The Blind Hammer Column

West ham and fighting Racism – The Next Steps.

Blind Hammer looks at how West Ham should actively repudiate Henry by celebrating its history of Black Players.

Like many West Ham supporters I was appalled by Tony Henry’s email. ”. Of course its toxic nature was made infinitely worse by the infamous inclusive “we” with whom Henry prefaced his obnoxious comments. He was obviously supremely confident that these bigoted, ignorant stereotypical remarks would find wide support amongst the club hierarchy.

The rapid dismissal of Henry was an inevitable first step but the club must do much more if they are to reduce lingering suspicions. Henry’s confidence that his views would find backing at the highest levels is a potential smoking gun which should worry senior managers. We urgently need further action.

As a first step we should acknowledge far more prominently the culture and tradition of West Ham promoting Black footballers. A tradition that is diametrically opposed to the Alf Garnett Racist stereotyping of our club and its supporters.

This alternative tradition is far older than many supposed. Regular readers of my column will remember how last year I celebrated the career of Fred Corbett. A trail blazer who was the first ever black footballer to play for our club. Corbett was one of the tiny numbers of black players in his era He was there at the birth of our club. He actually made his debut for Thames Ironworks before transferring into the inaugural West Ham United. Of mixed race, Corbett was a product of the East end, and a prolific scorer at youth team level playing for St Luke’s, the local side who produced many players for West Ham. Corbett made his debut during the 1888-1899 seasons as an 18 year old right wing forward for the Ironworks. He made his debut as a West Ham player in the 0-1 away defeat to Reading on the 16th September 1899. He provided his first goal and the winner in his fifth game for the club on the 6th October 1900 in a 0-1 away win at Swindon. His finest moment in a West Ham shirt came on the 30th September 1901 when he scored a hat trick in the 4-2 win against Wellingborough Town, then a much bigger game.

In total Fred Corbett played 35 times for West Ham and scored a respectable 15 goals before moving on to have a long professional career with Bristol rovers. Despite the fact that West Ham had produced a black professional footballer, and provided an opportunity for him to flourish the WHUFC website is bizarrely silent on this. Corbett was brought through in an era of sometimes savage Empire racism. Negative attitudes to other races, in addition to notion of a “white Man’s Burden” abounded. The story about Corbett is about an extraordinary individual, and an extraordinary club both of whom defied this prevailing racism to allow Corbett a platform to display his talents.

We should be proudly shouting this remarkable history from the rooftops. However if you consult the club website this is a story which is invisible. All they say about Corbett is a terse comment that the then manager Syd King Often played George Radcliffe and
Fergus Hunt ahead of him.

This is a massive wasted opportunity. We should celebrate this tradition rather than hide it. And it is a tradition. West Ham has throughout my life provided opportunities for black players when it was unheard of elsewhere. We rightly celebrated the life of Cyrille regis but West Ham were providing trail blazing black players an opportunity a whole generation earlier.

At my first game at Upton Park in 1968 I was thrilled by a stupendous goal by Martin Peters which won the ITV Big Match award for goal of the season. A critical assist in the build-up was provided by our black left back John Charles. Charles provided the instant defence splitting pass to allow Sissons to race on to feed Peter’s memorable volley past Leicester’s startled Shilton. So in my first ever game I saw John Charles, a black footballer playing for West Ham. I grew up thinking it was normal, unaware of how unusual it was at the time.

This unacknowledged tradition is a point which Clyde Best is particularly puzzled by. In his autobiography he argues west ham has never done enough to celebrate their positive trail blazing role. He points out how West Ham were the first team to field 3 black players in a team a full decade before West Brom’s more famous “Three Degrees” of Regis Cunningham and Batson. Clyde Best, Ade Coker and Clive Charles did not achieve similar heights to West Brom’s “Three Degrees” but, as Best points out, if West Ham had not paved the way the West Brom trio would have found it more difficult. Regis personally told best that it was when, as a teenager, he watched him on TV, that Regis had crucially developed his belief that he also could make it as a black centre forward. Best’s Autobiography is littered with statements from players such as Garth Crooks who all took inspiration from West Ham playing of Clyde Best.

Best describes the warmth and support of players like Bobby Moore; harry Redknapp, Geoff Hurst and above all Ron Greenwood. He complains at the unfair lack of recognition and acknowledgement to Greenwood’s revolutionary approach. He argues that it was Greenwood who was determined to allow black players to succeed at the top level. It was Ron Greenwood and not Ron Atkinson who was the true trail blazer.

