Opposition Q & A
This weekend West Ham travel to Leicester where we again try to harvest a few points that will ensure we stay up this season. I see that Nobes is saying that we will not be having a last day nail-biter, so I expect him at least to have his game of the season on Saturday. Ahead of the game I spoke to Chris Forryan of online fanzine leicestertilidie to discuss the season, and the game.
Hi Chris, this weekend you take on a West Ham side desperate to gain points to help them avoid the drop. We are obviously unhappy with the way things have gone for us, but how do you sum up your season?
A rollercoaster – bad start, upturn on the arrival of Puel, downturn the last few months
Claude Puel came in to eventually replace Claudio Ranieri: given that you predicted you would finish the season between 8th and 10th, and here you sit in 9th place, how do the Leicester fans think he has performed?
On a recent poll of Leicester till I die fans 96% wanted him sacked – ‘nuff said’
Not the impression given early on in the season, how quickly things change. You did not seem to be impressed with the appointment of David Moyes as West Ham manager, so I expect you would say his has lived down to your expectations?
I just don’t think he is a manager to take a team forward. If you are happy in bottom half safety then he is your man but I wouldn’t want him at Leicester.
Which Leicester City players have impressed this season, and conversely who has underperformed?
Ndidi, Silva & Iborra – a midfield we can build a new team round.
Underperformed? This would be unfair of me to answer as going on the past few games it has been hard to players to perform well in an untried formation and out of position.
What have been the highlights and lowlights of the season?
FA Cup run, we were unlucky to go out after a rush of blood to the head of Schmeichel.
Lowlights? The start and the finish to the season.
Are West Ham going to be relegated? Who are your picks for the drop?
No I think you will be safe. WBA, Stoke and looking at their run in Huddersfield.
What are your hopes on the playing side for next season?
We start to need rebuilding, a new LB & RB are essential and possibly Musa back from Loan upfront.
Which if any West Ham players would you like to nick if we were to be relegated?
I haven’t seen enough of West Ham to choose any players tbh. Sorry.
How do you expect Leicester to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation prediction?
No idea! Puel seems to pick a slip of paper out of the hat with his formation on for that week.
Are you feeling confident of victory, or are your players dreaming of their holidays? Prediction for score?
We have both to come back from heavy defeats, and while you are fighting for your life this is our last home game of the season and the players need to put on a performance after last week in front of their home crowd. Will probably be Mahrez’s last game so maybe see something special from him.
Going to go 2-1 to Leicester.
Well thanks to Chris for his time. I am going to have to disagree with his prediction and go for a 1 – 2 win for West Ham. Surely if David Moyes is going to be our manager next season, then he has got to be able to get the boys up for getting something from this game. COYI
Dan Coker's Match Preview
Blast from the past
Back in 1929/1930, West Ham United visited Leicester City while in the midst of a run of five wins in seven matches, scoring 23 goals in the process and conceding 11. The Hammers kept up their good form on the 20th February 1930 by beating the Foxes 2-1 at Filbert Street in front of 13,156. Ramsay MacDonald was Prime Minister, the existence of Pluto had just been confirmed and Elm Farm Ollie had just become the first cow to fly in a fixed-wing aircraft. The Technicolor musical film The Vagabond King had just been released, with English actor and singer Dennis King recreating his original London and Broadway stage role as Villon in the film and recording two songs from the film for Victor Records.
The Foxes had finished as First Division runners-up the previous season so victory at Filbert Street was no mean feat for the Hammers. The Irons’ goals that day came courtesy of the great Vic Watson and winger Jimmy Wood. Legendary centre-forward Watson (pictured above) would end the campaign as the Irons’ top goalscorer with an astounding 50 goals from 44 matches, more than the rest of his team-mates combined. Leicester’s consolation was scored by Scottish inside-left Arthur Lochhead, formerly of Hearts and Manchester United.
Syd King’s West Ham would end the season in seventh position, while Willie Orr’s Leicester would finish eighth. Sheffield Wednesday won the league title and Arsenal won the FA Cup.
