Nostalgia Series; Ron Greenwood

Ron was born on the 11th November 1921 in Lancashire and passed away at aged 84 on the 9th February 2006 after a long battle with Alzheimers. During his days at West Ham he lived in my old home town of Loughton in Brooklyn Avenue which is just off the High Road. On my recent visit back I took the attached photo of the tribute mounted at the front of his old home. Ron Greenwood was one of the best managers in our clubs history. His playing career saw him play for Bradford Park Avenue, Brentford (the team he supported as a boy), Chelsea and Fulham. Ron went on to manage West Ham from 1961 to 1974 and then the England National side from 1977 until 1982.

In the mid sixties Ron’s West Ham team won the FA Cup in 1964 and the ECWC Final the following year. The latter was probably the highlight of his career as he watched West Ham defeat 1860 Munich in a game that was lauded as one of the best games of football ever played at Wembley. Ron’s on field footballing approach was heavily influenced by the great Hungarian National team of the 1950’s. He would famously oversee the development of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters from the academy, right through to the International stage. When Ron turned Geoff Hurst from a midfielder to a striker, he told Geoff “not to worry, that he would take the blame, not Geoff, if the tactical move did not work”. It was also Ron Greenwood that transformed Trevor Brooking from an ordinary inside forward to a World class midfield player.

If Ron was one thing, he was a football purist. Despite taking over the reins at Upton Park over 60 years after the club was formed he was just the fourth manager in the clubs history. Only a few seasons into his managerial career at Upton Park, Ron was offered a huge sum for the times, 10,000 pounds to move away, but he was happy to stay at a club that believed in the same footballing traditions as himself. Ron was proud to say “we produce two players a year for the first team” (from the academy). He was also proud to oversee a side that played attacking football and that entertained the crowds. Whilst West Ham were never title contenders under Ron’s management, West Ham’s away games, more often than not, produced the biggest attendances of the season for the home teams. Old Trafford was always packed to its capacity of 63,000 for the visit of West Ham and it was a similar scenario of capacity crowds elsewhere. West Ham were the “entertainers” of the English game. Unfortunately, Ron’s style was also seen as a soft touch for the ever growing “professionalism” of other teams in the league. Whilst his knowledge of the game and purist style gained many admirers, some of his players in later years described him as not a people person. Aloof in many ways. But Geoff Hurst was more complimentary in his autobiography writing the following. “Much of what I learned from him (Ron) in those days is still relevant today. When I am watching games, situations arise on the pitch that often make me think of the things he used to tell us. For every tactical problem he had an answer. When I see a team with a problem I still think to myself Ron would solve it this way or that way. For instance, a team may be having difficulty in bypassing opposing defenders. Ron taught us to create what he called “two against one” situations all over the pitch. The object was to bypass defenders with a forward pass rather than a square one across the field. It was really the essence of West Ham’s one touch game and was dependent on the sharpness, vision and movement of our players. Too often today players accept second best with a square pass or high ball over the top of defenders simply because they have never been taught a passing strategy that carries them through the heart of the opposing team.”

Ron stood by his West Ham style and he always thought there was a magical missing link that would take the team to the heights of English football. He never found that “link” and his purist ideals also led to players being sent out to play with strict instructions that they were not to “hurt” opposition players. These ideals were forefront when he said the most disappointing thing that happened in the 1968/9 season was Harry Redknapp getting sent off at Leeds! There seemed to be a theme, especially from Northern teams back in those days, that they would openly applaud West Ham’s style by saying “they let you play”. It was really a backhanded compliment in many ways as their more unscrupulous tactics often won the day. Ron was a man of his word too. West Ham had struggled in the goal keeping position for some time and he had tried to sign Gordon Banks prior to the 1966 World Cup but was told he was not available. So Ron agreed a British record fee (for a goal keeper) for Bobby Ferguson from Kilmarnock but the transfer was delayed to allow the keeper to play for the Scottish side until they were knocked out of the European Fairs Cup. During the delay, Leicester, remembering West Ham’s interest in Banks, phoned Ron to advise they were willing to sell him to the Hammers if Ron still wanted him? The West Ham boss declined to sign arguably the best keeper in the World as he had given his word to take Ferguson, despite no paperwork having been signed. Banks then signed for Stoke and the rest is history.

In 1974, under growing fan frustrations due to lack of success, Ron “moved upstairs” and John Lyall took over as manager of West Ham. Three years later Ron took over the England job and qualified for the Euro’s and the World Cup in successive periods. England’s qualification for the 1982 World Cup Finals was the first in twelve years as it was with the Euro’s. In 1981 he was made a CBE for his services to football before being inducted into the FA Hall of Fame in 2002.

