Guest Post

The life and career of Slaven Bilic

Guest post by Aleksandar Babac

NOTE FROM ZAMAN: The author has written an enthralling piece on Super Slav! He is also the creator of the largest West Ham-based Croatian Facebook page.

There was definitely something in the air that hot September in 1968 when Slaven Bilic was born in Split on Wednesday the 11th. Seven days later, in the same hospital room, his childhood friend Toni Kukoc was born. They grew up together in the same building, and joined Hajduk’s youth football academy together. But the coaches there told them that they weren’t talented enough. Toni decided to play basketball professionally and later made sporting history, side by side with Michael Jordan, winning three consecutive NBA Championship titles with the Chicago Bulls.

Slaven was persistent with football, as with all things he does. He grew up in the city block of Spinut, near Hajduk’s training ground with his parents and his brother, Domagoj, who gave him the nickname Nane, as he couldn’t say Slaven. Allegedly, Slav used to eat a lot of bananas as a child, so Domagoj once mispronounced banana saying “Nane” and the nickname stuck. He still keeps it to this day in Croatia. Slav’s father was a university professor and dean at the Faculty of Law at Split University where Slav graduated in 1993 and became a lawyer. “You’re a lawyer. What are you doing playing football?” – was a common question asked by many of his teammates.

Slaven Bilic is anything but a typical footballer. He started his youth career in Hajduk Split at the age of 9 – the club became his greatest passion. In fact, there isn’t a single person born in Dalmatia who doesn’t love Hajduk, football and Split. It is a magical triangle right on the Dalmatian coast! In Hajduk Split, he finished his playing career 24 years later, and made his first steps in becoming a manager. Even in his younger days, Slaven showcased absolute loyalty to the team. There were two dressing rooms at the club – one classy (only for the chosen first team stars) and the second for the rest. When they called him in to use the first dressing room, he refused because he got used to the small one where all his friends were.

In 1991, the team won the final of the final Yugoslav Cup against Red Star in Belgrade. He was one of the most talented of Hajduk’s footballers in a generation alongside skipper and former Hammer Igor Stimac, as well as Alen Boksic, and Robert Jarni. Even now, Slaven says that winning that trophy was one of the most memorable things of his entire career. Soon after his graduation in 1993, he moved to the Bundesliga where he joined Karlsruher. Ten months later, he became team captain, the first-ever foreign skipper in the top German league. It was such a big honour and accomplishment for such a young player from the newborn Balkan country of Croatia.

We know that the Olympic Stadium was his destiny, but on July 5th 1992, he debuted for the Croatian national team versus Australia at Olympic Park Stadium in Melbourne. What a coincidence! Six years later, he was a member of the Golden Generation of the Vatren (‘the Blazers’), achieving the most glorifying moment in Croatian football history finishing in 3rd place at World Cup in France 1998.

“My son, do you have some cigarettes? I need them for the bench… and when you will take off that earring?” – a question asked by Miroslav Ciro. Blazevic, the selector for the Croatian national team, who was the manager on the bench from 1994 to 2000. Slav replied: “I won’t. The earring reminds me of my time at law school”. As a matter of fact, Slaven started smoking during his faculty years, whilst all other team mates were sleeping. Ciro was very strict, and influential, but also very generous and emotional – just like Slav.

Nane learnt a lot from Ciro. The coach always stated that Slaven was like a son to him. In fact, we could say that Ciro had an influence on Slaven to pursue his dream of becoming a manager. Harry Redknapp brought him in 1996 for a fee of £1.3M, setting the club’s record for the highest fee paid for an incoming player at the time. His dreams had finally come true, as Slaven finally lived in the country of rock music and where football was invented. In the same place, six months later, Slaven played his first and final European Championship. Croatia lost 2-1 at Wembley in the quarter-final against Germany after Igor Stimac was sent off. Slaven cried upon the confirmation of his team’s defeat when the whistle blew.

Who could’ve imagined that ten years later, Slaven would become the Croatian national manager, and Igor Stimac would succeed him 6 years after? Who could’ve imagined that Slav would go back to Wembley 11 years later to defeat England 3-2 in the final qualifying match of the EURO’s in 2008? Who could’ve predicted back then that England needed a draw in order to qualify, with it going down to the wire of the dozen matches? Slaven made a risky sub with former Hammer Mladen Petric scoring the winner for Croatia in the 77 minute.

