Match Report

Love is Blind –the Blind Hammer Report

Blind Hammer reflects on the Chelsea wind and what we are learning about our Manager

It has felt like a long time since I could honestly say that I have loved attending Upton Park. Like Kevin Keegan I thought I would just love it if we beat Chelsea.

A lot of this “feel good” factor is obviously due to the influence of Payet who is increasingly acting as the team maestro. Yet just as important is Bilic’s game organisation. Under Bilic’s reign it is clear to see, even for a blind supporter, that the good times are arriving back in a hurry.

As the weeks go by we are learning more and more about Bilic. His team selection is based on genuine meritocracy. Despite the serious money invested in Obonna, Collins was rewarded with his place against the Champions, Chelsea, for his Palace performance. Similarly Zarate was given a starting role despite the presence of a £12 million signing in Valencia hovering in the wings. Both Zarate and Collins rewarded Bilic’s faith with solid performances.

The predictable pundit view before the game was that West Ham are a one dimensional team set up to exploit teams away from home but who do not have the equipment to win at home. I did not see any pundit predicting anything but a Chelsea win.

The reality is that in this game West Ham proved that they are anything but one dimensional. Having dominated the midfield against Chelsea in the first half by playing narrow, denying space and pressurizing the ball, Chelsea’s array of midfield talent were more difficult to deal with in the second half. This is not, in itself, too surprising. Chelsea has invested eye watering sums in amassing a galaxy of highly paid stars. Costa by himself equates to the total of all West Ham’s transfer spends in the last 2 summers. It would be an extraordinary thing is any team could completely suppress the resources Chelsea can draw upon for 90 minutes. They will inevitably find a way to dominate for sections of the game.

What is important is not an unrealistic expectation that we will dominate for 90 minutes, even if Chelsea are down to 10 men, what is important is how our Manager reacts strategically to this challenge.

Bilic changed not just personnel but style. After Carroll came on I heard a definite change in the pattern of play. I repeatedly heard Payet and others feeding the ball out wide, to Cresswell in particular, whilst in the first half they were more frequently slipping in forward passes to Sacko. The result was that Chelsea had to suddenly respond to a completely different challenge.

My brother has pointed out that one of our former players, Rio Ferdinand, commented this week on the effectiveness of Wenger’s tactics at Arsenal by substituting Theo Walcott with Oliver Giroud. Ferdinand said, with feeling, that it is a nightmare for a defender to spend 65 minutes executing a game plan against a forward like Walcott only then to have to completely change their game to deal with a forward with radically different strengths like Giroud. Walcott is all about slippery pace and shots on the run whilst Giroud provides power in the air and instant shots without backlift.

This was the strategy Bilic unleashed against Chelsea. Cahill and Terry, already with their hands full coping with Sacko, now found that they had to react to the entirely different challenge of Carroll. The first few crosses from out wide came to naught but Bilic persevered, standing on the touch line with his arms spread wide to reinforce the point. Eventually Cresswell missed the first defender and Carroll was able to send us all into ecstasy by demolishing the composure of both Cahill and Terry with his towering presence in the penalty area.

Now a trivia Quiz, what have Liverpool’s Coutino, Sunderland’s Lens, Palace’s Gale and Chelsea’s Matic all have in common? The answer is of course that they have all been sent off against West Ham this season. Coutino started the trend with his challenge against Noble in the famous Anfield win. Lens reinforced this with his clattering of Winston Read at Sunderland, whilst Dwight Gale lunged firstly on Dimitri Payet and then Cheikhou Kouyate. Yesterday Matic joined the club after firstly fouling Zarate and then cynically bringing down Diafra Sakho. What unites all these dismissals is that they are achieved after the West Ham midfield starts to wear down and frustrate their opponents.

The media’s portrayal of Matic’s sending off as a “self-destruct” blunder by Chelsea completely fails to see this pattern of mistakes that the West Ham midfield is forcing from of our opponents.

