Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Huddersfield

This weekend West Ham travel to Huddersfield where we hope to follow last week’s victory with another. However they broke their season’s duck with a win against Fulham last Monday, so will be equally hoping to capitalise on their most recent performance. Ahead of the game I spoke to John McNamarra of Huddersfield fanzine Terrierblog to discuss how he views their season has gone so far, and the game.

Hi John, you must be delighted to have finally got your first win of the season against Fulham on Monday night? You’ll be expecting that every game now.
Haha I doubt that! It was nice to get the first win of the season, our performances so far this term have definitely deserved a couple more wins. Our next run of games looks a lot kinder than our start to the season though, so I will be expecting a couple more wins before Christmas.

Regardless of all that, I expect you are pleased to be in the Premier League still, as well as ‘top dogs’ in Yorkshire.
I wouldn’t particularly say so, from a personal perspective I don’t really like the Premier League. It’s a boring league full of haves and have nots. When you see a corrupt regime backing an average sized club like Manchester City to European domination, what’s left for the rest of us?

Yes it can be a bit annoying but Leicester’s improbable win of two seasons ago surely allows us to dream a little bit more. What were the highlights of last season?

My favourite moment from last season was Tom Ince’s last minute winner against Watford that all but secured our survival. The Manchester United win was good and made our promotion to the Premier League worth it. Other than that, not a great lot!

What now are your priorities for the current season?
As a club the priority is to capitalise on the win over Fulham and ensure that we aren’t one of the three worst teams in the league come May. For me the priority is to see some exciting football from my team.

You spent quite a bit of money on a few players during the close season, have any of those yet cemented themselves into your lineup?
In short, absolutely not. David Wagner seems to have lost a bit of faith in the new signings and they rarely seem to play. From the brief glimpses we’ve had of them so far it’s easy to see why, Mbenza and Diakhaby look like competition winners.

Which other players will be crucial to your efforts to pull yourselves up the table?
It’s all about Steve Mounie and Laurent Depoitre. As a side we create a decent amount of chances but thus far, those two have proved utterly incapable of converting any of them. If they up their game then we should be fine.

Which West Ham player(s) if any would you like to see wearing a Huddersfield shirt?
It has to be Arnautovic. Not only is he a terrific player but he’s a complete shithouse too and I love that! His antics against Mark Hughes when West Ham returned to Stoke were hilarious and I loved how he mugged off James Tarkowski last weekend too.

I presume most of the fans will be behind Dave Wagner whatever happens this season?
The majority of what I call the ‘proper fans’ are fully behind Wagner, and by that I mean the fans that have been to Sincil Bank, Saltergate and The Bescot supporting Town. Not the new breed who have popped their Liverpool shirts back into the wardrobe in the last 18 months.

What did you think about West Ham appointing Manuel Pelligrini as our manager? I remember you were an early advocate of the sacking of Slaven Bilic.
I felt like it was a brave move on Pellegrini’s part, from the outside his reputation and history as a manager probably demanded not a better club, but a more stable club.
He seems to have got the fans on board which has been vital and it appears that you’re playing much better football as well. Exciting times for Hammers fans I think.

Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and who will lift the title this season?
The United Arab Emirates of Manchester will win the title this season without doubt, how can’t they? Then it will be Cardiff, Fulham and ourselves that exit the division.

How do you expect Huddersfield to setup against West Ham on Saturday: Team/formation prediction?
We’ll go with three at the back with Hadergjonaj and Lowe as wing-backs, Mooy, Hogg and Williams will play in the centre with Depoitre up top on his own.
Expect a carbon copy of the tactics employed against Fulham earlier in the week.

Are you confident you can win this game? Prediction for score?
No I’m not at all confident, I think that you have players in almost every attacking position capable of punishing us. Felipe Anderson will most probably get the better of Hadergjonaj and I expect Arnautovic to have a field day. I’m going 3-0 West Ham.

