The GoatyGav Column

England Football's Rapid Evolution

Under Gareth Southgate England have come a very long way in a very short period of time. Linking back to my post from last week England, for decades, were a predictable team who the bigger teams found easy to beat. Simply ‘playing at pace’ was, so often, rolled out as being England’s supposed “strength” (no apology for the inverted commas) it became laughable.
We’re now seeing the folly of the aforementioned ‘strategy’ employed by successive England managers. Frankly, there was a time, I believed our (well – most of us) national team would never move on from the dark ages. Praise whatever supreme power you believe in – the ‘Three Lions’ have now moved on.
Embed from Getty Images
Our very own Trevor Brooking deserves a great deal of praise for the part he’s played in the St George’s Park revolution. The successful installation of the ‘England DNA’ has been, in no small part, down to much of the input and guidance that Sir Trev has provided. Not that he got much praise for it. In actual fact he endured a political campaign to discredit much of the work he put in to setting up the elite system that is now producing world-beating players and squads throughout the various age groups.
Embed from Getty Images
The results are there for all to see. Reigning World Champions at both U17 and U20 levels. As more and more players progress through from those squads the full national team are getting stronger and stronger. Even the likes of Pep Guardiola, with all of the talent that he has at his disposal, is encouraging and bringing through the likes of Phil Foden – giving him more and more game-time in the Manchester City first team as the months roll by.
Embed from Getty Images
I’ve previously written about the bravery of Gareth Southgate to blood youngsters, who aren’t even established regulars at their clubs, in to England matches. Chicken and egg – they play well for England, ergo, they find that there’s pressure to play them in the Premier League & not, as traditional, received wisdom suggests the other way around. What I like most about Southgate is that he adapts. He’s a modern manager for the modern game. Would you have seen Delph and Rashford replaced by Lingard and Sancho in bygone days? Frankly I wouldn’t have made those changes but they turned out a masterstroke.
Embed from Getty Images

The other aspect of yesterday’s match (as I write) that, particularly, pleased me was the way that England bossed the game. Listening to Stuart Pearce on Talksport today he was bang on with his comment that England could have found themselves 3-0 up by half time with the chances that they created. There are often games where you do boss possession and create considerably more than your opponents but find yourselves level or behind. The great thing about this England team seems to be their, unstinting, belief in the system they play and their team-mates ability to see the plan through. Yesterday England were in control of the game in the first half by dominating possession against one of the best teams in Europe. There’s a confidence about the England squad which, given time, I believe will develop in to a swagger. The achievement of coming top of a group of 3 containing Spain and Croatia should not be underestimated. It’s a fully deserved achievement that should get all the credit that it’s due IMO.

Embed from Getty Images

The only thing that does concern me about the new ‘England DNA’ and St George’s Park Elite lies in the fact that it is an ‘Elite’. Earlier this month, and in October, major concerns were raised by some in the game about the lack of funding finding it’s way to ‘Grass Roots Football’. As a manager of a local U14’s team I can say, with complete conviction, that the lack of funding at our level of the game is embarrassing when compared with the likes of Germany, Spain, France and Holland. For me the ‘National Game’ is not just for an ‘Elite’ – it’s for all. St George’s Park is built and, now, just requires that it be maintained. Why should such a large percentage of the money in football remain at the very top echelon, when there are thousands of teams up and down the country cancelling training and matches when the inclement weather kicks in, while those at the top of the game congratulate themselves on the achievements of the Elite. You can, probably, gather this is something of a bugbear of mine. It gets right up my nose in-fact. Something needs to be done to ensure that kids, who are desperate to play, aren’t left sitting at home, looking, longingly, out of the window wishing they were pitting their wits against their league rivals or learning and growing because match and training pitches are waterlogged or cut up so badly they’re unplayable. In the, aforementioned, European countries there are more than enough all-weather and indoor pitches to cope. In, competitively, footballing affluent England there’s a massive shortage that needs addressing. All of this when obesity rates in boys and girls in this country are going through the roof. If you don’t believe what I’m saying about the ‘Elite’ access then have a look at how much it costs youth coaches in this country, personally in most cases, to fund an equivalent UEFA B Licenced Coaching course compared to those other European countries. And where does that, hard earned, coaches cash go to? Doesn’t seem fair to me.

