Tony Hanna's Musings

Bookies Update

Finalising a transfer deal is a long drawn out ordeal in the modern game. However, the loan deal for Joe Hart is now complete and Marko Arnautovic and Chico Hernandez should both be Hammers by early next week. It was not long ago that most of us were feeling a little frustrated with only a single free transfer under our belts but we can now peruse the opposition fan sites with glee as they vent their own frustrations and point at West Ham as cleverly doing most of their business nice and early. Many Premier League clubs are struggling to hit their targets and have started their preseasons still wondering who will actually be playing for them in three weeks time when the season kicks off? The wheels could still start spinning if any turnarounds happen with Arny and Chico though so keep fingers crossed.

So what else is happening and what other deals could be done?

Darren Randolph With the arrival of Hart he would have been number three between the sticks at West Ham this season. Either Randy or Adrian has to go and it looks like Randy at this point of time. The bookies aren’t betting on this but the official Boro site claims a deal has been done subject to a medical and personal terms being agreed.

Adrian the bookies have reacted to the probable Randolph transfer and Adrian has firmed from even money (50%) to 1/2 (66%) to stay at West Ham. Personally I would love him to stay and I think he will after signing a new two year deal just recently.

Jota the Spanish midfielder was highlighted in the first of my bookie updates a month ago. Currently playing for Brentford there has been a big move in the markets over the past 24 hours that would suggest we are talking to them. The lad was 10/1 (9%) just a day ago and he is into 7/4 (36%). Where there is smoke?

Andre Gray has been in all my bookie updates so far and the price has hardly budged – currently 13/8 (38%). My guess is that we will move for the Burnley striker if we are unable to sign any of the players that might be higher on our target list. I do believe we will still sign another striker after the Chico deal goes through and Gray may well be our insurance bet?

Jack Wilshere is another that has made all my updates. Currently 7/4 (36%) to be a West Ham player come 3rd September.

Keita Balde Diao has drifted slightly in the market over the past few days – 7/2 (22%) from 5/2 (28%). The market suggests he will definitely move away from Lazio with Inter Milan the most likely destination and Juventus and us as the only other likely challengers for his signature.

Robert Snodgrass is 10/11 (pretty close to flip of a coin) to stay at West Ham. Sheffield Wednesday 2/1 (33%) and Brighton 5/1 (16%) are listed as possible clubs showing interest.

Elsewhere there has been market moves over the past few days that would suggest; PSG are real contenders for Alexis Sanchez and Neymar, Virgil Van Dijk will probably leave the Saints for Liverpool, Chelsea are very interested in Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabian Delph looks like heading to Stoke, Kieran Gibbs new club will be either Watford or West Brom, Matic will leave Chelsea for either Juventus or the Moaning ones and Arsenal have entered the race for Ross Barkley.

As for the early odds on our season;

Win the PL Toddy and Simon are already in the queue at 500/1

Top four is priced at 10/1 (9%) and my thoughts are that the price should be much bigger.

Top ten is 6/4 (40%) and is a good bet for the optimists amongst you.

Relegation is 10/1 (9%) so the bookies think we have as much chance of finishing top four as going down?


Tribute

Hammer of the Year 2009, 2010 & 2011: Scott Parker

Continuing my look back to some Hammer of the Year winners who I’ve previously written about in the ‘Club Connections’ section of my match previews, today we take a look at one of only two players to have won the coveted prize in three consecutive seasons…

Scott Parker was born in Lambeth on 13th October 1980; a Lilleshall graduate, Parker was the 13-year-old keepie-uppie star of a McDonalds advert during the 1994 World Cup. He began his professional career at Charlton, making his debut in 1997; he also had a brief loan spell with Norwich in 2000.

Parker, who had been consistently linked with moves away from Charlton for several years, finally left the Valley just before the January transfer deadline in 2004 to join Chelsea on a four-and-a-half-year contract for a fee of £10 million after a protracted and acrimonious transfer saga. Parker was initially signed to compete with Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard but did not get too many opportunities to play in his preferred position. He scored his only goal for Chelsea in a 2–0 win against Portsmouth at Fratton Park on 11th February 2004. Parker was named as the PFA Young Player of the Year at the end of the 2003/04 season.

