten years. In 2010, the Club has no place in top-ranking football clubs but today West Ham have been ranked by Forbes as the 14 th Most Valuable Football Team In The World – $754m

By Deloitte West Ham are ranked as the Top 17th Football Club in the world

By Brand Finance West Ham are ranked the fastest growing brand in world football with a brand value of $274m.

There have been some gaffes and own goals in the last ten years which have led to headlines in the British press which have tarnished our image as club but overall I would still rate this pledge as a PASS

7. Make it enjoyable to come and watch

We want to bring the fun back. It is a serious business but we know you work hard all week and want to kick back at the weekend and enjoy yourselves. We want you to be excited on a matchday, and not just about the style of football. We are looking at ways to improve our pre-match and half-time entertainment and will welcome suggestions.

Verdict: There can be no doubts we have witnessed some enjoyable games and historic wins over the past ten years particularly under Slaven Bilic and Manuel Pellegrini but there have been awful times under Avram Grant and Sam Allardyce too. The change of the stadium takes some getting used to. This is still a work in progress we are going in the right direction. The Club have taken on board suggestions from supporters and have been introducing improvements to improve the matchday experience at the London Stadium the entertainment has to start on the pitch with the players.
JURY STILL OUT

8. Get closer to the community
This club does excellent work in the local area already but we want to move even closer to schools and businesses on our doorstep. We can extend our commitment to multi-sports, education and healthy living and show there is more to this club than just first-team football. We take our social responsibility very seriously.

Verdict: An area hopefully no supporter can disagree with. West Ham have invested £18m in in the local community since the London Stadium move was confirmed and launched the Players’ Project regarded as one of the most ambitious and well thought out community project within the Premier League. The club have also committed to invest a further £15m over three years to community projects.
A big PASS on this pledge!

9. Go for the Olympic Stadium
Leaving the Boleyn Ground will be a wrench but the Olympic Stadium is an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in a financial and football sense. Our potential partnership with Newham Council promises to take this club to a new level, while protecting our history and traditions. To move forward, we have to move – but always with an eye on the past.

Verdict: We accept not everyone likes the London Stadium, but it is hard to argue they didn’t ‘Go for the Olympic Stadium’ and won the tender process not once but twice. While some will argue it is not a traditional football stadium it was an opportunity too good to turn down and the fact that the stadium is sold out to 60,000 each week with 54,000 season ticket holders and a waiting list suggests they were right to go for it! West Ham have the 7th highest attendance in Europe and 2 nd highest in the Premier League so it has it be marked a PASS

10. Listen to supporters

Arguably the most important of all is our commitment to listen to what you have to say. We know we are just the custodians of this club. You who follow us every week, whether near or far, are the true owners. Whether talking to you online or in print, or face to face at fan forums, we will be open, transparent and available.

Verdict: This is probably one of the more contentious issues when it comes to the pledge, many will argue they don’t engage with supporters enough or don’t engage in the right way or don’t engage with the right groups but it is all highly subjective.

The Official West Ham United Supporters’ Board was established in place of the old Supporters Advisory Board to create an open, transparent and ongoing dialogue between the Club and supporters and ensures that the views of the fanbase are heard at the highest level of the Club but it has had its critics.

The members were chosen by an independent selection process. The club say they strongly believe that they have created a meaningful model for engagement, consultation, and structured dialogue. The Club now has five members in the Supporter Services team, a 50 strong team of Matchday Supporter Liaison Officers, nine information points on matchday.

West Ham have been ranked third in the Premier League for fan engagement a new study has revealed. Only Leicester City and Everton score higher. Overall the Hammers were ranked 28th from all 92 clubs in all four divisions.

There is no doubt there is still room for improvement for supporter engagement but as the old the saying goes you can never please all of the people all of the time.

Still room for improvement so marked as the JURY IS STILL OUT

Fellow WHTID Author Nigel Kahn together with fellow presenter John Bucci discusses the Ten-point pledge on Moore Than Just A Podcast last night which can be listened or downloaded from www.moorethanjustapodcast.co.uk


Match Report

A long,hard road ahead

Let me put in a word for the owners, even though it is understood that the moral compass of the two pornographers cannot be repaired by their delusional belief that ownership of West Ham would bring them applause and gratitude.

