The GoatyGav Column

Lend Me Your Ear – And Your Tweezers

So I’ve sat on the fence until now regarding the question of who is going to be managing us next season. Now that David Moyes has moved on I want to throw my thoughts in to the mix regarding our next first team boss.

I’m all for progression. Looking forwards, not back, is the only way to go.

Please don’t get me wrong. I really appreciate what David Moyes, Stuart Pearce, Alan Irvine and the rest of the management team have done for the last few months. If that team had have stayed in place I would have got behind them and supported them one hundred percent. I think that there’s more to David Moyes than many have made out. I genuinely think he has learned and grown from his experiences with Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland and is a person who is open, and dedicated, to learning. This is the big difference between him and many of the other managers who were brought in to save clubs from relegation this season. In my view the likes of Mr Allardyce have a rigidly set way of doing things whereas David Moyes can, and will, adapt to, and incorporate, more modern approaches to the game. I’m of the genuine belief that, should he have stayed at West Ham, we’d have seen far more of this ‘modern’ thinking from Moyesey next season. He had a job to do, in the short space of time he had with us, which he got done under difficult circumstances. For that I’ll remember him with gratitude. On a personal level I quite liked the guy’s style too. He’s a deeply respectful football man with a great passion and belief in what he does. He’s also a terrific man manager who knows how to get the best out of the more temperamental and sensitive players.

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On the subject of managers who are more modern in their approach to the game, and by this I mean playing styles, tactics and patterns on the pitch rather than scientific analysis of fitness, athleticism and areas to ‘hit’ with balls, it’s high time we had a manager in place who’s at the leading edge. No fence sitting now (although, to be fair, my refusal to vote or comment beforehand was a deliberate choice – not indecision) – that manager should be Marco Silva.

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Should Everton’s bid for Silva be blocked then Mr Gold and Mr Sullivan need to do everything in their power to bring this man to our club. For me he is the one to take West Ham to the next level (regular top half finishes & knocking on the Europa League door every season). Everywhere Marco has gone he’s had a positive impact. Taking over a hopelessly woeful Hull team from Mike Phelan, who were bottom of the league, he got the Tigers playing a completely different style of football that gave them a shout of survival with a 36% win percentage. Speaking of winning he won the cup in Portugal with Sporting and the Greek title with Olympiacos. Away from the obvious appeal of a cup win, for all us success starved Hammers, it’s the way he sets his teams up and his tactical nous that appeals most. Everton fans and West Ham fans share the same desire for good, technical football. The Toffees faithful are desperate to bring Silva in because they know he’s ‘their’ kind of manager. He’s our kind of manager too.

Silva’s tumultuous final weeks at Watford were widely reported. Were Everton out of order for the manner of their approach to the Portuguese boss? Probably. They could certainly have handled the situation far better IMO. Either way we’ll soon know whether Everton will just have to pay compensation to Watford or will be blocked in their attempt to appoint “Mini-Mourinho.”

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I genuinely don’t think Rafa Benitez will come to East London. Even if the owners promise to spend the kind of money, on the transfers and wages, that “Rafa the Gaffer” would demand I believe that their track record of non-delivery will put him off. Sorry to be negative but it’s an opinion. Similar with Manuel Pelligrini. No brainer in a multiple choice – he went to China to either..

A. Further his career?
or
B. The cash?

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Serious selling job to do on the successful Chilean for my money.

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Wouldn’t mind Eddie Howe being given a chance but I doubt he’d come either. It would be a risk on the parts of both the club and Eddie himself. He’s built a squad at Bournemouth that know and respect him. West Ham have more difficult characters to manage within the squad and it’s that aspect of the Bournemouth manager’s capabilities that I’m unsure of. I believe he has all the other attributes, including the modern approach to the game, that I’d want to see in a West Ham manager.

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Whoever I’d like to see is, ultimately, irrelevant. I had a punt on Fonseca – shows how much I know.

