The GoatyGav Column

London Stadium Rocking – Pundits Rate Atmosphere.

Last weekend the Match of the Day and Talksport pundits were extremely complimentary about the atmosphere at the ground. Driving back from Birmingham, this afternoon, I was tuned in to Hawksbee and Jacobs when they had John Motson on. He praised the match as a spectacle, saying that it was one of the most entertaining games of football that he’d seen this season and that, were it not for the, otherwise deserved, attention given to the Leicester game at Cardiff, the match would have been the main talking point of this weekend’s fixtures.

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Not always known for his positive comments towards our club Motty went on to describe the atmosphere at the London Stadium, like other pundits have suggested recently, as “rocking.” I’ve always found the sheepskin coated one quite scathing about our club in his analysis so it would be fairly safe to assume that something has changed to influence a shift in his opinion.

So what is it that’s got us belting out the songs and chants at the top of our voices? The brand of football on display on Saturday afternoon would be an understandable reason for the raised decibels but what about the noise in and around the first whistle before the first goal? And how about the other games where the team haven’t played such an enterprising and entertaining game? So often you hear away fans out-sing the home support – definitely not in our case so far this season. The Burnley supporters were almost silent by comparison.

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Last season I voiced my disapproval at the way that Season Tickets were being allocated. I found it amazing that the club were unable to track a supporter’s match attendance history before offering an ST to them. I suspect that ‘tourist’ fans and opportunists from other clubs who regularly ‘sell’ their Season Tickets seem to be dwindling in numbers and genuine supporters of West Ham are taking their place. I still overhear other fans discussions about this subject – one recently stating that a solitary Arsenal fan currently holds 20 (twenty) seats that he sells each game. But as fans of other clubs move on it seems that they’re being replaced by those, who’ve been on the waiting list, that are lifelong fans.

At one point during the Burnley game I stopped signing, which doesn’t happen very often, and just took in the sounds. It was definitely one the best, if not the best, noises I’ve witnessed at a ground since all seaters came in. Motty’s ‘rocking’ adjective was certainly apt. Remember – this wasn’t Manchester United or the Spuds – this was Burnley that we were playing.

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On to on-pitch events there were times, well – two of them to be precise, where I though the team wouldn’t get their just deserts. That sinking feeling we’re so familiar with kicked in after both of the Burnley goals. Front of mind was the recent goalscoring rate making it feel unlikely that we’d get another even if our play did deserve it. The crux of the issue has been finishing. Against Brighton, Leicester and the Spuds the boys created enough chances to win the games but spurned opportunities to score. In the League Cup match you could also put the loss down to individual errors/lapses of concentration but the game would have looked very different if the efforts would have ended up in the back of the net.

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In spite of London Underground’s best efforts I’m so glad that I, just about, made it in time for kick off and the wonderful joint tribute to the Leicester Helicopter crash victims and fallen heroes of the wars. I thought the club did a fantastic job of the ceremony. The bugler was also tremendous and played the ‘Last Post’ brilliantly whilst those of us standing in front of our seats observed the minute’s silence impeccably.

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When you boil it all down I do still miss the Boleyn Ground but, admittedly, I’m warming to the London Stadium all of the time. For the League Cup match last week I went with my brother. We’ve been to quite a lot of matches together down the years. It’s always great to catch up and this time was no exception. Added to the usual busy conversation I was very interested to know what he thought about our new home as it was his first visit. In fact he hadn’t been to the Olympic Park site until last Wednesday evening. I was quite pleased to discover that he thought it was quite good. Added to the enjoyment was my first beer after successfully navigating a ‘dry October’ (nearly made it the whole month – bar a few hours). Perhaps that added to the enjoyment of the afternoon and evening but I don’t think that the experience needed any sort of input from me to sell it to my brother.

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The lads now have a couple of day’s more rest than Huddersfield’s ahead of this coming weekend’s fixture. Back to back wins, going in to the International break, would be absolutely brilliant. Should that come to pass then, all of a sudden, I’ll start looking up the table instead of down it. Optimistic as always I’m hopeful we can bag the three points and close the gap on those above us.

Until then have a great week all.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!

