The S J Chandos Column

Man City in the FA Cup - A chance to dispel Monday's disappointment!

I remember a time when match officials were crucial, but largely anonymous figures (admittedly in an age before Sky Sports and saturation TV coverage/analysis). Yes, they inevitably made vital decisions that influenced the outcome of matches, the issuing of cards, free kicks in vital areas and, of course, penalty awards (like the last minute FA Cup quarter-final penalty vs. Aston Villa in 1980). However, there was always a feeling that the officials were doing a difficult job, calling it honestly and without undue fuss. That is no longer the pre-dominant view amongst a significant number of football fans and the difference probably lies in the attitude and behaviour of many modern referees. Gary Lineker perfectly articulated a common suspicion that ‘attention seeking’ is a factor that unduly influences refereeing decisions on occasions. The latest high profile incident involves Mike Dean, but similar controversy also follows other of his colleagues such as Clattenberg, Taylor and Mariner. In addition, modern referees are very dictatorial figures, with grand hand gestures and an unapproachable persona. Perhaps that is their way of maintaining their authority on the pitch (the behaviour of players can admittedly be challenging at times). However, I remember previous generations of officials being much more open and engaging on the pitch, talking to players and even explaining their decisions. But that is all in the past, the current generation definitely owe more to the Clive Thomas and Keith Hackett schools of refereeing!

Indeed, we Hammers fans have been at the wrong end of a number of poor decisions, particularly in that run of four drawn matches that was a major factor in failing to clinch that fourth Champions League qualifying place last season. The 15th minute sending off Feghouli on Monday evening significantly changed the emerging balance of the match and, ultimately, its final outcome. I thought that in that first 15 minutes West Ham looked impressive and were easily matching Man Utd. After it, the match become a uphill fight, but the 10 man Hammers applied themselves well and put up a real spirited battle. If Antonio had finished that crucial one-on-one with the keeper, things might have been very different. Unfortunately, not for the first time this season, poor finishing was ultimately our undoing. Yet regardless, it was only an exceptional piece of skill from young Marcus Rashford that conspired to put Man Utd ahead. The second, off-side goal, truly flattered the visitors and only added insult to injury for the Hammers.

Losing in those circumstances is always very disappointing, but we can take real pride in the organisation and fight shown by the team and the overall quality of our play. We have now lost the last two PL matches, but I am optimistic that we are on the right path and will avoid any sort of relegation struggle. For me, the key question is how high we can climb and whether we can get in to contention for a Europa League place this season (via league position). If not then, we need to try to get as high as possible (at least top ten) and concentrate on making progress in this year’s FA Cup. Certainly, a good FA Cup run would be a major boost for the club and its support base. And how the grand old knock-out competition needs another all-time classic final, a la May 2006!

Speaking of which, our next opponents are Man City, on Friday evening, in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup, at the London Stadium. And it is an excellent chance to bounce back against tough opponents. However, we will have to do it without Kouyate and Ayew, who have departed to play in the African Cup of Nations for their respective national teams (Senegal and Ghana). Kouyate, in particular, is a very influential player and will always be badly missed. While Ayew is clawing his way back to fitness and form and in the injury absence of Sakho (and departure of Zaza and Calleri) it denies us the services of the major back up to Andy Carroll. Yes, Fletcher is still available and there is also the opportunity to promote the very promising Martinez to the bench. Hopefully, Feghouli will have Monday’s red card rescinded and be available, but it might be necessary to deploy Antonio in a more central striking position; especially if Carroll is not deemed fit enough to start. We will also probably see Adrian back between the posts and this will be a good opportunity for him to put in a good performance against top class opposition.

Man City are always difficult opponents, given the class of the options at their disposal. However, if Bilic gets the formation/tactics right and the team plays with pace and power we can grab a win. Payet and Lanzini are also going to be vital, they both need to be at the top of their game. Payet certainly owes us a big performance a la last season. The fans will also have a key role to play in making the London Stadium a cauldron of passion and noise. Lets try and bring a bit of the old Boleyn (under the floodlights) magic to the Stadium and create a genuinely intimidating atmosphere for City and an equally inspiring one for the home side.