Ron Greenwood will always be remembered as a great West Ham manager, playing the game the traditional “West Ham Way”.

The HamburgHammer Column

Munich Jeer Festival, Hammers near Hamburg and Reece going to some team from Germany

This article is going to be a bit of a mixed bag in terms of topics covered, so forgive me if it’s not all strictly about West Ham, but a lack of transfer news means I have to look beyond our beloved Hammers. Although with regard to 1860 Munich there is of course a West Ham link: It was 52 years ago, at Wembley, May 19th 1965, one of the greatest days in our history with West Ham beating 1860 Munich in the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final. I wasn’t around for that one of course, being born in 1972.

But I am sure a few of my readers watched that game live on the telly or maybe even were lucky enough to be in attendance at Wembley, Now then, this famous German club with a great history, who were Munich’s Number One Team for a long time, far ahead of Bayern Munich in terms of success and status, this traditional and much loved club has now been relegated.

Due to the confusing nature of the circumstances affecting the club nobody can say at this point in which league 1860 Munich will actually play next season after losing a two legged playoff affair against Bavarian neighbours Jahn Regensburg last week.

That final decisive game was marred by crowd trouble from frustrated Munich “supporters” who were hurling seats, iron railings and other assorted goods onto the pitch, venting their anger and possibly trying to get the match, which was already lost 15 minutes from time as Munich needed to score three goals at that point, abandoned.
While I have no affiliation with the City of Munich or 1860 as such it does pain me to see a club like this go under and while I don’t pretend to know all the finer details of the inner workings of that particular club it is clear to see that the arrival of Jordanian businessman and sports investor Hasan Ismaik six years ago didn’t quite work out.

He initially saved the club from administration in 2011 by spending 18 million Euros, buying a majority stake of shares in the club. His dreams were big, getting 1860 promoted back to the Bundesliga in a year or two, making the Champions League places five years later, building a new state of the art stadium and moving into its news premises just in time for CL football.

The trouble though is that in Germany there is the so called 50+1 rule, a rule implemented to make sure that no club can be taken over and run by one big company or investor.

In Germany football clubs are still intended to be mainly football clubs, in theory at least as there are exceptions to the rule like the old works club Bayer Leverkusen or Hanover 96.

1860 Munich went through 14 different managers in just 6 years while investor Ismaik and local representatives from the club hierarchy rarely sang from the same hymnsheet.

There were various scandals, affairs, shenanigans which you can easily google if you’re interested, but after spending an estimated 60 million Euros so far, Ismaik has now refused to pay the required sum for 1860 to play in Bundesliga 3 next season unless he gets full reign at the club. Which he obviously can’t due to the 50+1 rule.
Which Ismaik is now suing against. At the other end of the spectrum are the loyal fans who will now have to watch their team play in the Regionalliga Bayern (4th level) at best. Maybe even the Bayernliga (5th level) which is the same level as my beloved Concordia.

I don’t know about you, but I feel awfully sad when I see a club, rich in history and tradition, go down the pan like this through the ineptitude of people in suit and tie, ruining that club from within by being selfish and also pretty clueless about how to run a football club. It’s a massive warning sign this as to what can happen to clubs in a short space of time if you have the wrong people making vital decisions. Money helps of course, but it isn’t everything. It’s how you spend it and how you treat the people working for your club. Dark times then for 1860 Munich and their fanbase.

Some positive news now comes in shape of a rumour that West Ham will indeed play a preseason friendly near Hamburg, albeit not against Concordia, but we have already discussed the reasons why that game ain’t happening anytime soon. However, apparently West Ham will play Bundesliga marinated Werder Bremen in the beautiful town of Luebeck which is about 40 miles northeast of Hamburg. In all likelihood it will happen sometime between July 20th and the end of the same month. I will keep you posted on this as surely some of you will be keen to fly over for that one.

Both Hamburg and Luebeck are places worth visiting, Luebeck boasting a strikingly beautiful Old Town. So if you can make the short trip over the Channel, do it! The football ground in Luebeck holds around 17.500, but I’m not sure at this point how many tickets would be allocated to the away support. Please get one ticket for me as well please.

If I phoned up Bremen about tickets surely they would only sell a ticket in the home end to a German customer like myself.

