The GoatyGav Column

Physically Robust Teams Prove Tough Opponents

Realistically there seems to be four leagues in the EPL at present. There’s the top 2 sides battling for the title. Then there’s the next four battling for the remaining two Champion’s League places. The next seven seem to be the ones chasing seventh place and the outside chance of Europa League qualification. Then the bottom seven are all struggling to avoid relegation.

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In the third tier, mini-league, there is a very interesting mix. The likes of Brighton and Watford have been extremely successful at establishing themselves in the Premier League. All credit to Chris Houghton who, for my money, has done an excellent job in all of his managerial appointments to date. When at Newcastle Mike Ashley made an error in judgement when he replaced Houghton with Alan Pardew. Houghton had steadied the ship, got them promoted by winning the Championship and had Newcastle well on their way to safety, but was always viewed as an interim option. Brighton, to their credit, have made no such mistake. Whilst not the prettiest of football but, at the same time, certainly not the worst Houghton has his side extremely well organised and more than capable of handling the physical side of the game. Both of the teams mentioned in this paragraph, as well as providing a tough test in terms of physicality, are well versed in the ‘dark arts’ or are, ‘streetwise’ if you prefer. As the squad at West Ham continues to improve it’s my hope that they start to compete with these teams by getting on the front foot more, and are dictated to less, and pick up more points against the ‘battlers’ of the Premier League.

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So are West Ham back to the bad old days of having a ‘soft underbelly’? Are opposition managers thinking that old Dad’s Army phrase “They don’t like it up ‘em?” Two thing there for me. Firstly the game has moved on since the turn of the century. Gradually the more successful sides are those who get the ball down and play. Secondly I think that we do have some players who can put themselves about. Admittedly one of them, who plays up front, may well be moving on. On that subject should we be looking to replace him with a striker who has a physical presence? In the summer another ‘beast’ of a player, who got up and down, was moved on to Crystal Palace.

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Overall performances like that at Southampton are what’s required to overcome the Brightons and Watfords. It was a high tempo, quick closing, hard working performance which allowed the boys to play their stuff. The old expression “Earning Your Right To Play,” could have been written for our fixture at St Mary’s. Interestingly the energy levels at Southampton were of a very high level. In the subsequent fixture that game’s high tempo seemed to take it’s toll at Turf Moor where we, disappointingly, went down 2-0 to Sean Dyche’s Burnley. Now that the congested Christmas period is over are we going to be witnessing more of the Southampton performances and less of the Burnley’s? Wolves will be a great test of that.

Lastly I’d like to express how much I want to see a good cup run this year. It’s our only realistic chance of some silverware and I want to see us go all out to try and get to the latter stages. A couple more wins and we’re within touching distance of a final. How good would a day out at Wembley be? So I hope to see a strong side put out at Wimbledon on Saturday night.

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COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


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Show Me The Money!

Jerry Maguire is one of my favourite films. Being in sales myself I guess that I identify with the main character of the same name as the title. For those who haven’t seen it I’d describe the movie as a good insight in to the ups and downs of a sales professional. Maguire, himself, is a sports agent. I love the film for it’s humour and honest depiction of how those who appear super confident use a front to transmit a self-assuredness as well as how those in sales can go from hero to zero in a single moment. Very much like sports people in that respect – one minute they can be on top of their game and the next they consider themselves as a ‘Cautionary Tale’.

For those who might think that you’ve accidentally logged on to a film review site – fear not. There are many parallels between our very own Marko Aranautovic, and his brother, to some characters in Jerry Maguire. Cuba Gooding’s character, Rod Tidwell, coins the phrase “Show me the money” during a phone conversation with Jerry Maguire in which he ends up confirming that he is going to remain Jerry’s client when all his others are leaving him to sign with the firm that have just fired Maguire. In fact “Show me the money,” and “You had me at hello,” have become two of hollywood’s best known film lines since the picture’s release.

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Maguire is later described by Tidwell as “hanging on by a very thin thread.” Recent comments to the press about West Ham paying peanuts could be seen in the same light. Earlier in the same scene Maguire encourages Tidwell to “get back to the guy who first started playing this game,” before continuing “remember – way back when, when you were a kid, it wasn’t just about the money was it? – was it?” I don’t think there’s much doubt about Marko’s reasons for wanting to go to China and it doesn’t have anything to do with achieving things in the game or playing for the joy of it.

Another interesting dynamic of Tidwell’s situation during the film is that he is exposed to a high risk of losing his livelihood if he gets injured before the end of the season. Admittedly this is a risk that is driving MA to making his ‘big money’ move. He appears to have been playing while carrying an injury in recent weeks anyway. Who is to say that our striker won’t break down at some point before the end of this season. At the end of Jerry Maguire Tidwell gets his life changing contract. It’s my guess that MA will get his however the difference, in Arnautovic’s case, is that he’d be off to a, comparatively, uncompetitive league to achieve his ‘earner’.

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Other parallels exist. Tidwell is a moody, uncompromising player who proves challenging to his head coach. He’s also trying to secure his family’s financial security by signing a money-spinning deal. Two dynamics that exist, or, at least, have existed, during Arnie’s time at West Ham.

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The plot of the movie centres around a ‘mission statement’ that Maguire shares with all of his colleagues at his sports agency company. In this document an ethical approach to ‘the future of our business’ is mapped out and a ‘less is more’, sustainable, MO should be adopted by agents. For me the current business practices of many player’s agents is unsustainable and the millions that end up in the pockets of those agents simply can’t continue. On this occasion, however, it looks like the agent will get his way and we’ll lose our player to a league where once great players go for their final pay off.

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All boiled down none of us want another Payet situation. It’s hard to believe that Marko’s brother is his ‘Ambassador of Kwan’. I guess you have to respect that Marko can earn far more money, in China, than West Ham are currently able to pay . Best the owners get as much out of the deal as possible and re-invest in a good, new striker. Let’s hope it ends up working in our favour.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


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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!


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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!


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