Talking Point

The plague called betting

I am concerned for your health, both physical and financial. Every time we watch football, we are bombarded with advertising encouraging us to bet and that includes children.

The betting industry spends £1.4bn of its £14b gambling yield on advertising. In 2009, its gambling yield was £8bn, so there has been a 75% increase in gambling in ten years.

I worked with online gaming for a number of years. If we actually gave a thought to the margins earnt by gambling firms, we may give gambling a miss. Denise Coates of Bet365 paid herself £323 million. It defies my understanding how people can bet on computer generated games and slots, where the companies ,encouraging you to bet, can set the odds. This is not a game of chance. At least, when you play roulette in a casino, it is a true game of chance and with one zero the house edge is 2.7%, but many roulette wheels have two zeros and the house margin increases to 5.26%. The margins earned on slot games must be incredible to finance the huge profits, salaries and advertising.

The ownership of many betting companies is opaque. They are registered abroad in far flung islands such as Gibraltar and Aruba. You have no chance of winning any dispute with them. Often, their final ownership is opaque. Our own Betway is registered in a dilapidated building ( Empire Stadium Street, Gzira, Malta) and it is a mystery who actually owns the company.

Despite this Karen Brady recently described Betway as a ‘respected and responsible sponsor. We look forward to continuing to work with Betway as we embark on the next chapter for our great club, and we will use this partnership as a platform for success.’ These words will ring hollow for West Ham fans. Personally, I’m brushing my teeth as I write this to get rid of the bad taste.

Every day, stories are coming in thick and fast how betting has ruined peoples lives. Peter Shilton detailed how his life was almost ruined and the critical point was the introduction of online betting. A caretaker killed himself at the school where he worked. Players are being lured into gambling.Betting addicts are being encouranged by VIP schemes. Betting encourages criminality.

You may take advantage of the free bets betting companies offer, without realising that you have to gamble many times the free bet to be allowed to take out any winnings. It’s all in the small print. If you are winning, they will often limit the amount you can bet to a pound or so. All incentives to gamble should be banned.

The NHS’s mental health chief has said that the Health Service should not be left to pick up the pieces from gambling firms’ tactics to retain customers with addiction issues. We have all read stories of people who have a gambling habit, who ruin their lives, which often end in suicide.

It is akin to a disease that is enveloping football. It is everywhere, in adverts of the big screens, shirts and signage. Even personalities get involved. Jose Mourinho currently advertising the daily jackpot for Paddy Power.

We need to get serious about this disease. All advertising should be banned if it is likely to be seen by children. That means a ban on all football sponsorship. Football Clubs would take a hit on their income. It would lead to an adjustment in bloated transfer fees and salaries.

A further 20% tax should be levied on online betting companies and they should be obliged to be registered in the UK.

Free bets and other promotions should be banned.

Final ownership needs to be declared.

On line betting companies should be obliged to check people’s identities when they sign up, not when they want to make their first withdrawal.These means they are taking money from people under 18.

Betting is a plague that has to be stopped. It is now encroaching upon FA cup matches agreeing to live stream games to those who place a bet. Even they realise this is a step too far. However, this is an example of how betting companies can become a gateway for viewing live sports’ events.

Online gaming companies add nothing to the economy. They are just a drain, where we bleed away £200 per annum for every man woman and child. At least high street betting shops give employment and have strict rules to prevent underage betting.

And have consideration. Your simple pleasure may be ruining the lives of 50,000 people a year.

Match Report

A More Enlightened Approach

So, there was another protest before the Everton game. Once again it was anti the board. But its effectiveness will be as great as the recent Moscow protests against Putin.

The similarities don’t end there. The citizens/fans have the impression that the leader/board have the main priority of enriching themselves. There is very little the citizens/fans can do to effect a change of power and, it would appear, the leader/board are there for ever. Citizens/fans have little say over who controls the club and what policies are enacted.

