Match Report

Defensive Master Class

When I saw the West Ham team against Man City, I had a sort of brain freeze. My eye was drawn to the name Ben Johnson. Was he the winner of that game they play before every home game, where fan has to press as many flashing lights as he/she can do in thirty seconds? Perhaps this was the prize?

No, he is a young nineteen year old, we’ve had on our books since the age of seven. He was about to have the most memorable day of his life and I thought will probably end up suffering from PTSD for the rest of it. I read he used to be a winger and now he was a full back. That reminded me that Masuaku is a full back and should be a winger. Now, he was to face one of the most potent attacking forces in Europe.

Where was Arnautovic? Apparently, the story goes he is ill, but I think he was accompanying Donald Trump to Vietnam to meet Kim Jong Un, who had promised him a job.

OK, we had decided to throw the game. Nothing wrong in that, looking at how our next fixture is in three days. Give the lads a bit of practice. This left me feeling, as a fan, like a tricoteuse. If you remember, they were the women who sat doing the knitting whilst aristocrats were executed during the French Revolution.

I was reminded of the game against AFC Watford, where we fielded what seemed to be our reserves (they were worse than that). If we lost 4-2 that day, then this was going to be minimum 18-0.

And the first ten minutes seem to be going that way. Man City could have been five up. I was feeling like I was watching a coconut shy or as Man City passed it around deftly, a pinball machine.

Then the next ten minutes passed and we still hadn’t conceded a goal. True Andy Carroll, spent his time cutting grass up front, although he did contribute to the defence. And Fredericks seemed to have learnt the offside rule.

Blow me down, we were into thirty minutes and you could sense the frustration taking hold of the Man City team. And remarkably, we seemed to have gained an extra player to help us. Mahrez. He should be awarded the West Ham medal for lifetime achievement. He couldn’t do anything right and was having a nightmare.

Half time came and went. Lanzini replaced Nasri. Then, a moment came which could have been burnt on my brain for the rest of my life. Lanzini made an absolutely terrific pass to Carroll and………….. I stopped knitting and thumped my knee. Now , I’m walking with a limp.

You know those car insurance fraud, where the car in front slows down, so it is backended by the car behind. That was the penalty. Ronaldo was the car in front and Anderson was the car behind.What a shame!

I thought the tap would be turned on after that. But no, we kept our formation and saw out the game.

So, finally this season, a terrific defensive performance. Fredericks was the man of the match, especially for his clearance off the line. Hopefully, he will learn hugely from this performance and don’t we need just that? Lanzini is getting into gear and we all look forward to what is to come from him. You can’t leave out praise for Fabianski, who gives the side confidence at the back.

But the main point is, West Ham played as a team and kept their concentration to the very end. More of that, please.


Book Review

Cheating

In March 2018, the Australian cricket team was involved in a ball tampering scandal. Cameron Bancroft was caught sandpapering one side of the ball to make it swing more. In the subsequent hoo-hah, even the Australian Prime Minister got involved. The bowler, the captain and the vice-captain got lengthy bans after a long and public investigation.

There are famous cheats in many sports. Drug taking is the most offensive. I just have to write ‘hand of god’ and you know what I am referring to. In fencing, Boris Onischenko wired his sword to record false hits and was disqualified from the 1976 Olympics. In marathons, participants often cheat. In one race, a participant had taken a bus. In another, one person rode in a car for eleven miles.

In football, diving is probably the most common form of cheating. Biting the ears of other players seems more like mental derangement than cheating. We also have exaggerating the impact of a foul or feigning injury.

As far as the spectator is concerned, they pay their money to see a fair game. That’s why we have or will have VAR. Or, should we adopt the attitude that everyone else is at it, so why not our side?

So, I come on to discuss Chicharito’s goal against Fulham. He did celebrate the goal by hugging other teammates. But, if you look at replays of the incident, he doesn’t look happy. Normally, when a player scores a goal, he looks ecstatic.

One couldn’t expect Chicharito to show remorse by going up to the referee and telling him he handled the ball. But I do believe there should be some sort of retrospective penalty for his cheat. It could take the form of a match ban or financial penalty. Perhaps, even a goal deduction.