Talking Point

Diangana can follow in the footsteps of Ward, Slater and Michael Hughes

Over the years there have been a few players who suddenly appeared in wide positions and totally looked at ease writing their names into Eastend folk-law. The likes of Tore or Jarvis he aint put it that way. Like many, my generation of hero’s include players such as Mark Ward, Stuart Slater and Michael Hughes. They all personify the character of Diangana albeit in different but paradoxically similar ways, by this I mean they are small, tricky wingers who could not only beat players but cross and shoot as well, however they have strikingly different methods of going about it and to date Diangana’s is by far the cockiest. Against Burnley the little drag back and leave it still on the line then in a flash retrieve and off again was an act of skill and confidence which really took the biscuit, absolutely brilliant and more to come I’m sure.

The key thing we need to look out for now is the opposition targeting Diangana by closing him down and robbing us of possession or worse trying to smash him early like Brighton did to Obiang and Yarmolenko. We must use the energy of Snodgrass and Rice to cover his runs and prevent any uncovered losses. The good thing is we have Anderson also who needs targeting for closing down the result of which could easily be a quick pass from Pedro or Nobes through the middle for Arnie or Hernandez to run in and exploit.

Return of the Jack?

Carrol and Wilshere seem to be the next two back. I doubt many of us are entirely convinced about the long or even medium term fitness of either of them but the fact remains they should be back soon and therefore need to be accommodated into the team one way or another as injuries and suspensions would dictate they have to play some part however little MP wants to change the team.
With Carrol we are mostly all agreed from what I can ascertain that impact substitute is the way forward. With Anderson, Zabaletta and Diangana whipping in crosses and chips Carrol can easily capitalize and generally create havoc. Also a possible but controversial tactic would be to utilise Carrol deeper allowing us to play the ‘not quite so long ball’ up to him which can be flicked on to allow Anderson, Diangana and Hernandez to feed Arnie or go themselves. From what I remember the Carrol Hernandez partnership never truly blossomed although on paper it looks good. Playing Arnie and Carrol up top is a bit of an excessive overlap of strengths so playing Carrol well behind the front with obvious license to pop up in the six yard box might serve us well.

As for Wilshere, I worry about the nature of the ankle injuries and I worry (albeit much less) about the spiel on Gooner websites suggesting some of their success is because Wilshere never put in 100%. This is to be expected from such outlets I know and I’m convinced the reason behind Wilshere’s subdued performances is physical pain rather than any idol mentality. However the question is how does he go forward from here and crucially can he go forward? If he can overcome the injury then I’m sure Wilshere will be an asset to the midfield, although when he played at the start of the season he wasn’t that much of an asset there were reasons as we played top class sides who simply overran us before any of his creativity had a chance to be applied.

The Cresswell Question and Joe Hart Flashbacks

I did notice a few missed passes and sluggish track backs Saturday but there were also a good number of convincing tackles and I can’t help thinking that Cresswell needs a run and a bit of confidence. If that’s the case and he gets it I’m sure he would be much more of a viable full back than Masuaku who is still not without a position as a left-mid depending on the strength of the squad.

The Joe Hart enigma continued to baffle as well, some confident moments, one good save in the first half and another with his feet along with a hugely spiced up tip round at a lovely height for the keeper in the second half. He flapped and punched anything in the six yard box and in reality I’m pleased he has gone although he did play well once against Chelsea. The one in the first half which he punched like a baby tries to grab a dangling toy had me in a state of panicked flashback as the suspended animation enabled me to relive all of those moments from last season. I suddenly came round like I had awoken from a terrible dream which wasn’t really true when I realised he wasn’t playing for us anymore. McKnightmare once had a game against Newcastle which defied the laws of sanity and David James had a good few moments which teetered on the irrational but overall Hart was the one keeper I think I had least confidence to save anything.

What we need to remember in the near future is to take games and teams as they come. We don’t want to let Man City destroy us even if they do in the match itself. We can ideally turn that game into a tough tactical battle which could be settled by one mistake. If it doesn’t happen for us then we look to the next game, we rebuild and we go again. It is clear there is a gulf in quality between the rest of the league and the bottom four or five which is more apparent than most seasons. Our points tally already suggests the woeful start to the season has been recovered and with so much quality to return along with the rapidly improving new boys we can give ourselves a fighting chance of the top six if we show the same sort of fight for the rest of the season as we did against Burnley on Saturday. COYI!

