Lineup Prediction

Lineup Prediction: Sunderland v West Ham

If you’re reading this on your way to the Stadium of Light, so join in a chant on the five minute mark. West Ham supporters are being encouraged to sing “Bradley Lowery’s Claret & Blue Army”. Bradley is the little boy who Jermain Defoe has befriended. He’s got cancer and there’s a fundraising campaign to help him get specialist treatment unavailable in this country. More details on Claret & Hugh

Subs: Adrian, Rice, Cresswell, Calleri, Snodgrass, Fletcher, Nordtveit

If Harry Redknapp were West Ham’s manager today he’d be complaining about being down to the bare bones. Wide midfield is the only area where the team doesn’t pick itself because of injury or suspension.

In defence Sam Byram has recovered from his ankle injury and Aaron Cresswell is fit again, although I suspect he wil find it difficult to dislodge the impressive Arthur Masuaku. Indeed, it would unfair if he did.

Up front mystery surrounds Diafra Sakho. Despite being passed fit to play, he hasn’t travelled with the team. Quite bizarre as I suspect he may have got a start. Hopefully he’s not up to his old tricks.

In midfield Edimilson Fernandes will get a well deserved start alongside Kouyate as Mark Noble starts a two game suspension. Fernandes has impressed hugely in the games he has played in and deserves his chance. He’s one of those players who, once in the side, may be very difficult to dislodge. Bilic has already said that they have big plans for him next season.

Assuming Andy Carroll starts up front, which in itself is always a big assumption (!), it’s two from three with Ayew, Snodgrass and Feghouli vying for a place in the eleven. I predict Snodgrass may be the one to lose out.

Youngster Declan Rice travels with the squad as cover in central defence. he’s unlikely to start, but you never know.

Three points today and we reach 39 points and will probably climb back into the top half. We have some very tricky games coming up, so getting something out of this game is a must. Sunderland haven’t won for gazillions of games. But it would be just our luck if they turned us over today, wouldn’t it?

A lot of eyes will be on the performance of Sunderland central defender Kone. He is being linked with a transfer to us in the summer. My question is this: why on earth would be interested in a defender from a relegated team, when it has already shipped 56 goals. Admittedly, that’s one less than us. Similar arguments surround our apparent interest in their young keeper Jordan Pickford. It’s a funny old world.

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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Sunderland v West Ham

Blast from the past

Monday 31st March 2014 – 5 Seconds of Summer were number one with ‘She Looks So Perfect’, a jury was selected to hear a fresh inquest into the 96 deaths caused by the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and Captain America: The Winter Soldier was in UK cinemas as West Ham United completed a 2-1 win at Sunderland.

Andy Carroll opened the scoring in the ninth minute, rising above the Sunderland defence to power home a header from a left-wing corner. The visitors doubled their lead five minutes into the second half, Carroll chesting down a high, hanging free-kick from halfway by James Tomkins into the path of Mo Diame, whose shot skidded into the corner beyond the helpless Vito Mannone via a slight deflection.

Gus Poyet introduced winger Adam Johnson and the substitute swept in a precise finish with 25 minutes remaining to set up a tense finale but the Hammers held out to leave the Black Cats second bottom and four points adrift of safety with eight games to play.

Sam Allardyce’s Hammers would go on to finish the 2013/14 Premier League season in 13th place, with the Mackems ending up one below in 14th position. Manchester City won the title, Arsenal won the FA Cup and Mark Noble was voted Hammer of the Year for the second time.

Sunderland: Vito Mannone, Phil Bardsley, Santiago Vergini, Wes Brown, John O’Shea (Craig Gardner), Marcos Alonso, Liam Bridcutt, Ki Sung-Yueng (Ignacio Scocco), Lee Cattermole (Adam Johnson), Connor Wickham, Fabio Borini.

West Ham United: Adrian, Guy Demel, James Tomkins, Winston Reid, George McCartney (Pablo Armero), Mark Noble, Matt Taylor, Stewart Downing, Kevin Nolan (Antonio Nocerino), Mo Diame (Roger Johnson), Andy Carroll.