On a more positive note, let’s recall the time when Di Canio won a FIFA fair play award in 1981, when West Ham played Everton. The Everton goalkeeper, Paul Gerrard, had rushed out of his area to make a challenge and fell injured. As a cross came over, Di Canio caught the ball instead of shooting into an empty net and received a standing ovation from the Goodison crowd. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSWDDXmO76E


News

Half Full or Half Empty

As we head to the final third of the season, we have time to reflect. The team are on a warm weather training break in Malaga, where the temperature is 16 degrees. Today is a perfect day in London, where it is 14 degrees. Should they have bothered?

So, this is an example of whether we look at the world as a glass which is half full or half empty. The answer is that, of course, they should go, as this is more an exercise in team bonding.

So, continuing the analogy, those who believe our glass is half full will say that we are 10th in the Premier League and that’s a minor miracle given that we lost the first four games. We have ended protests against the Board. We’ve invested in new players and a new manager. Players are starting to return from the injury list. And this is the best that can be hoped for unless one’s team is owned by a country, oligarch or multi- billionaire.

But, we are football fans and most of us usually see our team through a glass which is half empty. So, here goes for all you pessimists. This is your therapy for the day.
We continue to get players on the cheap. We are football’s version of webuyanycar.com. We are interested in players whose best years are behind them. Jack Wilshere is being paid £100,000 per week to sit on his backside, even though it was well documented he is prone to injury. We took the thirty seven year old Patrice Evra and paid £75,000 a week and he played three games. Nasri, Hernadez and Zabaleta fall into this category. Pelegrini is past his prime.

Our games continue to be frustrating. The second half against Crystal Palace was diabolical. I watched the Spurs’ Champions’ League Game, where their second half was fantastic. They went forward (even though Robbie Savage thought they should retreat), whereas we went backwards. Was it a tactical error, or were we knackered?
We’ve had fantastic performances against Arsenal and Manchester United, but were pathetic against Bournemouth and Wolves. The loss to AFC Wimbledon has got to be our worst performance of all time.

So, are we unfit or tired because they’ve trained too much? There was a documentary broadcast about Brian Clough and the most interesting comment was that he believed rest was as good as training. Sean Dyce who was a young player at the time at Nottingham Forest has said,’ Even then, the structure of the week, you’d be off Sunday, off Monday, in Tuesday, off Wednesday, off Thursday, train Friday, play Saturday. Amazingly, it seems madness, but everyone was motivated to play because you went in hungry.’

Also, am I crazy to believe we have more injuries in the modern game than we have ever had in the past? Is it anything to do with the training?

The stadium will never be another Boleyn. Apart from the fact that the crowd are too far from the players, there seems to be something wrong with the acoustics. There seems to be a lack of co-ordination between the chants which emanate from different parts of the stadium. Perhaps it has to do with the speed of sound.
But could we do more to engender crowd participation? Perhaps Karen Brady could devote part of her £17,100 part-time week to this problem.

Weren’t the drums the drums of the Borussia Dortmund fans fantastic (how did they get those into the ground)? Our away fans are fantastic. We need to get this involvement flowing at the London Stadium. Perhaps we should have the sound of hammers hitting a gong. Does anyone remember the Rank Organisation and the Man with a Gong (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uie4YqrhNHQ0 ? I suppose the Hammerettes are a thing of the past.

So, drink up what’s left in the glass. Here’s the thing though. If you’re unhappy with your marriage, you can get a divorce. If you don’t like your job, you can leave. But, I’ve never, ever met a football fan who has stopped supporting his club.


Match Report

Tackling Racial Abuse

Football unleashes emotion. We know that. That’s why we go. There is nothing quite like the feeling when the Hammers score.

Unfortunately, there are individuals who can’t control themselves and are able to give the club a bad name. Of, course , I am referring to the aftermath of the Liverpool game when a fan was filmed on a mobile phone shouting at Mo Salah when he was taking a corner , ‘Salah, you f…..Muslim, fucking M…. c…t.’

The first point to be made is that the individual concerned has to be pretty stupid. In this day and age of mobile phones and social media, his brain didn’t comprehend that he was risking his season ticket to West Ham and potential prosecution.

