The GoatyGav Column

The Weekly Roller Coaster

After one weekend I’m writing to say I’m reminded of the ‘Boys of ‘86’ – the next I’m returning to the ‘Same Old West Ham’. In between we lose 4-0 to Oxford. Much the same as Hamburg Hammer my article this week is going to be relatively short due to it being the final week of ‘Exhibition Season’. Think I’ll book a well earned week off soon as it’s much needed.

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Coming away from the Stadium on Saturday night there were several murmurs of ‘reality check time’ to be heard. That ‘Big Team’ mentality is still a work in progress just yet. Having got to the dizzy heights of equal fourth (although we were quoted as being fifth for some reason), and three points away from a third place finish to the weekend, the mind was busy with the ‘oops we’ve blown it again’ thoughts. What appeared to be a disappointing showing from our creative players, however, was, in my opinion, instigated by a masterclass in how to hold a solid defensive formation from Crystal Palace. Rarely have I witnessed a team get back in to shape so quickly with two banks of four holding five yards apart, on the edge of their box, with nigh on military precision. Not only that their pressing was well timed and precise too. Annoying as it was I have to applaud their organisation, patience and resilience.

Although I didn’t see the latter game for myself I’d have Palace’s defensive performance alongside that of Wolves’ in the Citeh game this weekend – so confident am I of it’s quality.

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Despite all of that, and with slightly sharper finishing, we could have been two up at the point when Haller put us ahead. I’ve read many comments that Anderson improved after the break, and I’d agree, however that really was coming from a low starting point. Ok – so he had little space to work in, and was closed down super quickly every time he went near the ball, however some of his touches were not up to his usual standard. I’ve absolutely no idea what was going through his mind when he had the opportunity just inside the box, and ‘screw-footed it’ in completely the wrong direction, midway through the first period. Lanzini was little, if any, better. What Manu did was ok but there was so little of it I couldn’t make out whether he was on the pitch or not.

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I’m not going to get in to a ‘Pellegrini got it wrong’ conversation however the omission of Artur from the bench really did come to haunt MP when Cresswell was forced off. I don’t say this just because we had no direct, left-back, replacement but because I think that the game was made for him. Interesting how the consensus has completely changed of late following good displays from Cresswell and, before he was suspended, Mas. Now it feels like we’ve got different options for different matches with the two of them but, on reflection, AM would have given us more against the South London team than AC did.

Cheeky Lane Swooper

Speaking of Pellegrini my Brother and I noticed a very nice Ferrari F488 pista whilst sat at the lights, near the A12, at Waterden Road. After pointing out the Ferrari to my Bro he mentioned that the Huge Bentley behind it was pretty tasty too. I looked over at the drive thinking what a professional looking chauffeur he was but noticed that, in actual fact, it was Mr Pellegrini himself (he’s now not known as the ‘Engineer’ in Thurston circles but as the ‘Driver’). So the window went down, picture was taken with multiple thumbs ups, despite us not quite capturing MP’s thumbs up to us on the phone camera’s CCD. Another misconception went out of the window, namely the ‘professional driver’ one, too when the gaffer cut in from the wrong lane at the final junction before the A12. We let him off as his response to our over-enthusiastic (considering how we were feeling about the result) thumbed signals was such a polite and positive one.

So, for me and the Bro, we’ve got over the defeat and it’s upwards and onwards for the rest of the season. I’m already looking forward to visiting Goodison Park and taking three points away after giving the Evertonians a good thumping.

Sadly nothing to report on the U23 or Ladies teams this week. Many of the ladies, like our men’s team, are off on their respective international duties. Equally, if not more, sadly the Academy team lost 4-1 at Fulham however it wasn’t a game that was reflected in the score-line but one where Fulham took full advantage of their chances. Like Wolves and Crystal Palace their conversion rate was top notch. Let’s hope we see the same from our boys next time out.

Have a great week all.

Come On You Rip Roarin’ Irons!


The GoatyGav Column

A Week Of Extremes Highlights A Balancing Act To Be Achieved

Two great Premier League results sandwiched an embarrassing performance in the League Cup last week. Within six days West Ham went from heroes to zeroes back to heroes again. After a very satisfying two-nil win over Manchester United several changes were brought in for the visit to Oxford United on Tuesday night. Reminiscent of the F.A. Cup loss to Nottingham Forest in 2014, when Mr Allardyce threw too many youth team players in at the same time, with many believing that he was trying to make a point about the products of the Academy of that time, our lads went down four-nil to the Division one side.
Clearly there are some key differences between the two matches. Many more experienced players were fielded by comparison to the ‘thrown to the wolves’ game of January ’14. There is also nowhere near the same level of anger at MP compared to Mr Allardyce, although this might be down to the amount of respect that Manuel Pellegrini has shown us fans compared to ‘Big Sam’.