Leicester City: Jim McLaren, Adam Black, Albert Harrison, Reg Osborne, Norman Watson, Ernie Hine, Hughie Adcock, Johnny Duncan, Arthur Chandler, Arthur Lochhead, Len Barry.
West Ham United: Bob Dixon, Alfred Earl, Bill Cox, Fred Norris, Viv Gibbins, Albert Cadwell, Tommy Yews, Stan Earle, Vic Watson, Johnny Ball, Jimmy Wood.
Players who have represented both the Hammers and the Foxes include:
Goalkeepers: George Hebden, Colin Mackleworth.
Defenders: Gary Charles, Chris Powell, Dickie Pudan, Rufus Brevett, Paul Konchesky, Dai Jones, Matthew Upson, Clive Clarke, Billy Oakes, Fred Milnes, John Paintsil.
Midfielders: Andy Impey, Shaun Newton, Nolberto Solano, Franz Carr, Sid Bishop.
Strikers: David Connolly, Albert Carnelly, Mike Newell, Brian Deane, Keith Robson, David Speedie, Bertie Lyon, Norman Proctor, Les Ferdinand, David Kelly, Tony Cottee, Jimmy Quinn.
Martin Allen, Frank O’Farrell and Jimmy Bloomfield have played for the Hammers and managed the Foxes.
This week’s focus though is on a player who started his career at Leicester before spending just over five years with the Hammers. Paul Kitson was born in Murton, County Durham on 9th January 1971 and started his career with the Foxes, where he won England Under-21 caps. After a loan spell at Rugby Town, he made his Leicester debut as a substitute in a 3-1 home defeat to West Brom on 9th September 1989 and was dubbed the new Gary Lineker having come through the Foxes’ youth set-up. He scored his first senior goal ten days later in a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace in a League Cup second round first leg match. He made 15 appearances in 1989/90 and played seven matches the following season. His next goal for the club was also in the League Cup, in a 3-0 first round first leg win over Maidstone at Filbert Street on 21st August 1991. It was the first of three goals in three games as he also notched in the 1-0 win at Maidstone in the second leg, with a strike in a 2-0 home win over Plymouth sandwiched in between. He was sent off in a 3-1 defeat at Barnsley the following month but scored again in a 3-0 home win over Blackburn. Six more goals followed before the end of February 1992, against Port Vale in the Members Cup and league matches against Brighton, Ipswich, Watford and Oxford, as well as an FA Cup fourth round defeat against Bristol City.
Having scored 11 goals in 62 appearances for Leicester, Kitson joined Derby in March 1992 for a club record £1.3m before moving to Newcastle in September 1994 for £2.25m. The arrivals of Les Ferdinand, Faustino Asprilla and Alan Shearer restricted Kitson’s gametime however and the 26-year-old striker agreed to move to Harry Redknapp’s struggling West Ham United in February 1997 for a fee of £2.3m, alongside fellow new striker signing John Hartson who arrived from Arsenal. The pair made their debuts in a 1-0 defeat at Kitson’s former club Derby on 15th February 1997 but quickly struck up a lethal partnership which would steer the Irons to Premier League survival. Both scored on their home debuts, a 4-3 win over Tottenham at Upton Park on 24th February 1997, while Kitson’s double against Chelsea on 12th March included an injury-time winner in a 3-2 home victory. Another brace followed on 19th April, this time against Everton – the Hammers were 2-0 up but a missed penalty by Kitson, who had been handed the ball by Hartson to complete his hat-trick, gave the Toffees the impetus to come back and claim a point in a 2-2 draw. The crowning glory came on 3rd May when a Kitson hat-trick and Hartson double downed Sheffield Wednesday 5-1 to all but secure the Hammers’ safety.
