Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Everton

This weekend a still pointless West Ham travel to Goodison Park for a 4pm Sunday afternoon kick-off hoping to finally get their season under way. Ahead of the game I spoke to Everton fan, food blogger and occasional Guardian columnist and a surprisingly unconfident James Coke aka the disabled chef to talk about the up and coming fixture.
West Ham have yet to gain a point, but you’ve had quite a good start to the season, I presume you’re pretty pleased at the moment?
Sort of – It’s a step up from the dirge of big Sam, but still early days. I like Silva’s attacking philosophy but the defence is full of holes. The first four games should have all been gimmes, but although unbeaten, we’ve laboured. A slip up on Sunday and our guaranteed defeat at Arsenal would set alarm bells ringing. Whatever happens we have to give him time. Of course if we tonk you and the Arse then I’ll be delirious and be loving the guy like he’s my brother from another mother.

Everton have been similar to West Ham, and indeed a lot of clubs by appointing a new manager at the beginning of the new season, how do you rate the prospects for Everton under Marco Silva.
His CV does not jump out at you and he’s got ants in his pants, but there is potential. He’s got form in Greece, winning a championship with Olympiacos and then did well at both Hull and Watford. He clearly can get distracted so we need to bed him down and allow him time to build his squad. His record in the premiership is good but Everton is a big step up. I suspect though he’ll be given a good crack of the whip to get things right and that Everton might have a good season.

  • Talking about your manager, I understand that Everton is being investigated regarding your original approach for him. Is there anything in this, or just media talk?*
    There probably is something in it as we’ve been stalking him for ages but hey this is the premiership and anything appears to go. Its disappointing if we did as Everton should be above that but it would not surprise me. Anyway a man like you who lives in a greenhouse should not be lobbing bricks about as you lot robbed the Blades back in 2007 which they still smart over so let’s move on to a question we are both comfortable about.

Mmm, I assume you mean a glass house. Failing to dot a few i’s and cross a few t’s is hardly robbery. Anyway were you happy to see the back of Big Sam, as opposed to the ‘Big Sam’s back!’ announcement when he became your manager?
Last season’s 4-0 rout of West Ham became a hollow victory when I saw him in the directors box about to take the reins. It stamped out any embers of hope I had for the season and I became disenfranchised and just concentrated on my fantasy team. I was disgusted with myself cheering another Salah goal (especially if he was my captain) but I just didn’t care. Sam’s passing was inevitable but it’s allowed me to re-engage again with Everton and have the confidence to drop Salah for Richarlison which has been very beneficial.

How do you rate the appointment of Manuel Pelligrini as West Ham’s manager?
Cannot knock what he did at City but that was a totally different project. Trouble is West Ham like Everton expect the best – even if we rarely get it. 4 defeats on the bounce do not bode well though and after us you’ve got Chelsea and United, so I only see the pressure continue to mount. I think you should have stuck with Moyes or gone big for someone like Eddie Howe, as I don’t think Manuel will last the pace. However he always looks the part and comes across as an alight geezer so hope he does a number for you.

Again like West Ham you have brought in a few new players during the summer, who is going to delight the Goodson faithful?
Well the pick of the bunch is Richarlison. He was doing perfect until his ‘head-kiss’ at Bournemouth, so luckily for you boys, he’ll be missing. I like the look of Digne at left back. He has had a couple of assists this season and will be a good replacement for an ageing Bainsey. The others Mina, Bernard and Gomes, look good on paper but are all injured. After the disaster of our dealings last season, I won’t get carried away and don’t know whether they’ll be lions or sheep.

Last year you disposed of two Everton lads in Ross Barkley and Wayne Rooney, any thoughts on these particular departures?
Barkley had been angling for a move for a while now so it was no great surprise. For me his consistency was suspect and he was far to greedy. He seems to have started this season well for Chelsea but I think you’ll see him move on in a season or two – he’d be good for West Ham! As for Wayne; I was deluded like the rest of them when our prodigal son came home. He had his moments (you don’t need to be reminded), but was to slow and grumpy, and couldn’t keep his cock in his pants. He had to go to safeguard the integrity of the club and Bill Kenwright.

Which West Ham players if any have you got in your fantasy league team?
Marco has been there from the start but no others, yet! Anderson looks a cracker of a player. He’ll probably join the ranks of Clash City at some stage in the season as will Cresswell, who has a sweet left foot. I might also look to bring in Fabianski as a second keeper. For the record I’ve just signed Lookman as replacement for Walcott, who is injured. I have a feeling he will be your chief tormentor on Sunday.

