Talking Point

The West Ham Catch 22

The brain cells are recuperating and preparing themselves for another season of psychological torture. The last three months have been spent watching events such as the Women’s World Cup, the French Open , Wimbledon and the Cricket World Cup. But nothing can compare to the release of dopamine when your football team scores and that makes us a little mad.

If we were sane, we would support teams where we were guaranteed more goals. After all, Premiership football is about a simple transaction. You get a load of cash for the football rights and you dole it out on transfer fees and wages. My ten year old grandson could do that.

I’ve been loving Catch 22 on Channel 4 and will read the book again when I go on holiday. And this is our Catch 22. To transfer your allegiance to a new club you’ve got to be sane , but the trouble is, if you support a club like West Ham, you’ve got to be a bit mad.

After all, it’s a club run by pornographers, doesn’t own a stadium, has a dame trying to screw the owners of the ground for a few thousand pounds when we could save £800,000 by getting rid of her, and thinks that by surrounding the pitch in maroon instead of green, the results will be improved.

But we love it. We can’t get enough of it. We all think it’s going to get better in the future. And, perhaps it will. We’ve splashed out £45 million on Haller and £25 million on Fornals. We’ve got Yarmalenko, Reid, Wilshere and Lanzini coming back from injuries (I won’t include Sanchez). And it doesn’t seem that we have lost Rice or Diop. So, we should all take our hats off to David Sullivan, who has probably calculating that he should take the risk to make the club more valuable when he sells it in the summer of 2021, when he is free from his agreement with the owners of the stadium.

Perhaps we are still short of full backs. And, although not taking too much from friendlies, we have shipped six goals, which is reminiscent of previous beginnings of other seasons. Personally, I would build a team from the back, but we have an attacking manager and we’ll see how that pans out. And let’s hope that now the traitor, Arnautovic, has gone, team spirit will soar.

So, there’s less than a month to go and let’s hope you’re going to get your dopamine in spades this season.

Match Report

You need to be a Philosopher!

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman are all builders working on a bridge. The Englishman opens his lunch-box and says, “If I get one more tuna sandwich, I’m going to jump off this bridge.” The Scotsman opens his lunch box and says, “If I get one more ham sandwich, I’m going to jump .” The Irishman then says, “If I get one more egg sandwich, I’m going to jump .” The next day, all three get the same lunch, all three jump off the bridge, and all three die. At their funeral, the Englishman’s wife wails, “If only I’d known he didn’t like tuna!” The Scotsman’s wife cries, “If only I’d known he didn’t like ham!” The Irishman’s wife says, “I don’t understand it. He made his own sandwiches.”

I am reminded of this joke because of the stupidity surrounding the way Anderson and Snodgrass take free kicks. OK, have a go once to see is making a small pass and a return works in confusing the opposition. But to try it time and time again, with the only result being that they confuse themselves or pass straight to the nearest opposing player is beyond credibility.

Another joke is that we continue to ship goals, but persist with the same defensive formation i.e two at the back. This continually leads to gaps, into which opposing players can run. Just replay the last Leicester goal as this illustrates the point. We need three at the back to give us a line of steel. All Pellegrini can say about is that we give away too many goals, without seemingly doing a thing about it.

And up front, Arnautovic, who is not a natural striker, is left to fend for himself. Antonio was hugging the right wing and Anderson the left and here was a space as wide as the Sahara desert behind Arnautovic. How many times do we see strikers expected to perform miracles when they are left to roam all by themselves upfront.

It helps when one is a West Ham fan to be a philosopher and ask the question,’What is the meaning of existence?’ ‘Why don’t I sit down and find the club with the richest owners and support that club, instead of supporting a club who think the way to solve their problems is to change carpet at a cost of £250,000?’’Why do I persist in the absurd and think that West Ham can become a top club?’ Albert Camus called it absurdism.

Camus thought that suicide could be the only rational response to the absurdity of life. That’s why I told the joke in the first paragraph. We need to seek meaning and that is why we support our team and stick with it throughout our life. We are a band of brothers travelling throughout the absurdity of life together and we live in hope of a better future. Players come and go, owners come and go, managers come and go, but the heart of the club is its fans.

