Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With Wigan Athletic

After eventually beating League 1 Shrewsbury Town in the last round, this weekend finds West Ham travelling to League 1 leaders Wigan Athletic in Round 4 of the FA Cup, where we will be hoping for a more assured performance from the boys. However we will be missing most of our strike force, so things may prove to be a bit more difficult than originally expected. Ahead of the game I had a chat about the game to Martin Tarbuck the editor of “The Mudhutter fanzine”:https://www.mudhutter.co.uk

I understand that Wigan are on the point of being taken over by a Hong Kong concern. Surely this cannot be the end of the Whelan family’s association with the club?
It would seem so. There are two camps within the fans over this. There are those, like myself, who feel slightly concerned and cautious about it. For all his many faults, David Whelan gave Wigan Athletic a journey that even the most wildly optimistic of fans couldn’t have dreamed of. As we are fond as saying at Mudhuts Towers, we have never needed a foreign megalomaniac investor – we’ve had our own home grown one! Removing that connection to the club is a giant leap into the unknown.
Then, there are other fans who believe that Garry Cook will find us the sort of owners who will plunge billions in – Man City style – to send us soaring to the top flight once more. I’m not sure that will happen, I’m not even sure I want it to happen, it’s a part of football I’m glad we are out of given the eye popping sums doing the rounds in the Premier League these days. But the truth is nobody knows what will happen and as fans, we are powerless to stop it. I believe Whelan wants his grandson David Sharpe to be retained on the board for continuity but that’s probably not going to be his decision to make after he’s sold the club.

You’ve had a bit of a yo-yo experience since your days in the Premier League, being relegated and promoted, then relegated again – at the moment you stand atop of Division One are you confident of getting promoted again this season?
I’m of a nervous disposition but it’s looking good right now, the irony of us playing you on Saturday is that it gives the teams behind us chance to close the five point gap. Shrewsbury aren’t going away and Blackburn are getting increasingly cocky about overturning us, and to be fair they are adding good signings to an already strong squad. All I will say is that every time we’ve had a set back we’ve bounced straight back and if we carry on that form, we should be fine. The change in ownership has the potential to unsettle things but hopefully that won’t be the case.

I know whenever West Ham have been relegated, I assume we will be either automatically promoted, or at the worst have to spend two seasons down. Do you consider yourselves to be a big fish in your League, or do you consider your days in the Premier League to be gone for a while?
It’s strange really, some of our younger and newer fans have only known Premier League football and naturally think we belong there but for those of us who saw us bottom of the fourth division with home crowds of 1,300, even surviving in League One is seen as doing well. The years in the top flight have made us bigger in terms of finances, recent history and yes, support and obviously whereas the ground is too big for us, the facilities we have are outstanding at League One level. I think as things stand, we are looking like a League One / Championship yo yo club and whether we can break that cycle depends on new investment.

Your final season in the Premier League saw you winning the FA Cup against Man City, yet also being relegated. Would you have preferred no FA Cup glory and staying up, or are you happy that you have had that success, and you’ll take the rest as it comes?
I don’t think there is a single Wigan Athletic fan that would have swapped winning the FA Cup for another year of trying to stay in the Premier League. When your former manager Slaven Bilic waved an imaginary trophy in the air in a press conference that time, it resonated all over Wigan. Winning a major trophy is far better than finishing 17th, I still can’t get my head around how finishing 4th somehow translates to success but that’s modern football and the way that financial reward has perversely become more important than actually winning a football competition.

Given that both of these events happened under Roberto Martinez, how does the Wigan faithful regard his legacy at the club?
Most fans including myself loved him to bits for what he brought to the club, the fact he was one of our most revered former players and of course he landed our first and only major trophy and managed to beat every one of the big four clubs in the Premier League. He had and still has his critics though who like to mention the 9-1’s and 8-0’s and the fact he was hopeless at organising a defence. He took the same polarised arguments to him at Everton, I suppose it just comes down to whether you prefer a patient possession based game or more traditional four at the back, long ball to a target man type approach. Do you want a stoic pragmatist approach or dreamy football that doesn’t come off most of the time but when it does it’s spectacular?
Me, I’m a dreamer and I’ll lie on my death bed remembering beating Man United at home, Gary Caldwell leaving Andy Carroll on his arse (sorry) to score the winner in front of the Kop at Anfield and Ben Watson winning the FA Cup rather than quoting poor win percentage rates, goals per game conceded and complaining that we could have been a run of the mill mid-table side if only we could have had a bit more defensive stability.
As you can tell, I still find it mystifying how some of our fans blame him for our demise rather than appreciate that just keeping Wigan Athletic in the Premier League for four years was something of a minor miracle, and I expect that’s how it is perceived from outside.

