Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With Liverpool

This weekend West Ham travel to Anfield: the ground we’ve had the least success at over the past 50 years. Liverpool can run a bit hot and cold, but apart from losing to West Brom in the FA Cup they have been playing well, and scoring profusely. Ahead of the game I spoke to an old friend and scouser in exile (In Lincoln) to discuss the fixture.
Hi Ray, a game against West Ham at home must be the dream game for Liverpool fans given the paucity of our results against you over the years, so I assume you’re feeling confident about this one?
Absolutely confident

Liverpool have had some great results lately, has Jurgen Kloop finally managed to stamp his credo on the team, or are we destined to see Liverpool flatter to deceive again?
Not on Saturday.

Liverpool are sat in 3rd place with the same points as Chelsea in fourth, do you think the top four places are nailed on now?
As long as we are in there I’m not bothered about the rest.

Where do you think West Ham can realistically finish the season?
I reckon a solid 15th

Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and can anyone stop Man City winning the Premiership?
Too tight to call at the bottom, as for the other …No way Jose!

We’ve spoken about Jurgen Klopp, how do you rate West Ham’s manager the ex-Evertonian David Moyes (I seem to remember his record against Liverpool was not so good)?
A good start, flatters to deceive.

Philippe Coutinho has now departed for Barcelona, as did Luis Suarez, have you reconciled yourself to Liverpool being no longer the club of choice in England, let alone Europe?
Been like that for a while I’m afraid!

How about Daniel Sturridge going out on loan to West Brom, what do you think about that, I know he has the fitness reliability of Andy Carroll, but he did actually score some goals – do you think Kloop just doesn’t fancy him?
For some reason, I reckon he just doesn’t like Brummies.

Mo Salah has made a great impact on your season, who else has impressed, and conversely, who has disappointed?
Can has impressed, disappointments have been Wijnaldum, Moreno, Mignolet, Karius, etc, etc.

Which players from other teams in the League have impressed you this season?
De Gea, Zaha, De Bruyne, Sterling, Firminho

Apart from that forgettable day at the FA Cup Final in Cardiff, any particular memories of West Ham/Liverpool games of the past?

If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
Zaballeta for his haircut

Which Liverpool players in your current squad would stand comparison with the great Liverpool players of the past?
Mo Salah, Robertson, Gomez.

*A bit surprised that you are rating Gomez and Robertson so early on in their careers. So how do you expect Liverpool to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation prediction? *

Prediction for score?
Thanks to Ray for his comments – classic Liverpool arrogance! You can see that he doesn’t rate us at all! Much as it breaks my heart to predict a loss I’m going to go for a 1-0 win to them, but will still throw a tenner on us to win by the same amount. COYI.

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With Brighton

This weekend West Ham travel to the seaside to play Brighton. West Ham are still undefeated in the league for quite a while, whereas Brighton are on long run without a victory. The last time we met back in October, Brighton beat us 0 – 3 at The London Stadium. Ahead of the game I spoke to Scott McCarthy from the Seagulls fan site “WeAreBrighton”:http//www.wearebrighton.com to discuss their season so far and the game.

Hi Scott the last time we spoke it was early in the season, just before you thrashed us at our place: a result that hammered another nail in the coffin of Slaven Bilic’s managerial tenure. Are you expecting such a straightforward victory this time?
Absolutley not! That was the real high point of our season, we hit eighth spot after that win and needless to say it has been steadily down hill since then. We’ve only won two times since, away at Swansea City and home to Watford and you have undoubtedly improved since appointing David Moyes so I would be absolutely shocked if this game resembles the last one in any way

Like all of us clubs near the bottom, you have had a mixture of results, what have been the highpoints and lowlights for you so far?
I’ll try not to carp on about that last game between us, but convincingly beating an established Premier League side in front of 60,000 really was the best night of the season. I actually quite liked the much-maligned London Stadium but that might have had something to do with the win, plenty of beer and the fact us Brighton fans are extremely hardened to athletics tracks following all those years at Withdean Stadium. As for lowlights, losing 2-0 away at West Brom a couple of weeks ago was particularly disappointing. They hadn’t won for 20 games in the league or something ridiculous and Alan Pardew hadn’t tasted victory at all as their manager, yet we went 1-0 down inside of three minutes and didn’t manage one shot on goal. You don’t mind losing, but the players looked like they couldn’t be bothered with the honourable exception of Glenn Murray. Unacceptable at any level!