We, the fans, are like Sisyphus, condemned for all eternity to push a boulder up a mountain only to have it roll to the bottom again and again. But he willingly pushes the boulder up the mountain every time it rolls down.

Match Report

Sullivan's Vision

David Sullivan was up late, working at his desk by candlelight, as he had forgotten to pay his electric bill. Suddenly, out of the darkness a figure appeared changing in form, now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. ‘Is that you, Karen’, Sullivan muttered. ‘ No, I am the ghost of glories past. ‘What are you doing, Sullivan?’

‘I’m making a list of players I need to get rid of, but I’ve run out of paper.’

‘Look and you shall learn’, the spirit whispered. A picture of Arnautovic appeared in the gloom. He was surrounded by books. ‘What are these books? I didn’t know he could read.’, Sullivan asked. The ghost answered, ‘That one is called ‘Trophy hunting in Manchuria, by Carlos Tevez. And that other one is called ‘Famous Austrians who tried to destroy the East End of London.’

Another scene appeared.’ I know who that is’ Sullivan remarked.’ It’s ‘The Thinker by Rodin’.’No, you are wrong’, the ghost replied.’ That is Manuel Pellegrini, your manager. He is still trying to work out his best formation. He says Hernadez and Arnautovic don’t work. Ogbonna, Noble and Snodgrass are too slow. Cresswell and Obiang are past it. Lanzini may never get back his former self.’

‘And what is that he is muttering?’ asked Sullivan. The ghost hissed,’Escoria,Escoria, Escoria. In English, it means Dross, Dross, Dross.’

Another scene appeared.’ Where are those three men’, Sullivan asked. ‘They are Cousillas, Maresca and Valero, your coaches. They are in the sauna at Virgin Active. They have just had a session in the gym trying to work out how to get fit. Now they are in the sauna because they hate the cold weather and can’t wait to get back to South America.’

Sullivan’s mobile rang.’David, can I call you back? I’m having a vision…….I know Ann Summers just lost three million and there’s no money in sex any more……..Anyone can buy a cheap dildo from China……… And the commercial property market is crashing…….I don’t think we can repay ourselves our loan. I was hoping to get £70 million from Liverpool from Lanzini and Arnautovic is not even worth the price of a portion of sweet and sour pork…. We can’t sell the club until 2021 or we have to pay those London Legacy people a packet.’

A vison of a poor man appeared in a corner. ‘I’ll have to go, David.’ Sullivan put his phone down and ask the ghost about the vision. ‘That’s Bob Crachit, one of your long suffering supporters’, the apparition murmured.’He can’t understand why he has to scrimp and scrape to afford his season ticket, whilst the players he watches earn fortunes each week and can’t even pass a football.Judging by their performance at Everton, they can’t even be bothered to make an effort any more.And he has the dream of Tiny Tim becoming a mascot but he can’t afford £700’ Sullivan looked disconsolate. ’That’s Karen’s ermine money.’

‘It’s all so unfair’, Sullivan wept.’We’re still eleventh in the league. And we’ll be changing the pitch surround from green to claret in the summer, which is a tribute to Karen and shows she is worth every penny of the £800,000 per year we pay her for her part-time contribution. What more do people expect? OK, we made a few promises, but it’s not as bad as the promises made about Brexit. And our women’s team is in the semi final of the cup.’

‘I’m going to turn over a new leaf. I want people to like me. I’m going to give every player ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ or at least give it to their translators. I’m going to explain to Pellegrini that we need three defenders at the back and that his system hasn’t produced an away win this year. I’m going to speak to Donald Trump and get a ban on exporting players to China. I’m going to stop cheap deals where we pay good money for nags who keep getting injured. I’m going to publish real attendance figures. I’m going to stop crap adverts on the big screens during play. I’m going to make ‘Beat the Batak’ into a national sport.’ ’ Who are you?‘, Sullivan asked. ’My name is Hazard and I am the nightmare that slices through teams like a knife through butter.’And as the light of dawn crept through the window, the apparition disappeared and David Sullivan tried to remember where he could find more paper.

Talking Point

Rugby v Football

The London Stadium hosted the game between Saracens and Harlequins for the second year running at the London Stadium. Next year it is moving to Spurs new ground .

