The GoatyGav Column

Tidy In The Middle With Issues Up Top And At The Back

No! Don’t worry! You haven’t wandered on to a Katie Price blog site. I’ll be sticking with West Ham for the duration this morning.

Ahead of the game against Brighton I felt quite chipper. The club had signed Jarrod Bowen at the eleventh hour the evening before. Pre match he made an appearance in front of the crowd to a warm reception. I couldn’t make out the chants directed towards him, from below us in 114, but I’m sure we’ll find a good one for him before too long. Someone whose name sounds like Jeroboam really is duty bound to have us cracking open the Champagne after all. Perhaps a theme there? More of that later on.

It was the other signing, however, that delivered on the day. Tomas Soucek is the final piece in our midfield jigsaw – the one who will bring balance to the force that sits between our defence and attack (bet you weren’t expecting Jordan AND Star Wars references in the same article were you?). For me a combative central midfielder was the biggest element missing from the squad. With Rice, Noble and Soucek in the middle, all of a sudden, it’s looking competitive, harmonised and energetic. The opposition were finding less time and became ineffective as they were closed down and challenged quicker. Many may attribute our first half dominance to Michail Antonio on Saturday but that was just part of the reason we went in well ahead at the break. Frankly it could, and should, have been more at half time and the game made out of sight. How on earth the ball didn’t end up in the back of the net, from a Mark Noble free kick with four West Ham attackers, and no defenders, in front of Matt Ryan? It was nearly as frustrating as the referee’s hand ball decision that VAR overturned for Brighton’s equaliser. I was indignant at the injustice of that decision. From our angle we clearly saw the arm away from Murray’s body and the ball strike it. Plain as day. Interestingly VAR had nothing to say about Glenn Murray blatantly holding Fabianski when the corner was taken for Brighton’s first.

I was a big supporter of VAR at the start of this season. I’m now of the opinion that it’s lost all credibility due to the poor judgment of those sitting at Stockley Park and the method of the technology usage. Insofar as Saturday was concerned, however, the third Brighton goal was the ideal opportunity for the pitch-side monitor to be used by the referee and, once again, it was ignored. Rather than make things fairer and helping the officials on the pitch to make the right decisions it’s failing miserably.

The fact that Brighton were still in it coming out for the second half owed a lot to the lack of clinical finishing by West Ham. The fact that the game ended up three all, apart from VAR, owed a lot more to our defensive frailties. From where we were sat Snodders’ second, and our third, looked an absolute worldie. The replay showed a deflection that we did not originally see however the number eleven’s body shape, and strike, were sublime.

Between the two the more worrying aspect lies in attack, than defence, for me. The reason for my view is that, with Super Fabianski between the sticks again, I believe confidence will return at the back whereas serious questions have arisen about whether we are going to be able to get the best out of Seb Haller or not. I genuinely hope that we can but, right now, he’s a shadow of the player who joined us from Frankfurt. Will he get a strike partner in Bowen without upsetting the balance of the side too much? Moyes has hinted that Bowen won’t be thrown in rather that he’ll have a managed introduction to the Premier League in the same way that many of his players, like Lescott and Baines, did at Everton. How’s it all going to work? No doubt we’ll find out in the coming weeks.

Another result to put behind us this weekend was the Ironesses eight-nil loss to Chelsea. The top three in the division are in a league of their own so the only thing for our ladies to do is to take learning from the match, watched by an attendance of just over three thousand three hundred, and prepare as well as possible for the visit of Manchester City next Sunday. Good luck to the ladies for that one

Loan watch is fast becoming a full time occupation at West Ham. At 5.00 last night the club announced Anthony Scully has been loaned to Lincoln City to add to Conor Coventry, Nathan Holland, Nathan Trott, Aji Alese and Dan Kemp. Friday night may see Scully make his debut for the Imps in a baptism of fire against league leaders Rotherham. Good luck to him. Hope he takes his amazing scoring run to League One.