A year later, Slaven moved to Merseyside, joining Everton in the summer of 1997. Terms were agreed much earlier, but he stayed with us until the end of the season to help the team not get relegated. The same year, he was presented as Hammer of the Year runner-up to Julian Dicks. Bilic became one of the most influential Croats in England with some offering him a position in the Croatian embassy. He was very influential for many generations of young players, as well to the Toffee’s Wayne Rooney, who had his full size poster beside the bed. Although Slaven was one of the most valued defenders in the Premier League, many didn’t know that his playing career finished just a month before the World Cup in France 1998.

“’We need you, my son. Just for one match – just for the Argentina match” said Ciro, who begged Slaven to play. Slaven replied: “But boss, how I will play with a hip fracture? I can’t even walk, it hurts so much!” After giving it some thought, Slav said: “What the hell, it’s now or never.” He decided to go and to play at the World Cup, and was roommates with ex Real Madrid and Barcelona star, Robert Prosinecki, who later became Slaven’s assistant on the Croatian national bench. As players, two of them were smokers, so they shared a smoking room and Ciro tolerated it.

It wouldn’t have been the same without Slav. He was phenomenal and sophisticated, ‘a good spirit’ of the team and a good leader, sacrificing his health and playing with a fractured hip. Under the watchful eye of the medics, he received physio treatment every single day. He played seven full matches, elapsing 630 minutes during the 28-day tournament. Slaven and Igor Stimac got a chance for revenge for the EURO 96 defeat, which they took with a superb 3-0 win in Lyon against Germany in the World Cup quarter-final. It was a breathtaking moment for all of the football world to witness. Another former Hammer, Davor Suker, was the tournament star, scoring the most goals and winning the coveted Golden Boot award.

“I apologize for not wearing a tie” – were the first Slaven’s words when he was unanimously appointed the manager of Croatian national football team. He managed the Croatian team for 6 years – only Ciro lasted longer. He showed courage and determination in each match. After that terrific win against England in Wembley back in 2007, many of us Croats knew that we had a manager with whom we could achieve big things. Even then, celebrating this victory, he showed his compassion comforting young Rooney, having known him since he was a teenager playing for Everton. After two EURO tournaments in 2008 and 2012, Slaven resigned from the national team but developed and introduced many young players to the big stage at the national level. Under his command, he gave debuts to Lovren, Corluka, Perisic, Mandzukic, and Rakitic.

When Slaven was born in September 1968, the no.1 hit on the UK Charts list was The Beatles Hey Jude. Their LP was the first album that Slaven bought as a kid – this is where his love of music and the British way of living began. Music influenced his life, and attitude. When he speaks about music, it is as if he is another person.

A passionate lyricist and guitarist, he wrote and played the Supporters anthem Vatreno Ludilo performed by his hard-rock band, Rawbau, often using Dalmatian buzzwords like Ludilo, and Strava (meaning “madness” and “scare”) to describe his admiration for Iron Maiden, Guns N’ Roses, The Rolling Stones, and Judas Priest to name a few. During his playing career at West Ham, the Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman said he couldn’t believe that Slav called him “a legend”. From those days in London, Slaven developed a nice friendship with Iron Maiden’s founder Steve Harris, who once asked him to join them on stage and play guitar at a Croatian concert.

“I was really living life to the full” – something Bilic would effectively say many times in interviews about his life in London.

“For me, London is the greatest city in the world. It represents everything for me: England, the British lifestyle, humour, music, football, Only Fools and Horses, Monty Python, The Rolling Stones – that’s England for me. In the streets of London you can see everything: pubs, buskers, aristocracy, subcultures… When you see this mix of nations, religions, and cultures, you become inspired.”

Slaven Bilic, a football manager, international player, guitarist, polyglot and a lawyer is definitely not the best and for sure not even the most talented Croatian footballer in history, but he has such a unique and strong personality which makes him a person to admire. Our rebel with a cause will always remain ‘a good boy’ of football. He is a respectable gentleman, Bilic – always was and will be the kid from the block.