This is a tradition we should make more of. I remember standing on the then grass turf at the end of crystal Palace’s old ground watching Ade Coker score with a stupendous goal on his debut. Sadly Coker did not make it through to become a first team regular but the point is that we celebrated it at the time.

If you read Liam Rosenior’s biography West Ham is the only club he truly celebrates and feels at home with. It is the only club with which he does not recall complaints of racism. He recalls fondly and with humour how even the hooligans of the ICF assured him of their undying support.

I am never one to deny that racists have been amongst supporters and probably players and staff at West Ham over the years. Yet we have a finer counter tradition. A tradition we should be prouder of and celebrate more. Now more than ever this is the tradition we should celebrate.

COYI
David Griffith

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Transfer Gossip

Do we really need Evra?

UPDATE 3pm: Patrice Evra has passed his medical and has signed a deal until the end of the season.

I’m not quite sure that Patrice Evra is the answer to the myriad of problems that beset our club at the moment. Are we really that desperate that we have to sign a 36 year old player who has some anger management issues? Needs must, I suppose, but given that Antonio and Arnautovic are soon to return I really question whether we are so badly off down the left hand side.

If the idea is to play him as a left back with Cresswell moving forward, I’d say that was odd, given that we seem to play a back three most of the time now, and with Winston Reid available again, we can adequately staff a back three. If Evra is only being bought as cover, do we not have young players capable of playing that position who we could blood if absolutely necessary? I am not familiar enough with the the Under 23s and youth setup to know what the possibilities might be, but feel free to tell me I’m barking up the wrong tree in the comments!

As we prepare for Watford on Saturday it has to be said that after a reasonable period of success, the performances against Palace and Brighton were not up to scratch, and we need to put in a shift at the weekend.

#COYI

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Tony Hanna's Musings

A dying breed of Noble players

A lot can happen in a week can’t it? Get knocked out of the Cup by lower league opposition. Masuaku gets a 6 game ban for spitting at an opponent. The Board fail miserably again in the transfer window. The director of player recruitment loses his job on the back of racist allegations. One point from six in two six pointer games against relegation candidates. Protest marches against the owners are back on the agenda. And only twenty days earlier we were marvelling at the Arnie/Lanzini show that tore Huddersfield apart 4-1 away from home. It’s a funny old game.

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Football for many is an outlet to get away from life’s stresses and problems. A day out at the football to watch your favourite team go give their all could transport you to a different World if only for a few hours. Bobby Moore was earning a few hundred quid a week when we won the World Cup in ’66 and it cost 2/6d for a lad to get into the North Bank. I think I can safely say that not many players played for the money back in that era, it is was all about the playing. In fact football probably lost a lot of good young prospects whose parents directed them elsewhere, towards more stable and better paid career opportunities long term. Our own Trevor Brooking’s decision to sign professional forms for West Ham was made easier as one of the criteria was the clubs decision to allow Trevor to continue on with his studies. Spurs and Chelsea were courting the player but wanted his signature immediately with no clauses for him to further his education. When I interviewed Eddie Bovington a couple of years ago he told me that when he lost his place in the team he saw the writing on the wall and chose to go back into his family business rather than spend the last few years of his professional football career playing elsewhere. Back to 1966 and when England won the World Cup, Sir Alf gathered all the players together and said, “Gentlemen, we have something to discuss. You have been awarded a bonus of £22,000 to be shared between you. One way of doing it would be everyone to have a basic £500, with extra money for appearances”. Without a moment’s hesitation Bobby Moore stood up and said: “No, boss, it will be £1,000 each. We were in all this together and that’s how it will stay”. Put in perspective, a thousand pounds in 1966 would be the equivalent of 18 thousand today.

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Money was not what drove players until too much of it filtered into the game. Prior to the big dosh the players were often local players and there was a symmetry between fans and players alike. Playing on muddy pitches they knew what local derbies meant to fans and there was an emphasis on hard but fair play – well, except Leeds! So fast forward to now and I don’t need to go into detail of how things have changed but sometimes I wonder if money is all that drives some players. We all know about the greed of agents and players and how loyalty to a football club has been chucked out of the window. The likes of Mark Noble are a rare and dying breed. I doubt Mark will play for another club in his lifetime and he knows what a game against Spurs means to the fans unlike some who have to have it explained to them.

