The GoatyGav Column

Billy Big Ballsers Or Basically Besieged And Battered

I don’t know about you but it feels like 2019 has kicked the crap out of me. As a nation we’ve become the butt of numerous jokes, have endured unprecedented levels of uncertainty in our economy, have had to put up with important procedural decisions being delayed because of that uncertainty, felt at my fellow Britons’ throats in this divisive environment and have lost any kind of optimism about the short and medium term future. To top it all off the weather is bringing even more misery than usual – especially for those poor souls having to endure flooding. Overall not a million miles away from how we’re currently feeling as West Ham fans.

In last week’s article I put forward one aspect of why I believe the team’s confidence has nosedived. Like any kind of crash, however, it’s never down to one single factor.

Since his arrival Manuel Pellegrini has spoken of installing a ‘Big Team’ mentality to the squad. Frankly I like the cut of his jib in this respect. He’s very familiar with this kind of self-belief due to his previous managerial roles in the game. You don’t get as far as he has without knowing what you’re talking about and I’m sure that he has utter conviction in his belief that he can get the players in to this mind-set. But will this work for every player, at all times, or is there a negative aspect of this ‘confident’ attitude? I wonder if some of the players started to believe their own hype a little and found that, all of a sudden, they went off the boil due to their ‘I’m the man now’ arrogance. There’s a very fine line between confidence and arrogance and the latter can often have a negative effect.

As I’ve watched recent matches player’s energy levels seemed to have dropped away. Earlier in the season there was a zip and a crispness about our pass and move that’s been absent for some time. The team weren’t converting every chance but were creating so many good opportunities that it didn’t seem to matter and was enough to win games. More recently it appears that the team are desperately short on ideas as the ball appears to be moving much slower. The whole approach seems laboured and lethargic to my eyes. What’s gone on to create this I’ve no idea. Has the dressing room been hit by colds and flu bugs? Are training sessions ‘coaching’ the intensity out of the team? Are the players simply not in sufficiently top condition to give the same, energetic, performances that took us to fifth place in the Prem? Whatever the reason is the first team are in an extremely worrying trough at the moment as all concerned, staff and fans alike, are starting to look down the table, instead of up it, with major apprehension.

When the going gets tough the tough get going. Question is exactly how tough, or resilient, is this squad. This needs turning around and turning around immediately. Last time out the international break came at a most inconvenient time. The team were playing confidently and well so we really could have done without the squad breaking up to go and play for their national sides. This time it’s just about the best thing that could have happened to West Ham. Players can get away to fresh environments, play for their respective countries and come back to ‘go again’ against the Spuds on the 23rd. The upcoming fixture list looks daunting however that’s usually the time that West Ham knuckle down and ‘put it in’. Let’s hope the lads can use this change, break, or whatever you want to call it to reset and return to go at it with alacrity.

Nothing further to report on the Ladies or PL2 teams this week, as they have not played any fixtures since my last post on here, however the U21 squad travel to Exeter to play their EFL ‘Leasing.Com’ Trophy match against the team at the top of group M. Since getting off to a flyer in League two this season Exeter City have only won once in their last four League fixtures. Earning a creditable draw away to fellow League two opposition, Cambridge United, in the F.A. Cup last weekend fortunes may be turning for the Grecians ahead of the visit of Dimitri Halajko’s charges and, one suspects, a stern challenge awaits. Despite this Exeter are without players due to international duty so I’m hopeful our youngsters can put the Devon side to the sword. Halajko’s teams have played some really attacking and entertaining football so far this season. Sadly it looks like the game won’t be streamed but I’ll certainly be keeping tabs on it via the official site’s live blog and wish the boys all the best in this final group match.

Have a good (at least better) week everyone.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

A Keeper Of Confidence

Over the last three to four weeks I’ve posted several comments in support of Roberto. He’s come in and done ok for my money. I think that he’s shown what he’s about with some really decent shots stopped. He’s made very few errors and it’s debatable whether those have led to goals conceded. The second Newcastle goal, for which I left my seat to visit the little boys room (yes, I know, it was my fault), was, almost certainly, down to his indecision in coming for the ball and ending up stranded off his line without a chance of claiming the ball but who’s to say that wouldn’t have ended up in the back of the net. In any event that rush of blood to the head wouldn’t have led to his defence gaining confidence in him and it’s that point that forms the basis of this article.

