Transfer Gossip

Dimitri Payet - To Return or Not to Return...

Could it really happen? Could Dimitri Payet actually return to West Ham?

Apparently Marseille need some money and quick, and are prepared to sell him for around the £25 million they paid for him. The thing is, although transfer fees have been inflated drastically since he returned to France, he’s now 31 years old. That wouldn’t especially worry me, given pace was never a major part of his game, but effectively we’d get a maximium of three seasons out of him.

But would we fans wear it? Claret & Hugh did a poll in which 3000 people took part and it showed a 56%-44% vote in favour of him returning. I voted yes, even though my views on him were unprintable when he did the dirty on us. He says he’d like to come back because the problems he experienced here have gone away. I’m not sure what he means by that. Apparently Pellegrini is in favour of doing a deal after consulting some of the senior players about him and his attitude.

Given we will hopefully sign Jack Wilshere in the next 48 hours – he underwent his medical today – adding Payet to the midfield might be rather tasty, given who else we have to compete for places.

When David Sullivan was first approached with this idea he rejected it out of hand, I imagine because of a fear as to what the fans’ reaction might be. Well, fill your boots in the comments.

Dan Coker's Match Preview

Crossed Hammers & Three Lions: Joe Cole

Welcome to the latest in a series of articles designed for international weekends – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England.

Today, as England prepare to face Sweden in the quarter-final of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, we look back at a former Hammers and England midfielder. Joe Cole was born in Paddington on the 8th November 1981 and was a prodigious young talent who was linked with a £10m move to Manchester United before he’d even made his professional debut. Likened to Paul Gascoigne, Cole made his debut at the age of 17 in January 1999 in a 1-1 FA Cup draw at home against Swansea; his league debut arrived eight days later in a 4-1 defeat at Old Trafford. Cole was a key figure in the Hammers’ FA Youth Cup winning team in 1999 and also played his part in the senior team’s InterToto Cup success later that summer. His first goal for the club came in a 3-2 League Cup win at Birmingham in November 1999 while his first league strike came in the 5-4 win over Bradford in February 2000.

Cole scored five goals in 2000/01, including one in the 3-0 win at Coventry and strikes in the 1-1 home draws with Bradford and Coventry. He also notched crucial goals in the 3-1 home win over Derby and 3-0 home victory over Southampton as the under-performing Hammers secured their survival in the top flight the weekend before Harry Redknapp’s departure.

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Cole made his England debut on 25th May 2001 in a 4-0 friendly win over Mexico at Derby’s Pride Park and scored his first goal under new Hammers manager Glenn Roeder in the 3-0 FA Cup third round win at Macclesfield in January 2002. The skilful midfielder was part of England’s 2002 World Cup squad and got his 2002/03 campaign off to a flyer, scoring from distance to give the Irons the lead against champions Arsenal only for the Gunners to eventually claim a 2-2 draw at Upton Park. The season was a turbulent one, with Cole one of the few players to emerge with credit from a campaign which would end in relegation. Joey also scored in the 2-1 home defeat to Birmingham, the 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough, the 3-2 FA Cup third round home win over Nottingham Forest and the 2-2 home draw with Newcastle. He was named captain by Roeder in January 2003 and was voted Hammer of the Year by the club’s supporters at the season’s end. Cole scored his first England goal in his tenth appearance for his country on 3rd June 2003 in a 2-1 friendly win over Serbia & Montenegro at Leicester’s Walkers Stadium.

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The 21-year-old Cole left West Ham United in the summer of 2003 to sign for Chelsea in a £6.6m deal, having scored 13 goals in 150 appearances for the Hammers. His second England goal came on 16th November 2003 in a 3-2 friendly defeat to Denmark at Old Trafford. Cole became a regular in Jose Mourinho’s 2004/05 Premier League title-winning team, scoring nine goals in all competitions. His third England goal was scored on 26th March 2005 in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win over Northern Ireland at Old Trafford.

2005/06 saw Cole score a career-high 11 goals in a season in all competitions, earning himself a place in the PFA Team of the Year as Chelsea retained their Premier League title. He scored two goals for England during the season, the first being the winner in a 1-0 World Cup qualifying triumph at Wales’ Millennium Stadium on 3rd September 2005 and the other coming in a 2-1 friendly win over Uruguay at Old Trafford on 1st March 2006. Cole started all five of England’s matches at the 2006 World Cup, scoring a stunning, dipping volley in a 2-2 Group B draw against today’s opponents, Sweden, in Cologne on 20th June 2006.

