The GoatyGav Column

Letting The Good Times Roll

Expectation is usually, pretty much, what it says on the tin. It’s what we expect as a minimum from an activity. Things do, however, have a habit of getting more complicated.

Since the win at the weekend I’ve noticed many on-line conversations start to talk about top four finishes. I actually found myself thinking about that as I spoke with no.2 son on Sunday evening and commented to him “imagine going to watch Champion’s League at the bowl next season.”

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The point at which I usually start to buy in to the hype is exactly the point when it usually becomes a false dawn and things head in a ‘negative elevation’ direction (to quote recently installed phone running app parlance…I should add that it’s my son doing the running and not me.) I prefer the old fashioned ‘downhill’ phrase personally.

Towards the back end of last year the team were flirting with a top four place. Rather than start talking about the possibility of finishing the season in that spot I was keen to comment that I was simply ‘enjoying the ride’ and that results were making me happy. Perhaps it’s partly due to the mindfulness training that I’ve been doing for the last 7 and a bit years but enjoying the moment is something that’s coming very easily when in relation to all things West Ham this season.

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So what to do now? Do I start to get excited about the prospect of European football next season or do I just carry on “Letting The Good Times Roll?” I know what the answer should be and I know what I’ll try my best to do and not get sucked in to any hype that’s beginning to gain momentum. But, in all candour, it’s difficult not to.

Next Saturday lunchtime we will line up away at league leaders Manchester City. Frankly speaking they’re probably the best team on the planet right now. Going in to that game my expectation is not that we will win. In fact I don’t think there’s any team in the Premier League that would go up to the Ethiad Stadium confident that they were going to beat Pep Guardiola’s charges. So what are we likely to be saying come Saturday evening? I know that many are likely to do what they always do when we lose and look to place the blame at someone’s door while commenting what a shambles we are or that David Moyes is tactically inept. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that the result is a foregone conclusion but, to get anything out of the fixture at all will be a huge result. I can assure you, however, that whatever the outcome this Hammer won’t be either getting carried away or, conversely, running the team down. The only thing that’s for certain is that I will enjoy a game of football between the two best form teams in English football and continue to be proud of ‘our lads’ trying to do their utmost to get a result.

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As I’m playing catchup at work this week is going to be a short post without updates on the PL2 or Women’s teams other than to say that the youngsters are not getting the results at present, after losing four-one at Blackburn and the ladies have not played since their one-nil loss to Brighton a couple of weeks ago. Sincerely hope that things start looking up for both sides soon as I hope to resume normal service reporting on them in the coming weeks.

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Have a great week all and hope to be enjoying the match with you, in spirit, this coming weekend. Meanwhile I’ll leave you with this image to add to the good times we’re enjoying :D

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COYRRI!


The GoatyGav Column

Running The Bare Bones Gauntlet

The Predictor League for Villa is open. Enter your team HERE. Deadline is tomorrow at 6.15pm.

We’ve been lucky this season. Usually being sat near, or at, the top of one Premier League table this term has seen us right at the bottom of it. What our lack of injuries is down to at the moment I don’t truly know. It could be that the portacabin site is better ground than Chadwell Heath used to be and is resulting in an empty physio room? Perhaps it’s the current strength and conditioning regime or maybe the dieticians have put something in place. All I can say is that we sure as hell need it to continue.

At Centre Back and Attacking Midfield there’s no real problems at present. The options that we have are numerous, experienced and well equipped to play in the Prem. Elsewhere on the pitch we could be staring down the barrel. One position, in particular, is notably worse than others and that is the one of striker.

Now converted to the centre forward role Michail Antonio has become a real threat to opposition defences. He’s giving them a torrid time while, overall, finding his shooting boots this season. The main concern, with Michail, is not his ability but is his hamstrings. With Antonio on the physio table this West Ham squad is not just light up front…it’s practically non-existent.

Having let Dapo Afolayan go out on loan to Bolton Wanderers the only other out and out striker on the books is Mipo Odubeko. With less than ten minutes first team experience it’s safe to say that up top we’re looking extremely light and, outside of false, but obvious, nine formations, running the risk of having makeshift strikers in that vital role.

I sincerely thought that the January window would see a replacement for Sebastien Haller. David Moyes suggested that there were no specific targets for that position that he was after. That does make you wander whether that was a message intended for David Sullivan to convey his wishes to make his own decisions on signings without influence or pressure. In the long term this seems a wise tack to take. The rebuilding of a scouting network, in favour of the use of agents, that had been neglected to the point where it didn’t exist is something that needed to take place. With this season’s momentum gained that might not serve so well should the, almost, inevitable happen and we lose playing personnel to injury.