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My brother and I, along with all those who stayed behind, applauded San Miguel Adrian on the season’s player parade lap last season. He got the loudest chant sung about him, in the lower tier section that we went down to, and deservedly so in my opinion. I wouldn’t say that Adrian was a club legend but he came pretty close. One of the club’s most memorable moments, of the last decade, was the penalty shootout victory against Everton in the 3rd round replay of the cup in 2015. After fellow Spaniard Joel Robles hit the crossbar with his spot kick the image of our charismatic keeper confidently throwing off his gloves and coolly burying his penner is emblazoned on our memories for all time. One of those moments I’ll remember exactly where I was, as I didn’t attend the match, as I jigged my way around the social club where I was playing a darts match.

San Miguel was not without his detractors at West Ham. Criticism of him re-surfaced from time to time after he had his occasional ‘moments’ that had us all wondering what was going through his mind. They were, however, exactly that – just moments. Ninety nine percent of the time Adrian was a superb keeper for us. As time rolled by he also improved his consistency and the mistakes were fewer and farther between.

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Nowadays Adrian plies his trade as the backup keeper for Liverpool. Shortly after joining the European Champions he found himself thrown in to the first team during, and following, the match of the injury to Alisson in the season opener against Norwich City on 9th August. With little time to adjust, after thirty nine minutes of the Premier League Season having passed, our ex-keeper helped Liverpool boss the league and go on an amazing winning run of eight games before handing the mantle back to Alisson. In fact the winning streak ended with Alisson’s return for the Merseysider’s visit to Old Trafford on the 20th October.

As well as directly effecting the outcome of games, through goals conceded, goalkeeper’s performances, and overall presence, have a direct effect on a team’s confidence. Since the injury to Fabianski West Ham’s first team confidence has gradually ebbed away. Apart from the team’s results, and league position, heading South there’s been a visible deterioration in the outfield tempo, fluency and cohesion. Fabianski’s injury came after thirty-four minutes of play at Bournemouth on 28th September. The team were goalless at the Vitality Stadium having just beaten Manchester United at home, drawn at Villa Park and beaten Norwich City – all without conceding a goal. Before that we’d won three–one at Watford and drawn one each with Brighton. The fact that Man City had put five past us in the previous match had little to do with Fabianski’s performance.

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Don’t get me wrong. I’m not placing the blame for all our woes at Roberto’s door. Going back to the first paragraph of this article I’m clear in my support of him as a deputy. I just wonder whether the club’s owners now rue the decision not to improve Adrian’s contract and if they now believe that the extra wages would have been worthwhile paying. Most of the squad knew San Miguel very well and, I’m sure, would have been playing with far more confidence with the Spaniard behind them because of the relationship developed over the six seasons. Added to that the fact he’s still only thirty-two years of age one can only believe that the board would have to admit to having made a mistake.

Elsewhere the West Ham Ladies edged out Reading in a cup competition for the second year running. This time it was the Continental League Cup, and not the F.A. Cup, but again away to the Berkshire side. Alisha Lehman scored the only goal of the match, so no extra-time or penalties on this occasion, and the highlights can be viewed on the official club site. From what I could make out the women really impressed and moved the ball well. Encouraging signs for the rest of the season to come. Next time out, on the 17th November, they’re away to the mighty Manchester City. Best of luck to the Ironesses for that match.

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The U23s suffered a loss, and gained a good win, against Wolfsburg in the Premier League International Cup and Swansea in PL2 respectively. Two stunning efforts from Wolfsburg saw the German team come out three-two victors however Anthony Scully kept up his incredible Scoring run which continued at Swansea where he grabbed another in the four-two win. Nathan Holland grabbed an impressive brace against the Swans with Dan Kemp also finishing beautifully for the fourth. Their next outing is a trip to high flying Exeter City in the Checkatrade Trophy on 13th. Once again the highlights can be viewed at www.whufc.com.

Have a good week all.

COME ON YOU RIP ROARIN’ IRONS!


