Talking Point

The Farce That Is The West Ham United Ticket Office

The Ticket Office at West Ham United has made two monumental blunders in the space of a matter of days. The first affected nearly 150 travelling supporters who headed for Old Trafford last Saturday, while the latest error is glaring and affects season-ticket holders who intend to apply for Priority Post tickets for the Stoke away game.

Before I continue, let me inform you of my own personal issues with the Ticket Office over the last ten months. The first error was made in the summer of 2013 when the Ticket Office decided to re-allocate my season ticket seat which I had held for the previous eight seasons, since 2005. My main concern with this re-allocation was that I was not consulted regarding the move at any point. The only way I found out was because my dad tried to book the seat next to me for the opening game of last season against Cardiff, only to find that my seat was available for sale also! I telephoned the Ticket Office and the situation was resolved satisfactorily and I was moved back to my original seat. The lack of communication over the intended change of seat was unacceptable though – I should not have had to find out that the Ticket Office was looking to change my seat through my seat being available for sale.

The second and third errors came with Season Ticket Holder Priority Point Applications for away tickets to Norwich and Liverpool. Both of these applications clearly carried a request for coach travel but coach tickets were not issued. With no coach ticket for Norwich arriving 48 hours before the game, I contacted the Ticket Office and they confirmed a coach ticket had been requested on my form, but had not been allocated by their staff. This situation was replicated days later for my Liverpool application – I had requested a coach ticket but, again, this had been overlooked.

The fourth error occurred in the aftermath of this telephone conversation in attempting to sort out my travel to Norwich and Liverpool. The travel was confirmed and I was charged accordingly. Upon checking my email, however, the travel was again confirmed but at a price for non-members/season-ticket-holders for both games resulting in me being over-charged and having to contact the ticket office on their premium rate number again to get the extra money refunded.

I complained and, to be fair to the club, they offered me a complimentary ticket for the next home Cup match – I guess it wasn’t the club’s fault that this turned out to be the ill-fated semi-final second leg of the Capital One Cup against Manchester City! Their gesture was appreciated nonetheless.

But then the errors made with the coach travel for Norwich and Liverpool were replicated for the Man Utd away game last week. I failed to see why I should have to phone the club, regularly and on a premium rate number, to chase errors, especially when I had already flagged these errors up to the club. An apology was offered, but that was only the beginning of the dissatisfaction regarding the trip to Old Trafford.

Regular coach travellers with West Ham will be aware that trips to Manchester and Liverpool depart at 8am for a 3pm kick-off. The club made the decision that the coach for Old Trafford would depart at 9am, an hour later than usual. Unsurprisingly, this led to the coaches arriving at Manchester United at 2.57pm, seeing 150 Hammers fans having to run straight into the ground with no opportunity to savour the pre-match atmosphere, the stadium in general or to enjoy a pre-match pint or pie. More importantly, we weren’t there to help counter the 70,000-odd Man Utd fans and offer our support to the players during the warm-up and when the teams came out for kick-off.

On the way to the ground, the coaches stopped for their usual 30-minute stop at a services on the M6. We left Corley Services, near Coventry, at 12.10. Even with perfect traffic, this would have seen us arrive at the ground at 2.30 – tensions continued to rise on the coach as kick-off time approached and we were still miles from the ground. The drivers informed us that six hours should be allowed for a journey to Manchester and that the club had made a grave error in timing. I know from my own trips to Manchester that, considering potential difficulties on the M1 and M6, the exact time suggested by the drivers should be allowed, not the four hours (including stops) that the club had allowed to get us there by 2pm.

Some will say “at least you were there for kick-off”. That’s fair enough, but when you pay £34 for a coach ticket (vastly over-priced according to the drivers themselves, which was very interesting in itself) and £47.50 for a match ticket, you expect an away day experience, not just the football.

And now for the Stoke error. The club revealed late on Tuesday 30th September that Priority Post applications for the Stoke game must be received by 5pm on Wednesday 1st October. This is, literally, impossible for fans to post applications and ensure they get to the ground on time. What are they thinking?!