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So whilst a players perspective has changed almost beyond recognition, have we the fans also changed? When I was younger and going to matches I used to get the right hump if we lost. An Uncle of mine who used to come over to our place every Tuesday evening used to say to me that he could tell whether West Ham had won or not just by the look on my face. A win or a loss would also mean bragging rights or a bagging on Monday morning at school or work. But it was more than that. It affected your heart, the love for your club. In those terms I doubt anything has changed. Certainly the match day experience has changed tremendously. Bovver boots and hooligans, the ninety minutes of singing before games and the smells and aroma of a proper East End football match have been replaced by shiny seats, replica shirts, popcorn and orderly queues. Some good and some bad then. Social media and blog platforms like this very one mean you can vent and discuss all things West Ham for most of the day and night all week. It is called passion for our club and that is what we fans have in abundance. So when I see Joe Hart laughing and joking coming off the pitch against Burnley when just minutes earlier we had conceded a late equaliser it irks me. When I see Antonio ready to come on as a substitute against Palace away and he has a look of “I couldn’t be bothered” it irks me. When I am told Sakho is injured for months and can’t play when we are short on numbers, then he passes a medical at Rennes, signs for them and scores on his debut a day later it irks me no end. This love affair with West Ham has fast become a marriage where one party has had its head turned.

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Two points from the past three games has done nothing for Hammers fans with nervous dispositions. Reading the blog each day there are some that would see relegation as no bad thing. Others see it as an Armageddon. So how many points will be needed to avoid the drop this season? You have to go back to the 2010/11 season since the magical target of 40 points was actually required to stay up. Since then the highest has been 38 and the lowest 34 with a total average of 36 points being enough to avoid the drop. This season is presently providing quite a uniquely different relegation battle with just three points separating the eight teams above an only partially adrift West Brom. To try and get a better understanding of what may be required this season I hopped onto the PL predictor and entered my predictions on all the Premier league games remaining this season. With so many close calls I probably opted for too many draws as my initial inputs claimed that 32 points would be safe come seasons end! I went back in and made a few bolder predictions and 36 points was the recalculated total. Realistically, another three wins (and throw in a draw or two) should keep us safe but that is not as easy as some would think. We currently have a 23% win record this season and we would need a 25% win record in our remaining games to reach that target. If you want to try the predictor yourself;
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The HamburgHammer Column

Please don't send us to Coventry - I'd rather dance with wolves

That game was a shocker. And it was, on paper, a very winnable one again. But as usual we defeat the stats. Brighton couldn’t score goals for toffee before we arrived at the Amex. Once we were in, Brighton looked like Barcelona at times. We do that to teams this season, we end barren runs, we give misfiring strikers confidence, shaky back fours peace of mind.

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Make no mistake, we may be in midtable, position wise, but we are only three points from a relegation place. The league table is so tight down there that it makes for a thrilling relegation scrap. It’s a bit less entertaining if your team is right in it though. We’ve been there before of course, numerous times in our history. For crying out loud, when I made the aquaintance of West Ham in 1996 we had just escaped a relegation battle, about to start another season with high hopes that ended in yet another relegation scrap.
I’m used to it and in general even relegation doesn’t scare me as such.

But right now relegation scares the living daylights out of me. Because I have a feeling that this time there’d be no way back for a long time. Just look at the long list of clubs that used to be mainstays of the Premier League (or First Division as the top league used to be called in the old days), clubs that have a certain ring to their name, even to football fans abroad, clubs that used to be important and now have to survive in the doldrums: Nottingham Forest, Norwich, Coventry, Blackburn, Bradford, Charlton, Portsmouth, Wimbledon, Fulham, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Leeds, Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday, Reading, Bolton.

Another one, Wolves, is almost guaranteed to get promoted at the end of the season – and I hope we will get to play two league games against them next season.
But now I am not so sure.

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How often do you hear the phrase “too good to go down” ? Yet we’ve done exactly that in the past with a team of good quality players.
If we stay up this year it’ll give the squad of “The Great Escape” season with a certain Carlos Tevez in it a run for its money.
Especially off the pitch our club is in bad shape, you all know who I blame for that and by now loads of others seem to agree.