Many thanks to a not very happy sounding John for his time. He’s more confident of our victory than I am. I quite hope Huddersfield stay up as l like to see the smaller clubs prosper, but of course not tomorrow. I am going for a 3 – 1 away win, which will mean two wins on the bounce for the first time since Kingdom come! COYI

Embed from Getty Images


Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Burnley

This weekend West Ham welcome Burnley to the London Stadium for a Claret and Blue Derby. West Ham will be hoping to get back to winning ways, whereas our opponents will be hoping they can end their recent bad run. Last year’s corresponding fixture, was perhaps the low point of the season, when the pitch was invaded, and we lost. Ahead of the game I spoke to hardcore Burnley fan Tony Scoles, editor of Uptheclarets to discuss the season past and future, and Saturday’s game.

Hi Tony, great to talk to you again. We are playing you on the back of you losing your last 2 matches 5 – 0 and 0 – 4. I think (I say think because I have selectively forgotten it) we had a similar experience at the beginning of the season, playing against Man City and Liverpool. Those moments hurt don’t they?
They are not enjoyable, that’s for sure. The 5-0 at Manchester City wasn’t quite as bad as it looks. They should have had a player sent off in the first 30 seconds and their second goal should have been disallowed for at least three different reasons with the assistant referee, who missed the ball going out of play and an offside, admitting he’d switched off.
We started well against Chelsea, didn’t get a goal and then paid for it. It’s quite simple really, for us to get anything against these teams they have to have an off day and we have to be right on it. When teams like that play well, as they did, it makes it very, very difficult for us.

You’ve not got off to such a great start as last year, what’s the big difference this season?
I don’t think the Europa League helped. We were warned about it and I think it contributed to the disappointing start. We’ve also, unlike last year, not had a settled team because of those games. We’re out of the competition now so time will tell whether that was the main reason.

Has your success over the past few seasons meant that less of the Burnley youth are choosing to support one of your many northern rivals?
Burnley fans are Burnley fans, they don’t support anyone else no matter what. We will get the 20,000 crowds in this league but no more.

You’ve lost a few of your players over the past couple of seasons, which of those departed players are you missing the most?
We lost Michael Keane and Andre Gray to Everton and Watford in 2017 but last summer there were no departures other than Dean Marney and Scott Arfield who were both released. Marney hadn’t played, because of injury, for over a year and Arfield had played less and less so I don’t think either are really being missed now although both made massive contributions to our recent success.

How about your new recruits? Which of them are set to become Burnley legends up there with the likes of Leighton James?
We only made three signings and only Joe Hart, who you will know all about, is in the team. That signing was made because of losing two goalkeepers to dislocated shoulders. Despite the goals against column, he’s playing well and keeping Tom Heaton out of the side.

Which other players will be crucial for you this season?
We hope it will be Robbie Brady and Steven Defour. Brady was ruled out from December last year until returning last Sunday. Defour came back for his first Premier League game a week earlier having been out since January. They were two of our key players last season and their absence has had an effect, no doubt. Hopefully they’ll both be getting stronger over the next few weeks which will, in turn, make the team stronger.

What are your thoughts, if any, on the appointment of Manuel Pelligrini to be West Ham’s manager?
It wasn’t one I expected to be honest. He obviously won the league with Manchester City but any manager there is at any advantage. I thought David Moyes, eventually, did enough to earn another go at it although you might think differently.

We both currently sit in the bottom half of the table? Where do you think ultimately Burnley will finish the season, or will you be just satisfied with staying up?
I think for a club the size of ours it is always satisfying to stay up, but after an incredible 2017/18 season we were perhaps hoping we’d continue where we left off. I think we’ll be clear of the drop zone though no matter what.

Where do you think West Ham will finish the season?
Below us hopefully. For every team that’s below us, that’s one less chance of us going down should things get tight.

It’s pretty close at the top: who are your picks at this early stage of the season to win the league?
Obviously both Liverpool and Chelsea are looking strong but I really can’t see past Manchester City. They have quality just about everywhere on the pitch with some seriously world class players. Everyone talks of Aguero & De Bruyne, but then there’s the brilliant David Silva. We’d take him if they ever wanted rid of him.

