Talking Point

Cottee and McAvennie to be honoured in race horse

Frank McAvennie and Tony Cottee are looking to become winners all over again after having a horse named after them by an Irons-crazy fan.

CotteeMcAvenniGoal has been sent to top trainer Kim Bailey where he is currently undergoing a “breaking in”  process before he hits the racecourse probably around March or April next year. The final e of SuperMac’s name has been omitted as there is a limit on the number of characters allowed in a racehorse’s name.

Hammer Simon Keane, who bought the horse, said:

“Kim Bailey is one of the few National Hunt trainers to have trained the winners of all three of the top national hunt races, The Champion Hurdle, The Gold Cup and The Grand National. He is a bit like WHU in that he has had his ups and downs but is currently back on the up and his current group of very good horses include Vindication, Red River and First Flow.” Simon got to know Kim through a man called Peter Kerr who organizes and runs syndicates for owners who do not want to purchase horses outright."

Simon approached his two favourite Hammers, Macca and TC with the help of Claret and Hugh who immediately gave him permission to use their names and were delighted to be asked.

Simon said: 

“I am absolutely convinced that WHUFC were the best team in that league in the famous 85/86 season and were only robbed of the title due to the backlog in fixtures. But my overriding memory was the terror that Tony and Frank installed in the opposition with their brilliant and deadly partnership. One thing that has always stuck in my mind was Frank coming back from international duty with Scotland from Australia on a Saturday morning and coming on to score the winner against QPR.   Make no mistake the naming of the horse is a tribute to two fantastic players in a brilliant team.”

Trainer Kim was happy to discuss the three-year-old and said: “He’s a nice looking horse but it’s very early days and is currently being broken in. He will celebrate his fourth birthday on New Year’s Day and like the guys he’s been named after looks very athletic.It’s obviously too early to think in terms of what races he will be entered for as I wouldn’t expect him to be ready for the course until around March or April next year. But his first outing will be in a bumper (a flat race for National Hunt horses) before he is sent over the hurdles, after which we will hope to see him make up into a chaser.”

When Frank McAvenie was contacted he said “I feel honoured that an out and out Hammer should have named his horse after us. I’m not into racing like I once was but this is a terrific thing for the old firm of Frankie and TC. He texted me up and asked permission and I couldn’t have been more pleased to say ‘yes..’ We will be following the horse with terrific interest when he hits the track next year. Kim Bailey is a top trainer so we all have to have high hopes for Cottemacavennigoal. I hope he wins us all a good few quid.”

We also spoke to Tony Cottee who added: "I do feel honoured, as far as I know, I have never had a horse named after me, and to have one with Frank and the aspect of a goal is special, it is a huge honour, I said to Simon keep in touch, keep me up to date and it would be nice to watch it run and maybe it will get a few wins. I do like a day out racing, I go to Cheltenham every year and my dad was a very keen horse racing man so he bought me up with gambling and horse racing.

A bit of background on Ireland based Simon and how he became a West Ham United Supporter in his own words

Simon says:

“In fairness, it is a question that I am often asked when I meet WHU supporters from England. To be honest there is no one answer but I do remember when I started Primary school on my first day my mum produced a WHU bag , how she got it here in Ireland I will never know, so I must have been supporting them then, in 1973. I think the main reason I started supporting them was at the time all my Friends supported Arsenal (Brady, Stapleton and O Leary ) or Liverpool or Man Utd and I just wanted to be different and picked WHU. I also remember when I first saw Sir Trevor Brooking and Billy Bonds play I was transfixed. Sir Trevor had such an effect on me that I remember looking forward more to England matches on TV than Ireland games because in those days it was really the only time I saw anything WHU related on tv. I consider myself extremely lucky that my three children, Sarah (15) , Charlotte (12) and Marcus (10) all support WHU as does my wife Carol who eventually caught the bug. Since starting to support WHU I think my favorite teams were the team that won the cup in 80, the team of ‘86 and the Bilic’s team of the last season at UP. If pushed I would go for the team of 86 because of the other WHU legends like Alvin Martin, Ray Stewart and Alan Devonshire hence the name of the horse had to be related to them.”

