Talking Point

Confidence Trick

Blind Hammer looks at the fragile state of West Ham’s Confidence and argues recruitment is the key.

A recurrent theme in analysing our performances this season is the lack of confidence running through the team. Bilic has spoken openly about the problem, describing us as playing with the “cramps”. David Gold has on several occasions addressed the issue in his Twitter account.

The confidence of the owners in Bilic is draining fast if we are to believe the leaks coming out of the club. Apparently Bilic has the Palace and Middlesbrough games to save his job. Quite how these leaks are supposed to help Bilic or the team mystifies me. I suspect Bilic, a highly intelligent and analytical man, does not need to be told his job is under threat, and leaks of this kind will only increase the level of fear in the squad and reduce any personal confidence Bilic retains. What I do hope is that these leaks about shipping Bilic out are backed by a realistic managerial backup strategy. Suggestions that Benitez will dump Newcastle now to move to us are as much fantasy now as the suggestion we would realistically recruit Klopp. As far as I can see the only realistic emergency Bilic replacement would be Pardew which would be ironic from all sorts of standpoints. I certainly do not think they should be taking a punt on an unproven foreign or Championship manager without Premiership experience. Whether Pardew would organise the squad any more than Bilic is a moot point. If they are genuinely looking at Pardew at an option then he needs to be consulted now about recruitment.

However the owners need to also take a look at themselves in their approval of transfer policy. Recruitment has to be the key now for boosting confidence in the squad. There are all sorts of other strategies for boosting confidence but by far the quickest and most immediate fix is to ship out players with confidence shorn, and bring in more resilient players. In this context releasing players is as important as recruiting appropriate replacements.

There is a complex nest of tangle reasons which may underlie our under-performance this season but it is through the transfer window that we can start to address confidence. Although Bilic is under tactical pressure that he is not responding to, it is fundamentally the deficiencies of the current squad which underlies our current difficulties.

At root our recruitment has failed to keep up with the increased competitiveness of the rest of the Premiership. Many, myself included, tended to assumed that the standard of the Premiership would remain at a similar level. Over the summer we approvingly compared our squad with previous West Ham squads, what we should have done was compare ourselves to other squads developing around the rest of the league. We underestimated the impact of the explosion of TV money.

Having said that, I was very unhappy about the Summer Transfer strategy. I am an ignoramus in terms of scouting football talent but in the Summer, simply based on blind observations of players performing against us I wanted to club to recruit 5 players. For Better or worse these are the players I nominated at the time. Christian Benteke, Loïc Remy, Robbie Brady, and Andros Townsend. I obviously knew we needed a right back, as we still do, but did not have sufficient knowledge of the players available and suitable.

I am convinced that within the West Ham Squad all these players would have been able to thrive, and have been mystified as to how Palace have managed to hoover up most of this talent whilst we have been left struggling with expensive unproven gambles with no Premiership credentials. At the time of writing it appears that Allardyce is moving in for Brady also.

Palace in fact, despite struggling have done much better transfer business, especially as they have realistically bid for and got Remy on loan from Chelsea, whilst we have been making speculative bids for Defoe which is highly unlikely to materialise.

I am now convinced that last summer we should have paid the money for Benteke rather than saving £5 million to take a punt on Zaza, who would have cost £25 million anyway if he had worked out. My backup choice if we really could not afford was Boni.

Now I am not saying any of these players would have set the Premiership alight, but I am reasonably confident that they would have been better than the gambles we invested in and I am sure we would have been in a better position because what all these players would have brought with them was premiership experience and confidence rather than attempting to find their way in an unfamiliar country /league.
So in this Window we, the Board as well as Bilic, need to redress these shortcomings. Unfortunately our stinker of a record over the summer appears to be repeating already. We have already missed out on Remy who has gone to Palace. We are in direct competition with Palace for Premiership survival but appear to be floundering in their wake in achieving the necessary recruitment. The club have apparently identified Snodgrass as recruitment to boost the squad, which is fair enough. He ticks the boxes of a confident experienced player with premiership experience which may enhance the resilience of our squad. However whilst we have place a joke bid for Snodgrass at £3 million, which Hull will obviously ignore, Palace, according to a report I have read have already placed an initial bid of £9million.

Palace appear to be identifying key targets early and bidding realistically whilst we are messing around trying to grad a player on the cheap.

Talking about identifying players early, I am astonished that we are nearly half way through the transfer window and we have failed to bring in a proper right back. The fact that we have conceded numerous points this season because we have not had proper cover at right back is not a recent revelation. We have known this for months. More importantly we are squandering he talents of our most potent attacking player in Antonio. However I am alarmed that we are apparently, according to some reports, looking to re-recruit Jenkinson. We need another player low on confidence like we need a hole in the head.

