The GoatyGav Column

Time To Give The Boys Your Backing

Personally I’m backing Moyes and the players. The gaffer has done enough to deserve a decent chance of building his own squad, team, tactics and MO for the future. He’s inherited someone else’s squad, TWICE, and done enough to secure a Premier League future for the club when put in charge of teams in decline.

What I also like about him is he’s an honest, honourable bloke who appreciates the fans and the club’s history and traditions. You won’t find him cupping his ear to the stands, attempting to remove any of the images of historical victories, calling supporters (you know – those people whose hard earned cash pays for the whole circus to continue) deluded or denying that there was ever a ‘West Ham Way’.

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I also like the fact that he’s humble. I like it because, as well as being an admirable, and likeable, quality, it also shows that he feels he can learn. With the bombast that you find with the, highly inflated, egos of so many managers you tend to find that they genuinely believe they know it all and have nothing to learn. They’re stuck in their ways and find it difficult, if not impossible, to adapt. None of that with David Moyes. He knows that he has to adapt because of the dynamic, ever changing, nature of modern football. At all times he remains a scholar, learns, adapts and moves on.

I don’t care if you call me a farm rabbit or not. Yes, maybe, I’m ignoring some of his faults. I do, however, recognise that his in-game management (substitutions and changes of shape/tactics) have not been the best but he’s earned the chance to learn from his own mistakes and put what he learns in to practice. I do believe, however, that he will improve this aspect of his management and that the task of making that improvement will become easier as he assembles his own squad.

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So far I’ve not discussed any of DM’s previous management roles. Many of his detractors point out that he was unsuccessful in his time with Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland. I’m of the belief that the learning he gained in all three of those roles have made him a better manager because of the growth mindset that I highlighted earlier in the article. Away from what he learned at those three clubs you could also view his time with Preston North End, Everton and his first stint with West Ham as evidence of his quality. In all of those teams the players were completely on board there was a strong bond within the squads that all pulled together in the same direction. I remember thinking how much I would have liked to see David Moyes managing West Ham when he was in charge at Everton.

Notwithstanding his track record I would contend that there wouldn’t have been a manager in the world who wouldn’t have been on a hiding to nothing stepping in to Alex Ferguson’s boots. As mentioned in the comments yesterday he was on a hiding to nothing at Sunderland as well. That would leave Real Sociedad where, I’m sure, David Moyes would probably admit he struggled, after a good start in Season 2014-‘15, before being sacked, after a string of bad results, in November 2015 almost exactly a year after his appointment.

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I’m looking forward to the next five games. Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek are clearly enjoying playing for the team and are repaying David Moyes’ faith in them. The Scot has a good track record for both signings and bringing youth players through. These are attributes that, under the current circumstances, will prove very useful in helping create a strong, competitive squad. The area that, I think, we have all recognised as being in most need of improvement over the last few years is at full back. If there’s a position that DM has an eye for, in terms of signings and development, then, I’d say, full back would be it. If not for bad advice then Jeremy Ngakia would be continuing to benefit from Moyes’ excellent full back coaching. I’ll be interested to see what the youngster’s agent comes up with for him as, despite not wishing him any ill, I think he’s stabbed himself in the foot by making the, possibly ill advised, decision that he has.

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It’s time to back the manager and the team, stop the speedboat turns in strategy and allow the squad to develop. Let’s get off David Moyes’ back and support him.


The GoatyGav Column

Unprecedented Levels Of Pessimism

This week’s post is not a happy one. With the doom-mongers out in force it’s very hard to remain optimistic about our proud club.

Overall us Hammers are known for our devout loyalty and, generally, optimistic outlook. Never mind thirty years of not winning a league title – we’ve stuck by our lads for forty without a single trophy and have managed to get by without winning two Champion’s leagues (must have been awful for those Liverpool fans). The start of every season brings renewed hope and the start of the 2019-20 season was definitely no exception.

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I remember being extremely optimistic after the squad was strengthened with our, long awaited, big money striker signing in the Summer. With the January signings of Bowen and Soucek added I’m of the firm belief that, not only will we escape relegation, we should be in the top half of the table. In each of the games that I saw Haller, Bowen and Antonio link up we’ve looked different gravy. The former of those three has been the missing link however he does need to ‘toughen up’. Bobby Z made a great point, post Spuds match, when he stated that Kevin Nolan should be doing some one on one training with Seb with a view to achieving that ‘Premier League’ street wisdom and toughness that’s currently missing.

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That pre-season optimism, albeit slightly dampened by another drubbing from Manchester City in the opener, seemed to be justified in the early weeks of the Premiership. With an unbeaten run of five, including wins away at Watford and home to Norwich and Manchester United, there was a tangible feel good factor at the bowl. October, by contrast, brought us one point from a possible nine before a worrying slide in November and December that saw the end of Manuel Pellegrini’s tenure at the club.