West Ham United have, in my perhaps biased opinion, the greatest away fans in the country. I myself attend the vast majority of away games and find these increasingly regular errors unacceptable for a supposedly upwardly-mobile Premier League outfit. I have complained to the club but the events of this week have led me to write this post in the hope that experiences such as Manchester United and the Stoke application process do not happen again. The Claret and Blue Army deserve much better…


Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Manchester United

Blast from the past

Today’s blast from the past features our biggest post-war league victory at the home of this weekend’s opponents, Manchester United. It arrived on the 27th of November 1976, a 2-0 win at Old Trafford in front of 55,366 spectators.

The Hammers went into the game on the back of eight defeats out of nine games and sitting bottom of the First Division table. Anton Otulakowski made his debut one month after joining the club from Barnsley – the delay arising due to the player’s need to see out a month’s notice with the gas board! Goals from Billy Jennings (pictured) and Trevor Brooking gave the Irons one of only two away triumphs that season and began a recovery which would eventually see the club finish two points clear of the drop in 17th position. Manchester United would finish in sixth place, while Tottenham finished bottom and were relegated!

Manchester United: Alex Stepney, Alex Forsyth, Stewart Houston, Brian Greenhoff, Arthur Albiston, Gerry Daly, Steve Coppell, Sammy McIlroy, Gordon Hill, Stuart Pearson, Jimmy Greenhoff.

West Ham United: Mervyn Day, Billy Bonds, Tommy Taylor, Kevin Lock, Frank Lampard, Geoff Pike, Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire, Anton Otulakowski, Bryan Robson, Billy Jennings.

Club Connections

A largely impressive list of players have turned out for both West Ham United and Manchester United over the years. These include Noel Cantwell, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Paul Ince, Billy Grassam, Ravel Morrison, Stuart Pearson, Les Sealey, Ralph Milne, Jonathan Spector, Teddy Sheringham, Luke Chadwick and Carlos Tevez. In addition, Dave Sexton and Frank O’Farrell both played for the Hammers before going on to manage the Red Devils.

Today’s focus though follows on from Brian Williams’ excellent article on custodians earlier this week by looking at a goalkeeper who has donned the gloves and played in front of his home supporters at both the Stretford End and the Bobby Moore Stand – Roy Carroll.

Carroll started his career at Hull before moving on to Wigan. After 135 appearances for the Latics, he was signed by Premier League champions Manchester United for £2.5m in the summer of 2001. Carroll competed with Fabien Barthez (“taxi!”) and then Tim Howard for a place between the sticks at Old Trafford, making 72 appearances for the club in all competitions. Carroll won one Premier League title and one FA Cup during his time with the Red Devils but is perhaps mostly remembered for two high-profile blunders in the space of two months in early 2005. First, he spilled a last-minute up-and-under by Tottenham’s Pedro Mendes over his own goal-line but the error was not punished due to an errant linesman. Carroll was then responsible for Hernan Crespo’s winning goal for AC Milan in the 78th minute of the first leg in the Champions League last 16 tie at Old Trafford, after failing to hold a routine strike by Clarence Seedorf. United went on to exit the competition 2-0 on aggregate following the away leg in the San Siro.

Three months later, Carroll was released on a free transfer and snapped up by newly-promoted West Ham United. He struggled with a back injury during his first season, with Shaka Hislop replacing the Ulsterman. Carroll endured a difficult second season at Upton Park, struggling with alcohol and gambling problems coupled with the arrival of Robert Green from Norwich. Having made 35 appearances for the Hammers in all competitions, Carroll departed for Glasgow Rangers on a free transfer in July 2007.

Carroll, who turns 37 next Tuesday, returned south of the border for a spell at Derby County before heading to the continent for five years. Spells at Odense in Denmark and OFI Crete in the Greek league were followed by just over two seasons at Greek giants Olympiakos. Carroll, who has won 35 caps for Northern Ireland, returned to British football this summer with a move to League One Notts County, who are captained by his ex-Hammers team-mate Hayden Mullins.

