Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Bournemouth v West Ham

Blast from the past

In today’s preview, we travel back the very short distance to 12th January 2016: Justin Bieber’s ‘Love Yourself’ topped the charts; Star Wars: The Force Awakens was in UK cinemas; David Bowie had died two days previously with Alan Rickman to pass away two days later; and West Ham United beat Bournemouth away from home for the first time ever.

Super Slav’s Hammers picked up a 3-1 win in front of 11,071 spectators for a Tuesday night encounter at the Vitality Stadium. Andy Carroll was forced off through injury after just 15 minutes, with Nikica Jelavic entering the fray in his stead. Within two minutes of the switch, the Irons were behind when Cherries midfielder Harry Arter, former Hammer Scott Parker’s brother-in-law, fired home from 25 yards to give his side their first goal in four league games. The hosts’ new signing, striker Benik Afobe, squandered two glorious chances to extend Bournemouth’s lead, heading over from six yards and being denied by Adrian after hesitating when clean through on goal.

West Ham were much improved after the break and the equaliser arrived with 23 minutes left to play, a sublime free-kick from Frenchman Dimitri Payet, making his first start in over two months after recovering from an ankle injury. Just seven minutes later, the visitors were in front – substitute Carl Jenkinson’s quick throw-in found Payet who squirmed between two defenders before cutting back for Enner Valencia to slam the ball home. The Ecuadorian claimed his second in the 84th minute, cracking a stunning free-kick over the wall and beating Artur Boruc at his near post to claim his first Hammers brace.

The victory equalled a club-record eighth match unbeaten in the Premier League and took West Ham above Manchester United and into fifth, within a point of Tottenham in the final Champions League position. The Hammers would end the 2015/16 campaign in seventh place in the Premier League, while Bournemouth would finish 16th. Leicester won the Premier League, Manchester United won the FA Cup and Payet was named Hammer of the Year, with Michail Antonio runner-up.

Bournemouth: Artur Boruc, Adam Smith, Simon Francis, Steve Cook, Charlie Daniels, Dan Gosling, Andrew Surman, Harry Arter (Glenn Murray), Matt Ritchie (Juan Iturbe), Junior Stanislas, Benik Afobe (Lewis Grabban).

West Ham United: Adrian, James Tomkins (Carl Jenkinson), James Collins, Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell, Pedro Obiang, Mark Noble, Michail Antonio, Dimitri Payet (Alex Song), Enner Valencia, Andy Carroll (Nikica Jelavic).

Club Connections

A decent number of players have turned out for both West Ham United and Bournemouth. Hammers Academy product Junior Stanislas is currently on Bournemouth’s books while Carl Fletcher played for both clubs and is currently youth team manager with the Cherries. Ex-Bournemouth midfielder Paul Mitchell, who made one league appearance for the Hammers in 1994, is back with the Cherries as a correspondent for Opta Sports. Other players to have appeared for both clubs include:

Goalkeepers: Stephen Henderson and Marek Stech.

Defenders: Everald La Ronde, Rio Ferdinand, Keith Rowland, Elliott Ward and Bobby Howe.

Midfielders: Ian Bishop, Trevor Hartley, Bobby Barnes, Tommy Southren, Jimmy Neighbour, Emmanuel Omoyinmi, Tony Scott, Anthony Edgar, Scott Mean, Matty Holmes, Dale Gordon, Jack Collison and Patsy Holland.

Strikers: Jermain Defoe, Nicky Morgan, Mark Watson, Zavon Hines, Steve Jones, Ted MacDougall.

Former Hammers player John Bond went on to manage Bournemouth, Jimmy Quinn played for both clubs and also managed the Cherries, while Harry Redknapp played for West Ham and Bournemouth and also went on to manage both clubs.

Today’s preview focuses on a former England goalkeeper who spent two and a half years with West Ham United before ending his career in the English game with Bournemouth. David James was born in Welwyn Garden City on 1st August 1970 and grew up as a Luton supporter. He signed for Watford though and, after helping the Hornets win the FA Youth Cup, made his full debut in August 1990 at the age of 20. He earned 10 caps for England Under-21s before moving to Liverpool in the summer of 1992. He won the League Cup in 1995 and received an FA Cup runners-up medal the following year before making his England debut in March 1997. He signed for Aston Villa in the summer of 1999 and was once again on the losing side in an FA Cup Final, this time in 2000, the last Final to be played at the old Wembley.

