Talking Point

Get Your West Ham Trainers Here!

Now before you start, I make no money out of advertising these rather nifty trainers – no commission on sales, nothing. But I’ve just bought a pair and thought you might like to be alerted to their existence.

Anyway. Mark Noble might like to pack a pair when he joins the England squad in Brazil next summer. Fat chance, mate. Not because you don’t deserve to, Mark, you do. But do any of us think Nobes has even a sniff of getting on that plane? Nope, me neither. If he played for one of the top four clubs he might, but I don’t think Roy Hodgson is going to consider any West Ham player apart from Andy Carroll, and possibly Ravel Morrison. Jarvis and Downing won’t get a look in either. I very much hope I am proved wrong, but I doubt I will be.


Talking Point

The truth about the West Ham Community Discount Ticket Offer

There has been much coverage of the discounted local community tickets at the West ham v Man City match last.It has also brought some unwelcome press in the Daily Express, Star and Mail.

I understand there is much mis-information on this subject.

The first thing to explain is this discounting of tickets for the local community is nothing new for West Ham. The discounted community trust offer started at Wigan home match last season and was featured on BBC Match of the Day. I understand around 400 tickets were discounted during that first match.

There was another community discount ticket offer at the Stoke home match for another 80 people from one particular community project.

There have been allegations that between 2,000 and 2,500 discounted tickets were sold. I understand the true number to be around 1,500.

West Ham say they have nothing to hide and are proud of their close links the Community. The West Ham United Community Sports Trust website clearly states that affordable match day tickets are available for pupils in Schools in East London and Essex are priced at £5, Tickets for Junior Football clubs with accompanying parents are available for £5 for the child with the adult going free of charge and Tickets for Troops can bought tickets for £10 www.community.whufc.com/

Possibly the biggest difference for this match was it was category A match and every previous community related match had been category B.

I understand the community partners can request discounted tickets for any match. It just so happens there were tickets left for the Man City match and the decision was made to extend this offer to the Man City category A game as the match was unlikely to sell out. This fact appears to have been confirmed by Jack Sullivan when he tweeted “The 5 pound ticket were [Sic] a one off to the local community to fill empty seats for a TV game”

Stories that locals were given free tickets or that 2,500 tickets were given to Newham council to distribute are wide of the mark.

The main community partners for this match were: Premier League Kicks, Premier League 4 Sport and the Tower Hamlets’ Stifford Centre

West Ham confirmed on Monday in a WHUFC.com article that “As per the terms of the contracts with said partners, the tickets were offered at a discounted rate, but absolutely no tickets were provided free of charge and fans from all locations, background, race and religion were included”

Although the media have highlighted a facebook video of a small number of members of the local community praying just before half time I understand no complaints of racism or harassment was made to the club by these local community members. The media seem to going for sensational headlines without any real substance.

I am sure the club has learnt from this experience and need to be much more transparent and up front about these community offers to dispel any ill feeling from season ticket holders/supporters and negative headlines.

There were also reports that members of the local community celebrated Man City goals. I was sitting in the Sir Trevor Brooking lower close to where these tickets were situated and didn’t see that happening. I also know no-one else who did. Many of the local community who came to West ham for the first time were wearing West Ham tops so that accusation doesn’t hold much water for me.

Many of us live and/or work in one of most of the diverse City’s in the world and we are one West Ham Family.


Talking Point

The Kevin Nolan Problem

Depending on what you read, Andy Carroll will be back in the first team within one or two months. With Andy back in the side it will give Big Sam a selection headache that he won’t mind having. Two wingers in Jarvis and Downing knocking the ball into the area with sharp crosses and a certain Mr Nolan ready for any scraps that big Andy will provide. All sounds good, after all, that is why Big Sam bought Downing in the pre-season instead of a proper back up for the injured Carroll. Now, we don’t need to be Einstein to work out from this scenario that this leaves just two other midfield spots to be filled unless Sam changes to a highly unlikely three at the back.

Recent form suggests Noble can’t be dropped and the power Diame brings to the side makes dropping him highly improbable as well. But then we have Ravel and Joe Cole amongst others to consider as well? Now I am sure injuries and suspensions will at times make Sam’s team selection fairly straight forward, and at least having all players to choose from will allow him to pick a side to “suit” the opposition or rotate the squad. The past two games against top drawer teams have seen West Ham play a passing game with a 4-6-0 formation. Flooding the midfield and using alternate players from the six to break forward has worked at Spurs but failed at home to City. One fact that is hard to ignore is that in both games we only secured around 40% of the possession despite having six midfield players. In other words we allowed the opposition in both cases to come at us as we tried to hit them on the break or via a set piece.

In both these games, our captain Kevin Nolan was found wanting in terms of speed and stamina. Playing off a striker is much more to his liking and with Andy back he will probably be allowed to do this. However, as we have seen before, when Sam plays this formation our midfield gets over run far too often. Kevin just does not have the motor to help the midfield out efficiently and stay close to Andy when required. We do however, have a player who can do both and to much greater affect. Ravel. His work rate is outstanding and he can get forward and score goals. He also adds another dimension to West Ham’s play with his speed and dribbling as we saw at Spurs. Whilst Nolan top scored with ten last season, three of them came in the last game of the season against already relegated Reading. Morrison has already scored four goals with thus far limited games.