Last week I dismissed claims that Palace was unlucky to have only 10 men against us. I also predicted that further players would be sent off when playing against us. I did not expect to be proved correct so quickly but exactly the same rationale applies to the dismissal against Chelsea. Check back to my previous post for the discussion of this and the reasons for it. Suffice to say that it is the style of play which Bilic has introduced which is winning us these numerical advantages and not any weird common impulse by the teams we play to “self-destruct”.

So we continue to learn about not just about this exciting new team but also our Manager. When Bilic was appointed in June I thought that the Davids were taking a gamble. This may have been true at the time but it increasingly looks like it is a gamble that is paying up big time. Whether we can now hit the jackpot will be an interesting journey over the next 6 months or so.

David Griffith


Talking Point

Things we learned after Crystal Palace

Blind Hammer examines what lessons can be learnt from the Palace result.

1. We confirmed that we are a team with players that opponents fear. I am willing to bet now, if I was a betting man, that West Ham will continue to benefit from teams having players sent off for the rest of the season. Alan Pardew moaned that Palace were unlucky to have Gale sent off. Palace was not unlucky nor was West Ham lucky. Just as Sunderland were not unlucky to have Jeremain Lens sent off against us in the previous game. The sending off in both cases had nothing to do with luck but in both circumstances the consequence of the pressure that the West Ham midfield was exerting and the fear of Payet that opposition teams have in particular. Without the pressure our midfield was exerting neither Lens nor Gale would have felt compelled to make the desperate challenges they made. Not since the days of a rampaging Devonshire and gliding Brooking have we placed such dominant game pressure on teams.

2. This change is not just about midfield pressure but also arises from our new style of play. We will continue to win free kicks in matches. The ball playing characteristics of the current team style inevitably draws more challenges and fouls. It is rather less likely that fouls will be awarded if we were relying simply on floated long balls up for Carroll and Sacko to battle for possession. With the floated long ball it is just as likely that Carroll and Sacko will concede rather than win free kicks.

3. We have more than one match changer and match winner. Apart from the obvious talents of Payet, Lanzini is proving a hot potato.

4. We have strength from the bench. The winner on Saturday was born out of interventions from the bench; Mauro Zárate’s made several telling interventions, including his floated cross which allowed Carroll to power over a tiring defence to set up Lanzini’s winner . I cannot recall a time in recent history where West Ham have had the ability to call on players of such match winning calibre from the bench.

5. West Ham continues to defy Mark Lawrenson’s predictions. Yet again he confidently predicted a Palace victory, at heart he is still unable to believe that the results against Arsenal Liverpool and Manchester City were anything but flukes. This has come on top of his patronising so called “fear” that West Ham would be relegated, and his assertion after the Liverpool game that Liverpool had been beaten by a team that “was not very good”.

6. Slaven Bilic was proved right of his critique of Match of the Day. Despite their recent protestations they were yet again wearily predictable by devoting the entire lead front running time on the program once more to Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United. The post-match analysis was almost exclusively concentrated on these “big” teams. . The only surprise is that Crystal Palace versus West Ham managed to squeeze ahead of Chelsea v Aston Villa.

7. James Collins continues to defy people writing him off. In the early stages of the commentary on BBC London Collins was identified as a “slow” weakness at the heart of the West Ham defence. This assessment died away as the match continues.

It is exciting times to be a Hammer. The severe test of Chelsea awaits us on Saturday. A positive result is by no means certain. Yet potentially Bilic may be the grave digger for José Mourinho’s Managerial career at Chelsea in much the same way he did for Steve McClaren whilst Manager of England.

A win against Chelsea would certainly start to make people like Lawrenson sit up and take notice.

COYI

David Griffith

As well as


Match Preview

What we will learn about our squad after Leicester

Blind Hammer speculates on what wee will learn after our clash with the Foxes.

The dust has barely settled after our jubilation over our historic win over Manchester City before our team has to rise to the challenge of Leicester in the Cup.