I had a conversation with another season ticket holder in the row behind me about our opinions of David Moyes’ re-appointment. I think the other fan was as much pleased to see MP leave as anything else when he mentioned how happy he was with the return of the Scot to the management hotseat. I was less enthusiastic as I voiced my belief that “going back is going backwards.” Absolutely nothing to do with my opinion of David Moyes who I think is a decent manager. I know things didn’t work out well for him after leaving Everton but I have him down as a thoroughly decent person who, despite my reticence about re-appointments in general, I am fully behind and who has my complete support. I genuinely hope that he turns things around and has a long and successful career at our club.

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In his first game you could see the improvement in play. The comparison between the West Ham that Pellegrini sent out to lose against Leicester and the team that took the field for the Liverpool loss and then the, emphatic, four-nil win against Bournemouth was night and day. The general consensus was one of there having been an immediate improvement. After easing past Gillingham in the cup third round the boys were unlucky not to come away with something at Bramhall Lane. From then on, however, the confidence seemed to ebb away with the only point being gained at, out of form, Everton. The lowest ebb since being the draw snatched from the jaws of victory against Brighton at home.

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In the last three games before lockdown, and with Jarrod Bowen playing a bigger part, the team returned to their early season positivity. For a fair period of the game at Anfield the lads looked like they may have been the team to stop Liverpool’s unbeaten run in a three-two thriller. At home to Southampton Bowen opened his, and the team’s, account in a decent three-one win before a narrow loss at the Emirates where the lads created more shots, both off and on target, than the home side and should have grabbed at least a point on chances created.

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I think that Lockdown has made a big contribution towards the negativity and pessimism that we’re seeing. The current expressions of dismay are a form of emotional catharsis that, I guess, are to be expected under the circumstances. We’re all getting things off our chests and that is not, necessarily, a bad thing. Personally, however, I’m optimistic that, when we see the return of a front three of Bowen, Antonio and Haller, our relegation worries will ease and we’ll climb away from the foot of the table. Haller won’t be back for the Chelsea game, and won’t likely be around for the trip to Newcastle either, so I genuinely hope that either Ajeti or Silva get a chance, Antonio can return to the flank where he enjoys himself most and we start to create chances again. I, genuinely, can’t recall a single game where we’ve looked at all effective with Antonio as the lone striker. Not once. I pray that we don’t see that again this season.

Lastly this week I’d like to say a very fond farewell to Zabba. If you’re reading this I’d like to go on record as saying you’re a top player and top man, Pablo, and you will be missed. I’m gutted that we won’t get to give you a send off in person as you’ve more than deserved it and it would have been an extremely warm one. I wish you all the very best in the future – a future in which I’d really love to see you have further involvement at our club in the form of a coaching role. Wherever it does take you may the road rise up to meet you.


The GoatyGav Column

First Time For Everything

At a time for many firsts I’m not sure if I ever remember a youth player, just having broken through to the first team, putting in a wage demand and threat of a move away, having played less than ten first team matches. I’m sure that someone will let me know if so. Has this ever happened before?

The power of agents in today’s market has risen way too far in my view. For many negotiations the agents now hold strong cards but in Jeremy Ngakia’s agent’s case I’m not so sure if he’s overplaying his hand.

For Jermey it’s one helluva risk to be taking. Having only just broken in to the first team at West Ham he is potentially jeopardising his entire future before it’s really started. One, very realistic, outcome for Ngakia is that he is signed by another club, most likely of similar stature to West Ham because of his expectation of first team football, as a free agent and fails to slot in to the first team. He could easily be dropped down to the U23’s or loaned out to a lower league club. Another possibility is that he goes to a club playing regular European football and never makes it in to the first team before being loaned out to a lower league club and never making it back. Injuries have given the youngster a great opportunity to have a run in the team so I’m surprised at the demands of a contract paying more than any other player who was in a similar position to him in the past.

As things stand David Moyes has given Ngakia his chance. It’s true to say he’s grabbed it with both hands and impressed. Against Liverpool he was impressive and had the, overwhelming, majority of West Ham fans calling for him to be given a run. The manager has even played Ngakia after his refusal to sign a new contract with West Ham which, psychologically, was a smart move from the Scottish gaffer. Surely Ngakia will now be thinking that he has a great opportunity with West Ham but will his agent still influence the youngster towards a move away with his own self-interest (ie. cut of a contract) the main motivating factor? Risking what he’s achieved so far will, no doubt, be on his mind over the coming days and weeks.