James signed for Glenn Roeder’s West Ham United in July 2001 for £3.5m but a serious knee injury picked up in a collision with Martin Keown whilst playing for England against the Netherlands at White Hart Lane would keep him out until late autumn. The 31-year-old finally made his Hammers debut in a 1-0 home defeat to Tottenham on 24th November 2001 – he went on to keep ten clean sheets in 29 appearances in his first season, a campaign which saw no other Premier League team win more matches at home than the Hammers. The club finished seventh but were to nosedive the following season, culminating in relegation. James was an ever-present in 2002/03, keeping nine clean sheets in 42 appearances during a season in which he became England’s first-choice goalkeeper, replacing David Seaman.

James remained with the club for the first half of the First Division campaign of 2003/04, seeing many of his team-mates depart in a fire sale and playing under three managers – Roeder, caretaker boss Trevor Brooking and Alan Pardew – as the Hammers adjusted to life in the second tier. ‘Jamo’ kept ten clean sheets in 31 games before returning to the Premier League with Manchester City in a £2m deal in January 2004. He had made 102 appearances for West Ham in all competitions, his final match being a 2-1 home defeat to Preston on 10th January 2004. James had retained his position as Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England number one but his return to the top flight all but secured his place as England’s goalkeeper at the upcoming Euro 2004 tournament in Portugal.

After two and a half years with City, James returned south to join Portsmouth in the summer of 2006. While with Pompey, he broke the Premier League record for clean sheets and consecutive appearances. He stands fourth in the all-time Premier League appearances list with 572 games played – only Ryan Giggs, Gareth Barry and ex-Hammer Frank Lampard have played more. James moved to Bristol City in the summer of 2010 having captained Portsmouth in the FA Cup Final, James again picking up a runners-up medal after defeat at Wembley to Chelsea. The goalkeeper also played three of England’s four matches at the 2010 World Cup, having lost his place to Paul Robinson during qualification for the 2006 World Cup – former Hammer James replaced then-Hammers custodian Rob Green in the tournament held in South Africa after Green’s unfortunate error against the USA.

The 42-year-old James was released by Bristol City in the summer of 2012 and signed for Bournemouth in September of that year. He made his debut in a 2-1 home defeat to Walsall on 29th September 2012 and made 19 appearances, keeping six clean sheets, for the Cherries in League One before departing in March 2013. His final appearance for Bournemouth, and in English football, was also against Walsall in a 3-1 defeat at the Bescot Stadium on 19th January 2013.

James went on to play in Iceland for IBV, teaming up with former team-mate Hermann Hreidarsson in order to gain coaching experience. James was also player-manager of Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters, owned by Sachin Tendulkar, in 2014, helping the side to runners-up position in the inaugural campaign of the ISL. James played 956 matches during his career and, now 46, he is a regular pundit on BT Sports.

Referee

The referee on Saturday will be Bobby Madley. The Yorkshire-based official will take charge of a West Ham game for the sixth time in the Premier League, having also refereed our 2-1 victory at Manchester City in September 2015 and our 2-0 home win over Liverpool in January 2016.

Madley’s most controversial appointment with the Irons saw him award Chelsea a last-minute penalty at Stamford Bridge last season which saw Chelsea salvage a 2-2 draw – replays showed that Michail Antonio’s foul on Reuben Loftus-Cheek had occurred outside the penalty area. The 31-year-old’s most recent Hammers matches have both been 1-0 home wins, against Sunderland in October and Burnley in December.

Possible line-ups

Bournemouth will be without the suspended Tyrone Mings and Andrew Surman, as well as the injured Adam Federici and Callum Wilson. Captain Simon Francis and former Hammer Junior Stanislas are both doubts. Hammers fan Jack Wilshere, on loan from Arsenal, could come into the side.

