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 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 ( ? 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.

Match Report

Humiliation by the Dons

John Macaria jumped from his seventh floor apartment when Manchester United lost to Newcastle. Suleiman Omondi hanged himself after an Arsenal defeat.

Luckily I don’t live in an apartment and I haven’t got any rope.

I remember when we lost 1-5 to Huddersfield Town from Division 2 in 1960 in a third round FA Cup replay. Upton Park was covered in snow. Whilst the West Ham players slipped and struggled in the snow, the Huddersfield players wore rubber soled boots. It was the most brilliant coaching decision I have ever witnessed.

Oh, and Huddersfield had a brilliant young player called Denis Law who joined Manchester City two weeks later for a record breaking fee of £55,000.

The most enlightening aspect of the game was listening to Vinnie Jones before the match. He was brilliant. I loved his description of what Arnautovic has done to the club and what the other players should do to Arnautovic. And what happens (or doesn’t happen) in the dressing room. If only Vinnie Jones could go into our dressing room and kick the players in their backsides and rip up their headsets.

How can a side which beat Arsenal and had a clean sheet two weeks ago stoop so low? One answer is that you cannot disrespect the FA Cup. I would describe the side we put out as a team of substitutes. It was noticeable how Pellegrini and his assistant, Ruben Cosillas sat holding their heads in their hands and so they should.

The game cruelly exposed players whose time is up at West Ham – Obiang, Ogbonna, Masuaku and Carroll. Adrian looked rusty and Diangana’s time has not yet come. Noble was playing so deep, I thought he would go and sit with the West Ham fans. We need to employ a former striker to teach Antonio how to shoot straight Hey, didn’t we used to have Teddy Sherringham?. Bring him back.

OK, are there any positives to take from this humiliation? It demonstrated how Rice is the glue that binds the team together. And we rely on the flashes of brilliance from Anderson, so much so that when he plays badly, we always seem to lose. It was obvious that everything should have been played through Anderson and too often it wasn’t.

We, West Ham fans , are a humorous lot. We have to be because we know humiliation is just around the corner. But , perhaps, it’s our expectations that are the real cause of our disappointments.

I’m going to be humming Bridge Over Troubled Water all day:

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Player Analysis

Footballers' Contracts

There is an important word in English law and that is the word precedent. It is part of common law, where a decision in a case establishes a principle. Then, precedent will be used by judges to decide new cases.

Therefore, in hundreds of areas of the law, one can read about precedents. However, when it comes to footballers’ contracts, this area is like a desert, leading to the conclusion that, in the case of footballers, the contract is sometimes not worth the paper it is written on, since no one ends up in court.

West Ham may have set a new kind of precedent in the case of Payet. The player had signed a five year contract with the option of an extra year in 2015. In 2016, he signed a new contract paying him £125,000 per week. In January 2017, Payet refused to play and was subsequently transferred back to Marseilles.

West Ham, therefore, set the precedent that a player can get his way out of his contract by going on strike. Slaven Bilic confirmed that the problems with Payet were having a detrimental effect on the squad. This is something that has surely influenced Arnautovic in the way he has approached his desire to play football in China.
Judging by the way the players performed against Bournemouth compared to a terrific performance against Arsenal, there is the suspicion that the atmosphere in the dressing room had turned negative as a result.

So, are there other options for the club? Perhaps a player who refuses to play should be suspended without pay for a set period. This could even be added as a clause in the contract. The club may even threaten to sue the player for damages, say £15 million in the case of Arnautovic, as a percentage of his transfer fee from Stoke.

One might say that these types of incident are bound to occur when clubs rely on transferring players, who turn out to be journeymen, playing for the club who will pay them the most. One answer may be to invest more in the Academy, bringing through young players and perhaps looking worldwide for talent. One must bear in mind that Lionel Messi joined Barcelona when he was 14 with a contract that was apparently written on a paper napkin.

Barcelona have La Masia , the farmhouse, with 300 young players. Iniesta, Alves, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas and Pedro are also one of its graduates. Pep Guardiola commented that players who came through La Masia have something different to the rest, having worn a Barcelona shirt from when they were a child. Let’s remember Moore, Hurst and Peters. Mark Noble is the modern epitome of loyalty and integrity.

Hopefully, Pellegrini can work on Arnautovic and bring him back to his best. After all, it is in the player’s interests that he shows good form, if he wants to be transferred in the summer window. Arnautovic would be advised to bear in the mind the Chinese phrase that the person attempting to travel two roads will get nowhere.

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