The Blind Hammer Column

Feedback Invited On Accessibility

Blind Hammer invites feedback on Accessibility Support at West Ham.

This week will see another meeting of the Disabled Supporters Advisory Board. (DSAB). I sit on this Board to represent and promote the interest of supporters who are blind, visually Impaired and those with hearing impairments. I am, though, like all Board members interested in all aspects of Accessibility. I can try and represent any Accessibility issues raised here.

The DSAB Board provides the club with feedback to improve its services.

Anybody who has positive or negative feedback that they would like me to address can do so by either posting comments below or can email me privately.
To prevent web robots picking up my email address you need to create an email address out of daj.griffith and then add the at gmail.com suffix.

Comments, questions and emails need to reach me by the absolute latest lunchtime on Wednesday 16th January so that I can organise their submission to the Board. Ideally you should send in messages by Tuesday 15th January.

For fuller information about Accessibility at West Ham you can download the West Ham Accessibility Statement from my Sendspace server on https://www.sendspace.com/pro/dl/uuiteb
To contact the West Ham Accessibility Team you should call 0333 030 0174 or email accessibility@westhamunited.co.uk

Below is a sketch of some of the services West Ham provides. Specific details and advice should be confirmed with the Accessibility Team.

Accessing Support
Disabled supporters need to register with the Accessibility Team to receive support. This will normally involve providing some evidence of Impairment. Support is also provided for senior citizens, fans with mobility difficulties or temporary injuries and pregnant mothers.

Tickets
Concessionary Tickets are available for Supporters with qualifying Disability. If there is a need for personal assistance in relation to disability the club will normally provide a complementary free second Carer’s ticket.
Support is also provided for Disabled Supporters through a dedicated Ticket Purchase line.

Accessibility Shuttle Bus Service
18 complimentary Accessibility shuttle buses run from Stratford and Stratford International to and from the Stadium. There is also a service for away supporters. Bus permits are available from the Accessibility Team. A permit would also be issued for a personal assistant if required. This is a popular and heavily used service so some queuing is likely but the service does appear to be continually improving. Chairs are now available on request for supporters who need them in the queue.

Car Parking
The Club has limited provision for car parking at the Stadium. 49 accessible parking spaces including six for away supporters have been reserved. Spaces are allocated seasonally and a waiting list is in place.

Drop-off facility
You should contact the Accessibility team to enquire about a pick-up/drop-off facility using a car or Taxi.

*Seating *
There are 253 wheelchair accessible spaces in the stadium. West ham does not set any upper limit to the number of Ambulant Disabled Supporters they will assist.

*Match day Assistance *
Disabled Supporter Assistants (DSA) are on hand to assist supporters before,
During and after the match. DSAs are identifiable as they wear a high visibility pink stewards Vest.

Audio Commentary Service
A free Audio commentary service organised by the “Insightful Irons” is available to all partially-sighted and blind supporters. You should contact the Accessibility Team in advance of a match day if interested for any particular game. Headsets are now available on season long loan for season ticket holders.

Notes on the DSAB
The Board Membership was established by application in 2017. The composition was independently determined by existing Disabled supporters on the main SAB who act as Joint chair. They have attempted to ensure a wide representation of impairment insights but this will be continually reviewed.

This is a brief summary only. Please contact the Accessibility Team or consult the Accessibility Statement for fuller details. If you have any queries and concerns then do not hesitate to also contact me direct either below by comment or privately by email.

COYI
David Griffith


The Blind Hammer Column

The "Mascot Scandal" - The Guardian Target West Ham Again.

Blind Hammer looks at the latest example of an unpleasant campaign.

The reporting of the so called “Mascot Scandal” demonstrates yet again, the Guardian unpleasant and biased football journalism.

For their own reason, the Guardian have decided that the decision to allow West Ham use of the London Stadium is a national disgrace. Ever since, they have pursued a relentless vendetta.

Routinely they snidely describe West Ham as “Tax Payers United”. This unwarranted smear may have been funny as a one off satirical comment but the constant smearing as West Ham as thieves of national resources is one eyed at best. They have shown surprising silence about the Stadium operators need to control budgets.