The GoatyGav Column

One Of The Premier League’s Worst Or Just Unlucky?

Two points out of the last twelve available puts us below Watford in the last four games. There are only two teams with worse hauls and those are Norwich and Southampton. When you look at it that way it’s not much worse than the first four games of last season. Our predicament really got real on Saturday and there I’ve got some serious concerns about the coming games.

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Confidence is definitely on the wane at West Ham right now. Some players are suffering more than others. For my money there’s something wrong with Felipe Anderson. Something’s definitely going on with the bloke IMO. He’s been off the boil for a number of games now. Where he was putting in great shifts on match-days he’s now gone back to strolling around like he’s walking off a Sunday roast. I found myself screaming at him like a demented lunatic, to get up with play, on one occasion when we were attacking as he was ambling along around the half-way line. Annoyingly, though, by the time he got hooked he’d actually started getting in to the game.

I’m an optimistic bloke who will, generally, give the benefit of the doubt, where it exists, to people. I’m also a big advocate of Manuel Pellegrini, who I remain fully supportive of, during this difficult period. His substitutions on Saturday, however, baffled me. I ask you – Yarma or Snoddy to make way for Ajeti? And in the eighty-sixth minute? There’s a reason that Haller looked isolated – and it wasn’t just because Anderson was hanging around the half way line either.

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It’s not even that we have the excuse that our Physio room is particularly busy. We’ve usually got about nine players out by this stage of the season. At present there’s only two first teamers.

Don’t get me wrong as it’s not all bad. Declan seems to be getting back to his, old(?), consistent self. It now seems quite clear that he was suffering from a bug, of some description, which affected him detrimentally. Roberto is ably deputising for Fabianski. I don’t think any criticism which I’ve heard about him is warranted. As we left the ground on Saturday I heard one or two criticising him but I really don’t think he deserves it. You could argue that he should have saved Mousset’s goal but I thought it was an extremely smart finish. First time shots like that catch keepers while they’re re-setting and this was one of those. In fact it was such a decent, first time, strike that it brought several applause from West Ham fans in our section. But despite the positives I’m really of the opinion that, on current form, we’re in the bottom three and, from our performances, deserve to be. Without doubt it’s time for the team to get their stuff together.

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I really don’t want to be sat here typing even less positively after the Newcastle game. On that subject I wasn’t too upset to see that Sean Longstaff will miss the match next Saturday. He’s one of the few players that’s really making a positive impact at the Barcodes and they’re going to miss his services bigtime IMO. It’s really high time to get our season back on track, after several lacklustre games just before and following the last international break.

The West Ham Women’s team put up another great fight against Chelsea this weekend but, unfortunately, couldn’t retain the lead after going one up, through a ‘sniffer’s’ strike from Adriana Leon, with thirteen minutes of the second half on the clock. An impressive crowd of over two thousand witnessed three late strikes from Chelsea which sent the blues top of the league after Arsenal beat the impressive Man City ladies. With five played the ladies have recorded two wins and sit three points behind fourth placed newly promoted Manchester United Women. There’s no let up in this division. Next up it’s a visit to the powerful Manchester City side where Matt Beard will hope his team gives a good account of themselves. Best of luck to the Ironesses.

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The Under 23s continued their impressive Premier League 2, division 2, campaign with a creditable four-one win over Norwich City. Anthony Scully continued his amazing scoring run with the opening goal, followed by a brace from Dan Kemp and an excellent team goal from Amadou Diallo that sewed up the win for the Hammers and kept the boys three clear of Manchester United who kept up the pressure with a three-one victory against fellow title chasers Stoke City. Next up a visit to mid-table Swansea City on Sunday. Best of luck to the lads for that one.
Have a good week, all, and let’s hope the team can get out of the slump next Saturday.

COME ON YOU RIP ROARIN’ IRONS!


The GoatyGav Column

A Dedication & How Long To Give Pablo Fornals To Settle In?

