The GoatyGav Column

Rough Ride From The Media

A short one from me this week due to work commitments.

There have been many reactions on the various West Ham forums about Jim White’s dismissive comments about fan protests against the board. Although a minor shift seems to have occurred more recently the Glaswegian’s, fingers in the ears, “la, la, la, la, la I’m not listening to you!” approach to the Hammers faithful’s grievances appeared to be reaching boiling point.

Personally I stopped listening to, or watching, White after a Talk Sport phone in that left me without any respect for him. The on-air discussion was about away fans who get abused when they sit in home areas of grounds. White was disgusted with home fans throwing verbals at opposition supporters getting behind their teams while seated in home areas. This after an away fan ‘felt uncomfortable’ seated in a home area.

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For those of us who’ve been there there’s a certain etiquette nowadays. You don’t give it the bigg’un as you’re very likely to embarrass the home fans who’ve allowed you to use their tickets or have, indeed, gone with you to the game. Admittedly I have almost come a cropper in the past. The company I used to work for were a well known sponsor of Manchester City. Sitting in one of the box areas, in the Kippax Road stand, I vociferously urged Paulo Di Canio to “SWITCH IT!” to Joe Cole on a swift counter attack. Around two thousand angry looking faces turned to face me which, in all fairness, was completely justified. Did I whinge about ‘feeling uncomfortable’? Certainly not.

Frankly I would have expected a different attitude from a man who grew up in a city with Celtic and Rangers in. I wonder if White would expect to see a blue shirt in amongst the green & white hoops of the stands of Celtic Park? Yeah right…get real!

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Another Scottish football media man waded in over the weekend in response to David Moyes’ formation set up in the Arsenal match. Graeme Souness opined that DM was wrong to change formation from four to three at the back in game-week two. Has to be said that this was quite surprising punditry to read considering the two, contrasting, performances. Obviously Mr Souness knows far more than I do so I’m clearly missing something here.

I’m not going to get in to any conspiracy theory about sections of the media ‘having it in’ for us. All boiled down everyone has their viewpoint however I find the positions taken by some very surprising and their arguments often weak, one sided and inconsiderate of the opposing views.

As for me I simply vote with my feet. Whenever Jim White comes on the air, be it on screen or radio, I simply switch over or switch off. Quite easy really.

Back to business as usual with the women and youth team’s reports next week. Until then…

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

Recruitment…Avoiding The ‘Happy Hammer’ Culture

We all love a bit of easy street once in a while. If we’re particularly talented then we may feel that we can, probably, get away with a bit of coasting more than others might do.

When it comes to big money signings there are often big egos that arrive at a club at the same time. The sense of entitlement that can accompany the big egos has plagued our club more than many others. Within the current squad roster, without naming names, there are certainly those who fall in to the ‘Happy Hammer’ category if not without the booze culture that was originally associated with the phrase.

From what I’ve seen of David Moyes he appears to be wise to West Ham’s tendency to pander to marquee signings where it leads to players coasting. Known for his team’s work-rates throughout his managerial career I am hopeful that the same ethic will be achieved at our club. For those who have come to the club for big fees and have failed to deliver I suspect that, unless there’s a marked change in approach, their days may well be numbered.

With the above being true it also has to be taken in to consideration that we want to see real talent brought in. It’s not, necessarily, easy to attract top players to West Ham. Often we see the perceived top priority targets get snapped up by bigger clubs. Eventually our third or fourth choice signings, for any specific position, end up being the ones that are brought in.

David Moyes’ signings, so far, at West Ham appear to be taking the same path that his recruitment at his previous clubs have. Less about selling shirts and more about development potential and graft on the pitch we’re seeing players like Bowen and Soucek bringing the right work ethic in to the team. The current gaffer is not always going to get it right. No manager in the history of the game, including the very best, have ever managed that feat however it is possible to focus on potential recruits with the right attitude. This seems to be the MO when it comes to new signings.

I’ve always been very tight lipped when it comes to transfer speculation. There’s so much rubbish touted around that I find more than ninety percent unworthy of any time to comment on. Once a player is brought in I’ll happily discuss them ‘til the cows come home but the tittle tattle that goes before is superfluous.