Tell us a bit about your current manager Paul Cook, and how do you rate him?
He’s brilliant. All the comparisons are with a certain other former Scouse manager, Paul Jewell, who also did great things for us. He likes his teams to attack, he’s straight talking, and he’s created a great team spirit and buzz around the club. He’s down to earth and comes across as one of the lads. Whether that approach would cut it if he were to ever manage in the Premier League I don’t know but I am hoping that one day he will find out with us.

How do you view the FA Cup this season, as an unwelcome distraction to your promotion challenge, or as a great day out with the chance to pit yourselves against teams from a higher league?
I was quite honest from the start and have stated that I’d rather us have gone out of it against Bournemouth but the performance in both games was fantastic, the replay especially. It’s easy to forget that we are a League One side and our players want to match themselves against Premier League players and they tore Bournemouth a new one from start to finish. With (little) respect to Bournemouth, playing you in the 4th Round at home is a much bigger game and I’m sure you’ll bring a big following and hopefully it will start to attract a bigger home crowd than usual, as it’s been a while since we’ve played you. I’m sure our players will be up for it again.
Again, I wouldn’t be distraught if we put up a great fight and lost gallantly, as the league is absolutely our priority. I doubt I’ll be saying that come 3pm on Saturday though.

I must confess to not having seen much of Wigan over recent seasons: are you still playing that brand of possession football that was so good to watch, and reasonably successful while it lasted?
It got thrown firmly out of the window three times and that constant upheaval perhaps points to part of the reason why we collapsed following relegation. After Martinez, we appointed Owen Coyle, who thought tactics were small mints. Uwe Rosler reverted it to a Martinez style with a bit more pressing but when he got potted Malky Mackay introduced the most depressive, defensive soul destroying brand of football I had ever seen. Until Warren Joyce came along that is who was even more negative. In between, Gary Caldwell got us out of League One, playing very much a Martinez style passing based game.
So it’s been all over the shop. Paul Cook is kind of a fusion of both, he likes his teams to pass it but also likes to get full backs forward and plays long diagonal balls to them and the widemen and the team is based around a traditional, solid flat back four. So it’s good football but also purposeful with plenty of pressing and no aversion to hitting a long ball when it’s warranted. It kind of satisfies all parties amongst the warring factions mentioned above and in his own words, he refuses to park the bus. Of course some fans moan about him not playing two up front but then I’m pretty sure that’s a universal football gripe these days….

Who have been the best three players to pull on the Wigan shirt in the past ten or so years?
We did a poll on this: Arjan De Zeeuw, Jason Roberts and Nathan Ellington. Our greatest ever centre half and our best ever strike partnership.

Are Wigan in the market for any players in the current transfer window? Are there any areas that you think need improving?
We’ve already signed James Vaughan from Sunderland (cup tied) and Jamie Walker from Hearts, a wide player. We lost Lee Evans (the Welsh international not the hyperactive comedian) a few weeks back as Wolves recalled him and sold him to Sheffield United so we need another holding midfielder. We are supposedly getting Jay Fulton on loan from Swansea, whom I know nothing about. Other than that, perhaps cover for right back as Nathan Byrne has played every minute of every game so far, and much clutching of rosary beads to pray that we don’t get any large bids coming in for any of our players.

If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
Perhaps an obvious one but I always thought Javier Hernandez was brilliant in his United days, even though he barely got game time, he’d always come on and sniff out a goal. You might disagree having seen him play more recently, but he seems just such a natural finisher. Perhaps give him twenty minutes if Grigg is tiring. If we’re being realistic, I’ve heard good things about Reece Oxford if you’re looking to loan someone out but our two centre halves, Dan Burn and Chey Dunkley are sh*t hot at the minute. I’m sure it’ll change if we go up and start losing every week again but – yes, I guess I’m saying that we’re that good right now, we don’t need any of your players!

Which Wigan player(s) will be key to your hopes this season?
Nick Powell is the one player that we need to keep hold of in January and keep fit as he is the very definition of an enigma. He strolls his way through games but he has moments which simply have no place in League One. After an injury fit few years and a dubious off field reputation, the hope is that he is just enjoying his football again in a slightly lower pressure environment to rebuild his reputation. The vultures are circling though, or at least the transfer gossip merchants are, which I’m not sure is the same thing.