You said that you were hoping to pick up about a point a game, and so far you have just about managed that. You must be hoping that you can turn around your recent run of form to keep on target.
Ideally, we need to be above a point a game before the end of April now as our run in includes Spurs, Manchester United and Liverpool, Burnley away which is one of the hardest assignments in the league and the derby game with Crystal Palace. If we are only a few points above the drop zone by the time those games roll around, we could be in trouble.

Yes, that is a very tricky run-in, I presume you are still happy with Chris Hughton’s management though?
His negativity is starting to grate a bit but there isn’t a better man for the job. At Southampton on Wednesday we were all over them in the first 15 minutes but as soon as we went 1-0 up it was retreat to our own half and try and see out the game. They were there for the taking if we attacked them and although any point gained in the top flight is a good one, it was so frustrating knowing it could’ve been more. Having said that, I wouldn’t swap him for anyone. His task is to keep us up even if it is just by one goal and even if he fails in that, there is nobody better qualified to bring us straight back up again.

You predicted that Slaven Bilic could have a difficult time with our owners’ pronouncements earlier on in the season, how do you rate his replacement David Moyes?
I actually like Moyes. Whoever followed Sir Alex Fergusson at Manchester United was always going to struggle, Moyes was then bold enough to move abroad which not enough British managers do and not even Krytpon the Superdog could have saved Sunderland, as they are showing again this season. He’s proving himself again and it’s a solid appointment in terms of having someone who will consistently get you into the top 10. You just have to hope the owners have reigned their ambitions in to be a little more realistic now!

It is very tight at the bottom, but assuming that you do not go down, are you sticking with your earlier prediction of Swansea, Huddersfield and Bournemouth?
Swansea appointing a bloke who couldn’t get Sheffield Wednesday out of the Championship seemed like the final nail in their coffin but given their wins against Liverpool and Arsenal, that just goes to prove nothing is what it seems in this bottom half of the table. I still think they will end up in the bottom three however along with Huddersfield who tailed off at the end of last season to finish in the play offs as their high-energy game caught up with the players and for that reason I think they will finish weakly. Bournemouth should be ok as they’ve got enough goals to stay up and there is normally one team sucked in who you never expected and given all the upheaval at Vicarage Road, I’ll throw Watford in for the bold call of the final relegation spot.

What position do you think West Ham will finish the season?
I’m quite interested in what I predicted for this last time to see how much it has changed! There is enough there to comfortably stay up so I’m going for 11th

You’ve recently bought your record signing Jurgen Locadia from PSV, how is he fitting in?
Your guess is as good as mine! He arrived with an injury that was meant to keep him out until your visit, but now he “might” be available for Stoke City away the following Saturday. Given our medical teams record with predicting the length of time a player will be out for – Sam Baldock was famously ruled out for a couple of days last season which actually turned out to be six weeks – he will probably make his debut away at Shrewsbury in the opening game of next season.

Which teams and players have impressed you most this season?
We were lucky in that we played Manchester City first game of the season before all their new signings had clicked and when Pep Guardiola was still experimenting with three at the back, so we haven’t encountered them in full flight yet. Liverpool tore us apart when they won 5-1 at the Amex with Philipe Countinho in particular impressing but it has to be Chelsea in their 4-0 win a fortnight ago. We actually gave one of our better performances of the season yet were still completely torn apart. I’ve never seen an individual performance as good as Eden Hazard’s on that day and Chelsea’s second goal, a whirl of one touch passing at 100mph straight up the middle of the pitch, was absolutely breathtaking.