The way things stand I can see things going awry for Jeremy. Having sacrificed so much, worked so hard and had the fortune to be given the break that he has I fear he may be on the cusp of making the worst decision of his career based on what his advisors are telling him. Only time will tell.

Away from contract and transfer matters there have been quite a few other firsts. Never before have top tier teams been allowed to make five substitutions in a game. Many have criticised David Moyes’ in game changes since Saturday’s loss to Wolves. I’m not sure there was much he could do about Adama Traore, and hindsight is a wonderful thing, so I don’t hold Moyes responsible for the way the game changed after the substitutions, however I do wonder if he might consider giving opposition more to worry about with a triple substitution in the future. I also wonder how long it will be before we see the first change of more than three subs at once to change things up or rescue a game. Perhaps a double then triple, or vice versa, strategy? One I’ll be interested to keep an eye on.

Among the other firsts were fake crowd noises coming through our TV speakers at home. I did have to laugh during the Merseyside derby last night when the crowd sound operator hit the wrong buttons on a couple of occasions following Everton strikes on goal. Definitely another first hearing the ‘oooooh’ of a near miss quickly followed by the cheering of a goal scored swiftly replaced with the previous noise once more.

The drinks breaks are another first, as far as I can remember, which also seem to have more of a negative effect on the flow of the game. How long before commercial breaks while the players squirt Lucozade sport, from their drinks bottles, down their throats?

So, sadly, from firsts to a last. I’d like to add my voice to the many who have paid tribute to the life and spirit of the amazing Dame Vera Lynn. Originating from East Ham Vera Lynn epitomised the strength of character, warmth, grace, optimism, selfless attitude and traditional East End values that she became known for. The ‘Forces Darling’s’ effect on the nation’s state of mind during the dark days of the Second World War cannot be understated. I read somewhere that the players would come out to the usual bubbles from the bubble machine accompanied by her version of the famous West Ham anthem on Saturday but was disappointed that the usual version of the song was played however I was pleased to see the tributes to her displayed on the screens during the pre-match build up. Along with a celebration of her one hundred and three years of life my thoughts and condolences to her nearest and dearest at this time.

Peaceful Journey Dame Vera. RIP.

The GoatyGav Column

The Culture Of The Outside Of The Boot

I’ve had the idea in my head to write this article for quite some time. The current global situation, added to the fact that I’m officially on a week and a day’s holiday, have meant that the time to put it together and post has been in abundance.

Before a ball was kicked this Premier League season the West Ham squad got together and trained, in Switzerland, along with some of the new signings. One triple training session, or I should say one particular aspect of one of the triple training sessions, grabbed my attention in particular. Rather than talk through it I thought I’d share the youtube footage of the moment with you instead: -

There’s something very cultured about the use of the outside of the boot. I liked to try and attempt to use it myself when I played, at school and in Sunday League, as I felt the ball could be ‘guided’ in to the path of team-mates making runs and, often, away from defenders at the same time – handing the advantage to the recipient of the pass. This method to finding angles on the pitch is one that I used to coach the kids I used to manage. Earlier this season Dan put a video on his pre-match article for the Sheffield United game which featured footage of the late, great Bobby Moore making one such pass : -

One of my favourite players in world football, Isco, bends the ball with the outside of the boot beautifully in the following video. The touch and finish from Benzema is pretty decent too. If it were only with the outside of the boot as well : -

There are several other advantages to the use of the outside of the foot. Not all are for sublime passes. Striking a shot with that area of the boot can generate more curve on the ball. Those who’ve seen it couldn’t possibly forget Roberto Carlos’ outrageous free kick from thirty-five yards against France in 1997. To this day scientists are still impressed by the amount of bend that Carlos generated and, specifically, physicists believe that the feat will never again be repeated. Often referred to as “The Impossible Kick,” the aerodynamics of the strike have been studied at great length. When you look at Fabien Barthez he’s completely rooted to the spot as he doesn’t believe it could hit the target in a month of Sundays however the shot clips the inside of the post on it’s way to the back of the net: -

The amount of curve that Carlos managed to generate with that free kick, and the subsequent rippling of the back of the net, is right up there with some of the greatest goals of all time however it certainly wasn’t the first. The following footage of a goal scored by Eder for Gremio, against fierce rivals, Internacional, in a Campeonato Gaucho match in November 1978, shows, what appears to be a similar amount of, outside of the boot, curve but with the ball hitting the underside of the bar to the keeper’s right. In this instance the curve takes the ball away from the keeper, rather than around the wall and back inside the post like in the Carlos example, which is another benefit of the swerve that can be generated in this manner : -

Eder’s goal for Gremio was a bomb, from distance, that contained a similar length of run up to Carlos’. In fact his run was so long that the cameraman had to move from right to left just to keep up with the entire shot. Could the distance of the run up have anything to do with the amount of turn achieved? Perhaps one for the scientists to consider.