Despite losing several key players it’s not all bad news for Dan Halajko’s available squad. Xande Silva and Mesaque Dju both returned, to great effect, from long term spells out. Their introduction helped the under twenty threes turn around a two one losing score line to a four two win. The three second half goals came on the eightieth, eighty second and eighty fourth minutes to secure the win against bottom of the table Sunderland. The run in to the end of the season looks a tough one. Five out of the six remaining league games are against top seven clubs with Manchester United snapping at their heels just two points below the Hammers’ youth.

So to sign off with some lyrics this week. “Jarrod Bowen banging goals in, Jeraboam corks a’ flyin’, in a Champagne Supernova, A Champagne Supernova in the Bowl!”


Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

Hammers In Relegation Zone After Throwing 2 Goal Lead

The HamburgHammer Column

All hands to the pump - can the West Ham ship be saved from sinking ?

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The Brighton game was a kick in the guts, make no mistake about it. Holding a two goal lead late in the game and still not coming away with three points is hard to take.
As we all know, being a West Ham fan is a test of character, time and time again. This game was one of those character-building instances, with potentially massive ramifications for our club at the end of the season.

I needed cheering up before starting to type out the column on Sunday, so I followed the progress of the U23s at the away game against their Sunderland counterparts via my betting account game tracker, basically a boring old stats screen showing which team is currently attacking, shots on goal, possession of the ball and so on.

Sunderland were dead last in the table and the West Ham lads of course chasing promotion, albeit without the luxury of counting on budding prospects like Holland, Coventry, Powell and Kemp for the rest of the season.
But other guys were back in contention, like Xande Silva and Mesaque Dju.
So I expected a glorious win to give me a West Ham related lift. Easy, tiger!

It didn’t look good for the first 80 minutes as Sunderland had other ideas and somehow managed to go into an unlikely 2:1 lead, courtesy of a brace scored by their striker Joe Hugill (isn’t it ironic ? Actually, I have no idea if the lad is related to our own Jordan “Can’t wait to walk out here with all the bubbles” Hugill, but I couldn’t help but notice that name).

Then West Ham equalised ten minutes from time and went on to romp to a 4:2 victory in the course of just five frantic minutes of clinical efficiency. Including goals from our substitutes Silva and Dju. That’s how you do it! Three crucial points in the bag in the race for promotion, goal difference improved further, giving us an edge over promotion rivals Manchester United.
One tiny step closer to the next level…

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So, my mood finally was good enough to sit down at my keyboard and begin gathering my thoughts about our first team. Snatching a draw against Brighton from the jaws of victory is not something to get ecstatic about. We needed that win desperately. For confidence more than anything. We didn’t win a point. We lost two.

19 points lost this season from winning positions. That’s not the way to stay in the Premier League.

We neatly giftwrapped those goals for Brighton and had two massive defensive brainfarts to thank for our downfall.

But, just for a change, I will try to focus on some positives in my column today. Not easy for me to do at all, but try I shall. All the other business of owners, training facilities, net spend and apologetic statements by Sky Sports will take care of themselves anyway.

Let’s see then, shall we, what positives we still have going for our fight against relegation. And there still are some that might just about be enough to see us through…

Those brainfarts we suffered on Saturday are what they are, they happen occasionally, even to decent players, but they are few and far between in professional football.

Only at West Ham two of these could happen in quick succession in the same bloody game. But even at West Ham they are unlikely to happen much more often this season. I would hope so at least.

Fabianski will probably punch a clearance onto a teammate’s back like this once every 80 games, so that’s out of the way now. Ogbonna and Diop will have learned their lesson as well, maybe continue to work on similar situations in training, so next time a ball bounces around that dangerously close to our own penalty box, one of them will unceremoniously belt that ball into Row Z++ of the Lower Tier. Or into the Upper Tier, but I’m not sure it’s possible even for a PL player to kick a ball that far…

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What else ? Ah, yes, Tomas Soucek had his debut, freshly arrived in the most recent transfer window. Our new midfield chief of staff who I prefer to call Sous Chef, but that’s just me being silly and interested in good food…LOL

Like others on here I was really impressed with his first game. Considering he can’t have been 100% match fit due to the winter break in the Czech Republic, he showed everything I want from a good midfielder: Graft, constant running, an eye for a pass and the desire to help his team. He also was a leading figure on and off the pitch at Slavia apparently and you can never have enough leaders in your side when your back’s against a relegation wall.