Lastly I’d just like to go on record with my thanks to David Moyes for a job well done. The Scot’s definitely gone up in my estimation – especially when you consider that I commented that he’d ‘take us down’ if appointed. Very much like the “cut of his jib,” for those Blackadder fans out there, and wish him all the best for the future. Cheers Moyesey – mind how you go fella!

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The GoatyGav Column

Not All Good Friends And Give Us A Point Or Three

So here we are again – unhappy as can be. Saturday is filling many fans with trepidation as Leicester are a very good team and we’re not exactly in the best of form. There are more than a few predicting doom, in the form of relegation, for West Ham come the end of the season but are they right to do so. West Brom can’t catch us so we could only go down in 19th or 18th spot. Three points will, all but, ensure survival. Should those points arrive this weekend then Southampton would need to win at least two of three vs Everton, Swansea and City to finish above us. Stoke must win both to overhaul us and Swansea, like Southampton, would also need 2 wins from Bournemouth, Southampton and Stoke. So why the positive outlook?

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Leicester’s points haul, from their last 5 is one worse than ours with a WLLDL compared to our WDDLL. This against marginally easier opposition, of Brighton, Newcastle, Burnley, Southampton and Palace, compared to our matches with Southampton, Chelsea, Stoke, Arsenal and City. In isolation there’s not much in that but other factors are at play. The sending off, for the red card offence of pulling down Zaha while in the clear on goal, this weekend of Mark Albrighton means he misses the fixture against us. Albrighton is a key player in the Leicester team. Another massive contributor to their midfield engine room is Okazaki who is a major doubt along with their keeper Schmeichel. Between the sticks Ben Hamer, Schmeichel’s replacement, comes off a 5 goal tonking. Not ideal for a replacement’s confidence at the best of times.

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Probably more than any of the reasons in the previous paragraph, though, is the fact that these points are far more meaningful to us. We’re desperate for them. Leicester appear to be coasting in to a mid-table finish without any real motivation. This need for points often plays a big factor in matches at this stage of the season. Mid table safety often softens teams with motivation waning compared to the hungrier teams attempting to avoid relegation.

Of course there’s still the clear and present threat of the Mahrez/Vardy partnership but it looks like they’re effectiveness has been seriously blunted of late with other key players missing. Add Albrighton in to that mix and it’s looking even more difficult for them. All things considered I’m seriously optimistic for this weekend and for good reason. Bring ‘em on!

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It’s highly unlikely that West Brom, despite putting up a spirited fight, will survive. Stoke are showing a similar hunger for which Paul Lambert deserves some credit. When things have gone against him, and his team, he’s not made excuses but has chosen to commend his players for their efforts and promised to do everything in their power to win games. But taking maximum points against Everton and Swansea will be an ask.

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Like so many others I can’t wait for the end of the season. I’m going to reserve judgement on whether I believe David Moyes deserves the job beyond that point until all the games have been played. When you’re not picking up any points, and so many others are on the ‘get rid’ bandwagon, it’s easy to make snap judgements. I also believe that it’s not right to discuss someone’s employment position while they’re still in the job so I do my best to avoid any speculation.

I was on record, the day before David Moyes’ appointment, as stating that he would ‘take us down’ if put in place. At that stage I genuinely thought that we’d be relegated with a few left to play but there are positive aspects to the job he’s done and I sincerely wish that I am proven wrong. I’m as critical as the next fan when it comes to DM’s in match tactics. Double and triple subs have been tactical errors, especially the double in the Arsenal game, but I’m not as bought in to the ‘Negative’ or ‘Dinosaur’ perspectives that have been shared. A degree of pragmatism has been adopted by Mr Moyes under current circumstances and I can’t really blame him for that. If results go our way this weekend we could be mathematically safe by 19.00 on Saturday night due to Southampton and Swansea still having to play each other, as well as one other fixture, while being 6 and 5 points behind respectively.