Simon’s Interest in Horses in his own words

“Since about 1995/ 1996 I have always had a share in a racehorse and until I got involved with a syndicate run by Peter Kerr these horses were trained by Michael O’ Brien in Beechcourt Stables in Ireland. The best horse I have been involved in with Michael was a horse called Commonchero. He finished second in a grade one at the Punchestown festival and won at least five races. I used to be a regular at the Cheltenham Festival , in fact, I think I attended 18 out of 19 years since 1991, the only year I missed was 1996 when I was in Australia. Those years in the 90’s coincided with a golden period for Kim Bailey and hence I was always aware of what a brillant trainer he is. Like WHU Kim has had his ups and downs and it was only when I was watching racing on tv a few years ago and saw his horse Harry Topper win a big race that I actually thought to myself “that’s nearly 30 years that Kim Bailey has been training winners”. I didn’t think at the time I would ever have a horse in training with him though.”

“About this time last year my wife and I decided to once again have a share in a racehorse and because Irish Racing is currently dominated by Gigginstown ( owned by Michael o Leary of Ryanair fame) and trainer Willie Mullins and it is virtually impossible for a small owner to have a winner we decided to buy a share in a horse that would be trained in England. Kim being the brilliant trainer that he is was always top of the list of English trainers so I looked up his website and this is where Peter Kerr came in. I emailed Peter Kerr, who runs Kim’s ownership syndicates, late one evening looking for information on shares in horses that would be trained by Kim that were available. I honestly thought I would hear back in a day or two but despite it being late at night Peter came back with a detailed response about twenty minutes later. From the first time I spoke to Peter I knew I could trust him and we knew we would have a share in one of his syndicates. Hence we also have a share in a very exciting young horse called Pond Road. While he has never run before I think Kim and Peter like him, but time will tell!”

“Fast forward to March this year and Gold Cup morning and I visited Kim Bailey’s yard in Andoversford to meet with Kim & Peter Kerr and also see Pond Road. I brought along a good friend of mine, Paddy Ryan, who breeds his own horses. As I am not involved in racehorses on a day to day basis I have to rely on the expertise of people I trust. Walking away from our visit Paddy was massively impressed with Kim’s yard and how the horses were not only trained but how well they were looked after. It was driving back to where I was staying that week that I made the decision to try to convince my wife Carol that we should take the plunge and put a horse in training with Kim. I think it is only right to point out that despite only knowing Kim and Peter for about a year I absolutely trust them 100% also which is very important for people like us who want to get into ownership but have no idea of the type of horses to get involved in”

“Luckily it took very little to convince Carol, who lives by the mantra “you only live once” to buy a racehorse. Initially my idea was to buy a racehorse currently in training with another trainer and move him to Kim. Peter Kerr was a great help and in fairness the horses he had picked out have since won but also got withdrawn from the sales so I never had the chance to bid for them. A great friend of mine, Mark MacRedmond , who is a partner in a very large veterinary practice on the Curragh put me in touch with William Flood of Broadsmill Stud who had a three-year-old for sale. For people interested in horse racing William’s stud farm stands brillant stallions Kalanisi ( who sired CotteeMcAvennigoal)Court Cave and Mount Nelson among others. Both my daughter and I spent a wonderful Saturday morning in William’s stud farm about six weeks ago and we came to an agreement re “ The Kalanisi gelding”. Funnily the guy, who I think is John, who led the horse around that morning and my daughter Charlotte talked about potential names and they settled on Wilshere as he was an Arsenal fan and Charlotte is a hammer. I thought to myself “ I will do better than that”

“Now I am a great believer if you’re going to do something you have to do it properly. I asked Kim who would be the best man to break the horse in and do the pre-training and hence CotteeMcAvennigoal is now with a man called Martin Jones. He has been with Martin for about a month now and I would expect that he will remain there for the next 4-6 weeks before going over to Kim’s yard. It’s early days but the reports from Martin to date are positive so the dream lives on, no sign that it is yet a case of “ fade and die”

Approaching Tony and Frank re the name in Simon’s own words

“I wanted to contact both Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie to in reality get permission to use their names for the horse and tbh I did not even know where to start. This is where the West Ham family kicked in. Last Sunday morning I emailed Nigel to explain what I was trying to do and did he have any ideas on how I would get in contact with Tony and Frank. Ten minutes later Nigel had emailed me back saying he had forwarded my mail to Sean to see what could be done. In another ten mins Sean had emailed me back with both Tony and Franks mobile numbers and within an hour of wondering how I would contact the guys, I had sent a what’s app message to both.”