I am also worried about us allegedly chasing Hogan from Brenford. Again I hope that they know what they are doing but I am reminded that Carlton Cole and even Sam Baldock could effectively score goals in the Championship, but the Premiership is a completely different proposition. If Hogan was being bought for the future to develop and bring into the team then fair enough but they need a proven forward now rather than one for the future. Hogan smacks of half-hearted desperation; he is a gamble at a time when we should not be gambling.

If you are going to panic buy in January it should be a proper panic. I would be banging on Watford’s door for Troy Deaney and putting a serious bid of £30 million in which would tempt them rather than compete with Watford for Hogan’s signature. Deaney may be a poor man’s Andy Carroll but at
Least he would have proven talents to bring to the table.

This is potentially the most important transfer window in the Club’s history. Relegation in the context of the new Stadium would be a crippling blow, and we must not be under any illusions, relegation is likely to be a threat well into the later stages of the season.

So solid, experienced, if unspectacular recruitment needs to be the key in the next 2 weeks. The players we bring in must be evaluated for the content of their character and personality as much as their ability. The emotional and psychological resilience of the squad has to be increased. We cannot keep collapsing like a disappointed toddler every time we go behind in a game.

Reid clearly has to take over the Captain’s responsibilities from Noble, given his apparent inability to hack it now as a premiership midfielder, but more leaders need to be recruited. Arbeloa in a recent interview in the Guardian complained that the atmosphere in the West Ham dressing room was “too nice”. The struggles ahead need experienced, hardnosed hard guys who have been there and done it before.

This window is too important for gambles like Hogan, go for proven premiership experience. We may have to return to keeping it tight and winning ugly. Needs must for this season, it will not be before next season that the full fruits of a confidence recovery and free flowing football will return.

So the pressure is as much, as far as I am concerned, on the Board, for this transfer window. We have to perform the trick of buying in the confidence we need.
COYI

David Griffith


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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Talking Point

Pitch Battle - Is the New Pitch Affecting The Way We Play?

Blind Hammer asks if the below par performance against Hull can be attributed to the new pitch.

By common consent West Ham did not look fit and energetic enough against Hull. Whilst the energy level against Burnley was not great, they dipped alarmingly against bottom of the table Hull and for large sections of the game West Ham were second best. Hull, like West Ham, had played 3 days earlier against Tottenham, but their Wednesday night exertions did not appear to sap anywhere near as much energy out of their game as it did us.

This has led to speculation, not least in the In Stadium commentary service that the pitch must be at least partly to blame for the struggles West Ham are facing in trying to physically compete.

It is not hard to see the logic of this argument. If there is a characteristic of the pitch which is making life difficult for West Ham then having to play on a difficult pitch twice in 4 days is likely to place West Ham at a physical disadvantage in the second game at least. The argument goes that the second team, in this case Hull, will be more refreshed from not having to play on a difficult surface.

So what could this problem be with the new pitch? The most cited difference between our new pitch and the pitch at Upton Park is the increased size.

At Upton Park we had a pitch that was 100 meters long and 64 meters wide. According to West Ham information on the new stadium the new pitch is five metres longer and four metres wider than at Upton Park, giving a new size of 105 by 68metres.

The West Ham website proudly informed us that we therefore have a pitch which is equivalent to that at Arsenal and Manchester United. This is slightly misleading, implying we have infrastructure placing us amongst the elite. Whilst it is completely true we have a pitch size equivalent to that at Arsenal and both Manchester United and City, it is also equivalent to the pitches at Southampton, Sunderland, Swansea, West Bromwich Albion and actually Hull themselves. This does seem to partly explain Hull’s comfort in playing on a pitch size at the London Stadium; they do it every other week.

In fact West Ham must be more used to playing on pitches equivalent to their new stadium than not. In 2012 the Premier League attempted to standardise pitch size to 105 metres by 68 meters. .” (Rule K21). Exceptions were however allowed if physical limitations made it impossible to comply. Tottenham are one of the clubs who are exempted.

However what the existence of this rule means is that any attempt to now amend the size of the pitch at the London Stadium would be illegal. However the fact that this is not, as has been suggested, a “big pitch” but actually a standard size pitch makes it makes it more likely than not that attributing pitch size to West Ham recent difficulties is a red herring.

