The GoatyGav Column

To What Extent Do Players Shape Club Identity

When you think about a football club imagery tends to come to mind. The name, the badge, shots of their stadia can all paint pictures for the average football fan. If someone were to say ‘Stoke City’ to me a few thoughts spring up. The old Victoria as well as the new Britannia grounds, miserable driving rain, witty banter (namely the ‘Ronaldo’ retort they had for Manchester United fans’ “He plays on the left – he plays on the right!” Song) and fights between their’s and Port Vale’s fans in my Dad’s pub in Hanley City Centre are some. Then again images of Sir Stanley Matthews also pop up. Along with those thoughts I associate a strong, determined gentleman who gave up hundreds of hours of his own time, and energy, to export the very best values and ethics of our game to underprivileged regions of the globe.

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Manchester United are not the most popular of clubs when it comes to fans of others but players like Bobby Charlton, George Best and Duncan Edwards can only serve to warm you to the Red half of Manchester. In the case of Duncan Edwards the terrible Air Disaster of 1958 sent shockwaves around the footballing world. The event, as sickeningly awful as it was, helped contribute to the popularity of the club around the globe and played a part in growing the club to it’s current status of one of the biggest, and most marketable, names in the game.

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So when it comes to West Ham United I’m always interested to see how, true, fans of other clubs perceive us. I’m sure that images of the World Cup winning trio, especially Bobby Moore, would be forefront for many. Sir Trev and Billy Bonds must be others who fans have cognizance of. I’m sure that, in more modern times, people go back to players like Paulo DiCanio and many of Tony Carr’s 1999 F.A. Youth Cup winning side like Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand.

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It’s not always a positive thing. The vitriol spewed towards West Ham by Bernie Slaven has, unfortunately, not endeared Middlesboro to me at all. That’s not the only thing about them that I negatively associate. Their booing of our rendition of “Johnny Lyall’s Claret & Blue Army!” (always with an exclamation mark at the end) at Villa Park in the Semi-Final of the 2006 F.A. Cup, along with the fact that they couldn’t even fill their end when West Ham could have sold thousands more tickets, is another reason I’m not enamoured of them. But I’d probably have let that go without the former behaviour of their Scottish striker towards our club. On the single occasion I visited Middlesboro I had a really nice evening and was treated exceptionally well by the locals but as far as their club is concerned I have no affection for them.

Away from the players, and on the subject of West Ham fans, much of the time you hear phrases like “fiercely loyal,” “generation upon generation of fan,” “closely knit community,” and “passionate support,” uttered by people in the game. This may not always be the same. Over time it may well change. Should the club become successful then the ‘fierce’ and ‘passionate’ labels may become less prevalent.

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Opinions about West Ham’s owners have, I feel, shaped many a footballing individual’s interpretation of the club. They do, in fairness to them, appear to be making every effort to improve things by not ‘airing their laundry’ and keeping things a more behind closed doors. A wise approach, in my opinion, and one that I hope continues.
For me the players, more than any other aspect of a club, shape it’s profile and identity. Perhaps you disagree. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts?

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On to Saturday’s game it was a difficult result to swallow for me. Not just because of the opposition but also the fact that we deserved a draw at least. There’s no doubt that our neighbours from the borough of Harringey are on a higher level than our boys at the moment. They’ve consistently qualified for the Champion’s League for some time and for Europe even longer now. On Saturday you wouldn’t have known it. We created more good chances and were denied by an exceptional performance by Lloris. As for the goal you could point the finger of blame at two or three players who didn’t track Lamela. Nobes, who had a disappointing game by recent standards, and Declan Rice were two of them. Contributing to those two not having their best matches and the biggest miss, for me, was the absence of Pedro Obiang. The balance just wasn’t there compared to recent games, in midfield, for me. Only comment I made to my youngest, about the starting 11, was words to that effect. Don’t get me wrong, Snoddy put in a shift, but we didn’t click in the middle of the park the way we have been doing. Many Spuds fans have commented that their team weren’t at full strength – well neither were ours.

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Encouragingly the partnership developing at centre back looks full of promise. Balbuena and Diop are already playing very well together. I reckon there’s more to come from the pair. Og and Winston are going to have a real job on their hands if they’re going to displace either of these two.