This weekend’s match will be only the third time Bournemouth and West Ham United have met on the south coast for a league fixture and the first time ever on a Saturday – the Hammers’ only win away to the Cherries, in 2016, is detailed above. Slaven Bilic continues to be without Angelo Ogbonna, Gokhan Tore and Diafra Sakho but is hopeful Jose Fonte, Winston Reid, Robert Snodgrass and Andy Carroll will all be available after picking up knocks in Monday’s defeat to Chelsea. Andre Ayew has one goal and one assist from his last two substitute appearances and is pushing the recently below-par Snodgrass for a starting spot. Michail Antonio returns from suspension. The Hammers are unbeaten in their last three away games.

Possible Bournemouth XI: Boruc; Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels; Wilshere, Arter; Ibe, King, Gradel; Afobe.

Possible West Ham United XI: Randolph; Kouyate, Fonte, Reid, Cresswell; Obiang, Noble; Antonio, Ayew, Lanzini; Carroll.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!

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The Mike Ireson Column

Homemade Shortbread

Firstly I’d like to apologise to Iain. As a regular contributor to this site for the last couple of seasons I haven’t been pulling my weight recently. A combination of workload and domestic commitments has left me devoid of time to do several things, including trying to write something coherent and readable here.

I’ve always considered it a true privilege to be able to write for this site and, along with giving myself a slap to actively make more time to help preserve this wonderful portal of all things claret and blue, I’d like to support Iain’s call to arms for new writers.

There is a very dedicated band of passionate, loyal, opinionated, funny people lurking in the comments section (and people who just read) who I for one would love to read more of.

Yes it is a bit daunting. There isn’t one piece that I have submitted that I haven’t thought “god is this good enough?/will people think I’m talking s##t”. But afterwards when it is up there in black and white for all to read you realise that as long as you have remembered where the spell check button is and you haven’t written one paragraph of 500 words that everything is fine.

This is not a news site, it is an opinion site. There are no wrong opinions.

I was a long time reader here and always thought, you know what, I reckon I could have a crack at writing some stuff. And after blustering for far too long I’m so glad I threw my hat in the ring. So if you’re thinking the same thing, then do it.

It is not always easy, the point I was actually going to write about 287 words ago is that everything has gone a bit beige.

Last season was a belter. A new manager, a surprising upturn in fortunes on the field, beating all the big boys, saying farewell to our home, the rise of a new superstar. The season progressed at what felt like 100mph.

This season we started life in new surroundings, had a massive dip in form, flirted with the relegation zone before Christmas, lost the aforementioned superstar, dragged ourselves up to mid table.

And that is where we find ourselves now. Entrenched in the beige alternate reality that is mid table. It is highly likely we will finish the season somewhere between 9th and 11th. We seem to be free of any drama and it has all gone a bit One Show. Bland, poodling along at a very safe 26mph in a 30 zone.

For the last season and a half we’ve been racing round Silverstone at breakneck speed, the g-force distorting our lovely features, twisting and turning through the chicanes, not quite certain what is coming up next.

Now we are on that straight country road. Bimbling along admiring the scenery, making a vow that we’re going to make that lovely oldie worldy pub we’ve just driven past our local by moving out this way.

Look at that tea shop, isn’t it lovely, I bet they do lovely homemade shortbread.

This is what it is like to be a Stoke fan every season.

That was my 530 words – where’s yours?

COYI

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Financial

West Ham's financial situation revealed

Three and a half years ago I wrote my first article for WHTID on West Ham finances for Iain. Today I am back to give an update on the finances after the company accounts were released at the end of Feb.

Hammers leapfrog Everton

West Ham’s newly announced financial accounts show increases in all areas as the club continues on a big upward curve over taking both Everton and Newcastle in terms of financial might with the seventh highest turnover in the Premier League. Last year West Ham sat in ninth position in the Premier League’s turn-over table on £121m behind Newcastle (7th £129m) and Everton (8th £126m).

Last year Everton earned £82.5m from TV money, £17.6m from ticket sales, £9.3m from retail and £12m from commercial activities which saw a £4m decrease in turn-over to £121.5m. Newcastle were relegated to devastating financial consequences.