Following the summer signings of Arjen Robben and Tiago Mendes, Parker’s first team opportunities were extremely limited during the 2004/05 season, although he was a regular starter in Chelsea’s League Cup matches, a competition where he played in three consecutive victories against West Ham, Newcastle and Fulham. His difficulties were compounded when he broke a metatarsal in a game against Norwich. Parker consequently missed both legs of the League Cup semi-final against Manchester United and the final against Liverpool, although he was awarded a winner’s medal during the trophy presentation. Chelsea went on to won the title for the first time in 50 years –having made only four league appearances for Chelsea during the season, he did not receive a Premier League winner’s medal as he did not make the required ten appearances to be eligible, though Chelsea did have a replica medal made. After scoring one goal in 28 matches in all competitions for the Blues but having found first team opportunities hard to come by, Parker signed for Newcastle in July 2005 for £6.5m.

Scott became a regular in the Newcastle first team and was one of the few players at the club to show any consistency during an often difficult 2005/06 season in which the Magpies finished in seventh place, despite suffering a poor start under Graeme Souness. His first Newcastle goal came against his former club Charlton in a 3-1 defeat on 25th March 2006. Later that month he was diagnosed with glandular fever, putting an end to his season. The timing was especially unfortunate for Parker; he had been playing well but the illness ended any hopes he may have had of forcing his way into the England squad for the 2006 World Cup.

New manager Glenn Roeder named Parker as his captain In July 2006, succeeding the retired Alan Shearer. Despite Newcastle’s poor form, his performances earned him a recall to the England squad in September 2006 after an absence of more than two years. After six goals in 73 matches for Newcastle, Parker left for West Ham United to be reunited with his former Charlton manager, Alan Curbishley, in a £7m deal in the summer of 2007.

Injury played a large part in Parker’s early career in east London, with the midfielder unable to make his debut until a League Cup win over Plymouth at the Boleyn Ground in late September. Three days later Parker was injured again during a home defeat to Arsenal and ruled out for a further two months. His first goal for the club came three days before Christmas, the last-minute winner in West Ham’s first ever victory at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.

Parker’s second goal for the club was over a year later, from close range in a 2-1 defeat at Bolton in February 2009, by which time Gianfranco Zola had taken over from Curbishley. His season was ended by injury the following month but he had still done enough to win the 2008/09 Hammer of the Year prize. The Irons struggled in 2009/10 and were second bottom of the Premier League when Parker was sent off for two yellow cards in the 2-2 home draw with Arsenal in October. His first goal of that season was a stunning, dipping half-volley from distance to bring the Hammers level at the home of his old club Chelsea in March, although the match would ultimately be lost 4-1. His only other goal that season was infinitely more significant, the winner in a tense 3-2 victory over Wigan on 24th April which secured the Hammers’ survival – Parker’s sensational 77th-minute strike from 25 yards was followed by an emotionally-charged celebration. Two weeks later, he would become the first player to retain the Hammer of the Year trophy since Julian Dicks in 1997.

A 17th-placed finish in 2009/10 resulted in Zola being replaced by Avram Grant and the Hammers would endure a turbulent 2010/11 campaign. Parker was the bright light shining in the east end gloom as he displayed the fight, determination and character sadly lacking in many of his team-mates – he was often mistaken as the club’s captain by an inattentive national media. This was epitomised by his best goalscoring season during his time with the club, Parker opening with three goals in his first six games (the injury-time winner against Oxford in the League Cup, a wonderfully-lofted volley in a 3-1 defeat to Chelsea and a scrambled effort in a 1-1 draw at Stoke). Another three-goals-in-six-games spell followed in October/November as he scored a late headed equaliser in a 3-1 extra-time win over the Potters in the League Cup, struck a thunderbolt in a 2-2 draw with West Brom and grabbed the clincher in a 3-1 win over Wigan.