Of course, progress has been made. Let me recall the words of Clyde Best, remembering his introduction to English football:

‘It was a hostile time. Racism was endemic in English football. I was still young, a teenager, living in digs in Jessie Charles’ home in 1970.

I got this anonymous letter – it made my blood run cold – warning me that as I emerged from the tunnel I would have acid thrown in my eyes. It knocked me sideways.
I’d had plenty of stick when we played away from home about the colour of my skin.

I’ll never forget going to Everton and hearing perpetual monkey chants. I knew the best way to silence them was to score – which I did. There were police on each side of the tunnel as Bobby Moore led us out. I have never run so fast in a game.

In those days as a black player you were in for a hard time where ever you went away from home. You just had to tough it out.
I always tried to remember what my dad told me before I left: I was playing for those who came after me.’

It’s not just racial abuse.A few games ago, Sian Massey-Ellis was a linesman. When she made a controversial decision, a supporter sitting near me, who sees himself as a bit of a wit, shouted, ‘ Go back to the kitchen.’Not quite as shocking as the Salah abuse, but still definitely unacceptable.

Now, I am not putting myself forward as any example of tolerance. But , I do take my grandson to most games. And I hope that he will grow up to be more racially tolerant than my generation.

After all, would some supporters be happier if the black players in our team f… off? Perhaps, we should get rid of the Poles and anyone with Irish ancestry. The Austrians are as bad as the Germans, they can f.. off and we don’t want any Dagoes.

This all would probably mean, we could field Mark Noble to represent us. It’s daft, isn’t it? And do we really wish that Mo Salah hadn’t come to this country and demonstrated his memorable skills, which are a privilege to watch?

The BBC have recently shown a documentary called ‘The Survivors’ which is still available on BBC iplayer. It is the account of the last survivors of concentration camps who were children at the time ,taken for slaughter. Watch it and then follow it up withthe films ‘Schindlers List’ and ‘Son of Saul’. It’s a sobering experience.

What can the club do about it? The stewards could be more active, pointing out to officials where abuse takes place and even filming it. The club should appoint an official responsible for eliminating racial and other abuse. It’s not enough for the Club to roll out their normal line about not tolerating racial abuse. Let West Ham be a leader in this area.


Match Report

The Riddle of West Ham

Winston Churchill said ,’ Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.’ I am sure if he were alive today, he would say the same about West Ham.

Marcellus said in Hamlet, ‘There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.’ Despite the fact that we are eleventh in the premier league, I feel there is something about that line which rings true.

How can this be after we beat Arsenal in our last home game and had a clean sheet? None of this makes sense.

So, I’m going to put my head above the parapet and no doubt I’ll be walking around like a headless chicken in the very near future. Basically, we are stuck in a system that does not suit the quality of the squad we have.

We played a supposed 4-4-2 formation against Wolves, but , in my opinion, that will always leave us too exposed at the back and we should play 5-3-2 to ensure we have sufficient cover if we want to use wing backs.

Arsene Wenger has been credited with introducing wing backs into the Premier League. He urged Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon to be more attack minded. This new role required immense stamina and speed over short distances.

We have employed a manager who is committed to this style of play. But when we look at the reality of the situation and the players he has at his disposal, the whole theory starts to fall apart. We have had the madness of playing Antonio in defence. Then, there is Masuaku, who does have qualities, but defence is not one of them. Zabeleta gives his all, but, is it fair to put this responsibility on a player who is reaching the end of his career? Fredericks is untried and so far, largely unavailable. Cresswell has had his problems and is only just showing the qualities we know he possesses.

First and foremost a side needs to have a strong defence. Was I the only person who saw that Wolves were about to score and that the Wolves’ pressure was inevitably going to lead to a goal? We seemed to have completely run out of steam. Then, if you are going to introduce Carroll, you need to ensure the wing backs get to the byline and cross the ball. But, by that time stamina and speed were in short supply.

So, perhaps we should be talking less about the mentality of the players and more about tactics, with the later showing more fluidity and adaptability. We shall see in the next few weeks whether all this was another phase, or we start to ship goals again. So, if you have read this, let’s have your ideas.


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