In recent seasons our squad depth has not allowed us to make serious progress in cup competitions. The notorious reverse against Nottingham Forest in particular cruelly exposed young players to a first team baptism of fire. It has been generally recognised now though that after a successful summer transfer window this squad is, on paper, one of the strongest assembled in the club’s history.

We would generally expect changes for a Cup game only 72 hours after a Premier League clash. It seems particularly inevitable that after the exertions at the Etihad that some players will need to be rested. Specifically our recent talisman Payet needs protection and game management indicates that he should not be over stretched and should be rested or at least put on the bench. My sighted brother told me that Payet was looking exhausted at the end of the game at the weekend. Am still haunted by the memory of the injury to Valencia in the Europa league. It is entirely possible that an over tired Payet could suffer a similar injury fate.

It has been the mark of Champions League teams like Arsenal in the past that in the League Cup they could successfully field an entirely different 11 from their Premier or Champions League team. The operative word here is successful. Arsenal can squad rotate and still reach Cup Finals. Howe far we are able to do this is an early litmus test of our squad depth.

So what are the realistic selection issues.

In goal we can expect Randolph to return, despite Adrian’s heroics at the weekend, as he has done nothing wrong with his deputising over recent weeks. However the shape of the rest of the defence could well indicate how seriously we are taking the Cups this season. Such is the squad depth this season we could, in addition to Randolph, field an entirely changed back four of Joey O’Brien, James Collins, Donal Henry and Stephen Hendrie.

In midfield we have fewer options, given the injuries to Alex Song, Cheikhou Kouyaté, and the continued internal disciplinary non availability of Morgan Amalfitano. In Nevertheless we could, in theory, field a midfield of Rees Oxford holding, with Josh Cullen providing box to box support with Micale Antonio and Martin Samuelson providing creativity on the winds. Such a midfield would be intriguing and inspirational for the future if it came off but would appear to be currently too inexperienced for the challenge of Leicester.

Up front it seems predictable that Andy Carroll will get a run out at some stage, either starting or from the bench. Nikica Jelavic also seems certain to share the match to some extent with Carroll. The rehabilitated Mauro Zárate could complete the forward strength.
So a theoretical change 11 could look like Randolph, O’Brien, Collins, Henry, Hendrie, Oxford, Cullen, Antonio, Samulson, Carroll/ Jelavic and Zárate.

Still I have no expectation that this will in any way resemble the team that Bilic sends out but how far he diverges from these options will give an indication of how committed he is to the Cups this season.

A similar indication will come from his selections on the bench. He could hedge his bets with sending out a comparatively inexperienced team with the insurance of players like Noble, Tomkins, Moses, Payet and Sacko on hand to assist in the event of crisis.

What seems certain is that the team will need to find a way of creating chances without the talismanic Payet. This will be no bad thing as few players nowadays, especially at West Ham, survive an entire season without injury. Unless Lanzini deputises in the Payet role a revised system of playing with a renewed emphasis on wing play targeting a marauding Carroll may be the best method for defeating the Foxes. Another option would be to play Noble in the number 10 role to see if Payet has inspired him to learn new tricks this season. It would be very good if Bilic could pull a rabbit like last season’s Downing out of the hat.

So in one way or another Leicester will be a measuring stick against our progress as a squad, not just in performance but in selection. In some ways it is a shame that this squad could not have had a gentler test with a Championship side in the drawer but that is life. Make no mistake this will be a tough challenge, no matter what squad Leicester put out. If we make it through by winning away for the fourth time in a row this will be a magnificent achievement and will provide even more evidence of progress. If we do not make it the manner of any defeat will be important for extending confidence beyond the first 11 to the entire squad.

COYI

David Griffith.