Personally, I am really looking forward to the match, the challenge that it represents and (if I am honest) the timely break it gives us from the PL programme. Football is all about these type of matches against top teams. If our players and fans cannot rise to an occasion like this then there must be something wrong with them!! Seriously though, It will be a tough match, but I am going to be optimistic and go for a 2-1 home victory. COYI!

SJ. Chandos.

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Guest Post

Independent Supporters' Association is open for business

Guest Post by Paul Christmas

I am very pleased to inform that the West Ham United Independent Supporters’ Association website is now up and running at http://www.whuisa.org
Please visit the site and join as soon as you can. At present we have over 200 members.

We’d really like to get as many people as possible involved because numbers will give us credibility. You can join until the end of next season for £3 or until the end of next season for a fiver and we’d love to see as many people on board as possible. U18s can join for free.

For those who are new to this, we want to establish a democratic, transparent, independent, non club owned voice for fans to give honest input into the way things are run. The points of view will come from you the fans to be put forward by WHUISA to the club / stadium operators / Met Police / Newham Council / whoever and we will report back to you.

The aim is to eventually create a formal channel of communication that really represents the fans but that doesn’t rely of the patronage of the Board. We had the SAB but the general consensus was that it did not do the job we hoped it would. If you depend on the club management for your position on any fans organisation you can’t be truly honest. The club will always have the option to exclude you.

We want to be positive in trying to change things to make supporting West Ham a more positive experience. We want to be inclusive and constructive but we won’t shy away from telling the difficult truth if we have to.

Until now West Ham was the only PL club that did not have a supporters association or Trust. We have met with supporters’ groups from other clubs through the FSF and they have had amazing results. We will strive to and can have a similar effect.

There’s been an interim committee set up but once we are established we’ll be looking to get many more people on board. If you want to get stuck in sooner let us know at enquiries@whuisa.org.

The more we have, the stronger our voice will be.

Here’s to a happier new year both on and off the pitch !!!

Always West Ham United.

Paul Christmas
Joint Chair
WHUISA

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Tony Hanna's Musings

A Look Back at 2016

The 2016 year started really well with a 2-0 victory over Liverpool. Despite Payet being on the bench, Antonio and Carroll both scored with headers as we did the double over the Scousers for the first time since I got caned at Primary school. Two months later and we played Tottenham for what was to be the last time against them at Upton Park. Just to make it a bit more special it was under the famous lights too. Another Antonio header proved pivotal and our dreams of a top four finish were becoming distinctly possible. This season, our first under Slaven Bilic, was turning out to be quite a revelation. We were doing all sorts of things never before imagined. Winning at Arsenal, City and Liverpool may have been in the 2015 calendar year, but those results were setting us up nicely for what was to be one of our best seasons in history.

After beating Spurs 1-0 we travelled to Everton, a team that has consistently won games against us against the run of play. The term bogie team has hung around their necks ever since I first started to go to West Ham. On the 13th December 1969 they won 1-0 at Upton Park in what, still to me this day, is the most one sided game of football I have seen us dominate, only to lose. Anyway, 2016 went some way to putting matters right as we went 2-0 down at Goodison and it should have been three as they squandered a penalty with 20 minutes to play. The fact that we played against ten men for 56 minutes should not hide the fact that I have often felt that with their luck (against us), they could turn up with their five a side team and still beat us. The last 12 minutes were heaven as we scored three times to nick the points in what was almost like a dream. Slav was ticking a lot of boxes here.

Four successive score draws followed and strong arguments could be made we should have won all of them. A 2-2 draw at Chelsea where a last minute wrongly awarded penalty to the home side denied us a deserved win. We were cruising at home to Palace until Kouyate got sent off and the game changed on its head. We again drew 2-2. The fact that the card was to be rescinded did nothing to change the fact another two points had dribbled down the proverbial gurgler. Despite trailing 2-0 at home to Arsenal in the next game, an eight minute Andy Carroll hat trick gave us a 3-2 lead only to see the Gunners grab an equaliser and force another stalemate. Next up was the eventual Champions, Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. The home side led 1-0 with ten minutes to go in a game where Vardy rightly got his marching orders trying to dive his way to another penalty. Two goals in the last ten minutes with a Carroll penalty and a Cresswell shot saw us look likely to break the run of draws. However, referee Johnathon Moss decided that due to the stick he was getting from the home crowd for rightly sending Vardy off and giving the away side a penalty, it was only right to even things up a bit by rewarding the home side with what was probably the softest penalty awarded against us all season. So, another 2-2 draw.