The good news story about the move to the London Stadium receives no attention at all. Instead every chance is taken to slur the venue. It has been described by them, completely unfairly, as a “soulless bowl”, Lacking in atmosphere. Whilst the London Stadium is self-evidently not Upton Park it does in fact reportedly create more atmosphere than that at similar Stadiums such as the Emirates and Etihad.

The Guardian gloried in reporting fan unrest when the team were performing poorly. They tried to link performance to the alleged Stadium failings.

Now the team is performing better this narrative is not so convenient.
They have moved to other targets. Their latest attack concerns West Ham alleged greed and avarice for charging fees for Children to appear as Mascots.

The headline of this criticism is all about West Ham, even though West Ham are not the only club, by any means, to charge fees for this.

Now charging parents £700 for their Children to appear as Mascots is undeniably steep. I would never contemplate doing this. However I would also never pay through the nose for a Corporate Box either. The ability to pay for privileged access to Football Stadia is a fact of Premiership life. In reality the description of West Ham as avaricious is completely unfair.

On Saturday West Ham sold an extraordinary 54,887 seats for an FA Cup game against Birmingham. There is no doubt that this gate, starkly distinguished from Spurs recent 30,000 at Wembley, arises not just from loyal West Ham support but also progressive ticketing policy.

For the game against Birmingham I personally paid £16 with the club providing a free seat for my sighted carer and space for my Guide Dog. Tickets were available to the public on general sale for £10. Any adult paying for a seat could bring a child for only £1. A father and son, or Mother and daughter could then attend the game on Saturday for £11.

A key part of West Ham’s bid for the London Stadium was their commitment to provide affordable football. They have delivered on this promise for 3 seasons now. It is still possible to pay for an expensive ticket, as at all grounds, but West Ham have consistently held prices down for other supporters. I still pay £299 for my concessionary Season ticket, a sum identical to that which I paid in my first season at the London Stadium. This ticket is incidentally cheaper than the Season ticket I had at Upton Park.

As reported on this site last week, West Ham ticket revenue has not grown, and remains at a surprisingly low level. . They are selling nearly twice as many tickets now, but at a lower price.

None of this fits the Guardian’s view of West Ham as a greedy avaricious club. As these facts do not fit their desired narrative they instead focus on the fees charged to the tiny number of families using the Mascot facility.

Nothing it seems will be reported which detracts from a view of West ham as a club fleecing not only the Tax payer but their supporters.

There are, in fact, lots of good news stories about West Ham and their supporters. West Ham have a continuing and extending reputation for providing one of the best, if not the best, disabled access in the country. This improvement extends far beyond pre-existing excellent access facilities at the Stadium. For example, as well as providing free in stadium commentary support for blind and visually impaired supporters West Ham organise 18 buses to convey the increasing number of their disabled supporters attending games. West Ham are making it possible for disabled supporters who could never previously attend, to now achieve their ambition. These positives are never reported.

Rich men and women will buy privileged access to their favourite football club. Short of a Social revolution this will continue . The important thing is that affordable access is provided for the rest of us. In this sense we can, despite the Guardian vendetta, be justifiably proud of our club.
COYI
David Griffith.


The Blind Hammer Column

Reflections on Brighton

Blind Hammer reflects on an important comeback.

Pellegrini has got so much right recently it seems impertinent, if not sacrilegious to question his judgements here.

Nevertheless I was concerned as soon as I heard the team against Brighton, in my case just as I was scrambling into my seat seconds before kick-off.

I was surprise that Carroll was partnering Arnautovic up front.

This was Carroll’s first start in a year. He last started against a controversially exhausted West Bromwich Albion, forced to play twice whilst West Ham had enjoyed time off.

Carroll’s crucial 2 goals then probably sealed Pardew’s fate and reinforced West Ham’s climb to relative safety.

Sadly Carroll’s performances this year are not yet reminiscent of his impact in his pomp. There is more of a lumbering John Carew in his latter days now.

Hopefully Carroll’s best days are not past. For now I am more concerned about his impact on the team’s structure.