How do you expect Wigan to setup against West Ham on Saturday/Team/formation prediction?
Paul Cook is a stickler for a 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders who will probably be Sam Morsy and either Max Power or David Perkins. The front 4 are all sharing the goals at the minute with Will Grigg as the focal point of the team. He never rotates the team, certainly not in the league. He might tweak one or two for this game but not so much that it will weaken us.

Prediction for score?
I’ll go 1-1 and a replay which we’ll probably lose. I think there’s plenty of us who’d be happy with that as we want to tick your new ground off. It’ll take some arranging with work on my part but we’ll see.
I know we’ve had an interesting rivalry in the past but as I say to most away fans – have a great day, we pride ourselves on our hospitality in Wigan and hope you enjoy our great pubs and superb pies, and try and pick up a Mudhutter fanzine if you can as well!

Many thanks to Martin for his very full answers and for his interesting thoughts about the state of the game. You can also read more of his musings on football including articles and podcast at “the pie at night”: http://www.pieatnight.co.uk
He has obviously not been very much impressed by us this season! I think we will get through although it won’t be easy. 0 – 1 to West Ham COYI.

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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Wigan v West Ham

Blast from the past

West Ham United have met Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup on two previous occasions. The most recent of these meetings was in the third round at the JJB Stadium in front of 11,793 on the 3rd January 2004. ‘Mad World’ by Michael Andrews feat. Gary Jules was number one and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King topped the UK box office as the Hammers emerged victorious against the Latics with a 2-1 win.

The game between the two First Division sides was locked in stalemate until the 80th minute when Neil Mellor sent the rampaging Hayden Mullins (pictured below) clean through on goal, the 24-year-old midfielder finishing calmly beyond Wigan ‘keeper John Filan to net the first of his seven West Ham United goals. The Hammers doubled their lead five minutes later when 26-year-old future Wigan striker David Connolly chased a long ball down the left wing and cut inside several defenders before finally finding the angle from which to fire past Filan – it was his ninth goal of the season but his first since Alan Pardew had taken over eleven weeks previously. The Irons were denied a clean sheet in the last minute when left-back Wayne Quinn inexplicably turned a Jason De Vos centre high into his own net.

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The Hammers progressed to the fourth round, where they beat top flight Wolves 3-1 at Molineux, but would be knocked out by Premier League Fulham in a 3-0 fifth round replay defeat at the Boleyn after the first game had ended goalless at Loftus Road, Fulham’s temporary home while Craven Cottage was being redeveloped. The goals from the third round win at Wigan can be viewed in my video below.

Wigan Athletic: John Filan, Nicky Eaden, Jason De Vos, Ian Breckin, Leighton Baines (Matt Jackson), Paul Mitchell, Jimmy Bullard, Lee McCulloch, Nathan Ellington, Neil Roberts, Gary Teale.

West Ham United: David James, Robbie Stockdale, Tomas Repka (Christian Dailly), Ian Pearce, Wayne Quinn, Michael Carrick, Hayden Mullins, Kevin Horlock (Don Hutchison), Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood (Neil Mellor), David Connolly.

Aside from this third round victory in 2004, West Ham’s remaining FA Cup record against Wigan Athletic is as follows:

1984 – West Ham 1-0 Wigan (3rd round)

Club Connections

Jack Collison spent most of his playing career with the Hammers but had a loan spell at Wigan – he is now manager of West Ham United’s Under-16s. Marcus Browne and Reece Burke are current Hammers who have spent loan spells at Wigan. Other players to have appeared for both clubs include:

Goalkeepers: Jussi Jaaskelainen, Roy Carroll.

Defenders: Kyle Knoyle, David Unsworth, Mark Bowen.

Midfielders: Mohamed Diame, Peter Cowper, Victor Moses, Mark Ward.

Strikers: Svetoslav Todorov, Neil Mellor, Mike Newell, David Connolly, Mido, Nicky Maynard.

Former Hammers defender Malky Mackay went on to manage Wigan.