Three weeks later and we were playing our last ever game at our famous old ground. Moan United at home. You couldn’t write the script. Well, you could actually as our owners had asked the powers that write the football fixtures to ensure our farewell was to be against Swansea. Low profile was needed for such an event – huh? Anyway, the true football Gods devised a cunning plan that ensured a congested fixture list for the Moaners and the game we had in hand with them had to be rescheduled for after the Swansea match. If ever there was a game I wished I could attend, but couldn’t, this was it. What a night. The noise, the atmosphere, the beating up of their bus – it had everything! A blistering start by the Hammers, which should have trebled Sakho’s lone strike, was to be thwarted as the Moaning ones struck back twice. Was the party over? Again the football Gods were just toying with our emotions. Two goals from Antonio and Reid ensured the roof was raised for one last time. And how. The football Gods then decided that we have had enough fun thanks, and we lost 2-1 away to Stoke in a game where even the commentators said we should have won by seven! A finishing spot of 7th and despite what could of been, should have been, it had been a season to be proud of.

The second half of the year saw what was to probably be the biggest change for the club in its history. The move to the Olympic Stadium. Sorry, I still can’t call it the London Stadium and I am sure that name will change in due course anyway. By the time we played our 3rd game of the Premier League season our Euro dreams had again be snuffed out by Astra Giurgiu. Our summer transfer window had concentrated on bringing in quantity rather than quality as we prepared for a long season of Thursday and Sunday fixtures. So much for that then! Our first Premier League home game was against Bournemouth and another Antonio header secured a 1-0 win in a match devoid of any quality. This was followed by four successive defeats where we conceded 14 goals and the alarm bells were ringing. A win apiece against Sunderland and Palace, and a draw at home to Boro settled the ship somewhat before we reverted to type by losing at Everton. A few weeks later and a heartbreaking loss at Spurs where we conceded a 2-1 lead with minutes to play was to put in me in the sulks for nearly a week. My poor wife. Talking of whom. Over the Xmas period some grubby sod stole my credit cards. I have decided not to report the incident however. The thief spends less money than she does.

Since then draws at the Theatre of Moans and Liverpool and a 4-1 win at Swansea can’t hide the fact how rubbish we were at home to Arsenal, Burnley and Hull. However, points have come our way and at least any thoughts of relegation have been tempered. It has to be said that the second half of 2016 has been a far cry from the first half. The football has not flowed and the move to our new ground is not to everyone’s taste. However, at the end of 2015 if you offered me a final position in the PL of 7th, followed by 13th six months later, I would have snapped your hand off.

Perhaps we used a lot of our luck up in that 1-0 win against Hull, but we were due some after the way we lost at Spurs. I thought the way we played against Leicester on the weekend, our last game of the year, was quite encouraging. We deserved at least a point and probably more from the game. Hopefully the football Gods noticed?

Happy New Year to you all. Since writing this article the 2017 home game has been played against the Moaning ones. Obviously the football Gods are not in contact with Mike Dean!


Zaman Siddiqui's Match Review

West Ham 0 - Officials 2

UPDATE: We end the matchweek in 13th following Stoke’s 2-0 win over Watford. Also, Mike Phelan has been sacked as Head Coach of Hull, and Paul Clement has been appointed manager of Swansea.

A red card and a goal given that was offside: these are two decisions that the officials made that cost us the match. Man United are currently on a run of seven straight wins, so beating them was going to be a Herculean task. Suffice to say we failed to score, as an attacking player was sent off in the opening quarter of an hour. But this isn’t about which team should have won on balance. This is about officiating the game in the right manner, so that both teams have control over their own destinies.

If it was just Mike Dean who made a mistake, then it wouldn’t be much of an issue. But given that the linesman gave United a 2-0 lead with not one, not two, but three players offside is just unspeakable! The officials were struggling to get a grip over the match to such an extent that they were more like the unofficials. Gary Neville alluded to it early on in the second half when the referee was a bit hesitant on a few decisions.