When he joined the goal celebrations he looked like a seasoned old West Ham stalwart who was in the middle of his 143rd game at the club, not his first. To see him celebrate with Snodgrass was like watching two good mates who had known each other for ages when they had probably just been introduced 48 hours earlier.

Soucek is still young, a good all-around player, highly spoken off in his country and his previous club Slavia Prague. And he is bringing some fresh impetus, unstained yet of any negativity surrounding our club at the moment.
Apparently his biggest strength is his positional awareness, so he will rarely be caught off-guard which should mean our midfield won’t get overrun quite as easily and often as before.

My hope is that his arrival, drive and enthusiasm will rub off on his teammates (rather than the other way around) and he can help make all his teammates perform and play better in the process, whoever David Moyes may choose to pick in the remaining games. We need players running, tackling and playing their hearts out. Only then do we stand a chance to be a PL team in August.

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The same very much goes for Jarrod Bowen who arrived on Deadline Day from Hull. YouTube highlight reels can be misleading, but he certainly looks like a very useful attacking player, one of the most effective at Championship level, having his feet in plenty of goals, scoring a lot, assisting quite a few.
If he turns out to be a slightly healthier and more robust version of Antonio we have another weapon in our armoury as we certainly cannot expect Antonio to feature in every game from now until the end of the season, unfortunately, as Antonio is pretty much our personified “Get out of jail free“ card.
The more he plays for us, the better our chances of winning.

More positives ? Well, we are in the bottom three at this point and we have the two worst imaginable games coming up next, Man City and Liverpool away. Two games that the entire world, the football gods and their goldfish expect us to lose. Heavily at that.

So, two massive footballing lessons on the way there, with 5 goals conceded in each one ? Possibly, but not necessarily. For me, those two games are free hits. Go out there, try to frustrate them, nick whatever you can get in terms of goals or points. We have a tendency to raise our game against the big boys on occasion. Both City and Liverpool may consider those games as easy pickings, so they may rest some of their top players, maybe putting them on the bench.

And our new boys, Soucek and Bowen, will cherish the opportunity to play in these games against two of the top club sides on the planet. No way will they approach these fixtures as lost causes before a ball has been kicked. Again, I’m counting on their enthusiasm and fresh impetus to shine through and give our team a shot in the arm. We all know football is not being played on paper.

Liverpool and City are massive favourites to wipe the floor with us, on paper. But maybe, on the pitch, they will have a brainfart or two of their own to work in our favour. Maybe they have a really bad day at the office and we a surprisingly good one. Silly ? Maybe. But what reason would I have left to still watch those games if I wasn’t clinging on some faint and tiny hope at least ?

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Oh, I have more positives! Felipe Anderson should return to the fold in the not too distant future, adding some much needed pace and creativity to our play.
And if you look at the table there are more than just three teams involved in this very relegation scrap. Whereas the battle for the title is pretty much decided already, the fight against the drop features six or seven teams.
And all of them have very difficult games coming up in their respective fixture calendars.

They will also take some points off each other in certain fixtures.
Very difficult for any of the teams in the bottom 6 or 7 to put winning runs together. This will go right down to the wire.

If you look at their squads they don’t have better players at their disposal than us, they are simply getting more out of these players at this point, but that can easily change. Confidence is key. It’s probably fairly low for our team right now, but again, it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Bottom line: We have to make sure that we’re better than three other teams this season, no more, no less. It’ll not be easy, but it can still be done.
West Ham have looked atrocious so far this season, in quite a lot of games unfortunately.

But so have Norwich, Villa, Watford and Bournemouth. Palace and Brighton too are far from safe yet.

It’s frustrating, of course, that at this point we cannot simply look forward to our games as opportunities to watch beautiful football or guaranteed wins. But at least the players now have a clearly defined aim and task in front of them:

To run, sweat and fight in order to keep West Ham in the top flight.

It’s not quite the aim we envisioned at the start of the season, but, like it or not, we now need to navigate this ship called West Ham around those rocks and shallows of another relegation scrap and somehow reach dry land.