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Overall the game on Sunday was pretty forgettable. There were signs of Lanautovic linking well again. Both need to start the remainder of games IMHO. I watched it in the pub where there were adjacent tv screens with the Snooker as the alternative. Higgins really was excellent. On this occasion the Goat was doing the staring at his brilliant 136 break to put him 8-3 up – not, as in HH’s report, the men staring at the Goats. All riveting stuff as the snooker fan in the picture below is testament to. Man City are a bit special. What pleases me the most is that a team playing intricate, enterprising and entertaining football are winning things which pokes one in the eye of the ‘pretty football wins nothing in England’ merchants who’ve held the game back decades in this country.

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No such boredom in the game this coming weekend.

COYI!

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The Influence Of Legacy - You'll Reap What You Sow

Arsenal should, very carefully, appoint the right manager to continue, as well as enhance, Arsene Wenger’s legacy.

There are a whole raft of kids coming through the ranks at Arsenal. Over the period of his tenure Monsieur Wenger has nurtured and brought through youth prospects successfully. Their academy has produced some of the best talent in the country with technical proficiency. The players that have come through the yout system there can’t speak of him too highly – often crediting him with the great start that he gave them in the game. To a surprising extent in fact. The recent interview with Theo Walcott was a prime example of the esteem that players hold Arsene in.

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Will West Ham take such care in to consideration when appointing the next gaffer? Ok – we’re a completely different club with a manager who certainly doesn’t hold the same sway over the running of the club as Arsene did but should that detract from the concept of having the right balance between player recruitment and youth development? Not for me it doesn’t. And that’s one aspect of David Moyes’ MO that I do like. If he’s given the job then we’re likely to see more of our young prospects given a chance in the team.

Since his arrival Declan Rice has been a regular starting berth, albeit by getting his chance through injuries to central defenders, and has visibly grown. One of the highlights of the season was Declan’s MOTM performance for Ireland and West Ham a few weeks back. So pleased for the lad who I hope stays on to become a club legend for us in years to come.

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Declan is not the only one. Josh Cullen has made 5 appearances for the first team this season and has done a decent job when given his chance. Other who’ve progressed this term have been Quina, with 4 outings, Burke with 3, Martinez played 3 and Oxford and Holland on 1 (would probably have been more if not for injury). Not all of these were played by David Moyes however there’s more than just a hint that players will be given a fair crack at the whip rather than played for 90 minutes then consigned back to the development squad, or loan, after a single mistake or poor game.

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I hear a great deal of ‘he’s not the manager to take us to the next level’ but he is a manager to build youthful teams who develop together and play fast paced, incisive football. At both Preston and Everton Moyes seemed to have a talent for taking players with good potential and integrating them in to a system where everyone knew their job and what was expected whilst getting the best out of them. It was a completely different story at Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland where the task was more immediate and, sadly for David Moyes, too short lived for him to make a significant impact. Since joining West Ham he’s certainly improved the performances of Mark Noble and others – most notably Marko Arnoutovic who’s looking a shoe in for HOTY after picking up the Player’s Player of the Year award last night (as I write). Perhaps it’s time to invest in the future rather than looking no further than the end of our noses.

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In summary I wouldn’t be too upset if David Moyes is given the job next season. I’m not suggesting that I’m 100% in favour of a contract for the Scot but I’m certainly not completely against the idea of him getting the gig. Given time I do believe that he’ll give us a team to be proud of once more filled with talented, young professionals, some of whom will be home grown, playing to a reconginsable system and identity.

Lastly a big congrats to the winners at the awards. Well deserved to all. Pedro definitely deserved the goal of the season, Arnie for both of his awards, glad Declan got the recognition for the young player, Conor Coventry’s Dylan Tombides award and Ellie Zoepfl for the inaugural ‘Ladies Players Player’. The ladies have gone on an incredible winning run, chalking up an amazing 32(thirty two) goals scored and only 2 conceded in the last 6 games incorporating two cup final wins :O! Brilliant stuff.