Similarly which three teams do you think/hope will be relegated?
I think it is going to be very tough for both Cardiff and Huddersfield. I think they will both go with one of Newcastle, Southampton and Fulham. And I’ve just realised I’ve selected the only five teams currently below us.

Which West Ham players if any would you like to see pulling on a different claret and blue shirt?
You are not catching me out with this one again. Last time I answered that question, the player I selected only went and scored against us. So I’ll stick with a no comment on that one this time.

Conversely which of your players would you prefer to see playing for us on Saturday?
We’ll be in either black or white this Saturday. I wouldn’t want to see any of our players in your claret and blue.

How will Burnley line up this weekend against West Ham? Team/formation?
Jack Cork is a doubt so if he misses out it is likely to be similar to that which played last week in 4-4-1-1 formation.
Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, J?hann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Steven Defour, Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Sam Vokes.

Are you confident you can turn around your recent losing spell? Predictions for the score?
I am, we are good enough to get out of it and we did win two and draw one before playing the big teams. I’d like to think a second away win of the season will come our way with a clean sheet so I’ll go for a 2-0 Burnley win.

Well many thanks to Tony for his thoughts, although I am going to see his prediction and raise it to a 3 – 1 win to us. COYI

Embed from Getty Images


Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Tottenham

This week West Ham welcome (is that the correct word?) Spurs to the London Stadium. We have had varied results against our nearest Premier League rivals over the past few seasons, and it is sure to be a great atmosphere inside the ground. Ahead of the game I spoke to Andy of the Spurs fanzine"spursforlife":http//spursforlife.com to discuss the game and his thoughts on the season.
First of all what’s the latest news on the stadium? It seems like it’s being constructed by the same firm that is making Crossrail. You must be dying to get back to White Hart Lane.
Other than what’s been published in media recently there is still no set date for the stadium to open. Last week however I did receive an email saying my season ticket entrance card is now in the process of being sent, so hopefully soon. Wembley is very flat as all our supporters are very spread out, and the council also limit the tickets that are allowed to be sold for certain games.

Anyhow we’re playing at the London Stadium this week, are you confident you can repeat your 2-3 victory of last year against us?
We have not been firing at all this season. We have gotten results, but we need a much improved level of performance to win this game. West Ham always up their game against us so we also need to raise ours.

It’s pretty tight at the top of the table with you being one of five of (the so called Top) six clubs with 6 wins so far. What are your ambitions for the season? To win the League, Champions League berth, or continuing your recent record of ending above Arsenal?
Finishing above Arsenal is nice, but not something the club should focus on as a whole. It’s not a trophy at the end of the day. I don’t feel the league is realistic with the spending power of Man City and the other clubs, and we have lost our first two Champions League games. Top 4 is what we need to aim for again, and I’d be very happy with an FA cup or even the League Cup.

I think a lot of fans look quite enviously at the young crop of players you have at Spurs. But is your lack of investment in players over the summer going to cause you problems during the run in to the end of the season? Is this down to Daniel Levy keeping his wallet closed whilst you finish off paying for the stadium rebuild?
We have a good squad but everyone else has improved around us. I feel we needed to strengthen, but the window is closed now so we have to move on. What is a positive is we didn’t lose any key players. As for why we didn’t spend this summer, that’s not really a question I can answer – I could only make an assumption. The person to ask would be Mr Levy himself I suppose.

Of course you are playing us in the League Cup, so let’s hope that wish doesn’t come true! Pochettino continues to impress, I like the way he handled himself over your summer transfer dealings, compared with the way Jose Mourinho bleated over his. Surely it can only be a matter of time before ‘Poch’ returns to Spain to take on one of the big clubs there?
If he gets an offer from one of the big boys he has earned it I feel. He turned down Madrid this summer, but if he’s not backed in the transfer market his head could possibly be turned.

