Talking Point

The Season Opener

Well, the much anticipated opening weekend of a new Premier League season is nearly upon us. Only two or three more sleeps to go, depending on when this article goes to air. I am not sure whether the fixture list Gods have dealt us a good or a bad hand by throwing up a match against arch rivals Tottenham in our first match of the season? Time will tell. Recent history tells us that we are up for the job when it comes to dealing with our North London rivals. An unlikely double over them last season in the Premier League and just for good measure we knocked them out of the League Cup at their place as well to make it three wins from three matches.

So, is the first weekend of the season a good time to play Spurs or does it really matter? One thing is for sure, if the West Ham players and supporters can’t lift for this game then it will not augur well for the rest of the season. In a “what comes first, the chicken or the egg” scenario, any lack of urgency from the players could transpire into a negative crowd reaction – and indeed, if the home crowd support is edgy the effect could transfer itself to the players on field performance. Hopefully, the West Ham support will lift the team right from the start and promote a positive vibe both on and off the field in what is to most supporters, the biggest game of the season.

Our record against Tottenham is pretty decent considering that for the majority of football history they have enjoyed much loftier league positions than ourselves. Our record against them in the old first division was 24W, 16D and 26L and in the Premier League we have seen 12W, 7D and 17L. In all competitions, including friendlies, we have played them 244 times for 84W, 60D and 100L. The match has thrown up a few classics including the 4-0 David Cross drubbing and last seasons against all odds 3-0 victory where we played with no strikers! The three victories last season broke a worrying sequence where Tottenham had won nine and drew twice in the previous twelve games against the Hammers.

So, how do we fare in first up games? If you look back at games in the Premier League only, the last eight opening days have seen us win six and lose two. One thing we rarely do in first matches of the season is draw! Not recently anyway. Whilst the start of a new season always brings new hope, and in some cases old fears, whatever happens against Spurs is really just a small part of what is a very big picture. On the first of January this year, we were second from bottom after 20 games and that is something no West Ham fan wants to see repeated this season. Strangely, all bottom three teams on that date went on to survive. That stat alone just shows how tough it is to survive in a league where three from realistically only thirteen teams will get relegated every season for the foreseeable future. Anyway, back to this Saturday and let’s hope we are singing “it’s happening again” around 4.40pm.

FOOTNOTE. How fantastic to see so many guest posters contributing articles over the past two weeks whilst some of the regular authors have been away. It is a sign of a fabulous West Ham community that Iain has fostered on this site, that so many readers have come forward to help out with the demand for new material. I think all would agree that much of the content has been excellent.

Talking Point

Could the Sakho Deal be referred to the Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS)?

Reports yesterday alleged that Metz have halted West Ham’s move for Diafra Sakho after claiming that the Premier League club sought to suddenly reconstitute the terms of the proposed transfer. It had appeared that the clubs had quickly agreed a £3.5m fee for the promising 24 year old Senegalese striker and the way lay open for medical clearance and the negotiation of the player’s personal terms.

However, Metz have now issued a statement alleging that West Ham have reneged on their agreement by seeking a season long loan deal agreement, with the option to buy next summer, rather than an permanent transfer. Furthermore, the French club have accused West Ham of being ‘disrespectful’ in their conduct and are currently considering their legal options, as Sakho missed the club’s opening Ligue 1 fixture last Saturday (a 0-0 draw with Lille) to complete his medical.

The Metz statement asserts:

‘The English club unilaterally decided to propose a loan deal with an option to purchase instead of a permanent deal, which does not correspond to FC Metz’s expectations and contradicts all the terms that had been agreed last week between the two clubs. FC Metz regret this clear lack of respect, which is unacceptable, from West Ham towards FC Metz and also the player. As a result, FC Metz reserve the right to approach the international sport court and assert their rights and defend their interests. FC Metz had released Diafra Sakho from his professional duties during matchday 1 of the Ligue 1 championship by giving him leave to take a medical in England to complete the last stage of the deal.’

So, based on the above statement, it would seem that Metz’s case is likely to be that they reached a binding (verbal or written) agreement with West Ham for the permanent transfer of the striker. And that Metz sanctioned Sakho to miss their opening fixture of the season (in order to complete his medical) on the basis that it was effectively a done deal. Metz dropped two points, in a 0-0 draw with Lille, and they may well argue that the voluntary absence of last season’s top scorer could have been a salient factor in the result. A risk that Metz were presumably prepared to accept on the understanding that they would receive the agreed transfer fee. If this is the thrust of their case, would they be successful at CAS? And, if so, would the CAS ruling be that the transfer should proceed on the original terms or, alternatively, would a compensation package be necessary? There is even a suggestion circulating that Metz might push for a points deduction! One only hopes that Metz are not relegated this season by two points or less or that will raise old spectres of a previous crazy compensation deal for an alleged injury to another football club!

Sakho is well worth a gamble at £3.5m, but it all depends what the club’s approach is with respect to the possible signing of Connor Wickham and how the transfer finances stack up? As the situation stood yesterday evening, it is understood that Metz’s lawyers have given West Ham until 12 noon today to agree to proceed with the transfer, on the orginal terms. If not, they will consider taking their case to EUFA/CAS.