Yes Eden Hazard in full flight is probably one of the most sights in the Premier League. Which players have underperformed this season for you, conversely who has stood out?
Anthony Knockaert hasn’t really done it at this level so far. Part of that looks like it could be down to attitude. He is something of the strutting peacock, when he is the main man, things are going well and he knows he is the best player on the park he can be unplayable. But against better full backs who he can no longer make look silly with such ease, he spends a lot of time waving his arms in the air and whinging. A conundrum that we could do with Hughton fixing as he is clearly still a real talent. As for players who have stood out, it has been great to see Murray scoring goals regularly as one of only two players who played for us in League One and the Championship – the other being Lewis Dunk who has also been outstanding. Goalkeeper Matty Ryan’s contribution hasn’t gone unnoticed either. He’s made some brilliant saves and in my opinion should be our Player of the Season which makes David Stockdale’s summer decision to move to a house next to Spaghetti Junction to count the pennies from a ‘Arry Redknapp special deal at Birmingham look like a godsend as its doubtful we’d have signed such a quality keeper otherwise.

Any tips for West Ham fans travelling to Brighton for the game?
If you are coming by train, only buy a train ticket as far as Haywards Heath as all travel onwards to Falmer is free from there with a matchday ticket. Getting in and out of the Amex can be a nightmare but the bars at the ground stay open afterwards so you can hang around for a pint and wait for the queues to go down.

Have any West Ham players caught your eye this season?
I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for flying left backs due to the fact that when I was a kid, my favourite Brighton player was Nathan Jones who was the first real full back we had who was as good going forward as he was defending. For that reason I’m a big fan of Aaron Cresswell. One of the things that has been noticeable about Moyes’ time in charge is he seems to have sorted out Marko Arnautovic and given that Shane Duffy has looked out of form for us over the last few weeks yet appears to be undroppable, he could be in for a fruitful afternoon as the sort of striker we tend to struggle against.

Unfortunately, along with just about half of the squad Arnie is out of contention for this game. How do you expect Brighton to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation prediction?
It will be 4-4-1-1. The team pretty much picks itself every week with Ryan in goal, Ezequiel Schelotto right back, Dunk and Duffy centre, Gaetan Bong or Makus Suttner on the left. Dale Stephens and Davy Propper make up the central midfielder pairing with Pascal Gross behind Murray. The only positions in which we tend to have a modicum of change unless injury intervenes is out wide with Solly March, Knockaert and Jose Izquierdo vying for the two spots. My preference would be for the latter two to start on Saturday given March was poor on Wednesday night. As for a score prediction? We’re unbeaten at home against sides outside the top six and have drawn six of our 12 games at the Amex. If you are a betting person, lump on the draw. 1-1

Many thanks to Scott for his time. 1-1 does seem like our default result at the moment, however I was quite impressed with the solidity we showed against Palace during the week, so I think we will shut them out and sneak a goal. 0-1 to West Ham. COYI!

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With Wigan Athletic

After eventually beating League 1 Shrewsbury Town in the last round, this weekend finds West Ham travelling to League 1 leaders Wigan Athletic in Round 4 of the FA Cup, where we will be hoping for a more assured performance from the boys. However we will be missing most of our strike force, so things may prove to be a bit more difficult than originally expected. Ahead of the game I had a chat about the game to Martin Tarbuck the editor of “The Mudhutter fanzine”:https://www.mudhutter.co.uk

I understand that Wigan are on the point of being taken over by a Hong Kong concern. Surely this cannot be the end of the Whelan family’s association with the club?
It would seem so. There are two camps within the fans over this. There are those, like myself, who feel slightly concerned and cautious about it. For all his many faults, David Whelan gave Wigan Athletic a journey that even the most wildly optimistic of fans couldn’t have dreamed of. As we are fond as saying at Mudhuts Towers, we have never needed a foreign megalomaniac investor – we’ve had our own home grown one! Removing that connection to the club is a giant leap into the unknown.
Then, there are other fans who believe that Garry Cook will find us the sort of owners who will plunge billions in – Man City style – to send us soaring to the top flight once more. I’m not sure that will happen, I’m not even sure I want it to happen, it’s a part of football I’m glad we are out of given the eye popping sums doing the rounds in the Premier League these days. But the truth is nobody knows what will happen and as fans, we are powerless to stop it. I believe Whelan wants his grandson David Sharpe to be retained on the board for continuity but that’s probably not going to be his decision to make after he’s sold the club.