Today’s focus though is on a Senegalese international striker who had a loan spell with the Hammers from Wigan. Henri Camara was born on 10th May 1977 in Dakar, Senegal to a Guinean father and a Senegalese mother. He began his career in France with Strasbourg in 1998 before moving to Swiss club Neuchatel Xamax in 1999. He was on the move again in 2000, this time to Grasshopper Zurich, with whom he won the Swiss Championship in 2001. He then returned to France with Sedan but the club were relegated in 2003. He scored two goals for Senegal at the 2002 World Cup in his country’s run to the quarter-finals, both against Sweden in the second round match – he was also part of Senegal’s 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008 Africa Cup of Nations squads. He has won 99 caps for his country, scoring 29 goals.

He moved to England in the summer of 2003, signing for Wolves who were newly-promoted to the Premier League. Unwilling to play in the Championship when Wolves were relegated at the end of the season, Camara went to Celtic on loan for the first half of the 2004/05 season and spent the second half on loan at Southampton where he, once again, experienced relegation.

Camara made a permanent move to Paul Jewell’s Wigan for £3m in the summer of 2005, the Latics having just been promoted to the top flight. He scored twelve goals in 29 Premier League matches in his first season with the club, forging a productive partnership with Jason Roberts and earning a contract extension at the end of the campaign – Camara is pictured below scoring against West Ham in a 2-0 Wigan win at Upton Park in December 2005. He scored six goals in 23 appearances the following season as Wigan struggled to repeat the success of their first season in the top tier and only avoided relegation on the final day of the campaign.

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Camara found himself out of favour following Jewell’s resignation and he was loaned to Alan Curbishley’s West Ham for the 2007/08 season. He made his Hammers debut as a substitute in a 3-1 defeat at Newcastle on 23rd September 2007 and made his first start the following week in a 1-0 home loss to Arsenal, the only game in which he completed 90 minutes in claret and blue. He made two further starts for the Hammers, in a 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa on 6th October and in a 2-1 win at Middlesbrough on 22nd December. He made ten appearances for the Irons in total, without scoring – his last match for the club being a 1-1 home draw with Birmingham on 9th February 2008.

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Camara returned to Wigan for the 2008/09 season making 17 appearances under Steve Bruce and scoring two goals before moving to Stoke on loan in February 2009. He was released by Wigan at the end of his contract in the summer of 2009 – he had scored 24 goals in 77 games for the Latics. Camara signed for Championship side Sheffield United in October 2009 but moved to Greece at the end of the season, joining Atromitos. He moved to Panetolikos in the summer of 2011 and spent three years with the club. He joined Kalloni in May 2014 before moving to Lamia in February 2015. Camara returned to Panetolikos six months later but was on the move again, to Apollon Smyrni, in January 2016. He signed for Ionikos later that year. Now 40, Camara currently plays for Fostiras in the Greek third tier.

Referee

The referee on Saturday will be Christopher Kavanagh. The Manchester-born official has never refereed the Hammers before but has taken charge of nine top flight matches this season. He has been the man in the middle for 19 matches in total so far in 2017/18, issuing 61 yellow cards and one red card, and awarding one penalty.

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Possible line-ups

It was only five years ago that Wigan won the FA Cup. They have never beaten West Ham United in the competition however. The Latics beat Crawley 2-1 in the first round, Fylde 3-2 in a second round replay and Bournemouth 3-0 in a third round replay to reach this fourth round tie with the Hammers. Wigan have signed Jay Fulton on loan from Swansea and the Welsh club have granted permission for the midfielder to play against the Irons. The club were relegated to League One last season – 50-year-old manager Paul Cook took over nearly eight months ago and has previously won the League Two title with Chesterfield (in 2014) and Portsmouth (last season). Wigan are currently five points clear at the top of League One and boast the best defensive record in the country. The Latics have lost just one of 17 home matches in the league, FA Cup and League Cup this season. They last conceded at home on 12th December, when they beat Fylde 3-2.

West Ham United have Winston Reid, Edimilson Fernandes, Manuel Lanzini, Marko Arnautovic, Diafra Sakho and Andy Carroll on the injury list. Jose Fonte and Michail Antonio are back in training but will not be considered for this match at the DW Stadium. Aaron Cresswell and Andre Ayew should be fit enough to make the squad. Only two of the Hammers’ 21 meetings with Wigan in all competitions have ended in a draw.

Possible Wigan Athletic XI: Jones; Power, Dunkley, Bruce, Elder; Morsy, Fulton; Massey, Roberts, Walker; Grigg.