Match Report

Newcastle - The Blind Hammer Report

Slaven Bilic took a huge step towards consolidating his new look and style West Ham team last night. The topsy turvy nature of his away form and home form, apart from providing emotional trough and peaks, also contained real risks. In recent history Aston Villa were an example of a side who could achieve the occasional extraordinary result away but nevertheless struggle and avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth because they had dreadful home form. Bilic did much to allay any such fears by the nature of this team’s performance.

Bilic’s reading of the home form problem was also proved spot on. Many, including apparently the joint Chairman, David Gold, assumed that he would start with the same side which completed the historic Anfield win. Gold along with many other commentators anticipated that Moses would start on the bench. Bilic’s decision to start Moses was however entirely logical from his analysis of the Anfield win. He said then that West Ham had the players needed to perform away from home, but not the necessary squad depth to enable a system capable of unlocking defences at home.

So Bilic had the toughness and analytical ability to sacrifice the entirely blameless and unlucky Obiang from his team selection, despite the emotions of the momentous Liverpool win. This decision provided rewards throughout 88 minutes of this match. Moses was considered by many to be the Man of the Match. He was a constant outlook for West Ham, stretching and engaging an increasingly demorilised Toon defence for 88 minutes until he departed the pitch to a standing ovation. The highlight of Moses’s performance was of course his barn storming run after 48 minutes, culminating with a shot which thudded off the woodwork for Payet to calmly complete his brace for the night. West Ham has again the guile and pace in their team to exploit teams with speed and aggression. West Ham under Allardyce and before seemed most vulnerable when they were attacking, perhaps at a corner with top teams, especially Arsenal and Chelsea set up to rapidly expose their momentarily depleted defensive resources. Last night West Ham did unto Newcastle what had been in previous seasons done to them. Payet’s second goal arrived only 30 seconds after Newcastle were pressing with a free kick outside the West Ham penalty area.

This squad will be further blessed with counter attacking verve when Valencia hopefully returns to full fitness. In the meantime Moses looks a fine recruit and may be a crucial part of the jig saw in unlocking defences at home.

For Obiang consolation appeared in his 59th minute substitution of Lanzini. Bilic again impressed here as few commentators saw this move as West Ham were playing well but tactically it was spot on to consolidate the team’s position. Obiang went on to provide the stiffening and resolve in midfield to help snuff out any threat Newcastle could mount. For a long time West Ham managers have belatedly reacted to games with their substitutions, normally in response to changes in the opposition Manager strategy. Bilic provided a glimpse of a manager who will instead proactively strategise his team and shape the game.

Despite the withdrawal of Lanzini West Ham still carried a threat. The potency of a counter attacking verve, even at home cannot be under estimated. West Ham’s ability to hit Newcastle on the break instilled fear and ate away at their fragile confidence. Newcastle had their moments, especially after the introduction of Ayoze Perez and actually produced more shots than apparently they had all season. The fact that they did not seem to seriously threaten our victory, despite this being their best attacking performance does not augur particularly well for their long term prospects this season. Apparently McClaren has been rewarded with a transfer spend of over £50 million this summer, far in excess of what was provided to Bilic. In many ways Newcastle and West Ham are in similar stages of rebuilding both with new Managers. On this evidence Bilic has grasped some nettles that McClaren has not. In particular McClaren’s team whilst comfortable in possession do not appear to have assembled enough threat.

Nevertheless the Newcastle rally in the second half meant that West Ham’s defence was tested, which was in a way reassuring. Randolph confirmed the club’s judgment in signing him with a number of fine saves. Arguably he has done nothing wrong and deserves to keep his place against Manchester City, though Newcastle did not threaten him much with aerial crosses. . How Bilic manages the returning availability of Adrian will again provide some insight into his management style. Pleasingly Ogbonna was not the headless chicken we saw against Bournemouth but again appeared a composed and classy defender. His substitution after 42 minutes this time was due to injury rather than ineptitude. Bilic’s choice to replace him was also interesting, rather than replacing like for like with Collins he brought on Jenkinson and moved Tomkins into his preferred central defensive slot. This indicated the pecking order we suspected with Collins the fourth of our centre back options. Jenkinson also had the strength of character to provide a solid performance and proved he had not descended from hero to zero after the Bournemouth debacle.