The Response from Tony and Frank

“Things may not be going well for our current bunch of players on the pitch but from my small interaction with Tony and Frank I can assure you we WHU fans have every right to be extremely proud of the team of 86 if these two great guys are anything to go by. Again within twenty minutes, Tony had responded that he loved the idea and that anything that provided a bit of fun for WHU supporters these days he was fully behind. His only condition was that we kept him up to date of the horses progress and where he would run Lol. Tony said that through his father he had a great interest in racing. He also mentioned that as Frank was at the Celtic Rangers match I might not hear from him until Monday!. But incredibly Frank did come back and gave the idea a massive thumbs up. Again both Tony and Frank were 100% behind the idea of an article on the horse which I personally believe is incredibly generous of them considering that they have never met me or my family.”

The Team of 86 and Naming the Horse

“I am absolutely convinced that WHU were the best team in that league that year and were only robbed of the title due to the backlog in fixtures but my overriding memory was the terror that Tony and Frank installed in the opposition with their brilliant and deadly partnership. One thing that has always stuck in my mind was Frank coming back from International duty with Scotland from Australia on a Sat morning and coming on to score the winner against QPR I think. You might ask him about that when you speak to him. Make no mistake the naming of the horse is a tribute to two fantastic players in a brilliant team.”

“The name was quite simple. When the Kids were growing up during the better weather we would go out to the back garden to play football in the evening. Usually it ended up me and Charlotte versus Marcus and Sarah. Marcus was always his favorite players, Payet or Lanzini, Sarah started as Tomkins but moved to Andy Carroll and We would be either Sir Trevor and Billy Bonds or Cottee and McAvennie. On the evenings we were Tony and Frank I found myself continually repeating CotteeMcAvennieGoal as I scored time and time again against my ten-year-old daughter and five-year-old son!”

As a footnote Tony Cottee messaged Simon saying he’d been playing golf with Tony Gale today and Galey was wondering if Simon could name the next horse GaleMartincleansheets after his and Alvin’s great defensive partnership!


Dan Coker's Match Preview

Crossed Hammers & Three Lions: Paul Goddard

Welcome to the latest in a series of articles designed for international matches – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England.

Today, as England prepare to face Spain in their first ever Nations League match, we look back at a former Hammers striker – Paul Goddard. ‘Sarge’, as he was known after his Boys’ Brigade days, was born in Harlington on 12th October 1959 and started his career at Queens Park Rangers, making his debut in April 1978 in the same team as future Hammers team-mate Phil Parkes. He scored 16 goals alongside another former Iron, Clive Allen, in 1979/80 before John Lyall spent a club record £800,000 on the England Under-21 striker in August 1980. Goddard made his West Ham league debut at the age of 20 on 16th August 1980 in a 2-1 Second Division defeat to Luton at the Boleyn Ground. He scored his first goal for the club in a 2-0 League Cup second round first leg win at Burnley on 26th August 1980 and made 55 appearances in the 1980/81 season as the Hammers won promotion to the First Division and reached the League Cup Final. He scored 23 goals in his first season, including a strike in the 2-0 League Cup semi-final second leg win over Coventry at Upton Park on 10th February 1981 and a diving header in the League Cup Final replay defeat to Liverpool at Villa Park on 1st April 1981. He also bagged a hat-trick in a 3-0 home win over former club QPR later that month.