I have honestly never seen a referee lose that much control of a match that he has to say: “Don’t look at me again, otherwise you won’t be playing again.”! The player he was speaking to was Pedro Obiang. Despite what he said, I bet there was an inner part of Mike Dean hoping for stares and glares from the highest attendance our club has ever had. After all, it was the Mike Dean show! He gave the last red card of 2016, and now has the honour of giving away the first red card of 2017. Yep, he was lucky, that’s all. Nothing dodgy going on there.

You know we have been undone when the Match of the Day pundits are siding with us. The referee will be at the front of various sporting newspaper columns following his atrocious display at the London Stadium. I know – an official has out-done us! Dean is the poster boy looking forward to his new-found notoriety. Prior to his meet-up with the refs, his nickname was Deano. Now, he’s going to have to tell them that it’s now Beano. Who else could glorify immoral behaviour better than him? He’s the front runner this calendar year.

Fair play to our team for not losing their temper over the ref’s shoddy performance. Obiang, Ogbonna, Cresswell, and Nordtveit went over and shook Mike Dean’s hand at full time. Additionally, Slav kept his cool in his post-match interview. Imagine if Mourinho was in Slav’s boots? He would have been given a touchline ban, that’s for sure.

Now, it is too easy to put down the loss to poor officiating decisions. Given the chances we had, we should have scored. Then again, it all boils down to the matter of the month – signing a striker. Antonio had two great chances including a one-on-one with de Gea. Instead of taking his time with the latter opportunity dribbling further like a proper striker would do in his position, he took his shot straight away. If that wasn’t infuriating enough, he shot it right at the keeper!

As good as Antonio’s goal tally is, there is simply no way that he can play up front. He doesn’t have the instincts of a striker, as we have witnessed before. Sure he gets a lot of headed goals much like Carroll does, but that does not make him a striker. We need to sign a top striker, otherwise we will struggle to score. We have been very fortunate with contributions from Payet and Antonio, but they won’t last. Antonio is a better creative outlet than a striker, and once we put him back in his native position, we can expect to see more goals. This is the first time we have lost consecutive PL matches without scoring for the first time under Slaven Bilic, so now is as good a time as any to sign a striker.

Lanzini played very well for us getting forward leading the team well in a more advanced attacking role. He orchestrated many attacks, and wasn’t afraid to change it around by going it on his own. He has certainly stepped up for us playing in a central midfield role when needed. We lost the midfield battle in this match, though things could have been very different had Feghouli not been sent off.


At the end of the day, we can’t be too downhearted with the defeat, but we also can’t take this match as a one-off. Just because we were on the wrong end of a decision doesn’t mean we couldn’t have scored first. With two-thirds of regulation time played out, we had more shots on target than our opponents. We should have capitalised when we had the chances. Man United were 1-0 down to Boro in their previous match, yet scored two late goals in the 85th and 86th minutes to win – a tribute to the Sir Alex style of play. We should follow their example by trying to play with a bit of attacking flair like we did last season, and try and replicate our earlier successes.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 0, Manchester United 2. Shame On The Men In Black.

I hate math. Primarily because I’m awful at it. While at University, I even made an “arrangement” with the professors assistant to get the lowest possible passing grade for the one required math class I needed to graduate.

Worked like a charm.

With Zlatan coming to town today, I thought back to the stories on some websites that linked us with him over the summer. The wages flung around in print were in the posh neighborhood of 300 grand per week. But we were also supposed to be spending 25 million pounds or something like that on a star striker of our own. Zlatan was on a free, right? Let’s say we got a striker for 25 million and paid the 65 per week basic we normally do. Those 125 per week wages are always based on a truckload of bonus payments. And yes, I understand the lack of sell on value for a guy who’s about sixty.

Two years of Zlatan at 300 grand is £31,200,000. The man has already scored 17 goals this season. I’m thinking a lot of Zlatan shirts would have been under trees this year, too.

Two years of whomever at 65 grand per week, plus 25 million in fees, comes out to £31,760,000.

Ok. I’m done. On to the match.

The opening five minutes were perfect….for making a third cup of coffee. Bank holiday, fresh heavy cream from a local dairy farm, mmmmm. When I finished making my caffeinated elixir, Payet and Lanzini started to find a bit of space near the top of the Manchester United penalty area. The first two times the end products were weak, low shots that went out for goal kicks. But in the 10th minute, Feghouli started a counter that eventually found its way to Lanzini at the top of the box, and the nimble Argentine fired a hard shot that deGea didn’t have to touch, but he did and it resulted in a West Ham corner.