Where do you think Everton will finish the season? Can they break into the top six?
I don’t expect anything special but hope we can secure 7th – anything higher would be a bonus

Where can West Ham realistically hoist themselves to by the end of the season?
Last time you started this badly you went down, so you’re skating on thin ice already. However I think you’ll just avoid the drop, but you won’t finish the season under Pelligrini – 16th!

Everton is not a team we traditionally play well against, but can West Ham dig themselves out of their malaise against you this weekend? Where are you likely to slip up?
I actually think you have a good chance. We have a shed load of injuries and I can’t see you losing 5 on the bounce – it just doesn’t happen…does it? On saying that you hate playing at Goodison, and we will have a few lads looking to stake a claim. The danger for us is our defence which is porous on set pieces and is still a work in progress; so I see goals, but hoping we’ll score one more than you.

How will Everton line up against West Ham this week Team/formation?
Pickford – Digne – Kenny – Holgate – Zouma – Sigurdsson – Lookman – Schneiderlin – Tosun – Davies – Niasse

Any predictions for the score
2-2 – dubious Hammers penalty equaliser late on.

Well thanks to Jim for his time. Pleased to notice that he’s a fellow Big Sam sufferer. I would take a 2 – 2 draw at Everton anytime, so I will follow agree with Jim for once, and join him on 2 – 2. COYI

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The Blind Hammer Column

Will Third UEFA Competition help West Ham?

Blind Hammer looks at UEFA Proposals.

It may seem odd considering European Football whilst we are languishing at the foot of the Premier League. Yet if the Pellegrini project, over time, is only moderately successful, participating in the new UEFA plans for a Third tier European competition may become a possibility.

European football, an occasional dream for so many PL clubs outside the top 6 or 7 may, for the first time, become a regular strategic ambition.

West Ham certainly has ambitions to compete in the upper reaches of mid table. It seems likely that any blub looking to finish in the top 10 could strategically embrace some more realistic European ambitions.

Details about the new competition are skimpy, which is surprising given that there are reported plans to introduce it as early as 2021. The new competition will involve 32 clubs, with 16 new places in addition to 16 clubs re-directed some the present 48 clubs in the Europa League. There will be some focus on helping clubs from smaller leagues. However it would be odd and unexpected if absolutely none of the extra 16 European places are allocated to the Premier League. UEFA are likely to have a commercial interest in extending PL representation in this new competition, especially in view of the appeal in the global brand of PL clubs.

What we know so far is that European Club Association (ECA) chairman Andrea Agnelli, who is also on Uefa’s executive committee, said the “the green light has been given” to the new competition.
Speaking at the annual general assembly of the ECA in Croatia, he said the third competition would increase the number of clubs involved in European football from 80 to 96.

Of course those of us who remember West Ham’s previous European campaigns will also realise that 3 European Competitions are not new. We competed in an era where the European Cup sat alongside a Cup Winners Cup and an Inter Cities Fairs Cup. Uefa has also experimented with the Inter toto cup in the past, a competition we also won.

The positive possibilities for teams like West Ham are obvious. This new competition is pitched as a “Third Tier” competition. It is a competition in which European Super Rich clubs will not feature, making progress in, and even possibly winning the competition a more realistic possibility.

The other main benefit is that it offers the opportunity for more consistent exposure to, and adaptation to the rigours of European Football. Not just West Ham, but many other mid-level PL Clubs have struggled to adapt to the demands of launching a European campaign whilst at the same time protecting their form against the rigours of domestic PL and Cup competition. It is no coincidence that Chelsea won the league whilst free of European commitments. The new competition could provide experience over time which could help transition to higher level European Competition.

West Ham’s involvement will not be motivated by prize money. The current Europa League rewards are derisory compared to the riches of the PL and the champions League. This inequality will almost certainly persist into the new UEFA competition.

Other problems will need serious consideration. Commercial TV rights for even Europa League matches are not guaranteed. Not all of Burnley’s early matches this year were televised. Further problems will emerge with identifying a distinctive TV schedule which does not conflict with existing commitments. It seems likely that this new competition may have to share the currently crowded Europa League Thursday scheduling.

However there will be opportunities for growth in West Ham. It is unlikely that the lack of TV interest in Burnley’s ties will be replicated with West Ham. When we were relegated to the Championship we had arguably greater domestic TV exposure from companies eager to include us in their Championship coverage.