The move to the London Stadium was inevitable from the time that the UK won the right to host the Olympics. The problems with the stadium should be laid at the door of Seb Coe, who did not want to understand that the legacy of the stadium would be as a football stadium. And it should have been built as a football stadium which could be converted for athletics, not as an athletics stadium which could be coverted for football.

Then, there was the idiocy of spending a further £325 million to make the stadium suitable for football with all the nonsense talk of retractable seating. It was inevitable that our two sharp owners would negotiate a deal that doesn’t even cover the costs of the owners of the stadium , whose annual losses have been in the millions with the latest reported loss being £28 million . It is lunacy that £6 million is spent each year of taking out seating and putting it back. But, whoever the owners of West Ham would have been, the club would have ended up at the London Stadium.

Secondly, after the disastrous protest at the Burnley game, the owners did listen to the fans. They appointed a supposed top flight manager. They also stopped interfering in the purchase of players and appointed Armando Herrero as Director of Football.

This is all now history. We have what we have and perhaps it is time for an analysis. We are stuck with the stadium. West Ham contributed £15 million to the conversion and the London Borough of Newham, one of the poorest in the country, contributed an insane £40 million.

Let us turn to an analysis of the players, our major asset:

Goalkeeper. It was a brilliant coup buying Fabianski, but poor judgement to let Adrian go and buy a dud as a replacement.

Full Backs. Zabaleta is almost finished. Fredericks I find to be lazy, but could turn out well if he uses his speed. Cresswell has come back to form. Masuaku should be playing in midfield, but may do better with three at the back. I still believe he is a talented player. We need to purchase a couple of full backs.

Central Defenders. Reid is coming back at last but it is unlikely he will regain his form quickly. I believe Diop is a great player and I have no idea how he has ended up on the bench and he may be sold. Balbuena is steady and has recovered from his loss of form. We need another central defender, especially if we go to three at the back, which worked successfully against Gillingham. Ogbonna is playing better than he has ever done.

Midfield. There is a complete lack of pace. Noble has improved dramatically this season, but this should be his last season. Lanzini is totally out of form. Sanchez was a complete waste of money. Wilshere was signed by a complete moron. Snodgrass is slow . Yarmolenko is laborious and should be sold. We should still have faith in Anderson who is able to produce that spark of genius. Fornals is progressing but hasn’t yet shown brilliance.

Attack. The jury is out on Haller. I question his positioning and his passing against Bournemouth was abysmal and he fluffed his chance against Gillingham, but he may come through. I have nothing but praise for Antonio, whose effort is magnificent, but he is not a centre forward. He should play on the right, so he can cut in. Ajeti is an enigma. We are told he can score goals, but he seems lightweight. Diangana should be recalled as soon as possible.

So, there you have it. The best side would be with three at the back with two at the back as the situation requires. Therefore:

Fabianski, Fredericks, Cresswell, Balbuena(substitute Lanzini), Diop, Ogbonna, Rice, Fornals, Anderson, Antonio, Haller

I believe in playing the same side as often as possible and the above talent should be enough, together with our experienced manager, to get us out of trouble……just.


David Hautzig's Match Report

Gillingham 0, West Ham 2. A Win Is A Win Is A Win.

For years, I usually treated both domestic cup competitions with an equal amount of fear and disregard. Our league position was so perilous so often I could not help but see those matches as pointless because, well, they didn’t come with points. Of course there were occasional exceptions. 2006 obviously comes to mind, but Pards had us mid-table pretty much the whole season so the FA Cup was a Get One Free with the already paid for EPL season. But then Slaven Bilic held up his hands, holding an imaginary cup when asked what would mean more, the FA Cup or a top four finish. I flew over that year to say goodbye to Upton Park and to attend the incredible replay win over Liverpool. If VAR had been in place we would have made the semi-finals, of that I’m sure. The point is, my feelings about the cups have been altered. I can’t say I’d trade relegation for a trophy yet, but in time you never know.

Gillingham came in to todays match unbeaten in their last eight League One matches. They dispatched Premier League opposition Cardiff in last season’s FA Cup, and West Ham have made League One in cups the equivalent of Liverpool at Anfield of late. So the table was set for another disappointing result. Instead, West Ham did what they were supposed to as opposed to what we expected them to do.

