Dan Coker's Match Preview
Blast from the past
14th October 1989: Jive Bunny were number one with ‘That’s What I Like’; Oliver and Company (an animated Disney film based on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist) topped the UK box office; and boxer Anthony Joshua was born the following day. Monty Python star Graham Chapman had died ten days previously. Meanwhile, West Ham United took on Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in front of 20,822.
Lou Macari’s Hammers went into the game on the back of two successive home league defeats, with 3-2 and 1-0 reverses against West Brom and Leeds either side of a 1-1 League Cup second round second leg draw with Birmingham, also at the Boleyn Ground. Dave Bassett’s Blades, meanwhile, went into this encounter sitting pretty at the top of the Second Division table as they welcomed their newly-relegated visitors.
West Ham had Gary Strodder back in the centre of defence, making his first appearance for six months and replacing the injured Tony Gale. The Hammers were awarded a penalty in the 33rd minute when Mark Ward’s chipped pass released Stuart Slater, who was brought down by Blades goalkeeper Simon Tracey – the spot-kick, however, was thundered against the crossbar by Hammers skipper Julian Dicks. The Irons did take the lead six minutes later though – excellent work down the left by Kevin Keen was rewarded when his cut-back was crashed into the net by the left foot of Ward.
The Irons doubled their lead with 20 minutes remaining – Keen was again involved, sending a pass down the middle for Eamon Dolan to advance into the hosts’ penalty area where he was brought down by Tracey. Despite Dicks still being on the pitch, Ward assumed penalty duties and sent his strike straight down the middle and into the net. The action from this match can be viewed in my video below.
The Hammers would finish the 1989/90 Second Division season in seventh place, with Sheffield United being promoted in second position. Leeds topped the Second Division, Liverpool won the title and Manchester United won the FA Cup. Trevor Morley, signed along with Ian Bishop in exchange for Ward at Christmas 1989, was voted in third place of the Hammer of the Year running, with Slater runner-up and captain Dicks claiming the award for the first time. Dicks was also the club’s top scorer for this season, with 14 goals in 52 games.
West Ham United: Phil Parkes, Steve Potts, Alvin Martin, Colin Foster, Gary Strodder, Julian Dicks, George Parris, Kevin Keen, Mark Ward, Stuart Slater, Eamonn Dolan.
West Ham United and Sheffield United have shared a number of personnel over the years. Ravel Morrison could face his former club, while a run-through of others who have represented both clubs includes:
Goalkeepers: Ted Hufton, Tom McAlister, Bill Biggar, Richard Wright and Mervyn Day.
Defenders: Jon Harley, Matthew Kilgallon, David Unsworth, Jimmy Holmes, Wayne Quinn, Simon Webster and Fred Milnes.
Midfielders: Kyel Reid, George Ratcliffe, Joe Cockroft, Franz Carr, Herbert Winterhalder, Lou Raisbeck, and Jim Simmons.
Strikers: Billy Barnes, Henri Camara, David Kelly, Brian Deane, Peter Kyle, Dick Leafe and Kenny McKay.
Martin Peters played for West Ham and Sheffield United; he also managed the Blades.
This week’s focus though is on a player who had two spells at Upton Park. Don Hutchison was born in Gateshead on 9th May 1971 – he first caught the eye while playing for Paul Gascoigne’s former club, Redheugh Boys, but started his professional career at Hartlepool. The gangling ‘Hutch’ was used either as a striker or central defender before settling into an attacking midfield role. He played his last game for the club in November 1990 before signing for Liverpool after his talents were quickly spotted by bigger clubs. After almost four years at Anfield, and some controversial off-field antics which earned him a somewhat dubious reputation early on his career, Hutchison joined Harry Redknapp’s Hammers in a club-record £1.5m deal in August 1994.
The 23-year-old Hutchison converted a penalty on his debut in a 3-1 defeat to Newcastle, the club he supported as a boy, at the Boleyn on 31st August 1994 and scored in successive home games in October, a 2-0 League Cup second round second leg win over Walsall and the only goal in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. He also scored the winner in a 1-0 League Cup third round win against Chelsea on 26th October 1994. Disciplinary and injury issues were never far away in Hutchison’s early days in east London though, and he was sent off after receiving two yellow cards in the first half of a home game against Leicester on 5th November – the Hammers’ ten men went on to win the match 1-0 but Hutchison wouldn’t return to the side until January 1995. He scored in a 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea the following month and bagged the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win at Arsenal on 5th March 1995. He also scored in a 1-1 draw at Southampton ten days later and was on the scoresheet again three days after that in a 2-0 win at Aston Villa.