Record breaking figures

The Hammers turnover increased 17.7% to £142.1m and within that figure ticket sales for the last season at the Boleyn Ground rose to an impressive £26.9m

TV rights income grew to £86.7m and Commercial and sponsorship revenue was up by 31% to £19m while Retail and merchandising sales grew by 29% to £9.3m.

The club managed to record an operating profit of £31.5m excluding player trading but this was reduced to a more modest profit of £1.2m before taxation. The club recorded a £4.8m loss on the books when other factors where included after spending £53.3m on bringing in new players which saw us take on a total wage bill £84.7m and invest £4m in Rush Green training ground. A further £45.7m was spent on players during the 2016/2017 season.

The external bank loans were completely paid off in July 2016 following the sale of the Boleyn Ground with the accounts claiming an £8m profit in the sale.

The Boleyn Ground and land was sold to developers for £38m with £15m going to pay off bank debts that were mortgaged against it and a further £15m going to stadium owners LLDC to contribute to the £323m transition costs of the former Olympic Stadium.

Playing Catch-up

While it is great that the Hammers have jumped up to 7th spot they remain a long way behind the top six in terms of financial might. Manchester United leads the pack with £515.3m followed by Manchester City on £392m, Arsenal are third on £350m and Chelsea fourth on £329m.

Liverpool and Spurs have yet to announce their figures but Liverpool recorded figures of £298m in 2015 while Spurs had a £196m turnover in 2015 so we are unlikely to catch them up any time soon.

Brady pay rise

West Ham owners rewarded West Ham Vice Chairman, Karren Brady with a 40% pay increase although she remains a long way behind the club’s top earners.The highest paid West Ham director employed by parent group WH Holding was paid £907,000 up from £646,000 in 2015. Her £261,000 increase came in the last season at the Boleyn Ground as the Hammers prepared to move the London Stadium.

In 2011 after the Sullivan and Gold takeover, the highest West Ham paid director earned £256,000 but that was increased to £427,000 in 2012.

In 2013 Karren Brady earned £1.63m which included a £1m bonus for winning the London Stadium tenancy deal although the bonus payments are thought to have been staggered over five years. In 2014 her salary returned to £636,000 with a modest £10,000 rise in 2015 to £646,000.

Her £907,000 yearly pay packet pales into insignificance given those earned by her London Premier League rivals. Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy and Arsenal’s CEO Ivan Gazidis for example both paid themselves £2.6m per year in 2016. And with the average Premier League footballer earnings £44,000 per week (or £2.2m per year and average squad players earn well over £1m).

Debt situation eases

Icelandic shareholders CH Holdings and David Sullivan acted as joint bankers in 2013 loaning over £32m to the club between them. The remaining £14.76m repayment was paid back in full in July to both shareholders with interest who stepped in and acted as banks after high street banks previously turned the club down.

The club also paid off the first repayment of shareholder loans including seven per cent interest last August worth £4.2m to the owners Sullivan.

The accounts say the first repayment to Gold and Sullivan relate to shareholder loans dating back to 2011. The shareholders have loaned £49.2m in total between them which has been bumped up to £61.5m with a further £12.3m of accrued interest. Although it appears the remaining £57.3m of shareholders loan was due to be paid back on 1st January 2017, a post financial year note on 3rd October last year says the pay back of the remainder of the share holders loans will now be deferred until 1st January 2020.

Despite being bank debt free the club continued to loan money from pay day lenders tied to their TV money income. The Hammers repaid £30m of loans from JG Funding in May last year but took out a new credit facility with lenders Media and Rights Funding worth another £30m which is payable by July this year through direct payments by the Premier League to the lenders.

The Premier League are looking to outlaw offshore lenders and while Media and Rights Funding is registered with the FCA it’s funding comes from the British Virgin Islands so it remains to be seen how how these arrangements can carry on for.

Onwards and upwards

The figures are moving in the right direction. Next year’s figures which are unlikely to released until next February are likely to smash the £200m barrier! In those accounts will be the £38m income for the sale of the Boleyn ground, the first year of the new bumper TV deal worth £128m for finishing in seventh spot, ticket sales at the London Stadium is expected to rise by £13m to around £40m. You would expect commercial and sponsorship to rise by another 30% to around £25m and retail to double to £19m in an enlarged and expanded mega store. Not forgetting the £25m we received for the French man.