Above all last night West Ham took, for the first time this season, the lead at home. The goal after 9 minutes steadied the nerves of both the team and the crowd and meant that we were able to cope with periods of sustained Newcastle possession without any erosion of confidence. Payet, the home Stadium Man of the Match, has barely got a mention in this report yet which is to not to deny the guile and creativity of his performance. Ultimately it was his clinical striking which won the match for West Ham and we now seem to be a team which carries threat from all across the pitch. If Payet is kept quiet, we have, as Lanzini proved against Liverpool, other players who can set up and score goals. Ally this to a Sacko who seems to thrive on leading the line from the service he is now receiving West Ham have clearly potential to be a multi-dimensional rather than one dimensional attacking force.

Last night was the first brick in establishing the Boleyn as again a fortress for our final season there. There will be much tougher tests to come but already it seems unlikely that the team as set up last night would have endured the debacle we witnessed against Bournemouth. Football is a confidence game and what we saw last night was a West ham team which could grow into a powerful outfit with increased instilled confidence. Potentially this could be a very exciting season indeed. What remains to be seen is our resilience after adversity. My worries about this stem not so much from the team but our crowd. The Premier League is the most competitive league in the world. Teams like , Swansea and Crystal Palace now have financial resources which dwarf teams like Marseille Ajax and most other European and even global teams. We will go behind again at home this season, not just against teams like Chelsea or Manchester City but even against teams like Watford and Aston Villa. The challenge then is not just for the team but the crowd. We have seen what this team can do with support. On Sunday I heard a Leicester crowd roar their team back from a 2-0 deficit to a stunning 3-2 win. How would our crowd react if we had unluckily gone behind last night, perhaps from a deflected goal and debateable penalty? How would we react to being 2-0 down against Aston Villa? I know we have to have put up with a lot of dross, especially in recent times, but my hope is that one day our crowd can rise to the class of a Leicester crowd and provide the same unstinting support. This season, at home, will be as much a test of the Crowd’s resilience as it is the teams’.

Come on you Irons!

David Griffith


Talking Point

West Ham All Time Fantasy International 11

Blind Hammer uses the International Break to speculate on a West Ham fantasy 11.

In the silly season of the international break I have constructed an all-time fantasy West Ham 11 comprising our most distinguished international players. As most players currently recruited from around the globe are internationals I have confined myself to players from the Home Countries and Ireland. I have also not restricted the caps awarded to time whilst a West Ham player. However I have stipulated that they must at least have played for the West Ham first team. This rule would disqualify the ones that got away like Ray Houghton who was such a star for Liverpool and Ireland.

What I found interesting is that it did not represent, necessarily, the greatest ever West Ham fantasy team. Some of the people included are certainly not crowd favourites. Nevertheless it is an impressive 4-4-2 line up which few teams could beat.

1. Goalkeeper – David James
I rate Phil Parkes as our best ever Goalkeeper, superior to the somewhat error prone “Calamity” James. However Parkes, absurdly only received 1 England cap whilst James amassed a weighty 53. Parkes had to compete in an era though of those great English stoppers Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence.

2. Glen Johnson Right Defence.
Given the paucity of Johnston’s appearances for West Ham it seems odd to have him in this team. Other players come more naturally to mind. Yet John Bond, despite playing 381 games failed to receive a single cap, whilst Ray Stewart received only 10 for Scotland. Stewart who mirrored the playing career of Billy Bonds, started at right back before moving to centre defence and occasional midfield. He at least got international recognition. Despite his reliable rocket shot penalty taking, he was never in Billy Bond’s class. If Billy Bonds had been Scottish he would have amassed over a hundred caps and is a candidate for the best player never to have played for England. Stewart and Bonds are both pushed out of this team though by the 54 caps Johnston won for England. Although only playing a handful of games for West Ham Johnston remains a Hammer and allegedly tried to engineer a move back this summer. He is the first of several of the lost generation we disastrously lost in Roeder’s 2003 relegation fiasco.