Look at social media, look at articles in mainstream media and people have caught onto what the board are doing to this club – and what they are not doing.
A march has been organised and it is bound to get massive media coverage. Failing to win yet another winnable game (like Brighton away) doesn’t help to lift the collective mood. Weakening the squad further in the transfer window while making a net profit with half the team out injured doesn’t help.
Losing your head scout in the wake of a racism row doesn’t help.

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Events off the pitch mirror those on the pitch: We are reactive, not proactive. We never control or dominate a team. We struggle to keep possession. Players seem to carry massive weights on their shoulders whenever they step on their pitch. Football should be fun. Are they having fun out there ? It doesn’t look like it.
Same ff the pitch. NO long term strategy, NO long term team/squad building. It’s unbalanced and continually unbalanced further through the perennial injury issues.
We always need to play players out of position (Zabaleta as DM, come on!) and try to patch up holes during transfer window and more often than not we fail to do that because we waste other clubs’ time with our way of haggling over upfront fees and payment structures.

two managers in a row now have been desperate to bring in a new DM. Did we get either Carvalho or Dendoncker ? Of course not. But we got an attacking midfielder for 4 months and a striker from Championship side Preston with a 1 in 4 scoring ratio.

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That is no dig at Jordan Hugill. Like all new players I welcome him to the club and hope he can become a legend here. Maybe he can be for us what Freddie Sears failed to become. Hugill seems to be a decent lad, with a lot of motivation and the ability to hold the ball up well. Apparently he is also a nuisance to the defenders who have to keep him in check. We’ll see.

My point is: He was a panic buy and not exactly the like for like replacement you would have expected to come in for Sakho and Ayew. If our board are merely protecting their investment here they have a weird way of showing it. If we go down their investment will take a massive tumble in terms of overall value.
Are they playing the long game in the hope of somehow buying the OS outright ? Who knows ? All I know is that the atmosphere has become very toxic again, just like during the last six months of Allardyce’s reign. Only this time the anger is not focussed at the manager but the top of the hierarchy.

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Will they care ? Will they flinch over people marching, waving banners and black balloons ? Will they buckle under the assault from taunting chants ?
Probably not. But it will affect them, I am sure of that. They may be cold hearted businesspeople, but they are human beings with feelings and old men as well.
It will get uncomfortable for them and I’m sure as much as they have a plan in terms of selling on their own terms the anger and vitriol from fans may speed up their thought process here.

Is all that grief worth it just to get a few more millions of profit ? There’s only so many oil paintings and crystal panthers you can arrange in your mansions. Even their kids will get a healthy inheritance no matter what, allowing them two warm meals every day for the rest of their lives.

I feel the Rubicon has been crossed. We are past the point of negotiating with the board now. Loads of fans have given them the benefit of the doubt, waiting patiently for them to deliver on their promises and the ten point pledge. Surely they would come good for us in the next transfer window. Not this one ? Okay, bad luck, but surely, surely the next one. Does anyone expect a glorious transfer window for us this summer ? I don’t.

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In any case, we need to stay up. Hopefully, with some players returning from injury we will just about make it over the 40 point line, staying up by the skin of our teeth.
Watford at home. On paper another winnable game. At home. Against a side that is sinking like a piece of rock nicked from Stonehenge. Certainly a game we can’t afford to lose. But we didn’t plan on losing at Brighton, did we ?

There is a glimmer of hope. Mario seems to be enjoying his spell at West Ham so far and there is a bit of chemistry developing between him and Hernandez.
Fonte and Reid could be back to give our defence a bit more stability. Hugill may get some more gametime and may actually enjoy himself against a wobbly Watford back line.
Maybe Arnautovic could be ready to take his place on the substitutes bench, who knows ?

It surely will be intense at West Ham and continue to be so till the end of the season. Thankfully local football here in Hamburg is resuming next weekend too, offering a bit of distraction from some of the doom and gloom from East London. I’m looking forward to our next win, whenever it may happen! COYI!

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Brighton 3, West Ham 1. Shot Down By Birds.

The last few days in Claret & Blue have been depressing, infuriating, and predictable. All in equal measure. Whatever small level of patience I had for the current regime vanished when I turned out the lights to go to sleep on Wednesday night. The lack of business, and the absurd reasons given for that, insulted the basic intelligence of every West Ham supporter. To use the “no time for a medical” lie two times in a twelve month span is almost psychotic. The Tony Henry story was farcical. Both for the hideous nature of the comments, and the ineptitude of Henry for making them in a world where everything you say can easily be disseminated in seconds. So sitting down to watch the match today felt more like a chore than a pleasure. Whose fault is that? We all know.