Possible West Ham United XI: Hart; Byram, Burke, Ogbonna, Rice, Masuaku; Obiang, Cullen; Ayew; Martinez, Chicharito.

Enjoy the game – Up the Hammers!

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The GoatyGav Column

Merits of developing Plans B, C, D...

In recent years West Ham have been all too predictable. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a ‘best formation’ article which went in to a little detail about ‘Identity’. Whilst I wouldn’t say that West Ham have had any particularly identifiable style of play other than ‘direct’, I suppose, it appears to me that we’ve been pretty easy for opposition to, at least, suss out if not counter.

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Whatever this one dimensional approach has been down to I genuinely believe that a key contributor has been a genuine lack ideas. The team simply hasn’t undergone any notable experimentation with systems. When substitutions have been made during games it’s generally been on a like for like basis. There has been a long period of time when West Ham United have been far too predictable and easily found out. So maybe there is some merit in the owners changing the manager every three years after all. Not that I agree, as the key to lasting success has been proven to be stability for mid-tier Premier League teams over the last few decades.

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With all this in mind I found it incredibly refreshing, for a period of twenty five minutes, last time out against Bournemouth. For a period of time I wasn’t sure if I was really watching West Ham. After a pinch and and quick visual RGB check of known colours of recognisable objects I was reassured. Yes – this was our West Ham that was pressing high up the pitch and regaining possession quickly. It was the self same Hammers passing and moving with speed, intelligence and precision. I’m not sure if Eddie Howe and/or his players went through the same uncertainty as I did. Frankly I wouldn’t have blamed them for asking “Who are you and what have you done with the real West Ham?” Should they have done so they would have been reassured to see a return to type around about 3.30. Albeit a gradual transformation, or transmutation, by half time the team were more recognisable as the one we’ve come to know.

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I really don’t want the above paragraph to come across too negatively as I’m of a firm belief we would have seen a continuation of the dominant and high tempo football should the team’s much warranted advantage been rewarded with a goal. Sadly the “what do we have to do to score?” and “can we keep this up without reward?” questions seemed to erode confidence. It certainly seemed that way as Bournemouth appeared to grow and we shrank back in to our shells.

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Apart from the, Premier League point keeping us in eleventh place, outcome I wonder if there is now a belief that we can play a different way. Sports psychologists will tell you that fear is the biggest inhibitor of performance. Bravery in belief will get you a long way in life and I’d really like to see the team believe that they are capable of more exciting, attacking football like we saw last Saturday. I want opposition teams to be asking “Which West Ham team are we going to play today?” Ok – so I don’t expect us to out-pass Manchester City but there are plenty of potential victims in and around our league position that we could play that kind of game against.

So within a very short period of time we’re already seeing something from David Moyes that we didn’t really see from Slaven or Mr Allardyce. A tangible ‘Plan B’. A real alternative style. He’s only sixteen games in to his time at the tiller of the club so I’m hugely encouraged and, as I’ve alluded to above, surprised to see such a radically alternative approach to play on display so early on. How long might it be until we see a deliberate change of style mid game? The amount of points on the board, as well as this confident adoption of an alternative style, are contributing to DM being on the road to finding his mojo IMO. More work to do, for sure, when it comes to a defensively strong shape whilst closing opposition down high up, as the gaps that appeared would suggest, but encouraging signs all the same.

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Looking forward I’m hopeful the run continues and the confidence keeps growing. Recent injuries are going to have an effect but I’m gaining faith in the gaffer’s ability to get the most out of players. It’s been a very long time since we can say we’ve seen a West Ham side playing with swagger. Are those days returning?

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!

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The Blind Hammer Column

Should We Shell Out for Shelvey?

Blind Hammer looks at the case for meeting Shelvey’s wage demands.

West Ham are down to the bare bones in our creative midfield. This crisis has arisen at a critical season defining period. The familiar injury blight which routinely afflicts our squad has returned with a vengeance. The offensive threat of Manu Lanzini and Marko Arnautovi? are reportedly missing for at least a month and possibly longer. Past Hammer of the Year Antonio has been a shadow of his former self. The risk is that he will be rush back for the Palace game and will in turn break down again. The plan B of the long ball to Andy Carroll, bypassing the need for midfield development is in turn precluded by his potentially seasoning ending injury. Sakho also has the injury blight and no interest in playing. Hernandez shows no evidence he can function in a team which relies on direct play. He, more than any, requires creativity to feed him. Ayew is constantly linked with moves away; suggesting Moyes does not see him as a long term option.