Kitson scored his first Hammers goal away from Upton Park in a 1-1 draw at Coventry on 27th August 1997 but an injury picked up in mid-September would keep him out for three months. The Hammers left their relegation worries of the previous season behind them to finish eighth in 1997/98 but Kitson would make only 17 appearances. He scored three goals in four games on his return in December, all of them winners in a 1-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday, 1-0 win over Coventry on Boxing Day and 2-1 triumph at Wimbledon. He was also on the scoresheet in a 2-2 FA Cup fifth round home draw with Blackburn on 14th February 1998.
A similar story followed in 1998/99, with Kitson again making 17 appearances and scoring three goals as the Irons finished fifth – he scored in a 3-2 home win over former club Leicester on 14th November 1998, notched the winner at Stamford Bridge in a 1-0 Hammers victory on 13th March 1999 and scored the second in a 2-0 win over another former club, Newcastle, the following week. Kitson scored the first West Ham goal of 1999/2000 in a 1-0 home win over Finnish side Jokerit in the first leg of the InterToto Cup third round on 17th July 1999. The Hammers won the competition and Kitson’s next goal would come in the UEFA Cup, in a 3-1 first round second leg win in Croatia against Osijek on 30th September. He also came off the bench to score a late equaliser at Birmingham in the League Cup fourth round on 30th November, the Hammers going on to win 3-2. Kitson would spend a period on loan at First Division Charlton later in the season.
Another loan spell followed in the first half of 2000/01, this time at Crystal Palace. With Glenn Roeder taking over from Redknapp at the end of that season, Kitson found himself with a renewed opportunity at West Ham and made his first start in claret and blue for 21 months at Charlton on 19th November 2001. Almost two years on from his previous goal for the club, Kitson astonishingly bagged a hat-trick at The Valley in a topsy-turvy 4-4 draw – he remains the only player to have scored two Premier League hat-tricks for West Ham. He made four more starts in 2001/02 but was released at the end of his contract in the summer. Kitson had scored 22 goals in 81 appearances in his five years at the club – all 22 of these goals can be viewed in my video below.
The 31-year-old Kitson spent a season at First Division Brighton after joining on a free transfer before moving to Second Division Rushden and Diamonds for the 2003/04 campaign, scoring five goals in 28 matches. He ended his career at Aldershot the following year. Now 47 and living in Stockton-on-Tees, Kitson was declared bankrupt in 2017 after at least two businesses failed. Less than two weeks ago he was accused of spending £25,000 on gambling rather than paying off debts – the Insolvency Service has ruled that he must not take control of a firm for four years after “disposing of £25,901 to the detriment of his creditors”, adding “he used the funds to gamble with”. KItson denied losing the money in bets, saying:
“The problem began in 1999 when I and lots of footballers fell victim to bad financial advice. At the time the HMRC had no objection to the tax avoidance scheme we had signed up to but they changed the rules and we lost a lot of money. These tax schemes were complicated so you trusted the advice you were given but it turned out to be a very bad move.”
The referee on Saturday will be Christopher Kavanagh. The Manchester-born official has refereed the Hammers once before, issuing Arthur Masuaku with a red card for spitting in January’s FA Cup fourth round defeat at Wigan. Kavanagh has been the man in the middle for 28 matches in total so far in 2017/18 (14 in the Premier League), issuing 93 yellow cards and four red cards, and awarding four penalties, one of which was converted by Will Grigg in the aforementioned match at the DW Stadium.
Leicester City boss Claude Puel will be without the injured Kasper Schmeichel, Vicente Iborra, Wilfred Ndidi, Matty James, Shinji Okazaki and the suspended Marc Albrighton. The Foxes are unbeaten in their last seven matches against the Hammers in all competitions, while West Ham have not recorded a Premier League win away at Leicester since January 2000.
For West Ham United, Sam Byram, James Collins, Winston Reid, Pedro Obiang and Michail Antonio are out injured. West Ham have only won two of their last 18 Premier League away games, the same number of away games they won when relegated in bottom place in 2010/11 and three less than when relegated in 2002/03.
Possible Leicester City XI: Hamer; Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Chilwell; Choudhury, Silva; Mahrez, Iheanacho, Gray; Vardy.
