Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Everton

This weekend a still pointless West Ham travel to Goodison Park for a 4pm Sunday afternoon kick-off hoping to finally get their season under way. Ahead of the game I spoke to Everton fan, food blogger and occasional Guardian columnist and a surprisingly unconfident James Coke aka the disabled chef to talk about the up and coming fixture.
West Ham have yet to gain a point, but you’ve had quite a good start to the season, I presume you’re pretty pleased at the moment?
Sort of – It’s a step up from the dirge of big Sam, but still early days. I like Silva’s attacking philosophy but the defence is full of holes. The first four games should have all been gimmes, but although unbeaten, we’ve laboured. A slip up on Sunday and our guaranteed defeat at Arsenal would set alarm bells ringing. Whatever happens we have to give him time. Of course if we tonk you and the Arse then I’ll be delirious and be loving the guy like he’s my brother from another mother.

Everton have been similar to West Ham, and indeed a lot of clubs by appointing a new manager at the beginning of the new season, how do you rate the prospects for Everton under Marco Silva.
His CV does not jump out at you and he’s got ants in his pants, but there is potential. He’s got form in Greece, winning a championship with Olympiacos and then did well at both Hull and Watford. He clearly can get distracted so we need to bed him down and allow him time to build his squad. His record in the premiership is good but Everton is a big step up. I suspect though he’ll be given a good crack of the whip to get things right and that Everton might have a good season.

  • Talking about your manager, I understand that Everton is being investigated regarding your original approach for him. Is there anything in this, or just media talk?*
    There probably is something in it as we’ve been stalking him for ages but hey this is the premiership and anything appears to go. Its disappointing if we did as Everton should be above that but it would not surprise me. Anyway a man like you who lives in a greenhouse should not be lobbing bricks about as you lot robbed the Blades back in 2007 which they still smart over so let’s move on to a question we are both comfortable about.

Mmm, I assume you mean a glass house. Failing to dot a few i’s and cross a few t’s is hardly robbery. Anyway were you happy to see the back of Big Sam, as opposed to the ‘Big Sam’s back!’ announcement when he became your manager?
Last season’s 4-0 rout of West Ham became a hollow victory when I saw him in the directors box about to take the reins. It stamped out any embers of hope I had for the season and I became disenfranchised and just concentrated on my fantasy team. I was disgusted with myself cheering another Salah goal (especially if he was my captain) but I just didn’t care. Sam’s passing was inevitable but it’s allowed me to re-engage again with Everton and have the confidence to drop Salah for Richarlison which has been very beneficial.

How do you rate the appointment of Manuel Pelligrini as West Ham’s manager?
Cannot knock what he did at City but that was a totally different project. Trouble is West Ham like Everton expect the best – even if we rarely get it. 4 defeats on the bounce do not bode well though and after us you’ve got Chelsea and United, so I only see the pressure continue to mount. I think you should have stuck with Moyes or gone big for someone like Eddie Howe, as I don’t think Manuel will last the pace. However he always looks the part and comes across as an alight geezer so hope he does a number for you.

Again like West Ham you have brought in a few new players during the summer, who is going to delight the Goodson faithful?
Well the pick of the bunch is Richarlison. He was doing perfect until his ‘head-kiss’ at Bournemouth, so luckily for you boys, he’ll be missing. I like the look of Digne at left back. He has had a couple of assists this season and will be a good replacement for an ageing Bainsey. The others Mina, Bernard and Gomes, look good on paper but are all injured. After the disaster of our dealings last season, I won’t get carried away and don’t know whether they’ll be lions or sheep.

Last year you disposed of two Everton lads in Ross Barkley and Wayne Rooney, any thoughts on these particular departures?
Barkley had been angling for a move for a while now so it was no great surprise. For me his consistency was suspect and he was far to greedy. He seems to have started this season well for Chelsea but I think you’ll see him move on in a season or two – he’d be good for West Ham! As for Wayne; I was deluded like the rest of them when our prodigal son came home. He had his moments (you don’t need to be reminded), but was to slow and grumpy, and couldn’t keep his cock in his pants. He had to go to safeguard the integrity of the club and Bill Kenwright.