Club Connections

A large number of players have worn the shirts of both Sunderland and West Ham United. Of the current crop, Jermain Defoe will be facing the team he began his professional career with back in 2000. A brief run-through of others who have represented both clubs is best served by dividing them by playing position:

Defenders: Danny Collins, Matt Kilgallon, Keith Coleman, Wayne Bridge, Mick McGiven, Harry Forster, Ernie England, Tal Ben Haim, George McCartney, Calum Davenport, Andy Melville, Anton Ferdinand, Clive Clarke.

Midfielders: Stewart Downing, Christian Bassila, Harry Hooper, John Foreman, Don Hutchison.

Strikers: Billy Moore, David Bellion, Lee Chapman, Brian Deane, ‘Pop’ Robson, Charlie Crossley, Jack Dowsey, Bill Robinson, David Kelly, Dave Swindlehurst, David Connolly, Jack Foster, Dick Bell.

Paolo Di Canio also played for the Hammers and managed the Black Cats, while Sam Allardyce managed both clubs and also played for Sunderland.

Today’s focus though falls on a player who played an ill-fated eighteen matches in all competitions for West Ham before experiencing better times at Sunderland – Gary Breen was born in Hendon on 12th December 1973 and started his career as a youth player with Charlton. He moved to Maidstone United where he made his first professional appearances at the age of 17 before joining Gillingham in 1992, where he worked with Glenn Roeder. Breen moved on to Peterborough in 1994 for £70,000 before signing for David Sullivan and David Gold’s Birmingham in February 1996 for £250,000. He was on the move again less than a year later, signing for Premier League Coventry in a £2.5m deal.

Breen stayed at Coventry for five years before an impressive 2002 World Cup with the Republic of Ireland, coupled with being out of contract, saw him receive an abundance of offers for pastures new. Barcelona were reportedly interested and a move was actually agreed to move to the San Siro with Inter Milan but the central defender failed a medical. Roeder, Breen’s former manager at Gillingham, subsequently brought the 28-year-old to West Ham United in the summer of 2002 on a free transfer. He made his debut in a 2-2 home draw with Arsenal on 24th August 2002 and made 13 starts in all competitions, with an extra five appearances as a substitute. Only two of these 18 appearances ended in a clean sheet and only four in wins. Perhaps his finest hour in claret and blue was playing the full 90 minutes of a 3-2 win at Chelsea on 28th September 2002 which, to this day, stands as our last win at Stamford Bridge.

Breen never really recovered from his penultimate appearance as a Hammer, a 6-0 defeat at Manchester United in the fourth round of the FA Cup on 26th January 2003. After attributing an exemplary performance and a clean sheet for the Republic of Ireland against Scotland down to “organisation”, Breen and an angry Roeder had an “expletive-ridden confrontation” when the defender returned to Chadwell Heath from international duty, with Roeder reportedly “on the receiving end”. Breen had been unhappy at being made the scapegoat for the defeat at Old Trafford and his subsequent exclusion from the team. A source close to the club was reported as saying: “Everyone knew what was going on and it got quite angry, with swear words all over the place. There was a group of young players standing outside and they heard every word. After Breen came out of the office, Roeder was very different at training. It was all ‘nice one Breeny’ and well done Gary’."

Breen would only make one more appearance for the Hammers, as a substitute in a 2-1 win at West Brom on 23rd February 2003. He would play no further part in the Hammers’ ultimately doomed attempt to remain in the top flight. He signed for his former Ireland manager Mick McCarthy at Sunderland, also newly-relegated from the Premier League. The 6’1 centre-half would return to Upton Park to secure the Championship title with the Wearsiders in late April 2005, Breen’s Black Cats recording a 2-1 win. A third relegation, having experienced the same fate previously with Coventry and the Hammers, would follow in 2006 however and Breen would again be released after 107 appearances and seven goals for Sunderland.