Embed from Getty Images

Back down off my soapbox I have to admit that I’m a very happy England fan today. Apologies to those who visit the site who aren’t England fans, I hope you found the article of some interest to you, but it’s been a long time since England have had as good a year as 2018 has been so it’s great to write about it. Long may it continue but it’s my, heart-felt, wish that those at the top of the game are considering those at the bottom of it at the same time.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


The GoatyGav Column

Why You No Longer Hear The Phrase “Tippy-Tappy”

Strange isn’t it. Was a time when the derogatory phrase would be rolled out with a, tired and worn out, regularity by those who subscribed to the Charles Hughes school of POMO. Based on the ideas of a World War II Wing Commander, named Charles Reep, Hughes, backed up by statistical evidence, promoted a system of play that, he suggested, would increase chances to score goals. With an impressive win ratio while managing the England Armature and Great Britain & Northern Ireland Olympic teams Hughes commanded great influence at the F.A. In essence the POMO (Positions Of Maximum Opportunity) system worked on the premise that most goals were scored with moves containing 3 passes or less that delivered a final ball in to the area from which you would be most likely to score. In other words you get the ball in to forward scoring positions as soon as you possibly can. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t all Route 1, stick it in ‘The Mixer’ Hoofball. The system advocated getting quality crosses as a main source of supply which, I think, is a productive art form in itself. Can be very entertaining too but, for the most part, it’s an uninspiring system which will only put bums on seats when resulting in ‘winning’ football.

Embed from Getty Images

Associated with the ‘Tippy Tappy’ phrase was a presumption that a ‘soft underbelly’ would accompany. As fans of West Ham we have all heard the various comments from opposition fans who’s team have won trophies down the years. Even down to the level of individual players comments like “he doesn’t travel North well,” were not uncommon. Often described as ‘pretty but ineffective’ pass and move has tended to be out of favour with many at the top of the English game for many years.

All well and good but, time and again, the tactic developed by Charles Hughes has been proven to be one dimensional. For years the England team would underperform against the world’s biggest and best because they were too predictable.

Embed from Getty Images

So where are the critics of passing football now? With 15 goals in the last 3 games Manchester City, with their manager, Pep Guardiola, are one of the main reasons that football that’s pleasing to the eye is now being lauded and not lambasted. Following this weekend’s instalment of Pep’s passing masterclass a goal involving, no less than, a 44 pass move was hailed ‘mesmerising’ by Graeme Souness. And who can argue with him. From the moment that Fernandinho tenaciously won the ball, until Gundogan finished the move off with the goal, all 10 Manchester City outfield players touched the ball.

Embed from Getty Images

Steeped in a long tradition, that began with Rhinus Michels, incorporating the great Ajax Amsterdam teams before being passed to Barcelona by Michels’ understudy, Johan Cruyff, who, in turn, had a huge influence on Guardiola, ‘Tippy Tappy’ tends to, now, be known by the, less derogatory, term ‘Tikka Takka’.

Overall my feeling is that the English national game is finally ‘growing up’ to meet the demands of modern football. As recently as this time last year you could still hear the battle-cry of the POMO merchants stating that Pep’s ‘Tippy Tappy’ style hadn’t won, and wasn’t going to win, the English top tier title. Those guns are now silent and, in this fan of football’s opinion, that’s a great thing.

Key for me is a subtle difference between the two, opposing, philosophies of the game. Whilst POMO produces opportunities to score the, more attractive, clever passing and movement of ‘Tikka Takka’ produces ‘better’ opportunities to score. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Just look at how many goals are being scored by Guardiola’s team.

Embed from Getty Images

As far as I’m concerned I hope POMO is consigned to the dark ages where it belongs. Thankfully we now have a manager who has complete and utter belief in a system of play that incorporates pass and move – and long may it continue.

Embed from Getty Images

Since starting the composition of this article West Ham have been linked with the signing of Samir Nasri. The former French international player’s ability is not as much in question as his actions leading to his doping ban. So should we question his signing. Manuel Pellegrini has managed him before and seems willing to have him back. Is it a question of ‘good enough for the gaffer is good enough for me’ I wonder? I’m sure that other articles will go in to far more detail than I will here and I’ll be very interested to read the various opinions and comments over the coming days here. Next up are MP, and Nasri’s, former employers Manchester City. It’s a game I’m looking forward to watching. I wonder if Nasri will be in the line up to face them?