Gillingham started the match brightly, as one might expect from a lower division side on their home pitch. They won two corners, the second from a somewhat sloppy clearance by Ogbonna. Snodgrass and Lanzini shared in the sloppiness with a bad pass and a giveaway respectively. A free kick in the eight minute required a clearance by Haller, but Gillingham kept up the pressure and won a third corner. Suffice it to say West Ham started the game at a snails pace.

In the 15th minute, Rice and Lee got into a tussle for the ball at the top of the West Ham eighteen yard box, and the other referee named Madley awarded the home side a free kick. They tried a little trickery on the set piece that didn’t come off, but neither did West Ham’s clearance. Gillingham came right back with a long range shot by O’Keefe, but Fabianski made the easy save.

Harassment is a very effective tool for a lower division side with less talent than their Premier League foe. Hanlan used that to great effect in the 22nd minute when he harassed Balbuena into a conceding a corner, and then he won the ball back for a point blank shot that Fabianski did well to save.

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The Hammers had their first look at the Gillingham penalty area in the 31st minute when Anderson recovered from a bad touch and sent the ball wide to Masuaku. The man on the left wing won a corner when Fuller blocked a cross, but West Ham did zero with the opportunity. Overall, our play could be described to that point as ugly and disjointed. Even with five in the middle the hosts dominated that area, and every single player in white looked like they assumed no work was needed to win today. With a strong starting eleven, it was hard to see where any impetus would come.

The biggest risk and thus worry about playing a strong side in a match like this, especially when your squad is as deep as a baby blow up pool, is injury. Right back is not an area West Ham are blessed with depth, so seeing Fredericks limp off was just the thing we didn’t want to see. But thems the breaks when you want a cup run.

Halftime
Gillingham 0
West Ham 0

West Ham should have scored in the first minute of the second half when Anderson sent Haller in on Bonham all alone. But in what looked like a moment of overconfidence Haller strolled in and put the ball twenty feet over the crossbar. Haller looked at the pitch as if to blame a rogue patch of dirt for his ills, but he alone was to blame for the sorry shot. Moments later Haller had another chance when he was sent in by a long ball from Diop. It looked a lost cause but Haller kept going and one timed a shot in between the post and the keeper. It bounced off the inside of the post and across the face of goal. West Ham showed more urgency in the opening minutes of the second half than the whole opening forty-five.

Despite more time on the ball and more control of the match, West Ham were not able to get themselves in a position to really bother the Gillingham defense. Bad touches, slips, and other errant moves kept being the Hammers undoing. They had a valid shout for a penalty in the 66th minute when Rice was clearly held by Ogilvie while attacking a free kick from Lanzini. Where’s VAR when you need it?

As the second half rolled on, Masuaku and Anderson started to find space down the left. The gave each other early, fast passes so that whichever one was the recipient could get into the box quickly. In the 73rd minute, Anderson rolled a pass for Masuaku to get to at the end-line. He sent a low cross into the box that just missed Fornals, but found Zabaleta. For the first time in a West Ham kit, Pablo Zabaleta took a shot that ended up behind the goalkeeper and in the net.

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Gillingham 0
West Ham 1

Gillingham did not roll over, and Hanlan won a corner in the 82nd minute. The delivery was cleared, but O’Keefe got hold of a shot that might have tested Fabianski had it not been deflected and slowed down. The Hammers won a corner of their own moments later, and if defenders interfering by holding and pulling on shirts in the box was recently deemed within the laws of the game, I didn’t get the memo. Haller was absolutely mugged trying to get into position.

Marshall worked the ball into the corner in the 89th minute and won a corner. West Ham cleared, but not far enough and Marshall was there again to work the ball back into the box. Haller in particular did a fine job defending the many aerial lobs into the penalty area, but Gillingham kept searching for the late equalizer and a replay.

Cue the joke about them being the only ones who wanted to go to The London Stadium.

With Gillingham searching and probing in added time, it was West Ham who broke in numbers as the clock ran down. Fornals was the man with the last word, rifling a shot past Bonham.

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Gillingham 0
West Ham 2

Considering our recent banana skins in cups, we have no choice but to respect the win. Two wins and two clean sheets in Moyes 2.0. Hopefully the manager was able to use today to learn a bit more about the squad and how to make it respectable again.


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