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West Ham were fortunate not to have Byram enter the referee’s book in the early moments when he delivered a hip check that would have earned rave reviews from my former fellow season ticket holders for The New York Rangers. Bong went down with a bang, but all Brighton got was a set piece that West Ham handled well.

Javier Hernandez admitted yesterday that he had wanted to leave in the recently closed window. I can’t say that I blame him. But I do blame him for a giveaway that led to a quick Brighton counter. Cresswell tried to one up Byram in the ice hockey challenge by tripping Knockaert from behind near the center circle, a tackle that I think could have seen red on another day. The referee played the advantage, and Brighton took full advantage. Gross took the ball from Knockaert and fed Murray alone in the box. The man always seems to score against us, so why not today?

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Brighton 1
West Ham 0

After the goal, West Ham looked like they wanted to settle down and play for a professional 1-0 loss. Brighton swarmed like a team that knew exactly what they wanted and how they would get it. They sprayed passes around the West Ham penalty area, making both Byram and Cresswell look more than just uncomfortable as wingbacks. The Hammers overall looked like a team that didn’t want to be there. I wanted the whole day to end as quickly as possible.

West Ham had their first real threatening moment of the match in the 25th minute when Cresswell did well to send a cross into the box from a tight area. Byram got to it in front of goal, but his header lacked pace and went more down than forward. Duffy cleared it, and instead of a level scoreline it remained 1-0 to the hosts.

Moments later Brighton thought they had a shout for hand ball. Bong sent a low cross into the box that found Knockaert in front of goal. His one timer went right into Ogbonna’s arm, but Roger East was right there and waved off the penalty claim straight away.

Despite my earlier comments about Chicharito, I’ve never doubted that under the right circumstance Lil Pea could be a valuable asset for us. The 30th minute showed why. Hernandez started an attack with a pass to Noble twenty yards out. The Captain passed it right to Mario in the box, who barely had the ball for a millisecond before feeding Hernandez in the box. Even after his initial opportunity dissipated, Chicharito broke to his right and found the upper left hand corner of the goal.

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Brighton 1
West Ham 1

The hosts should have regained the lead a minute or so later when Noble and Ogbonna got in each others way trying to clear a cross in the West Ham penalty area. The ball came right to Knockaert in front of goal, but he sent his shot over the bar.

West Ham finished the first half far better than they started it, with Cresswell sending two quality crosses into the box. With a little luck, either Mario or Byram would have scored. Then the visitors earned a free kick on the right side of the Brighton penalty area, followed by a corner. They almost paid for another defensive misstep by Byram that allowed Brighton to break with a pasture of space to work with, but Zabaleta got a crucial toe in to break it up.

Halftime
Brighton 1
West Ham 1

The second half started with a lot of nothing, done very quickly. The ball looked to move up and down the pitch quickly, but with very little purpose. Like everyone had a bit too much coffee during the break. The first opportunity of any kind came in the 59th minute when Rice was forced to put the ball out for a corner. The initial delivery went nowhere. But seconds later, West Ham were struck by lightning for the second time this season when Izquierdo repeated his wonder strike from the 3-0 win at The London Stadium with a curler into the top left corner.

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Brighton 2
West Ham 1

Brighton were on the attack again in the 67th minute when Schelotto went on a run down the right. His cross found Gross in the box, but the shot went high over the bar to see the chance wasted.

Brighton moved the ball around the West Ham box in the 74th minute, with Izquierdo combining with Gross before the his shot was deflected out for a corner. But a few minutes later, Collins gave the ball away with a bad clearance. Gross took over near the top of the box and sent a low shot past Adrian.

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Brighton 3
West Ham 1

A few minutes later, Gross was sent in again down the right. Everyone but the German international thought the flag would go up. It didn’t, and it took a fine save from Adrian to prevent Brighton from scoring a fourth.

I wonder if somewhere around the 84th minute, Mario thought to himself “glad it’s only a loan”.

Final Score
Brighton 3
West Ham 1

Not that I had any delusions we would not be dragged back down into a relegation fight, it’s still unpleasant to actually be in it. For real. When the season began, I looked at the two matches against Brighton as six points to be had.

I just had the wrong team.

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