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Goddard made 46 appearances in 1981/82 as the Hammers returned to top flight football and finished ninth. He scored 17 goals, including a hat-trick in a 4-2 home win over Southampton in September 1981. Ron Greenwood gave ‘Sarge’ his one and only England cap aged 22 in a 1-1 draw against Iceland in Reykjavik. He came on as a 40th-minute substitute for the injured Cyrille Regis with the Three Lions 1-0 down. Goddard, playing alongside Hammers team-mate Alan Devonshire, scored the equaliser after 69 minutes, running on to Glenn Hoddle’s pass to become the first England player to score while playing less than a full match. Despite this debut goal, Goddard was not taken to Spain for the 1982 World Cup.

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An eighth-placed finish followed in 1982/83 with ‘Sarge’ scoring 12 goals in 46 matches. 1983/84 was injury-hit for Goddard as he scored two goals in just six appearances; the Hammers finished ninth. The Irons would dip the following season, finishing 16th in 1984/85 but it was a more fruitful season for Goddard personally, as he scored 14 goals in 48 appearances, including a hat-trick in a 4-1 FA Cup third round win over Port Vale at the Boleyn on 5th January 1985.

1985/86 would go down as the finest league season in West Ham United’s history. Goddard started the season partnering Tony Cottee but dislocated his shoulder 31 minutes into the opening day 1-0 defeat at Birmingham. New signing Frank McAvennie, who started that match in an attacking midfield role, took Goddard’s place up front and the Irons went on to record their highest ever finish of third. ‘Sarge’ made just seven appearances, scoring one goal in the 8-1 thrashing of Newcastle on 21st April 1986.

Goddard made five appearances in 1986/87, scoring two goals. His final goal in claret and blue came in a 3-2 League Cup third round win at Watford on 29th October 1986, while his last game as a Hammers player was a 1-0 home win over Everton four days later. After scoring 71 goals in 213 appearances for West Ham United, the 27-year-old moved to Newcastle on 7th November 1986 for a fee of £415,000 – the most the Hammers had ever received for a player at the time. My video below shows 11 of Goddard’s 71 goals for West Ham United, scored against Shrewsbury, Castilla, Poli Timisoara, Bristol Rovers (all 1980), Preston, Coventry, Liverpool, Middlesbrough (all 1981), Manchester United (1982), Newcastle and Watford (both 1986).

Goddard spent 15 months on Tyneside, playing alongside Glenn Roeder, before moving to Derby in a £425,000 deal. He was on the move again a season and a half later, returning to London to sign for Millwall for £800,000 in December 1989. Goddard reunited with John Lyall at Ipswich a little over two years later, moving to Portman Road on a free transfer. He helped Ipswich win promotion to the Premier League for the 1992/93 campaign and was made first team coach by Lyall in the summer of 1994. During the 1994/95 season, he was temporarily caretaker-manager with former team-mate John Wark between the departure of John Lyall and the arrival of George Burley; Goddard went on to become the club’s youth team coach.

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Having played alongside him at QPR and Newcastle, Goddard became Glenn Roeder’s assistant manager at West Ham in the summer of 2001. He helped the Hammers to a seventh-placed finish in 2001/02 but the Irons were relegated in 2002/03. The last three matches of that season saw Goddard reunited with former Hammers team-mate Trevor Brooking as the West Ham legend assumed the role of caretaker manager after Roeder fell ill. Goddard left West Ham in January 2004, three months after Alan Pardew took over as manager. Now 58, Goddard was recently known to be living with his family in East Bergholt, Suffolk. He has also worked for the Stellar Group football agency.

England v Spain

England face Spain this weekend in a Nations League match – it will be the 26th meeting between the two nations. The pair met in the 1968 European Championship quarter-finals, with England winning the first leg 1-0 at Wembley on 3rd April 1968. The Beatles were number one with ‘Lady Madonna’, Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier and Katharine Hepburn were in UK cinemas in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and Thames Valley Police was formed two days earlier.

Alf Ramsey’s England took the lead six minutes from full-time courtesy of 30-year-old Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton, who thumped home from an indirect free-kick. It was the 44th of his 49 England goals, in the 83rd of his 106 caps. England won the second leg in the Bernabeu 2-1, with Hammer Martin Peters on the scoresheet. The Three Lions were beaten by Yugoslavia in the semi-finals but won the third-place play-off against the Soviet Union. Italy went on to win the tournament.