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


The GoatyGav Column

London Stadium Rocking – Pundits Rate Atmosphere.

Last weekend the Match of the Day and Talksport pundits were extremely complimentary about the atmosphere at the ground. Driving back from Birmingham, this afternoon, I was tuned in to Hawksbee and Jacobs when they had John Motson on. He praised the match as a spectacle, saying that it was one of the most entertaining games of football that he’d seen this season and that, were it not for the, otherwise deserved, attention given to the Leicester game at Cardiff, the match would have been the main talking point of this weekend’s fixtures.

Embed from Getty Images

Not always known for his positive comments towards our club Motty went on to describe the atmosphere at the London Stadium, like other pundits have suggested recently, as “rocking.” I’ve always found the sheepskin coated one quite scathing about our club in his analysis so it would be fairly safe to assume that something has changed to influence a shift in his opinion.

So what is it that’s got us belting out the songs and chants at the top of our voices? The brand of football on display on Saturday afternoon would be an understandable reason for the raised decibels but what about the noise in and around the first whistle before the first goal? And how about the other games where the team haven’t played such an enterprising and entertaining game? So often you hear away fans out-sing the home support – definitely not in our case so far this season. The Burnley supporters were almost silent by comparison.

Embed from Getty Images

Last season I voiced my disapproval at the way that Season Tickets were being allocated. I found it amazing that the club were unable to track a supporter’s match attendance history before offering an ST to them. I suspect that ‘tourist’ fans and opportunists from other clubs who regularly ‘sell’ their Season Tickets seem to be dwindling in numbers and genuine supporters of West Ham are taking their place. I still overhear other fans discussions about this subject – one recently stating that a solitary Arsenal fan currently holds 20 (twenty) seats that he sells each game. But as fans of other clubs move on it seems that they’re being replaced by those, who’ve been on the waiting list, that are lifelong fans.

At one point during the Burnley game I stopped signing, which doesn’t happen very often, and just took in the sounds. It was definitely one the best, if not the best, noises I’ve witnessed at a ground since all seaters came in. Motty’s ‘rocking’ adjective was certainly apt. Remember – this wasn’t Manchester United or the Spuds – this was Burnley that we were playing.

Embed from Getty Images

On to on-pitch events there were times, well – two of them to be precise, where I though the team wouldn’t get their just deserts. That sinking feeling we’re so familiar with kicked in after both of the Burnley goals. Front of mind was the recent goalscoring rate making it feel unlikely that we’d get another even if our play did deserve it. The crux of the issue has been finishing. Against Brighton, Leicester and the Spuds the boys created enough chances to win the games but spurned opportunities to score. In the League Cup match you could also put the loss down to individual errors/lapses of concentration but the game would have looked very different if the efforts would have ended up in the back of the net.

Embed from Getty Images

In spite of London Underground’s best efforts I’m so glad that I, just about, made it in time for kick off and the wonderful joint tribute to the Leicester Helicopter crash victims and fallen heroes of the wars. I thought the club did a fantastic job of the ceremony. The bugler was also tremendous and played the ‘Last Post’ brilliantly whilst those of us standing in front of our seats observed the minute’s silence impeccably.

Embed from Getty Images

When you boil it all down I do still miss the Boleyn Ground but, admittedly, I’m warming to the London Stadium all of the time. For the League Cup match last week I went with my brother. We’ve been to quite a lot of matches together down the years. It’s always great to catch up and this time was no exception. Added to the usual busy conversation I was very interested to know what he thought about our new home as it was his first visit. In fact he hadn’t been to the Olympic Park site until last Wednesday evening. I was quite pleased to discover that he thought it was quite good. Added to the enjoyment was my first beer after successfully navigating a ‘dry October’ (nearly made it the whole month – bar a few hours). Perhaps that added to the enjoyment of the afternoon and evening but I don’t think that the experience needed any sort of input from me to sell it to my brother.

Embed from Getty Images

The lads now have a couple of day’s more rest than Huddersfield’s ahead of this coming weekend’s fixture. Back to back wins, going in to the International break, would be absolutely brilliant. Should that come to pass then, all of a sudden, I’ll start looking up the table instead of down it. Optimistic as always I’m hopeful we can bag the three points and close the gap on those above us.