On 9th February 2011, he became the first England player to receive his first four full caps whilst playing for four different teams, coming on as a second-half substitute for Frank Lampard in a friendly against Denmark. Parker was to score once more for the Hammers that season, a beautifully-executed effort with the outside of his right foot from the edge of the area in a 3-1 home victory over Liverpool in late February. The following month, he played in a 0-0 draw at Tottenham hours after the death of his father. He also started in England’s victory over Wales at the Millennium Stadium. Parker would again be crowned Hammer of the Year, the only player other than Sir Trevor Brooking to claim the award three seasons in a row. He was also named as the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year, an incredible feat considering his club were relegated in bottom place. In doing so, he became the second Hammer to win the award, following in the footsteps of the great Bobby Moore.

Parker started West Ham’s 2011/12 Championship campaign, notching one goal in four league appearances, this coming in a 4-0 win at Watford. At the age of 30, Parker knew he may only have one opportunity left to play in an international tournament and, with Euro 2012 on the horizon, was aware that he would have to be playing Premier League football. With his children in school in the local area, Parker opted to remain in London and signed for close rivals Tottenham for a fee of £5.5m. Parker made 129 appearances for West Ham in all competitions, scoring 12 goals.

Parker was named Tottenham’s Player of the Year in his first season with the club, playing in 29 league matches as the club finished fourth but were denied Champions League qualification as Chelsea won that competition and would compete as holders despite finishing sixth in the Premier League. Parker’s move to Spurs paid off in that he cemented his England place, being named Man of the Match in a friendly against European and World champions Spain in November 2011 and appearing as captain of his country against the Netherlands in February 2012. Parker started all four matches at Euro 2012 as England made the quarter-finals. However, an Achilles injury picked up during the tournament would keep him out of the first four months of 2012/13. After 63 matches without scoring for Tottenham, he was on the move to Fulham in August 2013, with whom he stayed until retiring from football earlier this summer.

Scott Parker, disappointingly, received a mixed reception when he returned to Upton Park as a Tottenham player in February 2013. I was one of the many, however, who gave him a standing ovation when he left the field that night, remembering his four years of exceptional service rather than focusing on the club he left us for. For me, Parker was a perfect picture of passion, perseverance and pirouettes and I am sure he will be long remembered as a West Ham United great. I wish Super Scotty all the very best in his retirement.


Player Analysis

Should we terminate the ‘Arnie’ transfer?

Guest Post by Forever Blowing Bubbles

Amidst all the talk of a new striker which seems to elude us every year, from the title one would assume that I am about to discuss our reported interest in Stoke’s Austrian international. I am, but it appears in the form of a comparison with one of our own players – one who was, in my opinion, unfairly maligned at times last season.

It has been well reported that Marko Arnautovic is being sought out due to Bilic’s intention for a formation that sees a lone striker supported in a front three beside Michail Antonio on the right and another scoring winger on the left. In our search for more firepower that seems to make reasonable sense, especially if we were to sign my preferred striker Javier Hernandez whose talents are enough for another post on their own. Reluctance surrounding his pay should arguably be quashed immediately; we need to understand that we should be paying the going rate in wages for a striker of his quality or else we risk losing out again. Especially when you consider his meagre transfer fee of 13.5 million vs Arnautovic’s quoted 25million. However, obviously these two do not and will not play in comparable positions. The current West Ham personnel most suited to that position is Andre Ayew – someone who did cost us 20million only last season. If that was an inflated hot air balloon of a transfer fee at the time for him, then the money Stoke are requesting for Marko is the equivalent of a zeppelin.