The advantages for West Ham are not, then, in prize money. It would rather become an arena which could deliver realistic possibilities of success, an arena not dominated by the predictable dead hand of super rich Premier League clubs domination of existing silver ware.
The Devil, as ever, will be in the details of the competition. Pending this I will be extending a cautious welcome.
David Griffith

The S J Chandos Column

Will Everton (away) be the match where we finally 'click?'

We can only hope so! Few Hammers fans would have thought that they would be looking at four straight defeats at the beginning of the season, but that is the way that it has played out and we just need to get on and rectify it as soon as possible. If the losing run continues much longer then the pressure on Pellegrini, the players and the board will just continue to build up and no one wants that.

This could prove to be a good possible opportunity to start turning things around, with a number of Everton first teamers allegedly absent due to injury and suspension. We really do need the win to ‘take the wind out of the sails’ of media and social media feeding frenzy around our club. At the very least we need a draw to get a point on the board and stop the rot. However, three points would be preferable with the Chelsea and Man Utd matches following on from Sunday. Mind you, it would be just like the contrary nature of West Ham to rise to the occasion and win points from the latter two fixtures. It has happened in previous seasons, where we have looked at a run of very tough fixtures (with everyone predicting nil points) and they actually end up getting some good results. Lets hope that particular aspect of West Ham history is repeated in the coming weeks.

It is easy to become very gloomy and pessimistic when results have not gone your way. But not everything is negative. Fabianski has looked a bargain buy so far this season and I have lost count of the ‘almost cert’ goals he has saved in our first four PL games. Fredericks has taken time to settle in to the right-back role and is now starting to perform to expectations. Cresswell has returned from injury well and looks by far the most solid available option at left-back. Diop played extremely well against Wolves and demonstrated his potential with a commanding overall display. While Anderson played his most effective game at Arsenal (in the No.10 role), running at the opposition and creating chaos in the Gooners rearguard. I would argue that Anderson must be given greater freedom to replicate that type of performance. Finally, Silva is looking an absolute bargain and scoring regularly for the U-23s. It can only be a matter of time (if he continues to impress) before he is selected for the bench for a PL game. Might his time come earlier than expected against Everton?

In terms of other areas of play, we probably need the greater experience and mobility of Ogbonna, alongside Diop, in central defence. Obiang and Rice should arguably be selected to start on Sunday, in a dual defensive midfield role; allowing Wilshire to be pushed in to a more advanced midfield role. Up front, we need an attacking three of Arnautovic, Yarmolenko and Anderson. This trio looks a potentially devastating combination, with their collective skill, power and technique, but they need to start realising that rich potential soon. In particular, they must start converting the chances that fall their way. Against both Arsenal and Wolves we missed some very good chances and, but for that profligacy, both matches could have had very different results.

While we wait and hope that Pellegrini gets it right soon (on the pitch), the unfolding conflict between West Ham and their landlord (off of it) continues to rumbles on. With publicly released correspondence, statements/counter-statements and on-going legal processes, it is all getting very fractious and counter-productive. And so far, it has to be said that the landlords are coming over very clearly as the unreasonable party in this whole unfortunate saga. Yes, the landlord obviously resents the content of the deal signed with West Ham United, but the club have a legally water tight contract that still has 97 years to run. If huge future debts are to be avoided then a new line is necessary.

The landlords should respect the terms of that contract and opt to work productively with the club to make the stadium a commercial/financial success. They can do that by: fostering improved relations between Tenant and landlord; accepting the offer from the club to pay for the pitch surround (whether claret or a combination of Club and landlord branding); drawing on the club’s in-house commercial/sponsorship expertise to get a major naming rights sponsor and secure other necessary commercial opportunities; and hold meaningful discussion about the club purchasing additional rights at the Stadium. This also means the landlord dropping the illegal tactic of trying to load additional payments on to the club (outside of the terms of the existing contract); engaging in childish behaviour like confiscating the club’s honours board and refusing to reinstate it before they receive payment of non-existent debts; ceasing to irresponsibly waste public monies on futile legal cases where the club have a ‘water tight’ case; and convincing Mayor Khan of the need to be more conciliatory and take a co-operative and partnership line in order to solve the Stadium’s current financial issues.

If that cannot be done under the existing arrangements, then perhaps the landlord will eventually find themselves in a position where they will have to ‘cut their losses’ by negotiating an acceptable deal for West Ham to purchase the Stadium outright?