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I kept schtum over my feelings about Tuesday’s loss. This was partly because I was attending a trade show and didn’t get to see the game at all. I only managed to sporadically track the live text reporting from the West Ham app, and the BBC site, that seemed to be suggesting that Nathan Holland was giving the Oxford defence a torrid time in the early stages. My disappointment at going out of the competition at that stage was, and is, sizeable. In my opinion European qualification via a cup the club have never won would be tremendous, as those who read my posts on the subject will know, and it’s an opportunity lost. I don’t necessarily subscribe, however, to the idea that the strongest side possible should have been put out. The early rounds of the League Cup offer a great opportunity to play less experienced player which is invaluable. I’m convinced there’s a happy medium somewhere between the strongest eleven and a team of kids and fringe players. All boiled down, like a praise sandwich, I’m not feeling so bad about West Ham’s exit from the Carabao due to the sweetening effect of the results either side of it.

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Going in to the Bournemouth game I felt apprehensive but not to the level of recent seasons. The Dorset club are, undoubtedly, a bogey team for us. Callum Wilson seems to revel in playing against our defence and hardly ever fails to score. This time, however, I didn’t feel quite as nervous as I usually do for some reason. Perhaps it’s the fact that we are becoming a team more confident in possession. Perhaps it’s the improvements in defence that we’ve seen grow over the last couple of months. Whatever it was I was so pleased to see Yarma and Cressers on the scoresheet again. Weird as it may sound I think this result was more satisfying than the Manchester United one. A game that you wouldn’t have said would have been unfair for us to come away with all three points. It was an entertaining affair in terms of the football on offer which, probably, went some way to the satisfaction I felt at the final whistle.

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So a six day rollercoaster came to an end and we were sitting in third position. When I looked at the league table I got a feeling that I’ve not had in a very long time. Third in the table with a number of games on the board. That and the confident swagger that the team is starting to display gave me a tiny soupcon of that feeling I had in, dare I say it, ’85-’86. Hope burns eternal!

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On the downside our ‘Super Fab’ has picked up a thigh strain that looks to keep him out for a couple of months. The replacement, Roberto, is splitting opinion. Whether you like him or not it seems churlish, and counter-productive, to criticise him. He’s playing his way in and the last thing he needs is fans getting on his case. Sadly some seem to revel in criticism rather than get behind, or call it support, our lads. Let’s get behind him and let him know we’re all his. That way he definitely stands a much better chance of gaining the confidence he’s going to need.

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Another highlight of this weekend was the tremendous turnout for the Ladies match against Tottenham. Absolutely brilliant. Sadly the result was disappointing however it warmed the cockles of my heart to see so many turn out to see our girls who had a hatful of chances to score but it turned out to be one of those days. I’m sure the West Ham Women will start to win more games soon – let’s hope the first of those wins comes next time out away to Brighton.
Elsewhere the U23s remained top of Premier League 2 Division 2 courtesy of braces from Anthony Scully and Nathan Holland in a four-two win over a spirited Sunderland team. Scully is banging them in for fun at the moment. The front three of Joe Powell, Scully and Holland look like they’ve got a great understanding – combining to play some tremendous football at times. Dan Kemp also looked impressive going forward. Dimitri Halajko seems to be doing a great job and is building a competitive team. Highlights can be viewed, on the official site, at the following link https://tinyurl.com/yxlxy3by .

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This season I’m finding that I can’t wait until the next game. Exciting times fellow Hammers.

Come On You Rip Roarin’ Irons!


The GoatyGav Column

When You Could Lose But You Draw and When You Could Draw But You Win

A recent manager of ours stated that winning football is entertaining football. We’re all familiar with the term ‘soft underbelly’ which is how many teams have viewed West Ham in the past. To his credit, and notwithstanding his drawbacks, that same manager instilled a resilient organisation which was low on risk and high on defensive rigidity. So rigid, in fact, that there was one particular occasion when a ten man opposition, playing two up front, couldn’t influence a change in our shape or system despite being in a winning position.

Those deluded amongst us were extremely unhappy because we believed that another ‘way’ was possible without surrendering defensive solidity. Well it turns out that we were right.

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Going back to the ‘soft underbelly’ that our club has been accused of historically it’s safe to say we’re well on the way to developing a gritty, determined and well organised rear-guard instead.

Manuel Pellegrini was a centre back as a player. In a thirteen year career he ran out 315 times (source Wikipedia – nb. other sources quote over 400 games played) for Universidad de Chile playing once for his national team at the end of his career. The influence that his playing days have had on his managerial expertise are now beginning to shine through with the burgeoning partnership between Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna.