I’m absolutely gutted to see Yarma out with injury. I guess I should have expected it, as a West Ham fan, but it was the biggest ‘head in hands’ moment during the game for me.
To finish on a positive there are players coming back from injury and Chicha, once up to the speed of the match, certainly didn’t look like a player who’s been out of the side for several weeks.

In summary I haven’t changed my mind about us getting ‘Our West Ham’ back. I like what’s happening with the Pellegrini revolution and am looking forward to the Leicester game.

‘Til then have a great week.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


The GoatyGav Column

Falling Back In Love With West Ham

It’s been a long, tough road. There have been moments, fleeting promise of ‘The West Ham Way’, for so long the memories start to fade.

Perhaps during Alan Pardew’s time it was attacking football. Then again was that really the enterprising, pass and move, stuff that West Ham were historically renowned for or was it just about speed and power going forward? Somewhere betwixt the two?

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For me it was just before, and during, the turn of the Millennia when we last played truly entertaining football on a regular basis. When I look back at that squad I practically drool. Signings like Berkovic, Trevor Sinclair and Signor Di Canio alongside the academy products of Cole, Lampard jr, Rio and Carrick provided great options. It wasn’t too shabby at the back, either, with Steve Potts coming to the end of his career, Psycho at full back and the steele of Stimac and Ruddock in the mix. In the middle the likes of Marc-Viviene Foe (will never forget when Roy Keane, all of a sudden, didn’t fancy it following him going in for ‘afters’ with M-V F) and Steve Lomas provided bite. The inimitable John Moncur always brings a smile back and Stan ‘Skippy’ Laziridis was a good player to watch. Several other decent players contributed to the 8th, followed by 5th & 9th place finishes around that time including Marc Keller, Wanchope, Kanoute and Minto with Defoe coming through after Ian Wright left. Despite ‘Arry’s howlers, when it came to signings, that was a really decent squad which I enjoyed watching immensely.


Always makes me smile :) .

Following that time it’s been a real struggle. Yes, there have been fleeting moments of unadulterated joy, including the 2006 F.A. Cup run, but nothing sustained.

Once again I’m excited however. It’s not just the players that have come in this season. This squad has been slowly building for a couple of years now. The Summer spending spree brought some fantastic talent to our club. I’ve wanted Yarmalenko to sign since I saw him play when he’d just broken through from youth ranks at Kyiv. In a game in 2012 Arsenal had absolutely no answer to him as he tore them apart in a European tie for Dynamo Kyiv. The North London club pursued the signature of the Ukraine international for years but never managed to get the deal over the line until his form, and his stock, dropped in the Bundesliga playing for Borussia Dortmund. Form, as they say, is temporary but Class is permanent. He’s a classy player in my view.

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I have to admit to not knowing too much about Fellippe Anderson before his arrival. What I saw I liked but, without following a player closely, it’s hard to judge for sure. It’s also hard to know if players will make it in the Premier League. I am, however, completely convinced that he’s going to prove a huge star for West Ham – easily as big a player as some of the aforementioned signings by Harry Redknapp.

With all that money spent, and mouthwatering talent signed, it’s more about how the team are playing that is getting the juices flowing now though. We’re starting to see some enterprising passing and movement in and around opposition penalty areas once more.

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I spent Saturday afternoon with a mate, Rick, who’s moved South from Manchester, watching Alan Devnonshire’s Maidenhead United lose 2-0 to Leyton Orient. I’d only ever been to York Road once before, for a pre-season friendly against Harry Redknapp’s West Ham. On that occasion I was with my two nephews who went to school with Adam Newton – who made a second half appearance in the game. The only other, notable, event during that game, outside of some very tasty tackles by Stimac, was the streaker who ran the entire length of the pitch pursued by stewards before jumping in to the West Ham fan’s stand then being given a jacket to put on to assist his evasion of the authorities. Anyway, back in the room, Rick & I discussed his team, Manchester City, at length and got on to the subject of Manuel Pellegrini’s time as their manager. Rick was certainly of the opinion that the football on show under the Chilean gaffer was far more pleasing on the eye than that served up by Roberto Mancini. As popular as the Italian boss was Pellegrini’s time there was a good deal more enjoyable than what preceded.