. Playing as a pivot in front of Arnautovic who took up a number 10 role, he was rarely effective.
He was unable to exert pressure on two of Brighton’s most impressive performers, Duffy and Dunk. West Ham appeared then, geared to play to Brighton’s strengths rather than weaknesses.

More crucially this formation seemed to stifle Arnautovic. The plan was to use Felipe Anderson and Robert Snodgrass on the wings to support Arnautovic in a deeper role.

This not only withdrew Arnautovic from his most menacing role, it also allowed Brighton to unexpectedly dominate large parts of the first half as they outnumbered West Ham in midfield.

By half time I wanted Carroll off, and wanted Noble or possibly Antonio on to provide pressure on Brighton’s midfield dominance.

Whilst Carroll’s withdrawal surprised nobody, I was disappointed with the introduction of Perez.

Perez did nothing to redress our lack of competitiveness in midfield. I could detect no serious contribution from Perez throughout the second half. I felt that Antonio in particular would have relieved the pressure on Anderson much earlier.

Two things are becoming increasingly clear. The first is that Anderson and Rice, despite their encouraging fitness and robustness both now need a rest. If they are to perform against Arsenal they need time to recharge.

The second is that West Ham has an ongoing problem with crosses, both in open play and from set pieces. I have rarely felt more nervous when an opposition team won a corner against us as I did last night. My in stadium commentator predicted Brighton’s breaching of our defence via a corner long before they actually scored. It is a priority for Pellegrini to coach better defence from set pieces.

Pellegrini’s introduction of Noble and Antonio was in the event game transforming. Whilst I was instantly relieved that Antonio and Noble had finally entered the fray, I still felt that either should have replaced Carroll at half time.

Arnautovic, restored at the head of our attack showed how he can be a match saver. It is just a shame he could not be a match winner. Nevertheless Pellegrini deserves credit for reinstating Arnautovic to his most lethal role, and his introduction of Noble and Antonio definitely saved us from defeat.

My feeling though is that his reliance on Carroll in the first half, and Perez in the second half probably allowed Brighton to steal a point.

COYI
David Griffith


The Blind Hammer Column

Anderson Shelter

Blind Hammer reflects how our match winner is protecting us from an injury crisis.

I had low expectations for this game. This pessimism only increased when I heard Hernandez and Zabaleta added to our burgeoining list of absences.

At times this season West Ham has fielded possibly the strongest bench in their history. This could not describe the bench here. Only 6 players were named, including a still apparently unfit Carroll, alongside youngsters Silva and Coventry who have yet to make their Premier League debuts.

Yet despite these disadvantages the brilliance of Anderson allowed us to dig out another valuable 3 point. The pre-match narrative of West Ham reeling from injuries and a damaging home defeat by Watford was confounded.

Anderson was the eventual headline maker. Yet, right from the start, West Ham exceeded expectations on a literally wider front. They subdued a buoyant Southampton on a high after two recent victories.

Antonio and more surprisingly, Captain for the night, Cresswell both threatened from the wings. Cresswell actually set up the clearest chance which resulted in Perez missing a sitter.
Both Anderson and Diangana consistently added to the threat from the wings.

West Ham really should have been ahead at |Half time. We feared ruing missed opportunities. There were danger signs from Southampton’s ability to rake crosses across our box. This eventually delivered dividends when Redmond scrambled a goal. Antonio failure to preserve our offside line marring his otherwise excellent performance.

Yet within 2 minute Anderson showed why Pellegrini was so determined to invest £42 million in him. His thunderbolt transformed the game.

Anderson’s world class skills showed how he can make even a team stretched by horrendous injuries thrive. He is truly providing shelter for the Hammers from their current storm of injuries.

Further evidence of his value was provided by his clinical winner. Yet this is not a one man show. Anderson’s goal was born out of Pellegrini’s coaching transformation.

Southampton alongside Fulham and others have failed to catch up with West Ham’s new counter attacking threat.

Finally opposing teams must now fear a counter attacking riposte from West Ham when they win a corner against us.