The HamburgHammer Column

Smells like Team Spirit - let's finish the season in style!

That’s what the doctor ordered! What a solid performance that was against Southampton and the perfect way really to bounce back from a lackluster, gutless and amateurish display against an admittedly much better (and more expensive) Man City side. We know there still is a massive gulf between us and the top 5 teams in a variety of ways, a gulf which may not be bridged anytime soon, but the win at St.Mary’s once again showed what our lads are capable of if they stick together, fight for each other, run and chase both ball and opposition.

Put the effort in and the rest will follow more often than not. We have seen plenty of effort from every single player. Some were better than others, but not one of our players disappointed. Once again I’m struggling to name merely one MOTM.
Obiang has a strong case obviously with his wonderful goal and sublime pass for Carroll’s strike.
Carroll himself can claim he set us up for the win with his passionate and physical play upfront.
As for all-game running and never say die attitude, have your pick from skipper Mark Noble and new boy Robert Snodgrass.
How about Reid and Fonte keeping things together at the back or Kouyate for busting a gut while filling in at RB ?
Or Feghouli again having a decent game ?

If we can replicate that kind of performance on a more regular basis at our upcoming home games we should finish the season comfortably in midtable, maybe even attempt a late push on Europe if other results go our way. I have no doubt in my mind that Bilic has the team very much behind him. And it was impressive to hear how Bilic also had the away support 100% behind him who were singing his praises all game, loud and clear, a fact which will not have gone unnoticed by Gold and Sullivan.

I will try to actually stop calling the board out all the time, simply because there’s not much point to it – it’s their club, they make the decisions as they deem fit and writing a column or posting numerous comments won’t change their approach to transfer windows or the way they run the club.
I can drape myself in a West Ham flag and hop five times around Hamburg Town Hall on one leg while being blindfolded or I can also post 999 comments on their spending (or rather NOT spending), it’ll have about as much impact as my neighbour’s cat farting during Match of the Day – it won’t change a bloody thing!

So I will try to just enjoy what I see from our lads on the pitch and not get too excited or worked up about things happening off the pitch. Although it needs to be said that all the truly great and successful clubs in England have one thing in common today: They spend huge sums on transfers to improve their squads on a regular basis (70 or 80 million in every summer window at least) and they have top class state-of-the-art training facilities. I’ll leave it to yourself to work out if we do fall into that category yet or how likely we are to tick those boxes in the next few years.

As for the quick Concordia update I didn’t watch them play another midseason break friendly game as yet again it had been scheduled at the same time as the West Ham game, so I got my priorities right and watched our away performance on an online stream while following Concordia’s exploits via Facebook updates from the club.
Cordi were playing Hamburg SV’s development squad on a training pitch right next to Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion (BSB, The Original Russ and VoR will know the venue because they saw those pitches when they were over).

Concordia lost 2:5 on the day (Kevin scored again), but I should add that Hamburg SV’s development squad are playing one level above Concordia and for that reason I am not surprised at all my boys didn’t stand much of a chance there. But it surely was a good test before FINALLY the season proper will kick on again next Sunday with Cordi’s first away game in the league in 2017. In the near future we should also learn whether Concordia will actually try to officially throw their hat in the ring for promotion to the next level.

You need some serious backing from sponsors, a lot of administrative effort and also a proper stadium in order to play in the Regionalliga North, but you also don’t want to see them going for it while being short of funds only to find the club on the brink of financial meltdown one year later, so it’s exciting (and nailbiting) times for Concordia too!

In terms of West Ham we will hopefully see our lads deliver a committed performance against West Brom next, similar to the one just witnessed at Southampton. We should slowly see some players getting back into the fold from recent injuries, guys like Sakho, Byram or Arbeloa should be back in training soon.

Talking of which this is my main hope for the next transfer window: PLEASE sign a proper right back (or even two) in the summer, I don’t care what nationality or age they are or which league they currently play in (although they should of course be of a certain standard to begin with).

As long as they are proper RBs and are comfortable in that position, sign them! The RB position has been our weak spot for ages now and this is a major hole we need to fix eventually. Byram will continue to be a risk in terms of being unavailable either through injury or suspension, so at this point we cannot rely on him just yet. Once we have the RB issue sorted we can start worrying about bringing in more strikers again…;-))

COYI!

