The GoatyGav Column

Don’t Knock It ‘Til You’ve Tried It – First Time Going Corporate At West Ham

Up until Saturday afternoon I’d only ever watched West Ham, from a Corporate Hospitality seat, as an away fan. Whilst it’s always great to see the Hammers in action, live, being an opposition away fan in a home box, or suite, is probably my least favourite way of seeing the boys play.

Thanks to my good lady I finally got to watch the Claret & Blue from home Hospitality seats. Quite impressed I was too. Family and friends joined me for the ‘treat’ which was an offer from the club at a fraction of the normal price charged for the dining and hospitality package in the ‘Great Briton’ suite.

Brunch in the Great Briton Suite

Not too sure what to expect our party arrived, minus one who was otherwise delayed, outside Entrance B to the London Stadium at 10.00. Once through the doors I left the ticket for the straggler in the ‘Glass Box’ room – an incredibly polished, if not slightly clinical looking, facility that compared favourably to previous entrances to suites I’ve visited.
My party had already headed off up the two sets of Escalators from the foyer to the Great Briton room when I began the automated climb. Once again I was rapt by the plush surroundings which reminded me, if not on as grand a scale, as the new, main building at Royal Ascot.

The service was extremely good from all the staff. Special mention to Alex who took great care of us.

We sat down to place settings that were top drawer. After the first cold one I was regretting having breakfast earlier, which I always do before leaving the house, and decided to leave the Brunch for a little while in favour of a second beer. Too early for a lager, maybe, but it was my birthday treat and I was determined to let my hair down so the amber fluid flowed for the rest of the morning and afternoon.

Allen McNight and me

One of the most impressive aspects of the day was the time and attention afforded to us by our former goalkeeper Allen McKnight. I can’t speak too highly of the Northern Irish keeper who signed for us from Celtic in the ‘80’s under John Lyall. Allen was highly engaging, interesting and a great compere for Brian Dear and Keith Robson who were also doing the rounds of the tables. Not really knowing the fella particularly well, beforehand, I really liked the ex-keeper’s style and demeanour as he happily spoke to our group for a decent period of time. We found Keith Robson extremely personable and Brian Dear was really funny while recounting stories of his playing days.

Marlon & me

The other Ex-Pro on duty was Marlon Harewood who happily agreed to have photos with many of us. He’s looking in great shape as shown below with my Nephew who’s the same age as him.

Marlon and nephew

The game, as you all, undoubtedly, know, got off to a fantastic start with Arnie pouncing on the loose ball from Ogbonna’s saved header. It should, probably, be mentioned that Diangana’s corner to set the chance up as a great delivery. Despite the early lead the West Ham support was extremely quiet. I wonder how many tourists were at the game however the away fan visitors from Birmingham were superb and generated the decibels with, virtually, non stop singing throughout the match.

After Marko’s substitution the tempo of the side reduced and Birmingham started to see more and more of the ball until the half time whistle. We were mystified as to why Arnie was taken off – a sentiment that the player seemed to share as he shoulder shrugged towards us in the stands after seeming to question the decision with Pellegrini. In hindsight the change of personnel made sense but at the time it appeared to be a strange one. Alan McNight was a little baffled by the decision, too, as our dialogue with him continued at half time. I’m happy to report that the beer flow also continued at the break.

Hosptitality seats

The second period continued much the same as the first with Birmingham enjoying more of the ball but rarely threatening our goal. The extra bottle of Moretti did seem to loosen my vocal chords, however, and, despite being in a corporate section where nobody signs, I wasn’t discouraged enough to belt out several songs with the support of friends and family – and ‘belt out’ would be an apt description.

With the introduction of Felipe Anderson on 79 mins the game changed again and it wasn’t long before the Brazilian had put Andy Carroll in with a great chance of scoring. Unfortunately a heavy touch took the ball the wrong side of the post before AC could finish and so we went in to the last few minutes with that feeling of foreboding as Wes Harding had performed a similar feat a few moments before Carroll’s muffed (A phrase inspired by the Dan Coker’s pre match piece with the video of the 1965 game against Birmingham) chance.

Sister and nephew in hospitality seats

After the final whistle we went back and enjoyed a couple more bevvies before moving on to the Howling Hops bar at Hackney Wick. Nature called at Highbury & Islington station so the opportunity for another scoop was taken advantage of, during the natural break, at the ‘Famous Cock’ pub where we had a good chat with a few Brummie fans.
While I won’t be rushing back to a leather padded seat in the near future I have to admit that we had a terrific day with some great memories and progress in to the fourth round of the Cup to boot. Here’s hoping for a decent draw.