Incredibly our turnover for the year ending 31st May 2017 could come in at a staggering £275 million. In 2012 our turnover was just £46m following relegation.

Always happy to answer financial related questions to the best of my ability in the comments section below.

Sean

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The HamburgHammer Column

Getting ready to stand still or laying foundations for the next step?

I can’t feel too much disappointment about the Chelsea defeat really. Chelsea are where they are for a good reason, their squad is one of the most expensive in the League and they are led by a very shrewd and experienced manager. If you want to beat Chelsea this season you need a near perfect performance from your side with a minimum number of mistakes plus some luck on top of that and maybe also Chelsea having a bad day at the office at the same time. Too much to ask really and all academic as soon as we made those costly mistakes gifting them their goals.

Teams like Chelsea don’t need written invitations when presented with goalscoring opportunities like this, they pounce, they perform, they punish, calm, cold-blooded, clinical, it’s what they do.

The 1:2 scoreline doesn’t quite reflect that it was very much men against boys on the night, we had as much possession as we did because Chelsea allowed that to happen and because they pretty well knew that we lacked the kind of pace needed to be a hazard to them, pardon the pun. Chelsea have more hazards than just Hazard. That’s the problem here.

The game simply showed the gulf that exists between a small elite group of clubs and the rest making up the numbers, merely jogging along, quite literally. Just playing in a massive stadium, especially if you only rent it, doesn’t really change matters in that respect. It also doesn’t miraculously make players want to play for West Ham, there are other factors which are much more at the forefront of players’ minds than the stadium they play in. West Ham over the last 12 months had to learn this the hard way it seems…

I actually wanted to focus on a lot of positives coming out during the last few days in terms of West Ham United. The best news from my point of view is that Bilic will sign a contract extension soon. It appears to be just a rolling contract rather than a five year deal, but we all know that long term deals don’t prevent a club hierarchy from sacking a manager two months later if need be. It also doesn’t really force a manager to stay put despite getting more attractive offers from bigger clubs.

As you know I consider Bilic to be pretty much a perfect fit for our club. Don’t confuse this with me saying Bilic is the perfect manager, he is not, he has his flaws, he makes mistakes. And he still needs more experience (which comes with making said mistakes and learning from them). But he is a person oozing class and charisma. As a manager he continues to learn and he clearly loves West Ham.

A love which is being reciprocated tenfold by the vast majority of our fanbase.
As a manager he is not the finished article yet, in truth very few managers are and they do already have jobs at big clubs paying them a fortune anyway, so I am more than happy to see Bilic at the helm of West Ham for the next two seasons at least.

There have also been rumours of contract extensions including better terms for both Antonio and Obiang. It’s all they deserve really and while I am not as naive to think this will be enough to fend off the interest from the vultures at bigger clubs come the summer, at least it is an expression of acknowledgment from our board of those players’ contributions to our performances this season.

It’s all you can do as club owners in order to keep players happy really and persuade them to stay at West Ham rather than riding the bench at Chelsea or Man United.
Oh yes, there actually is another thing you can do: Add some quality in the summer by signing proper players that significantly and immediately improve the team.

That costs money obviously and if, as Mark Noble claimed after the final game at the Boleyn, the club is indeed no longer being run like a circus, then our transfer dealings need to change significantly:

a) Don’t announce to all and sundry how much money is in the transfer kitty.
b) Don’t announce your targets publicly until the moment they have changed their status from target to new signing, holding up the shirt as West Ham players, grinning from ear to ear on the OS.
c) Go for realistic targets you actually have a chance of signing, not guys who will only sign for clubs playing CL football. Don’t waste time on pie in the sky players.
d) Make realistic offers if you are really interested in signing someone. Don’t make a lowball offer that only insults both the player and the selling club. You can haggle for a leather jacket on a Turkish street market. You cannot haggle in the same manner for a player of Premier League standard.