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I’m hugely positive about the way things are going at West Ham. It’s not only the quality of the squad that’s improving – it’s also the fayre that’s being served up. As the team gels, which is visibly happening from game to game, and other options are starting to return from injury, there’s a definite feeling of optimism for the season ahead. I genuinely believe that ‘The West Ham Way’ is returning to East London. Happy days Hammers.

I’m dreaming of a Claret & Blue Wembley.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


The GoatyGav Column

The People Who Paint Footballing History

Admittedly this one’s been on the backburner for a few weeks. Other subjects have popped up when considering what to write about for the weekly column – taking precedence over the subject. As the weeks have gone on, however, more incidences of bias have occurred to pique my interest.

The original idea for this piece was stirred by my inability to discover video content of a game, or build up to a game rather, that I have fond memories of. Why can’t I find footage of West Ham fans paying tribute to George Best? One of the proudest nights I can remember, being a supporter of our great club, was the West Ham versus Manchester United fixture immediately after the passing of the talented Irishman. Following Sir Trev’s intro to hear Sir Bobby Charlton pay tribute to the Hammers faithful, commenting that he ‘was not at all surprised’ at the impeccable respect and appreciation shown for one of the game’s ‘best’ ever players warmed the cockles of my heart. All I could find on the match was the following video which, sadly, shows nothing of the tributes our club paid other than warm, enthusiastic applause. A tearful Pat Crerand is shown which was another moment of that evening which has stuck in my memory.

Then a couple of weeks ago I read, once again, that football history didn’t exist before the Premier League began. I commented on this site in response to it. Many great things have happened since the inception of the Prem, including the drawing in of more fans and the fact that it’s now safer to take your family to games, but the Football League has a deeper and far longer history than the 26 year old Premiership. A fact that many of today’s commenters on the game seem to dismiss often when quoting statistics.
The papers, radio, television and on-line media do a great job in this country. We should be grateful that large institutions are brought to book by their effective reporting. It’s not like that in every nation on the planet. But checks and balances should also work to rein in the agendas of some sections of the press.

Personally I like to read the comments from sites like this one as you’ll, generally, get a good balance of views of the sport. An article will stimulate a thread and opinions then facts and figures pour forth. We all see things differently which adds further spice to the mix. Unlike so many sections of the media that are influenced in one way or another there’s a freedom to express yourself, in a non-abusive and civilised way, here which is coupled with the right of reply.

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Journalism, in written, spoken and video form, is a noble and essential part of today’s society. Those that seek to use it to ‘make opinion’, however, must realise that people are better informed and not so easily fooled. Bringing that back to the incredible game of football that we all witnessed early on Saturday afternoon I feel that there are elements of the press that are, to a degree, hounding the Manchester United manager at present. One sniff of blood and a few seem to be going for the jugular. Like him or not you can’t argue with Jose Mourinho’s record. He worked miracles at Porto and, since then, has an incredible record. Yes, sometimes he’s his own worst enemy with the comments he makes, but I’m not sure he deserves the extra pressure that’s being brought to bear. Speaking to one Manchester United fan while taking the, time consuming, walk from the underground to the stadium on Saturday, he commented “Fergie didn’t get rid of him (Pogba) for no good reason,” and seemed to side with the gaffer from Portugal. It is clear that their fans want to see a more attacking brand of football played. Under the pressure that he currently is you do wander how long Jose has to put things right. Like any other club all it will take is a few wins and that pressure will subside.

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On the game itself I can only add my own pure, unadulterated joy to what’s already been written. It was the first match that I’ve gone to with my younger son, the older one joining me for the Wolves game, using the ST. The younger one is more of a football fan, and more of a keen spectator, than the older lad. I have apologised to him for nearly bursting his eardrums. When my voice went in the 7th minute I think he was thankful but, oh, what a magnificent game to watch as a West Ham fan. The balance of the team is working well and we seem to be improving with every game. Mark Noble oozed class. We were better than Manchester United in every department and I get the feeling that there’s even more to come. With more to return from injury like Lanzini, Carroll (I know), and Reid the squad is going to get stronger and a top half finish increasingly likely. As always I want to see us win things so victory against the Spudz in the League Cup on the 30th October should be a priority as it will give us a chance of going all the way in the League Cup. I hope Manuel Pellegrini sets his team up strongly to achieve the win.