Referee

Saturday’s referee will be Lee Mason from… Greater Manchester. The same Lee Mason who refereed four of our games last season, sending off two of our players (Mark Noble against Everton and James Tomkins at Cardiff) and disallowing a perfectly good Stewart Downing equaliser at Crystal Palace. His fourth match with us last year was the 2-0 home defeat to Manchester United.

Mason was also the ref for our home fixture with Manchester United in 2011. He awarded West Ham two penalties, both converted by Mark Noble, but then failed to give Nemanja Vidic a red card for a professional foul on Demba Ba with the score at 2-0 to the Hammers. United went on to win 4-2, with their crucial third a very controversial penalty for handball against Matthew Upson, which Rooney converted. Mason also sent off Noble at Birmingham the season before.

Possible line-ups

Manchester United are set to be without four centre-halves, with Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling all carrying injuries and Tyler Blackett suspended. Marcos Rojo is set to play at centre-back with Luke Shaw at left-back. United could look to their Under-21 captain, Tom Thorpe, or 19-year-old midfielder-turned-defender Paddy McNair to partner Rojo. Alternatively, Daley Blind or Darren Fletcher could fill in as emergency central defenders.

West Ham United are without influential midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate. Morgan Amalfitano came on and scored on his home debut last week and also scored a wonderful solo effort at Old Trafford for West Brom last season. Amalfitano could play at the tip of the diamond, with Stewart Downing employed in a deeper midfield role alongside Mark Noble and Alex Song. Alternatively, Downing and Diafra Sakho could play wide with Enner Valencia as a lone striker, and Amalfitano playing in ‘the Nolan role’. Finally, Amalfitano and Downing could play wide, with Valencia and Sakho central but with one of the two in a withdrawn role.

Possible Manchester United XI: De Gea; Rafael, Blind, Rojo, Shaw; Herrera, Fletcher, Di Maria; Rooney, van Persie; Falcao.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; Demel, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Song, Noble; Amalfitano, Valencia, Downing; Sakho.

Enjoy the game – Up the Hammers!


Dan Coker's Match Preview

Liverpool Match Preview

Blast from the past

Today’s blast from the past features our biggest post-war league victory over this weekend’s opponents, Liverpool. It arrived on the 10th of May 1995, a balmy evening in East London, with West Ham United needing a victory to secure top-flight survival with a game to spare.

After half-an-hour, the Hammers drew first blood. John Moncur slipped a pass to the left foot of Matty Holmes and the diminutive winger drove a shot across David James and into the far corner of the net for his first goal of a fine personal season.

Two goals in a minute around the hour-mark sealed the Irons’ victory and subsequent Premier League survival. Both strikes came from the right foot of ‘Deadly’ Don Hutchison, a player signed from Liverpool earlier that season. Steve Potts made a rare forward foray for Hutchison’s first, the club’s £1.5m record signing collecting the ball and shooting low into the corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area. Hutchison notched his brace within seconds, expertly controlling a lofted ball from Tim Breacker before stabbing the ball beyond the onrushing James, sending the majority of the 22,446 in attendance into delirium.

Both clubs would next play a significant role in one of the best final days the English top-flight has seen – Liverpool beat Blackburn at Anfield but the Hammers denied Manchester United the title with an incredible performance which handed the title to Rovers. West Ham would end the season, Harry Redknapp’s first in charge, in 14th place.

West Ham United: Ludek Miklosko, Tim Breacker, Steve Potts, Marc Rieper, Julian Dicks (Simon Webster), Michael Hughes, John Moncur, Ian Bishop, Matty Holmes, Don Hutchison, Trevor Morley.

Liverpool: David James, Dominic Matteo (Mark Kennedy), John Scales, Phil Babb, Steve Harkness, Michael Thomas, Jamie Redknapp, Nigel Clough, Steve McManaman, John Barnes, Robbie Fowler (Mark Walters).