It’s a dangerous game we’re playing. Before the sale of Haller to Ajax Ajeti was sold to Celtic without being replaced. This isn’t a situation that has developed overnight but one that should have been addressed some time ago. Should those injuries come to pass this Hammer’s finger of blame will be squarely pointed at David Sullivan for running, not only, the striking department down to it’s current ‘streamlined’ status but the depletion of the scouting team over the longer term.

With the mighty Hammers travelling to Old Stretford for the HUGE game next Tuesday I will most likely be having another week off from writing the column. That particular game in mind I wanted to comment on what is now being perceived as a lack of belief by David Moyes when it comes to playing ‘big’ teams.

As a fan I believe that David Moyes is the ideal manager for us at West Ham. I’ll further qualify that by stating that I believe he is the ideal manager for us for at least the next seven odd years.

I want what he created at Everton for West Ham. I’d like to see West Ham challenging in the top half of England’s top tier league on a regular basis. I’d love to see West Ham build a squad that goes from strength to strength, without seeking the marquee signings, with a strong team and work ethic. What I don’t want to see is a similar MO to what he had at Everton where his teams appeared to lack the belief that they could take on the Premier League’s giants and get something out of games.

Starting now I really don’t want to be hearing about not being on the same level as the likes of Liverpool…as we witnessed during the run up to last Sunday’s match. It smacked of inferiority which translated in to the performance, or lack thereof, that we watched. I’m reading Barack Obama’s latest book at the moment. Quoting his campaign I’d like a “Yes We Can!” attitude for the team. More ‘Audacity of Hope’ than accepting the status quo and bowing down before the ‘Powers that Be’ please! Even Declan and Tomas were a shadow of their usual selves despite having the advantage of two extra days of recovery over our injury depleted opponents. So over the coming week I want to hear about the desire to go all the way in the F.A. Cup. For the sakes of the young fans, in particular, who’ve never known a trophy win it’s a chance to experience glory that’s been amiss for a very long time .

“I’m dreaming dreams, I’m scheming schemes.”

COYRRI!


The GoatyGav Column

Writing Players Off

Happy New Year WHTIDers. May 2021 bring you health, wealth and happiness and an end to the pandemic.

It was business as usual in the Thurston household with Turkey, Games, Mince Pies and the odd glass or three. The oldest turned eighteen over the holidays as well so we tried our utmost to make his day special despite the lockdown restrictions. Over eleven minutes of video messages from friends and family were edited alongside over two hundred photos, some of which were cheesy bordering on the embarrassing, which started his day on a particularly bright note. If any of you have special numbered birthdays of loved ones coming up I can recommend putting this together and playing through your biggest screen in the house to kick their day off. I used Shotcut, which can be downloaded for free, to stitch and transition the clips together before adding music. The time and effort was well worth it to see the look on the lad’s face.

It seems that, in years gone by, our beloved club has had a knack for signing aged journeymen with long injury histories. While that’s improved in more recent times some of our most talented players have, unfortunately, collected serious injuries while at the club. The focus of today’s piece is mainly around one of those squad members…Manuel Lanzini.

I’ve written a similar article to this over the last year which sparked a, should he stay or go, debate. Since that time Sebastien Haller has had a good crack at the whip to prove he can cut it, with us, in the Prem. For me he’s now come to the point where, I believe, the club should recognise that he’s not suited to top level English football and should cut their losses. I wanted Seb to do well and genuinely believed that, when he signed at the start of last season, we’d finally got our twenty goal a season man. He reminded me of Dean Ashton in much of his style of play and footballing ability but seems to be completely lacking in the strength needed to hold Premier League defenders off. Many, including me, expected Kevin Nolan to be able to bring the, on pitch, bully out of him but, sadly, there’s absolutely no sign that this is happening. Despite the squad seeming to like him, and my desire to see him succeed despite many family and friends becoming exasperated with him, I genuinely believe it would be best for all parties concerned if he now moved on.

Back to Manu there is a growing split in the fanbase between those who believe his best days are behind him, and that he should move on to pastures new, and those who think he has great value to the club and can still make a big contribution. Beyond a shadow of a doubt I sit in the latter category. I guess some of this might depend upon what you see when he plays. Do you look at how he changed the game after coming on at Crystal Palace and against the Spuds or do you see the player who struggled to get in to the game when he started against Southampton. Perhaps, in the short term, there’s something to be said for him operating from the bench. His impact on matches when coming on as a substitute appear to leave his starting line-up appearances in the shadows.

