Talking Point

Why I am Staying

Blind Hammer responds to Voice of Reason’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go”.

The great thing about West Ham till I Die is that it offers a platform for a variety of views. Normally I am sanguine about reading articles and am normally just happy to just let others have their point of view. However I do feel the need to respond to the article from Voice of Reason musing on whether he and by extension others should continue to support West Ham in the new stadium.

I respect the views put forward in the post but I fundamentally disagree with the points made and feel in particular, that it is unrealistic in the expectations he places on the Board.

There is no doubt that there is a massive constituency of commentators, fuelled by numbers of jealous fans who have done their utmost to sabotage and seek out bad news stories about the stadium. This is very reminiscent of the Press Campaign against the Millenium Dome before it transferred to the O2.

Make no mistake about it, this negative Stadium narrative has nothing to do with unbiased reporting but is driven by an agenda of resentment against the deal West Ham were able to strike with the LLDC for the hire of the stadium. These include the same people who lined up to petition against the deal West Ham struck. The same people who tried to hamper any future deals the LLDC and stadium operators were able to strike by forcing Freedom of Information demands for contract details.

These include the BBC Journalists who vindictively reported on the so called “West Ham Steal of the Century” in the BBC Media, a standard of biased journalism so crass that even the BBC Board were compelled to censure the producers of this program for its unjustifiable level of biased and unfair reporting.

These are the same people who salivate on Five Live at the slightest suggestion of any spectator trouble at the stadium, even though the Police reported at the London Assembly hearing that they had no particular problem policing the stadium compared to other stadiums in London. We have had 19 arrests at the stadium this year at the time this was looked at. One Rangers match at Ibrox in Scotland produced 14 arrests this season but this passed almost without comment.

After the victory against Chelsea Mark Chapman tried to strap line the victory as “Well West Ham won but the real Story, David Pleat, was the trouble in the ground”. Pleat , not my favourite pundit, did on this occasion refuse to be drawn into the Stadium bashing, and argued that the confrontation inside the stadium at least, were no different to those confrontations which had occurred in other high profile London derbies.

Over the summer TalkSport tried to run a virtual campaign including inaccurate reporting of the Stadium tenancy deal to such an extent that Sulivan had to phone the Station and try and redress the biased balance that the station was promulgating.

During our game Against Arsenal Sam Matterface tried to invite Stuart Pearce to agree that the stadium was “soulless “compared to Upton Park. Stuart Pearce resisted the steer, insisting that the stadium provided excellent sight lines and was a step up from Upton Park. In the UEAFA Cup game Jim Proudfoot tried to denigrate the stadium, with Terry Butcher on this occasion having the defend the view which he accepted was different to Upton Park but which he nevertheless described as “panoramic”.

There was never any chance that this constituency of hostile commentators in the media in general and TalkSport in particular would be persuaded that West Ham and their supporters were anything more than dirty thieving b****rds for so called fleecing of the Tax payer in their Stadium deal.

The fact is that all season long it has been a lazy easy story to talk about the “difficulties” of the stadium and run a negative narrative to “punish” West Ham for the alleged arrogance of their move. Those supporting other London clubs in particular were extremely hostile to a notion of a suddenly uppity West Ham moving from their normal lowly status to compete more regularly at the top level with a World Class Stadium.

In the face of this blizzard of negative narrative and attempts to denigrate our club it would have been a media own goal of astronomic proportions for the Board to formally declare in an official announcement , as Voice of Reason suggests, “that we made a bit of a ricket” with the move into the new stadium. All the anti-West Ham propagandists who have campaigned against our club inheriting the stadium would have whooped for joy and then had a field day of pumping further bad news and criticism towards our club. You can imagine the headlines “Board admits to disastrous move”. Follow up grilling over subsequent weeks of Stadium questions directed at all the players, manager, and anybody else to do with the club would have been the inevitable result. To an extent this has happened anyway, a Board declaration of this kind would have given these negative stadium narrative enormous extra legs. To suggest that the Board should adopt this as a club PR strategy is, I feel, naïve in the extreme.