Club Connections

A whole host of players have turned out for both West Ham United and Liverpool, particularly over the last twenty years. These include Craig Bellamy, Rob Jones, Don Hutchison, Titi Camara, David Burrows, Yossi Benayoun, Joe Cole, Julian Dicks, Paul Ince, Glen Johnson, Robbie Keane, Paul Konchesky, Ray Houghton, Javier Mascherano, Neil Ruddock, David James, Andy Carroll, Mike Marsh and Neil Mellor.

Going further back, George Kay made 237 league appearances for the Hammers between 1919 and 1926, becoming the first-ever player to play more than 200 matches for the club. Kay was also the West Ham captain in the 1923 FA Cup Final. He went on to manage Liverpool between 1936 and 1951, winning the First Division title in 1947.

Today’s focus though falls on a player currently in the claret and blue of West Ham United. Stewart Downing was a £20m signing for Liverpool in July 2011 and is currently in fine form for the Hammers. Downing began his career at Middlesbrough, scoring 17 goals in 181 appearances for his hometown club, before moving to Aston Villa for an initial fee of £10m in the summer of 2009. Downing impressed at Villa Park, scoring nine goals in sixty-three appearances, eventually attracting interest from Anfield.

Downing, who currently has thirty-four England caps, scored seven goals in ninety-one matches in all competitions for Liverpool before heading south for The Boleyn Ground in August 2013. He scored his first goal for the club in the last home game of 2013/14, against Tottenham, and scored his second in the first away game of the current campaign at Crystal Palace. Downing had a hand in both goals at Hull City on Monday night and his injury-time cross for Enner Valencia very nearly helped us claim all three points in that fixture.

Referee

Saturday’s referee will be Craig Pawson; 2014/15 is Pawson’s third as a Premier League referee. He refereed West Ham’s 4-1 Capital One Cup home defeat to Wigan two seasons ago and our 3-1 loss at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium in March last term (not Hull, as stated on the official club website preview). Pawson is yet to issue a red card in a Premier League match.

Possible line-ups

West Ham United are unlikely to make many changes from the side that performed encouragingly at Hull on Monday night. Matt Jarvis reportedly remains unavailable while Carl Jenkinson is now challenging Guy Demel for the right-back spot. Playing Jenkinson, just back from injury, against the likes of either Sterling, Lallana or Coutinho may not be a wise move though. Alex Song may start, possibly in place of Mauro Zarate. Since the adjustment of the Premier League’s late kick-off time to 5.30pm in 2008/09, West Ham have not fared well in the Saturday tea-time slot – the Hammers are yet to win a game at this time, drawing two and losing fourteen of sixteen fixtures.

Liverpool and England striker Daniel Sturridge looks set to miss out on the trip to Upton Park. Ex-Hammer Glen Johnson, who has a knack of scoring against us in recent seasons, is doubtful while fellow right-back Jon Flanagan has undergone knee surgery.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; Demel, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Song, Noble, Kouyate; Downing, Valencia; Sakho.

Possible Liverpool XI: Mignolet; Manquillo, Sakho, Lovren, Moreno; Henderson, Gerrard; Sterling, Coutinho, Lallana; Balotelli.

Enjoy the game – Up the Hammers!


Dan Coker's Match Preview

Hull City Match Preview

Blast from the past

In today’s preview, we travel back the short distance to 5th November 2011 for, to date, our only ever win at Hull City’s KC Stadium. Our record at the new home of the Tigers is played four, won one, drawn one, lost two.

In a half dominated by the hosts in front of 21,756 spectators, Rob Green had to be at his best to keep out a long-range strike from Robert Koren, while Dele Adebola had an effort deflected wide. Green and Abdoulaye Faye had to be alert to deny Matty Fryatt as a rearguard action from the Hammers kept the score goalless at half-time.