I’ll stick my neck on the line and state that I believe Moyes will get things right when recruiting players for West Ham. It’s something that he has a history of doing well and his time at our club, however long it ends up being, will be no different IMO. Unlike so many others he’ll leave us in much better shape than he found us. In the meantime I wish him every success in his time with the Irons. After all…isn’t that what we all want?

Away from the first team the Women are coming off a torrid match against Arsenal. One of the heaviest defeats experienced by the ladies was inflicted upon them against the Gunners after captain, Gilly Flaherty, was sent off for a second bookable offence. Following a creditable draw against Tottenham Ladies the week before, and a good start to the match, the North London team capitalised on the extra player with ruthless finishing. Matt Beard put forward that the result will not define the ladies’ season which resumes in two week’s time with a home game against Reading at Dagenham & Redbridge’s Victoria Road (or Chigwell Construction Stadium) ground. Games against Reading are usually highly competitive affairs with close outcomes. Let’s hope we come away with the first three points of the season on the board.

The fixture list wasn’t any kinder to the us in Premier League 2. Drawn away at Chelsea for the season’s opener Dimi Halajko’s charges battled hard but lost out 1-0 to the talented West London youngsters. Dion Rankin netted the winner in the seventy-sixth minute after coming off the bench a few moments earlier. The Blues took the lead after first hitting the woodwork twice however our lads threatened the equaliser towards the end with Sean Adarkwa heading Dan Chester’s cross just wide and Chester’s blocked shot on goal being the last kick of the game. The Spuds are up next this coming Friday afternoon.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

Can We Not Give Away Twenty Six Points From Winning Positions?

Top of the League! Usually a phrase that’s a welcome one to the ears of West Ham fans. Sadly the table that I’m referring to, in which West Ham led the way, is the one for teams that gave away the most points from winning positions. A whopping twenty-six additional points would have been bagged if our boys had have held on for victories having led matches.

A more encouraging stat, however, is that only four of those points were conceded in the last nine games played after the lockdown re-start. If you count every match, including those where the team hadn’t established a lead, then that equates to just over 0.44 points per game lost. Pre Covid 19 outbreak that number almost doubles to 0.76 with twenty-two points dropped in twenty-nine matches.

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If I were to generalise then the over-arching reason for the change, highlighted above, has been a lack of confidence. Many have pointed the finger of blame, for the team’s shaky performances, as having started when Lucasz Fabianski got injured. I’m not inclined to disagree.

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When I watched Roberto in pre-season I remember thinking to myself ‘I really hope this keeper doesn’t end up between the sticks for the first team’. Sadly my fears were realised when Manuel Pellergrini decided to use Roberto to deputise in super Fab’s absence.

It wasn’t so much the flapping uncertainty as to whether he would spill a cross, drop a shot or position himself poorly but more the lack of confidence that Jiminez gave to the defence and, subsequently, the rest of the team. The team looked good in the early games but after Fab’s hip injury things immediately deteriorated. By the time Lucasz had returned to the team the players had not only lost confidence but had also lost faith in MP’s system of play that he was rigidly sticking to. The team’s fragilities were exposed, even when going ahead early, and points were dropped as quickly as our league position.

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Added to the above there appeared to be players who seemed unconcerned by the team’s plight. Passengers, if you like, who just weren’t putting in the graft needed to get us out of the rut. The current speculation around whether Felipe Anderson will remain at the club is warranted due to his inconsistent performances. I feel this is a great shame and am uncertain as to the reason why he’s struggled. When in full flow he’s an exciting player, and a classy act, that I love watching. Is it a footballing cultural issue with his style not suiting the Premier League? Has he just not been bothered to put the work in? Is it the wrong team, or system, for him? Has it been a confidence thing? Does Felipe even know what it has been himself?

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By contrast there were a few battlers who gave their all, and left nothing on the pitch, for the cause. Robert Snodgrass, for me, was one of the most committed on the pitch…absolutely running his legs off until he couldn’t run any more every time he took the field. The trio of Rice, Antonio and Og should have been joined, in the race for Hammer Of The Year, by Snodders in my humble opinion.