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I was particularly pleased to see Ken Brown given the lifetime achievement award. A solid centre back and popular member of that great team of the late ‘50’s and ‘60’s I’m so pleased to see him recognised with the great honour.

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The GoatyGav Column

We’re So Fickle

I remember signing the above words, to the tune of ‘let’s all do the conga’ but with an unrepeatable between ‘So’ & ‘Fickle’, on the terraces of the North Bank back in the ‘80’s. One minute we’re hailing players as the new Messiah, the next they’re “Not the Messiah – they’re a very naughty boy!”

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Don’t get me wrong – some players deserve the stick. I know he’s probably going to be the HOTY but I was just a little bit vexed at Arnie for his lax stroll towards the ball, in an off-side position, for Fernandes’ excellent strike. Sometimes his attitude is all wrong for me but his overall contribution to the team, this season, has been superb.
When it comes to players some are class and some show form. There’s no doubt that Arnie is class but, frankly, he’s not the only one. There are others, who’ve already won the coveted HOTY title, who deserve better support.

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Matchdays are a hotbed of emotion at the best of times – entirely bellicose at others. The WHTID forum is no different. All those powerful feelings pulling your insides around like the churning of your matchday shirt and lucky undies in the washing machine. Words, and no doubt, gestures just seem to emerge without invitation. Just pop up with the irrepressibility of weeds in spring (like most of my garden at the moment). It’s a release which does show that we have passion and care but I do wonder, sometimes, whether the same words would appear on threads at other times.

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We’re all guilty of it. Whilst we have our favourite players we also have those that we don’t fancy so much. It’s human nature. Earlier this season I, regretfully, suggested that Mark Noble looked past it. How wrong I was and extremely happy about it I am. Egg on my face bigtime. Although not everyone agreed I thought the skipper was superb on Monday night. Another who has come in for a lot of stick this season has been Kouyate. Ok, so box to box midfielders are becoming old hat in the modern game, but he’s definitely one with class and a temporary dip in form. The injuries haven’t helped. Like Antonio I really don’t think he has deserved the stick he’s received. I’d like nothing more than for Nobes, Chek and Michail to have the seasons of their lives in ’18-’19. Perhaps less work on endorsements might help…….


Only joshin’. We know where the hamstring problems have come from and the look on Michail’s face when it went after 9 mins of the Southampton game said it all for me. Gutted for him. Personally I’d like to see some science, or at least stats, behind the amount of injuries that occur at teams who play on larger pitches compared to smaller ones.
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When I found myself venting my spleen at a particular player I’ve often come to regret it later on. At matches I now prefer to stay tight lipped if I think any of the lads on the pitch are below par or, in the worst case, a liability. In our minds we’re all there, on the pitch, kicking each ball and making each run which is why so many of us vociferously express our exasperation.

In the current squad there isn’t a single player who the fans attending games have ‘turned on’. In the odd game, here and there, and, possibly, over the course of 3-4 matches there are first teamers who’ve been getting a bit of grief but, thankfully, nothing too nasty or sustained.

After my praise for the club last week I, unfortunately, have to report that the flag for the coffin at today’s (tomorrow as I write) funeral of Alan Thurston didn’t arrive on time. A real shame. I’ve no idea why this was as Debs, Alan’s sister, has been trying to find out what’s happened to it since Tuesday. Debs has told me that she thinks she’s managed to get hold of one but I’ll be taking one of mine as backup just in case.

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As for our hopes of staying up now I’m optimistic. Not counting chickens but I expect us to put some points on the board which will make it very difficult for Stoke and Southampton to catch us. Of the two Stoke look more up for the fight. Yes, they could win 3 games, but I really don’t think they’ll manage it. Palace will, at least, get a draw and Burnley are simply too good for them. That leaves Liverpool and Swansea making it a big ask. Then you’ve got the others between us and the bottom 3 as well. This is West Ham, however, so it would be unwise to think we’re ‘safe’ just yet.