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Guest Post

Further Update from WHUISA

Guest Post by Paul Christmas (Joint Chairman of WHUISA)

WHUISA

ACCESSIBILITY

WHUISA agreed there needs to be a disability association and we are willing to help by having one as part of WHUISA. I have contacted one of the disability reps at the meeting and await a response. Two disabled members of WHUISA have contacted me and we are looking to set something up.

A number of issues came up from the disabled reps with a request for West Ham to have their own congregating place specifically set up for people with disabilities. A room that would be dry, warm and adapted for the variety of disabilities people have. Man U have such a place and is excellent. However where could / would West Ham house such a place?

Disabled changing rooms are available but people I have spoken to since were not aware of their existence.

BUSINESSES IN WEST HAMLEGACY

The club have no official responsibility in helping such businesses. By the time the residential complex is built on the old ground many businesses in the area will have folded. Delaware North (DN) is the company responsible for authorising the food / drink outlets around the Stadium. It seems the club have recognised that they can help in some way by suggesting they will help to explain the process (an internet pack was mentioned) and give direct contact to DN.

Any business that was at Upton Park that wants to have a presence at the new place should contact Tara Warren (TW) at the club and request details / help. WHUISA are happy to help in any way they can.

HAMMERS SUPPORTERS CLUB (HSC)

As part of a joint committee of HSC members and committee members of HSC discussions have occurred between us and Newham Council while a place has been sourced for the HSC to move to as a satellite. The HSC is fully aware of this but the executive committee has not responded. Further the chair person has had meetings with Tara Warren unbeknown to other members of the HSC committee and the joint committee. This explained Karren Brady’s (KB) comment in the minutes.

The club is the only entity that can save the HSC. The HSC will close soon and will not make the end of the season. I made this point specifically.

A meeting between West Ham, the HSC and Newham Council is scheduled for 8/2 and I wish the HSC all the very best.

TOILETS

The point was made that the toilets (pods) which had been built since those for the Olympics were outside had not been designed very well. For male toilets the one way in and the same way out system made for tedious queues in the BML before, at half time and after the match. Further there are huge numbers of people coming from all parts of the ground to use toilets and massive bottlenecks develop. This is fine for an event like the Olympics when people can go when they want but at a football match there is a massive demand at half and full time. There are also a large number of female toilets. Whilst this is commendable the majority of people in the BML are male and a request was made to see if changes could be made to toilet design as well as possible increase in male toilets. For men there are only a small number of actual ‘sit down’ toilets in the ‘pods’ and this needs looking at too.

SECURITY

Security at the stadium is a big concern to our members. LS185 re-iterated their policy but in the light of current security / terrorist threats I was not convinced and they need to up their game.

Too many young people in important areas of the ground with little experience of big crowds.

The feedback promised by Peter Smith will be crucial. However I would not expect to wait until May 24th for this information to be disseminated.

Many people had problems getting from one place to another in the ground so while KB’s offer to assist a SAB member to get to where they want was kind Adrian Bradshaw did wonder whether this assistance would be offered to the other 50 odd thousand people in the ground. The answer was that it could not for obvious reasons. However why should someone in the SAB be afforded a privilege not available to others?

TURNSTILE CONGESTION

The club have acted immediately on my request to highlight getting to the match early or you will miss the KO. Such a message was the first thing read on the Man City preview e-mail. This should be on all further preview e-mails.

I further requested separate queues be considered to speed up the process. I proposed a queue for those with bags, one for people with no bags and one for families. This was included in the action plan.

ROUTE TO / FROM STADIUM / WESTFIELD SHOPPING CENTRE

The route changes as there are ongoing building works which will not be finished for a number of years. This is something we have to suffer. Kevin Radley (KR) has looked in to the different number of routes being used out of the stadium and he has identified 5. He said people were fed up with having the routes changed. He provided a route plan to WHUISA and offered to help the club in this issue.

Further Westfield have a capacity in the shopping centre of 35,000 at any one time. They are keep an eye on this but with up to 57,000 coming into the area not shopping related but passing through they are mindful to keep us away as an increase in this capacity may see shoppers not allowed in due to safety reasons.