On another note there will be a lot of Rice on the menu at Rush Green in the coming years, Declan Rice that is. The young Irish defender has signed a new deal that will keep him at the club until 2020. I cannot claim to have seen him play a lot obviously, only on the rare occasions when I have had the pleasure to see our development squad play.
But he already was on the bench for our first team for our Boxing Day win against Swansea. He also has captained the U23 side which also says a lot about the development of the player.

Of course there can be no guarantees. Declan’s best position is CB and in first team terms there are Reid, Ogbonna, Fonte and Collins ahead of him in the pecking order.
Plus other young prospects like Oxford and Burke. So Rice will have an uphill struggle to force his way into the side. But if he has what it takes it’s going to happen eventually. Another plus is his versatility. From what I’ve read he can also play as a holding midfielder and is a decent taker of set pieces. It’ll be exciting to see his progression in the near future.

As for the progression of our club in general it really boils down to what the owners do, starting with the upcoming transfer window. Will there be a real statement of intent in the summer or more business as usual ? Good quality signings and highly rated prospects or more dodgy loan deals/players taken from the scrapheap of other clubs?

Like many others I ordered the DVD of “Iron Men”, the docudrama portraying some West Ham characters and diehard fans throughout our final Boleyn season.
I can’t wait to watch it in full, but the trailer already gave away a fascinating quote from Karren Brady:

For our supporters this is a church, a holy place. It’s a huge responsibility to take that away from them.

That quote bears massive significance as it shows that the board was very aware of what Upton Park means to the fans. Some will say the very fact we moved to London Stadium which isn’t a football stadium at all shows that the board failed in terms of taking responsibility.

Others will be a bit more patient, give us a bit more time to settle in the new surroundings. I can live with this compromise of a stadium as long as it’s balanced out by a squad worthy of playing in a 60k or even 66k stadium where the pitch is as far removed from the first row of seats as it is. We’ve gone from a very beloved smallish church with rusty old charme to a giant but somewhat cold and artificial cathedral.

To stay in the picture I now want one hell of a priest exciting the crowd, sorry, congregation from his pulpit with some outstanding performances. Plus a great choir with silky voices, praising the footballing gods by singing glorious hymns that will make the people come back for more time and time again.

The Boleyn is almost gone now and we will never play there again. The London Stadium will change and evolve over time, but will it ever be a proper football stadium?
I’m not convinced we will still see the same stadium there in 40 or 50 years and I doubt the running track will stay much longer than 10 years. But if we are to remain in a massive stadium such as this the owners need to deliver in terms of the quality of players wearing the West Ham shirt.

Our club has changed almost beyond recognition as it is. The board have taken the deliberate decision to take away the holy place from the fans. They really need to get their act together now. Otherwise the London Stadium will be a holy place for an entirely different reason than the Boleyn was. The London Stadium could be holy as there may soon be plenty of holes of unsold seats throughout the stadium if we continue to field midtable teams.

We didn’t make this move to be midtable. We didn’t make the move to tread water. The summer will be crucial. It’ll tell us a lot about the owners. COYI!

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The David Hautzig Column

David Hautzig's Trip Across the Pond

NOTE FROM ZAMAN: David has managed to write and send his post from a plane – that’s a terrific WHTID first!

David Hautzig and his friend Jonathan Ross at the LS

As a general rule, I am averse to change. It’s not like I’ve moved many times in my life, but the few times I did I found the whole experience to be very stressful. My adventurous spirit disappeared with my hair many years ago. But when we were chasing the Olympic Stadium oh so many years ago, I wanted the move desperately. When we won it, both in the what turned out to be a dry run and then the decision that stuck, I was elated. So yesterday should have felt like the culmination of many years of excitement. And while there were many things about our new home that impressed me, such as seeing Nigel Kahn eat tapas, there were an equal number of things that left me scratching my head.

The day started by going back to where “we” came from. Nigel took my best mate Jon and I on his famous walking tour of Canning Town. It was harder than I expected to see the wrecking crew tear down two rows of the East Stand at Upton Park. But we had a Pie & Mash at BJ’s, and that helped settle the upset of what had just been witnessed. Nathan’s was closed, but Nigel said that despite Nathan’s fame he preferred BJ’s. A pie dough thing apparently. And his son likes it there. I get that.