The HamburgHammer Column

Mending the fences, downing the clarets and not so super a league

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What a difference four goals for the right team playing in claret and blue can make! Holy Bismarckhering, that was one hell of an effing good game of football! No ugly scenes, no pitch invasions this time around, no need for the West Ham skipper to wrestle a fan to the ground near the centre circle as in that other game against Burnley!

I’m sure it was the same for the majority of West Ham fans all over the the planet as I was going through a multitude of emotions throughout the game.
It was highly entertaining, it was full of nice passing, with goalscoring opportunities galore and the three points did stay in London after the final whistle – what’s not to like ?

Matchday had started early for me as it was another day of voluntary community work at our local sports club. Early bird exercise was the order of the morning though, as my car windshield had completely frozen over during the night, so fierce scratching and scrubbing came before driving to the club’s premises. With two other guys I was assigned to the task of mending the fence and replacing some of the screen walls made from reed. While working and chatting away it occurred to me that West Ham had a lot of collective mending to do as well in the upcoming Burnley game, but I was quietly confident we would win. Surely, if we couldn’t even beat Burnley at home we’d be up poo creek without an oar to suitably propel us forward.

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I settled down in my usual spot (armchair), screwdriver to the right, steaming West Ham mug of Rosie to the left and the crazy show began. Literally crazy, because I could only find a stream with Polish commentary. While I have rudimentary knowledge of certain Polish words or phrases (due to previous holidays spent in Poland) it is nowhere near good enough to follow a running match report.

Which wasn’t an issue because that game and that performance were speaking for themselves, no translation needed. thank you very much!

We created. We passed the ball around neatly – and not only sideways or backwards either. When Burnley messed up, we did exploit their mistakes, like any good PL club worth their salt would.

We got a very good shout for a penalty turned down. Shots heading for goal saved by brave Burnley defenders on the line or the glove of Joe Hart.
To my surprise, Burnley were incredibly efficient down the other end.

When they actually managed to reach our penalty box, they equalised more often than not. Twice in fact. I was disappointed with that of course. But I was equally convinced we would still prevail and win this one.
Simply because the lads looked so up for it and we went through their defence like a hot knife goes through butter.

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We also made positive substitutions and in truth should have scored two or three more on the day. It’s always a good sign when you are struggling as a supporter to pick a MotM from several worthy candidates. In my opinion it was a close race between Felipe Anderson, Grady Diangana, Declan Rice (I know it’s boring, but what can I do ? The boy is just playing consistently well), Marko Arnautovic and maybe even Issa Diop.

And while I am both relieved and happy that Felipe Anderson appears to be turning his and our fortunes around gradually, I am actually opting for Grady Diangana here. First of all because it’s always special to see an Academy youngster turn up for the first team and grab his opportunity with both hands and feet. Diangana took on his opponents without fear, he was trying things, he showed great pace and kept the Burnley defenders busy all afternoon. If we can find just one player like him every season stepping up to the first team squad it’ll make things a lot easier for us in future. Oh, did I happen to mention before that I hope we will get Rice signed up to a new, improved deal sharpish now ?

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An honourable mention has to go to Robert Snodgrass. He has truly played himself back into contention to start every game. Running all game long, decent set piece deliveries, tremendous effort for the team. All that after already being pretty much out the West Ham door not so long ago.
Did my eyes deceive me or was Snodgrass first to congratulate our goalscorers for EVERY goal we scored on the day ? What a treat to see his enthusiasm for our club!

This win will hopefully boost our collective confidence for the upcoming games now. Surely it’s more fun for the players to go into training sessions with another three points on the board and four goals scored in the bank.

I know it was only Burnley, but this game gave us a glimpse of how we can play under Pellegrini – and things should get even better once we have some players back in the fold who are nearing their return from injury. I cannot wait to see what Lanzini and Anderson can do once they are out there on the pitch together. COYI!!!

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Moving away from West Ham, the big talking point in Germany in the last few days has been a report published after extensive research done by German journalists into how clubs like PSG and Manchester City have allegedly in the recent past systematically broken Financial Fair Play rules, escaping adequate punishment while allegedly being aided in doing so by certain individuals of UEFA (Infantino) years ago.