You’ve had a bit of a yo-yo experience since your days in the Premier League, being relegated and promoted, then relegated again – at the moment you stand atop of Division One are you confident of getting promoted again this season?
I’m of a nervous disposition but it’s looking good right now, the irony of us playing you on Saturday is that it gives the teams behind us chance to close the five point gap. Shrewsbury aren’t going away and Blackburn are getting increasingly cocky about overturning us, and to be fair they are adding good signings to an already strong squad. All I will say is that every time we’ve had a set back we’ve bounced straight back and if we carry on that form, we should be fine. The change in ownership has the potential to unsettle things but hopefully that won’t be the case.

I know whenever West Ham have been relegated, I assume we will be either automatically promoted, or at the worst have to spend two seasons down. Do you consider yourselves to be a big fish in your League, or do you consider your days in the Premier League to be gone for a while?
It’s strange really, some of our younger and newer fans have only known Premier League football and naturally think we belong there but for those of us who saw us bottom of the fourth division with home crowds of 1,300, even surviving in League One is seen as doing well. The years in the top flight have made us bigger in terms of finances, recent history and yes, support and obviously whereas the ground is too big for us, the facilities we have are outstanding at League One level. I think as things stand, we are looking like a League One / Championship yo yo club and whether we can break that cycle depends on new investment.

Your final season in the Premier League saw you winning the FA Cup against Man City, yet also being relegated. Would you have preferred no FA Cup glory and staying up, or are you happy that you have had that success, and you’ll take the rest as it comes?
I don’t think there is a single Wigan Athletic fan that would have swapped winning the FA Cup for another year of trying to stay in the Premier League. When your former manager Slaven Bilic waved an imaginary trophy in the air in a press conference that time, it resonated all over Wigan. Winning a major trophy is far better than finishing 17th, I still can’t get my head around how finishing 4th somehow translates to success but that’s modern football and the way that financial reward has perversely become more important than actually winning a football competition.

Given that both of these events happened under Roberto Martinez, how does the Wigan faithful regard his legacy at the club?
Most fans including myself loved him to bits for what he brought to the club, the fact he was one of our most revered former players and of course he landed our first and only major trophy and managed to beat every one of the big four clubs in the Premier League. He had and still has his critics though who like to mention the 9-1’s and 8-0’s and the fact he was hopeless at organising a defence. He took the same polarised arguments to him at Everton, I suppose it just comes down to whether you prefer a patient possession based game or more traditional four at the back, long ball to a target man type approach. Do you want a stoic pragmatist approach or dreamy football that doesn’t come off most of the time but when it does it’s spectacular?
Me, I’m a dreamer and I’ll lie on my death bed remembering beating Man United at home, Gary Caldwell leaving Andy Carroll on his arse (sorry) to score the winner in front of the Kop at Anfield and Ben Watson winning the FA Cup rather than quoting poor win percentage rates, goals per game conceded and complaining that we could have been a run of the mill mid-table side if only we could have had a bit more defensive stability.
As you can tell, I still find it mystifying how some of our fans blame him for our demise rather than appreciate that just keeping Wigan Athletic in the Premier League for four years was something of a minor miracle, and I expect that’s how it is perceived from outside.

Tell us a bit about your current manager Paul Cook, and how do you rate him?
He’s brilliant. All the comparisons are with a certain other former Scouse manager, Paul Jewell, who also did great things for us. He likes his teams to attack, he’s straight talking, and he’s created a great team spirit and buzz around the club. He’s down to earth and comes across as one of the lads. Whether that approach would cut it if he were to ever manage in the Premier League I don’t know but I am hoping that one day he will find out with us.