We then took a tour of the Stadium and spent a little time with Rob Pritchard in the media department. I won’t lie. To have access to and see a bit of what makes the club tick, and then to be treated like a special guest is like living in a dream. Regardless of the result. To those that have taken us in and made us feel a part of the club we love, and you know who you are, I thank you. Hopefully this can continue to be a yearly pilgrimage, as much to see our friends as our club.

I didn’t take notes at the game. In retrospect that was a wise move. While some thought we played reasonably well at times, I simply didn’t see it that way. Yes, we were able to keep possession for stretches. But our play didn’t look to have purpose. We had more of the ball, more shots, and more corners. Yet in the end, regardless of the number of passes we completed, it always seemed to end in a hopeful ball into the box. And that fleeting hope depended on that cross being as accurate as a cruise missile with the target being Andy Carroll and only Andy Carroll. So as much as we wanted him back and in many regards needed him back, that need itself is a bit of a poisoned chalice.

At the risk of being slated for being too negative, I thought there were many more players who had a poor game than had a decent one. Snodgrass looked like the stomach ailment that hampered him at Watford had spread to his feet because all of his deliveries were sh……I won’t finish that. None of his set pieces presented any threat to the league leaders, and it was his pass that Kante intercepted to start the break that led to Hazard’s opener. As my friend Neil Barnett of Chelsea TV (Yes, he’s a friend. A good friend, too. So that’s one bit of abuse I won’t take kindly to) said, West Ham needed someone to take charge after that goal. To organize. To make it clear that the home side wouldn’t lay down. To lead. But that never seemed to happen.

So when Costa scored their second, I doubt more than a handful of West Ham supporters thought there was much of a chance. Maybe if Feghouli had scored on that volley in the box a few minutes later, the one time Courtois was made to work for his wages, it would have been game on. Or if Mariner had pointed at the spot after the ball went off Alonso’s arm. Yet if Randolph hadn’t come up with his big save in the first half and the visitors had buried one of their other chances it would have been moot by halftime. The team that travelled back to West London with three points and likely a league title deserved both.

David & Co in the Royal East Lounge

So now the pink elephant in the room. We came last season to watch us win that memorable FA Cup replay against Liverpool and to bid farewell to Upton Park. This trip was about being introduced to our new home. Those who have suffered through my reports for three years now know how much I love metaphors. They are indeed useful. So here we go again.

There are two houses to choose from. One is a modest but perfectly functional home. Around 2000 square feet. Four bedrooms, so both kids get their own room and you even have a guest room to offer the inlaws when they visit. The kitchen isn’t massive, but everything works and is laid out in a logical way. You have enough bathrooms so teenage daughter fits and issues aren’t a problem. Finally, a two car garage that’s attached to the house.

The other is 5000 square feet. More than you need and then some, with six bedrooms. You do still have to heat those rooms in the winter, despite them being empty virtually all the time. Same goes for the five bathrooms. I guess it’s nice to have them even if they are rarely used. The kitchen has a massive commercial stove. Eight burners, full sized griddle, terrific venting unit above. But it’s on the opposite side of the room from the pots, pans, oils, refrigerator, even running water. Stuff you reach for and need pretty quickly when you’re cooking. The four car garage is also impressive, but it’s on the opposite side of the road from the house. So if it’s raining, snowing, or you have lots to unload into the house it isn’t ideal.

Which house would you choose? Different people will give you a different answer based on their needs and priorities. I won’t say one choice is definitively right or wrong. And while I don’t want to open myself up to ridicule, I also don’t want to avoid what some might be wondering. Which house would I choose?

I’d go with the first one. So if I could travel back in time, knowing the realities as opposed to the desires, I would have stayed at Upton Park and looked for an opportunity to grow with a stadium built for the primary purpose of staging football matches. That does not mean there weren’t legitimate reasons to move to the London Stadium or that the choice itself was wrong. I have no doubt that there are many supporters, including some that I call a friend, who could win a formal debate with me on that question. Nor does it mean that I didn’t enjoy myself. I did, and I will be back.

Life isn’t perfect, nor is our new home. But it must be accepted and eventually embraced. Which I will do.

Change happens.

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