But it requires the crew of our vessel to really work their socks off at the pump to get all that bloody saltwater out of the boat that threatens to sink our ship. Players need to stand up and be counted. Go the extra mile. Players need to get this club out of the relegation zone and keep it outside the relegation zone.

Do it for good old-fashioned pride. Do it for the shirt. Do it for West Ham.

Do it to make yourself a transfer target for bigger or better clubs in the summer, if need be.

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Or maybe just do it for the myriads of fans who still want West Ham to win every game, those who go to the stadium or watch the Hammers on the telly from afar. This club is still loved by hundreds of thousands of supporters all over the globe, breathing and bleeding claret and blue.

And there is a new generation of fans growing up as you’re reading this, blowing bubbles, dreaming dreams, learning to be claret&blue and West Ham till I die.

For kids today this may entail buckets of popcorn, overpriced bags of pick’n’mix and watching the team play in a big bowl that was built for athletics events, but still these kids join their dads, moms, uncles, aunts or grandparents at the football and go to the games, watching their beloved Hammers. Join the others in singing Bubbles. And probably end up crying bitter tears of disappointment at the final whistle whenever we lose.

If not for us old moaning gits, make those kids proud to be West Ham.
Give them something to cheer. Something to hurl back in the faces of their smug mates at school who support Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester United.
The best way to do that is to show heart, play good football and win some games. Staying up will then be a realistic (first) target.

Afterwards we can worry about other, bigger things again. About progress, development and next level. But we simply cannot afford to go down.

So, in that spirit:

Dear West Ham team, you all know how to play football, every single one of you, otherwise you wouldn’t have made it this far. You are in the PL for a reason. Start showing the fans (and the pundits) you deserve to be PL players and you will get all the support from the West Ham fans you could ever wish for.


Talking Point

West Ham need The Mamba mentality

Before discussing anything sport and or West Ham related, I would like to send my deepest condolences to the 9 people who were tragically killed in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles last Sunday. Two of the 9 in the helicopter that crashed were Kobe Bryant the legendary basketball player and his 13 year old daughter called Gianna. People die every day but the death of such a prominent figure not only in basketball but in sport as a whole really resonated with me, and made me consider things in a different way.

I cannot claim to have grown up an avid basketball fan, it is football and West Ham that consumed my childhood and now adult life. However at University I joined the men’s basketball team, not as a player just as a social member I’d like to add! I began to watch more basketball and learn more about the players and the sport, and Kobe Bryant was clearly a legend of the game who transcended the sport as people who have no interest in basketball probably had heard this man’s name.

This past weekend has been interesting for me, apart from the sadness of learning about Bryant’s death on Sunday, on Saturday I was at the London Stadium to watch us exit the 4th round of the FA Cup at the hands of Slaven Bilic’s Baggies. As we have been for the vast majority of this season, we were extremely poor. A combination of injuries, a lack of confidence and quality is really costing us and could see us be relegated which would not be surprising given the mismanagement of the club from the top to the bottom. Balbuena was misplacing incredibly simple passes and looks devoid of confidence, Zabaleta is a great pro but why was he given a contract extension? These are two examples in the defence alone that are symbolic of the embarrassment that is West Ham at the moment.

The Sullivan and Gold era has been discussed a lot recently given it’s been 10 years since they took over, and I’m sure most West Ham fans are pleased to see more media outlets discuss the shambolic lack of investment in the training ground and lack of scouting and recruitment system. There are league 1 teams with better training facilities than us, the reports of the club employing one scout are laughable but not at all surprising. We all know to stand a chance of avoiding the drop this season, we need the current players to roll their sleeves up and dig in but also at least one player to arrive before the January deadline. I’m sat here trying to be positive and if you look at most of my articles, I usually find something but it is very bleak at the moment and the fans do not deserve it.