3. Stuart Pearce Left Back.
Purely personally I rated Julian Dicks as a better classic left back for West Ham but Dicks only received international caps at Under 21 and B level. The other player with a shout for this position was of course Frank Lampard Senior who received just 2 caps. So Pearce, a reliable player for West Ham, if past his peak, nevertheless is the runaway leader here, amassing 78 caps for England.

4. Paul Ince Midfield
Emotionally I wanted this position to be taken by Scott Parker. Whilst Scott Parker is less of a West Ham legend than Billy Bonds he nevertheless was not just Hammer of the Year but also nationally Footballer of the Year in a relegation season. Arguably Parker should have had a lot more than his 18 caps and would have done so if his West Ham career had not been truncated by Avaram Grant inept relegation. Parker played the best football of his life with West Ham, flourishing under Zola. I wonder what would have happened if the owners had held their nerve with the tactically naïve but inspirational Zola. Zola was undeniably good at individual coaching. Parker and even Carlton Cole improved under him. Would he have learnt his tactical trade? Would we still have been relegated? The whole history of Parker and West Ham could possibly have been very different with a maturing Zola. However Parker’s is a long way from this side. His 18 caps are dwarfed not just by Michael Carrick’s 33 with more to come but Paul Ince’s 53. Carrick is yet another representative of West Ham’s 2003 lost generation. Paul Ince would not be the supporter’s choice for well-known reasons but this is where the stats inexorably lead us.

5. Rio Ferdinand.
Let us be clear it was the need for Redknapp to shore up West Ham, and not Ferdinand’s desire to leave which forced his sale in 2000. I poignantly remember the description of how a disconsolate and unhappy Ferdinand trailed around Chadwell Heath saying his goodbyes before his record transfer to Leeds. Ferdinand was a classy defender in the best West Ham tradition, to went on to gain 81 England caps. Many consider his sale to be a turning point in our history. West Ham became a club who did not produce and play their own great players but instead sold them for the quick buck.

Ferdinand has no serious competitors for his place but Alvin Martin is certainly worthy of mention with his classy defensive displays which earned him 17 caps. In terms of longevity the greatest ever West Ham Centre Back was Ken Brown who between 1953 and 1967 played 386 games for the club. However Brown only managed 1 England Cap in 1959.

6. Bobby Moore – Central Defence
There can be no argument here, not just the best ever West Ham player, but arguably the best ever English player. He blessed West Ham supporters with a famous career, including 108 caps. I was mesmerised when watching him in the 60s, for those who never saw him at his peak, he was extraordinary. He completely dominated the pitch and the game. He was not just the fulcrum of our defence but he was our best passer of the ball and the driver of our midfield. It was like he was playing in two positions. Time after time he provided the killer assist for Geoff Hurst or Martin Peters to slam in goals, but then again you only need to watch a re-run of the 1966 World Cup Final to get a sense of what we were privileged to watch at the Boleyn in those days. Moore’s defence splitting pass to Hurst to run onto to smash in England’s fourth was crafted on the training pitches of Chadwell Heath.