Another form of the pass, the cross, is also skill where exponents of users of the smaller toes have shown their creativity. Not, generally, known for his cultured feet Romelu Lukaku hits an absolute beaut of a centre, for Inter, with his left peg in the following video. At first viewing the finish looks like it might have come from the same area of the foot but, on closer inspection, Lautaro Martinez’s volley is hit with the laces – and to great effect : -

Despite the phrase originating with spin bowlers in cricket there have also been football players who have “made the ball talk,” down the years. So many of those “visions spectacular,” have come from the outside of the boot of those richly talented legends of the game. For me it’s the moments of sublime skill, or artistry if, like me, you prefer, that invoke the admiration and pure love of the game more than anything else. Once we return to watching live football I hope to witness many more of these magical moments of footballing history. With any luck the majority coming from our heroes in Claret and Blue.

Meantime keep safe, be kind to, and look after one another.


The GoatyGav Column

The Way Forward For Professional Football

With key players in world football getting together on a video conference later today (tomorrow as I write) there appears to be several options open to the professional game.

Despite the fact it’s been discussed at length I believe that there’s real value in gaining a consensus. Perhaps a survey could be compiled on this very site to give an indication of popular opinion. With that in mind I wanted to float some of the current ideas, that are kicking around, past you wise and knowledgeable lot.

It looks like it could be some time before games can begin again. There are all manner of contracts to satisfy, honours, qualifying and relegation all to be decided and knock on effects on other competitions to be put to bed by Premier and Champion’s league fixture completion. So what to do?

Personally I would like to see the current season completed when possible. There is the option to scrap it and start again however my heartfelt opinion is that it would be grossly unfair, and litigiously questionable, to do so. The only positive that I could draw would be the potential for Bury to be re-instated if they could prove they were capable of completing their fixtures under the league’s stipulations.

So what to do if the current season is to be completed? To add to the difficulty in achieving the closing out of the various campaigns you have the uncertainty of when it might be safe to begin playing games again. This article won’t list every conceivable option and, no doubt, many alternative solutions will be put forward. I certainly hope that’s the case anyway.

To outline some of the options I’ve numbered them as follows: -

1. Increase the frequency of fixtures, played behind closed doors, or in open stadia, when safely possible, to bring the season to a conclusion on time (target final game Sunday 17th May).

2. Complete this season at the normal game frequency and make next season shorter or less time pressed by

a. Cancelling 2020-21 season cup competitions

b. Reducing 2020-21 season cup competitions to one round only

c. Each team playing each other team only once during 2020-21

d. Cancelling International football (including all tournaments and European Nations League qualifying matches)

e. Postponing International football (eg. Euros to be moved to Jan 2021 – which may have the added benefit of being a dry run for the Qatar World Cup)

f. A combination, or all, of the above

3. Restart the season in 2020-21 with all league leaders on zero points and those behind starting on minus points in line with current league status (eg. Man City on -22 or -25, Leicester on -29, Chelsea on -34 etc) once all teams reach 29 games completion this season.

4. Begin the immediate playing of domestic matches again, without team personnel who have contracted Covid-19, within the current fixture schedule with a catch up schedule for games already postponed (unfair on Arsenal and Chelsea for sure). Europa and Champions League matches to be re-scheduled when possible.

5. Some kind of ‘Duckworth-Lewis’ style, variable stipulated, calculation to predict the outcomes of the remaining games of the season and points awarded accordingly.

6. Mini-tournament, played as soon and as safely as possible, for the top eight and bottom eight teams to decide final league positions.

7. Other forms of mini-leagues to shorten next season.

As fee paying customers, or fans if you, like I, prefer, the prospect of the leagues being completed by matches being played behind closed doors provides other challenges. For those who have paid TV subscription fees, and those who have paid for Season Tickets, could be joined by others on a pay per view basis with the Season Ticket holders catered for by their respective clubs for all their remaining games to be aired live. It will certainly be weird. Those who remember the ‘Ghost’ match played at Upton Park, against Castilla, in the Cup Winner’s Cup on 1st October 1980, might have got a taste of the atmosphere of a match played in an empty stadium – albeit broadcasted on the radio and not on TV. Others might have watched U23 games played in the Bowl attended by much smaller numbers however the prospect of first class matches in empty stadia is another thing altogether.

Clearly far more important events are upon us. By comparison to how lives potentially could be, and are being, affected football really should be a lower priority. This being a football based blog, however, potential solutions to this season’s fixture pile ups are front and centre. I’d be very interested to hear what you lot think about the above and your opinions or ideas.

Stay safe and healthy and take care of each other all.

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