At least in Russia, the Prime Minister has just resigned, although he has been replaced with another flunky. Here we have the ‘Marvellous Mrs Brady’. For fans, she encapsulates everything that is wrong with the club. She epitomises the board’s philosophy of ‘ We know best’ and her main motivation is to increase the value of the club. The strategy has been a complete failure and, at present, you couldn’t sell the club for a tin of beans and a Mickey Mouse watch.

The fans at the protest ask for a more enlightened approach by the board. So, let’s try and be enlightened and suggest a way forward.

For a start, the Dame needs to go. She has lost the goodwill of the supporters. She is the Marie Antoinette of the regime. Whilst she describes the club’s sponsors as ‘ respected and responsible’, you can imagine her response to the protest before the game against Everton as ,’Let them eat cake’. Her salary, which is now reported to be £1.2 million a year is a joke.

And, don’t tell me she is a great business women. The developers who bought the Boleyn ground made a 50 per cent profit two years later without any development taking place. She got the club into a dispute with the owners of the ground over matters which would have cost peanuts. She thought she had negotiated a fantastic deal to take a lease on the London Stadium, whereas, in fact, we were sold a white elephant.

She resigned reluctantly as Chairman of Philip Green’s Empire after his groping scandal with the words that the allegations being made against the high street tycoon were ‘incompatible with being a feminist’. Hmmm! Or perhaps, it would be more appropriate to describe these words as humbug. How many feminists would work for Sullivan and Gold?

So, the first step in a more enlightened approach would be to get rid of Dame Karren. She could be replaced by a good business manager on a salary a quarter of what is being paid presently.

Then, as a positive step, the owners should appoint a small board of advisors. I would envisage a maximum of six individuals to include past luminaries of the club, a representative of the fans etc. You get the idea. They could split the remains of the Dame’s salary. Sullivan could chair the board and Gold could retire to look after his carp.

What is in it for Sullivan and Gold? First of all, it’s going to bring them a bit of peace and quiet. They cannot be enjoying the ridicule and hatred of the fans. Secondly, the did listen to the fans after the Burnley riot and brought in a top class manager and a Director of Football. However, the results were a disaster. But they can listen again.

I thought the Everton game would be the pivotal game of the season. Lose and we were heading for the depths. Win and salvation would be at hand. As it happened, we drew. David Moyes is to be congratulated as the team does now show commitment and effort. Noble and Snodgrass have been criticised for their lack of pace, but they showed determination and grit and had a good game.

Moyes went for a back two, instead of a back three, showing flexibility and we were lucky Everton were without Richarlison and Sigurdsson. They seemed more intent on giving us the ball back than us.

Unfortunately, our lack of thrust at the front was exposed. Perhaps, this will be improved when Antonio returns and we missed the flare of Anderson.

We have a tough fixture list ahead in the next month and life isn’t going to get any easier for the Hammers.

Match Report

The best advice you will ever receive

I was never a believer in feng shui, which is about unblocking the way, so that the forces in life flow freely. So, I’m going to give you the best piece of advice you have ever had and you will thank me for the rest of your life.

If you wake up and something positive happens, then you could be having a good feng shui day. This is the time to do as many things as possible, because you will find everything will turn out excellently. Do all those things you were putting off to another day. Conversely, if you start the day negatively, my advice would be to go back to bed and do as little as possible.

I don’t need to explain to you what kind of day it was when we played Sheffield United.

Alternatively, I have another explanation. There is a Greek goddess called Astraea. She is the goddess of justice and purity. She has come back to earth and is wreaking vengeance. Individuals who have angered her include Geoffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein and in our own backyard Max Clifford and Rolf Harris. Now she has turned her attention to Gold and Sullivan. She is slowly torturing them. Firstly, giving them Karen Brady. Then, offering them the opportunity to change grounds with disastrous consequences and offering them the opportunity to employ a world class manager at an extravagant sum. She helped to bring in players like Payet and Arnautovic to torture them. Finally, to empower a clown to direct player purchases.

This can be the only logical explanation as to what happened against Sheffield United.

After a few minutes, our most vital player, Fabulanski, pulled up with a strained thigh and immediately called for his own replacement. Then, we had the amateur incident where we conceded a goal. Anderson went head over heels and is probably injured. And finally, there was the completely, farcical VAR decision which brings both VAR and the game into disrepute.