McCarthy, who had left Sunderland in March 2006, would sign the 32-year-old Breen for his new club Wolves later that summer. Breen would go on to captain the Molineux club before departing for Barnet in December 2008, where he was appointed player-coach – he would be named player/assistant manager the following summer. Breen, who won 63 caps and scored 7 international goals for the Republic of Ireland, left Barnet in the summer of 2010 and retired as a player. He had a spell at former club Peterborough as first-team coach under Darren Ferguson between 2013 and 2015 and now, aged 43, features on Setanta Sports and Abu Dhabi’s coverage of the Premier League. Breen also worked on BBC Radio’s Euro 2016 coverage in France last summer.


The referee on Easter Saturday will be Andre Marriner; the 46-year-old’s most recent Hammers appointment was the 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea last month, while he also took charge of Boxing Day’s 4-1 win at Swansea and the 1-1 home draw with Stoke in November. Prior to that, in August’s trip to Manchester City, he had failed to send off Sergio Aguero for an elbow on Winston Reid with the Hammers trailing 2-1 with 14 minutes remaining. The Argentine was retrospectively charged with violent conduct and suspended for three matches, a decision which did nothing to benefit West Ham. Marriner did, however, show leniency that day towards the visitors by failing to issue Arthur Masuaku with a second yellow card on more than one occasion.

Marriner has been the man in the middle for two of the Hammers’ previous visits to the Stadium of Light, those being the 2-1 defeat in March 2008 and the 2-2 draw in October 2009 – Sunderland scored a winner deep into stoppage time in the former, while Marriner sent off a player for each side in the latter (the Mackems’ Kenwyne Jones and the Irons’ Radoslav Kovac). Since we achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 the Birmingham-based official has been far from a good omen for West Ham – he has refereed fourteen of our league matches, officiating in only three wins for the Hammers, four draws and seven defeats.

Possible line-ups

Sunderland manager David Moyes could be without injured left-back Bryan Oviedo, who is likely to join Paddy McNair, Jan Kirchhoff and Duncan Watmore on the sidelines. Sebastian Larsson starts a three-match suspension. The Mackems have failed to score in their last seven games, a run stretching back to their 4-0 win at Crystal Palace on 4th February.

Slaven Bilic will be without Winston Reid, Angelo Ogbonna, Pedro Obiang, Michail Antonio and Gokhan Tore. Sam Byram is likely to start having shaken off a knock while Aaron Cresswell may be held back for the Everton game having only returned to training yesterday. Mark Noble starts a two-match suspension after picking up ten yellow cards. Andy Carroll and Jonathan Calleri will, according to Super Slav, share the minutes up front, while Diafra Sakho is pushing for an appearance too.

Possible Sunderland XI: Pickford; Jones, Denayer, Kone, Manquillo; Rodwell, Cattermole, Ndong; Defoe, Anichebe, Borini.

Possible West Ham United XI: Randolph; Byram, Fonte, Collins, Masuaku; Kouyate, Lanzini; Feghouli, Ayew, Snodgrass; Carroll.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!

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Talking Point

Kick ‘em when they’re Down – Poaching Bargains in the Summer Sales

“Armageddon” is how David Sullivan described relegation from the Premier League. The financial chasm between English football’s top two tiers has never been greater; demoted clubs currently receive £86m in parachute payments over 3 years on a front-loaded sliding scale, but miss out on a minimum of £100m per season in TV rights. Based on a three-year cycle of ‘bouncebackability’, that equates to a deficit of £214m. The gap continues to widen as the tectonic plates shift further apart.

Relegation inevitably results in ‘fire sales’ as companies look to strip out expendable assets, resource and overheads. Squads are overhauled as clubs seek to underwrite themselves in order to absorb considerable losses and work within EFL financial regulations. Relegation in 2003 decimated our squad – Defoe, David James, Carrick, Joe Cole, Sinclair, Glen Johnson, Di Canio and Kanoute all departed the Boleyn. Our ill-fated inaugural campaign under Avram Grant similarly culminated in the likes of Demba Ba and Scott Parker leaving the Club.