Ayew was fighting a losing battle with some corners of our support early on when he got injured in his first game – similar supporters who are now singing the praises of Arnautovic. Somehow many of these fans managed to connect the inconvenience of his injury to the money we paid for him, however that is never something that could seriously be held against him – he didn’t choose how much money Swansea requested and how much we ultimately stumped up for his services, though overpriced no doubt, but that is becoming the norm these days. A few months ago some of us were discussing the option – more dream – of weighing in for Sigurdsson – £30 million we reckoned. 50 say Swansea if not more. That’s a no then. Prices are insane nowadays for relative quality, but otherwise middle of the road players. Maybe we should just accept it, difficult as it is to swallow. Taking aside his price tag and early injury now solved, Ayew could be considered then as now a quality addition to our squad, with his prime position being the left side of a front three. Hang on a minute… that’s where we are looking to pay at least £5 million more than we did for him for Marko? Now I actually rate Arnautovic, he is a good player and would improve most squads, but would I start him over Ayew in that position? No. Here’s why…

Comparing some statistics of the two, Ayew trumps Arnautovic in a number of ways. His goals per game ratio is an improvement on the Austrian’s through his career from Marseille to West Ham vs FC Twente to Stoke. Looking primarily at their careers in England though, Marko has scored 26 goals in 129 appearances in all completions vs Ayew’s 18 goals in 59 appearances. It is also worth baring in mind that Arnautovic has spent double the time in English football than Ayew. Andre’s shooting accuracy is at 40 percent vs Marko’s 27 percent – that even tops our man Antonio’s accuracy of 33 percent in his two seasons in the top tier. This equates to a 0.31 goals per match ratio for Ayew – the exact same number as Antonio – vs 0.18 for Arnautovic . Some may argue that many of Ayew’s goals are tap ins – as I’ve heard said multiple times at the London stadium – but do we really care how they go in? What I see isn’t a player lacking a quality shot, but one who always knows how to be in the right place at the right time, something many of our other players lack.

An interesting fact….and I use the word interesting liberally…of the 21 goals Arnautovic has scored in the premier league only 3 have been left footed and none scored with his head. Considering we would play him in a left sided position, that suggests he favors the cutting in approach, which while effective can often be controlled by good defenders once they know your game. In contrast Ayew is a much more balanced player: 10 on his left, 2 on his right and 6 with his head, making him harder to predict. The only attacking statistic where Arnautovic runs Ayew off the field is in his assists -23 during his time in English football vs Ayew’s measly 5. Very different types of player ultimately then, if that statistic is anything to go by. However, it is worth noting that Antonio also only boasts 6 assists to his name.

From this information, the conclusion that I draw is that for both their pros and cons, it is Antonio and Ayew who are a very similar pair and would therefore I believe work well in tandem in supporting our new striker. It is a partnership that we saw little to none of last season due to injuries to both and something that would be worth exploring before confining Ayew to the bench and replacing him with Arnautovic off hand. Ayew also has it in him, and I saw glimpses of it last season, to be the never say die, give everything, sprint to the last whistle, type of player we have come to know and love in Antonio and I believe we will see more of that from a fully fit version of the player next season.

There is no doubt that Arnautovic’s assists would come in very useful and he is the type of skilful player I like to see in a West Ham shirt and I would be in no way disappointed if we bought him, especially if we employed him in a different system that could accommodate both. However, for the price tag and based on these statistics I am not convinced he is an improvement on the current player we could employ in that position who we spent similar money on barely a year ago, but I am more than happy to be proved wrong as I chomp at bit with excitement for any incoming transfers ahead of the new season starting!

COYI


Tony Hanna's Musings

Bookies Update

Last week’s “bookies update” highlighted three new players on the Hammers radar. Marko Arnautovic, Andre Gray and Chico Hernandez. Two of these players have stepped ever closer to signing and the other is still not out of the equation. We also looked at three players who’s odds had moved in from my first article a month ago. Joe Hart, Jack Wilshere and Mitchy Batshuayi and of course Hart has since joined West Ham on a one year loan deal. So far the bookies have been pretty close to the money.

The odds on Arnautovic joining us have now been withdrawn so that deal looks almost certain to go through. In my opinion he will be a good signing for us and will be a big upgrade on Feghouli or Snodgrass. Hernandez is at 1/5 (83%) and is another where a deal looks imminent. I am a little more cautious about this signing but will hopefully be proved wrong if he can bang in 15 goals or more next season should he become a Hammer. Batshuayi seems to be falling off the radar altogether now and is right out to 12/1 (7%). Jack Wilshere has drifted out slightly to 7/4 (36%) as it seems that maybe his “see you in London” tweet to Joe Hart may have been more directed at him staying at Arsenal rather than swapping North London for East? To round up all those players previously discussed, Andre Gray’s (Burnley) price has remained firm for several weeks now at 13/8 (38%).