So if the size is not the issue then perhaps we can look at the surface. There may be slightly more mileage here. The club website has also informed us that the new pitch is the same as that which is used at Wembley. There is no doubt that the pitch at the London Stadium will be subjected to more pressures than that which occurs over a normal premiership season. There are plans for the surface to be used all year around, the Stadium will host athletics events, has already hosted major concerts, and is apparently likely to be a venue for both county and international limited over cricket matches. On top of this the stadium is likely to continue to be the London home of Rugby League International matches.

All this suggests that we need a surface which is unusually hard wearing. Mark Hughes commented after Stoke City had achieved a draw at the London Stadium that his players had found the surface difficult to play on. Wembley has also had the reputation over years of being an energy sapping pitch so there may be some truth that the surface is not conducive to an energetic game in the same way as was possible at Upton Park. It I do not know enough about the technology of the pitch in detail to comment authoritatively but again this seems a little bit of a red herring to me.

If we assume that Mark Hughes comment is correct then a surface which opposing sides find difficult should, over time, become an advantage to West Ham as their players become familiar with its challenges. It is conceivable that if the pitch is generally energy sapping then there might be a consequence such as that we saw against Hull, with certain players liking exhausted and well off the pace, Cresswell in particular appeared to be physically struggling.

As a result we may need to learn to rotate our meagre squad resources more when we are faced with playing twice on this surface in a matter of days.

Finally Bilic himself raised a potential difficulty with the pitch in his interview with Gary Linekar. Bilic’s assessed the difficulty as not a concern with the size of the pitch itself but more on the space surrounding the pitch and the consequent sightlines for players. Bilic suggested that this gave almost an illusory, negative, Psychological impact on the players. He suggested that at Upton Park, a player in his own half could “Visualise” motoring from his own half to get into the opposition penalty area to create damage. He suggested that the difficulty of visualising this in the expanded surroundings of the London Stadium may be sapping the confidence of players who need to go on the lung busting runs from deep.

If Bilic is correct then presumably the only solution for this is to move as much training from Rush Green to the London Stadium as possible. The “psychological” barriers must be broken so that any psychological problems encountered will be suffered by unfamiliar visiting teams more than the home side.

If there are genuine difficulties with the pitch and sightlines then it is likely that this will be kept largely in-house and this is probably correct that this should be so. Visiting sides has quite enough of a boost from capitalising on negative stories about the Stadium already. Any remedial work needs needs to be planned and some difficult negotiations with the Stadium Operators should appear as a result.

My own feeling though is that pitch issues are largely red herrings to understanding this team under-achievement against Hull. As I have argued elsewhere we are facing a tactical challenge which has given us classic second season syndrome, allied to injuries to key players and inept summer recruitment. If we start to get recruitment right in this winter transfer Window then excuses about the pitch should fade and die.

COYI

David Griffith

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Match Report

Pressing Home the Points

Blind Hammer considers the pressures applied by Burnley on West Ham and wonders if Sturridge fits the bill.

First, an apology is due to Iain for not posting for a few weeks. This was due to a variety of health issues too boring to go into here.

More importantly Noble’s scrambled penalty winner against Burnley on Wednesday offered some relief to a beleaguered Manager and Squad. It enable a narrative of dogged resolve against Manchester United in the league and Liverpool in the league to flourish, as against the negative narrative of despair engendered by traumatic reverses against Spurs Arsenal and United in the cup.

In many ways the match against Burnley provided a focused microcosm of the issues which have challenged us this season.

The first was the demonstration, especially in the second half, of the drained confidence, described eloquently by Bilic as “cramping” which has disrupted the pattern of our team play. The importance of this “ugly win” cannot be overstated. A failure against Burnley has increased this negative narrative to a deafening pitch.

Football is, as Bill Shankly observed, a game on a knife edge. It is a game of small margins, a lucky bounce or a gust of wind can make the difference between triumph and despair. A problem with collective self-assurance can be enough for a team to slip onto the brutal side of this knife and suffer demoralising rips in confidence.

So why is the squad shorn of confidence? Injuries to key players and inept summer recruitment are certainly part of the story. However we have also had a bad case of second season syndrome. Current and ex- players claim that we have been “found out” and the suspicion is that the squad know it. Early challenges were established by two of the world’s foremost tacticians, when both Chelsea’s Conte and City’s Guardiola both opted to play an extreme version of the pressing game against us. Other managers have emulated this tactic and a consequent difficult season has ensued. Our poor performances have been characterised by long periods deprived of possession, encamped in our own half, with defenders pressured into making mistakes. Cresswell’s injury and our failure to resolve our right back difficulties exacerbated this problem.