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Exciting times fellow hammers. Let’s hope that history shows this one to be a great season for the club we all adore – whatever they end up writing about it.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


The GoatyGav Column

The Pull Of Your Local Team

It had to happen. I couldn’t really write about anything else in this week that the club I love most play against the team of the town I grew up in. My fondest footballing memories, as a spectator, all involve the boys in Claret & Blue however there is a very small corner of my heart that feels a link with the Silkmen.

The first game I attended was when my dad took me, in January 1979, to Maine Road Manchester where my heroes, who I followed loyally on the TV and Radio to that point, lost 3-2 to Man City when my Dad took me. It wasn’t too long after that, however, that the old man suggested that we pitch up at the Moss Rose ground to help out the local lads. I don’t remember the exact date but the help my father, brother and I gave was not just to pay the entrance fee to watch the mid-winter game. Along with hundreds of other locals we responded to a plea on local radio for help to clear the pitch of at least 4 inches of snow ahead of their Northern Premier League game scheduled that afternoon. It’s a really pleasant memory of a morning and early afternoon mucking in, having fun throwing snow around and brushing the surface down while the hot Bovril flowed to keep us all fuelled and grafting. Weird thing is that I can remember so much about the clearing of the pitch and absolutely nothing of the match that we were allowed to stay and watch without paying the entry fee for. I could probably look up the date and opposition but I’ll leave that for another time.

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Last season’s fixture against Wrexham provided another snow cleared game there which can be viewed in the following video: -

In later years, when Macc Town sporadically reached the first round of the F.A. Cup, I remember going to the game expecting the excitement of a ‘big’ crowd (usually around 3-4 thousand) and atmosphere. The visit of Worcester City was one I remember well. The Police had absolutely no control over the carnage that kept interrupting the match but to a teenage lad and his mates we thought it one of the more exciting events of the year. Port Vale was another first round tie that brought the mischievous element out of the locals and visiting ‘VLF’ (Vale Looney Fringe) – giving the local constabulary a torrid time. From the terrace behind me two policemen came charging down the steps with one of the Port Vale lads in an armlock. “You want to segregate them,” suggested a local to which the reply from the boys in blue came “You want to go with him?”

Apart from those early games and volunteer assistance I also remember the televised tie of a few years ago when Kevin Keen was in charge of the team from ‘Treacle Town’ (please feel free to look that one up if interested). Many friends and family asked who I’d be following that day to which I answered, and always will answer, “there’s only one team for me!” But that didn’t, and still doesn’t, stop me wanting to see Macclesfield Town acquit themselves well against the might of our beloved Premier League Hammers. The game can be seen in the following video: -

In truth my love and support of West Ham comes from ‘Local’ beginnings. My Dad was from Upton Park and my Mum from East Ham. We were always going to be a West Ham family. Supporting your local team is something that’s special. Quite early on after my dad’s company moved him, and us, North, and we settled in the area, he attempted to help me fit in by gently nudging me towards either Man City or Macclesfield Town. While that was never going to happen, as I was too young, at the time, to get on a train to London on my own, I did used to go to watch those two sides a few times a season. Growing up there and leaving school in the mid ‘80’s, with the era’s grim prospects for youths, went some way to shaping the beliefs and the person I am today so there’s certainly strong ties. My cousin, stepmother and younger stepbrother still live there and I visit a couple of times a year. I enjoy going – if you’ve never been it’s a pleasant town set at the edge of the Cheshire plain at the picturesque Derbyshire foothills where the Pennine Way begins (or ends depending on your orientation).

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Now my son has the same feeling for West Ham that I do. Why should he get away with it? I had to support them so he has to suffer just like I did. But he also has that feeling for our local team – who I’ve taken him to see a few times. During the summer he was also picked up by their ‘Development’ Academy which has also fuelled his affection for the Chairboys a little. And I have no beef with that at all. After all – if it was good enough for my folks then it’s good enough for him.

I hope that the match is a good one and that both teams go on to have hugely successful seasons. Macc have lost their talismanic manager, John Askey, who got them back in to the Football League on a, practically non-existent, shoestring last season. They sit bottom of League 2 on 1 point so far so I also hope that Wednesday night proves to be a welcome distraction and will provide much needed funding for the poorest club in the professional game in England.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


The GoatyGav Column

Youth Players And The Benefit Of Lower League Loan Experience

I sat in the stands at Adams park to watch Wycombe Wanderers host Oxford United on Saturday afternoon. Frankly I had completely forgotten that Marcus Browne had joined the U’s until the 63rd minute when he replaced James Henry.