New players on the radar are all forwards;

Keita Balde Diao Spanish born but plays for Senegal, the Lazio forward would be a big signing if it should happen. The 22yo has scored roughly one in every four games for club and country. Favourites to sign him are Inter Milan at 2/5 (71%) but perhaps his Senegalese team mates Kouyate and Sahko can persuade him that West Ham is a better destination?

Wilfried Bony 11/8 (42%) to stay at Manchester City, 5/2 (28%) to return to Swansea, Bony is 5/1 (16%) to join the Hammers. Another player who looked the goods in the Premier League only to fall by the wayside after collecting splinters following a big money move to one of the mega rich clubs. Would he be a good buy? Will leave you to be the judges on this one.

Raul Jimenez We are currently fourth favourites to sign him at 7/1 (12.5%). The Mexican forward who currently plays for Benfica would be an underwhelming signing in my opinion. In August 2015 he was expected to join West Ham on a loan deal from Atletico Madrid but he failed to show up for his medical at Upton Park after claiming he over slept and missed his plane. Rumours abounded that it had more to do with his agent orchestrating a move to Benfica instead. He is even money (50%) to remain where he is and 3/1 (25%) to move to Everton.

Other West Ham related transfer news;

Adrian rated at only 50/50 to leave or stay at the club. I thought after David Sullivans comments yesterday that perhaps the odds may change dramatically but they haven’t. Would love to see the big guy stay and fight for his place.

Snodgrass Even money (50%) to stay a Hammer for now. Sheffield Wednesday are 2/1 (33%) and Brighton 5/1 (16%) to secure his services for next season.

In non-related West Ham transfer news Stewart Downing looks set to join Birmingham. Other deals that look over the line are Alvaro Morata to Chelsea, Benjamin Mendy from Monaco and Danilo from Real Madrid both to Man City. Leicester City also seem to be making it a two horse race with Everton for the signature of Gylfi Sigurdsson.


Talking Point

West Ham – Board - Transparency – The Pros and Cons.

Blind Hammer looks at Official and Unofficial Media Relations at West Ham.

When David Gold recently revealed to TalkSport our priority ambitions for signing a striker he received immediate criticism from some fans. This echoed the criticism David Sullivan experienced last year when he was similarly transparent about our need for striker recruitment in an interview with Sky Sports.

Essentially the criticism focused around a number of areas but most particularly.

1. We were revealing our budget in advance and therefore disadvantaging any negotiation by driving up the asking price.
2. We were alerting competitor clubs who may try to disrupt any deals we attempted.
3. We were similarly encouraging excessive agent demands for wages and signing on fees by revealing budgets and priorities.
4. We were posturing by appearing to be in the market for players that we had no realistic chance of signing.

Fan critics who made these complaints argued that what should happen is that signings should occur as a surprise, unheralded by any speculation. The first we should hear about them is when a signing is announced on the official web site.

Now in an ideal world this viewpoint would hold a lot of credibility and most of us would support this approach in principle.

However we do not live in an ideal world. The fact is that even if “sources” at West Ham did not engage in any media interventions there would be rumours and interpretations aplenty in the press. The football gossip and rumour mill is a full time industry which powers many a Journalist’s living and provides advertising revenue for many websites. A golden silence from Gold and Sullivan would do little to prevent the juggernaut of the football media industry commercially driven to satisfy the interest of thousands of West Ham fans.

Even if the Board hierarchy never made any on the record comments it is unrealistic not to expect rumours and gossip to emerge from the corporation that is West Ham United. There are hundreds of people working for and attached to West Ham who will in the normal phenomenon of Office gossip participate in and discuss rumours about the club. Unless we transform the culture of West Ham and Society in general into a Stasi like Police State run by fear then information emanating out of the club to some extent is inevitable. Even successive Governments of all Political hues are generally unable to prevent leaks, despite threats of sanctions. On balance I think leaks are a price worth paying for the benefits of whistle blowing and free speech.