With the Hammers in a relegation battle, ‘Deadly Don’ scored in a 2-0 home win over eventual champions Blackburn on 30th April 1995 and bagged a brace against former club Liverpool in a 3-0 win at Upton Park on 10th May, a victory which secured the club’s survival in the Premier League. Hutchison scored a thumping free-kick in a 1-1 home draw with Tottenham at the start of the 1995/96 season, on 30th August 1995, and also scored in a 3-1 home defeat to Chelsea on 11th September 1995. His final game of his first spell in claret and blue came in a 2-1 defeat at Manchester City on New Year’s Day 1996 – he had scored 13 goals in 39 appearances. He moved to First Division Sheffield United later that month for £1.2m.
Hutchison made his Sheffield United debut in a 1-1 draw at Tranmere on 13th January 1996. He scored two goals in 19 matches before the end of the season and scored three goals in 41 matches in 1996/97 – the first in a 2-0 win at Oldham on 7th September 1996 and the other two in successive games in November 1996, a 4-2 win at Grimsby and 2-1 victory at West Brom. The Blades reached the Play-Off Final under Howard Kendall at the end of the 1996/97 season but were defeated by Crystal Palace. Hutchison even went in goal for the last half-hour of a 2-2 draw at Ipswich in November 1997, by which time Kendall had returned to Everton and Nigel Spackman had taken over as Blades boss. Hutchison scored his last goal for the Blades in a 1-0 home win over Ipswich in the FA Cup fourth round on 3rd February 1998 and played his last game for the club in the fifth round of the competition, in a 1-0 win over Reading on 13th February 1998. He had scored six goals in 91 appearances for Sheffield United.
Hutchison returned to the Premier League in February 1998, teaming up again with Kendall at Everton and joining a group of players to have played for both Merseyside clubs. He moved on to Sunderland in the summer of 2000 and returned to West Ham in August 2001, again setting a club-record fee, this time of £5m. By now, Glenn Roeder was Hammers manager and Hutchison was an international player for Scotland, having made his debut in 1999 – he would win 26 caps for Scotland, scoring six goals, including one against England at Wembley in a Euro 2000 Play-Off.
The 30-year-old ‘Hutch’ made his second debut for the Hammers in a goalless draw at Derby on 8th September 2001 and scored in a 3-0 home win over Newcastle on 23rd September 2001, the same side he’d scored his first ever Hammers goal against seven years earlier. Hutchison suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in February 2002 which would keep him out for ten months. The midfielder’s ten appearances in 2002/03 all came as a substitute and he was unable to prevent the Irons’ relegation to the First Division at the end of the campaign.
Hutchison scored a late winner under caretaker manager Trevor Brooking in a 1-0 win at Derby on 4th October 2003 and preserved Brooking’s unbeaten home record in his last match as manager by bagging a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Burnley at Upton Park on 18th October 2003. His final goals for the Hammers came on 1st May 2004, scoring twice in a 4-0 home win over Watford under Alan Pardew. Hutchison’s last appearance for West Ham came in a 1-0 home defeat to Brighton on 13th November 2004 and he left the club at the end of the 2004/05 promotion campaign after his contract expired, signing for Millwall. He had made 71 appearances in his second spell, scoring five goals – this took his Hammers totals across both his spells to 18 goals in 110 appearances.
Hutchison moved to Coventry in January 2006 before joining Luton in the summer of 2007. He was released at the end of the 2007/08 season and announced his retirement. Now 48, Hutchison now works in the media.
The referee on Friday will be Michael Oliver. He has refereed 21 of our matches, officiating in five wins for the Hammers, five draws and 11 defeats. Oliver has refereed the Irons twice this season, in our 2-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace in October, when he awarded the visitors a match-levelling penalty and, most recently, for our 3-2 home defeat to Tottenham in November.
Oliver also refereed our 1-1 draw at Leicester in October 2018, when he sent off Mark Noble. His only previous red card issued to a West Ham player came six seasons ago, when he sent off Kevin Nolan in our 4-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in December 2013. Oliver also refereed our 3-1 home win over Manchester United last season.