On a side note and to explain why the rugby is moving, I could have cried this week when I read David Aaronovitch’s article in The Times after his visit to the new Spurs stadium. He wrote,

‘It’s so great ’

‘Beautiful from the outside. Extraordinary from within’.

‘Even from the highest point, there is no ‘Pass my opera glasses, Fiona’, feeling’

‘The place has famously been built for racket.’

‘ A cornucopia of food’.

Oh, woe is me! The distance from the front seats to the pitch is 4.5 metres to 7.9 metres. At the London Stadium it is up to 20 metres. Anyway, let’s get back to rugby and whether there are comparisons to be made to football.

1. In rugby, referees stop the clock when play is suspended. At the end of a half, play continues until the ball goes out and then a hooter sounds. Surely, this is a better system than a fourth official judging how many minutes to add.

2. VAR seems to work with no problem in rugby and is used quite often. The crowd is aware of what is going on and the referee wears a mic, so the television audience can hear what is going on.

3. Play is shown continuously on the big screens. At West Ham, there are more adverts than football and it is an annoying distraction. Goals scored by opponents are never replayed.

4. The rules in rugby are even more complicated than football. Even the commentators sometimes can’t explain what has happened. Simplifying rules is a good thing e.g. hand ball and the correct stance of a player.

5. There are only a handful of stewards. The spectators for rugby are more well behaved and less prone to violence.

6. Players don’t feign injury or roll about on the ground. However, a punch up on the pitch is more likely in rugby.

7. When a player is injured, the attendants can come onto the pitch without the referee’s permission, as long as they don’t interfere with play.

8. The Sin Bin is widely used. I think 10 minutes off the pitch is a good punishment for some offences. A red card can ruin a game. I still remember Tony Gale’s appalling red car in the Fa Cup semi –final against Nottingham Forest in 1991. It ruined the game.

9. A penalty try can be awarded in rugby. Perhaps that could apply to a situation where a player has handled the ball to prevent a goal in football.

So, I might not have got this completely right, but there are a few lessons to be learnt.

Match Report

Alice in Westhamland

Alice: ‘I have never been to a football game. Can you explain what happens?’

The Mad Hatter: ‘Well, you see all our players. Some of them cost us as much as £35 million pounds.’

Alice: ‘Is it that one who can’t pass the ball to save his life?’

Mad Hatter: ‘Yes, that’s the one. And you see that one. He’s been chosen to play for England, so now he’s playing like he’s playing for England and can’t pass the ball. A few games ago he was brilliant. Also, he had difficulty making up his mind whether he is Irish or English’

Alice:’ And what about that player up front?’

Mad Hatter: ‘Well, that player wants to go to China to win some trophies and earn more money, because he only earns £100,000 a week and he can’t manage on that.’

Alice:’What about that man who is standing on the sidelines?’

Mad Hatter: ’He’s the sort of general. But, he’s getting a bit old, so they only pay him £6 million a year. And he earns his money by shouting ‘Charge! Charge!’ all the time. Nobody has yet realised, he doesn’t really know that there are a number of ways to play football. And he is Chilean, so the only word he knows in English is ‘Charge!’

Alice:’ What about that bald player?’

Mad Hatter: ‘ He’s getting very old as well. In fact, he can’t remember where he should be playing. He’s actually should be a defender, but he keeps getting lost up the other side of the pitch.’

Alice:’ What about that strong looking man?’

Mad Hatter: ‘I heard he learnt his game from a bull in a china shop. They say he should go to Specsavers when he shoots at goal.’

Alice: ‘ This is all a bit like your riddle. Why is a raven like a writing desk?’

Mad Hatter: ‘ No, my riddle today is ‘How can you play like a bottom club against a bottom club and still win.’

Alice: ‘And who is that man up there watching the game through glass?’

Mad Hatter: ‘ He’s the owner. He’s afraid when the fans get excited, they might start to throw coins at him.’

Alice: ‘Doesn’t he want to catch the coins , so he can be a little richer? All this seems a little madder than your tea party.’

Mad Hatter: ‘Look here comes the rabbit. West Ham pulled him out of the hat in extra time.’

Alice: ‘Oh, there’s the Queen of Hearts over there. She keeps shouting ‘Off with his head’.

Mad Hatter : ‘That’s the most sensible thing I have heard someone say today.’

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