How do you view the FA Cup this season, as an unwelcome distraction to your promotion challenge, or as a great day out with the chance to pit yourselves against teams from a higher league?
I was quite honest from the start and have stated that I’d rather us have gone out of it against Bournemouth but the performance in both games was fantastic, the replay especially. It’s easy to forget that we are a League One side and our players want to match themselves against Premier League players and they tore Bournemouth a new one from start to finish. With (little) respect to Bournemouth, playing you in the 4th Round at home is a much bigger game and I’m sure you’ll bring a big following and hopefully it will start to attract a bigger home crowd than usual, as it’s been a while since we’ve played you. I’m sure our players will be up for it again.
Again, I wouldn’t be distraught if we put up a great fight and lost gallantly, as the league is absolutely our priority. I doubt I’ll be saying that come 3pm on Saturday though.

I must confess to not having seen much of Wigan over recent seasons: are you still playing that brand of possession football that was so good to watch, and reasonably successful while it lasted?
It got thrown firmly out of the window three times and that constant upheaval perhaps points to part of the reason why we collapsed following relegation. After Martinez, we appointed Owen Coyle, who thought tactics were small mints. Uwe Rosler reverted it to a Martinez style with a bit more pressing but when he got potted Malky Mackay introduced the most depressive, defensive soul destroying brand of football I had ever seen. Until Warren Joyce came along that is who was even more negative. In between, Gary Caldwell got us out of League One, playing very much a Martinez style passing based game.
So it’s been all over the shop. Paul Cook is kind of a fusion of both, he likes his teams to pass it but also likes to get full backs forward and plays long diagonal balls to them and the widemen and the team is based around a traditional, solid flat back four. So it’s good football but also purposeful with plenty of pressing and no aversion to hitting a long ball when it’s warranted. It kind of satisfies all parties amongst the warring factions mentioned above and in his own words, he refuses to park the bus. Of course some fans moan about him not playing two up front but then I’m pretty sure that’s a universal football gripe these days….

Who have been the best three players to pull on the Wigan shirt in the past ten or so years?
We did a poll on this: Arjan De Zeeuw, Jason Roberts and Nathan Ellington. Our greatest ever centre half and our best ever strike partnership.

Are Wigan in the market for any players in the current transfer window? Are there any areas that you think need improving?
We’ve already signed James Vaughan from Sunderland (cup tied) and Jamie Walker from Hearts, a wide player. We lost Lee Evans (the Welsh international not the hyperactive comedian) a few weeks back as Wolves recalled him and sold him to Sheffield United so we need another holding midfielder. We are supposedly getting Jay Fulton on loan from Swansea, whom I know nothing about. Other than that, perhaps cover for right back as Nathan Byrne has played every minute of every game so far, and much clutching of rosary beads to pray that we don’t get any large bids coming in for any of our players.

If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
Perhaps an obvious one but I always thought Javier Hernandez was brilliant in his United days, even though he barely got game time, he’d always come on and sniff out a goal. You might disagree having seen him play more recently, but he seems just such a natural finisher. Perhaps give him twenty minutes if Grigg is tiring. If we’re being realistic, I’ve heard good things about Reece Oxford if you’re looking to loan someone out but our two centre halves, Dan Burn and Chey Dunkley are sh*t hot at the minute. I’m sure it’ll change if we go up and start losing every week again but – yes, I guess I’m saying that we’re that good right now, we don’t need any of your players!

Which Wigan player(s) will be key to your hopes this season?
Nick Powell is the one player that we need to keep hold of in January and keep fit as he is the very definition of an enigma. He strolls his way through games but he has moments which simply have no place in League One. After an injury fit few years and a dubious off field reputation, the hope is that he is just enjoying his football again in a slightly lower pressure environment to rebuild his reputation. The vultures are circling though, or at least the transfer gossip merchants are, which I’m not sure is the same thing.