The reality is that we are not operating in a neutral unbiased media environment; many people have agendas, even if they do not openly declare them.

Now of course even though I am a Blind Hammer, I am not blind to the fact that there have been difficulties associated with our move. You know what? People at the club are not blind to that either. Off the record people at the club have told me that they think it may take 2 seasons to finally iron out all the awkwardness and crinkles of the move. Privately I have been personally infuriated by many things that the club have failed to doo, especially initially from an accessibility stand point, and especially as I and others were warning the club of issues before the season even started.
Behind the scenes I, and I am sure others, are trying to work with and influence the club positively to try and make things improve.

I have never used this website to make a major wash of our dirty linen in public, precisely because I know that there is a whole cohort of anti-West |Ham commentators, resentful of our move, which is desperate to trawl for any bad news story that they can dredge up against West Ham and their stadium tenancy. There is gradual progress being made with much more to do but I am convinced that West Ham can have a successful future in the stadium.

As I and other posters have noted in the past, moving into new stadiums is seldom completely trouble free. We have managed to also change training Grounds in the same season which has created even more upheaval

The key in the end is about the football. . We need to create a tradition of positive memories at the new Stadium. All accounts of the match against Chelsea were that the stadium was rocking. It put to bed once and for all that with the right football the stadium could not create a fantastic atmosphere. There have been flat atmospheres at certain games because the football on occasion has been dire. You know what; I remember just as many flat atmospheres, even toxic atmospheres at Upton Park when we suffered similar dire performances. It is a complete myth that Upton Park was a constant cauldron of positive support no matter what the team was playing like. Remember the 2014 game against Hull where the team was famously booed despite an undeserved win. Remember the dreadful 0-0 against Bristol City on a Tuesday night in the Championship; Upton Park was like a morgue that night. Against that we can pitch the thrilling game against Manchester United in our last game, at Upton Park; I am convinced that if we put in a similar performance against Manchester United in our next game we will again create a cauldron of atmosphere.

Above all I write for a site called West Ham till I Die quite simply because that describes me. Even if we end up in the Championship I will be getting my Season Ticket and turning up to urge our team to do well, no matter how much media resentment there is of our success in winning the stadium. Others may decide to whinge, sulk and slink off, I for one am staying with my club until the end.

COYI

David Griffith

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The S J Chandos Column

The January transfer window is absolutely crucial to our final finishing position.

It is axiomatic, get the summer transfer right and you have a good season. Then January is just about adjusting the squad, but get the summer recruitment wrong and we are inevitably in crisis territory. And then, in January, other clubs know you are desperate and play hard ball financially. We have (rightly) praised the club for the last two or three summer transfer windows, but this season we fell badly short. We recruited players that have blatantly failed to adjust to the Premier League. Zaza, Tore and Calleri are not up to the required standard. Fletcher and Martinez have huge potential and I feel that Ayew and Feghouli have the ability to impact positively. As for Nordtvelt, we need to give him time to settle and show what he can contribute to the squad. What I really like about Nordtvelt is his adaptability and ability to cover a number of different positions. Yes. I know that Hammers fans are not overly impressed, but give him a bit of time for goodness sake. Who knows you might be pleasantly surprised.

What we need is ‘iron surgery.’ We need to dispose of Tore, Zaza and Calleri as quickly as possible. I would keep faith in Ayew and Feghouli and hope that that the forthcoming African Cup of Nations improves their fitness and form. Yes, there is the danger of injury, but the player I really worry about is Kouyate. Losing him for 3-4 weeks is a huge challenge for the club, such is his importance. Just pray that Kouyate stays fit and returns early from the competition. I do not know about you, but I worry about such a key player being in the hands of Senegal’s physios, given what happened to Sakho and its continuing legacy.

As for acquisitions, I really hope that the rumours about our interest in Robert Snodgrass is correct. He is class and would provide cover both out wide and through the middle. This player is so under-rated and he could make a major contribution, not only whilst Ayew and Feghouli are away, but long term. He should have murdered us during the recent home match Vs Hull City, his creative play was so good. He is in the final year of his contract and a reasonable offer should encourage Hull City to do business. I would also like to see us reinforce our full-back positions by securing Carl Jenkinson, on loan, and Charlie Taylor (of Leeds Utd) on a permanent deal. We probably also need another centre-back and Kouyate has already alerted us to the ability of one of his former Anderlecht team-mates. Perhaps we should follow up on that, considering that James Collins on approaching the end of his top class career.