Going back to the season ’17-’18 Manu was on fire. Every aspect of his game from his creativity to his graft, tracking down and tackling, which is often an underrated aspect of his play, was on point. He seemed to emerge from the shadow of Dimitri Payet, who he played well alongside but was somewhat put in the shade by, as our best attacking player by some distance. His tremendous performances earned him his, long sought after, call up to the Argentinian World Cup squad. After playing well in the warm ups for that competition the ACL injury happened in training with La Albiceleste. An injury as serious in nature as that used to finish careers but Manu worked hard to return to the profession that he, so obviously, loves.

Given time Manu can continue his recovery back to being one of the top performing players in our squad. He may never be the same as he was just before the injury but I, for one, believe that he’s more than worthy of our patience and will repay us by the truckload. Even if he does play as an impact sub, until he’s fully confident and flying again, I think it would be a serious mistake to let him go and I hope to be singing “Ain’t nobody like Lanzini,” from the stands again next season. Conversely I was extremely disappointed to see Manu pictured at a party over the Christmas period. It really irks me that football players seem to think that the rules don’t apply to them and they can do whatever they want. Overall I don’t think that the game is doing enough to come down on offenders and I’d like to see more serious repercussions for them. We have to abide by the rules, and have made sacrifices for the greater good, so why not them. Frankly another thing that puts me off the game at the top level.

No report on the Women’s matches this week due to the lack of matches. Let’s hope their successes continue after the confident four-nil defeat of Bristol City…although with Manchester City up next that’s no easy task.

Next up for the Premier League two team is a trip to Chelsea. If the lads can continue to play well then I’m sure the results will start to come. Last time out at Everton the U23s played very well and were unlucky to come away empty handed so best of luck to them on the fifteenth of Jan.

Have a good, or at least the best possible, week all.

Cheers

Gav

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

The Harder You Practice The Luckier You Get

There have been many theories attempting to explain why West Ham have had such a good start to the season. I’ve been tying to put my finger on exactly what it is that David Moyes has been changing about the team to provide the best chance of getting the results we deserve.

I’m sure that there isn’t one single contributing factor, like the ingredients of a good cake, that have changed the fortunes of our heroes recently. There’s certainly a ‘togetherness’ that been engendered and oft referred to by the players. Playing three at the back has also had a positive impact with the team looking much stronger defensively. The back line are so confident that they will cover each other that we saw the rare sight of two centre backs combining, in the opposition area, to create an opportunity that hit the post when Balbuena’s effort nearly put the game to bed against Leeds on Friday.

Before the game at Elland Road our boys scraped results against Sheffield United and Fulham while playing poorly. We’re winning games when playing badly which is always the sign of a good team.

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There’s some debate about who coined the aphorism ‘The harder I practice the luckier I get.” It was always the South African golfer Gary Player who I grew up believing had come up with the phrase, and perhaps he popularised it, however Player credited Jerry Barber as the originator in his own book written in nineteen sixty-two. Many, however, point to dates way beforehand so it’s altogether likely that the maxim has been passed down from generation to generation.

As I’ve alluded to in other recent articles, the work-rate shown on the pitch is a reflection of all of the hard graft being put in behind the scenes and, especially, on the training pitch. Like an iceberg we see the tip but the real substance and majority of the total sits underneath the surface. There’s a confidence beginning to pervade, with one notable exception that I won’t discuss in today’s article, throughout the squad. This new West Ham is taking some getting used to however the, all too familiar, sense of matchday foreboding is beginning to disappear.

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David Moyes has stamped his authority on the squad and the ethic that exists is down to his, and his management team’s, no nonsense approach. The, If you don’t run then you don’t play, modus operandi is the order of the day and is beginning to get results.

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As we approach my favourite weekend of the football calendar, in the shape of the third round of the F.A. Cup, I am beginning to dream of glory again. “I’m dreaming of a Claret & Blue Wembley…just like the ones I used to know!” The cup is a hugely important competition to me and I would like to see a concerted effort to reach, at least, the Semi-Finals of it. I know I’m not alone and, come the fixture at Edgeley Park next month, I’ll be glued to the box with aspirations of a cup run to get the juices flowing. The oldest existing competition in the world still holds the magic for this Hammer and always will.

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More happy tidings for the Women’s team as well this week. A convincing four-nil victory against Bristol City was secured with a confident performance from the ladies in Claret & Blue on Sunday. A scrappy own goal, following a goalmouth scramble that developed from a corner, opened the Ironesses account. Emily Van Egmund finished off some brilliant work from Martha Thomas very smartly. Thomas continued to terrorise the Bristol City defence, very much in the same style as Jarrod Bowen has been doing in matches for the men, before teeing up a Rachel Daly header with a brilliant, pinpoint cross. A great afternoon for the player from Wiltshire continued with another great ball in to the box for Alisha Lehman before capping the performance off with a smart, bottom corner, finish from the edge of the box to make it four-nil. Next up are second from bottom Aston Villa who visit the Chigwell Construction Stadium next Sunday. Hopefully the ladies can make it two consecutive wins to ease their relegation worries.