Fame at last - in the match programme

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


The GoatyGav Column

The Eye Of The Beholder, What We See In Players And A Tribute To Luca Campanaro

This Sunday the league in which I manage, my youngest son’s U14 football team, honoured the memory of 14 year old Luca Campanaro, who played in goal for Bedgrove Dynamos, who sadly passed away following a collision in a challenge during a match at Harefield United. All teams, in all age groups, in the Wycombe and South Bucks Minor Football League, in which Luca played in division 2 at U15, held a minute’s applause for him which we were proud to have been a part of in our match against Bedgrove’s neighbours Aylesbury United. You may have seen, or read about, the story of Luca’s sad accident reported on national news bulletins and in the newspapers. One thing that struck me was the dignity of Luca’s parents in what must be one of the most awful events that a human could ever experience. Luca’s father, when interviewed, commented on how he felt for the other boy involved in the collision. Says everything about the man doesn’t it? By all accounts, including those who knew him in the match that we played, Luca was a generous, fun, popular and happy soul who spread much joy and affection to the lives that he touched. In death he touched many further lives by donating organs to those in desperate need of them. My thoughts and kindest wishes are with his nearest and dearest – peaceful journey Luca.

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Back to West Ham and following a recent exchange of views about Javier Hernandez I got to thinking about player perception. As a generalisation West Ham fans enjoy attacking, free flowing, quick passing football but, as this very site proves with boundless frequency, we don’t always agree about the things we see. Opinions differ so often, about a number of aspects of our club, but, perhaps, one of the most common topics of debate is that of the merits of individual players.

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Where Chicharito is concerned we can’t even agree what to call the fella. Chicha, Chico, who I always associate with an X Factor contestant who released one of the naffest songs you’ll ever hear, or any of the number of other variations on JH’s nickname are all referred to on WHTID. Whatever the debate over what we should call him it’s clear we’re divided on the value of the player to the team. Personally I think he’s a tremendous asset to the squad. West Ham have not had an out and out goal-scorer of his quality for many years – perhaps since we sold Tony Cottee to Everton. I believe that the club should do everything in their power to retain the services of the player. What does annoy me, however, about his play is that he’s happy to watch others close down and challenge when we don’t have the ball. I’ll qualify that last sentence further by stating that it has verged on the criminal how he’s stood still and watched opposition players stroll out of defence with the ball when he was less than two yards away at the start of those defenders’ runs with nobody else in a West Ham shirt anywhere near play. When Chicha joined I was excited but my enthusiasm was dampened by a Manchester United supporting mate of mine warning me that the Mexican striker would not contribute anything outside of the penalty box when attacking. This opinion was backed up by several more people I spoke to as well as articles I read.

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Interestingly the thought behind this article was further developed by my intrigue as to what Manuel Pellegrini’s opinion of Domingos Quina was. It would appear that the Portuguese youth player is starting to flourish after joining Watford from West Ham in the Summer. So was it that the gaffer didn’t fancy him, thought that he wasn’t ready or that he didn’t see any position for him in the system that’s been implemented since his arrival? Quina’s terrific strike, proving to be the winner, against Cardiff this weekend would suggest that his sale to the Hertfordshire club may well turn out to be the right move for him. But will it prove to be a bad deal for West Ham? Not an easy question to answer as a team’s chemistry needs to be considered, as well as the individual’s subsequent achievements, when looking back at those who were viewed as having ‘slipped through the net’. Who’s to say that Junior Stanislas would have become as valuable a player if he’d have stayed at West Ham? The wisest summary to reach is that there is no point ruing such decisions as you’ll never know how things would have turned out.

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Another fascinating discussion, around these observationally driven opinions about players, was that regarding Fellipe Anderson at the start of this season. Many were convinced of his quality and could see the player’s talents, and how they would develop, at a very early stage. Others were convinced that the Brazilian attacker was never going to make it in the Premier League. Some even stated that he had nothing to offer West Ham and dismissed him as useless. Point being we all viewed the player through different eyes and saw different things. Given time to adapt he’s starting to impress. He’s creating and scoring goals which is great but, for me, he’s a joy to watch and plays in ‘The West Ham Way’.