Which West Ham players if any have you got in your fantasy league team?
Marco has been there from the start but no others, yet! Anderson looks a cracker of a player. He’ll probably join the ranks of Clash City at some stage in the season as will Cresswell, who has a sweet left foot. I might also look to bring in Fabianski as a second keeper. For the record I’ve just signed Lookman as replacement for Walcott, who is injured. I have a feeling he will be your chief tormentor on Sunday.

Where do you think Everton will finish the season? Can they break into the top six?
I don’t expect anything special but hope we can secure 7th – anything higher would be a bonus

Where can West Ham realistically hoist themselves to by the end of the season?
Last time you started this badly you went down, so you’re skating on thin ice already. However I think you’ll just avoid the drop, but you won’t finish the season under Pelligrini – 16th!

Everton is not a team we traditionally play well against, but can West Ham dig themselves out of their malaise against you this weekend? Where are you likely to slip up?
I actually think you have a good chance. We have a shed load of injuries and I can’t see you losing 5 on the bounce – it just doesn’t happen…does it? On saying that you hate playing at Goodison, and we will have a few lads looking to stake a claim. The danger for us is our defence which is porous on set pieces and is still a work in progress; so I see goals, but hoping we’ll score one more than you.

How will Everton line up against West Ham this week Team/formation?
Pickford – Digne – Kenny – Holgate – Zouma – Sigurdsson – Lookman – Schneiderlin – Tosun – Davies – Niasse
4-4-2

Any predictions for the score
2-2 – dubious Hammers penalty equaliser late on.

Well thanks to Jim for his time. Pleased to notice that he’s a fellow Big Sam sufferer. I would take a 2 – 2 draw at Everton anytime, so I will follow agree with Jim for once, and join him on 2 – 2. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with The Wolves

This weekend West Ham a pointless West Ham welcome Wolves to The London Stadium hoping to finally get our first points of the season. Ahead of the game I spoke to Tom Baugh, the editor of Wolves fan blog to discuss the upcoming game and the season.
First off, congratulations on reaching the Premier League: at this stage last season did you realistically think you would be getting promoted? When did you start to believe it would happen?
Thanks very much. I think once we dominated the winter period after most of our rivals openly suggested our Portuguese contingent wouldn’t hack the cold weather, we knew we were onto a good thing. We generally kept a significant margin between ourselves and third place for most of the season, but as a football fan you’re never confident until it’s actually done.

It must be doubly or (trebly even) pleasing seeing as how Birmingham and The Villa are languishing in the Championship, and West Brom were relegated?
It’s certainly nice to be top dogs in the region after Villa failed to get promoted and Albion dropped down. We haven’t been the most successful club in the West Midlands in my lifetime so this is a first. Nice to have a derby though, so wouldn’t be too bothered if one of those clubs can make it back next time.

Nuno Espírito Santo seems to be doing a great job as your manager, tell us a bit about him, and how do the fans view him?
Well, he’s pretty much brilliant. Tactically astute, progressive in how he wants to play the game and very good with the supporters who all seem to love him. It obviously helped that his arrival coincided with serious investment in the side but without him, I suspect we wouldn’t be back in the Premier League. He’s integrated all these big name signings into the side, but equally impressive is the performance levels he’s coaxed out of lesser known players he inherited like Conor Coady, Matt Doherty and Ryan Bennett.

What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed between the Championship and the Premier League in the six years you’ve been away?
I was surprised by the pace the game was played at when we kicked off against Everton. Obviously you expect teams to be better in possession generally but I’d probably forgotten just how quickly the better players can move the ball. There’s a definite period of adjustment and a couple of games later I already feel like some of our own players are getting up to speed.

You’ve had a steady start to the season with a great draw against Man City, but what position do you think Wolves will finish come next May?
Still very difficult to say. We recruited well and have put in some decent performances so far but like West Ham, are yet to get a win on the board. I hope we’ll finish around midtable but still wouldn’t rule out a relegation slog. After all, there’s normally only a few points between those who are comfortable and those who are struggling. I would say that people suggesting we can challenge for 7th or 8th place are being overly ambitious.

We’ve had a nightmare start, where do you think West Ham will end the season?
The only real disappointment from the outside looking in was getting turned over by Bournemouth. You made some big moves in the transfer market and getting Pellegrini seems like a coup, but getting steamrollered by Liverpool and edged out by Arsenal can’t have come as a great surprise surely? With so much turnover in the summer, it was always a tough ask to go straight into those games and be competitive. I’m sure you’ll sort it out and I’d expect you to be comfortable midtable given the talent in your squad.