Do you think Manuel Pelligrini is going to raise West Ham to a new level? What are your thoughts on him?
Pelligrini has won the Premier League, and is a proven winner; he is capable of doing a job at any club. West Ham have bought a lot of new players so he needs time. The team will need to gel and he will need a couple more windows to really make his mark. Once he knows his best 11 he can then improve on it and who knows what he can achieve? Unfortunately, there are a few clubs in the league that can spend more than West ham and Tottenham put together so it’s always hard to reach a new level. Top 8 for West Ham would be a good achievement this season I feel, and possible.

Which West Ham players if any have you got in your fantasy team?
I was bottom of my fantasy league after the first two weeks and I had a good moan and haven’t looked at it since. Maybe I’m More of a Mourinho than a Pochettino.

If you were bottom after two weeks, then given our start I presume that means you had quite of few of them. Which Tottenham players do you wish had been shipped out during the summer?
Well We didn’t sign anyone, so it’s a good thing no one left.

*Even now I cringe when I think of the game at Upton Park when you beat us 3 – 4 in 2007. Any particular memories of games against West Ham? Feel free to mention the Currygate game.
My last ever game at White Hart Lane was the 4-1 victory against West ham so that one I suppose is my favourite memory. I left to travel for a year so didn’t manage to get back there again. As for the worst memory, when we lost 3 nil at The Lane sticks out as Ravel Morrison (what a waste of talent) was on fire. I wasn’t too happy after that game.

Gary Lineker or Harry Kane?
Kane.

Glen Hoddle or Christian Eriksen?
I’m only 28 so I’ve seen Eriksen play more so I have to go with him.

How are Tottenham likely to line up against us this weekend? Team/Formation?
That’s a question for the manager. Eriksen is fit now though as is Dembele.

Well many thanks to Andy for his time and considered responses. I am sure if he had seen Hoddle play he would have put him above Eriksen. No score prediction from Andy, but for my part on a wing and a prayer I’m going for a famous 2 – 1 home victory. COYI

Embed from Getty Images


Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Brighton

This weekend West Ham travel to Brighton to kick off the weekend early on Friday evening. Buoyed by that great victory against Man Utd we will be hoping to continue our current run of good form and win successive league games for the first time this season. Ahead of the fixture I had a chat with Scott McCarthy from WeAreBrighton to discuss the game and the season so far.

Congratulations on staying in the Premier League last year. How did you rate last year’s season? What were the particular highlights?
The aim of the game last season was survival and in the end we managed that with something to spare. It wasn’t a particularly good campaign to be an Albion fan on the road as we only won twice away and only scored 10 goals – I won’t remind you of where one of those wins and three of those goals came – but at home we were largely brilliant. Beating Arsenal was a highlight as that was our first victory over top 10 opposition but the best day was easily defeating Manchester United to stay in the Premier League. When you were a kid growing up in Sussex and Brighton were fighting relegation to the Conference, 80% of the other kids in your class were United fans and would torment you for supporting such rubbish. So to defeat them to confirm our place in the Premier League for the following season was very sweet indeed.

Agreed, there really is not too much better. You’ve had a mixed start to the season, although like us you have managed to dispatch Man United again, you’ve had a few defeats and a couple of draws. How to you sum up your season so far?
It’s been a frustrating start although the fixture list hasn’t been kind. We’ve played all of last seasons top four in our first seven games which was always going to be a difficult ask, so to have five points is probably about where we should be. The “winnable” games have been a disappointed though. We went to Watford on the opening day and were dire and against Fulham and Southampton, we gifted the opposition two goal leads before coming back. The game at St Mary’s was particularly galling. Chris Hughton went there and set up with 10 men behind the ball to try and defend our way to a draw, which invited wave after wave of pressure. That allowed Southampton to go 2-0 ahead. Hughton belatedly threw on some of our expensively-acquired forwards for the final 30 minutes and the result was we absolutely battered the Saints and scored twice to rescue a draw. Had we have set out to win the game from the start, then it could have been a very different story.