England: Gordon Banks (Stoke), Cyril Knowles (Tottenham), Jack Charlton (Leeds), Bobby Moore (captain, West Ham), Ray Wilson (Everton), Alan Ball (Everton), Martin Peters (West Ham), Alan Mullery (Tottenham), Bobby Charlton (Man Utd), Roger Hunt (Liverpool), Mike Summerbee (Man City).

Spain: Salvador Sadurni (Barcelona), Inaki Saez (Athletic Bilbao), Gallego (Barcelona), Juan Manuel Canos (Elche), Ignacio Zoco (captain, Real Madrid), Pirri (Real Madrid), Jose Claramunt (Valencia), Amaro Amancio (Real Madrid), Poli (Valencia), Fernando Ansola (Valencia), Ramon Grosso (Real Madrid).

The previous articles in the series are:

Jack Tresadern
Ken Brown
Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne
Bobby Moore
Martin Peters
Sir Trevor Brooking
Alan Devonshire
Alvin Martin
Stuart Pearce
Joe Cole
David James
Robert Green


Dan Coker's Match Preview

West Ham's Spanish Connections: Part One

With England’s upcoming Nations League match against Spain coming up on Saturday, here’s Part One of a look back at the Hammers’ Spanish contingent.

Kepa Blanco

Kepa Blanco was born on 13th January 1984 in Marbella, Spain and began his career with Sevilla’s B team as a teenager in 2002 before progressing to Sevilla’s first team in 2005. He played for Spain at Under-19, Under-21 and Under-23 levels and won the UEFA Cup with Sevilla in 2006. He fell out of favour though and agreed a loan move to Alan Curbishley’s West Ham in January 2007.

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Kepa, as he was known, scored within 70 seconds of coming on as a substitute for his Hammers debut in a 2-1 home defeat to Liverpool on 30th January 2007. This earned the 23-year-old a start for the next match at Aston Villa but the Irons lost 1-0. He made six further substitute appearances for the Hammers, none of which came in the club’s four-match winning run at the end of the 2006/07 campaign to secure the Great Escape. Meanwhile, Kepa’s parent club were winning the Copa Del Rey and UEFA Cup. Kepa Blanco made eight appearances for the Hammers, scoring one goal, which can be seen in my video below.

Kepa signed for Getafe in a permanent move in the summer of 2007. After three years he joined Recreativo in the Spanish second tier. He failed to make a single appearance in his second season with the Andalusia-based club and joined Guadalajara, also in the second tier. Relegation followed and Kepa retired from football at the age of 30. He has since coached Malaga-based amateur side San Pedro.

Manuel Almunia

Manuel Almunia was born on 19th May 1977 in Pamplona, Spain. The first six seasons of his career were spent in the Spanish third tier with Osasuna’s B team, Cartagonova and Sabadell. He joined La Liga side Celta Vigo but failed to make an appearance for the club, instead spending loan spells with Eibar in the second tier, and Recreativo and Albacete in the top tier. He moved to Arsenal in 2004 as back-up to Jens Lehmann; he was an unused substitute when Arsenal beat Manchester United in the 2005 FA Cup Final but did play 70 minutes of the 2006 Champions League Final after Lehmann was sent off in the Gunners’ 2-1 defeat to Barcelona. He made 175 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal before moving across London to West Ham United in a loan deal.

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Sam Allardyce signed the 34-year-old Almunia on a one-month emergency loan deal following a knee injury to first choice goalkeeper Robert Green. Almunia made four appearances for the Hammers, making his debut in a 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace on 1st October 2011. He made his home debut in a 4-0 home win over Blackpool two weeks later and also played in a 1-0 defeat at Southampton. His final game was a 1-0 win at Brighton on 24th October 2011.

Almunia signed for Watford in the summer of 2012 and spent two years with the Hornets. Now 41, Almunia retired in 2014 on medical advice after a rare heart condition was picked up during a medical with Serie A side Cagliari.

