Lineup Prediction

Lineup Prediction: Watford v West Ham

We could be facing Mauro Zarate and Valon Behrami this afternoon. Zarate in particular will be looking to make a point to West Ham, as he feels he was never really given enough game time to prove himself at Upton Park. He had some very good games with us but Sam Allardyce was never a fan. He wasn’t an Allardyce type of player and he never wanted him at the club in the first place. He only played 22 games, scoring a more than creditable five goals. If I recall correctly, all five were gems.

On 23 July 2008, West Ham signed Valon Behrami from Lazio, with the player signing a five-year contract for a fee of £5 million.I thought he was a brilliant player and was gutted when he moved to Fiorentina in January 2011. He played 58 games for us, scoring four goals but he suffered a couple of bad injuries. Since he left us he has played for Fiorentina, Napoli and Hamburg, and hasn’t scored a single goal for any of them. I remain a fan, though.

In terms of our lineup, I covered the options earlier in the week. Andy Carroll, it seems, won’t figure and will be lucky to make the Chelsea game. Andre Ayew is back in contention and Bilic now has some big selection headached with Ayew, Feghouli, Lanzini and Snodgrass competing for two positions. This is my predicted lineup…

Randolph, Cresswell, Byram, Reid, Fonte, Obiang, Kouyate, Noble, Lanzini, Antonio, Snodgrass

And the bench…

Adrian, Collins, Ayew, Fletcher, Calleri, Feghouli, Fernandes

Feghouli would be very unhappy if he is left out of the starting eleven, given that he has improved with every game and has chipped in with a couple of goals.

Watford have some terrible injury problems, with seven first teamers doubtful for this afternoon.

You have until 4.25pm to enter the Predictor League.

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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Watford v West Ham

Blast from the past

Billy Bonds’ West Ham United arrived at Vicarage Road, the home of this weekend’s opponents Watford, for a Second Division fixture on 13th March 1990 while en route to a seventh-place finish.

Beats International featuring Lindy Layton were number one with ‘Dub Be Good To Me’ and Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington were in UK cinemas with Glory as the Hammers recorded a 1-0 victory in front of 15,682 thanks to a strike from centre-forward Trevor Morley (pictured above), his second goal of 70 for the club in 214 appearances. Watford would finish the 1989/90 campaign in 15th position, while Julian Dicks would end the season as Hammer of the Year and the Irons’ top goalscorer in all competitions.

West Ham United: Ludek Miklosko, George Parris, Colin Foster, Tony Gale, Julian Dicks, Kevin Keen, Martin Allen, Ian Bishop, Stuart Slater, Trevor Morley, Jimmy Quinn.

Club Connections

Former Hammers Valon Behrami and Mauro Zarate are both now on Watford’s books. Other players to have represented both clubs, divided by position, include:

Goalkeepers: Ted Hufton, David James, Perry Suckling, Manuel Almunia, Jack Rutherford, Joe Webster.

Defenders: Jon Harley, Calum Davenport, Lucas Neill, Chris Powell.

Midfielders: Henri Lansbury, Alan Devonshire, Alessandro Diamanti, Stuart Slater, Jobi McAnuff, Jimmy Lindsay, Joe Blythe, Jimmy Carr, Mark Robson, Carl Fletcher.

Strikers: David Connolly, Roger Hugo, Billy Jennings.

Len Goulden played for West Ham and managed Watford, while Malky Mackay played for both clubs and went on to manage the Vicarage Road club. Gianfranco Zola has managed both the Hammers and the Hornets.

This week’s focus though is on a midfielder who represented both clubs in the early years of this century. David Noble was born in Hitchin on the 2nd February 1982 and started his career as a trainee with Arsenal, with whom he won the FA Youth Cup in 2000 before joining Gianluca Vialli’s First Division Watford on loan in August 2001. He made his debut as a 72nd-minute substitute in a 3-0 home win over Wimbledon on 9th September 2001 and scored his only goal for the club in the 44th minute of a 3-0 win at Grimsby on 20th October 2001, lifting the ball over goalkeeper Danny Coyne before walking it into an empty net.