How do you expect Wigan to setup against West Ham on Saturday/Team/formation prediction?
Paul Cook is a stickler for a 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders who will probably be Sam Morsy and either Max Power or David Perkins. The front 4 are all sharing the goals at the minute with Will Grigg as the focal point of the team. He never rotates the team, certainly not in the league. He might tweak one or two for this game but not so much that it will weaken us.

Prediction for score?
I’ll go 1-1 and a replay which we’ll probably lose. I think there’s plenty of us who’d be happy with that as we want to tick your new ground off. It’ll take some arranging with work on my part but we’ll see.
I know we’ve had an interesting rivalry in the past but as I say to most away fans – have a great day, we pride ourselves on our hospitality in Wigan and hope you enjoy our great pubs and superb pies, and try and pick up a Mudhutter fanzine if you can as well!

Many thanks to Martin for his very full answers and for his interesting thoughts about the state of the game. You can also read more of his musings on football including articles and podcast at “the pie at night”: http://www.pieatnight.co.uk
He has obviously not been very much impressed by us this season! I think we will get through although it won’t be easy. 0 – 1 to West Ham COYI.

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With Bournemouth

This Saturday West Ham welcome Bournemouth to the London Stadium, their FA Cup defeat against Wigan means we will not be facing them in the Fourth Round. Meanwhile we are unbeaten in our last 4 games, losing 1 of the last 6. It’s less than a month since West Ham were denied 3 points against the Cherries as they sneaked a very dubious late minute equaliser to make it 3 – 3. Ahead of the match I spoke to Peter Bell of “CherryChimes”:http://afcbchimes.blogspot.co.uk/ to chat about the game.

Bournemouth had a great win against Arsenal last time out, are you confident that you can take our scalp this Saturday?
Just because Bournemouth have beaten one London team it doesn’t mean they can easily get another three points. Sadly, we have not had back-to-back wins in the league since early November when Newcastle and Huddersfield were beaten. The match against West Ham in December showed that the teams were pretty equally matched and I’m expecting a feisty match of free kicks this time, as West Ham were none to pleased about Simon Francis challenge on Chiekhou Kouyate nor the goal that Wilson palmed in at the end. I don’t think the West Ham players like Bournemouth very much.

Eddie Howe is in that crop of English managers who can only get a Premier League job through promotion, you must be delighted with the work he’s done with you over the past few years.
To be honest, Bournemouth simply wouldn’t be in the Premier League if it were not for a brave decision to give Eddie a chance at management back at the start of 2009 when the Cherries were in real trouble in League Two and facing relegation to what was then the Conference. We soon knew we had a great young manager but we had a hard period when he left for Burnley and it was unbelievable that events enabled him and Jason Tindall to return in 2012. The rest has just gone like a dream, but a lot of that has been down to the financial input of Max Denim as well as our US owners, Peak 6 Investments, who have continued to back the manager. The important thing now is that Eddie Howe has built a structure at the club and we are just starting to see youth players like Jack Simpson coming through to the first team. Hopefully, there will be some others to follow soon.

We’re halfway through the season, which other teams/players have impressed you this season?
Burnley have set the standard really and I think Sean Dyche has been amazing along with his players. That Nick Pope in goal just hasn’t had a bad match and he must be knocking on the door of England selection now. I’ve also been impressed with Huddersfield. If they stay up they will have done brilliantly and I like the way they have gone out to try and win games, even against the big teams. Man City have blown everyone away and they now how to do it in the Champions League. Crystal Palace have also done well of late and surely Wilfred Zaha is too good a player to be playing at Selhurst Park next season. I wonder if Chelsea might come calling?

They’ve’ve had a great start to the season considering their origins, (although we beat them last week 1 – 4) but what position do you think Huddersfield Town will finish come next May?
Before a ball is kicked I admit they were in my bottom three. I just think they deserve to stay up and hopefully not at the expense of Bournemouth. I think their fans would be happy with 17th. They’ve been a good addition to the Premier League.