SJ. Chandos.

The HamburgHammer Column

Can't score for toffee ? Maybe we can at least score against the Toffees.

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International weekends in football aren’t what they used to be. Back in the day I could muster at least a modicum of excitement whenever Die Mannschaft, as the German national side have been known for a few years now, took the field for a game. Not anymore. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I don’t think the (non) performance at the most recent World Cup is the main issue here. Club football is just so much more important, at least that’s how it feels for me.

All I know is that Germany were apparently playing a team from deepest darkest Peru in a friendly over the weekend. And there were plenty of international matches in a new-fangled competition called UEFA Nations League. Apparently it’s not quite as complicated as it seems and sounds. Once I have figured out for myself what the point actually is and if it is a good idea, I shall get back to you on that one…

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So, what has been happening in the world of West Ham lately? Not much apparently, other than some more posturing and legal wranglings delivered by the highly competent owners of the stadium we play half of our season’s fixtures in and our club hierarchy. I understand the latest issue is about the colour and costs of a new stadium carpet.
On another level it is about certain people realising that West Ham’s rent on its own isn’t sufficient to actually keep the stadium going, not without eventually selling the naming rights of the stadium and/or increasing the rent.

Whatever the ifs, buts, pros and cons are here, please don’t ask me to talk much more about this shambles of a situation (again). Me old strawberry tart can’t handle that kind of crap as well as it used to a few years ago. It is a massive can of worms for sure, a display of stupidity and stubbornness of epic proportions – a sad state of affairs all around.
I suppose that’s why our club happens to be right in the middle of it, we seem to be attracted to situations like these just like flies do to a fresh pile of horse poo. Only at West Ham!

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Thank God West Ham football will be back next week and hopefully we will be seeing a positive reaction from the team and at the very least a fighting performance.

I remember learning a few things about Everton from a former colleague of mine at Hapag (who looked a bit like Darren Anderton) when I was working in Barking – I once shared a room with the guy during some sort of company weekend trip and for some reason which escapes me at the moment he turned out to be an Everton supporter.

I learned from him that Everton were actually based in Liverpool, and no, I didn’t know that when I arrived in Britain in 1996, same as I wasn’t aware that Villa were in Birmingham. I also had no idea whereabout in England Sunderland might be.

Be that as it may, my colleague told me a few things about his team, for instance why Everton were commonly known as The Toffees (I do like toffee, but not so much that I would have contemplated switching my allegiance to Everton there and then). Many years later of course I met the Concordia goalkeeping coach who happens to be an Everton supporter as well, a guy owning a giant Rottweiler dog called Neville, named after Everton goalkeeping legend Neville Southall.

Having seen video footage of Neville the goalkeeper – and live performances of Neville the dog – I have to say that the name doesn’t really fit the canine: The dog used to be a much better jumper than the guy (at least before the Rottweiler developed arthritis in old age) and also he was nowhere near as fat as Southall in his Everton heyday…

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I really don’t know what to expect from the Everton game. We don’t usually travel well when it comes to Scouseland, as a rule of thumb, no matter if it’s the red or the blue corner of Liverpool.

But we do need to see some vital signs coming from our lads. And at some point this season we will need to start putting some points on the board. So why delay any further actually ? Why not give it a proper go, try to minimise the number of on-field blunders and get a highly unexpected first away win of the season ?
Mr.Pellegrini, over to you!

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Hamburg football update: No games for the big clubs due to international weekend, and with no West Ham game on the box either I filled my Cordi boots with a tripleheader of games over two days, with mixed success. The first team lost on Friday evening, 0:1 away at Victoria in front of nearly 300 spectators (don’t laugh, it’s a decent crowd for league games at that level).

On Saturday came the news that Cordi’s director of football had left his position at short notice and by mutual consent. Rumours are he messed up the transfer of two players who are now allegedly not eligible to play until January while still drawing wages from Concordia. Looks like someone forgot to fill out a form or put the wrong stamps on the envelope.
Sounds like something West Ham might do, doesn’t it ? ;-))

On Sunday the U23s surprisingly lost their home game 1:2, against a side of bullies, loudmouths and brutes from the outskirts of town. The referee on the occasion was very young and inexperienced though and I can understand why he was very cautious not to blow his whistle against the visitors too often. Even I got slightly scared looking into some of those boats. Frightening! But parts of the matchday experience reminded me of Upton Park. Where else nowadays would you expect to see heated verbal exchanges between players and fans ?