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At times the current centre back pairing have ridden their luck a little however there’s no doubt that the two of them are beginning to work as a partnership. Looking back the chemistry in central defence in all top teams have been instrumental to that team’s success. It helps when a back two have a decent keeper behind them and that’s another key piece in West Ham’s current defensive jigsaw.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to get over-excited just yet. The only, real, top team that we’ve played this season banged in five against us but it can’t be denied that there has been more than one example where the boys have won, and drawn, games that they would have historically drawn or lost. Many of those points that have been picked up have featured clean sheets. The stat of ten scored and two conceded in the last six, with shutouts in the last four, illustrates the importance of the back line’s contribution as much as the teams effectiveness going forward.

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Looking back to my childhood, when Liverpool dominated in England as well as Europe, I remember the monotony of the, ground out, results that ‘The Reds’ achieved by winning games that other teams would have drawn and drawing games that other teams would have lost. Although at nowhere near the same level there is definitely an element of that resilience in West Ham’s recent performances. Going back to the type of resilience that Mr Allardyce installed at West Ham it seems that we really can tuck right in to our cake instead of gazing longingly at it. My excitement before the game last weekend was not just based on our chances of a win but the likelihood of an exciting match. Ok – so it didn’t deliver on both counts but the fact that my, and many others’, anticipation of a hum-dinger was in such evidence tells a story in itself. These really are good times to be a West Ham fan – long may they continue.

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This week sees the League Cup third round. Pellegrini takes his charges to the Kassam Stadium to face an in form Oxford United. I’d have liked to have gone to the game, which is just up the road for me, but I’m, unfortunately, away at Label Expo with work. I sincerely hope that we progress to the fourth round, and beyond, but nothing should be taken for granted against the League One outfit. I’m fairly confident that the gaffer will play a team of mixed experience. I should think that Ben Johnson will stand a decent chance of some game-time. Apart from the academy right back I sincerely hope that Nathan Holland gets some minutes. The former Everton academy winger has looked very impressive since returning from an injury last season. In his most recent PL2 outing he scored a superb solo goal, that has subsequently helped the team go three points clear at the top of the league, which I thought was straight out of the top drawer. You can view the goal and match highlights of the game away at Middlesborough U23s last Friday at the following link to the club page (Holland’s goal from 0.35 mins)… https://tinyurl.com/y2fosckx .

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The West Ham ladies, by all accounts, gave a good showing of themselves away to a strong Chelsea team this weekend but didn’t manage to reply in kind to the West London team’s two goals. Despite that the Ironesses sit in fifth place, level on points with this Sunday’s opponents, ahead of the game at the London Stadium this weekend. I’m unable to make it to watch the match but I wish our girls all the best for the game and hope that they get a great crowd to cheer them on. With prices at such reasonable rates, and up to six kids able to go for free with each adult, I hope that the turnout is excellent, they play well and come away with all three points.

Have a great week all.

Come On You Rip Roarin’ Irons!


The GoatyGav Column

A Strong Work Ethic

With exhibition season in full swing, now, I have very little spare time, so it’s another short article from me this week.

Last night’s game started off very promisingly with the boys dominating in territorial and possession terms. Right from the word go, however, I was extremely impressed with Felipe Anderson’s work rate. When he first arrived expectation on the Brazilian was set very high but not so much in terms of his tracking back. This season he seems to be adding a superb work rate to his attacking qualities which is mirrored throughout the rest of the attacking personnel.

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When in full flight ‘Peepay’ , as his younger sister, Juliana, used to call him, is an impressive sight. It’s not just his pace that excites but his ghosting runs that are such a spectacle. There’s a buzz of anticipation when he carries the ball at our opponents but he’s also got that silky, jinking elegance that the likes of Trevor Brooking and Alan Devonshire used to possess that helps make this team so entertaining and such a joy to watch. As well as these offensive skills Anderson is bringing a strong work ethic to his game and is becoming a more complete player as a result. Several times last night he was supporting Mas, or Zabba, winning the ball or closing down to deny Villa space – even winning the ball on occasion.

Frankly, and with all respect to our opposition who played well and threatened in the game, it was simply ‘one of those nights’. On balance the game could have gone either way, with Villa probably having slightly the better chances, but you just felt that our quality up top always made us the favourites in this fixture. If anything we looked the more likely after Masuaku’s sending off as Villa seemed to lose their intensity a little and began to mis-place passes. Right at the death I genuinely thought that we had it when Fornals, who looked improved from his first outing for us, couldn’t quite slide the ball in to Haller for the finish. A few moments before we might have gone one up if Fredericks had have stayed on his feet too.