Things would be pretty boring if we all agreed about everything all the time. I love the exchange of opinions on this site. In the main those exchanges take place in a mature and civilised manner. Sometimes the banter that comes out of the differences aired is witty and has me fully belly laughing. Long may it continue.

I’d like to take the opportunity to wish everyone on WHTID, their families and their friends a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Joyful New Year as this is my last post before Christmas day. Have a great one, with bags full of fun, warmth and points for West Ham, all.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!
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The GoatyGav Column

Snoddy’s Attitude The Epitome Of Pellegrini’s West Ham

For much of the season you could argue that Robert Snodgrass has been an unsung hero. Admittedly I was surprised to see him return to the club in the Summer. Wasn’t too enamoured of the player, either, and expected him to play a bit part when injuries, inevitably, kicked in. How glad I am now that he’s making me eat my words. All it took was a manager to play him in his favoured position and show sufficient confidence in him to give him a run of games and he’s repaying that faith by the truck-load.

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With three goals and seven assists the Glaswegian winger has set up or scored more than any other player in the team including ‘Peepay’, a nickname that caught after his baby sister used to call him it, Anderson. The ten million invested in the Scottish international is now paying dividends bigtime.

It’s not often that a player is loaned out, returns, and makes a big, successful impact when they come back to the club. You could probably count those players with the fingers of one hand. The fact that Rob Snodgrass has achieved this is testament to his strength of character. Did that quality help him stand out to the gaffer and get him a run of games to prove himself I wonder? It would seem that Pellegrini likes players who show the attitude and aptitude to apply themselves properly. In hindsight it should be stated that Snodders acted with the utmost professionalism during the tough period of time he endured in his first stint at West Ham.

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In truth we all knew, even us ‘barely speaking English’ peyps who grew up in Cheshire ( ;) ), that we’d signed a good player when RS arrived from Hull. At the time his transfer may have been viewed as no more than a good bit of business from a relegated club. It was something of a mystery who signed the player being either the manager or David Sullivan. It certainly would have seemed a bit of a weird one for Slaven to have sought out considering how he utilised the Snodgrass in the team. Whatever the reality of that unknown all that really matters now is how the Scot is playing for us. On that score it’s safe to say that he’s putting in tremendous effort, having a massively positive effect and enjoying his football as much as any other time in his career. Long may it continue as I’m made up for the fella.

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Arsenal are gaining plaudits from all quarters at the moment but, with thirteen points from the last six games, our beloved Hammers sit in fourth place in the form table, one point and one place above the Gunners having scored the same number of goals as Liverpool and the Spuds in the process. Impressive stat even if five of those fixtures included teams in the current bottom seven in the Premier League. I’m not so sure the West Ham of yesteryear would have claimed thirteen points from a possible fifteen against those sides. Having played the, aforementioned, five teams in the bottom seven we face the other two over the next four games away at Fulham and Southampton. Watford at home and another away game against Burnley make up the next four providing good opportunities to put further points on the board and, hopefully, propel us further up the league.

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With attitudes like those of Snoddy, Nobes, Rice, Balbuena, Diop, Fabianski and Antonio, to name but a few, you would have to surmise that Manuel Pellegrini is keeping the squad highly motivated. The confidence is visible. Never, at any stage, did MP seem to lose belief in what he was trying to get the team doing. When all those around, in the press, social media and, in some instances, stadium, were losing their heads our Chilean manager ‘kept calm and carried on’.

Overall confidence is beginning to flow through the team. But rather than the flaky and fragile confidence, that we’re used to, it’s a confidence that has been achieved by strong belief in the system of play and clear direction passed down to the players by the manager. Even when the team are not looking particularly impressive, and things are not going our way, the style of play is adhered to rigidly. The manager makes changes if they’re needed during half times of matches. The boys didn’t play well in the first halves of many games recently however changes were successfully made indicating proficient in-game management by the manager. The Man City, Cardiff and Palace games are great examples of this. Like Snodgrass’ form – long may it continue.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


The GoatyGav Column

Super Fab? Footballing Cycles & The F.A. Cup

Second week on the spin for disparate subjects but bear with me as there is a link.

In the Burnley match I heard a few choruses of “Super, Super Fab, Super Fab Balbuena!” Before then I was singing a similar song but with Fabianski’s name instead. Seems there might be a bit of competition for who claims that particular chant between ‘The General’ and our Polish number 1.