As you’d expect from two teams playing in the lower reaches of the 3rd tier of English football the game was a physically challenging affair. When he came on Marcus made a positive impact on the game. There is no doubt that he has the technical ability to cut it at alongside experienced ‘grown men’ of League 1 but, as we so often hear from pundits and journalists, the boys who come through academies must prove that they have the attributes to cope with the physical demands of professional football.

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I’m glad to report that Marcus backed up what we know about his skill levels with a robust performance to match. Despite Oxford creating the better chances before his arrival the game was starting to swing in favour of Wycombe. With the likes of Adebayo ‘the beast’ Akinfenwa, , officially the strongest player in world football at the end of season 2016/17 earning him a, surprising, spot on FIFA 18’s opening animated sequence, to contend with Marcus did not look like a boy amongst men. His progress appears to be continuing apace at the early stages of this season despite Oxford struggling near the foot of the table.

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The question does, however, remain. What is the best way to introduce youth academy players to ‘grown up’ football? I have to admit that I was a big fan of the idea of loaning players out to foreign clubs to achieve that introduction. The example of an Oxford of a different kind, the Reece variety to be exact, was one to consider last season. The loan of the youngster to Borussia Mönchengladbach last term was, in principle, a great idea. The Bundesliga is a strong league, equal to any in physicality, and an ideal place to develop as a footballer. I know that, in Reece’s case, it didn’t go as well as we had hoped but I don’t think that the idea was a bad one and was certainly not viewed as a complete failure. Reece made a similar, initial, impact to one of his contemporaries, Declan Rice, when he made his debut. In the games that followed, however, it didn’t go as well for Reece as it did for Declan who is now establishing himself as a talented and versatile CB/CDM who is also a very capable defensive full back when called upon. Reece is now playing with the PL2 team – whose latest outing you can view on the official site. Click on the following link to view their latest outing at Brighton & Hove Albion https://tinyurl.com/y96ujrtj .

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The midfield positions, at West Ham, are becoming hotly contested. It’s great to have competition for places at a club IMO. That said we’ve got two excellent midfielders coming through the ranks. The aforementioned Marcus Browne is joined by the exciting attacking midfielder Nathan Holland. Often favouring a wide berth in a 4 or 5 man midfield Nathan is the kind of player you love to watch. The young Mancunian, who joined us from Everton, has revelled in taking defenders on in the PL2 team and is listed in the first team squad this season. Although Nathan has a narrow chance of making it through to play in the first team this season let’s not forget – this is West Ham, injuries to key players are always just around the corner. Apart from the possibility of playing in cup competitions the way may open up for the youngster through others paying visits to the physio room. In Holland’s case I think it’s worthwhile him staying with the club rather than being loaned out. The Checkatrade Trophy allows the U21/23 players the opportunity to play against experienced professionals from lower leagues which I believe to be a good thing. You never know – Marcus and Nathan may well line up against each other if our youth side progress alongside Oxford United in the competition.

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I can’t avoid a mention of the terrific game on Sunday. What a massive difference it was to watch the lads against Everton compared to the previous Premier League games. Better organised and balanced, with a work ethic we’d not previously witnessed this campaign, it was a real joy to watch and well worth the £7.99 I paid for the 24 hour NowTV pass. Declan and Pedro were both worthy of 9/10 from me with Diop, Yarma and Arnie at 8/10. Nobes was great too – providing some proof of my, and other’s, theories that he’s better in centre and attacking midfield than he is in a holding role. Zabba looked solid, if not lacking pace, Anderson showed some of the class I genuinely believe he will become known for at West Ham while Artur and Balbuena did well too. A great team effort that was topped off by a fine showing from Fab who is justifying his place in the starting line up at the moment.

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Can’t wait for the Chelski game next Sunday. Depending on the time my lad’s team’s U14’s game is scheduled for that morning I may have to play my lone ‘postponement’ card to make it to the London Stadium in time. The West London team will be a big challenge. I just hope we see the same work-rates and effort that we saw Sunday afternoon.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


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