So, let’s turn to the game itself. I have no criticism of David Moyes, who is obviously bringing a new spirit to the team. We looked solid in defence and kept our concentration and effort throughout the game. We have quickly seen what we need in defence, but more effort is needed in tactics moving forward. We were very direct against Sheffield United and perhaps, we needed to create opportunity by going from side to side.

I know we all feel sorry for David Martin. Actually, I don’t blame him fully for the goal. For some reason, Balbuena decided to charge back to accept the pass and this was a contributory factor to the cock up.

I was surprised when Cresswell joined the back three and Diop was benched. This may be an indication that Diop is on his way out. This is not a criticism of Cresswell, but we lost the opportunity to make forward runs. You can’t criticise Zabaleta for effort, but it is obvious his time is up.

It does seem as if Fornals has been making significant progress. So, I was surprised to see him benched. Lanzini is not the player he was and perhaps should be used as a substitute for the time being.

Without Antonio, Haller was once again left drifting up front. At present, he doesn’t seem to have the positioning sense of players such as Harry Kane. Lanzini broke through at one point and if Haller had positioned himself better, a goal may have resulted.

As for VAR, we all know it was a perfectly good goal and the rules need to be changed in regard to handling. Other changes I would like to see – only your feet can be offside and it needs to be the whole foot and the whole process should be displayed on the big screens , so fans can see what is going on.

The fact that we had to put three youngsters on the bench indicates how desperately shallow our squad is.

All in all, we were beaten by bad feng shui or an unknown goddess, but, in fact, we could easily have won the game 1-0, if justice was on our side. I’m sure we all agree that we are on the right path but it’s going to be a hard road ahead. The game against Sheffield United demonstrated how fine the margins are between victory and defeat.

Match Report

A long,hard road ahead

Let me put in a word for the owners, even though it is understood that the moral compass of the two pornographers cannot be repaired by their delusional belief that ownership of West Ham would bring them applause and gratitude.

The move to the London Stadium was inevitable from the time that the UK won the right to host the Olympics. The problems with the stadium should be laid at the door of Seb Coe, who did not want to understand that the legacy of the stadium would be as a football stadium. And it should have been built as a football stadium which could be converted for athletics, not as an athletics stadium which could be coverted for football.

Then, there was the idiocy of spending a further £325 million to make the stadium suitable for football with all the nonsense talk of retractable seating. It was inevitable that our two sharp owners would negotiate a deal that doesn’t even cover the costs of the owners of the stadium , whose annual losses have been in the millions with the latest reported loss being £28 million . It is lunacy that £6 million is spent each year of taking out seating and putting it back. But, whoever the owners of West Ham would have been, the club would have ended up at the London Stadium.

Secondly, after the disastrous protest at the Burnley game, the owners did listen to the fans. They appointed a supposed top flight manager. They also stopped interfering in the purchase of players and appointed Armando Herrero as Director of Football.

This is all now history. We have what we have and perhaps it is time for an analysis. We are stuck with the stadium. West Ham contributed £15 million to the conversion and the London Borough of Newham, one of the poorest in the country, contributed an insane £40 million.

Let us turn to an analysis of the players, our major asset:

Goalkeeper. It was a brilliant coup buying Fabianski, but poor judgement to let Adrian go and buy a dud as a replacement.

Full Backs. Zabaleta is almost finished. Fredericks I find to be lazy, but could turn out well if he uses his speed. Cresswell has come back to form. Masuaku should be playing in midfield, but may do better with three at the back. I still believe he is a talented player. We need to purchase a couple of full backs.

Central Defenders. Reid is coming back at last but it is unlikely he will regain his form quickly. I believe Diop is a great player and I have no idea how he has ended up on the bench and he may be sold. Balbuena is steady and has recovered from his loss of form. We need another central defender, especially if we go to three at the back, which worked successfully against Gillingham. Ogbonna is playing better than he has ever done.