And before I stand with Werder Bremen fans you will see me sharing a canoe without a paddle on the River Thames with a Millwall, a Spurs and a Chelsea fan.

The next rumour is about young Reece Oxford. After his frustrating loan spell at Reading, he will now apparently leave Britain for an even bigger challenge to join Borussia Moenchengladbach for a season long loan. Yes, THAT team from Germany that Scottish pub owners and football fans alike were struggling/failing to spell, never mind pronounce properly. I will keep my eyes and ears open on Oxford’s exploits in Germany next season and will try to keep you all in the loop accordingly.

As you probably know by now, I do have a lot of time for Moenchengladbach as a club. They were my first favourite football club ever as a kid (as I liked the look of their shirts, back in the days of black and white TV), they are a club similar in size and status to West Ham, steeped in history, renowned for playing a distinctive style of football, renowned for their passionate and truly loyal fanbase, but also notorious for a distinctive lack of trophies in the cabinet.
They also have a history of bringing through and playing young players, hence their nickname Die Fohlenelf, The Foals’ Eleven.

And they do have, in my view, one of the most beautiful football stadiums on the planet. What I would give if we could play our home games in a claret and blue version of that!

Young Reece has a perfect opportunity to kickstart his career there. A prime example of a recent successful loan deal has been Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen who developed into one of the Bundesliga’s most complete young defenders during his two year loan spell at Moenchengladbach. He is now back at Chelsea and will no doubt be a great player for them in the years ahead.

Another positive for Oxford will be the hiring of Otto Addo, a German former attacking midfielder born in Hamburg who played for the Ghana national side and also for Hanover, Dortmund, Mainz and Hamburg SV. He has also been a youth coach at Hamburg before working as assistant manager at Nordsjaelland in Denmark later and now in his current role at Moenchengladbach.

It will be Addo’s job to work exclusively with Borussia’s top prospects, nurturing their talents and skills (which would include young Reece) bringing them up to first team level. Still, Oxford would need to work his socks off as Moechengladbach are pretty well covered defensively, so he would really need to step up and shine in order to actually start games and keep his place in the side. Moenchengladbach tend to loan players for a minimum of two years though, so it remains to be seen if Oxford may be an exception with just a one year deal.

That’s all from me this week lads and lassies! Hope we’ll be hearing some good news on the transfer front soon and also some more details on that West Ham friendly in Luebeck. COYI!!!

Tony Hanna's Musings

Small Clique to Large Growing Family

Back on the 14th February I wrote an article which included a link for readers to come up with their end of season predictions using the table predictor. There were 10 points available, one for predicting the Champions, one each for the top four and relegated teams, one for the top four in correct order and one for predicting West Ham’s finishing position. Nineteen regulars had a go and here are the results. Oslo Hammer tied with myself on top of the leader board with 8 points and coming in joint 3rd on 7 points were Toddy, Gizziron and Ironfish. On 6 points were BSB, Hammerdragon, The Original Russ, Teddybard, Florida Hammer, Safehands, Northern Iron Man, Toronto Hammer, Voice of Reason, and Daz the Hammer. Serangoon, Digger, Dan Coker and Jimmy Cooney Jnr received 5 points.

All a bit of fun and thanks to all who had a go. Over the coming weeks I will be revisiting and posting a few of my old nostalgia articles I wrote a few years ago. Some of the newer site members may not have seen them before and some of the older members amongst us will have probably forgotten them! They will not be carbon copies of the originals and it will help the interest in the site hopefully over these traditionally quiet upcoming weeks. It may also offer some relief from the boredom of the transfer rumour mill?

I have only just returned from the UK and managed to get to the Olympic Stadium for the games against Spurs and Liverpool. It was penthouse to crap house in the space of a week. What a game and atmosphere for a first visit to the new ground. The whole place was buzzing before, during and after the game and it confirms my previous view that it is the fans not the ground that generates the atmosphere. Just like Upton Park before it, our crowd can create a fabulous atmosphere at best but if the team does not perform it can be miserably quiet just like the Liverpool game witnessed a week later. I won’t go into detail now, perhaps for a later article, but I really like the new stadium. It is not perfect but neither was Upton Park.

Thanks to all those who showed for the WHTID meet ups at both games. Whilst the Liverpool game was the official meet there were enough appearances from old and new faces at the Spurs game as well to make it quite nostalgic. What was incorrectly considered a small clique on the site a few years ago has become quite a large West Ham family nowadays. Special thanks to BSB for the tickets and a big thank you to the Original Russ for driving the wife and I home after the Spurs game when walking had become a little troublesome for me for reasons I won’t go into here……and yes, for those that know I am still applying the cream. Later in the holiday I did get to repay BSB for the tickets when we went out for dinner and he had his hand in plaster after an operation. It was my job to cut up his meat and veg and hand feed him! Now there is an hour of my life I will never get back.