Last season you finished 15th with 40 points: notoriously the second season back in the Premier League is harder (though I must admit haven’t looked at the actual stats) what does Brighton have to do this season to maintain your Premier League status?
We need to be better away. It’s as simple as that. I’ve already mentioned our terrible away record and I don’t feel comfortable relying on us being that good at the Amex again this season. As a result, we need more points on the road. We all saw what Burnley did last season when the combined the brilliant home form of their first Premier League campaign with an improved away record. Now, I think you’d need to sniff some serious glue to suggest we can “do a Burnley”, but it’s a model we need to try and copy in terms of being more proactive on the road.

How do you feel you invested during the summer? Who are the new players that are delighting the fans at the Amex?
All of our signings have been a bit of a gamble to be honest, but that’s always the case with the Albion. Our record buy was Alireza Jahanbakhsh for £16m from AZ Alkmaar and as is always the case when buying from the Netherlands, your never really sure whether your getting a Luis Suarez or a Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Yves Bissouma is a young but raw central midfielder who loves to try and get on the front foot, Martin Montoya at right back has relieved some of the pressure on Bruno who is 37 now and we’ve signed a couple of back up defenders in Leon Balogun and Bernardo as well. Hughton is always notoriously careful when it comes to throwing in too many new signings and Montoya is really the only one who has been a regular so far although Bissouma has played a fair bit recently because of Pascal Gross’ injury. Jose Izquierdo wasn’t starting games until after the October international break last season and I’ll think we’ll have more of an idea of how well we have invested by the end of this month.

Chris Hughton is the archetypal ‘_One game at a time_’ manager, are you happy with his record at Brighton?
His record speaks for itself. We were staring League One at the face when he took over four years ago and now we are in our second season in the Premier League. His ultra-conservatism can be frustrating at times, as can the fact he refuses point blank to make any substitutions before the 70 minute mark most weeks. But he’s a superb manager and a great bloke. If we were to be relegated, I suspect the Albion would stick with him because I don’t think you are going to find a manager more equipped to take you back out of the Championship.

What do you think of the appointment of Manuel Pelligrini as West Ham manager? Is he going to be able to lift us to the next step, which I suppose is regular top 8 to 10?
I actually thought David Moyes was a bit harshly treated after keeping you up last season and did wonder whether Pelligrini would be the right man to have n what will presumably be a battle against relegation, as it is for most of us outside the top six. He didn’t start particularly well but I think when you sign the number of players West Ham have and appoint a new boss as well, it’s always going to take a bit of time to gel. On the basis of the last few weeks, I don’t see why the top 10 is out of reach. There are seven or eight clubs who could all have designs on finishing just behind the European spots and West Ham are definitely one of them. I’d like to think we might have a shot as well.

If you could have any West Ham player(s) in your team, who would it be and why?
The fact that we are pretty much solely reliant for our Premier League goals on a bloke who is now eligible for veterans football who we signed from Rochdale over a decade ago is a bit of a concern. Glenn Murray isn’t going to go on forever and every single striker we’ve signed to try and replace him hasn’t worked out for one reason or another. For that reason, I’d take Marko Arnautovic.

Conversely which of your players do you wish were playing for us?
You can have Jurgen Locadia in exchange. We paid £15m for him from PSV Eindhoven in January but he’s only scored on league goal since then. Recent highlights include him falling over his own leg when put through on goal at Southampton and managing to put the ball into orbit when presented with a chance my grandmother could score at AFC Wimbledon in pre-season.

Can anyone stop Manchester City winning the league this year? Who are your picks for the top 4?
It’s going to be close between City and Liverpool but I think that City will do it again. As for the top four, City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs. Arsenal are going to be better under Unai Emery but have quite a gap to bridge and Manchester United have become a circus with all this Jose Mourinho-Paul Pogba nonsense.

Which three teams are your favourites for relegation at this early stage of the season?
Cardiff look dire and Huddersfield are the sort of side who gave everything to survive last season which makes the motivation to do in the second year slightly less. Those two look nailed on. Then there is a clutch of clubs who could fill the third spot. If you’d asked me at the start of the season, I’d have said Burnley because their squad wasn’t up to the demands of Thursday-Sunday football, but getting knocked out of the Europa League before the group stage should save them. Newcastle stayed up last year purely because they have one of the best managers in the division and if Rafa the Gaffer walked, I could see them plummeting like a stone.