This situation is compounded if there ever was an evacuation of Westfield. The fire drills see the crowds from Westfield come out towards the stadium so fans are being diverted away in case this happens.
This begs a number questions. Further will West Ham ever play on a Boxing Day at home while the sales are on ? We have not played a home Boxing Day fixture since Arsenal in 2013. We are due one…..

Westfield are in control of their premises and while West Ham can request they open blocked routes such as those by The Cow Westfield are not obliged to accede. Westfield will may respond to a number of lobby / pressure groups but it seems sheer weight of numbers will see us stuck with the current mess of an egress we have as fans. It is tedious.

TRANSPORT LINKS

The actual links are good – it is the number of people using these links which is causing issues. SAB members complained of being herded to stations like cattle, delayed, packed like sardines on trains, noted continual disruption on Greater Anglia services and poor crowd control at Stratford International (SI).
Such things are actually out of the clubs control due however we were promised world class travel links and the ongoing situation, which does not affect all fans, has upset a significant number it does affect.

The anomaly as to who is responsible outside this station came up as people are stopped from getting to trains at this station to allow people at Stratford station to get on. This causes queues outside SI as there is limited pavement space so people are spilling onto the road. There are no barriers here and the roads are controlled by Newham council. What misfortune will it take for someone to do something ?
Direct links between fans and the 3rd parties / travel companies should be set up. WHUISA have offered to be a conduit.

It seems the travel situation is not world class… yet.

WEST HAM ‘LOOK AND FEEL’

KB confirmed the club will have to deliver a clean stadium for this summer’s World Athletics Championships. This means ALL West Ham signage in, on and around the stadium will be removed at the end of this season. Such changes confirm that we are just tenants in a building that will never be our home as the Boleyn Ground was. The club are hopeful that the West Ham sign on top of the roof will stay.

STEWARDING

Stewarding produced the highest level of responses from our members. A number of individual concerns were highlighted by SAB members and I made as many points as I could. I highlighted the distrust of fans and 3rd party stewards.

The stadium is a massive operational headache for LS185 who are still learning about how to deal with a 57,000 football crowd. They felt they were doing a good job at game by game 17 but I disagreed and wondered how long it would take for a nasty incident to occur before they were good enough.

While the layout and vastness of the stadium makes the job hard maybe the ground needs to be split into traditional separate stands to make the job easier. I made this point to LS185 at the Chelsea debrief meeting last year.

Details provided by the club on bringing back former Boleyn stewards had been raised at the bloggers / website meeting and so was not discussed at this meeting – something the SAB should be talking about.

Hard ticket checks are only employed at Blocks 112/113/114 .

These are used inside the ground as the stadium is open internally. Anyone from any area can go to any part of the ground. This causes frustration as people are not able to get used to the crowd around them as it constantly changes. This will be the way it is unless internal barriers are introduced to create specific stand areas that we were used to at the Boleyn.

Interaction procedures were due to be initiated for the Man City match but video received by WHUISA which is being made available to the club suggests some have not read the procedures yet.

While the club re-iterated their stance on people informing the club it seems there is not enough feedback from the club / Stadium operators as to what they have actually done. This should be improved.

BLOCK 114

A number of unsavoury incidents from this area such as coin throwing led to the Safety Liaison Authority (SLA) closing this block and people were moved to block 127. This caused a multitude of issues for many innocent fans however the club said that 97 fans from this block have been banned. A return to block 114 must be authorised by the SLA. Hard ticket checks are in force in this area to stop rouge fans infiltrating the area from other parts of the stadium and coin throwing seems to have stopped.

The club want fans to return to their original seats and a significant number of fans in block 127 still wish to be relocated to block 114. Sadly this is too late for one of our fans and WHUISA founding members – Alan Walker who sadly passed away at the end of January. He was deeply upset at being moved away from the area and a number of his friends and spoke of his wish to watch his beloved West Ham from where he worked so hard to be during the migration process. Our hope and lasting legacy to Alan must be that fans are moved back to this area as soon as possible, they are allowed to enjoy the match in the way they have done for years (singing / shouting / chanting / banter / dancing) and the club ensures coin throwers are persona non grata.