The introduction of Carlton Cole for the ineffective John Carew was to swing the fortunes of the match in West Ham United’s favour, with two goals in the opening fifteen minutes of the second half proving enough to ensure the Hammers went back to East London with all three points. Cole had a crucial hand in both – the first arriving when the substitute met Mark Noble’s corner with a firm header which was turned in at the far post by the predatory Sam Baldock. It was Baldock’s fifth goal in five starts but would also transpire to be his final strike in claret and blue.

The match-clinching second was again created by Cole. The striker cut inside a challenge and slipped a perfect through-ball into the path of Jack Collison, the Academy product dispatching the ball unerringly beyond Peter Gulacsi.

Hull came back strongly in the closing stages, with Noble clearing one effort off the line and the outstanding Green proving an unbreakable barrier, with two particularly fantastic late saves from Jack Hobbs and Aaron McLean securing his clean sheet.

The win, the fifth from the opening eight away matches, ensured West Ham kept pace with early leaders Southampton in the Championship table. Of course, the Hammers would earn their Premier League place with a Play-Off final triumph over Blackpool at Wembley the following May, having finished third in the final standings and taken the race for automatic promotion to the final day of the regular season.

Hull City: Peter Gulacsi, Liam Rosenior, Jack Hobbs, James Chester, Joe Dudgeon, Corry Evans, Paul McKenna, Robert Koren, Dele Adebola (Robbie Brady), Aaron McLean, Matty Fryatt.

West Ham United: Robert Green, Julien Faubert, James Tomkins, Abdoulaye Faye, George McCartney, Papa Bouba Diop (Freddie Sears), Mark Noble, Jack Collison, Kevin Nolan, John Carew (Carlton Cole), Sam Baldock (Frederic Piquionne).

Club Connections

A small collection of players have turned out for both West Ham United and Hull City, with Mark Noble, Cliff Hubbard, Roy Carroll, Tony Weldon, Stuart Pearson and Abdoulaye Faye being the most notable. Today’s focus though is on a star of the Hammers’ famed youth system who went on to play a significant role in Hull City’s first-ever foray into the Premier League.

Richard Garcia left his native Australia at the age of fifteen and scored in every round (eight in total) as the young Hammers stormed their way to that memorable FA Youth Cup Final victory in 1999. Garcia injured knee ligaments while on loan at Leyton Orient and his 2000/01 campaign was over in only November. He was handed his first-team debut by Glenn Roeder on the ill-fated September 11th 2001 when West Ham’s League Cup penalty shoot-out exit at the hands of Alan Pardew’s Second Division Reading played second fiddle to horrific events in New York. Garcia went on to make twenty-two appearances in all competitions for West Ham, without scoring, before moving on to League One Colchester in September 2004.

After the best part of three seasons at Colchester, which included a promotion to the Championship, Garcia left for Hull City on a Bosman free transfer in July 2007. He won the club’s Goal of the Season in his first year for a 35-yard effort against Burnley. Hull defeated Bristol City in the Championship Play-Off final at the end of Garcia’s first season with the Tigers, ensuring a promotion to the Premier League and a return to the top-flight for the 26-year-old Australian. Garcia enjoyed two years at Premier League level before relegation and stayed at the KC Stadium for two further seasons back in the Championship before departing for Melbourne Heart. He scored 10 goals in 128 games for the Tigers.

Since his spell at Melbourne, Garcia, now 33, has turned out for Sydney FC and Minnesota United. He has recently signed for Perth Glory.

Referee

Monday’s referee will be Martin Atkinson; 2014/15 is Atkinson’s tenth as a Premier League referee. Since West Ham United achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 Atkinson has refereed five of our league matches, officiating in two wins for the Hammers and three defeats. Atkinson was the man in the middle for an away victory for Manchester City at Newcastle on the opening day of this season and Sunderland’s 1-1 home draw with Manchester United.