7. Frank Lampard Midfield

Again longer serving midfield players or wingers would normally come to mind when we consider this position. Peter Brabrook (167 matches – 1962 to 1968) was a highly successful winger before Harry Redknapp. However Brabrook only won 3 caps and Redknapp had none. Stuart Downing won over 10 times as many with his 35 caps, most before he came to West Ham. My personal favourite for this position though is Alan Devonshire whose inimitable dribbling tormented defenders throughout the 80s. . Devonshire was on course to become of the West Ham greats before serious injury hampered his career and halted his run of 8 England caps. He was never the same force afterwards. Much the same fate stifled the early promise of lost generation Joe Cole. Who nevertheless managed to gain 56 caps for England. However controversially, Frank Lampard Juniour is the clear winner here. I watched Frank Lampard’s bebut and most of his early games for West Ham. He was a young, obviously talented hard working young man who was trying his best for the side. I personally thought the hostility he received because of his Dad’s position at the club and charges of favouritism was among the most stupid things I have ever heard from my fellow supporters and I have heard some stupid things over the years. I think it is a tragedy that Lampard Juniour did not have as substantial career at West Ham as his Father did. He is another of the lost generation.

8. Martin Peters

A man who was forever a legend for being described by Sir Alf Ramsey in 1968 as “10 years ahead of his time,” Peters was the inventor of the ghosting run from deep to strike with deadly affect in the penalty area. He was also, alongside Hurst the architect of the near post header, a Greenwood innovation with West Ham which revolutionised the science of crossing and chance creation in the penalty area. Peters had surprisingly few caps at 67 but this was a great number in an era before caps were handed out more casually with 6 substitutions in a friendly after half time.

9. Geoff Hurst – Striker
Again, an incontestable entry. Hurst was forever immortalised for his World Cup hat trick but in a West Ham shirt he again revolutionised the game. Possessed of a fearsome rising hard and powerful shot, Hurst was again a menace to any defence in the air, especially at the near post. What really sticks in my mind about watching Geoff Hurst though was his extraordinary ability to control the ball with his chest. This was so good it became a West Ham tactic with Moore often floating the ball to Hurst. Defenders were powerless to reach around him to attack the ball. Hurst’s uncanny ability to hold up the ball resulted in him receiving savage tackles from behind. These tackles were so brutal that he had to wear protection on the backs of his legs to prevent routine serious injury. These assaults would be unthinkable in the modern game and with modern protection Hurst would have been an even more awesome player. Hurst had 49 caps in an era where having a cap meant a lot more. Only Andy Carroll with 8 caps and Dean Ashton with 1 cap have ever approached the power of presence of Hurst in his prime and to be honest they are pretty pale shadows.

10. Jermaine Defoe- Striker.
Emotionally I wanted Tony Cottee to be my number 10 but statistically Defoe has to be the pick. Defoe is another of our 2003 lost generation, who eventually achieved 55 caps. However the fact that Defoe has more caps than Hurst is all the evidence you need that caps in the last 20 years or so have been devalued by the system of multiple international substitutions in friendlies. 19 goals by Defoe against Hurst’s 24 also do not really show the gap in class between the players. Hurst tended to score when it mattered in the teeth of intense tournament football. Still Defoe was a fine player and it is indisputable that his 55 caps actually far outweigh Cottee’s 7 appearances.

11. Trevor Brooking. Midfield.
Here I am afraid I am about to cheat. Brooking with his 47 caps is actually far outweighed by Liam Brady with his 72 for Ireland. However Brooking spent a glorious footballing lifetime with West ham whilst Brady came for a faded couple of years in the twilight of his career. I have one memory of Brady tormenting Arsenal under the lights of the Boleyn, suddenly transformed into the player of old. He culminated this performance with a stunning rasping left foot drive to complete our 3-1 victory. Despite this fond memory these flashes of the old Brady were rare for us and I just could not bring myself to depose this rightful West Ham legend, Brooking, from his place. Brooking to my mind was also the greater player. If Brooking had been Irish he would have amassed more caps than Brady. Brooking frequently lost his place in his early England career, especially under Revie. He had to compete with Tony Currie, Alan Hudson and even Ray Kennedy for his place. Bizarrely he recounts how once Revie dropped him to play Jimmy Greenhoff as a more defensive option. An Irish Brooking would have had, like Brady, no competition for his place and instead had the entire team built around him.

Just a bit of fun for the break. Next time we will analyse the all-time West Ham Psycho 11.

David Griffith


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