Many of these players moved on cut-price deals. Purchasing clubs have little incentive to act before the latter stages of the transfer window, knowing full well that selling clubs are desperate to offload. Inequality of bargaining power drives down price. Post-season vultures begin to circle in gleeful anticipation of feasting upon the charred remains of another Premier League casualty. Attractive propositions can be readily enticed with a return to the Promised Land. Take Newcastle for example: having been relegated at the end of last season, the following players became available – Krul, Townsend, Coloccini, Cissé, Wijnaldum, Cabella, Janmaat, Sissoko, Tioté, Thauvin and Rivière. Not a bad carcass to pick the bones out of there! Opportunity knocks again this summer and the Hammers must be ready to pounce. Relegated players can meet a variety of business and sporting needs; purchase to plug gaps, develop, upsell or enhance our current squad.

For me, it’s now 3 from 4 for relegation; Sunderland will be joined by Middlesbrough, Swansea and/or Hull City. Whilst I’m not suggesting we should recruit all (or even any) of the following players, I’m curious to consider how we might bolster our ranks by targeting trapdoor teams:

Relegation XI 2016/17

GK: Lukasz Fabianski – The Swansea shot-stopper has always impressed me and, at 31 years of age, still has several good seasons ahead of him. Whilst Jordan Pickford also deserves a mention, we need a keeper to hit the ground running and truly replace Rob Green. There will also be greater competition for Pickford’s signature.

RB: Kyle Naughton – Our relegation candidates lack a stand-out right back. Middlesbrough’s Fabio is a liability and the Tigers’ Elmohamady is a winger by trade who lacks defensive discipline. From the options available in the basement battle, I’d be tempted to take a punt on former Spurs man Naughton. However, the reality is that we need to invest heartily to secure an accomplished PL performer to tackle this problem position properly.

CB: Alfie Mawson – At just 23 years of age, this lad has a bright future. Quick, reads the game well despite his inexperience, good in the air and has an eye for goal with 4 strikes already in just 21 Swansea appearances.

CB: Lamine Koné – Built like the proverbial brickhouse, the Ivory Coast international brings sheer physicality and athleticism to the backline. With a tad more focus and application, he could be a colossal centre half. At 28, the Black Cats’ defender looks a shrewd purchase. I would have included Ben Gibson, but we won’t beat other bidders for the Borough boy’s services.

LB: Andrew Robertson – The marauding fullback has done enough in his 2 appearances against us alone to warrant inclusion. Loves to get forward but has added maturity and leadership to his game. Martin Olsson gets a nod, but I’d plump for the young Scot to team-up with his international colleague down our left flank.

RM: Luciano Narsingh – I watch a lot of Dutch football and this boy is a tricky customer. At his best in transition and clinical on the counter attack, he would suit our style of play, particularly away from home. Players from the Edervisie take time to settle whilst they get to grips with the frenetic pace and physicality of the league. A modicum of faith would reap rewards on this occasion.

CDM: Jan Kirchhoff – A class act when fit (which raises justifiable question marks), the former Mainz and Bayern Munich man is adept at breaking up play and forging intelligent passes between the lines. A slick and silky operator who strikes the right balance between skill and pragmatism.

CAM: Gylfi Sigurdsson – All. Day. Long. This guy has vision, guile and technique. Not to mention he chalks up goals and assists for fun. A go-to-guy for fantasy football fans everywhere, a goal-scoring central midfielder is exactly what we require if Slaven persists with playing one up top. Gastón Ramírez was considered, but the temperamental and nomadic midfielder simply cannot compete with the Icelandic technician.

LM: Kamil Grosicki – Full of technique and dribbling ability, the diminutive Pole has more twists and turns than a series of Broadchurch. Adama Traoré gets an honourable mention, but is a winger of the headless chicken variety, a la Yannick Bolasie. Application is a given, but output is key.

ST: Jermain Defoe – The former Hammer simply had to be included. With 14 goals in a struggling Sunderland side, it is embarrassing to consider where the Mackems would be without him. The prolific forward has a relegation release clause, so expect widespread clamour for his services. I have a hunch that Spurs will come calling to bolster their stable of strikers. Wouldn’t it be great if ‘Judas’ finally restored the balance and chose us over them?