Possible line-ups

All eyes will be on Mohamed Diame as he joins the above list of players to have appeared for both clubs. Of Hull’s other new signings, Abel Hernandez is still facing work permit issues and both Hatem Ben Arfa and Gaston Ramirez are considered short of match fitness. James Chester is available after suspension and Andrew Robertson may be fit after a calf problem. Ex-Tottenham defender Michael Dawson is in line for his home debut for the Tigers. Hull often line up in a 3-5-2 formation.

It will be intriguing to see how West Ham United line up for this fixture, considering the ins and outs of the transfer window and the fact that most players should now be approaching full match fitness. Of those who have been injured, James Collins is fit to return to the squad but Matt Jarvis and Carl Jenkinson remain unavailable. Allardyce has made it clear this week that he will not entertain the idea of 4-4-2 but I would love to see the Hammers line up in a 4-3-1-2 formation for this game and I think we have the personnel to do it (as SJ Chandos posted recently). With Song, Noble and Kouyate holding the midfield, Demel (in the absence of the injured O’Brien) and Cresswell could provide width from the flanks knowing they have plenty of cover being offered. Morrison could be given a free role behind Zarate and Valencia. The only downside to this would be the omission of the hitherto-excellent Downing, but what an option to have from the bench he would be.

Possible Hull City XI: McGregor; Chester, Dawson, Davies; Elmohamady, Livermore, Diame, Huddlestone, Robertson; Aluko, Jelavic.

My West Ham United XI: Adrian; Demel, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Song, Noble, Kouyate; Morrison; Zarate, Valencia.

Sky’s decision to ignore the travelling fan and schedule this long trip for a Monday night means I, along with many others, will not be able to fit this away game in around work commitments. I’ll hope for a comfortable evening on the sofa and Carragher and Neville raving long into the night about a wonderful away performance!

Enjoy the game – Up the Hammers!


Dan Coker's Match Preview

Southampton Match Preview

Blast from the past

Allow me to take you back forty-one years, to Good Friday, 20th April 1973. Edward Heath was Prime Minister and ‘Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree’ was number one. An 11am kick-off saw West Ham United take on Southampton in front of 33,039 at The Boleyn Ground – it was to be a particularly good Friday for the Hammers and a great one for Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson as the Sunderland-born striker netted a hat-trick to lead West Ham to a 4-3 win over the Saints in the old First Division.

Two goals in four minutes early on from Robson put the Hammers in a commanding position but, rather typically, the lead had been thrown away by half-time as Paul Gilchrist scored a brace of his own to level the match. Robson completed his hat-trick in the 66th minute, leaping high to head in a Trevor Brooking cross and restore the hosts’ lead. Brooking turned from goal-maker to goal-taker to effectively clinch the game for the Irons in the 83rd minute, but there was still time for Mick Channon to net a further consolation for the visitors in this seven-goal thriller.

The win put West Ham level with Ipswich in joint-fourth place, with three matches to play. It was to prove the Hammers’ final victory of 1972/73 however, as we closed the campaign with two draws and a defeat. In doing so, West Ham equalled their (at the time) highest-ever position of sixth in a campaign that saw Bobby Moore overtake Jimmy Ruffell’s record number of league appearances for the club, a record that had stood unbeaten since 1936.

‘Pop’ Robson, the hat-trick hero against the Saints (pictured with the matchball from the game), finished 1972/73 as the leading goal-scorer in England’s top four divisions, with twenty-eight goals from forty-two appearances, winning him the Adidas-sponsored Golden Boot award. Twenty-six of these goals were from open play, with only two from the penalty spot. He was also, unsurprisingly, that season’s recipient of the Hammer of the Year award.

West Ham United: Peter Grotier, John McDowell (Bertie Lutton), Kevin Lock, Bobby Moore, Frank Lampard, Billy Bonds, Pat Holland, Trevor Brooking, Clyde Best, Bryan Robson, Ted McDougall.

Southampton: Eric Martin, Jim Steele (Billy Beaney), Dave Walker, Paul Bennett, Joe Kirkup, Brian O’Neil, Wayne Talkes, Hugh Fisher, Terry Paine, Mick Channon, Paul Gilchrist.