Adrian

Adrian San Miguel del Castillo was born on 3rd January 1987 in Seville, Spain and began his career with Real Betis’ third team, before progressing to the B side and the first team. He also had spells on loan at Alcala and Utrera. He was named Man of the Match on his La Liga debut in September 2012 and received the award again when keeping a clean sheet against Real Madrid in a 1-0 home win in November 2012. He started 31 matches in 2012/13, keeping 11 clean sheets and helping the club qualify for the Europa League with a seventh placed finish.

Adrian signed for Sam Allardyce’s West Ham on a free transfer in the summer of 2013. Initially back-up to Jussi Jaaskelainen, the 26-year-old Adrian made his Hammers debut in a 2-1 League Cup second round win over Cheltenham on 27th August 2013. He helped the Irons to the semi-finals of the League Cup in his first season and made his Premier League debut in a 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford in December 2013. An outstanding individual performance from the Spanish stopper saw the Hammers pick up an unlikely point in a goalless draw at Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in January 2014. Having made himself first choice, Adrian was named runner-up to Mark Noble in the 2013/14 Hammer of the Year voting.

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Arguably Adrian’s finest hour to date in a West Ham shirt came in an FA Cup third round replay against Everton at the Boleyn Ground in January 2015. He saved Steven Naismith’s penalty in an epic penalty shoot-out before famously throwing off his gloves to net the winner himself. Later that season, Adrian also became just the ninth ‘keeper in Premier League history to save three penalties in a row – first from Harry Kane at Tottenham (who scored the rebound), David Nugent at Leicester and Charlie Austin at QPR. Adrian was also sent off in a goalless draw at Southampton in February 2015 but the dismissal was later rescinded.

Adrian was sent off in a 2-1 home defeat to Leicester in August 2015 but helped the Hammers to a seventh-placed finish in the club’s final season at Upton Park. He was called up to the senior Spain squad in August 2016. A crowd favourite, the 31-year-old Adrian has been in and out of the side since the move to London Stadium with Darren Randolph, Joe Hart and Lukasz Fabianski providing competition for his starting place. He has made 146 appearances for West Ham United to date.

Pedro Obiang

Pedro Obiang was born on 27th March 1992 in Alcala de Henares, Spain and began his career in Atletico Madrid’s youth system before moving to Sampdoria in Italy. After five seasons in the first team at the Genoa-based club, and having appeared for Spain at Under-17, Under-19 and Under-21 levels, Obiang became the first signing of the Slaven Bilic era when he moved to West Ham United in the summer of 2015.

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Obiang made his Hammers debut as a half-time substitute for Reece Oxford in a 2-1 home defeat to Leicester on 15th August 2015. He helped the Irons to a seventh-placed finish in 2015/16 and scored his first goal in claret and blue in a 3-1 win at Southampton on 4th February 2017. Obiang signed a new five-year contract with the Hammers in the summer of 2017 and scored two goals last season, the first in a 2-0 home win over Huddersfield on 11th September 2017 and the second a stunning strike from distance at Wembley in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham on 4th January 2018. He suffered a knee injury at Wigan in January which kept him out for four months – he has made 89 appearances to date for West Ham, scoring three goals.

Part Two of West Ham United’s Spanish Connections will be published before England’s return match in Spain next month.


The Blind Hammer Column

Substance over Style

Blind Hammer argues that Pellegrini must make West Ham harder to beat.

The Pellegrini revolution aims to transform West Ham’s style. He has pledged to return attacking flair. This was always going to be a tough gig in a first 4 fixtures which included away games against Liverpool and Arsenal. The reverses in the theoretical winnable games against Bournemouth and Wolves reminds us of how difficult delivering this will be against all teams in the brutal and harsh competitive environment of the Premier League. There really are no easy games. The reality is that despite his huge experience and successful CV Pellegrini is facing a combination of circumstances he has never faced before.

Recently in his London Standard column Mark Noble reflected how extraordinarily difficult the premier league is compared to other European Leagues. He reported how Ogbonna had revealed that the physical demands of playing in the PL bore no resemblance to playing in Italy. There He would have no difficulty playing game after game with little if any physical strain. Whereas in the PL Noble claimed a player will in contrast find it difficult to walk for 48 hours whilst they struggle to recover.