Talking Point

To Loan, or Not To Loan?

Blind Hammer looks at the Judgements Slaven Bilic and tom Wesley will have to make this summer.

Until recently the benefits of a Loan system in developing players was pretty much unquestioned. The well-trodden path to success for players arising out of the West Ham Academy like Jermaine Defoe and Frank Lampard was to spend periods on Loan at clubs like Bournemouth and Swansea respectively. Success in those lower league environments enabled players to develop mental and physical toughness to cope with the demands of top flight football.

For many years youth football has been seen as inadequate preparation for the rigours of senior football. The Under-23 league is regarded as technically challenging and good, but soft physically. The pressures are less savage, less is at stake. The realities of tough grizzled professionals are not represented.

Joe Hart described his early experience at Shrewsbury Town:

“At that level you understood that people, their families and their jobs were on the line. If you didn’t perform, things could get nasty. That was the environment I grew up in and it served me well.”

Playing in the lore leagues also give experience of the pressure of playing in front of a crowd who may well is impatient, frustrated, abusive and unforgiving. It certainly takes a certain kind of mental toughness to overcome this. Martin Allen described how it was learning how to cope with hostile reactions from the Upton Park crowd when he made a misplaced pass which was the turning point in his career. In his case he adapted his game, concentrated on tackling and winning the ball and kept passing the ball simple, rather than making a more adventurous pass forward with higher error potential.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of a crowd inhibiting Allen’s attempt to be more creative he found a method of playing which could survive pressures at the top level. He would never have found this need to adapt at Second team level.

Leroy Rosenior in his recent autobiography described the mental toughness you need to play in front of thousands who provide blows to your confidence and self-esteem, especially away from home. The football arena is a raw emotional place where adulation can quickly change to vile abuse.

Despite the benefits of a loan system, the picture for West Ham youngsters this year has been decidedly mixed. Tony Martinez was doing well at Oxford until serious injury badly interrupted his season. Luckily he recovered quickly enough to return to spearhead our promotion in the Development League Playoff. Josh Cullen has excelled at Bradford City to the extent that the fames have adopted our old “Dmitri Payet” song for him. Reece Burke also excelled at Bradford City but seems to have stalled again from injury during his most recent stay at Wigan.

George Dobson managed 21 appearances for Walsall but again returned to West Ham to figure in our Development Squad promotion run.

However the biggest concern has been in the loan performances of arguably our 2 biggest stars in the youth stable. The loans of Reece Oxford to Reading and Martin Samuelsen to Blackburn have been unmitigated disasters which may have caused a lot more harm than any potential good that they may have produced.

Oxford has only the briefest flirtation with the Reading first team and traumatically he was one of the defensive scapegoats hauled out of the team after Reading’s shocking 7-1 defeat at the hands of Championship also rans Norwich. Reading’s manager Stam was clearly no fan of Oxford, criticising variously his level of fitness, his level of intensity, allegedly inherited from his West Ham experience, his use of twitter and finally his level of commitment. Bilic went on record to say that he wished West Ham had never sent Oxford to Reading.

Martin Samuelsen had an even more difficult time at Blackburn Rovers. After a successful spell at Peterborough Samuelsen tried to make the step up to Blackburn only to find his stay terminated by Rovers. Blackburn Rovers, threatened with relegation throughout the Championship season was apparently a difficult environment. When Samuelsen limped metaphorically back to Peterborough after rejection by Blackburn they were appalled at the damage done to him. The confident and dangerous attacking player that they had passed onto Blackburn was now a shadow of his former self, devoid of confidence and attacking threat.

It may be that both Oxford and Samuelsen were pitched into a level that was too high for them to perform over a season in. However other more pragmatic factors may have been at work. We all know how working in a pressured environment may be difficult. Some young players may not be ready to adapt to all these pressures.

There seems little doubt that Oxford, having performed relatively successfully in the first team on limited occasions would have been better off staying at West Ham than spending months on the side-lines at Reading. Possibly the only beneficial outcome of the Reading experience for Oxford is that it may have been a reality check, counteracting any inflated views of his current capabilities possibly induced by Agent talk.