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When he first arrived at the club there was some discussion over whether ?ukasz Fabia?ski would establish himself as first choice between the sticks for us. He had his work cut out, IMO, because of the cult hero status of Adrian. Whatever happens to our current Spanish keeper he’ll always have a special place in our hearts as fans. Yes, he’s been capable of the odd howler of a game, but for the most part he’s proven himself an excellent shot stopper. It’s as much, however, his attitude, clear love for the club and the genuine, heart on the sleeve, honesty of the man that so many of us admire. So when he was displaced by LF the new signing had a job to convince us. I’m pleased to say that the Polish stopper has come through the test with shining colours. He’s been incredible. How much of the Balbuena & Diop confident partnership that’s developing is down to the keeper should not be underestimated. Maybe it’s the other way around? Well – yes, that can be argued but what you can’t deny are so many of the excellent saves that he’s made so far this season.

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With Fabianski’s first clean sheet, since the Macclesfield rout in September, now registered I wouldn’t back against the former Poznan, Warsaw, Arsenal and Swansea man to go on to play the best football of his career with us. Now 33 years of age he has the commanding presence that his extensive experience lends him. When you look at some of the saves he’s made since joining you might be mistaken, if you weren’t aware of the fact, in believing he’s much younger – such has been his agility and conditioning.

Successful teams all tend to have a very solid base of the ‘spine’. Our current two Centre Backs and Goalkeeper provide a sound basis to build upon. With all three new signings in these positions now adapting, both to the league, in the case of the outfield positions, and to each other, the confidence seems to grow with each passing game. This weekend the likes of Anderson and Noble, deservedly, took the plaudits. The unsung heroes, however, were Diop and the two ‘Super Fabs’. What remains to be seen, or heard, is whether our Paraguyan defensive rock or our 6ft 3in stopper retains the ‘Super Fab’ chant. Either way it’s, sadly, hard to see Adrian staying beyond January as, at 31 years old, he’s going to want first team football. From a selfish point of view I hope I’m wrong and we manage to retain both goalies but I wouldn’t hold it against the Spaniard for wanting to play more regularly. Whatever happens we’re unlikely to have a keeper who cares as much as Adrian San Miguel del Castillo cares about us again in the future.

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One thing that I’m not finding so difficult, away from the thought of losing our glove shedding, penalty scoring, goalkeeping hero is the belief that the team’s confidence can keep growing. I think that 8th position should be the expectation along with a cup run to be proud of. Tonight’s draw saw us pitted against Birmingham, in an excellent home draw, in the 3rd round. Always my favourite footballing weekend of the year the 3rd round is the most dramatic stage of the season for me. The magic of the cup never died in my view. So what if Manchester United once decided to pull out? Who cares if pundits and media suggest it’s had it’s day? The David and Goliath matches where the underdogs punch above their weight, sometimes providing the most theatrical and interesting of shocks and stories (second, maybe, to Leicester’s Premier League win), are where it’s at. The cups also provide clubs like ours with their best opportunity to win silverware. I know I’ve written about this before but this cup, this year, offers a very special chance.

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Listening to a sports phone in last night I was amused and entertained by one caller in particular. I have to admit that it was quite easy listening as I smiled wryly at the Manchester Unite fan explaining how he’d ‘had enough’ of the current manager, the way his team is playing, being outside of the top four and the lack of recent success. I couldn’t be absolutely certain but I guessed that the ‘supporter’ was of a certain age that, most probably, meant he grew up in an era when his team were winning awards practically every season. Premier League titles, Champion’s League trophies, Cups and international tournament accolades galore year in year out. The thing that occurred to me was that this fan was completely unaware that periods of footballing triumph go in cycles. Arsenal dominated in the ‘30’s. Liverpool reigned supreme in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. His team, under Alex Ferguson, won the lot in the ‘90’s and noughties. Saying you’ve ‘had enough’ because your team ‘only’ won the League Cup the previous season and are lying in 7th in the league this term provided all the evidence I needed to back up my opinion that this fan was naïve enough to think his team should be dominating ‘ad infinitum’. Sam Allardyce once, foolishly, called us deluded. I don’t think it would be too far off the mark to suggest that many of the same generation of Manchester United fans, to the aforementioned caller to the radio show, are deluded in their belief that they should always be winning games and gongs season after season.

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Bringing it back to West Ham I’ve got a gut feeling that the cycle I referred to above is about to turn our way. I’m not saying that we’re going to win anything. I hope with all my heart that we do but I’m convinced that exciting times are ahead for us. As for the very special chance the cup offers us? A good cup run this season could well act as a start of that cyclical return to a highly competitive West Ham and, especially for the West Ham contemporaries of those Manchester United fans who’ve grown up on nothing but success, that’s what we all want.