ST: Fernando Llorente – Slim pickings in the forward department amongst our relegation fodder. The Swansea target man’s 11 league goals this season represent a healthy return. The Spanish international has also forged a decent partnership with Sigurdsson. Indeed, the Swans have missed Llorente dearly in recent weeks as their form has tailed-off alarmingly. Abel Hernández and Álvaro Negredo were considered, whilst Borini, Mbokani and Anichebe were roundly mocked and quickly consigned to the relegation scrapheap.

It’s a game of opinions – what’s yours?

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Talking Point

The price of reaching the Champions League

The Daily Express ran a claimed Exclusive on Monday night claiming there was a renewed attempt by Sullivan and Gold to actively look for people with the wealth to take the club to the next stage. The report said that the two Hammers supremos have been looking to bring other investors into the club for over a year but plans had been put on hold this season while Slaven Bilic’s team dropped towards the Premier League relegation zone. They stated that Sullivan and Gold want to recoup some of their investment in the club, but both will want to keep their places on the board in the future if any deal is done. Last summer the duo rejected a reported £650million takeover bid for the club from energy drinks giants, Red Bull, although a bid was later denied by the firm. A valuation of the club last year put a price on West Ham of around £200m, although Sullivan believed the move to the London Stadium meant the club was worth nearer £400m.

For me this report was old news, Sullivan and Gold have been openly looking for wealthy West Ham fans to invest in the club since 2010 while retaining the majority of shares in the Hammers. Terry Brown and the Harris Family invested £4m in return for 3.8% of the shares in 2010 but there has been no serious interest since to share the financial burden of investing in the club.

What did surprise me what the knee jerk reaction on the official website yesterday disclaiming the ‘fake news’

Speaking to the official website Sullivan said: “It is no secret that both David Gold and I see our long-term futures as custodians of West Ham United.

“We have never once viewed West Ham United as a short term project and plan to be here for many, many years, bringing further progress to the Club on and off the pitch, and success to our loyal supporters. It disappoints me to see an article published that is so utterly false.”

The Statement got me to look back what was previously said by the owners on the subject:

In January 2010 Sullivan set out his stall on the day of takeover by saying “We have a seven-year plan to get them into the Champions League and turn them into a big club and over the seven-year period we do plan to spend a lot of money, The short-term plan is all about survival and getting behind the team. It is also about getting behind the manager.”

Gold told in the Daily Mirror in 2012: "You have to be a billionaire to make a major difference and there aren’t many of them about. Of course, I’d welcome a Father Christmas. But then you look and discover that it might not be the real Father Christmas. And you know why? Because there isn’t a real Father Christmas. He doesn’t exist.

“In an ideal world, though, if you ask what I’d like to see happen, I would like a very wealthy person to come and join us.David and myself are wealthy by normal standards, but not by football standards.We would be reluctant to sell the whole football club because we feel part of it. It’s taken us a lifetime to earn enough money to return to our roots and we won’t give that up lightly. We’re doing our best but it would be that much easier if there were three of us.”

Gold added: “We’re not going to be a top-four club straightaway. But one day it’s possible, if there is a super-wealthy West Ham fan who wants to come and join the club, that could change things for us. Now we have to do the best we can within the areas of our ability.To grow the club, fingers crossed to get to the Olympic Stadium would change our whole image, would help us attract better players. But it all boils down to income and we have to generate more income.”

In December 2014 Sullivan said: “I’d love someone to come in and buy 20 percent & the money would not go to us, it would go to the club.”

In 2015 Sullivan told the Sunday Times “Long-term, there’s no reason we can’t be one of England’s leading six clubs, pushing for the Champions League. You have to dream. Otherwise what’s the point of being an owner or supporter? And we are both owners and supporters. We have no desire to sell West Ham. We hope to pass it to our kids and grandkids. While the deal is confidential if we sell before 10 years most of the money would go to the government. We’re not here for a quick buck.”

At the end of last year, the message from Sullivan was: “I want to reiterate that we, the current owners, have no desire to sell the club unless it is to somebody like the King of Saudi Arabia who can take it to a level we cannot ourselves hope to reach.”