Which teams are you looking forward to seeing at Molinuex this season, and conversely who are you not holding your breath to see?
It was great seeing Man City last time out just because they’re a phenomenon under Pep. As much as you want to see your own team do well, for a newly promoted side it’s just great to see the best players in the flesh. For the same reasons I’m looking forward to seeing all the big clubs. Wouldn’t say there’s anyone I’m unhappy about playing, only because every game, particularly against less attractive opposition, is a chance to get points. But if you’re pushing me, Cardiff – ha. I’ve had a lifetime of Warnock.

Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and who will lift the title this season?
From what I’ve seen so far I would guess at Cardiff, Huddersfield and Southampton. I also think Burnley and Newcastle might have a struggle, but very early days of course. Tough to look beyond City for the title.

Happy with your transfer window dealings? Are there any areas that you think still need improving?
On paper yes. I felt we needed a better goalkeeper and Rui Patricio more than fits the bill. Wingback Jonny is on a season long loan deal from Atletico Madrid and seems capable as you would imagine. Bringing in Joao Moutinho to play alongside Ruben Neves in midfield is barely believable for a club with our recent history and he’s settled in nicely. Adama Traore is a bit of a question mark, but you need pace and players who can open doors in the Premier League and he certainly possesses those attributes. Mexican striker Raul Jimenez has done very well so far leading the attack and bringing others into play. He’s on a loan deal from Benfica with a £30 million fee to pay if we want him permanently so you’d expect him to be decent. We also brought in Belgian international Leander Dendoncker who can play in midfield and defence but has yet to make a league appearance. Add to that a number of last season’s stars who made temporary deals permanent and you can’t feel disappointed. We tried to get Zinchenko from Man City which makes sense as competition at wingback is probably the only area we’re short.

If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
Still haven’t seen much of your new contingent so would have to say Arnautovic. Players that are proven to create and score goals are invaluable so a no-brainer to take him. I read rumours about Man Utd wanting him in the summer and surprised they didn’t make a move as he’s the type of player I feel they’re lacking. On a side note, I saw a lot of Fredericks for Fulham over the last few seasons and always rated him highly so he’d also be high on the shopping list given our dearth of options.

Any memories of West Ham v Wolves from the past?
First season back in the Premier League in 2009 you beat us 2-0 at Molineux on the opening day. I felt we played quite well but Mark Noble scored a great goal from distance and it was a case of ‘welcome to the top flight’. Then later in the season we came to Upton Park and won 3-1, which felt seminal at the time as you were also struggling under Zola by that point and that victory pretty much ended our relegation fears.

Which Wolves player(s) will be key to your hopes this season?
Got to be Ruben hasn’t it? I think you’ve already seen in three games how important Neves is to our side. He intelligence, passing range and ability to shoot from distance are all essential to how the team is setup. You could probably take any other player out and we’d cope alright but he is the glue.

How do you expect Wolves to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation prediction?
It’s always 343. The team we started against City is the best bet, which is Patricio in goal, then Boly, Coady and Bennett in defence with Doherty and Jonny wingbacks. Neves and Moutinho are the holding midfielders with a front three of Costa, Jota and Jimenez. The only change I might predict is playing Traore in place of Costa, but that might be premature.

Prediction for score?
Given your troubles and the fact you’re still trying to make that team gel, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling confident about a decent result. But you do have a lot of quality and it will click at some point so sods law it will be this weekend. I’ll put splinters in my backside by sitting on the fence with a 2-2. Good luck for the season Irons.

Thanks to Tom again for his time. For my part I think that West Ham will be boosted by beating Wimbledon on Tuesday and will score an early goal and go on to win 3 -1. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Arsenal

This week West Ham travel the short distance to the Holloway Rd to play Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. They are stuck on nil points along with us and Fulham. Ahead of the game I spoke to The Times journalist, and lifelong Arsenal fan Sam Joiner to discuss the coming match and the season.
I suppose Arsenal fans are not as used as West Ham fans are to being stuck at the bottom end of the table with zero points after two games. Have there been any plus points for you so far this season?
Against Manchester City no, but they’re so much better than everyone else in the league it’s not a great barometer of how your team is shaping up. Finishing aside, I thought the team were very good going forward against Chelsea and I can’t remember an Arsenal team creating that many chances at Stamford Bridge. The team are clearly trying to get to the byline in the channels and there does appear to be a style of play. The move for Iwobi’s goal was lost amongst the mayhem, but it was 18 passes from front to back and a brilliant example of what Emery is hoping to produce.