The following campaign was an injury-hit one for Cole but he did score for England at the end of the season, in a 3-0 European Championship qualifying win in Estonia on 6th June 2007. He was back to his best in 2007/08 – he reached double figures in the scoring charts again, won the Chelsea Player of the Year Award and played in the Champions League Final. Cole also scored home and away against West Ham that season, refusing to celebrate his strike in Chelsea’s 4-0 win at Upton Park in March 2008.

Cole scored a late equaliser against the Czech Republic at Wembley in a 2-2 friendly draw on 20th August 2008 and followed that up with a double in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying win in Andorra on 6th September 2008. A knee injury kept Cole out for the second half of the 2008/09 campaign and his final game for the Blues was the FA Cup Final against Portsmouth in May 2010, Chelsea winning the match 1-0. After seven years at Stamford Bridge in which he scored 40 goals in 281 appearances and won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups, two Community Shields and was a Champions League finalist, Cole joined Roy Hodgson’s Liverpool on a free transfer in the summer of 2010. Earlier that summer, Cole had won the last of his 56 England caps at his third World Cup – he had scored ten goals for his country.

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After a difficult start to life on Merseyside, Cole spent the 2011/12 season on loan at French side Lille but, after returning to Liverpool for the first half of the following season, 31-year-old Joey returned to the Boleyn Ground in early January 2013, signing for Sam Allardyce’s Hammers on a free transfer. He set up both goals on his second debut for the club as James Collins scored twice in a 2-2 FA Cup third round draw with Manchester United and scored himself in the 1-1 home draw with Q.P.R. and the 3-2 home defeat to Tottenham.

Cole started the 2013/14 season with a bang, notching the Hammers’ first goal of the campaign in a 2-0 home win over Cardiff in August 2013 before scoring in the 3-0 win over Fulham in November. His final goal for the Hammers came in the 3-3 home draw with West Brom in late December 2013. Cole’s last appearance for West Ham came in the 2-0 defeat at Manchester City in May 2014 and he left the club later that summer after his contract expired, signing for Aston Villa. Cole had scored five goals in 37 appearances in his second spell in east London, taking his totals for the Hammers to 18 goals in 187 matches.

Following a spell with Coventry, Cole, now 36, is currently playing for Tampa Bay Rowdies in the USL, the second tier of the American soccer pyramid.

Sweden v England

England face Sweden this afternoon in the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup – it will be the 25th meeting between the two nations. The pair have met twice before in the World Cup Finals, first in a 1-1 draw in 2002 and most recently in front of 45,000 in Cologne, Germany, 12 years ago, on 20th June 2006, in their final Group B match of the 2006 World Cup. Nelly Furtado was number one with ‘Maneater’, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift topped the UK box office and the BBC announced that Top of the Pops would be axed, the final show airing on 30th July 2006.

England were dealt an early blow when Michael Owen suffered a serious knee injury in the opening minute. Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England went in front after 34 minutes when the feature of today’s piece, Joe Cole, hit a sensational dipping volley from 35 yards, only for Copenhagen’s Marcus Allback, formerly of Aston Villa, to equalise when he headed home from Tobias Linderoth’s right-wing corner six minutes into the second half.

Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard headed in Joey’s 85th-minute cross, but Sweden levelled in injury time when England failed to clear a ball pumped into the box and Barcelona’s Henrik Larsson pounced to poke home. Both of West Ham’s former Swedes, Niclas Alexandersson and Freddie Ljungberg, played in the match, with both picking up yellow cards.

England: Paul Robinson (Tottenham), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd), John Terry (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Arsenal), David Beckham (Real Madrid), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Owen Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Michael Owen (Newcastle), Wayne Rooney (Man Utd).

Subs: Peter Crouch (Liverpool) for Owen; Sol Campbell (Arsenal) for Ferdinand; Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) for Rooney.

Sweden: Andreas Isaksson (Rennes), Teddy Lucic (Hacken), Olof Mellberg (captain, Aston Villa), Erik Edman (Rennes), Niclas Alexandersson (IFK Gothenburg), Tobias Linderoth (Copenhagen), Kim Kallstrom (Rennes), Freddie Ljungberg (Arsenal), Mattias Jonson (Djurgarden), Henrik Larsson (Barcelona), Marcus Allback (Copenhagen).

Subs: Christian Wilhelmsson (Anderlecht) for Jonson; Johan Elmander (Brondby) for Allback; Daniel Andersson (Malmo) for Linderoth.

The previous articles in the series are:

Jack Tresadern
Ken Brown
Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne
Bobby Moore
Martin Peters
Sir Trevor Brooking
Alan Devonshire
Alvin Martin
Stuart Pearce
David James

The Blind Hammer Column

Heaven or Hell?