Up front, we need two new strikers. I would go for Icardi (from Inter-Milan) on loan, pending a summer permanent deal, and take a gamble on Brentford’s Scott Hogan. The talk about Rashford and sturridge is all very good, but one is inexperienced and, the other, is injury prone. Do we really want to gamble on the fitness of Daniel Sturridge, with Carroll and Sakho already on board?

We have had a major revival in recent matches. We must keep that trend going. That means getting positive results against Leicester City (away) and Man Utd (home) and pushing in to the top ten. It is perfectly possible and we need to, build on recent results, and make it happen. COYI!

SJ. Chandos.

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Talking Point

The greatest West Ham players of all time - Blowing Bubbles Monthly counts down their top 40

Who is the greatest Hammer of all time? Who would make your top 10? Or even your top 25? These are just a few of the questions Blowing Bubbles Monthly has attempted to solve as it kicks off 2017 with a countdown of the 40 greatest Hammers of all time. A panel of influential West Ham supporters, including WHTID’s Iain Dale, helped the popular monthly magazine pull together the list, which will surely spark huge debate amongst Hammers supporters, for their January issue.

David Blackmore, editor of Blowing Bubbles, said:

“Producing a list such as this is fraught with difficulty. How do you compare players from different eras successfully? Very few fans alive today will have seen West Ham play before the Second World War and the game has changed dramatically over the last century anyway. Then there is the question of what makes a great. How do you also rank a player who spent more than a decade at the club against another whose star shined brighter but for a far shorter period? Nevertheless, our panel has attempted to solve these problems and we believe this list, while certainly far from perfect, at least makes a fair stab at it. We hope everyone enjoys this countdown and are not too disappointed if their favourite player is lower than you would have expected or hoped!”

Read the list as well as columns from Phil Parkes and George Parris and an exclusive interview with Ian Bishop in Blowing Bubbles’ January issue. Get your copy here

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Talking Point

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Guest Post by the Voice of Reason

I really have no idea whether the West Ham board fully understand how upset a large number of fans (their customers – ha!) are at the moment but I think that they will when it comes to Season Ticket renewal time.

Prior to the stadium move there were various groups of fans with differing views. Some were totally against the move, some for it, others who were ambivalent and some who could see the logic, in terms of growth potential and were willing to see how things panned out.

I will admit to being in the last group. I renewed my Season Ticket (in fact upgraded it) and went more in hope than expectation with the view that I would give it a full season and then decide what to do next.

I still intend to wait until the end of the season before deciding about renewing but I have to admit that I am leaning towards giving it up. I also know of several other fans who will definitely be calling it a day and I think that the total number of non-renewals are going to be substantial.

I’ve always enjoyed going to away games. This season I look forward to them more than ever and that is because the difference to the home games is stark. Proper football stadia (even putting up with the rubbish seats at the likes of Everton) and a much better atmosphere.

But everything is hunk dory because there are 50,000 on the waiting list!

Do you really believe that? I certainly don’t and of all the things that have been “spun” by the club this one is probably rotating longer and faster than any other (along with first class migration, retractable seating etc., etc., etc.).

If there is a waiting list of any substantial number I would guess that a fair few on it will think again if they are offered the chance of a season ticket next season, as many will have already visited the stadium and, like many existing ST holders, will have second thoughts about shelling out their hard-earned..

So where does that leave us?

Obviously, not everything is bad.

Personally, I find getting to and from the ground easier than it was at the Boleyn, but others will find it more inconvenient. Going in and out of Hackney Wick would seem to have an advantage over Stratford.

The seats and legroom are good and the sightlines as well, although the distance from the pitch is extreme. If the team was performing better the atmosphere would probably improve and it might convince a few more to stay. Unfortunately we don’t have a “world class team and a world class stadium” as Lady Brady promised. The team is some way from that description and the stadium will never be that, in football terms, as it was not built for the game and is still what it originally was – an athletics stadium.