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has doubts over both his back-up goalkeepers, Michael Verrips and Simon Moore – the latter is expected to be fit enough to take a place on the bench. Right wing-back George Baldock is the younger brother of former Hammers striker Sam Baldock. Ex-Hammer Ravel Morrison is unlikely to start against his former club but could feature from the bench. Sheffield United have been victorious in both of their previous Premier League home games against West Ham – 3-2 in March 1994 and 3-0 in April 2007. The Blades could fail to score in three successive league fixtures for the first time since September 2013.
For West Ham United, Aaron Cresswell and Mark Noble are available but David Martin, Ryan Fredericks, Jack Wilshere, Michail Antonio and Andriy Yarmolenko are all out. Noble is just two Premier League goals away from equalling Paolo Di Canio’s record of 47 for the club.
Possible Sheffield United XI: Henderson; O’Connell, Basham, Egan; Baldock, Fleck, Lundstram, Norwood, Stevens; McBurnie, McGoldrick.
Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Zabaleta, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice, Noble; Snodgrass, Anderson, Fornals; Haller.
Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!
This weekend West Ham travel up to South Yorkshire to play against one of the seasons surprises – Sheffield United. We of course are all buoyed by our perfomance against Bournemouth, and will be hoping for more of the same. Ahead of the game I chatted to Sam Parry of the Sheffield United Blog Dem Blades to discuss the season and the game.
Hi Sam. First, congratulations on your start to the season. Sheffield United sit 8th in the table at the midway point – you must be delighted with how you’ve played back in the Premier League? Could things have gone much better?
It feels a little otherworldly at the moment; however, there has been some continuity. Since Chris Wilder took over, we’ve won two promotions. We’ve had consistent success for three and a half years, so the actual winning part feels quite normal. But then I look at the league, realise where the club has come from, and it’s just an incredible spell of fandom. The crappy days, watching us lose 0-3 to Southend at Roots Hall, only heightens the highs we Blades are feeling now.
Obviously your players must have been at the top of their games so far, which of them have stood out for you so far?
The whole team has been on it, hence why we’ve barely changed the starting eleven all season. If I have to isolate a couple, it would be John Fleck and Enda Stevens (I want to add Jack O’Connell and George Baldock and Lys Mousset and David McGoldrick too!). Fleck is our central midfielder, and he’s an excellent ball carrier and dribbler, he can play the tippy-tappy game, he makes defence-splitting passes, and most importantly, he works so hard. (I think West Ham were linked last season.) Enda Stevens is just a phenomenal left back who we picked up from Pompey when they were in League 2. Recently I interviewed Michael Doyle (former Blades captain; the one who did the pearly king walk after we beat you in the cup on pens) and he played with Stevens at Portsmouth, he said that Stevens always had the quality for the PL.
I suppose that most of your success comes down to coaching, so you must be equally delighted with your manager – Chris Wilder?
Full disclosure: I live and work in London. I work with no Sheffield United fans – the nearest thing is a London-born Liverpool fan – and nobody cared about our promotion to the premier league. But now it’s absolutely cockle-warming to hear the praise from the Arsenal and Spurs, and City and United fans – ALL of that is down to Chris Wilder. And people clock it on Match of the Day every week; it’s brilliant. He seriously, seriously (can’t emphasise this enough), seriously improves players. Not just their performances, but from a fan’s eye view, the natural ability of players too.
The way you’ve been playing I don’t expect you’ll need much improving, but are there any areas you think could need a bit of back up in the transfer window?
Competition is what we need. Wouldn’t mind that Van Dijk off of Liverpool too.
By contrast, West Ham have had an awful half of the season after a promising (if short-livedd) start, I don’t suppose you were shocked by Pelligrini’s sacking. Do you think of David Moyes’ appointment, and will keep us up this season?
Nobody’s shocked about sackings any more, are they? I think Pellegrini would have kept you up and I think Moyes will keep you up by 4 margin on his predecessor. But I’m reticent to give strong opinions about the managers of other teams. I don’t watch enough of West Ham; I don’t know a lot about Moyes previous stint. So I shall avoid slagging off either Moyes or Pellegrini too much….BUT, if you ask me “Pellegrini or Moyes?”, then my response would have to be “No thanks!”