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Despite a loss for the under twenty-threes there were lots of positives to come out of the game against Everton last night. Nathan Holland continued to progress his recovery from a nine month lay-off after injuring himself while on loan at Oxford United. Overall the performance at the Pure Stadium deserved more however the dominant display did not result in the goals needed to take any points. Individual errors resulted in Everton taking a two-nil lead before Keenan Forson netted from inside the box. Mistakes have been punished by the opposition so far this season so Dimi Halajko and his coaching team have work to do to eradicate them and start getting the points that the team’s efforts have deserved.

Due to the Tier three status there won’t, unfortunately, be any fans watching the Crystal Palace game tomorrow night. Things are not looking positive for the return of supporters to matches in the short term with the Christmas fixtures looking in jeopardy for the Hammers faithful to attend.

Have a great week all and enjoy the Palace game.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

No More Coming Down With The Christmas Lights

David Moyes has gone on record and said that he’d like to change things about West Ham’s traditional inconsistency. Beating teams that, on paper, we really shouldn’t and losing to teams that we should be winning against is a longstanding tradition. Historically these feats have often been achieved during the same playing week. I’m sure the losses to the more beatable sides is one of the aspects that DM was referring to changing about the club. If so he certainly has this Hammer’s full support. It’s been one of the most frustrating aspects of being a supporter for as long as I can remember.

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Another of the maddening West Ham customs has been the traditional post-Christmas drop off in performances. For years it seemed to plague our teams to the point where the title of this article would often be used by rival fans to taunt us with. Whether you believe it’s an urban myth or not there tends not to be smoke without fire as the demands of the festive fixture lists negatively affected the Happy Hammers.

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Looking ahead to the post-holiday fixtures January involves the following: -

02/01/21 Everton Away
09/01/21 Stockport Away
12/01/21 West Brom Home
16/01/21 Burnley Home
26/01/21 Palace Away
30/01/21 Liverpool Home

Progression to the fourth round of the Cup is an absolute must. No matter which team gets fielded we should not be losing to non-league opposition. The Everton and Liverpool games will be tough. Palace are about as predictable as a Brexit trade deal outcome and, with Burnley and West Brom both having to come to us, I’m hopeful that we can put some points on the board from the five Premier League games. I would expect between seven and ten points in those. Bearing that in mind I’d be interested to hear how far our expectation levels have come.

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There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a new found work ethic, resilience and organisation about the team that , when added to the talent in the squad, could drive us to a top half finish this season. The one area that stuck out, to me, on Saturday evening’s game was the stark difference between Manyoo’s and our finishing. All three of their goals were pure quality. That’s one of the big differences between £500M+ squads and those at our level, with the exceptions being those with the likes of Jamie Vardy, so a lot of work needs to go in to that side of our team’s training. When you look at the chances created there was nothing to separate the two sides at the Bowl this weekend. In fact, if anything, we shaded it overall and the game should have been out of sight by half time. Had we been able to be more clinical that would have come to pass. Comparing the season’s conversion rates of the two teams our top hitman is Seb Haller with thirty two percent with Manyoo have five players with better ratios. It could just be that we do have the players but our front line is just lacking confidence. Maybe a bit of both? Either way I feel it’s certainly one to be working on improving.

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Unfortunately a plucky performance by the Women this weekend left us without anything from the game. A 3-2 scoreline against a very strong Chelsea team is certainly respectable but won’t get the ladies charging up the league. That said I think it’s fair to say, like the men’s team, there have been a number of tough fixtures at the start of the campaign. With Bristol City and Aston Villa, the two teams below West Ham at the bottom of the division, up in the next two fixtures there’s a great opportunity to put points on the board and ease away from the relegation zone. Best of luck to them away at Twerton Park next Saturday.

Tonight sees the under twenty ones away to Peterborough in the EFL Trophy. This competition is of great benefit to all parties in my opinion. Brilliant that the youngsters get to pit themselves against experienced and full grown men to help get them accustomed to the physical demands of professional football whilst for the teams from the lower divisions it’s an opportunity to win a trophy while having a good look at some of the best talent coming through the ranks of the Premier League’s academies. Best of luck to the boys tonight.

Have a great week all.

COYI!


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