Additionally, we are already seeing the fickle side of the corporate “clients”. Whilst there are patches of empty seats all around the ground, it is the “posh seats” in the West Stand where the most gaps are and maybe that is because a lot of the expense is borne by companies so the individuals have no personal investment and just pick and choose when to attend games.

Of course, as the cameras are located on the west side these empty seats are not seen by TV viewers. The official attendance for the Hull game was just short of 57,000. My estimate would be that it was, in reality, around 10,000 less than that.

What can the club do?

I was taught, many years ago, that if you cocked something up the best way forward is to hold your hands up and admit it.

If the club is to have any chance of getting the majority of fans back onside they need to do just that. Everyone knows of the problems, they can’t be hidden so just come out and say “Whoops, bit of a ricket here, chaps”. The third part ownership does not help things as the club are limited in what they actually can do but it is surely in the interest of the owners to make this as successful as possible as failure will impinge on them as much as the club.

The shape of the stadium cannot be changed and, as there is no going back, we are stuck with it.

Whether much can be improved inside the stadium I don’t know but it should be looked at along with all of the other match day “offerings” (like food and drink – exorbitant and sub-standard in my view) as well as giving a chance for Season Ticket holders to move seats next season.

Whilst it would be difficult for many of the issues to be addressed part way through the season, the least the club should do is acknowledge the problems and give an indication about how they might be addressed. And they need to do this now.

Failure to address the problems will result in thousands of empty seats next season. Mine might be one of them.

This was written before the encouraging result at Swansea which gave us a third consecutive league victory. Improved results will obviously help the overall atmosphere around the club but should not distract from the bigger issues.

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The HamburgHammer Column

Nordt rest you merry, Gentlemen - comfort and joy of three wins in a row

Hope all you Hammers out there had a lovely Christmas and I need to begin by also wishing some of you a quick recovery after getting struck down by flu in similar fashion as I did about a week ago. It’s not nice to live on a diet of peppermint tea, lozenges and bits of toast, but surely our Boxing Day win in Wales should have helped the process of getting back on our collective feet massively here.

Never in doubt that victory over Swansea – right ? Crisis ? What crisis ? I think we can now reasonably expect a slightly calmer ride throughout the next few fixtures and while we will be without a few players due to the African Cup of Nations we will also play some games now against Premier League teams that are not exactly setting the league alight at this point, so we should be able to further consolidate our midtable position. That’s what three wins in a row can do for you, they make you shoot up the table in no time and even more important: They give you what is nigh on impossible to buy or simply talk into your dressing room: CONFIDENCE!

Finally we have that confidence back in our team now and I honestly don’t give a monkey’s if it needed the odd dire performance against some weak opposition in Burnley, Hull and Swansea. You can only beat what’s in front of you on the pitch and that’s just what we did. It nearly was a third clean sheet in a row too and I feel slightly sorry that Randolph had to concede a late goal he had absolutely no chance of keeping out. Before that he had made several decent stops and impressive key saves to keep our lead intact and Swansea’s confidence low throughout the game. All in all Randolph was my MOTM because it was his solid and calm performance between the sticks that was key to us being as comfortable in a game as we’ve been all season.Our defense looked a lot more settled too as a result of it.

All the other lads did their bit too and I won’t be mentioning every single one here, but after some harsh criticism hurled at him in recent weeks and months my special mention goes to our resident Viking, Norwegian Good, Mr.Havard Nordtveit. With more gametime under his belt he seems to be getting his swagger back and I’m so happy for him that finally other fans are beginning to see his value to the team too. He is no Zidane of course, he will not get you off your seat with mesmerising dribbles past four players, back heel flicks and nutmegs galore, but he is a solid defender who can read a game, make a tackle, intercept a ball or two and play the ball out comfortably.