In the Sunday Times Rich List of 2016 David Sullivan was valued at a net worth of £1 billion of which £200m was his share of West Ham. Most of his wealth is tied up in properties but he owns the Sunday Sport, race horses and retains businesses involved in publishing, sex shops, material aids and phone lines. David Gold is claimed to be worth £300m. His 35% of West Ham is valued around £140m while the remainder of his net worth is related to Gold International Group which owns Ann Summers and Knickerbox but also owns Gold Aviation and various property investments. It has a turnover £112m but the profit under £1m per annum.

Karren Brady has a net worth £85m but is not listed as a current share owner of West Ham despite her claiming in interviews she has some shares.

Terry Brown made £33.4m when he sold his West Ham shares but has probably increased his net worth since selling out to the Icelandic’s.

The Harris family are thought to be worth around £150m after their sale of the Alba electronics firm.

The chances of a Middle East billionaire buying the Hammers seem remote despite rumours of the Qatar Investment Authority wanting a premier League outfit.

Here is my suggestion for what it is worth, Gold and Sullivan could sell 35.2% of their shares for £140m valuing the club at £400m. The Icelandic’s could also sell their remaining 10% for £40m. Gold and Sullivan could use £40m to repay the majority of the shareholder then re-invest £100m into the club. The new wealthy investor could invest £96m in cash with Brown/Harris Family throwing in another £4m.

West Ham would be debt free with £200m war chest and Gold and Sullivan would retain overall control with 51% of the shares.

The challenge comes finding a wealthy individual prepared to part with £276m in cash!

Talking Point

What Price Loyalty?

Guest Post by Paul Hickin

The term “loyalty” is thrown about as an intrinsic good. Some fans could have the L word tattooed onto their forehead such is its importance. And if us fans don’t think someone possesses – Defoe, Ince, Payet or whoever – rightly or wrongly, they are often cast out in a medieval-like boo-hiss. It seems so relevant to West Ham right now. Not only because of the aforementioned players and whether Mark Noble can criticize ‘us fans’ , but because of the other side of the coin.

What about our loyalty? Should we show loyalty to Slav after the team’s recent slide? Should we show it to Mark given his poor season? Or does the team come first always? The practical side would debate whether Slav is good enough, pure and simple. Or Mark. But this isn’t about whether we trust Slav/Mark but whether we should be loyal to them and to what extent? Should our loyalty to these mean they get a little more leeway?

Remember the days when managers actually went down with the clubs only to get them promoted the following season again? Now there is so much money in the premier league that owners can ill afford the luxury of loyalty. But what about you? Surely we can’t have it both ways: players/managers need to have loyalty but a wobbly season and out you go!

Now for some of us, football is a job and players should maximize their careers. Why should they show loyalty at all? Maybe only respect is needed and moving on in the right way. As arguably Slav did when he left us. Or Tomkins did when he wanted regular football at centre back. Or if the club decides to cash in on a player (for the greater good hopefully). But for those fans who demand loyalty, how much do you expect to provide in return?

Surely being “loyal” to West Ham doesn’t count as that is all part of having skin in the game. If you decided to switch clubs rather than be loyal to the Hammers, then your footballing enjoyment would be superficial and futile, albeit rather successful. But success is so transient and those fans seeking that in its pure form are surely missing the point and that will only lead to misery. The only way your loyalty is measurable is how much you give to those in the club that deserve it, no? Or does our loyalty to the (symbolic idea of the) club trump our loyalty to certain individuals?

On the flipside, Slav could be suffering from his loyalty to Payet (building his team around him etc), to Noble, to Cresswell, et al this season. In the same way Ranieri suffered at Leicester and was not afforded the same such loyalty by the owners who pressed the panic button and which seems to have worked out well at least for this season. Do the Leicester fans feel dirty but happy that the Tinkerman is gone or just relieved that results have turned.

As the voices grow louder among a section of the fans for Slav to go, what is the price, cost and value of loyalty? For me, loyalty goes both ways and Slav deserves the chance to build his team despite mistakes he has made, not only because a huge of host of challenges he has had to face this season which weren’t his doing, but because loyalty to those who are part of the West Ham family is “the West Ham way”.

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