PERSISTENT STANDING

It was revealed that the move to a new stadium saw a decision made where there would be a drive to ensure people sat down at the match. I noted that this drive was unique to West Ham fans and unfair and reminded everyone to watch Match of the Day where you would clearly see fans standing at all Premier League grounds. This drive to make people sit in some areas of the lower tiers was counter productive.

This showed the problem in the migration process where the system failed and families / other people used to sitting at the BG became mixed with fans who had never sat down at all at the BG. This caused in fighting between West Ham fans.

It is noted the club, to their credit, have recognised this problem and have moved 450 people.

I did not receive a direct answer from Nicola Keye (NK) about whether the club would open an area specifically for families despite asking 3 times. In the small print and in the first instance a season ticket holder has the right to renew their seat. Only once this has occurred can a decision be made about relocation issues. In other words the club cannot force people to move from their seat to create a family area.

On reflection post meeting a solution to this is could be to stipulate an area that is to be a family area – say 4 /5 blocks of the Bobby Moore Upper and then those in this area currently should get the first opportunity to move to another area should they not wish to be in the family area. Over a short period of time the club could have an official area for families.

SUPPORTERS SERVICES

The club acknowledged issues / backlog in dealing with customer complaints and say they have improved this. However the stigma still remains that the club gets information from fans and fails to respond in a large number of cases. I know as I am still waiting for a response to a letter I sent to the chairmen of all people. WHUISA are happy to act as a conduit for fans should they wish to choose them.

KB left for another meeting at 8pm but the SAB continued to meet for about another 40 minutes. The bloggers / website meeting was discussed and this has been addressed in my earlier post.

Paul Christmas

Joint Chair of WHUISA


Zaman Siddiqui's Match Review

Oh, when the Saints go 3-1 down

I imagine former Saints Jose Fonte and Michail Antonio now have a new chant to bond over. Both players are very experienced, having played in both the Championship and League 1. In addition to that, Fonte is practically native with the time he has spent playing in several tiers of English football, whilst Antonio has played non-league football. I’m sure that they both appreciate the finer things in life. Given where they came from, the chances of both playing Premier League football when they started out were slim to none.

“When the Saints Go Marching In” was initially an American gospel hymn. We have Louis Armstrong to thank for the vocal and instrumental renditions of the song that arose when he turned it into a renown pop tune in the 1930’s. His sister had informed him that she thought the secular performance style was irreligious. But, he didn’t stick to tradition. Instead, he turned the churchgoers, who once sung the traditional church tune, into a brass band. Fonte could have stayed in the Primeira Liga with a rather undeserved, untouchable status, and Antonio could have been aggressive with the non-league players who went for his ankles every time he played. But, they had a vision. These men have made football what it is, be it through a chant or through performances on the pitch. Sure, they didn’t always get the approval of everyone around them, but they never gave up.

Prior to this match, we failed to win any league matches in which we were in a losing position. With debutant Manolo Gabbiadini scoring after just 12 minutes, we easily could have rolled over and accepted our fate. But, that wouldn’t be a fitting ending for a team with players that have earned top-flight football the hard way. Fonte and Antonio are at the heart of what our club is all about. They are gifted and talented players, who will always put in a good shift for their teams. That is why the former Southampton captain Fonte can be proud having just walked away from his old club with three points. The Saints sing the traditional lyrics. Fonte and Antonio singing the unconventional 3-1 lyrics typifies how unique they both are. Now, with the support of the fans they want to play in front of, there is no limit as to what they can achieve.

The first few lyrics of the song are in dactylic tetrameter (simply put, that means they are in four parts/syllables). The four parts I remembered were 0-1, 1-1, 2-1, and 3-1. After conceding just five goals in their first eight home Premier League games under Claude Puel, Southampton have conceded nine goals in their last four matches at St. Mary’s. It is a real cause for concern that they are starting to concede so many goals, because their defence was the only thing keeping them afloat. Their transfer deadline day signing of striker Gabbiadini for a reported fee of £14M was a crucial one – only Boro and Hull have scored less than them. For a team that has finished in 6th, 7th, and 8th in the last three seasons, I think they should have bought a few more reinforcements instead of selling their older, more experienced players like Fonte and Pelle.