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Looking back to this time last year I was filled with optimism for the season ahead. By December I almost felt shellshock at the disappointing let-down. Like most occasions I backed the manager, in the hope he could turn things around, until the point of no return. Right now I’m not sure how I feel about the forthcoming campaign. One thing I do know is that if the team can stop giving away points from winning positions we’ll finish 2020-21 in a far higher position than we did this term.

Perhaps I should be more confident. The defence seem to be improving with every game and I’m convinced that this is down to David Moyes’ coaching, guidance and organisation. He’s also got an eye for a full-back and I expect far more genuine competition for places, and more solid defending, in those areas come the kick off in September. After all…if we hadn’t have dropped any points from those winning situations we’d have finished above Leicester and only a single point off the Champion’s League places this time around.

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It’s time for me to have a little break from posting during the closed season. As you may have read in previous seasons I’m not one for transfer tittle-tattle so I’ll leave that to those happier to keep up with the speculation. Once players are signed I’m always happy to comment but I’ll leave the gossip to the ITKs and those happy to discuss the transfer rumours.

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Just before signing off I would, however, like to send my huge congratulations to Declan Rice for his well deserved HOTY award. I’m also very pleased for Michail Antonio for the runner-up spot. Completely made up for both of them and certainly hope to see them both enjoying their football with West Ham next term.

Until next time I wish all WHTIDers a happy, healthy and fun Summer break, albeit a short one, and hope to see you all in the run-up to Season 2020-21.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

The Grief Mark Noble Has Endured

Perhaps it comes with the territory. Sometimes it might even be warranted. But those who’ve written off Mark Noble in the past have done so at their peril.

In my humble opinion it has been one of Mark Nobles best seasons. Arguably the post lockdown period has seen some of his finest performances of 2019-20 but beforehand he was looking extremely effective in his link-up role.

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Unlike many others I believe that Nobes will have a role to play on the pitch for at least another couple of seasons. He keeps himself in excellent shape and his dedication is a lesson to all. Perhaps he won’t start every single match but, even his biggest critics must admit that, when it comes to derby days, he’s the first name on the team-sheet.

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Experience counts for a lot. Insofar as leadership is concerned there are very few who can match Nobes on a field of play today. Those two facts give confidence to others, especially the younger members of the team, on the pitch. That alone supports the case for Nobes to continue playing, if not playing a full ninety minutes each match, until the point at which he is unable to continue any longer.

I am ashamed to admit that, in the past, I have been critical of Nobes. One thing I have observed about my criticisms, however, that they were all levelled at the player when he was being put in a holding midfield position. Throughout Nobes’ career, I feel, he’s always been most effective when playing further up the pitch. Since lockdown he’s occupied more advanced roles within the team which has been a positive and has seen a higher level of quality in his play.

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At the time I felt he wasn’t performing well he was in a team that were not moving to create options for him on the ball. The result tended to be that he would play the ball either sideways or backwards which became quite frustrating. In hindsight, and towards the end of that trough in his career, I started to realise that he was simply doing the job he was being asked to do but was also being made to look poor by the system of play and the players around him.

Now that Nobes has played five hundred first team games for the club he joins the very top echelon of West Ham legends. He joins the likes of Bobby Moore, Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking, Geoff Hurst, Frank Lampard Snr, Alvin Martin and Steve Potts. Having led the team out in the final game at the Boleyn ground and the very first game at the Bowl he occupies a very special place in the club’s history that will remain in perpetuity. Not only that he’s also in a very small list of one club players who’ve played at West Ham over the last fifty years. Considering the frequency of player’s club moves, during the Premier League era, the ‘one club man’ feat is all the more impressive.

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Away from the pitch Nobes has a reputation as a genuinely decent person. Every fan who I’ve heard from, who have met Nobes, have nothing but positive things to report about their encounters. The example that Nobes sets for young players could not be better. I was listening to Jamie Redknapp on the post match analysis who spoke very highly of ‘Mr West Ham’ while giving the impression that he was proud to call him a close friend. He makes time for everyone and quietly goes about his business, be that for West Ham or work for good causes, without courting publicity. Come to think of it I can’t think of anyone who has met Nobes that has a bad word to say about him. The main point here is that our captain is someone who makes you proud to be associated to West Ham United.