As the weather was lovely and the Concordia women’s team was up next, well, it would have been impolite to leave, so I watched them win their game 5:0 (finally a Cordi victory!), with three of the goals being almost identical. A very gifted, but small winger named Michelle “Mini” Hille was running the show, easing past her opponents on the right wing almost at will, pulling the ball back into the box into the very same spot three times resulting in three goals from three different scorers. Lovely to watch.

Women’s football will always be slower in tempo than the male variety, however, it does have its merits. Less playacting, less unsportsmanlike conduct in general, no nasty fouls, risking injury to fellow players, no crowds around the referee whenever a foul is given and a far more relaxed and family-friendly crowd, if you know what I mean…;-))

PS: Next Friday will see Concordia hosting Altona (anyone remember them of 3:3 preseason fame?) Altona always bring plenty of fans to away games, so this one might well be a rare sellout at Concordia, guaranteeing a lively atmosphere in front of a full house which in Cordi’s case means 500-600 fans.
If you fancy it, there will be a free stream available again:


The GoatyGav Column

An Indomitable Spirit And A ‘Ticker’ In Midfield

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One of the tenets of Taekwondo is an ‘Indomitable Spirit’. Listed in the principles of the honourable sport it is described as follows: -

“Indomitable spirit / Baek-jeol-bul-gul / ????

One may not always succeed on the first try at everything that one attempts in Tae Kwon Do, or in life. The indomitable spirit has the courage and confidence to try again and not be subdued or overcome in the face of fear or failure. The indomitable spirit perseveres. Sometimes this can be a challenge; training in Tae Kwon Do can help to develop it.” (Credit – Hans Taekwondo, www.hanstkd.com )

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With this in mind I wonder how much Manuel Pellegrini will ‘stick to the plan’. It’s obvious to see that he’s attempting to do things his way and for that I admire him. Small wonder that he has the confidence in his convictions given his experience as well as the power that he’s been handed, in the running of first team affairs, by the club owners.

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Listening to Gareth Southgate during a post match interview, following the defeat to Spain this weekend, I was reminded of the ‘Indomitable Spirit’ that Taekwondo competitors hold close. “What’s the point in going back to previous ways of doing things?” or words to that effect were uttered by the England manager. Essentially he’s part of a journey – a much bigger picture that is dragging English football out of the dark ages and in to the modern era of the game. Interestingly, listening to another Ex-player on the radio this week, I found myself, once again, in full agreement. Stewart Robson made a really interesting point about the development that has been made since the coaching methods at the elite level have moved towards making players more ‘comfortable in possession’. England now have players who are excellent dribblers with much improved touch and close control. What England don’t have, Robson pointed out, are any players who are capable of pulling the strings, like an Andrea Pirlo. Someone with great vision to play the ‘killer’ pass and not necessarily with the ability to take players on but with the footballing ‘intelligence’ to use the ball in the most effective way without needing, or being inclined to, take multiple touches.

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Back to West Ham there have been a few of those highly influential midfielders who make us ‘tick’. The obvious one that comes to mind is Ronnie Boyce. Apart from the alternative name for the vital organ that West Ham do their best to give me an attack of, ‘Ticker’ is a term that has been used at West Ham for players who’ve had the ability to find the ball that hurts the opposition in the most effective manner as well as being linked to players with a high work-rate.

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At present there are a few with the potential to become the modern day Tickers of the team. I believe that Jack Wilshire could become that player if he applies himself properly however Manu Lanzini is the one who I think will get there. Our Argentinian ‘Jewel’ has a great work-rate. I’ve seen him, in a number of games, carry out both the defensive and attacking midfield duties to great effect. He can be a tenacious tackler as well as a gifted attacking midfielder with the ball at his feet. His injury has been a huge blow to the team’s fortunes and the sooner we get him back from his ACL surgery the better. That said it’s very important that he’s not ‘rushed back’ for the long term full recovery of the injured knee.

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Without question we need to see an ‘Indomitable Spirit’ from the players on the pitch however we, as fans, need to, as we always do, ‘Never Say Die’ as well. The away fans at Everton won’t need any encouragement. Those who give most of themselves in the club and travel all over the country shouting the boys on will always provide a vociferous support however we need more noise at home. ‘Sing your heart out for the lads’. Right now they need us more than ever.


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