Talking of relegation, who are your current picks for relegation, at the beginning of the season you chose Norwich, Newcastle, and Watford?
Happy to stick to that prediction! (Not looking to bad, eh?)
Who are going to occupy the top four positions?
Liverpool, City, Leicester, Spurs.
Where are Sheffield United going to end up? You must be pretty confident of staying up already, and where do you think West Ham will finish?
I should be confident on 29 points, shouldn’t I? But I’m a pessimist. Until we have 40 points, I’ll take 17th! Honestly, I don’t know. On paper, you should finish lower mid-table, but perhaps you’re like an inverted version of the Blades: great players don’t make a great team. We’re seven points ahead of you guys now; I think I’ll be planning a European tour if we’re 7 points ahead of you on the last day of the season!
Who have been the best players that you have seen so far this season? At home, and on your travels?
My answer to that question without hesitation is Virgil van Dijk twice.
Var has made viewing of games a bit different, especially when prematurely celebrating a goal, has it made things better?
For pretty much every goal we score, I think of VAR and pause any celebration. There are some good reasons for introducing VAR, some reasons which I could support, but the way the PL has introduced the system is symptomatic of an organisation who cares more about the generalist, armchair fan than people who turn up. It’s really quite sad.
How will you line up against West Ham on Friday? Prediction for team and formation?
It’s always 3-5-2, and we’ve barely changed the team around all season. Barring injuries it will be:
Baldock, Basham, Egan, O’Connell, Stevens
Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck
McGoldrick, Mousset or McBurnie
You got a draw against us at our place, are you confident that you will turn us over back at Bramall Lane? Prediction for score?
Honestly, that game was one of our toughest. Particularly the first half. I think that Pellegrini got his tactics spot-on (probably by judgement, but possibly by luck). Yarmolenko and Anderson pushed up high and pinned back our wing-backs, and we struggled to create anything in the first half. (We were much better in the second half). So what does that teach me? You can hurt us, you have a new manager…but I’m still confident. We’ll be up for it after resting eleven players against Fylde in the FA Cup. 2-0 Blades (sorry!).
(We’ve got this far without mention of Carlos Tevez!? I think I speak for all of us when I say that hatchet six feet under.)
Well many thanks to Sam for his time and comments. I do like to see promoted teams (not Leeds if they come up) doing well. But I’m back to my usual over optimistic self, and will go for a 1 – 2 away win. COYI
Goalkeeper: Lukasz Fabianski
He hasn’t been with us for long, but of all the goalkeepers we had in the last decade, he is the only one I can/could watch without peeping through my fingers from behind the sofa and my blood pressure going through the roof every time a ball comes or came near our penalty box. Very solid and reliable custodian. Consistent as clockwork. And Polish. I like Poland and its people.
Especially if they’re good goalkeepers. Without his injury things might have gone a lot better for us this season.
LB: George McCartney
Had three spells at West Ham and was very unlucky with injuries in the latter stages. But when he did play we got tremendous mileage out of him. Not a glamourous player, but certainly the best pure LB we’ve had at the position in a long time. Oh, and as a massive Beatles fan I had to give him bonus points for the name alone. Shame we never signed Lennon. Or a Harrison.
CB: Angelo Ogbonna
Calm, composed and currently our best and least error-prone defender. Vastly underrated. A player who may only truly be appreciated once he’s gone elsewhere. If only he was a bit more vocal on the pitch at times. Some of our players could do a lot worse than taking Ogbonna’s on-field advice on board.
CB: James Collins
This Welshman represents a vital part of what our club is all about. Not the most naturally gifted player you’ll ever see. Still, the brilliantly nicknamed Ginger Pele always put his body on the line for the Hammers’ cause to clear balls galore and block plenty of shots. Was an absolute rock for us and became a fan favourite because of that. Always had a great rapport with the fanbase and I am proud to say I was at his final game for us inside the London Stadium when unfortunately he didn’t quite get the appropriate send off from the club he would have deserved.