Before I start I’d like to dedicate this article to my West Ham supporting Uncle Dave. Dave was my dad’s brother – born in Compton Avenue, Upton Park, West Ham was always going to be the only club for him. After leaving the Royal Marines, after my dad, Dave became a publican in Moretonhampstead, on Dartmoor, for a number of years before moving to Exeter, where he was a much loved member of the community, to settle with family and work in the toy industry for ERTL. My memories of Dave are all filled with warmth and love and, so far as my eighteenth birthday celebrations were concerned, generosity (Dave insisted on paying for the drinks, including several ‘Rusty Nails’, and painting the town of Macclesfield red, despite it being mainly blue, for the evening). My cousins Debbie and John, both West Ham through and through, were with him in his last days before he passed away peacefully at the age of 87 last Friday morning. Dave was the last of the generation of my Parents siblings and I’m going to miss him dearly. Peaceful Journey Dave – may you be re-united with loved ones, in a better place, once more.

From left to right Dave, Jean(My dad's wife), Kate(Dave's wife) and my dad, Alan

I read a post yesterday stating that it’s time, after a quarter of a season, to admit that Pablo Fornals has been a waste of money. Frankly I found the comment ridiculous as.

It’s clear that Manuel Pellegrini has great belief in the Spanish youngster. They tracked the lad for a very long time before Hussillos and the Gaffer brought the lad in. The decision looked to be a sound one after this summer’s Euro U21 Championship.

Is it so surprising that Pablo is taking time to settle in? I’ve heard the argument that, by comparison, Sebastien Haller has hit the ground running but the Frenchman’s physicality, and overall game, is more suited to the Premier League and he’s got more senior seasons under his belt. Overall the comparison is not a balanced, or fair, IMO. Outside of everything else competition for starting berths in Midfield is far stronger than it is up front and so Haller has had far more game-time to adapt so far. Manuel Pellegrini has, justifiably, introduced Pablo far more gently than he has Sebastien so it’s to be expected that the Spaniard is going to take a little longer to adapt without even considering his style of play being lesser suited to the Premier League than Haller’s.

So back to the title of the article how long should Pablo be given. Difficult question to answer isn’t it? It’s a bit of a ‘how long is a piece of string’ style query. There are many different factors involved. I’d like to see Pablo playing regular, first eleven, football for at least a run of six games before I come to any kind of decision about how he is likely to progress in English football. Even at that stage I’d be inclined to avoid any knee-jerk reaction should he still be struggling to get up to speed.

All boiled down I can really understand those who are becoming impatient. The reason I can sympathise with that impatience is because expectation has risen. The team had us dreaming of a third placed position after a quarter of the season played. Instead we sit just in the bottom half and disappointment pervades. Add to this the noises coming out of the team management about the players having a ‘Big Team’ attitude it’s no wonder we’re feeling like our hopes are being dashed again in yet another, what appears to be, false dawn.

It’s in my nature to want to give players time to adapt. The over-arching feeling that I have is one of trust in the management to get it right. I believe it takes time to create something special and I’ll be patient and optimistic for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of young players Anthony Scully is beginning to press his case for first team squad inclusion. At twenty years old he’s enjoying a purple patch in the under twenty-threes while banging in goals for fun. I have my views on the importance of the F.A. Cup, and how we should field strong teams to give us a chance of progressing through the early rounds, however I’d be hugely excited to see him in the squad come the weekend of the third round. Scully and Holland are both very exciting prospects and, while I’m fully aware of previous, aforementioned, false dawns, like Freddie Sears’ introduction to first team football, I would hope that the cream of the Academy are still offered the chance to show us what they can do in a starting, or subs bench, berth. Last night saw Scully bag his tenth goal of the season, as well as combine to tee up Holland for his second of the night, in an impressive four-nil win over PL2, div 2, challengers Stoke City. An important win for the youngsters that keeps them top of the table, three points above Manchester United and six clear of Stoke, who have a game in hand on the Hammers.

A great fightback by the ladies this weekend. After trailing two-nil at ninety minutes the Ironesses fought back brilliantly to take their Continental League Cup tie to penners. Sadly the women lost out to the Spuds four-two in the shootout. Upwards and onwards for the rest of the season where they can concentrate on finishing as high as possible in the league.