This is one reason why Pellegrini’s experience at Malaga, much cited as a template for West Ham, will in reality have little relevance. There is though another more important reason why the Malaga template may not apply. When I reviewed European turnover figures last year I showed Bournemouth as the minnows of the PL with a turnover of only £96 million, yet this was vast in European terms. They had more financial muscle than nearly all but the most elite of European Clubs. They far outstripped for example Ajax. More relevantly Bournemouth’s relatively small PL turnover massively surpassed nearly all Spanish clubs. Characteristically Spanish clubs had only a fraction of this financial clout, typically earning a turnover of between £10-£20 million.

The Spanish League apart from the giants of Real and Barca is tiny compared to the PL. This meant that the investment Pellegrini received at Malaga was massive compared to nearly all his competitors. In general the competition was much weaker and less resourced. In distinction the best players in the world are sprinkled across the Premier League, drawn in by the lure of the wages paid out by even the smallest PL clubs. . At West Ham we arguably have Austria’s best player in Armi and Mexico’s best player in Chico. We sold the Captain of the Senegal team as he was not considered good enough. Portugal’s Mario struggled to convince at West Ham despite featuring in the latter stages of the World Cup. Newcastle have Venezuela’s best player, Salomon Rondon, who is failing to regularly make their first 11. Everton have Iceland’s best player Gylfi Sigurðsson, other examples are spread throughout the rest of the league.

This in no way resembles the competitive challenge Pellegrini faced with the ultimately failed project at Malaga. West Ham does not resemble Manchester City or Real Madrid either. Pellegrini delivered at City and Real with a massive transfer advantage. The transfer investment whilst at record levels for West Ham is matched and exceeded by many other clubs. The competitive challenge of the PL is more brutal harsh and consistent from week to week. Both Aston Villa and Sunderland fell into their dizzying fall from grace not because of lack of investment but because they faltered at the false altar of “ambition”. Aston Villa were relegated paying more in wages than West Ham whilst Sunderland also struggle because they over invested in player wages but received little back in performance.

None of this means that Pellegrini is necessarily doomed to walk the haunted path of the ghost of Avram grant, at least not yet. It does mean though that the tried and tested strategies of previous appointments may not work. He needs to learn and adapt fast. He may have to adjust and move into unfamiliar territory.

The problem is that West Ham cannot really claim that we have been unlucky. Despite flickering briefly against Arsenal we are terrifyingly open at the moment. Clubs are finding it far too easy to mount efforts on our goal. Only the form of Fabianski has saved us from more humiliating defeats. We continue not only to have the worst defensive record since the start of last season but this season are the second worst team in the Premier League for allowing completed attempts on our goal. Apart from shredding all our nerves this openness and vulnerability will over a season deliver certain relegation. In 4 games played, West Ham has allowed 29 efforts on our goal. This must be controlled to more manageable levels.

I am not sure whether midfield consolidation is needed or whether Pellegrini will finally have to revert back to a back 3, but a system has to be found which does not allow shots and headers to constantly rain down on Fabianski. In other words Pellegrini may need to show tactical flexibility. The hunt for a sweeping Attacking styles may have to go, in the short term, on the back burner in order to claim more substantial, if less exciting improvement. This will be necessary to prevent the collapse of squad confidence and morale. .

So far Pellegrini has shown more interest in shuffling personnel rather than systems in AN effort to bail out the sinking ship. Some change is understandable given poor results. However if the problem is really one of players gelling, not treating each other like strangers, then chopping and changing will not help. As a policy squad rotation should cease immediately. I was amazed at the numbers of changes made for the Wimbledon game. Although we ultimately scrapped through against 10 men with late goals, we should have, in the interest of “gelling” gone with our first 11. A similar principle should apply for the Macclesfield game. This team must stop behaving like strangers and should play together as much as possible at all competitive opportunities. The League Cup may ironically finally provide the green shoots of recovery which helps us in the Premiership.