I’ll be at the Arsenal game on Sunday where I hope we get something. Definitely not beyond the realms of possibility with the Gunners having one eye on their big Semi Final against Athletico Madrid. A point there and things will look even better. Dare I dream we take all 3?

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A Dedication & An Article 'A Strong Finish Tees You Up Nicely'

Before I go in to the main article I wanted to make a dedication to a fellow Hammer. I also thought that a little credit was deserved by West Ham United. In this time of heavy criticism of the club it was good to hear, yesterday (today as I amend this post), that a sense of community and decency remains. Sadly I lost a cousin at the age of 35 just over a fortnight ago. He was West Ham through and through. His sister called the club to order a large flag for the coffin. To the club’s credit they promised that the flag would arrive on time for the funeral on Thursday and wouldn’t take payment for it. It meant a lot to my cousin – a lovely gesture that was greatly appreciated by her. We’ll all be wearing club colours at the ceremony – even my cousin’s Man Utd supporting husband has agreed to wear a claret top with a bit of blue in the outfit. I’m hoping the boys can send him off with a good win on Monday night. You can see Alan, pictured right, his brother John and sister Debbie, at her wedding, in the photo below: -

Alan at his Sister's Wedding

He was a gentleman and a gentle man – one of the nicest and best people you could ever wish to meet. He went to his first West Ham game vs Exeter City at the age of 9 with his borther, John, where he got his photo taken with Harry Redknapp. RIP Alan Thurston – peaceful journey fella.


Recent form is good. The players look hungry. We’ve won and drawn the last two and pulled 6 points clear of the relegation zone.
There’s a way to go until we’re safe but there’s a dangerous historical pattern that should serve as a warning to West Ham or any of those who take their foot off the gas too early.

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Relief is an extremely commonplace experience for successful teams and sports professionals. Upon getting over the line, whether that’s to win or to simply survive, the feeling can kick in simultaneously whilst acting as a release of highly charged emotions. Occasionally players, if sufficiently wound up, can physically collapse when the final whistle, bell, kick, throw or step happens.

The start of a football season is often influenced by the end of the previous one. The stimulus for a good start to a campaign has been the run in to a preceding one countless times.

Should West Ham make their Premier League status, for 2018-19, safe with games to spare, which I’m sure many will hope comes to pass, there’s a real danger that the relief and release could contribute to a poor end to this, eminently forgettable, term. Without any real momentum going in to September we could quickly find ourselves in a similar position to that of 2017-18.

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Ok, It’s far too early to start looking beyond the huge game we have at home to Stoke next Monday night, but should the job get done, and the 3 points be secured, would the temptation to let go of all those pent up feelings be too much to avoid? Amidst the relief of being well clear of relegation, with so few games remaining, is there a danger that momentum will be lost and a bad run in ensue. Arsenal, Man City and Leicester away before Man United looks an incredibly tough run. For my money it wouldn’t bode well for next season going in to those games with the feeling that the job had been done. Under those circumstances it would not be an easy test for David Moyes and his coaching staff to get the players completely mentally prepared.

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Stoke City at home is a huge game but the fixtures afterwards are also important. Pre-season is nowhere near as important to early season form as the run in to a previous campaign. I’ll be over the moon if we come away with maximum points next Monday night but there will still be a job to do after that.

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Lastly a word on Chelsea. The weekend was great. Joe Hart was class. An imperious, man of the match winning, performance in my book. We could easily have come away with a good tonking but, instead, came away feeling like we’d won. Recent form over Chelsea is extremely good – long may it continue. Our fans were brilliant. Every player in a West Ham shirt was terrific – a great team performance. Chicha, once again, proved he is the most deadly striker we’ve had at the club in quite some time. If the team can put in the same, determined and hungry, performances in the last six matches I’ll be a very happy Hammer.

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Have a great weekend all.

COYI!

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