The journos have gone through tons of documents and evidence – and I am sure we will get to hear a lot more about all this in the coming weeks and months as the news will continue to spread across the world media.

The second topic was the already previously rumoured implementation of a Super League rearing its greedy head again. Reports in Germany (Football Leaks/Spiegel magazine) are suggesting the main clubs behind this idea have in secrecy held numerous talks in the recent past and are at a stage now to begin signing papers of intent to get the ball properly rolling in that respect. The signing of such an agreement between those clubs could happen as early as later this month according to the report.

A lot of it for now is still rumours and hearsay though – it could be just another ploy by the big clubs to extract an even bigger piece of the pie from the governing bodies just as negotiations about the future share of the spoils from playing in the Europa and Champions League are looming large.

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The idea behind the Super League of course is that of establishing a closed shop, as it is the norm in big money leagues like the NFL or NBA.
No relegation. No need for qualification. No games against lesser teams.
Just the big boys battling it out against each other time and time again, with millions around the globe watching at home.

Only superstar players on the pitch, no boring games, one footballing feast after another with the big clubs (the ones with the most fans worldwide, the most trophies, the biggest appeal and the biggest budgets) being in the comfortable position to do all marketing on their own behalf as they see fit, obeying only their own set of rules while keeping all of the money rolling in among themselves, with no need to share any cash with less fortunate clubs or the governing bodies.
A paradise for some for sure, a nightmare for the rest. Or is it ?

Rumour has it that the big clubs would indeed be willing to do all this without as much as a second thought about getting UEFA or FIFA on board.
It’s been suggested that there will be eleven clubs forming the closed shop as founding members, clubs who will then be eligible to play in the new Super League of the high and mighty EVERY year, these are:

Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, PSG, Bayern Munich, AC Milan and Juventus.
Five “guest” teams will be invited initially to make up the numbers, namely Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Olympique Marseille, Inter Milan and AS Roma. Presumably guest teams can be added or kicked out if and when it suits.

At this stage we cannot be sure how serious the clubs in question really are to push this through this time around. Also the ramifications are quite uncertain in terms of whether those clubs would still be eligible to actually play regular league football domestically. There seem to be mixed signals in that respect from the big clubs at present. Of course TV deals have been signed that are stretching a number of years into the future.

So clubs breaking away from current competitions will not go down well with the leagues, TV companies and the rest of the footballing world.
But it should keep the legal eagles busy for certain.

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My view on this is both hopelessly naive and disillusioned. If the big clubs are really keen, they will do as they please. And neither the fans, nor UEFA or any government is going to stop them. If they think playing in the Super League will bring them bigger financial gains, more glory and they can also get away with it all (even in case it goes wrong eventually) it will happen.

Maybe I am the wrong person to even talk about this. I don’t know what goes on in the heads of those who run or support a big club. I have never supported what you might call a big club. I don’t know what it’s like to win five trophies in three years. I don’t know what it’s like to win 75% of your games in all competitions. It sounds boring and having met some fans of big clubs in the past they rather seem to take winning for granted, hence they don’t enjoy them wins that much really, but boy, do they get riled up and grumpy on the rare occasions when they lose or draw!

Do fans really only want to watch their team play other big teams, week in week out ? Wouldn’t it get boring soon, playing Juventus or Barcelona twice EVERY year rather than actually having to earn the right to play your big European rivals ?

Do Liverpool supporters really care more about games in Europe than league fixtures against local rivals Everton or their Manchester neighbours ? (Sorry, I forgot, they’d still meet the Manchester clubs regularly while competing in the Super League of course!)

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My opinion on this is clear: The idea of the Super League is plain wrong, just another nail in the coffin of what used to be called the beautiful game! It’ll be very lucrative and interesting for a while and for some, but the novelty will wear off eventually.

People are being priced out and driven away from top league football as it is. If the Super League clubs were to only look after themselves, with no regard for their domestic league, lesser clubs and the European competitions as they are being presently organised by UEFA, even more fans will be driven away, either to lower league football or away from the sport altogether.