Noble played in a League Cup quarter-final while with the Hornets but was substituted at half-time as Sheffield Wednesday triumphed 4-0 at Hillsborough to reach the last four. After a promising start for the creative midfielder at Vicarage Road, his impact and appearances began to wane. His final appearance for the club came in a 2-1 defeat at Stockport on 1st April 2002 – after one goal in 18 appearances at Watford, Noble returned to parent club Arsenal.

After an appearance-less half-season back with the Gunners, Noble signed for Glenn Roeder’s West Ham United on a three-month permanent contract in February 2003. He was re-united with Joe Cole, with whom he had spent two years at Lilleshall. Noble, who played for England at youth level before making a single appearance for Scotland B in 2003, failed to force himself into the first-team reckoning as the Hammers eventually succumbed to relegation.

The 21-year-old extended his contract with the club in the summer of 2003 however and made his debut for the Hammers under Roeder in a 3-1 League Cup first round win over Rushden & Diamonds at the Boleyn Ground on 13th August 2003, his only start for the club. He made his first league appearance as a substitute in a 0-0 home draw against Sheffield United three days later. His only other appearances for the Irons came as a substitute under caretaker manager Trevor Brooking, in a 3-0 win at Crewe and 2-0 defeat at Gillingham. After four goalless appearances for West Ham United, Noble was released by Alan Pardew in early 2004, joining Third Division Boston United.

After two years at Boston, Noble joined Bristol City. He helped the Robins win promotion from League One and also scored in the Championship Play-Off semi-final against Crystal Palace the following season. After a loan spell with Yeovil in 2008/09, he was released and signed for League One Exeter. He moved to Rotherham in 2012 and, following a loan spell with Cheltenham, signed for Oldham in 2014. After only two appearances for Oldham, he re-joined Exeter on loan before making his return to Devon permanent in January 2015. After a year and a half back with the Grecians, Noble signed for St Albans City in the National League South last summer, taking his experience of over 300 Football League appearances to Clarence Park. Now 35, Noble has made 23 appearances for St Albans this season, with five assists to his name.


Saturday’s referee will be Craig Pawson; 2016/17 is Pawson’s fifth as a Premier League referee. In 2014/15 he refereed West Ham’s 3-1 home win over Liverpool and sent off Adrian in our 0-0 draw at Southampton, a decision that was later overturned. He was also the man in the middle for our 4-1 Capital One Cup home defeat to Wigan four seasons ago and our 3-1 loss at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium three seasons ago. His Hammers appointments last season were both at the Boleyn Ground, for our 2-2 draw with Manchester City in January 2016 and the 3-3 draw with Arsenal last April.

Pawson’s matches in charge of West Ham United so far this season saw him send off Harry Arter as the Hammers defeated Bournemouth 1-0 in August, while he also officiated in our 2-1 home win over Chelsea in the fourth round of the League Cup in October. His most recent Hammers appointment was our 5-1 home defeat to Arsenal in December.

Possible line-ups

Costel Pantilimon, Christian Kabasele, Nordin Amrabat and Roberto Pereyra are out for Watford, while Craig Cathcart, Sebastian Prodl and ex-Hammer Valon Behrami all face late fitness tests. Mauro Zarate is in line to start against the Hammers for the first time since leaving the club.

For West Ham United, Aaron Cresswell, Arthur Masuaku and Andre Ayew are all available, while Andy Carroll faces a late fitness test and may not be risked from the start. Angelo Ogbonna, Gokhan Tore and Diafra Sakho are the only definite absentees from Slaven Bilic’s squad. The Hammers have lost only one of their last 12 league matches at Watford, although this defeat came in our last visit, a 2-0 defeat in October 2015.

Possible Watford XI: Gomes; Janmaat, Cathcart, Kaboul, Britos; Capoue, Cleverley; Niang, Zarate, Holebas; Deeney.

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

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

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Talking Point

LISTEN: Fascinating Interview With Mark Noble

Mark Noble has done a fascinating two part interview with European football journalist Graham Hunter.