COYI
David Griffith

David Griffith


Talking Point

Clean Sheets Please, And Asap

Guest Post by DC

In November 2015, I posted an article on WHTID after a dismal 4-1 away defeat to Spurs – the subject being Spurs 3rd goal against us that day scored by a certain Mr Harry Kane.

My specific focus and angst that day was geared towards Jenkinson and Cresswell’s positioning in relation to our two centre halves after James Tomkins played a stray pass. Namely our full backs were about 30 yards ahead of Tomkins and Reid. There was no contingency plan in place for if or when we gave the ball away playing out from the back. Loads of space on the pitch for the opposition to run into, exactly where we don’t want that space, in our final third. Diabolical Defending!

Fast forward to August 2017 and under the same Bilic regime, I experienced the same angst during our 3-0 away defeat at Newcastle. My sympathies went out to Declan Rice that day as he was pick-pocketed in Defensive Midfield by two Newcastle players for their first goal, again as we tried to play out from the back. A steep learning curve for the young lad, but yet again I found myself searching for our full-backs – just the one right back barely in his own half this time. Loads of space on the pitch for the opposition to run into, exactly where we don’t want that space, in our final third. Diabolical Defending!

This summer a trumpet fanfare across social media greeted Mr Pellegrini and his boys to the club but yep you guessed it, we fast forward to last Saturday and the visit of Wolves where we stumble across an all too familiar picture. A ponderous Sanchez receiving not the best ball in the world from Balbuena. The ball gets ‘nicked off him’, Balbuena and Diop are isolated, split 30-40 odd yards apart, the right full back is barely in our half and Cresswell is in the opposition half near the centre circle, albeit goal-side of the eventual Wolves goalscorer who burns Cressy in a 50 yard footrace to our penalty box. Loads of space on the pitch for the opposition to run into, exactly where we don’t want that space, in our final third. Diabolical Defending!

What’s that saying? “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and ……..” I don’t need to spell it out.

There will always be passionate discussions about our best team and ‘formation’ on WHTID as well as the odd tendency by some of us to tap them out on shall we say, quite a regular basis. We talk of 3 at the back. 4 at the back. 5 at the back. Maybe these formations are based on where the players stand when we kick off or perhaps more unconsciously, we visualise how the team is set-up when the opposition have the ball and are fully encamped in our half.

Watching the Mighty Hammers over the last few years, I’m mostly concerned when we have the ball and are looking to push forward, i.e. when we’re likely to get the ball nicked off us early doors. This for me is when we are at our most vulnerable. Our full-backs are regularly AWOL when this happens. There’s certainly enough evidence out there to suggest that we’re not playing with anything other than a Split Back 2 when we have the ball. From where I’m sitting, we’ve been doing this for a few years now. Do we really think we now have good enough players to do this and get away with it in the weeks and months ahead?

Some might argue that this is the way modern football is played these days – the way forward! I seem to remember a very much fancied Brazil side getting their bums slapped 7-1 when they tried doing something very similar against Germany in the 2014 World Cup Semi Final on their home turf. It smacked of arrogance, the net result being David Luiz hiding his face in shame beneath his shirt as he cried himself off the field of play at the end of the game. Brazil’s wing backs had forgot the ‘back’ bit.

Footballers, namely Central Defensive Midfielders, lose the ball from time to time – even the very best ones. Some lose it slightly more than others. All teams need a contingency plan for when they lose possession, particularly when they lose the ball deep in their own half. This is the main reason I would be very wary about playing Declan Rice in the CDM role at the moment. Personally I think it’s totally unfair on the young lad as long as the full backs continue to be deployed in such a random way.

Up against a West Ham side, the opposition don’t always need to work that hard to create space going forward as we seem to randomly hand out vast swathes of space to them on a plate. In a pure footballing sense, perhaps the players think they’re better than they are on the ball?

In terms of understanding the Team dynamics, we really seem to be struggling with the idea that a full-back’s first and foremost role is to defend. In my opinion, until we get a grip on this, we will continue to play kamikaze football of the highest order.

Clean Sheets Please asap – COYI!


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