RB: Joey O’Brien
We haven’t exactly been spoiled for choice at the position in the last ten years, have we ? For whatever reason we never had a truly great RB at our club in that period. Joey wasn’t magnificent either, but he was a no-nonsense, versatile and reliable player doing a job for us in many games over several seasons, wherever needed. Which more often than not was at RB. Another chap I would happily put in my West Ham United Unsung Heroes XI, but not at RB, that spot I would always reserve with my German towel for Tim Breacker, of course! ;-)
DM: Mark Noble
I simply can’t ignore Mr.West Ham when picking this team and yes, it is as much due to what he represents for our club off the pitch than what he actually does on the pitch. There are faster runners, better passers, more accurate shooters and more clinical tacklers out there than him, but this Canning Town lad is a West Ham fan playing for his and our favourite club and, quite simply, we have more spirit and fight in the team whenever he puts on the claret and blue shirt.
DM: Declan Rice
I chose Rice not just based on the still small sample size of performances but also because of his sheer potential. With the right coaching and development (he might only find at another club) he could not just become a good player, but a great one in the not too distant future. And it’s always nice to see a lad from the Academy make the transition into the first team. With a massive helping of luck he could be our next skipper for years to come. Either way, I saw the second ever goal he scored for us, against Newcastle, in person at the game when they opened the Billy Bonds Stand at the London Stadium.
The resulting cheer of the crowd was probably the loudest I ever experienced at a home game.
Winger/Striker: Michail Antonio
Another rags to riches (or Nissan Micra to Lamborghini) success story, a player starting out at Tooting & Mitcham (that’s actually a London based semi-professional football club, not a funeral director) and arriving relatively late on the PL stage. But boy, is he fun to watch when his hamstrings are functional! Running his socks off, scoring all kinds of goals and doing the silliest goal celebrations you’ll ever see. Also, our main scoring threat these days.
Attacking midfielder: Dimitri Payet
He only graced us with his presence for a short spell, but THAT final season at the Boleyn alone will put him in most Hammers fans’ “Team of the Decade“. Payet made every player around him better, he helped us to snatch victory or at least draw from the jaws of defeat, time and time again. And by sheer brilliance he turned standard freekicks into penalty shots. His freekick against Crystal Palace in July 2016 was the best freekick goal I saw in person inside a football stadium, ever! And no matter how unceremoniously it all ended between him and West Ham, we can all be grateful for having had the opportunity to watch Payet in his absolute prime while he was playing for us.
Striker: Marko Arnautovic
This is no popularity contest and you all know I never really liked the guy as a person. But as a player the Austrian with Serbian roots simply worked for us, when being in the mood and playing upfront instead of on the wing. Try to ignore all the phoney crossed hammers goal celebrations or his stroppy demeanour at times and you end up having to admit that Arnautovic was our most effective forward in a long time. Despite practically inventing the throwing-toys-out-of-pram-to-achieve-personal-advantage routine along the way. The arrogant git! ;-)
Striker: Andy Carroll
One silly injury after another. Early morning photos taken in nightclubs. And minor knocks leading to the player being out for another 3-4 months. It would be oh so simple to put Andy Carroll in a West Ham United Flops of the Decade XI as well, if you think about all the games he missed for us. If you instead choose to mainly remember the games he DID actually play in, you will never be able to forget the thundering headed goals and THAT bicycle kick against Crystal Palace. If only he could have given us 50 more games or so during his many years at the club…
Goalkeeper: Robert Green
An intelligent footballer who prefered books to booze or BMW cars. I never was quite as relaxed watching him trying to marshall his box as when seeing Fabianski do just that (as Green was prone to the odd gaffe) but overall Greeno gave us years of solid enough goalkeeping. I will never forget witnessing him protecting our 1:0 away victory at Arsenal in 2007 (Arsenal’s first home defeat at The Emirates) when he made what felt like 98 brilliant reaction saves. Unreal! He’s got a street named after him near our old ground, apparently…
CB: Winston Reid
The Winston Reid BEFORE his most recent injury was as solid a defender as they come in the PL. It took him a while to adjust to that level, but once he had done that he was a joy to watch and a ball clearing machine. And of course he will forever be enshrined in Upton Park folklore as the final ever goalscorer at our old ground. Probably the most unlikely goalscorer of all players out there on the pitch that day, bar the goalkeepers.
But this is West Ham, so maybe it was perfectly adequate that a CB of all people should provide the final bulging of the net at the Boleyn.