Too many players have regressed or aren’t good enough at this football club. I sat in my seat on Saturday and at half time said to my brother and Dad something along the lines of ‘how the f**k did Carlos Sanchez become a professional footballer?’ No other Premier League team would include Sanchez in a squad, let alone start him in games but because we’ve sold so many players and the board have dithered in the market for so long, our central midfield options are pathetic. Lanzini looks a shadow of his former self, and the fact Fornals continues to be subbed by Moyes instead of the Argentinian worries me. To sum up my scrambled thoughts, we have a great keeper who’s sadly been injured for too much of the season, and then the defence, midfield and attack includes some talented players but they look lost and I don’t know how much Moyes will benefit them/us fans.

To summarise, Kobe was known as the black Mamba and was especially known for a mamba mentality, indeed his book is titled ‘The Mamba Mentality’. On his book tour in 2016, the man himself described what it really means ‘To sum up what Mamba Mentality is, it means to be able “to constantly try to be the best version of yourself," Bryant said. It’s a constant quest to try to better today than you were yesterday.’ I think we all can learn from Bryant’s words, whether you apply that to everyday life, being kinder to friends and family and chasing your dreams, or whether you aspire to be an athlete like him. All I know is I really hope the West Ham players have seen what Kobe represented, and they work harder to try get us out of the mess we are in.

Hope everyone is well, and has a great week.

Talking Point

I've Had Enough

Looney Tunes ended with the sign off ’That’s all , folks.’. And certainly, the Brighton game was completely looney. Welcome to the looney bin Soucek and Bowen. If anybody thinks they will make a difference, you must believe Alice in Wonderland is non fiction.

I have spent my last week watching three disasters. West Brom 2nd eleven – disgraceful Liverpool- inevitable and Brighton – a farce in two acts.

And yes, I do blame Moyes. He should have brought on Balbuena at 3-1, gone to a back three and shut up shop, especially as he knew some players weren’t fressh, having played Liverpool a few days previously. Instead, we have the same tactics as Pellegrini, as well as the same poor substitution decisions

Just when we had found a potentially great player in Ngakia, he was not even on the bench. And just when Fornals had appeared to be coming good, he was dropped to become a pointless 85 minute substitute.

We are just like the ArcelorMittal Orbit, a name which doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. I always regarded it as an absolute monstrosity, but probably appropriate as an adjunct to the London Stadium, itself a concrete bowl.

It is described as a looping structure and has been evoked (by blind people) as a byword for design innovation and playful invention. Now, I regard it as a work of genius. 60% of the structure is made from recycled materials such as washing machines and used cars.

This is entirely appropriate as it describes exactly the West Ham team, with its crocks, easily injured , loanees and out of contract. Sir Anish Kapoor is, therefore, a great visionary.

Not only that, its spiral structure and twists and turns describes perfectly the agony of being a West Ham fan. It would be appropriate to rename the structure as ‘The David Sullivan Tower’.

It would take 954 cans stacked end to end to match the height of the structure. If you used a soft drink, that would cost you about £3000 based on the prices charged at the stalls outside the stadium.

Which brings me onto another subject. I try to avoid the food at the stadium. We all know it is rubbish and a bit of a rip off. But what I really object to is being charged £7.50 for an hamburger (is it an hamburger or a hamburger?) and then not getting any onions. Come on. Fairs, fair. I took a bite and realised what was going on. I stood there and weighed up whether it was worth complaining. I even walked up to another stall, which displayed a sign ‘gourmet burgers’ and found out the gourmet bit meant you got onions with your burger.

You’ve got to weigh up in life whether complaining is worth the aggravation. We, British, are terrible at it. The French are really good at it and I smelt the teargas on a recent trip to Paris, where the police gave a lesson in what happens when you complain (there was a march about pension reform).

You would have heard about the Gilets Jaunes, the yellow jackets. This would be a good way to protest at West Ham. We should all wear fluorescent claret and blue high-vis jackets with ‘I’ve had enough’, printed on the back.

And how about an anthem? Well, why not The Who’s ‘I’ve had enough’?

Don’t cry because you hunt them
Hurt them first they’ll love you
There’s a millionaire above you
And you’re under his suspicion.

I’ve had enough of dancehalls
I’ve had enough of pills
I’ve had enough of streetfights
I’ve seen my share of kills
I’m finished with the fashions
And acting like I’m tough
I’m bored with hate and passion
I’ve had enough of trying to love.

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