Where do you think West Ham will end the season?
Both Bournemouth and West Ham have had slow starts this season and have been in the bottom three, but they are both winning the important games against those in the lower half of the division. Long may that continue. It should see them both keeping out of the relegation zone now, but West Ham are probably find it difficult to get above 12th in the final table.

This is your 3rd season in the Premier League, are you confident that you are going to be here next season? What position are you hoping to finish the season?
I suppose I’m more confident having beaten Arsenal but the big matches are against the teams in and around us and if the club’s home form remains strong then we should have enough to stay up. Keeping players free from injury is the worry and we are still going to be without Jermaine Defoe until April. If Bournemouth can finish 14th or higher I’d be delighted.

Given your answer, which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and who will lift the title this season?
Well, the latter part of your question is easier to answer first as Man City look uncatchable. The second place race is more interesting and I think Liverpool could yet surprise people the way things are going for Man Utd and Chelsea. As for the relegation candidates, I will not shed any tears if Stoke City go down. But my three are Swansea, Newcastle and WBA.

The transfer window is open, which areas need improving in your team, and which player(s) would you be loathe to see go?
I don’t expect Bournemouth to bring in any players in this window as I don’t frankly see a lot of players that would really improve the side for the amount of money the club would be happy spending. In the summer I would like to see a right back or right footed centre-back. Josh King is the player I’d most like to keep hold of as we know what he is capable of doing now and while it has not gone as well for him this season I believe he will improve further.

If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
I’m torn between Javier Hernandez and Manuel Lanzini to be honest. Eddie Howe loves attacking players and while Hernandez would be a similar player to Defoe, he would always be a great option to bring on. Lanzini is a clever player who finds space and can create for others so I’d probably just favour him.

How do you expect Bournemouth to setup against West Ham on Saturday/team/formation prediction?
It’s likely to be 3-4-2-1.
Francis S Cook Aké
A Smith Gosling L Cook Daniels
Ibe Fraser

Prediction for score?
I know both teams really want the win and yet I’m going to go for a hard fought 2-2 draw.

Many thanks to Peter for his time: you can see his musings on “CherryChimes”:http://afcbchimes.blogspot.co.uk/. I think he is correct in that West Ham players will feel aggrieved about the last game and so I think we will beat them by the odd goal or two. 3 – 1 to the Hammers. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With Huddersfield

This weekend we have a traditional Saturday afternoon game away against Huddersfield. Let’s hope West Ham can shake off the lethargy shown against Shrewsbury _, and show some of the spirit we showed against West Brom. Ahead of the game I spoke to John McNamara from Huddersfield Town fan site *Terrierblog _* to revisit our earlier chat, and to consider the game ahead.

John, the last time we played was early on in the season, when you had yet to concede a goal, whereas we were still pointless – I thought you were a bit unlucky in that game which we ended up winning 2-0. What have been your high and low points of the season so far?
Unfortunately I think we failed to deal with Andy Carroll on that occasion. The obvious high has been beating Man United 2-1. The first game I went to was a 3-2 victory over Scunthorpe in League 2. So to beat Manchester United was wonderful. It felt like everything had come full circle.
The lows have been away games in particular. We went a few months without scoring a goal on the road, a run that started at the Olympic Stadium in September and finished at Vicarage Road in late December.

Which teams/players have caught your eye so far this season?
Burnley have caught my eye. Not because they’re an exciting team to watch – they’re incredibly boring to watch. But because of how much they’ve achieved.
I predicted them to finish very low down the table in August. Something which Clarets fans have been keen to remind me of on Twitter, incessantly.
Player wise, it has to be Harry Kane. I’ve never seen a better player in the flesh, and I’ve seen Henry before. Kane battered us at our place, and 0-4 ended up being kind.