Midfield. There is a complete lack of pace. Noble has improved dramatically this season, but this should be his last season. Lanzini is totally out of form. Sanchez was a complete waste of money. Wilshere was signed by a complete moron. Snodgrass is slow . Yarmolenko is laborious and should be sold. We should still have faith in Anderson who is able to produce that spark of genius. Fornals is progressing but hasn’t yet shown brilliance.

Attack. The jury is out on Haller. I question his positioning and his passing against Bournemouth was abysmal and he fluffed his chance against Gillingham, but he may come through. I have nothing but praise for Antonio, whose effort is magnificent, but he is not a centre forward. He should play on the right, so he can cut in. Ajeti is an enigma. We are told he can score goals, but he seems lightweight. Diangana should be recalled as soon as possible.

So, there you have it. The best side would be with three at the back with two at the back as the situation requires. Therefore:

Fabianski, Fredericks, Cresswell, Balbuena(substitute Lanzini), Diop, Ogbonna, Rice, Fornals, Anderson, Antonio, Haller

I believe in playing the same side as often as possible and the above talent should be enough, together with our experienced manager, to get us out of trouble……just.

Match Report

We found our Mojo

Here’s a New Year’s joke for you. I heard Manuel Pellegrini went to the doctor because he was suffering from depression. The doctor said ‘ My advice, Manuel, is never to talk about football in your spare time. Keep your problems at work. By the way, why the hell did you play Sanchez and substitute Antonio for Haller?’

We need to set the the scenario. It was with trepidation and hope that I approached the game against Bournemouth. The hope because we have a new manager who can express himself clearly. One has only to compare David Moyes’ first press conference with the last interview with Pellegrini.

In Moyes we have a man who can state his ideas fluently and in the day and a half he had to prepare, he demonstrated this talent. Compare this to the broken English of Pellegrini and his deputy. I would love to hear from players how they coped with this. Apparently, when he and Pellegrini were at Manchester City, James Milner started to learn Spanish, so he could communicate with Ruben Cousillas.

Further , Moyes has shown in one game that he can settle into the job more quickly than any other candidate. In addition, he surrounds himself with men with experience of British football. Hopefully, Stuart Pearce will join the team.

And then there’s the trepidation, because I didn’t want to start the new year in a funk. A gloom descends on our family when West Ham lose and there has been plenty of that recently. Myself, my three sons and my grandson. The women, however, are excluded from this experience and regard our tribal loyalty as some sort of border personality disorder.

One of the comments after my last post said that I was depressing. In a previous post, someone suggested I should get my relatives to check up on me often.

When I saw the line up for the game, I was a little disappointed we weren’t playing three at the back and Haller was going to be left on his own up front. In addition, Antonio was out through injury.

The first few minutes also seemed to indicate little had changed and Bournemouth were lively and we seemed to have difficulty getting possession.
Then, there was a transformation of biblical proportions. It was if a cloud was lifted. It was like Jeremy Corbyn had worked out how to win a General Election or Ann Widdecombe had won Love Island. We had discovered our mojo.

Pellegrini had been right. We needed to discover out confidence. But what it took was a few words from David Moyes in the one and half days he had to get the team ready. And Lady Luck playing on our side and smiling down on us. A fortunate deflection and VAR working for us.

But it was much more than that. The confidence to get the ball forward quickly. To make a run into the box, to shoot. To make incisive passes. With every player performing their role exactly in unison. Gone was the laborious build up.

Mark Noble was a man possessed. Snodgrass had put aside some dreadful recent performances. Fabianski was back. The back four were solid. Anderson was all over the pitch. Fornals definitely put in a Premier League performance. Fredericks getting to the byline.

I’ll have to ask my friend, Dr Freud, how all this happened. But it was probably summed up by the fourth goal. A stunning pass by Rice and then Anderson displaying all his skills. Apparently, Moyes has told him to play like a Brazilian.

So, what are we going to get moving forward? We have found confidence, but can we find consistency? Is it going to be ecstasy and then the agony? And let’s not mess up at Gillingham. We should play the same team. We mustn’t lose this mojo that Moyes has brought us.

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