Blind Hammer examines a possible unexpected downside to an England World Cup triumph

Like most West Ham supporters I have been cheering on the progress of the England team. Tuesday’s game was an agony I don’t want to repeat even if it did in the end deliver ecstasy. During the penalty shootout I decided that I definitely needed to do the washing up. Once Henderson missed his penalty I went one step further and turned my Five Live Commentary off. Luckily my wife was made of sterner stuff. She stayed in the living room, doggedly watching the Television, and shouted through the glad news of Colombia’s Penalty miss. I turned Five Live back on to hear Pickford’s save and Dier’s winning strike.

There is always a danger of counting chickens before they are hatched, or as they apparently say in Russia “sharing the Fur before the Bear is shot”.

Nevertheless the extent to which England’s half of the draw has opened up is extraordinary. I will be personally cheering Belgium on against Brazil. It is possible that England could win the World Cup with just 3 more victories against Sweden, Croatia and Belgium.

The chances are still that England will stumble at some stage but with each hard fought match they succeed in the expectations will rise exponentially. It is likely that England will never have such a cleareropportunity to win the World Cup in most of our lifetimes. Many West Ham supporters will not have been born in 1966 to witness England’s triumph.

Nevertheless a huge chunk of our pride as West Ham Supporters is built on our club’s contribution of star striker in Geoff Hurst, a hat trick hero in the final. The subtle but lethal midfield skills of Martin Peters, who also scored in the Final,, and of course above all the supreme defensive and captaincy skills of Bobby Moore.

Despite our relative trophy starvation in the intervening years this contribution to our World Cup triumph was unmatched by any other Club. Nobody could claim anything like a similar contribution.

This could potentially all change in the next 10 days. If England wins the World Cup, West Ham will not have contributed a single player. The situation for Tottenham will be very different. Not only will they have contributed England’s star striker in Harry Kane, but also Kane as a talismanic captain. It is likely that England will again rely on the Midfield skills of Tottenham’s Dele Alli. It is possible that Eric dier will feature in either midfield or defence. It seems likely that Danny Rose will enter the team to cover for Young’s injury.

In other words an England World Cup Triumph could be built upon the key contributions of not just 3 but 4 Tottenham players. Over a third of the team could be provided by our North London rivals.

So whilst we may still hope for the delirious Heaven of an England World Cup victory this would be tempered by the longer term Hell of facing the smugness of our North London Rivals. We would never hear the last of it. The Tottenham supporting media would have a field day. How the Spurs of 2018 had exceeded the West Ham contribution of 1966.

This is a price we would have to endure, be grown up about, in the interest of a once in a lifelong National opportunity. However if England do fail to achieve their World Cup pinnacle I will at least have the consolation of not having to endure any overweening Spurs self-satisfaction in the months and years ahead.

David Griffith

Dan Coker's Match Preview

West Ham's Swedish Connections

With England’s upcoming World Cup quarter-final against Sweden coming up on Saturday, here’s a look back at the Hammers’ Swedish contingent.

Niclas Alexandersson

Niclas Alexandersson was born on 29th December 1971 in Halmstad, Sweden and began his career with local club Vessigebro BK before moving to Halmstads in 1988 as a teenager. He joined IFK Goteborg in 1995, winning the Swedish title and playing in the Champions League before being signed by Ron Atkinson at Sheffield Wednesday in 1997. The Owls were relegated in 2000 (although Alexandersson was voted Player of the Year by the supporters) and Everton manager Walter Smith swooped to sign the winger for a fee of £2.2m. He scored five goals in 66 appearances in all competitions for the Toffees before falling out of favour with new manager David Moyes.

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Trevor Brooking signed the 31-year-old Alexandersson on a short-term loan for First Division West Ham during his second stint as caretaker manager in the early part of 2003/04. Alexandersson made eight appearances for the Hammers, recording four wins, three draws and one defeat. He made his debut as a substitute in a 1-0 home win over Reading on 13th September 2003. His final game, a 2-2 home draw with Burnley on 18th October 2003, also proved to be the end of Brooking’s tenure with newly-appointed Alan Pardew waiting in the wings to take over. Pardew was keen to extend the loan but Alexandersson decided to return to Merseyside for personal reasons. He couldn’t force his way back into the first team at Goodison Park however and he returned to IFK Goteborg on a free transfer in January 2004. He retired in 2008 but made a brief return for the same club in 2009.

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Alexandersson also received 109 caps for Sweden, scoring seven goals. He was a member of the Swedish squad at Euro 2000 and Euro 2008, as well as at two World Cups in 2002 and 2006. He opened his nation’s account in the 2002 World Cup, scoring the equaliser for the Swedes in their 1-1 draw with England in Saitama. Now 46, Alexandersson has worked on a project which combines education and football in Gothenburg.