SJ. Chandos

Parish Notice

Were You at the Fans Q&A at Purfleet?

If any of you attended the fans Q&A at Purfleet last night, feel free to write it up for us and email it to me via the Contact page, and I willpost it on here tomorrow. In the meantime here is the club website’s less than detailed account

Guest Post

Where's Julian Dicks When You Need Him?

Guest Post From Little Fork

Who can inspire and motivate our team like Dicksy? Do we have someone today who can get the team “up” and battle ready?

On a filthy wet evening at Upton Park on Monday 24th Feb 1997 the Irons met Spurs. With our team having been entrenched in the bottom three with only one win in 14 games , Spurs were odds on favourites to win. ‘Arry had made a couple of purchases (£7.3+m was considered a “staggering” amount). Paul Kitson and John Hartson were to make their debuts but the Hammer’s skipper, Julian Dicks, with his hair fiercely cropped was the inspiration that night.

Dicksy was everywhere on the pitch that night. He was the best defender, best midfield player and certainly played his part up front as well. He rallied the troops, I wish I’d been there to hear the pre match dressing room rousing speech, as the team came out with what seemed a new found confidence. For me, the packed house and of course the Monday night SKY audience, this was the match of the season. It was end to end, topsy turvey stuff…….in East End parlance “a right ol’ ding dong” of a game.

It was our new attacking coach Sherry who scored first for Spurs with a stunning header. But the Hammer’s response was forceful to say the least. From a Michael Hughes corner in the 21st minute Dicksy powered in a header to get us back on terms. About 2 minutes later the atmosphere really ignited when Paul Kitson on debut scored with a header from another Hughes corner. Joy was short lived however when Darren “sick note” Anderton lobbed Ludo to get spurs on level terms. Hartson then captured the hearts of the hammers’ fans when in the 37th minute he headed us back in front again, this time from a superb cross from Dicksy.

Sheringham, however, wasn’t to be upstaged, though, as he cleverly blocked off Dicks to allow Howells to make it 3 each. This was a rather poignant moment for Howells who had just suffered a family bereavement (his Dad) but had decided to play the match. Our bubbles anthem was heard right across London that night I am sure, as the game swung one way and then the other.

Dicksy sensed that a win was possible and pushed his battle weary troops forward for what seemed one last effort. I think the crowd had settled for a point, but not Dicksy.
When Howells was judged to have fouled the irrepressible Hartson in the box, who else would step up to take the penalty? In front of the Bobby Moore stand, I have never seen a penalty struck with such force before. Ray Stewart was the former penalty “king” but Dicksy’s penalty blasted into the net with such ferocity and velocity, it felt the whole of the Park would explode!!

What a captain that night, what a performance, and what a result.

West Ham 4 Spurs 3.

My West Ham Story

My West Ham Story: Paul Randall

Guest Post by Paul Randall

I was born and raised in South London, my Dad was a Palace fan (our local team), my older brother a ST holder at White Hart Lane. I was a young boy, aged 8, but even then needed my own identity. West Ham won the Cup Winners Cup and a year later won an even bigger competition (sic), so it was Bobby Moore and his happy Hammers for me.

I can still remember my first time at Upton Park, that first ever view of the pitch, breathtaking, a home game with Wolves which we drew 3-3. I was hooked, to this day I am hooked still. Being a Hammer is part of me, even defines me as a person. I may not be from the East End, I may have only, on average, been to about 6 live games a year (until two seasons ago when I became a ST holder for the first time), but I am as passionate as all of you, my friends, family, past lovers and current partner….all, I am sure, think of me when West Ham is on the news. To them I am West Ham, in good and bad, victory and defeat.

I have two sons, the oldest a Hammer, the younger, unfortunately a London Red. I live down in Sussex now surrounded by good neighbours who are Everton, Palace and Brighton fans. We have good banter, for me a trip to UP for a 3pm KO means leaving home at about 11 getting back at 7pm. It’s a full day’s commitment really. I often do it alone, as the oldest son is often too busy to go these days.

My Hammers supporting friend has other issues in their life to deal with. My partner does come with me on occasions but really, I know, would prefer to be riding her horse…..Jane once famously asked me, while at a game, surrounded by the good and great of the West Ham faithful, ‘Who is Julian Dick anyway’ in response to the pitch side advertising for his DVD. I knew at that point she should have been riding her horse!

I started this piece intending to describe past games, players, emotions, but, you know, there are far too many in a lifetime of being a Hammer. It would go on for pages – I thought I would leave you with one thought. It’s a feeling really, it’s true emotion, but regardless of who owns the club, who sits in the Manager’s chair, what names are on the back of the shirts worn by the current group of players – I can sit in the stands, well before kick off, I can look at all four corners of the ground, for I have frequented all of them at some time or other since that great six goal thriller with Wolves all those years ago, and I smile. I bloody well smile a great big fat smile and I wouldn’t have changed any of it for the world.

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