At the moment you sit 11th in the table – you must be quite satisfied with that? Where do you think you will finish at the end of the season?
I’m delighted with our position, but I’m still weary. The Premier League constantly amazes me. Every year a team sitting pretty in mid-table gets drawn into the relegation battle.
I think victory against you is imperative. If we win I’ll be confident we can stay up. If we lose, I’ll be anxiously looking at our upcoming fixture list pondering where the next point might come from.

You intimated before that you thought Slaven Bilic might be given the push, what do you think of our appointment of David Moyes as manager?
My feelings on his appointment are double edged. On the one hand I think it speaks of an unimaginative breed of football owners who reward unsuccessful managers with high profile jobs time and time again. Think Pardew… However, on the other hand I feel a great deal of sympathy for him after the Old Trafford affair. So I’d like to see him regain some of the reputation that he rightly earned at Everton.

What position do you think that West Ham will end the season in?
I think you’ll be clear of the drop. A particular position is hard to say, as things seem to be very fluid down our end of the table. I reckon anywhere between 15th-11th.

Any changes to your early predictions for relegation, which were Brighton, Palace and Swansea?
Well Roy Hodgson has thrown a spanner in the works, and Brighton look like they might stay up. Unfortunately. I’m certain that West Brom will go down. The sale of Evans will surely hasten their decline. Then the final position is up for grabs and could be largely dependent on the transfer window. Southampton are falling like a stone, but they do have a war chest after their annual solidarity payment from Liverpool. So I expect the last relegation spot to be taken by one of ourselves, Southampton or Stoke.

How about the title, presumably you have changed your prediction from Man United to Man City?
100%. I feel stupid now for even thinking that City wouldn’t walk away with it!

We are all aware that the ‘transfer window’ is open; are there any areas of your team that you think need strengthening?
Number 10 is the key area for improvement. At time of writing it looks very likely that Alex Pritchard will be announced as a signing from Norwich. That should help to increase our creativity. Something we have sadly being lacking in.

Which Huddersfield player(s) have surpassed expectation this season, and who has disappointed?
Collin Quaner has surprised everyone. Watch him at the weekend, watch him closely. He doesn’t look like an athlete, he looks like the hunchback of notre dame. Yet somehow, he’s chipped in with some great assists and performed admirably. The Man is a feat of human achievement. Tom Ince has disappointed me greatly. He’s obviously a terrific player, but he has some form of mental block about performing in the Premier League. He tries too hard and at the moment I’m struggling to see what he brings to the table.

Which (if any) West Ham player has caught the eye?
Arnautovic. Firstly in a footballing sense the man is clearly talented and always seems to be at the heart of the action for you. Secondly, he’s a brilliant character. His antics at Stoke we’re superb, and he riled Mark Hughes which is always great to see. I cannot abide the man.

Any tips for West Ham fans travelling to Huddersfield?
Don’t go to the Gas Works or The Vulcan. Town fans and away guides will tell you to check them out, but they’re just glorified working men’s clubs. Instead drink at the head of steam. The pub built into the train station. It’s a terrific bar with a great selection of ales and continental lagers. Then make your way to the ground 45 minutes before kick-off. Avoid any of the bars on the walk down to the ground, because, as mentioned, they’re a bit crap!

How do you expect Huddersfield to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation prediction?
It will be a 4-2-3-1 for sure. We’ll press you in your final third and hold a high line. I expect the team to line up like this:
Jonas Lössl (gk)
Florent Hadergonaj, Zanka, Christopher Schindler, Scott Malone
Aaron Mooy, Jonny Hogg
Rajiv Van La Parra, Tom Ince, Quasimodo Collin Quaner
Steve Mounié

Prediction for score?
I can see a classic ‘Moyes’ performance. A frustrating defensive display finishing 1-0 to the visitors.

Many thanks to John, who took time out from his holiday in Colombia to talk to me. He is definitely not a Mark Hughes fan! Let’s hope his prediction for the result is accurate,
The last time we played them Pedro Obiang scored, let’s hope he can hit another spanker like the one against Spurs. I think I’ll go with John 0 – 1 to the Cockney Boys COYI

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