Quite apart from these internal sources, leaks emanate from areas that West Ham have little control over. These include Players from other clubs and agents representing both our players and potential targets. Agents are financially driven to manipulate the media to try and affect the pay and terms of their Players. I have received some insight into this from an ex-football agent.

Given this inevitable chaotic swirl of transfer narratives in the media, and stories about the club in general, simply absenting themselves from this public discourse carries risk for West Ham. Removing themselves from the discourse entirely allows free rein to negative narratives.

The fact is that whether we like it or not the Board have the responsibility to project West Ham as a positive brand in the world of Football. They would be neglecting their duty if they simply retired, hermit like, from any media scrutiny into obscurity. I remember how Ian Holloway complained before our Play off Final how the relative small size of Blackpool as a club highlighted the responsibility to keep the club positively in the news. In Blackpool’s case unless he worked at it there was a danger that they could completely disappear from the Sports Pages, doing harm to the club’s profile. The situation for West Ham is less dramatic but the principle still holds. This principle is that interest in Football is competitive and all Clubs, from the smallest to the largest need to try and manage, even manipulate the media to their best advantage. Improving the media profile of the club has longer term commercial benefits, increasing attractiveness to new fans, and therefore longer term benefits which should pass through to help increase the chance of Footballing success.

The real task then for West Ham is to manage the media. One approach would be to constantly issue Official Statements to counteract negative media stories but there are risks to this strategy. Every Official Statement to some extent makes West Ham a hostage to events and fortunes. In the twists and turns of the Football world, positions which seem entirely reasonable one week may have to be radically revised only a few weeks later. Official Statements would soon lose credibility, a bit like the infamous “vote of confidence” clubs have often given to beleaguered Manager just prior to their sacking.

An alternative approach, which West Ham use, is to use trusted “unofficial” outlets to communicate, day to day, with their fan base. There are 3 mechanisms that they use that I am aware of. The first is the long running Jack Sullivan Twitter Account, the second is the Claret and Hugh Website, and the third is the Column and Radio Show attributed to the “Ex-West Ham Employee Insider”.

Using these outlets they can try and manage the inevitable discussions and gossip surrounding West Ham. A good example of this was when it was leaked last week that Hernandez was making a demand for wages that would bust our wage structure. By managing this leak the club is communicating with its fan base. If this news did not emerge then it would be open season on negative criticism of a Board “sitting on its hands” and doing nothing to seriously advance West Ham’s interest in the transfer market. By leaking Hernandez’s reported wage demands the club are at least revealing the genuine dilemmas the Board faces in its recruitment. West Ham fans may not be happy about this but they have a better understanding of what the issues are.

The real question then is how this need for transparency and communication is managed. There is an argument that information has emerged officially from the club which may has harmed our negotiating position in transfers. Declaring that we had £20 million for a striker last year may have been a case in point. Similarly reports appearing unofficially on Claret and Hugh this summer that we have a Transfer budget of £65 million face a similar charge.

However Gold and Sullivan may well, in private, defend their strategy by pointing out that footballing insiders will be already aware of potential transfer resources available to a club like West Ham. It will be not be particularly advantageous to them if we are revealed to have a limit to our transfer allocation. By this argument, signalling the ball park transfer budget available to West Ham helps our Fan base by allowing a genuine and realistic understanding of what potential targets are available to them.

For my own part I still think West ham should steer away from unofficial leaks of budgets and limits to transfers. I understand their wish to reassure fans of the extent of their commitment but the controversy which accompanies any such stories diminish any positive effects that they hope for. Media management is a skillful and dangerous occupation. It is a bit like catching a Tiger by the tail. There are many in life who believes that they could manage the media only to be later consumed by them.

Unfortunately this media management is a game that West Ham must inevitably play, alongside other clubs, equally trying to manage their media profile. My own view is one of understanding, but also that there is a need for improvement.

COYI

David Griffith


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