Until then have a great week all.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


The GoatyGav Column

What To Do With Andy Carroll?

I know, I know. There’s nothing quite like a debate over AC, or Brexit, to divide us. Frankly it would be excellent if, just for once, we could all agree about something but, I suspect, comments on this will, no doubt, be polarised.

Embed from Getty Images

Main reason I’m writing this is that I switched to Talksport from Lovesport on Friday morning to hear Sam Allardyce’s dulcet tones on the Alan Brazil show. As I fought my way around the north side of London, avoiding the carnage on the M25 that followed an earlier accident, the radio spiel centred on ‘Wor Andy’. Fair play to Mr Brazil for getting quite a bit of information out of Big Sam during the programme.

Embed from Getty Images

Essentially the non-deluded one had mixed praise and condemnation for Carroll. The positive part of his answer suggested that the big Geordie is completely dedicated when recovering from an injury. His focus, attitude and work ethic when in the physio room is. Apparently, second to none. Problem is that all goes out of the window when he recovers and returns to playing. Allardyce, pretty much, confirmed that AC didn’t continue to look after himself, and complete his rehabilitation from injury, in the weeks after recovering. He also hinted that AC succumbed to ‘a night out’ with Kevin Nolan too often during their time together at West Ham. I was surprised to hear Mr Allardyce suggest that a night out once a week was ok before going on to suggest that professional players cannot afford to ‘abuse’ their bodies that way in today’s game.

Embed from Getty Images

Apart from AC’s social activities, and back on the field of play, Sam Allardyce paid tribute to the big striker by stating that Carroll would go in where angels feared to tread and that it might be in his best interests to ‘tone it down’ rather than throwing himself in to challenges with such reckless abandon. I have to admit to admiring our Geordie hitman for his bravery. When he’s ‘on it’ he is totally unplayable. Defenders must hate being up against him.

Outside of the above, and completely in line with my opinion, the former manager, who taught us to ‘respect the point’, described his admiration for the player by detailing his attributes as a ‘complete’ player who ‘has everything in his locker’. Unlike many who view Carroll as simply ‘good in the air’ SA pointed out his, many, other abilities. For me these include his touch, hold-up play, dribbling, ability to turn, positional play and finishing. He scores all kinds of different types of goals. In the air, off the deck, running on to through balls, shots on the turn, volleys (including overheads), tap-ins, one on ones – you name it.

click here to read about, and listen to, the interview.
The 6ft 4in striker is about to make, yet another, return from injury. Not that far away from full training now he could be fit to play soon. So what say you? Offload in January or keep.

Embed from Getty Images

I believe that he should be utilised as an impact substitute and no more. Full 90 minute starts are putting too much of a strain on his joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles but he’s far too valuable as a potential game changer from the bench to be moved on IMHO.

The disappointment of the 90th minute equaliser, and subsequent loss of two points, paled in to complete insignificance shortly after the end of the game on Saturday. The tragic helicopter crash that ended the lives of the five souls within the craft was shocking in the extreme. The footballing world is paying tribute to the incredible Leicester owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who was a human being to be admired. Very few chairmen/owners immerse themselves in to the local community the way that the Thai billionaire businessman did following his takeover of the East Midlands club. Stories of his philanthropy, generosity and caring approach are being reported in their droves. Such a great loss to Leicester City FC, the Leicester and wider footballing community I’d like to add my warmest thoughts and words of condolence to his, and those others who also sadly passed away in the accident, nearest and dearest. Peaceful journey Vichai – I’m absolutely convinced that you will be remembered with great warmth and fondness by those who’s lives you enriched.

Embed from Getty Images

May the five who sadly passed after the match on Saturday evening rest in peace.


The GoatyGav Column

To What Extent Do Players Shape Club Identity

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

Embed from Getty Images

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

Embed from Getty Images

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

Embed from Getty Images

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

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

Embed from Getty Images

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

Embed from Getty Images

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

Embed from Getty Images

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

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

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

‘Til then have a great week.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


Copyright © 2019 Iain Dale Limited. Terms and conditions. Cookies.
Website by Russell Brown.