Signing off with a bit of fun this week. Again, while trawling through various West Ham Sites, I came across the ‘Slipperydoodahsdoodahh’ blog and the following video: -

I vote we have this version played at home matches rather than that awful, plastic music, sounding ‘70’s version that gets trotted out all the time. I know some disagree but I’m really not a fan at all. Either way I loved the Japanese SKA band’s ‘Fatness’ version. Hope you did too.

Have a great week all.

COME ON YOU RIP ROARIN’ IRONS!


The GoatyGav Column

Reality Czechs And Bulgaria Beyond Belief

You couldn’t really ask for two more contrasting matches. A really classy Czech side brought England crashing down to earth in a terrific performance. Between the two games, despite the respective score-lines, I believe that the Czech game will prove a far more useful one than the, men against boys, affair served up in Bulgaria last night.

It’s lovely to see a team ping the ball around so confidently however what did we, and the England players, really learn in Sofia? No doubt the thrashing dished out will consign the poor performance in Prague to the backs of the minds of the England media but I certainly hope that it doesn’t have the same effect on England’s team management because there’s far more to learn. So poor were the Bulgarians that no conclusions about where England are up to can be drawn up in any way. It really is like comparing night and day. Despite the fact that the England shape looked much better, and defensive organisation much improved, the huge gulf in quality between the two opponent teams means that no meaningful conclusions can be drawn when comparing the two matches. To quote Clive Tyldesley at full time “One or two of the questions that were asked of his (Gareth Southgate’s) team’s performance in Prague on Friday have been answered against a weak Bulgarian team.” Are you sure? I couldn’t disagree more strongly.

Bringing the discussion back to West Ham I reflected on the poor balance to the starting line-up in the deep lying midfield area. Despite the fact that Gareth Southgate has learned and grown in recent matches I felt that the most obvious lack of balance was at the CDM position. Perhaps, tactically, Southgate had considered the most effective formation to take the Czech Republic on with but Henderson and Rice are simply too similar. In his pre match ITV snippet ahead of the Bulgaria game GS stated that he had gone with more experience so I can understand why Henderson was selected and, yes, it seemed to work far better. I just hope that it’s not a sign of things to come. One thing I’ve really enjoyed since the ex-Middlesbrough, and England U21, manager has taken over has been the introduction of many young players to the mix. Along with, practically, all of his team-mates Declan had a bad day at the office on Friday night. How much of that was down to him and Henderson doing the same job in the same position is open to debate but I’m convinced that it really didn’t help. Over the last two weeks I’ve listened to many negative opinions of Declan from fans of other clubs. When in conversation with some of those fans I found myself defending the youngster by pointing out his consistently good performances for West Ham – shifts that I’ve witnessed myself. Every match this year, IMO, he’s been excellent. I’m aware that some thought he was poor against Palace but that’s not what I saw. Outside of his handball mistake I thought he played very well to curb many of Palace’s quick counter attacks.

I’m not going to say too much about the racist chants heard from the stands in the Basil Levski National Stadium last night other than to completely condemn those who took part. It is, at least, a little encouraging to see UEFA take a slightly more proactive role in cutting this disgusting behaviour out but, for me, it’s still not enough and much tougher sanctions should be meted out by Europe’s governing football body. There’s still a long way to go to kick racism out of football and the officials need to play their part in making it happen.

A great win this weekend for the West Ham ladies away to Brighton. September Goal Of The Month contender, Martha Thomas, put the Ironesses one up with a clinical finish before French International, Kenza Dali, and Alisha Lehmann made it three nil to the Cockney Girls. A late consolation made the final score three – one which saw the Ladies climb the table up to sixth place. There’s a clear top three in WSL at present, with big spending Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea vying for dominance at the top of the league, however I genuinely think there’s an excellent chance of a fourth place finish come the end of the season. One of the best football outings I’ve ever attended was the F.A. Cup Semi-Final at Adams Park last season so I’d love the West Ham Women to put another excellent cup run together this term so that we can enjoy another great occasion. With any luck, this time, the F.A. might also schedule the latter rounds much more sensibly, without mens fixture clashes, so that season ticket holders and other men’s match day attendees can go and shout the ladies on as well.

Have a great week all.

COME ON YOU RIP ROARIN’ IRONS!


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