The Arsenal Boo boys finally got their way with the sacking of Arsene Wenger last season. Where do you stand on this? Was it time for him to go? Could the club have handled his departure better?
Definitely time for him to go and I actually think the club handled it really well when the decision was made, and Wenger was ushered out in good grace given he was basically sacked. The question for the board is whether it should have happened sooner.

How do you think Unai Emery fits as the Arsenal manager? What will be the measure for Emery to have a successful 1st season at The Emirates?
Top four or winning the Europa League would be success, but the fans would be happy with a clearly defined style of play. I think Emery will get time and I’m pleased with him. Importantly he’s not afraid to drop players, as you could see by his decision to drop Ramsey on Sunday and sub Xhaka and Ozil. That would never have happened under Wenger.

What do you think of West Ham’s appointment of Manuel Pelligrini?
I think it’s a great appointment. It was a mistake not signing a holding midfielder after Kouyate left but he’s got tonnes of experience.

How do you think Arsenal did in the transfer window?
Really well in terms of organisation – they got their business done early and plugged the holes in the team. The issue is whether the quality is there. I’d rather have Koulibaly for £60m and not Mustafi for £35m and Sokratis for £16m, who’s looked out of his depth so far.

Are there any players that you wish you had also shipped out? And who are you glad to still see pulling on the Arsenal shirt?
I almost wish we’d let Ozil go in January, brought in Mahrez and really broken with the latter Wenger years. Ozil doesn’t appear suit the Emery system of pressing aggressively from the front and I can see it becoming an issue. I’m glad we kept Ramsey though. It’s a huge year for him.

Who’s going to win the League, and who’s going to be in the running?
City to win it, Liverpool to push them close. Tottenham to come third and Chelsea or United fourth. The settled teams also have the best first XIs

Where will Arsenal finish the season?
Fifth or sixth

Where do you think West Ham will finish?
Top eight

Which if any West Ham player would you take at Arsenal and why?
Felipe Anderson. We haven’t replaced Sanchez which means we don’t have any wide players who can beat people

Who can West Ham hope will gift us a chance of a goal?
Cech plus the entire back four

Predictions for how Arsenal will set up this weekend? Players/formation?
4-2-3-1. Cech will stay in goal but I’d expect Torreira to come in for Xhaka alongside Guendouzi, who has been great, and Lacazette to start upfront with Aubameyang playing off the left.

Are you finally going to get a victory this weekend? Prediction for score?
I think we will. West Ham have made more changes and we’re good at home. 3-1, with Lacazette and Aubameyang to score.

Well thanks to Sam for his time and his thoughts. For my part I think we will have to come back fighting after that display against Bournemouth, and I think we can just scrape a draw 2 -2! COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Bournemouth

This weekend West Ham welcome AFC Bournemouth to the London Stadium for our first home outing. The less said about last week’s thrashing against Liverpool the better! La plus ca change…… Ahead of the game I spoke to Peter Bell, the editor of Bournemouth online fanzine “CherryChimes”:https://afcbchimes.blogspot.com to chat about the game and the season ahead.

Hi Peter, you’ve already got three points under your belt, are you feeling confident that you’ll double this on Saturday?
Well, just because Bournemouth have one win under their belt doesn’t mean they have the answers they need to beat West Ham. I am sure the players will be more confident than had they lost last week, but the Hammers will be tough opponents and extremely keen to get their season up and running in front of a big home crowd I’d imagine. Cardiff didn’t really test Bournemouth but we know West Ham will.

You’re now beginning your 4th season in the Premier League, you must be feeling quite established now?
Last season was quite precarious for us. We only got the points we need to stay up in the penultimate game against Swansea. We can say that the players and Eddie Howe know what the Premier League is all about and the performances they need to put in to stay up, but it is also about trying to progress and enjoy the league. I think the club is just starting to wonder what it can do in this league. If that means established, then so be it. But we also know we are one bad season from being back in the Championship.