In the first half Burnley provided us with a different challenge. Themselves bereft of confidence away from home, they setup in a style reminiscent of tactics that teams deployed against us last season. They played deep, relying on infrequent breaks, ironically most obviously after we had forced a corner and then lost possession. It was not until the second half that Dyche resorted to the plan many of our opponents had deployed with some success against us.

Burnley’s first half tactics allowed us control with comfortable possession; Payet and Lanzini were just short of applying the incisive pass for a killer finish. Burnley’s defensive depth made shots from distance our most potent threat before Noble’s crucial penalty breakthrough.

However the second half revealed a different picture as Sean Dyche pressed his whole team 30 yards and more up to the half way line. Payet and Lanzini were more constricted in the areas they could manipulate the ball. Payet in particular was targeted with rough tackling and swarming around him every time he took possession. Our forwards were dragged away from attacking positions in their attempt to remain onside. According to my stadium commentator this reached ludicrous extremes when the linesmen deemed Carroll off side, but allowed Burnley to take the subsequent free kick 4 yards into the West Ham half.

West Ham’s attempt to break out of this press was frustrated, as so often this season by cynical early fouling of Payet and Antonio in particular. This allowed the press to safely retreat, conceding free kicks at a safe distance from goal.

A vital advantage in this game, was the presence of Carroll to provide at the very least effective hold up play, even he did not muster a particular goal threat. The ability of Randolph and other defenders to bypass the midfield and locate Carroll with clearances was a central factor in mitigating Burnley’s attempted press. They were also hoisted by their own petard, with their consistent fouling of Payet, Antonio and Carroll in particular. This broke up the game, made it scrappy and difficult for them to sustain pressure for protracted periods.

The Midfield press and offside trap is not of course a new tactic, but over time it has proved one of the most difficult to counter.

One way is to have an energetic midfield genius with pacey dribbling ability and extraordinary energy. I still revel in the memory of Alan Devonshire in his pre-injury pomp running, turning and terrorising defenders, suddenly conscious of the vast gaps behind them. However our most likely candidate for emulating this kind of role, Antonio has been asked to play from too deep a position, with too great reliance on his defensive abilities. A recruitment of a proven quality right back in January could release Antonio to exploit space behind defenders.

But where else do we need to recruit to meet this pressing challenge? It is starkly obvious that we need to recruit a striker. It is with some dismay then that I have heard of the constant rumours linking us to Daniel Sturridge. Quite apart from the fact that we need another injury prone striker like we need a hole in the head, it is my view that Sturridge, whilst a talented player, will offer us little to resolve the challenge of the midfield press. Sturridge is too similar in style to Zaza. It appears that Zaza’s “people” are now saying that they never believed Zaza would flourish at West Ham as apparently he has never successfully played the lone striker role in his life. He has always performed best, as a second striker playing off someone in advanced support. To my mind this description fits Sturridge perfectly. Conceivably Sturridge could flourish as a lone striker in a team of overwhelming midfield talents, playing sparkling football. We are, in contrast, likely to be involved in a scrap to ensure our premiership survival deep into the season.

If we could buy a fitter Andy Carroll this would probably fit our bill perfectly, but there is no point in repeating the summer experience of buying maybe players in January. This winter window may be one of the most important in our club’s history and for me Sturridge is a disaster waiting to happen. The only point in his favour is that he is a proven Premiership performer and this is a yardstick which should guide our business elsewhere in January. If we buy a striker they must be able to hold up play under pressure to help defeat the midfield press, if we buy other attacking players we need some with technique and pace to exploit space behind defenders. My hope is that Ayew will grow into this role though.

On a final positive note, the Burnley match was the first my daughter had attended at the London Stadium. She was impressed by and felt ownership of the ground and facilities and she pointed out to me how many young supporters were in the ground. I was proud of the atmosphere generated for a game against Burnley and realised how the future of our club lies not in the dead hand of those of us looking to the past but in the thousands of young supporters who would not have even got into the limited capacity of Upton Park. These young supporters are creating a new tradition in a new stadium. We must treasure our memories, but it is with this new generation of young supporters that our club can positively grow and thrive in the longer term.

COYI

David Griffith

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Talking Point

No Dogs No Drama

Blind Hammer says Andy Carroll should reject a strategy of using “Killer Dogs” for personal security.

There is no doubt that being the subject of an attempted armed attack is an event that would shake and traumatise most of us. The Sun reported last week that armed men on motorbikes attempted to intercept West Ham’s Andy Carroll in Chigwell, on his way home from training at the Rush Green complex. Carroll described how one of the bikers threatened him with a gun through his Car window. The Sun then reported that Carroll was able to escape these bikers after a high speed pursuit involving other cars in crashes.