Like with the rest of the team all confidence was gone from him entirely and he looked scared to even touch the ball out of fear of yet another misplaced pass or conceding another penalty. Nordtveit is proof of how vital a commodity confidence is in football and as a team it’ll see you overcome stronger opposition on any given day as long as you have enough of it. It was also good to see Kouyate shine in midfield again, Carroll being a nuisance for Swansea all game (while getting another 90 minutes or so unscathed) and also F&F (Feghouli and Fernandes) having some immediate impact on the game when they came on.

And how good is it to finally see Bilic smiling again! When I arrived in London just in time for the game at Liverpool away he was apparently quite close to getting the tin tack.
Four games later and he seems to be a lot safer in the Stratford saddle and as you all know I’d love Bilic to stick around for another season or ten if possible.
I still firmly believe that he deserves more support from the board in the upcoming transfer windows and once that happens we could be in for some more seasons of magic like the one we had with him in our final season at the Boleyn.

Bilic in my view is the one thing capable of uniting the fanbase at this point. London Stadium won’t be able to provide that as a significant number of fans (myself included) simply are unhappy with it in terms of being a suitable center for our matchday experience for home games. Also the board won’t be able to to get the fans to rally behind them as they have been drawing criticism (and rightly so) on several fronts, ranging from various stadium migration related issues to underspending in the transfer window and generally disrespecting and casting aside our traditions and history as a proud club in East London.

Linked to this uncertainty surrounding our fanbase, we keep hearing rumblings about Red Bull being interested in buying a Premier League club and in that situation it is very easy for a lazy journo at The Sun to have a bit of a punt in suggesting that West Ham are a prime candidate. Nevermind that a sum of £200 million will be unlikely to convince our board to even pick up the phone, contemplating a sale of the club. The rumour has been strongly rebuked in due course, but it’s still worthwhile to prepare ourselves in this respect. Are we all really buying into the notion of our board that Sullivan&Gold will keep the club and pass it on to their kids ?

I’m not buying that. Gold may be a genuine fan deep down inside, but he also cares about money. Which applies even more to Sullivan and Brady. So the question of selling the club is not really a matter of IF but rather one of WHEN, to WHOM and for HOW MUCH. It’s a tough one really deciding at this point which owner might be a suitable one and which one is likely to be the final nail in our coffin in terms of having any kind of identity left.

People mentioned to me how happy they were that West Ham was still in the hands of British owners. I never quite got that point because nationality or even being from the local area doesn’t make you immune from making terrible decisions. So in that respect I’d rather have Chinese owners if they are less likely to make the wrong move(s).
In the case of Red Bull there is a very distinct modus operandi whenever they acquire a new franchise, be that in football or Ice Hockey.

They totally exploit the club to grow their brand while throwing vast amounts of money at their club in order to protect said brand. If they really managed to get their hands on us I very much doubt they’d be interested to keep anything at West Ham as it is right now. That is simply not what they do. They would try to buy the stadium sponsorship which is fine by me, London Stadium or Red Bull Bowl doesn’t make much of a difference to me.

They would also put their bull on the club’s shirt, again, not a problem for me, however, they would also put the bull on the crest, maybe even ditching the Hammers altogether, and while the league would probably stop them renaming us Red Bull Stratford, we could easily end up as RB London Hammers.
Moreover, forget about West Ham playing in claret and blue anymore, in footballing terms they are much happier with white shirts and red shorts apparently.
All of which would result in me losing interest straight away.

Then again I am far from happy with our current owners at this point. I am only just hanging on while Bilic remains calling the shots in the dugout. The proof in the pudding will be the upcoming transfer window. There will be quite a clearout with Zaza, Tore and Arbeloa pretty much out of the door already. Surely we need another defender in January, preferably a proper out and out RB. And a solid, experienced and reliable striker. I don’t care if it’s Bacca or another, but if we want quality we need to pay for it.

I hope against hope our owners will begin to spend some money to make sure we improve rather than standing still as a squad, being overtaken by other clubs where the owners put their money where their mouths are. 2017 surely will be another very interesting year at our club and I’m sure this Blog will continue to monitor and discuss all the ups and downs at what at this point is still (only just) our club.

May 2017 be a healthy, good and kind year to all of you! COYI!

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