Freddie Ljungberg

Freddie Ljungberg was born on 16th April 1977 in Vittsjo, Sweden. The Ljungbergs moved to Halmstad when Freddie was five; he would later attend Sannarpsgymnasiet, the same school the aforementioned Niclas Alexandersson attended. Ljungberg began his career with local club Halmstads in 1994 at the age of 17, winning the Swedish Cup in 1995 and the Swedish league title in 1997. He moved to Arsenal in 1998 for £3m and scored 71 goals in 313 appearances in all competitions for the Gunners before moving across London to West Ham United.

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Alan Curbishley signed the 30-year-old Ljungberg on a four-year deal for a fee approaching £3m, although then-chairman Eggert Magnusson negotiated the fee and Ljungberg’s contract. Ljungberg made 28 appearances for the Hammers, making his debut as captain in a 2-0 home defeat to Manchester City on 11th August 2007. He scored his first goal for the club on 9th February 2008 in a 1-1 home draw with Birmingham, with his second and final goal for the Hammers coming in a 2-1 defeat at Sunderland on 29th March 2008. His final game was a 2-2 home draw with Newcastle on 26th April 2008, a game which saw him break his ribs when Magpies defender Steven Taylor landed on him accidentally.

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Ljungberg won 75 caps for Sweden, scoring 14 goals. He was a member of the Swedish squad at Euro 2004 and Euro 2008, as well as at two World Cups in 2002 and 2006. After Euro 2008, Ljungberg agreed to terminate his West Ham contract just a year into his four-year deal for a sum of £6m. Ljungberg stated, "I gave my all at West Ham and enjoyed my time there but the decision is the best for the both of us. Now, I will take my time to consider my football future”. His two goals for the Irons can be seen in my video below.

Ljungberg signed for Seattle Sounders in 2009 and joined Chicago Fire a year later. He signed for Celtic in 2011 before moving to Japan later that year to join Shimizu S-Pulse. He announced his retirement from football in August 2012 but announced a comeback in July 2014, signing for Mumbai City to promote the launch of the Indian Super League. He played just four matches before moving back to London where he became coach of Arsenal’s Under-15s in July 2016. He was named assistant manager of Wolfsburg’s first team in February 2017 but left the club six months later. Now 41, Ljungberg is back at Arsenal as the club’s Under-23 coach.

The Blind Hammer Column

Whither Snodgrass?

Blind Hammer evaluates Snodgrass.

Robert Snodgrass argues he did not have a fair chance at West Ham. Despite West Ham inmvesting investing a significant transfer fee, He claims he was prevented from playing in his strongest position. He was mystified to learn he was intended as a Payet replacement.

Snodgrass found he was largely deployed on the left rather than in his preferred role on the right. This hindered his West Ham performance. However it is striking that, reflecting on his career as a whole, it seems that only at West Ham that he has failed.

His success at Hull and other clubs were built upon his proficiency on creating assists and goals from the right. This record in assists motivated his original recruitment. He replicated this success in his Championship stint at Villa.

I do not recall West Ham ever deploying Snodgrass in his preferred role. It was not surprising that he was off loaded to Villa. What was surprising was that once at Villa he suffered the bizarre derogatory comments of Brady and Sullivan. Even if Brady and Sullivan did share negative views, it surely did nothing to enhance his transfer value.

As last season’s panned out, with Antonio’s loss of form, injuries and disciplinary travails, Snodgrass may well have proved a useful option. Moyes was reportedly interested in an early return but the loan terms did not allow this.

So Pellegrini will finally have the option to run the rule over Snodgrass. What is in Snodgrass’s favour is his proven record in delivering goals and assists. He also has skills at delivering set pieces. We are also depleted in midfield creativity due to Lanzini’s career threatening injury.

Pellegrini’s assessment will be affected by 2 main, longer terms, factors which could count against the Scot. Firstly Pellegrini’s desire to recruit further midfield talent is widely known. The second is that messages are emerging that the priority now is for pace to be introduced all over a new athletic West Ham. Snodgrass does not fit this pace profile.

Yet Pellegrini will need squad depth as well as quality. An exciting first 11 will always be vulnerable to injury. Snodgrass may be the quality needed to tackle lower league opposition in early rounds of both the League and FA Cup. Snodgrass is also that rare commodity, a proven performer at Premiership Level, even if he has not shown this at West Ham yet. There is a risk with all recruitment, the risk for Snodgrass would not be that great.

Snodgrass’s eventual squad replacement is likely to emerge with the developing talents of Nathan Holland. Yet Holland has already shown vulnerability to injury. Snodgrass has vast experience and could provide a useful mentoring role for Holland. He could provide a steadier role model than the more erratic example of Antonio. If Snodgrass can help develop Holland’s game awareness he may justify his retention on these grounds alone.
David Griffith

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