In the end the Loan system is only one model. Joe Cole was pitched into our first team without farming out to any lower level league team. He performed admirably until we were forced to sell after relegation. This may be a more constructive route for Oxford. If, as was allegedly the case, we sold Tomkins to clear a path for Oxford to make it into the first team this, rather than loaning out would seem to make logical sense anyway.

The situation for Samuelsen is less straightforward. He is completely untried at first team level and an extended loan at Peterborough or possibly Bradford City may make more sense.

Peterborough and Bradford appear to be environments in which our youngsters can excel and perhaps should enjoy preferred status in loan arrangements with us.

In the end though we should perhaps become less rigid in our approach. Instead of automatically looking for loans, we should recognise that there are risks as well as benefits. Perhaps we should be looking to pitch the occasional highly talented player, in the style of Southampton straight into the first team.

David Griffith

Talking Point

Follow the Leader

Guest Post by Rugby Irons

Back to the footy and one of the areas that I felt contributed positively and negatively last season. And that’s having leaders on the field. We seem to have two captains at the club, Noble and Reid, but in terms of leaders it seems to be Noble and Collins.

A lot has been said about the quality of Mark Noble’s performances this season and in particular his negativity in going backwards and sidewards but as the captain there can be little argument he makes a difference to the others. I’ll leave you to decide if individual poorer play, but better output from your teammates justifies his inclusion. But before you decide you have to consider when he’s not been there. I accept I don’t have the facts (cue Paul Smith) of when Reid is captain but I have seen little to suggest he is leading the team. His own performances have been fine but when called upon to be the leader has he actually done this? For me on a par with Noble the answer has to be no. And then there is the Ginger factor. I don’t think anyone would argue he was our best and most influential player in the run in. His tackles, blocks, headers and commitment have forced the others to get stuck in too. For me he was the catalyst for the Spurs win. He and Noble set the tone on the night and they just couldn’t handle us. Now I think the other player to surprise in the tackle was Lanzini. He certainly doesn’t shirk a tackle and chasing back for a skinny guy and has made us more competitive in the middle third.

So the question going forward has to be can Zabaleta add leadership to the team? You have to hope that his undoubted quality will help bring on both our fullbacks but his influence may be more than just defending. This could possibly have us field three leaders, himself, Ginge and Reid in the back line, which might just tighten us a bit and turn draws into wins. In the middle Noble and Lanzini can compete well enough and I still feel that Ayew and Snodgrass have more to offer. Currently up top Carroll is a great leader of the line and he does commit the problem as always is how games will be play?

Now, and perhaps being a bit optimistic here, but if you add Rice, who is a clear leader, Burke, Holland and Dobson plus Martinez, all of these lads have a presence about them. Now the club are going to make two more ‘Quality’ signings , whatever that means but for me I hope they pick players with a bit about them and not just their ability . For example Benteke is a proven centre forward but when he’s crap he’s not worth being on the field. If you take our Ayew, who came with a big tag, you always get a good shift from him and once he got a run going he looked better each week. As there is no guarantee that AC will even with us next season, it’s a fair bet he won’t play much, and for me Sakho is a spent force, so this leaves us needing a quality centre forward. Now I’ve asked the question before of what is a centre forward in the Premiership these days and frankly I’m not sure. From the Carrol, Benteke mould, we now have all sorts of main strikers. Small, skilful, fast, gormless, and allsorts. For me I just want our striker to be primarily fit enough for long enough to lead the line. We have a lot of players who can score and as I certainly don’t see us signing a 20 goals a season player, then a more rounded player who can contribute to the whole team, rather than the attack focus may be a better option in the long run.

Now if you ask me who I am thinking off, quite frankly I don’t know. Our own Martinez has the attributes but perhaps not the experience, same for Iheanacho. If SB is looking at surplus top six players then is Giroud mobile enough? Sturridge isn’t fit enough, Rooney not good enough now, Bashuayi is probably the one good fit, and so we won’t get him! The relegated teams have nothing, which leaves the likes of Deeney, King, Long but I don’t think these can be counted in the ‘Marquee Quality ‘bracket.

So what’s my point? Well, with Zabaleta having joined us, we have two to come. I am hoping that the two that come can add to the team and not just for their ability. My feeling is the squad is better than it looks. Eleventh ultimately was excellent considering the shenanigans early doors and if the two to come can offer quality and leadership, even in their own way, then we may be the surprise team next season. The ability is there, it just needs guiding in the right direction. So for me I am hoping the two signings are what we really need.

Who they may be I leave you to guess on!

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