So off to Cardiff tonight – looking forward to a great game and a couple of beers as I’m not driving :) .

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


The GoatyGav Column

Nasri, Man City and Cup Fever

Samir Nasri – Who Is Looking To Sign Him?

Always in the market for a bargain. Our owners are businessmen at heart and a big part of running a profitable business is cutting your costs. So when a striker with Premier League experience, who has won titles and plied his trade in the Champion’s League, becomes available on a free surely any club owner worth his salt much be looking to take advantage? Well, as we all know, football is no ordinary business.

Nasri was found guilty of an anti-doping charge involving micronutrients being delivered in excessive amounts via sterile water administered through a drip. While feeling ill on holiday his former girlfriend, Dr Sarabjit Anand, provided an initial diagnosis over the phone. The drip was subsequently set up in his hotel room and the 500 millilitres of hydration received. Wada rules state that a limit of 50 ml infusion is allowed over a 6 hour period for active athletes. During the time Nasri was on the drip he posted pictures from the hotel room which were later used in the case against him. Fundamentally Nasri didn’t use a banned substance rather employed a prohibited method in accordance with sub-section M2, par. 2 of the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) prohibited list. Putting that aside would he really be what the Manager is looking for?

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So who’s signing would Nasri be should he arrive at West Ham? Manuel Pellegrini has managed the player before at Manchester City. If it’s true that the manager gets the final say on signings then it would seem that he would be the one pushing to get the player on board. When Pellegrini arrived in the Summer many commented that he wouldn’t be prepared to put up with any decisions being made outside of his control regarding comings and goings. So one can only presume that he’s the one trying to make the deal happen.

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Either way it’s going to depend on Samir Nasri coming up to speed in training and impressing sufficiently to get a deal with us. Personally I always saw him as being an average forward playing in a good team – both at Arsenal and Man City. I know that others disagree. There’s no disputing he has explosive pace and likes to take players on but, at 31 years of age, can he even get back to former levels of play? If Marco Arnautovic does move on in January I certainly hope that Nasri is not seen as his replacement as this would be a clear step in the wrong direction for my money.

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On the subject of last weekend’s fixture I, like many others, have mixed feelings. In terms of scoring opportunities we had 8 shots at goal compared to Man City’s 8. I’m not sure where the Xg (expected goals) ratings came from but, quite frankly, the big difference is that City are composed and clinical in front of goal. Perhaps that was it, or maybe it was the dominance they enjoyed in possession, but there’s no disputing that they are looking every bit the champions that they are and favourites for the title again this time around. A little annoying that a sublime moment of skill was ommitte from the MOTD coverage. Anderson’s ‘Flip Flap’ or ‘Elastico’, if you prefer, on the touchline in front of us in the West Stand (still have to re-orientate myself between the BM & STB stands in comparison to the Boleyn Ground) was a thing to behold. I’ll be recording the ‘Showboat’ on next Saturday morning’s Soccer AM as I’m sure it will make it on there.

The most irritating aspect of the match was the way in which they seemed to waltz through our back line. It was like a knife through butter for the majority of the goals so I sincerely hope that lessons are learned.

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In the second half we improved defensively. I know it doesn’t make a massive difference but I think a clean sheet in that second half would have left us feeling a little better. So when Gabriel Jesus was put through before he crossed the ball, in an offside position, I felt it we were robbed of that, last 45, clean sheet. Scott Ledger wasn’t quite up with play and so didn’t spot the marginal, but clear, off side when Mahrez played it through to him. No massive thing in the great scheme of things but 4-0 certainly looks worse than 3.

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We now face a run of games that provide a decent chance of putting points on the board. Our next opponents could displace us in 13th position if they win this evening. If that’s the case we would have the opportunity to pull away from them again and put further distance between ourselves and the bottom of the table. As ever I’m optimistic. I genuinely think things are moving in the right direction and am hopeful of a top half finish after the season’s final whistle goes in May.

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Speaking of May, and the Cup, I’m looking forward to this time next week when the draw for the 3rd round will be made. After some interesting looking ties those progressing will be hoping to draw the big boys in the next phase. For me the 3rd round is my favourite weekend of the footballing calendar. Our best chance of a trophy win is now in this competition and so I’m hoping that the draw pairs us opponents in a kindly manner.

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COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


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