Much was said on TV over here early on about Feghouli’s lively and positive opening minutes. But in the 15th minute, Mike Dean undid all of that and created a ridiculous rest of the match when he sent the Algerian off for a hard challenge on Phil Jones. Yellow? Maybe. Red? Never. And to make it even more insulting, a minute later Lingard lunged in to challenge Kouyate and saw nothing.

Mike Dean should be ashamed of himself. But like all referees, they are not held accountable in any way for their errors. They are, in a football sense, above the law.

At that point, I figured I knew what kind of evening we were in for. Sit back, defend like hell, and hope we can steal a nil-nil draw. But that didn’t happen. We tried. In the face of injustice and daunting odds, we tried.

Antonio was taken from the center forward position and moved wide, while Lanzini occupied whatever the part of the middle of the pitch we could work with. I made the decision not to comment on every period of possession the visitors had because that would be pointless.

Random comment. Nordtveit continued to look reasonably comfortable and composed at right back.

In the 36th minute, Manchester United guaranteed a spot on the end of the season highlight film for Miss Of The Season. Zlatan sent a ball from the right side of the area to Mkhitaryan at the left post. Mkhitaryan squared the ball to Valencia in front of goal, with Randolph committed to his right. With the whole net open, a few feet away, Valencia directed the ball towards the net for a sure fire opening goal. But somehow, against everything we know about the capacity of the human body, Randolph got his left leg back to make a save. The ball bounced to Lingard, who had an equally open net in front of him, but his shot went off the post and right to Randolph.

Against the run of play, as well as the odds, West Ham came close to a goal of their own in the 44th minute when Antonio did well to pick out Lanzini near the top of the Manchester United eighteen yard box. After a short cut to his right he sent a curling effort on goal that deGea did quite well to palm wide for a corner. Then, in the final minute of added time, West Ham won a free kick to the left of the Manchester United penalty area. Payet swung his effort in, and despite West Ham protestations about a hand ball Mike Dean blew the whistle to end the first half.

Mike Dean and blow are words that seem appropriate in the same breath today.

Halftime
West Ham 0
Manchester United 0

Mourinho understandably started the second half with an attacking substitute, inserting Mata and removing Darmian. I was disappointed to see the once booked Darmian leave, along with the hope of a make-good sending off.

West Ham had a chance in the 53rd minute when Payet stood over a free kick on the right side of the visitors box. His delivery was good, and Antonio was the first to get to it but his header went wide.

In the 60th minute, West Ham broke on a counter with numbers. Lanzini got the ball in the center of the pitch and rolled a lovely through ball to Antonio, who timed his run perfectly. Antonio took his shot right away when he had time to make another touch or even two, and deGea was able to come out and make the save. Moments later, Rashford made a run down the left and forced any number of West Ham defenders to commit. He then calmly found Mata in the box, and the second half substitute broke the deadlock.

West Ham 0
Manchester United 1

Despite surrendering an almost inevitable goal, West Ham showed admirable spirit and energy. Carroll replaced Payet, and almost immediately did what a center forward does. Created a set piece chance by drawing a foul. Unfortunately the delivery was poor and Manchester United got the ball out their area.

In the 74th, it was Rashford on the left again. This time he found Pogba alone in the box, but the one hundred million pound man curled his right footed effort wide. A minute later, Valencia fouled Lanzini to give West Ham a free kick. Even a wine salesman knew that was what we needed to create a chance to level the affair. But for some reason, Ogbonna took the free kick short and West Ham didn’t even get the ball into the area.

In the 79th minute, the officiating continued their shameful display. Herrera had a shot from the top of the area blocked. For some reason, Obiang tried a stylish pass out of danger instead of putting his boot through it. The ball ricochet to Zlatan in an offside position, but the flag stayed down when the towering Swede rifled the ball past Randolph.

Final Score
West Ham 0
Manchester United 2

Most of us likely expected nothing from today, considering Manchester United had won five straight and were unbeaten in ten. The fact that Mike Dean ruined what had the look of a tasty affair, and then the linesman missed what was about as easy an offside call as he will ever have, should only be a negative on them. Not on West Ham.

Shame on you, Men In Black.

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