Possible West Ham United XI: Hart; Zabaleta, Rice, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Masuaku; Kouyate, Noble, Mario; Lanzini, Arnautovic.
Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!
The GoatyGav Column
So here we are again – unhappy as can be. Saturday is filling many fans with trepidation as Leicester are a very good team and we’re not exactly in the best of form. There are more than a few predicting doom, in the form of relegation, for West Ham come the end of the season but are they right to do so. West Brom can’t catch us so we could only go down in 19th or 18th spot. Three points will, all but, ensure survival. Should those points arrive this weekend then Southampton would need to win at least two of three vs Everton, Swansea and City to finish above us. Stoke must win both to overhaul us and Swansea, like Southampton, would also need 2 wins from Bournemouth, Southampton and Stoke. So why the positive outlook?
Leicester’s points haul, from their last 5 is one worse than ours with a WLLDL compared to our WDDLL. This against marginally easier opposition, of Brighton, Newcastle, Burnley, Southampton and Palace, compared to our matches with Southampton, Chelsea, Stoke, Arsenal and City. In isolation there’s not much in that but other factors are at play. The sending off, for the red card offence of pulling down Zaha while in the clear on goal, this weekend of Mark Albrighton means he misses the fixture against us. Albrighton is a key player in the Leicester team. Another massive contributor to their midfield engine room is Okazaki who is a major doubt along with their keeper Schmeichel. Between the sticks Ben Hamer, Schmeichel’s replacement, comes off a 5 goal tonking. Not ideal for a replacement’s confidence at the best of times.
Probably more than any of the reasons in the previous paragraph, though, is the fact that these points are far more meaningful to us. We’re desperate for them. Leicester appear to be coasting in to a mid-table finish without any real motivation. This need for points often plays a big factor in matches at this stage of the season. Mid table safety often softens teams with motivation waning compared to the hungrier teams attempting to avoid relegation.
Of course there’s still the clear and present threat of the Mahrez/Vardy partnership but it looks like they’re effectiveness has been seriously blunted of late with other key players missing. Add Albrighton in to that mix and it’s looking even more difficult for them. All things considered I’m seriously optimistic for this weekend and for good reason. Bring ‘em on!
It’s highly unlikely that West Brom, despite putting up a spirited fight, will survive. Stoke are showing a similar hunger for which Paul Lambert deserves some credit. When things have gone against him, and his team, he’s not made excuses but has chosen to commend his players for their efforts and promised to do everything in their power to win games. But taking maximum points against Everton and Swansea will be an ask.
Like so many others I can’t wait for the end of the season. I’m going to reserve judgement on whether I believe David Moyes deserves the job beyond that point until all the games have been played. When you’re not picking up any points, and so many others are on the ‘get rid’ bandwagon, it’s easy to make snap judgements. I also believe that it’s not right to discuss someone’s employment position while they’re still in the job so I do my best to avoid any speculation.
I was on record, the day before David Moyes’ appointment, as stating that he would ‘take us down’ if put in place. At that stage I genuinely thought that we’d be relegated with a few left to play but there are positive aspects to the job he’s done and I sincerely wish that I am proven wrong. I’m as critical as the next fan when it comes to DM’s in match tactics. Double and triple subs have been tactical errors, especially the double in the Arsenal game, but I’m not as bought in to the ‘Negative’ or ‘Dinosaur’ perspectives that have been shared. A degree of pragmatism has been adopted by Mr Moyes under current circumstances and I can’t really blame him for that. If results go our way this weekend we could be mathematically safe by 19.00 on Saturday night due to Southampton and Swansea still having to play each other, as well as one other fixture, while being 6 and 5 points behind respectively.
Overall the game on Sunday was pretty forgettable. There were signs of Lanautovic linking well again. Both need to start the remainder of games IMHO. I watched it in the pub where there were adjacent tv screens with the Snooker as the alternative. Higgins really was excellent. On this occasion the Goat was doing the staring at his brilliant 136 break to put him 8-3 up – not, as in HH’s report, the men staring at the Goats. All riveting stuff as the snooker fan in the picture below is testament to. Man City are a bit special. What pleases me the most is that a team playing intricate, enterprising and entertaining football are winning things which pokes one in the eye of the ‘pretty football wins nothing in England’ merchants who’ve held the game back decades in this country.