The Super League could indeed be bad news, not just for all those other clubs deemed not worthy enough to join the big boys in the first place. It could ultimately backfire for the big clubs too and they could lose a lot more in the process than there is to be gained financially by breaking loose from the shackles of UEFA and domestic football. The grass ain’t always greener on the other side of the fence, even if the barriers are covered in gold dust…

Hamburg footballing update: Hamburg SV will play Cologne in a top of the table Bundesliga 2 clash later this evening (Live on BT Sport 1).
One of the two will overtake St.Pauli tonight despite St.Pauli winning away at Bielefeld yesterday, 2:1, consolidating their place near the very top of the league table in the process.

The Concordia first team won a dirty (and terrible to watch) game on Friday evening, thanks to two late penalties and two opposition players being sent off late as well.
Concordia’s U23s won their game 5:2, but they had to come back from a 1:2 scoreline with just 20 minutes to play. They are still in with at least a moderate shout for promotion.
Cordi’s women’s team dropped their first points of the season, losing 1:0 at home, blowing the race for promotion wide open again.

Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

Anderson Brace Helps Secure Hammers Win Against Burnley at London Stadium

The S J Chandos Column

Is there a greater modern tendency to rush to condemn and write-off players!

West Ham played some really wonderful stuff on Saturday, in their 4-2 defeat of Burnley at the London Stadium. Arnautovic starred as per usual and Diangana had arguably his best first team performance to date. Other players that also stood out were Anderson, with his vital brace of goals, and Snodgrass for his industry and invention in midfield. Indeed, both players were crucial in winning a match that could very well have resulted in a frustrating score draw, contrary to the home team’s clear dominance.

Anderson and Snodgrass have something in common, they have both previously been subject to more than their fair share of fan criticism over prior performances. In he case of Snodgrass, he was recruited in the aftermath of Payet’s exit and his Hammers career had a less than brilliant start, resulting in a season long loan to Aston Villa in 2017-18. At that juncture, the ex-Hull City star was widely written off by quite a few supporters and it was strongly suggested that there was only one realistic course of action, to sell him to Villa as soon as possible. Anderson has recently been the target of fan criticism for some less than consistent performances (against the likes of Spurs), conveniently forgetting the outstanding ability that he demonstrated against Arsenal and Man Utd.

Subsequently, Snodgrass has came back to West Ham (under the management of Pellegrini), shed some excess weight and really buckled down to the task of saving his Hammers career. And so far this season Snodgrass has become a fixture in the first team, impressing supporters with his committed and resourceful performances. While Anderson once again underlined his true ability, with a match winning performance against Burnley. And with it the fan jibes about ’ West Ham being the only club to buy a Brazilian who cannot play’ have suddenly melted away. It may be legitimate to question Anderson’s consistency this season, but one cannot help but feel that some of the criticism was not only premature, but way over the top.

Another player that has attracted a lot of unfair fan criticism is Mark Noble, a outstanding contemporary servant to West Ham Utd Football Club. This has tended to write him off as a spent force, ‘too slow, lacking pace and generally past it.’ He silenced much of that criticism recently with his highly influential midfield performances against Everton, Chelsea and Man Utd. Only to become the ‘villain of the piece’ once again with last week’s sending off against Leicester City. I honestly cannot believe some of the things written about Noble and feel that much of it his highly disrespectful to a player that has given (and continues to give) outstanding service to the club. One suspects that Noble will only get full and fair credit for his contribution once his West Ham playing career is concluded!

So, is there an increasing tendency amongst supporters to rush to condemn and write off players? Are we less patient and more likely to criticise than in previous eras? I personally am split on the issue. I find a lot of the criticism certain players receive premature and unfair. There are definitely some fans that love to have a scapegoat(s) to take out their angst/spite on. If results go badly then it seems to be a comfort to them to lay the blame at the door of a specific target or targets. Yet, on the other hand, I also tend to think that players are highly paid and should be accountable for their performance or lack of it! I have always said that fans pay their money and have the right to express their views, no matter how mistaken they may be.

Perhaps for me it is ultimately a matter of degree. Not that fans criticise, but that quite often, these days, much of it is excessive and a minority of it quite frankly irrational. And it is notable that if and when a heavily criticised player redeems himself, that criticism tends to just melt away and all suddenly becomes ‘sweetness and light.’ Maybe this is all just a consequence of the age of social media and the price we pay for everyone having a voice online?

SJ. Chandos.

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