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Overall it wasn’t a bad point won in Birmingham. A shame we couldn’t win to go third but I can see real progress – especially defensively where we’ve now seen three clean sheets on the spin and have only conceded two goals in the last five. I’m excited about the visit of Man Utd this weekend. I think it’s going to be an absolute cracker of a game which I’m more confident, going in to, than I was about last night. Don’t ask me why – just a feeling. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s at home and that away games are always extremely tough under the floodlights. Maybe it’s just a hunch. Either way I’m confident we’ll see a continuation of the high tempo work off the ball from the whole team.

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Lastly it was another great win for the U23, Premier League 2, team last night. Running out 2-0 winners the boys have kept pace with Manchester United at the top of the table with 13 points out of a possible 15. Dimitri Halajko has done a fantastic job with the kids since joining from Leicester City in the Summer. Long may it continue with youngsters knocking hard on the door of the first team squad.

Have a good week everyone – see you after the big game on Sunday.

Come On You Rip Roarin’ Irons!


The GoatyGav Column

The Compulsion To Leave

You love the club you play for. You’re getting paid for doing the thing you love and earning more in a week than many earn in a year. Surely it doesn’t get any better than that does it?

When I studied Economics the first thing I learned was John Maynard Keynes’ premise that ‘Man’s (human’s) wants are insatiable’ and that ‘opportunity cost’ is the sacrifice of the lesser desired alternative. So, as a human, you always want more but your means are finite – leaving a gap between having what you want/need and what you’re able to have. It’s right at the heart of the science of the discipline which attempts to break down how resources are distributed via the various delivery systems which, essentially, break down in to command, mixed and completely free market variants. I’m sure that Economics has moved on since I tried, twice, to take my ‘A’ Level at night school while working (which, unfortunately, proved too much of a challenge to get to the lectures in time for) but the ‘having your cake and eating it’ principle still stands.

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So what is the ‘most desired’ alternative for West Ham players? After all it’s not possible to stay at West Ham and simultaneously play at another club that’s competing in the Champion’s league and is prepared to pay over a million pounds GBP a month. In the past the club has sold many of it’s best players. We’ve often discussed what ‘might have been’ if the academy players who came through in the late ‘90’s had have stayed at the club. Imagine Paulo DiCanio and Trevor Sinclair added to a squad including Ferdinand, Lampard Jr, Cole, Carrick, Defoe and Johnson (who came through slightly later than the others). Many of those did, actually, play together but, sadly, not all of them or for a sustained period of time. Mouth-watering prospect and a great shame that the relegation put the final nail in the coffin of the dream of a, Tony Carr inspired, home grown European challenging squad.

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Essentially it’s all about how desirable the prospect of playing for another, ‘bigger’, team is perceived by the player. As much as players think that they love life at West Ham with the adoration of one of the most loyal set of fans, the close-knit team spirit and general, on the up, improvement in the standard of the squad there will always be bigger fish to tempt them away.

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Not for the first time, it would seem, the timing of the ‘head-turning’ seems to have coincided with one of our players on England duty. International team-mates from bigger clubs appear to be extolling the virtues of moving on to pastures new. Declan Rice now seems to be making the kinds of noises that many other players have made at similar stages of their international careers. Don’t get me wrong – I can completely understand if a player wants to improve both their lot and test themselves in European Club competition. It’s just that I find the whole ‘you could be doing so much better than West Ham’ conversations, while away with England, a shame and a little sneaky. Oh well – it’s not the first time and it, almost certainly, won’t be the last.

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Away from first team matters I’d like to congratulate, and commiserate with, the PL2 and Ladies teams for their most recent results. The ladies put in a tremendous performance against WSL Champions Arsenal on Sunday. Especially in the second half they showed tremendous fighting spirit and endeavour to halve the deficit against a very strong team. If this is a sign of things to come from the team then I think we could be in for an even better season than last term. Another brilliant second half performance from the U23s saw them make an amazing comeback, from 4-1 down to win 5-4. The Newport manager was magnanimous in defeat while complimenting our lads for the type of football that they played and character that they showed. The only downside from the game was the bitte that was inflicted on Reece Hannam by Crystal Palace loanee Ryan Inniss. Inniss has got form for violent conduct and is facing a lengthy ban. Frankly quite right too. Inniss needs to learn that you can’t get away with that and should be reflecting on how he’s let his club and team-mates down as well as behaved completely inappropriately while causing harm to another person.

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Back to Declan I wish him all the very best of luck for the England game against Kosovo. It’s likely to be a good challenge for Gareth Southgate’s team so he’ll need to be on his game if selected.

Come On You Rip Roarin’ Irons and Come On England!


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