Club Connections

An array of West Ham United’s good, bad and ugly have also turned out for Southampton: Vic Watson, Paul Allen, Richard Hall, Joe Kirkup, Wayne Bridge, Justin Fashanu, Nigel Quashie, Christian Dailly, David Speedie, Iain Dowie, Eyal Berkovic, Richard Wright, Neil Ruddock and Robbie Slater have all appeared for both clubs. In addition, Harry Redknapp and Alan Pardew have managed both the Hammers and the Saints.

While we’re on the subject of diminutive goalscorers though, today’s focus will fall on David Connolly. The “angry ant”, as Glenn Roeder tagged him, signed for the Hammers for a bargain £285,000 in the aftermath of relegation from the Premier League in August 2003. Following spells with Watford and Feyenoord, along with loan stints at Wolves and Excelsior, West Ham United signed Connolly from Wimbledon, for whom he had bagged an impressive forty-two goals in sixty-three appearances over two seasons.

Connolly was controversially left out of the starting line-up for the season-opener at Preston North End after the West Ham team coach had collected loan signing Neil Mellor at a service station the day before the game. Connolly came off the bench to strike the winner on his debut in a 2-1 victory before threatening to leave the club following his omission from the XI. He stayed and went on to score fourteen goals for the Hammers in forty-eight appearances in all competitions. After a single season in east London had ended in play-off final defeat, Connolly left for Leicester in a £500,000 deal.

Connolly had spells in the Premier League at both Wigan and Sunderland before signing for his former West Ham manager Alan Pardew at League One Southampton in October 2009. Connolly’s career with the Saints began in the same fashion as it did with the Hammers, with a debut goal after appearing from the bench – this time in a 3-1 win at Oldham in a Southampton side containing Morgan Schneiderlin, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert. The Republic of Ireland international was to stay at St Mary’s for three seasons, which included a promotion to the Championship, scoring seventeen goals in sixty-seven appearances in all competitions. He signed for Saints’ local rivals Portsmouth in December 2012 and remains part of their squad today, although he is yet to appear for the club in 2014/15. He enjoyed a successful loan spell at Oxford United last season.

Referee

Saturday’s referee will be Mike Dean; 2014/15 is Dean’s fifteenth as a Premier League referee. Since West Ham United achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 Dean has refereed eight of our league matches, officiating in five wins for the Hammers, two draws and just the one defeat. Dean was the man in the middle for an away victory for Swansea at Old Trafford on the opening day of this season and a draw at Villa Park between Aston Villa and Newcastle last weekend – let’s hope he completes the set of results with a home win this weekend!

Possible line-ups

Sam Allardyce is unlikely to make many changes from the side that played so well in earning victory at Selhurst Park last Saturday. Ricardo Vaz Te has struggled in the opening fixtures, while Matt Jarvis, according to the manager, remains unavailable. As a result, I would not be surprised to see Mo Diame played out of position on the left flank. Enner Valencia would perhaps have been in line for a starting spot this weekend if he had not been involved in an unplanned 120 minutes against Sheffield United in midweek following the withdrawal of Diafra Sakho through injury. Carlton Cole, fresh from his first goal of the season against Crystal Palace, may therefore start again but I would expect to see Valencia given at least thirty minutes from the bench.

Southampton could name an unchanged starting XI from their goalless home draw with West Brom last Saturday. Wales Under-21 midfielder Lloyd Isgrove, who was an unnamed substitute for that game, has picked up a knee injury and will miss out, alongside long-term injury victim Jay Rodriguez. The Saints are likely to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; O’Brien, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Kouyate, Noble; Downing, Zarate, Diame; Cole.

Possible Southampton XI: Forster; Clyne, Yoshida, Fonte, Bertrand; Wanyama, Schneiderlin; Davis, Ward-Prowse, Tadic; Pelle.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!


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