No such boredom in the game this coming weekend.
The Blind Hammer Column
Blind Hammer looks at the need for squad overhaul.
Whatever division West ham compete in next season the priority for squad overhaul is now clear. The honeymoon period for Moyes is well and truly over but to lamblast a coaching team barely 6 months into their tenure for a structural weakness which has persisted for over 2 years is probably unfair.
What is clear is that Moyes has not yet cracked the defensive squad problems that he inherited from Slaven Bilic. He has so far shown, like Bilic, only sporadic indications that he can set up a team able to defend.
Our latest 4-1 reversal against Manchester City was the 15th time we have conceded three or more goals this season. We officially have the leakiest defence with 67 conceded in 35 games. The Manchester city reversal was the fourth 4-1 defeat this season.
The depressing fact is that none of this is new. Even in the last season at the Boleyn the alarm bells were ringing. After January in that final season the team began to ship goals at an average of 2 a game. Luckily we had enough Payet and Antonio inspired firepower to resist falling into trouble then. This only served, however, to paper over the alarming defensive cracks that were emerging. Remember the penultimate Boleyn match where Swansea decimated our ailing defence, 4-1? Despite these warning signs the problem has exacerbated rather than improved. Not just the top six sides but moderate and even poor sides routinely thrash us. Last season Watford and West Brom both spanked us by each scoring 4 goals against us in a fortnight. Burnley and Swansea similarly combined to score 7 goals against us recently again in a fortnight.
This is why, fore 2 summer windows now, I have written multiple pieces criticising squad transfer strategies. We have, as a team pursued a glory dream of assembling a team firstly to meet an illusory squad depth challenge of the Europa League, and then a grandeur project of developing an exciting team fit for the new Stadium. At no time was I ever convinced that the seriousness of our defensive weaknesses were recognised or addressed. Sadly the latest Winter Transfer window reinforced this problem. Quite what the thinking was that we could solve our difficulties with the recruitment of 36 year old Patrice Evra is the biggest blow to my confidence with Moyes. The releasing of Fonte was equally mystifying. Whilst Fonte was not a world beater, to gamble on the fitness of Collins and read when they both have appalling injury records was bizarre in the extreme. David Gold pleaded hindsight of not anticipating injury to defend the Fonte sale. This is not an acceptable excuse. I wrote last summer that we had the most injury prone defence in the league and that not to reinforce it then was criminally negligent. We were too obsessed with our unfit Strikers and not recognising our unfit defenders. I said then it would come back to haunt us and sadly this has proven true. If this physical fragility in defence was obvious last summer was it should have been even more obvious this January. The performances of rice have been exposed by the unfair responsibilities of a young teenager having to perform in a structurally dysfunctional unit.
I am now impatient with those who simply think we can get out of this hole by embracing a more expansive style. The West Ham tradition of exciting football was always just as much built on defensive skills as much as attacking talent. Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters were lifted by the talents of Bobby Moore. Brooking and Devonshire were shaped by the ferocity and determination of Billy Bonds. Alvin Martin and Tony Gale allowed the talents of Cottee and MacAvennie to flow.
We will never have an exciting team until we sort out defensive basics. Expansive attacking play is based on confidence. There is nothing more guaranteed to destroy confidence than the dreary albatross around the neck of a team routinely conceding 2 or more goals a game. This is the reality of the defensive millstone that West Ham has carried for far too long. If we are relegated we will have no way back unless we solve this. We can see now that Hart’s recruitment was a serious judgement failure and Zabeleta’s recruitment is stopgap. The problem needs serious attention from the most skilled analysts available. The time for glory ambition has passed. We need to get back to basics. It is time finally, this summer, to sort out our own back yard of our defence