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It’s interesting that Nobes is hesitant to commit to the pursuit of a coaching career at West Ham. The reason that he gives is that he is well liked by the fans and would hate for that to change. In essence he cares so much for the club, and the supporters, that it would hurt him grievously to be viewed any other way.

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All boiled down I hope that Nobes remains on the playing staff at West Ham for a long time to come. He deserves to see success with West Ham and I want that as much for him as I do for myself and my boys. After all… none of them have ever experienced a major trophy win in their lifetimes.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

Taking On The Big Boys

In January 2010 our current owners bought the club. That season the club finished the Premier League in seventeenth place. Fast forward ten years and, at best, we will finish this season’s Premier League campaign in fifteenth place. I don’t know about you but that was the kind of progress that I was hoping for in their first season – not ten years on.

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It’s been an interesting couple of days from the perspective of taking the big boys on.

Man City took on the big boys of UEFA and have won. Not exactly small by any stretch of the imagination themselves the blue half of Manchester have a great deal of financial might behind them. When it comes to UEFA, however, in footballing term only one organisation have more power. The European governing body is certainly a highly political organisation. There are certain clubs that appear to hold a great deal of power when it comes football on our continent. All boiled down they represent the ‘old guard’ but are being challenged by the nouveau riche. In financial fair play the ‘old guard’ have a certain degree of protection against the new kids on the block ‘buying’ trophies that they consider their own.

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I’ve always considered financial fair play a vehicle to keep the upstarts in their place. In a very similar way to how men of power within religious circles used selective parts of holy texts to direct, control and hang on to power for themselves the financial fair play rules honoured the same tradition of controlling behaviour. On a personal level I was very pleased to see that the court of arbitration for sport overturned UEFA’s ruling of how Manchester City, allegedly, used funds to show an increase of income on their balance sheets. The Club’s legal representatives showed this to be untrue and, I’m pleased to see, Pep Guardiola and his team will be able to compete in European football again next season.

You need money to do this. At the very top level, which the European Clubs are undoubtedly at, there is no way that a club like ours could break into the upper echelons of European competition.

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As a West Ham fan European nights under the floodlights are what I desire to see most outside of winning trophies.

The inspiration for this article did not come from Manchester City’s victory, however, but from a David, further down the leagues, who will be taking on the Goliaths of the Championship next season. Last night I watched my local club progress to a, never before achieved, level of the game. Little Wycombe Wanderers won the League One play off final, against local rivals Oxford United, to elevate the club to their promised land. It takes me around ten minutes to walk to Adams Park stadium from my house and, on match days, I can hear the roar of the crowd through the open windows facing the ground. I’ve seen some pretty amazing games in the twenty-three years that I’ve lived in the town. My memory of a packed stadium, during the home draw against Wolves in the famous F.A. cup run in 2001, stand out along with other, unlikely, wins against Bristol Rovers and Plymouth to help keep the club in the football league and win through to another play-off final respectively.

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Next season will be an adventure for the club that used to compete against West Ham, in the Southern League, around the turn of twentieth century. While the Hammers went on to compete at a higher level for most of the club’s history Wycombe remained a non-league side until Martin O’Neill assembled a strong squad that got promoted to the football league in 1993.

Back to West Ham I’m sincerely hoping that we won’t be playing Wycombe in the Championship next season. As for taking on the big boys we can but dream. The owners’ ten point plan to grow the club now look flawed in the areas on the pitch. It’s time for a new approach. The likes of Leicester and Wolves are the models for success when it comes to how a club of lower status should take on the ‘Big Boys’. Southampton’s scientific approach to appointing managers and building a first team squad has been replicated, and superseded, by other clubs of similar stature. It’s time to change things at the top at our club so that we can progress and compete otherwise, I suspect, little progress will be made and other clubs around our position will also overtake us like Leicester and Wolves have done.

Many fans of West Ham have started the journey of taking on our own ‘Big Boys’ to ensure that those steps toward the changes needed are taken. Which Davids will win that one remains to be seen.

COYI!


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