The motive for the threat and attempted waylaying of Carroll is not clear, though the Sun reported that Carroll was driving his “£100,000 Mercedes Benz” which I suppose is a possible robbery motive. Kidnapping and bodily harm are even more sinister possibilities. The Mail followed up this story with a report that Carroll has been anxious about threats from Criminal gangs for several months.

An uncharitable view of this incident, which I have heard expressed, is to cynically observe that this is another example of Carroll being involved in another news escapade, alongside difficult news reports of his inappropriate drinking whilst supposedly trying to establish his fitness to return to West Ham as a desperately needed striking option. The argument goes that people who have lurid and disordered life styles can attract the wrong kind of attention. Paul Gascoigne is often cited as perhaps an example of alcohol providing a chaotic descent into mire from which only footballing ineffectiveness can emerge.

There does seem something strange going on. Certainly most of us are not participating in life styles which attract the attention of criminal gangs. Despite this I genuinely felt that this uncharitable cynicism was unfair to Carroll and my instincts were to provide support for what must have been a horrendous ordeal.

My unequivocal support for Carroll has now started to undergo severe strain after news emerged in The Mail of the security measures Carroll is to deploy in response to these threats.

Carroll is to employ a personal bodyguard, which is entirely supportable and understandable. What is more controversial is the report The Mail made in relation to Carroll having so called “Killer Dogs” trained to provide protection.

The Mail reported that Carroll ’bought two £15,000 “fearsome” mastiff dogs over fears he was being targeted by criminal gang months before his attempted carjacking. As he feared for this own and his family’s safety , he ordered two seven and a half stone Cane Corsos mastiff guard dogs are apparently are completing their training and will be delivered soon.

The Mail also reported that the company producing the Guard Dogs described them as “perfectly safe”. Now I am a dog lover. Many of you know I have a lovable, amazing, clever and gentle Guide Dog called Nyle. However the fact I am the owner of this wonderful kind and gentle dog does not make me unaware of the dangers in other dog breeds. I have the advantage of a family with a huge collected knowledge of dogs. My Sister has owned and run a large Kennels for a variety of dog for over 30 years. She has, along with her Husband, bred dogs for a similar time. Her Husband is an acknowledge dog expert and has judged at high profile dog competitions in the UK and abroad.

They will both tell you, as will many other Kennel Owners, that there is no such thing as a “safe” Guard Dog. Dogs which are bread and trained for attack can never be safe dogs. There are loads of example they can recite of dogs which can behave perfectly acceptably for years, then completely unpredictably attack even a stranger or even their own master. When discussing this article with my sister she reminded me of a Kennel User who had both his arm and leg broken after his guard Dog attacked him. This came out of the blue after years of no problems, and almost as disturbingly the dog appeared perfectly normal and calm after the attack. The dog was euthanized but the owner had to spend 3 months in hospital recovering from his injuries.

The clue is in the description “Killer Dogs”. Legislation has been enacted in this country to try and curb the actions of irresponsible owner encouraging dangerous dogs. The maximum penalty for dangerous dog ownership leading to an attack has now been increased to a potential 14 years imprisonment. Specifically the Cane Corsos breed Carroll is recruiting for his family’s protection have been involved with vicious attacks, including the killing of Craig Sytsma, 46, in Michigan in 2014.

Andy Carroll is suffering a disturbed existence at the moment. By recruiting dangerous dogs into his family at this time is in my view an appalling lack of judgement which could come back to haunt him.

Dogs are clever but they are not human, They obey orders most of the time, but sometimes they do not and, as dogs, sometimes have poor understanding and discretion in relation to the safety of themselves and others. With gentle breeds this is manageable. With dangerous dogs it is potentially disastrous. Andy Carroll is embarking on a course which could bring even more disastrous drama into the lives of either his family or other families associating with these dogs.

As a West Ham football supporter I love it when Andy Carroll plays for us. He offers an extent of skill of physicality which can barely be matched across the globe. If he had retained fitness the combination of the extraordinary talents of Payet and Carroll could unlock any football defence on the planet.

It grieves me now with almost a physical pain to realise that perhaps it is in Carroll’s best interest that he now move on to find a more sober, less dramatic life style away from the cauldron that appears to be developing for him in Essex. Whether any other club could pay his wages is a moot point but for all concerned, including Carroll’s family, a fresh start is probably the best course. Carroll desperately requires an environment without drama, where he can get his head down to try and achieve some of his unfulfilled potential in the remaining years of his career. It is with this strategy, rather than the inviting of dangerous dogs into his home, that I feel Carroll should now concentrate.

COYI

David Griffith


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