LB: Aaron Cresswell
My Final Boleyn Season shirt has his name and number on the back and that is mainly down to his crossing ability and his uncanny knack for chipping in with vital and unexpected goals (and my penchant for rooting for defenders in general who all too often get overlooked). If only that Karlsruhe butcher dressed up as a footballer hadn’t chopped at his leg and confidence in that meaningless preseason game, Aaron would most likely have become even more of a stalwart for us, subsequently ending up in my starting XI after all.
Midfielder: Scott Parker
Energetic, skillful, tenacious and hard-working player who ended up being too good for us really. If only we could have built a proper side around him, but alas, it wasn’t to be. IF ONLY should probably be our club motto, emblazoned in blue letters on our crest, in Latin of course (Si modo).
Midfielder: Thomas Hitzlsperger
As a German, how could I leave out my fellow countryman, especially if that guy was nicknamed DER HAMMER due to his fearsome piledrivers from distance ? Strangely enough, we never had many Krauts running out for West Ham in the first place – Dieter Eckstein and Savio Nsereko were the only other Germans at the club. Hitz was another player unfortunately held back by injuries. Hitzlsperger also is a genuinely nice guy who used to talk a lot of sense as a pundit on German telly for games of the German national side.
He is now CEO at one of Germany’s traditional big clubs, VFB Stuttgart, aiming to get them promoted back to the Bundesliga where they belong.
Midfielder: Manuel Lanzini
He could have been a star for Argentina in the last World Cup. But he twisted his knee in training before the tournament had even started. Injuries to West Ham players, a recurring theme. But Lanzini, on his day, is a guy who can still get fans out of their seats when receiving the ball in midfield with space to roam. Graceful player in the Devonshire mould. Plus, he has a tendency to score against Spurs. Which is a surefire way to get onto any West Ham team-sheet.
Striker: Carlton Cole
One of them cult heroes at West Ham. Scored 68 goals for West Ham in 293 appearances for the club, so actually one of our Top 20 goalscorers in our history, ahead of the likes of DiCanio or McAvennie.
CC initially came to West Ham probably with a plan to use us as a springboard to catapult him to a bigger club eventually, but somehow he got stuck with us. So, in return, we gave him a nice song for his valiant efforts, singing his name to a famous Spandau Ballet tune. Once that happens, you know as a player where you belong. The fans will always fondly remember Carlton Cole and he, I believe, will never have a bad word to say about West Ham.
Manager of the Decade: Slaven Bilic
What was not to like ? A manager that did get this club and the fans. Who acknowledged and appreciated the merits of our old stadium.
I knew Bilic when we signed him the first time from his playing days at Karlsruhe. I met him briefly once at Chadwell Heath and those 90 seconds or so confirmed my view that Bilic is not only a smart, multilingual guy but also a thoroughly nice person. Maybe a bit too nice to make it at a top club.
He gave us one of the most memorable seasons in our history.
You know I do have this romantic/naive/stupid view on football sometimes.
And despite his managerial setbacks and tactical flaws I still consider him one of the best fits West Ham ever had at the position, a modern day Lyall.
I’d have Bilic back at our club in a heartbeat.
Moment of the Decade: The opening of the Billy Bonds Stand
I could have picked a big event with dramatic effect, scenes of chaos or despair, or days that made us feel sad, like the cancelled march, the pitch invasions at the Burnley game or the passing of our oldest supporter, Mabel Arnold. Or I could have picked our rare victory away at Liverpool, a much happier occasion. A bittersweet and truly historical day, like the final game at the Boleyn.
Instead I’m choosing a less obvious or spectacular moment, but still a highly emotional one. It was seeing Bonzo walking out onto that giant vastness that is the London Stadium pitch, clearly overcome with emotion, joined by his kids, to witness the opening of the biggest stand at our new home stadium, dwarfing the Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking Stand.
For the older fans among us, Billy Bonds is probably now the most loved and respected former player ever, due to his traits and performances as a player, but also because of the man he is, down to earth, honest, modest – a guy you’d gladly have in your section of the trench anytime. Or just to have him in the same room, talking football and West Ham. My heart was filled with joy and pride while my eyes were welling up with salty liquid when watching Bonzo on that pitch, waving at the crowd before wiping off his own tears with the same hand. And we even won that game for him after the ceremony.
Finally, when I met Bonzo at one of those “Meet the Legends“ evenings in Dagenham, he had me stuttering and stumbling my way through asking him to sign that famous black and white picture for me, showing him post-game with a band aid above his eye and some blood trickling down from under it.