Moyes has all Window insisted he will hold his nerve with what he has got but these pressures are likely to force even his cautious approach to crack. With the ridiculously compressed lower half of the table West Ham, like half the league, are only 2 bad results away from plunging back into the relegation mire.

We have far too little squad depth in the number 10 role. The lack of this cover and the extensive minutes that Lanzini was forced to play in both cup and League meant that injury was pretty much inevitable. It also meant that for some time now Lanzini has had no pressure for his place in the team.

Additional midfield creativity is needed then not just for cover but for competition in the squad. In this role various names have arisen. Wilshire’s recovery of form at Arsenal seems to have cemented his future there, rather than at the London Stadium. Samir Nasri ticks all the boxes of experience as a proven previous Premier League performer. Yet there is no evidence that he is currently pulling up any trees for Antalyaspor. Rather, although only 30, he seems a player drifting to the end of his career, a player with his best days very much behind him. We need a faded star whose legs have gone, remember Álvaro Arbeloa, like we need a hole in the head.

So that inevitably brings us to a consideration of Newcastle United’s midfielder Jonjo Shelvey. Shelvey has been consistently linked with a move to West Ham throughout the Window. On the face of it there is much to recommend such a move. Newcastle apparently needs to sell to fund further recruitment. Shelvey is in the right age bracket, 5 years younger than Nasri at 25 with his best years ahead of him. On the other hand, since he joined Newcastle two years ago, he has been an inconsistent performer, despite impressing on his debut against West Ham. The main question mark hangs over his disciplinary record. He has picked up two red cards this season. On the other hand he has earned praise for his long-range shooting and his ability to pick out passes. These prize and rare attributes gained Shelvey England recognition. Why then would Newcastle release such a talent? The fact is that for whatever reason Shelvey is not delivering. He has yet to register a goal or an assist this season.

Despite these drawbacks my instinct is that Shelvey could be a good fit for West Ham. We are unlikely to attract a world class number 10 even if we could afford the staggering transfer fee which would accompany such a move. Shelvey would most fit the profile of affordability, potential talent and proven experience. As a bonus as a childhood Hammer supporter Shelvey is allegedly also keen on the move.

There is undoubtedly some attitudinal and disciplinary baggage. With our current management setup, this does not over concern me. Moyes has already shown that he can manage big and allegedly difficult personalities like Arnautovic. No matter how big a personality Shelvey may consider himself, I doubt that he will over awe characters like Moyes or Pearce.

So why have we not sealed a deal? According to reports West Ham, whilst keen, are balking at Shelvey’s £90,000-a-week wages. It is not clear as to whether these are demands or simply match what he is currently on.

If Shelvey was recruited on these wages he would immediately catapult into the highest wage bracket at the club. Most damagingly he would almost certainly exceed the wages currently paid to Lanzini.

I can understand Sullivan’s reluctance to disturb wage structures. Already West Ham appear willing to pay over the odds. Any potential move away from West Ham for Ayew is likely to flounder because clubs cannot, apparently, afford his wages. Even defenders like Fonte are reportedly on wages of £65,000 a week, making moves away unlikely. This is no small issue. One of the structural problems which eventually led to Aston Villa’s relegation was the ridiculous and unwieldy wage burden which eventually crippled the club.

However west ham also require some realism in their wage structure. If Shelvey’s wages do indeed dwarf Lanzini’s this will need to be rectified anyway. If not then Lanzini will feel the need to move on. The fact is that West Ham are paying 2 of their highest wages to Hernandez, and Hart, over £100,000 a week, both of whom can best be described as average performers. It is likely that at least hart, and probably Hernandez will be released from the wage bill in the summer. The alleged £85,000 that the perennially unfit Carroll is supposed to pull in a week, places the £90,000 for a fit young developing creative midfielder of international pedigree in context.

Shelvey could provide an important element to the club. He would provide not just competition but support to Lanzini. If either is struggling to master play then either could be relieved from the bench. In the event we are having to chase a game then both could be thrown on to a do or die effort to break down a defence. With these options it would be much harder for teams to simply target Arnautovi? for rough treatment to eliminate the West Ham threat. My view is that the Board should make this happen, even if the result is a renegotiation for Lanzini.

COYI
David Griffith


Tony Hanna's Musings

How did we become Hammers?