Graham introduces the first part on his blog

JUNE 20, 2007. That was the day England faced their Dutch counterparts in a European Under-21 Championship semi-final and were only sent home after an all-out penalty battle royal. A record was set, with the 25 spot-kicks required to separate the sides still standing as the longest penalty shoot out in UEFA history. It was also the day that Mark Noble, who scored twice in that shoot out, was left in tears as his side fell just short of the final. But don’t worry, the midfielder was later consoled by a few sympathetic northerners he met on holiday. He was happy to be put on the spot for his country in Heerenveen, having practised penalties repeatedly in training sessions before the tournament. “Every day after training, every player took a penalty and [head coach] Stuart Pearce stood there with a pad and pen and took notes,” Mark says in the podcast:
“Mark, scored. James Milner, scored. Tom Huddlestone, scored. He went through the line, bang, bang, bang, bang… I never missed.” It is a habit he has continued throughout his career, with Mark now established as the penalty taker for West Ham United – and in this Big Interview he gives a wonderfully honest account of how he handles that responsibility.

Listen to part one HERE

This is Graham’s introduction to the second part of the interview…

MARK Noble grew up with a football field for a back garden. Or at least he did once his dad had a secret gate installed behind the house, so that Mark could take a ball and sneak on to the grounds of a school. It was not too long before he was stepping out at Upton Park. Or should that be the Boleyn Ground? Either way, in Part Two of his Big Interview, Mark talks about that famous old stadium and the final game there, against Manchester United under the lights. Mark has kept a photograph from that night – a picture of the West Ham fans looking on as he shields the ball to help see out the game. He remains connected to his support, his community, and Mark talks eloquently about the social housing projects being undertaken by the Legacy Foundation, which he founded alongside two other London boys: Bobby Zamora and Rio Ferdinand. Mark is a good footballer and a good man.

Listen to part two: HERE

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Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud - The Day We Beat Man City 5-1

Mud, glorious mud. This is our 5-1 demolition of Manchester City (those were the days!) at Maine Road in 1970. I seem to remember the Boleyn Ground pitch could get pretty muddy, but surely not as bad as this.

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Player Analysis

What is our Strongest First Eleven?

OK, OK, it’s only Tuesday, but I’m already looking forward to Saturday’s away game against Watford. It’s the sort of game we should be aiming to get three points from. Given that we have virtually all our players available for selection – Sakho being the exception – I thought it would be useful to try to decide what our strongest lineup might be. There are various dilemmas for Slaven Bilic, not least who to play in midfield.

I’m wondering whether Adrian might be nearing a recall given that despite some fine performances there are still the odd doubts about Darren Randolph. I’m probably wrong, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Reid and Fonte are the clear first choices as central defenders in a four man defence. Cresswell is first choice left back, although Masuaku is a good challenger for him. At right back it is less clear. Personally, I think Sam Byram is a great player but he never seems to get a run in the side, either because he is thwarted by injury or the manager thinks he’s too young. Kouyate has filled in in this position in the last few games, but he didn’t have a happy game against West Bromwich Albion, and is clearly itching to get back to his preferred midfield berth. I give Byram the nod against Watford.

If we accept that Antonio and Snodgrass will play out wide, then there are three central midfield places up for grabs. Kouyate, Noble and Obiang would seem to be the obvious choices, although that might be considered quite a defensive choice. Sofiane Feghouli seems to be getting better with each game, and having scored against WBA he will feel hard done by if he’s dropped to the bench. Lanzini is back in form plus Andre Ayew is back and seems to be raring to go, but I can’t see how he can command a place unless we move to a 4-4-1-1 formation – but even then, that would mean he would play instead of Lanzini or Snodgrass. I just can’t see it.

Of course if we were to play a more attacking formation one of Noble/Obiang/Kouyate would have to be dropped. On current form you’d have to say that Mark Noble’s place might well be in jeopardy, but can you really drop your team captain? I know Zaman got a lot of flak when he retweeted another site’s tweet, which suggested just that, but I’m afraid it’s a route Bilic will inevitably have to consider going down.

Andy Carroll. Who else?

So if the entire first team squad is fit, this is my first eleven and bench…

Randolph, Reid, Fonte, Cresswell, Byram, Kouyate, Obiang/Noble, Snodgrass, Antonio, Lanzini, Carroll
Adrian, Collins, Fernandes, Sakho, Feghouli, Ayew, Obiang/Noble

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