No mean feat to get me into a state where I’m unable to put a coherent sentence or two together…Billy Bonds did just that. COYI!!!
The GoatyGav Column
I mentioned it at the time but I felt it was a shame that Pellegrini failed to get West Ham in to the top six to eight in the Premier League. I realise that he wasn’t everyone’s cuppa but I liked the way he handled himself. When he first joined I thought that the ‘project’ undertaken was one that would take us to the next level of securing European football by finishing sixth or seventh, which often delivers a Europa League place with a view to top four finishes thereafter. I also said that people should look at what MP did at Malaga and Villareal, with relatively limited budgets, to get both sides to semi-finals of Champion’s Leagues outside of his title win with Man City and the record points total delivered at Real Madrid.
Everywhere Pellegrini has been he’s bought wisely. With big, and more modest, budgets he’s had an eye for a good player and has been extremely successful in the transfer markets. West Ham has been no exception to this. Good money has been spent but the quality of those brought in has been extremely high. I believe with all my heart that the squad that Manuel has left behind is one of the strongest we’ve seen at the club.
Before anyone accuses me of wearing the rose tinteds I would also like to put on record my huge disappointment in the football that was being delivered of late. The squad looked dispirited, lacked confidence and performances have been lacklustre to say the least. I’ll never really know if the ‘dressing room was lost’ or if something else was going on but I do have eyes and could clearly see the lack of commitment and effort on the pitch from many of the players.
At the start of this season I was more optimistic than I can remember being about the campaign compared to previous years. In the first half a dozen matches it appeared that the team were going to push on from the strong finish of the previous term. Then Fabianski got injured, confidence and belief visually ebbed away and never seemed to return. Perhaps MP has learned that he requires bigger budgets to play the kind of football that he, patently, believes in, and sticks rigidly to, to be successful in the Premier League.
All things boiled down, however, we did manage to attract a top manager, with winning credentials, to our club and that has to be viewed as a positive. So it’s a big thank you, from me, to Manuel Pellegrini for what he’s done for West Ham United and the condition he’s left us in. Thanks for showing faith, and playing a huge part in the development of, Declan Rice. We’ve got a holding midfielder of true Premiership quality who, if he continues to develop, will become one of the best in the game. Thanks for bringing Lucasz Fabianski, Felipe Anderson, Sebastien Haller, Pablo Fornals, Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena to our club. Ok, maybe not Roberto, who I do feel extremely sorry for, but a manager will never get every single one of his signings right. Whatever Manuel moves on to do I wish him all the best. He’s a top manager and, I’m sure, will go on to further successes in the future.
No game for the Ladies last weekend as sickness ravaged the squad to the point where the scheduled match with Everton Women was postponed. Hopefully the Ironesses will be fully recovered for their visit to Tottenham Women scheduled for Sunday. The prospect of three points against Tottenham are always highly motivational however a win in that one, by a two goal margin, and the ladies will go above their opponents in the table. I’m sure they’ll be more than up for it when next Sunday arrives.
Happy tidings to report for the mighty Under twenty-threes. Yesterday saw the lads play their home match against title rivals, Manchester United, at Dagenham. A brilliant team performance saw the young Hammers run out two-nil winners against a Manyoo team who were on an amazing seven game winning run. Unsure of whether Nathan Holland would be risked ahead of his loan to Oxford United the former Everton youngster put the game to bed by scoring the second goal, after his assist for the first, before moving to the Kassam Stadium for the remainder of the season. I wish him every success in his time at title challenging Oxford where I’m sure he’ll do really well. Holland is the type of player that I really enjoy watching when running at opposition defenders. He creates opportunities for others as well as bagging his fair share of goals himself and, like Grady Diangana, I’d love to see him eventually make the grade at West Ham. The Under twenty-threes have now opened up a four point lead over the Red Devils having played fourteen of the twenty two game season. The only negative from yesterday was Jo Anang collecting a second yellow card in the game and being, subsequently, dismissed. However it was great to see centre back Akinola return to the fold after a year long lay off. The next couple of games are going to be very important without the keeper and Holland and I wish Dan Halajko’s charges all the best for those challenging matches. Next up a visit to eighth placed Reading.
Have a good week all.