When I was about five my mum and the five kids moved from our council house on the Debden estate into my new step dads house in Loughton. From here on I will refer to my step dad as dad, because that was what he was to me. A year earlier I had started primary school at four, I actually did year one twice, mainly because my mum needed to get out and work. Single mum with five kids and all that. So the move to Loughton saw me change schools as there was one just around the corner from our new home. I guess what you never know about you never miss, so when this new school didn’t have a football pitch and no school football team it didn’t have any effect on me. My dad and my brothers had no interest in football and at the time I didn’t know what I was missing.

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So when I was eight my dad decided it would be a good idea for us all to become Catholic. It had nothing to do with the fact he and a few of his mates had found the best little private bar in town with the cheapest pints – all owned and run by the Catholic church. Get on the roster for unpaid bar work and you could even close the doors at 11pm and have an extra pint or two. So Tone, you are changing schools now, to the local Catholic one back on the Debden Estate. Much better to have a three mile journey to school than a 200 yard walk if it gets you closer to God. On my first day I made three friends that shared my youth for the next decade. Trouble was, at school breaks all they wanted to do was kick this bloody round ball about – and talk about Tottenham and Orient! I started playing myself a year later and whilst it was a latish introduction to the sport before long I was a regular in the school team and playing every minute of the day I could. My story about becoming a West Ham fan has no deep roots to the area or the brain washing effect parents or family can have on you – affectionately called DNA. In fact I don’t actually remember the point at which I started to make West Ham my team. I started watching Match of the Day and the Big Match and can only assume they chose me and not the other way around. What I do remember though was on the evening we won the Cup in 1964 my dad had taken my mum up the East End for a night out. The next day all they could talk about was how West Ham fans were singing and dancing in the pubs and streets and those stories may have swayed me towards the Hammers. As I grew older the draw of wanting to go to Upton Park was growing stronger.

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In 1967 I was eleven and my mum and dad worked a day job and an evening job and my dad also worked Saturday mornings so getting someone to take me was a bit of an ask. My constant nagging for dad to take me to a West Ham game finally paid off when one morning he said to me; “get your hat and coat Tone, we are off to watch the Hammers”. The level of excitement and anticipation was something I don’t think I had ever experienced before but an hour later my whole demeanour had changed. Arriving at Upton Park at 2.50pm for a 3 o’clock kick off against Liverpool was only going to end one way. Locked out. Some weeks later he took me again, much earlier this time and we beat Burnley 3-2. I was hooked for life from that day on but if I wanted this new West Ham drug to live on I would have to find a way to go every second week without my dad. There was only one option open to me –get alibi’s, lie to my parents and go on my own. That is why the local priest must have got fed up with me real quick. What sins would you like to confess my son he would say each week as I knelt on the other side of the confessional box. “Forgive me but I have lied to my parents, Father”. I didn’t go into all the stories I told about how I was going with friends and their parents or similar, but he must have been shaking his head each week because I was not changing my habits. Anyway, reciting five Hail Mary’s and one Lord’s prayer in order for forgiveness was one of the best business deals I ever struck.

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Money was now the problem. There was no pocket money so I started collecting Littlewoods Pools every Thursday night to pay for my new addiction. Rain, hail or snow the coupons had to be collected but it paid ten bob and that was exactly what the match day fare, kids North Bank admission, program and a bag of monkey nuts cost! Providing my alibi’s didn’t let me down I was cooking with gas! In those days, down the front of the North Bank there were so many other kids doing the same as me. The singing and chanting that usually started about 90 minutes before kick-off was like a fix feeding the habit. As we all got a bit older and taller there was a gradual move from the front to the back of the stand and away games came into the equation. Fast forward 51 years and now it is West Ham till I die. Talking of which. My dad only took me the once and I watched from his shoulders. He passed away in 1996. My first WHTID get together a few years ago included staying overnight at the West Ham hotel – the revamped corporate boxes in the West Stand. When my wife and I went back to our room that night I opened the curtains to look over the pitch which still had floodlights shining on it. I was disappointed that our room was not more central until I realised it was virtually in the exact same spot my dad and I had stood for that match against Burnley in 1967. Emotions were hard to hold back – especially as the game we had seen earlier that day was against –you guessed it – Burnley. That was the last match I was to attend at the old ground.

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That is my story of how West Ham became my team, my passion. How about you? How did you become a Hammer? It would be great to hear your stories too. Thanks to Dazthehammer for inspiring me to make this the topic of the day.

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