Whatever the paucity of Southampton’s defensive organisation West Ham’s winner was born in the hours of coaching Pellegrini has wrought on this squad. A deep sitting defensive back five have been dispatched. Instead we have a pressing, counter attacking pacey outfit. Without this counter attacking coaching and attacking organisation Anderson would not have provided the clinical coup de grace. In this sense Rice is as important as Anderson.

It is beyond doubt that West Ham now have a match winner in Anderson who could potentially punish any team.

Can we dare to dream of cup glory?

COYI
David Griffith,


The Blind Hammer Column

Countering The Press

Blind Hammer looks at how Pellegrini is revolutionising West Ham’s style.

A sub text of our success over Fulham was its demonstration of how increasingly obsolete previous assumptions about West Ham are.

Stuart Pearce, despite being partly responsible for these weaknesses, highlighted these assumptions in his early match analysis for TalkSport.

According to Pearce Fulham’s strategy should rely on pressing West Ham and exploiting deficiencies at full back, especially left back. The weaknesses, according to Pearce, lay in “Zabaleta’s legs” and Masuaku’s defensive vulnerability. Listening to Pearce you could hear why he and Moyes were never happy playing Masuaku’s, and apparently Zabeleta, without the support of Cresswell in a back 3.

Fulham seemed to share this belief. They shifted, arguably their most influential creative influence, tom Cairney, from midfield to the wings in an effort to expose this perceived liability.

You cannot help feeling slightly sorry for Fulham. Khan and his fellow directors appointed Ranieri as a safe pair of hands, drawing on a well of previous Premiership success. Yet this it was previous, now obsolete, experience which ultimately underlied his tactical failure here. Pearce appears not to have caught up with West Ham’s transformation either.

The West Ham vintage of 2018 is evolving into a very different creature from the teams of 2017 and earlier. It is now not so easy to press West Ham without consequence. Pressing West Ham with a deep lying back 5 is one thing. Pressing West Ham now with a high line back 4, even with supposed full back liabilities, is something completely different. Pressing teams will find themselves confronted with a counter press and most crucially a counter attack. We compete far more effectively in midfield with the extra man that 4 at the back release. The arrival of Rice and his added athleticism allied to the incisive play of Anderson has been critical in supporting this transition.

No longer do West Ham rely upon sitting deep, trusting on defensive depth to compress play and provide cover.

The problem with sitting deep was that we lost defensive safety whenever we advanced up the pitch. Ironically we showed vulnerability, not so much when conceding a corner, but when we won a corner. It was then that we were most likely to be involved in a desperate last ditch attempt to prevent a counter attack.

Pellegrini approach is radically different. He revealed on whufc.com how the recruitment of Balbuena was crucial to his plans.

“Fabian Balbuena came from South America, but he played for one of the biggest teams in Brazil, so he is used to playing the way I want to play, with his Back not so covered and with space behind them.”

Balbuena’s low transfer value misled us in the summer. We assumed he was squad cover recruitment, competing alongside Ogbonna and Reid, both of whom were likely to be ahead of him.

It appears now it was Balbuena just as much as Diop who was the essential summer recruit. He is the critical organiser, the general who has led Diop into the team.

Pellegrini’s preference for defenders who are comfortable with “space behind them” also explains why he recruited Fredericks and possibly his persistence with Masuaku. . In such a system pace to provide recovery from loss of possession is essential. Pellegrini wants not a deep but a high defensive line.

Pace is not the sole requirement for a successful back 4. Zabaleta’s has used experience and positional sense to compensate for his perceived lack of pace. His successful return to a back 4 has confounded predictions.

Now West ham are just as likely to conduct a press of their own, but most importantly teams are increasingly fearful of our developing counter attacking prowess. It is quite a while since we have heard the phrase “clinical counter attacking” to describe West ham’s goal threat. Yet this is the new weapons Anderson et al are providing.

Such a strategy is not without risks. We are still reliant on the skills of Fabianski too much for comfortable viewing/listening.

Yet most of us would trade this for the free scoring outfit which our team has suddenly become. Hopefully other teams will be as tardy as Fulham in realising the transformation that is happening.

A Happy Christmas and New year to all West Ham supporters wherever they are across the Globe.
COYI
David Griffith


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