Furthermore, they had great chances in the match, but failed to capitalise on them. Gabbiadini spurned a great chance to score early on in the second half, as well as failing to punish Kouyaté’s poor clearance, missing the target from 10 yards. There were other attempts for a grandstand finish at 3-2, but it didn’t come. They had 21 shots of which only seven were on target. Louis Armstrong was also skilful at scat singing. Perhaps he could have used it as part of a montage of Southampton shooting. By comparison, we had six shots of which four were on target. This highlights the lack of striking options the Saints have. The fact that they didn’t have anyone on the bench to play there meant having to rely on the new signing to score again.

With a 4-0 defeat to City just a few days ago, going 1-0 down early on in the next match doesn’t help morale. When the goal was conceded, I was devastated. Southampton had lost five of their last six matches, so this wasn’t the day to go missing. Something that has to be applauded is our team’s bouncebackability (all one word – click the hyperlinked word). When we lost 5-1 to Arsenal, we responded with a 2-2 draw against Liverpool. Also, when we lost 5-0 to Man City, we responded with a 3-0 against Palace. Most football clubs wouldn’t be able to bounce back like we have, which makes this feat all the more amazing! The thing is, if we are deadly serious about challenging for Europe, then we’ve got to start beating more of the top teams. I hope our players think about it sensibly taking baby steps like not losing 2-0 or worse. We need to defend at all times. We can beat the majority of teams below us, but can’t go on perfect runs. 19 points from a possible 30 is not bad going, but we can’t expect it again.

We had quite a few vulnerabilities in the match, such as playing Kouyaté as RB. Sure, he made more tackles than any other player on the pitch, but he wasn’t static in his position. Southampton kept attacking down his side, as they knew that the space there could be exploited. Thankfully, we kept our composure after conceding that first goal. We did well to make sure Southampton didn’t get into dangerous areas, which is why they only managed to score one goal, yet have 21 shots.

I have to give a special mention to Obiang, who I think has given one of the performances of the season. He is the first West Ham player to score and assist in a Premier League game this season. He has been playing phenomenally well for us in midfield, as well as scoring a wonderful goal right before HT. To think that we were going to offload him in the Summer!


We have ended the matchweek in 9th, though that’s not to say that we are destined for a top-half finish. For instance, if we lost the match yesterday, then we would be on 28 points, which would leave us in 13th – how unlucky that would’ve been! With a win, if Stoke had beaten West Brom, and if Burnley had beaten Watford, we would have gone down two places to 11th. The lowest we could have finished this matchweek was 14th, whilst the highest finish available was 9th. We are very fortunate to have finished in such an impeccable position this week, but we won’t be so lucky later on. There is still a long season ahead, and we will get a few blips every now and then. The five points between us and Bournemouth may not seem like much at the moment, but it can all change very quickly as Southampton have found out dropping from 7th to 13th in the space of seven matchweeks.

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Match Report

Ten Things We Learned From Southampton 1 West Ham 3

Bear in mind I haven’t actually seen the match, but here goes anyway!

1. We haven’t won at Southampton since 2000. It was our first win at St Mary’s
2. Our last ten Premier League matches – DWWWLLWWLW. 19 points out of 30. Time to get some perspective?
3. Another goal from Andy Carroll – his sixth goal in 16 games. England form?
4. Mark Noble’s goal is his fourth of the season. Nice to see him score a goal that isn’t a penalty.
5. This win puts us up to 9th on 31 points. I’d say this is roughly where we’ll finish. There’s a five point gap between us and 8th. Although if we beat WBA next week that gap will be down to two points.
6. Great to see Pedro Obiang score, albeit a somewhat flukey goal if Chris Kamara is to be believed. UPDATE: I’ve just seen the goal. Not a fluke at all! A magnificent strike!
7. Also great to see us coming from behind and them holding onto a lead without conceding.
8. I wonder how Kouyate, Noble and Obiang fared in central midfield.
9. Strange to see Lanzini dropped and Feghouli retained. How did he do today?
10. Super Super Slav, Super super Slav, Super super Slav, Super Slaven Bilic!

David Hautzig is away.

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