How will Brighton line up against West Ham on Friday evening? Team/formation?
Hughton won’t make too many – if any – changes. It will be 4-4-1-1 with the normal suspects playing. The only question marks will be over the fitness of Dale Stephens and Gross. If both of those are fit, they’ll walk back into the starting line up. I’d also like to see Izquierdo given a start. He’s only got one substitutes appearance under his belt so far after coming back from Colombia’s World Cup campaign injured, but for some reason he seemed to absolutely love playing against West Ham last year. Let’s see if he can do it again

Are you confident you can beat us? Prediction for the score?
I don’t think it will be anything like last season! You were terrible on the two occasions we played each other while we put in two of our best performances of the season. I’m going for an entertaining 2-2 draw.

Well thanks again to Scott for his time. I think that we will be chomping at the bit to get out onto the pitch again, I’m going for a 1 – 3 win for us. With Felipe Anderson scoring again. COYI

Embed from Getty Images


Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Manchester United

This weekend West Ham entertain Man Utd at the London Stadium. We go into this game after beating Everton and drawing against Chelsea hoping to continue our recent form, and hoping also to keep our scoring boots on after that midweek thrashing of Macclesfield. Ahead of the game I spoke to former BBC producer, and ‘Cockney Red’ John Farren to discuss the game.

Hi John, that image of Sir Alex at Old Trafford last week must have brought back memories of ‘those red remembered hills’ a time when things were a bit happier at Old Trafford.
“Ah yes I remember it well”: M Chevalier.
He did bequeath us a poor side though, as well as all those memories.

Ha ha. How do you think things are progressing under ‘The Special One? Things normally blow apart in the third year of his tenure, and it seems from afar that this pattern is continuing.
Mourinho is my least favourite person in football ever. Gutted that United made him manager. Personally he has no class, and his teams (bar Robben-Duff at Chelsea) are dreadful to watch. We’re on track for carcrash exit around Xmas Year 3.

Jose sounded a bit aggrieved that he did not get the money to spend he had hoped for over the summer – is he justified?
He’s always aggrieved. He’s got plenty of talent at his disposal. He’s just a bad coach, who’s lost the dressing room. Compare Rashford under Mourinho to Sterling under Pep.

What do you think of the players he has brought in, and where can you still strengthen?
Lindelof! Sanchez! Ffs.
Matic is the one good buy.
The next goodbye should be Mourinho’s.

You will of course be a great admirer of our manager Manuel Pelligrini, will he lift us to the title without the money he had at your ‘noisy neighbors?
A decent man, working for the Dildo brothers and psycho Brady. I pity him. But he knows his stuff, and will get you playing some footy.

Talking about Manchester City, can you or anyone else prevent them lifting the Premier League this year?
Horrid to say, but I fear the Scousers. Klopp is immense, and you have to admire their long term pursuit of the right man for the job. Likewise City with Pep.

Where will Manchester United finish the league come May?
5th with Zidane as caretaker.

Where do you think West Ham will finish the season?
10th.

Which West Ham players, if any, have you got in your fantasy football team?
Dont be ridiculous.

Which of your team do you wish was playing for us on Saturday?
Lindelof. Sanchez.

How will you line up against us at the weekend? Team/formation?
Who knows. Last throw of the dice, Mourinho has been trying to be more attacking. Sadly there’s a legacy of 3 years of concentrating on what to do when we lose the ball ( ie Sanchez or Fellaini’s second touch).

Any prediction for score?
I hope we lose. Let’s get this fiasco/ pantomime over by Xmas.

Well I think we can tell that John is not a Jose fan. Let’s hope that we can make his wish come true and get another victory under our belts. If Arnie is back, I think we will win 2 – 1. COYI

Embed from Getty Images


Copyright © 2018 Iain Dale Limited. Terms and conditions. Cookies.
Website by Russell Brown.