If you read about Ravel’s rise, at least some part of the players turn around from problem boy to hero boy can be attributed to Kevin Nolan. The man has also played a huge part in turning around West Ham’s dressing room since the murky days of Avram Grant. You rarely see West Ham going down without a fight nowadays and Sam attributes much of this to Nolan’s presence both on and off the field. However, it is not just this season that our captains on field performances have not measured up. Until the Reading game last season, his form had been poor since the start of the year. So far Sam has not even looked like dropping Nolan but will Andy’s return force his arm – or will it cement Nolan’s place in the side even further?


Talking Point

No Pryro No Party No Prison No Ban

Despite being prohibited by both law and ground regulations, there is a rise in the use of flares and smoke bombs at matches. Many fans don’t appreciate the possible danger they pose.

During West Ham’s recent three nil win over Spurs together the recent losses against Man City and Everton at home we all have seen blue smoke flares set off by away fans.

Back in February a young teenager died after being hit in the face by a smoke flare in Bolivia which had been thrown by fans into the away support. A 17-year-old Corinthians fan later confessed that he set off a flare that killed a 14-year-old Bolivian boy in the Copa Libertadores match.

I don’t want to be a kill joy but is this smoke flare craze worth killing or injuring someone, a criminal record, a prison sentence or a lengthy football banning order?

On Saturday visiting Man City fans let off two Smoke flares in the Sir Trevor Brooking Lower concourse. Releasing these smoke flares in enclosed spaces creates health concerns for asthmatics. I am told two women were physically sick from the effects of the smoke on Saturday before kick off.

I tweeted out about these smoke flares with a hash tag of #BanThem and was met with a torrent of abuse from Man City fans who called me a C word, a soft git, a clean shirt and a melt (whatever that is?) This was before the Spurs incident with the linesman on Sunday,

Everton fans did the same a few weeks before with smoke drifting across the Sir Trevor Brooking lower.

Some Spurs fans have been quick to point out no action was taken against the three smoke flares which were let off when we beat Spurs 3-0 a few weeks ago. Spurs fans claim the smoke drifted into the disabled area in front of the away fans and several disabled children were evacuated from the area when the flares were let off. Some even claimed the flares were thrown into the disabled area. I was too far away to know whether there is any truth in these claims but others who were close to the front at White Hart Lane might be able to testify better.

Sunday’s incident involving a Spurs fan throwing a smoke flare which hit a linesman will surely bring new focus on this new problem and I can see the FA coming down hard on clubs who fail to control their away fans.

In February this year two Chelsea supporters were been sent to prison for one month after being arrested for possessing smoke bombs at an away match against Swansea in the Capital One Cup.They were banned from attending football games for six years, while a third supporter involved was also banned for the same length of time. Chelsea have barred the trio from Stamford Bridge for a ten years each. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2272010/Chelsea-supporters-banned-10-years-smoke-bomb.html

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Holt, the national lead on football policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers, revealed that it is a growing problem.

Last year we saw an increase in the use of flares and pyrotechnic devices by nearly 140 per cent compared to the previous season, arrests for the possession of a firework or a flare were up over 150 per cent so it is certainly something we are seeing becoming more prevalent in today’s game and it’s a real worry for us. It is in no way appropriate to let off either smoke flares or fireworks inside a stadium. Those that argue that it gives a European flavour to the occasion are plain wrong.’

Earlier this year the government warned these smoke flares could burn as hot as 1,600 degrees Celsius for as long as an hour.

Hopefully West Ham away fans will stop copying this new craze and the club will have zero tolerance for away fans letting them off at the Boleyn Ground too.

On Monday I interviewed Amanda Jacks, Football Supporters Federation Case Worker about Smoke Flares for the West Ham Podcast Moore Than Just A Podcast.

You can find the full interview and our review of the Man City v West Ham match below or at www.moorethanjustapodcast.co.uk


Nostalgia

Remembering Pop Robson

Bryan “Pop” Robson signed for Ron Greenwood’s West Ham from Newcastle in February 1971 and at the time was the clubs record signing. He started paying back his 120,000 pound signing on fee immediately as he scored on debut against Nottingham Forest, although to be fair it took a while before he was hitting the back of the net regularly. His playing stats may get younger fans asking why he was considered such an Upton Park favourite? He had already played 244 times for Newcastle before joining the Hammers, and after his first spell with us he had three spells each at Sunderland and Carlisle and a short time at Chelsea. He actually had two spells with West Ham between 1971/74 and 1976/79. You could say he got around a bit!! When looking at the dates of the two spells at Upton Park you can see the timing of his coming and going was poor. He missed both the FA Cup final wins of that era and the ECWC final of 1976.

However, 104 goals in 255 games over the two periods was a good return and his best hauls were 28 from 46 in 72/73 and 26 from 42 in 78/79. The 28 goals in 1972/73 made him the old first divisions top goal scorer that season. How we could do with that sort of striker nowadays? The latter tally of 26 in his second spell with the club came in the old division two.

But there was just something else that the fans loved about Pop. He was short for a forward and was follically challenged, which always made him look a lot older than he actually was – I think this was the reasoning behind the nickname Pop. For an unfashionable looking striker he had a knack of scoring spectacular goals. An overhead kick he scored against Derby in his second season with us springs to mind as does a wonderful trap, swivel and volley against Wrexham in 1979.

John Lyall re-signed Pop for his second spell with West Ham when an injury crisis hit the club in 1976 and this time the fee was 80,000 pounds. So you could say that both the finest managers in the clubs history had now signed the man? His hat trick in 1978 in a 3-0 win over Millwall is as good a reason to love the man.


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