The transfer window is finally closed, are you happy with the business you have done. Who is going to help move Bournemouth up to the next level?
At first I was a bit frustrated as not a lot was happening. Then we got to see David brooks who is only 21 and joined from Sheffield United. He is a very exciting talent and links play with the forwards extremely well – he’ll be a hit. Deigo Rico was next in a left full back from Leganes but he is suspended for two more games and we have only seen him in one friendly against Real Betis. He did okay and put in lots of crosses, so hopefully he can challenge for the left back position. The club’s transfer record went with Jefferson Lerma signing from Levante for 25m. He played at the World Cup for Colombia and is a powerful midfielder who will tackle hard. Whether the Spanish experiment works out, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Who are you most pleased to see still pulling on the Cherries shirt each week?
Josh King is a player I think it was important to keep hold of. he had been linked with Spurs last summer and Newcastle in this latest window. He has been asked to play wide a bit more often than I think he’d like and when he plays as an out and out striker he gets the goals. he likes the responsibility so I’m hoping Howe let’s him have the chance to be the main goalscorer, because he can do it.

Who’s going to win the league?
Man City are still too good for the rest.

Which teams will you look forward to playing against this season?
I get excited about playing Liverpool as we have had some great tussles and I’ll be pleased to visit Craven Cottage again as it is a great day out. I’ll also be quietly pleased if we shut the Wolves fans up as they are constantly bragging!

Conversely which team would you most likely give up your seat to avoid watching?
Good question. I think most of the teams try to entertain. In past seasons I would have said Stoke, but I don’t see a dull team in the Premier League this season – they all have something to offer.

Early days yet, but who are your favourites for relegation?
My head tells me Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and Newcastle Utd. It’s a lottery though, let’s just hope the positions don’t include Bournemouth or West Ham Utd.

Where do you see Bournemouth ending the season?
It could be anywhere from 7th to 20th. I’m settling on 14th as it’s roughly in the middle of that.

Where will West Ham finish?
This depends on a million and one questions – How good is Pellegrini? How quickly can the new signings gel? Will West Ham fans kick off against the club’s owners again? Well, I don’t know the answers but my boss is a West ham fan so I’ll say 13th, one place above Bournemouth, just to keep him happy!

You already have Junior playing for you: which other West Ham player would you like to see playing for you, and why?
Junior Stanislas is great for us and I hope he avoids the injuries this season. I like Michail Antonio as he seems a genuine kind of guy who just loves to play football and has made his way up from the lower leagues.

How do you expect Bournemouth to setup against West Ham on Saturday/team/formation prediction?
I don’t expect Eddie Howe to change a winning team just yet so expect the same starting 11 that took on Cardiff City. It is probably going to be a 4-4-1-1 set up.

Begovic, A Smith, S Cook, Aké, Daniels, Brooks, Gosling, Surman, Fraser, King, Wilson

Who is going to create the most problems for us this weekend?
Ryan Fraser is bang on form and was miles better than everyone last Saturday. Josh King though is not usually quiet for two games in a row and he won’t like being behind in the goal charts to Fraser and Callum Wilson.

Prediction for score?
I think it will be a goal frenzy: 3-3. But I’d like Bournemouth to win 1-3 just to stay in the top three for a bit longer!

*Good luck for the season, except when you’re playing us! *
Same to you ha, ha.

Well thanks to Peter for his time. I’m going to be wildly optimistic and go for 3 – 1 to West Ham. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Liverpool

This weekend West Ham, under our new coach Manuel Pelligrini, travel to Liverpool on Sunday to open our campaign for the 2018/19 season. Ahead of the game I spoke to Duncan Oldham, the editor of Liverpool FC fanzine koptalk to talk about the coming season and our game in particular.

Before we start talking about our coming game: presumably you were engrossed by the World Cup? What were your highlights and lowlights of the summer festival?
Yes the World Cup was fantastic! Russia did a great job of hosting the tournament and the fact there was no trouble is a real credit to them. Italia 90 was a great tournament but this year’s tournament was even more enjoyable. I was 15 during Italia 90 and with England having failed to bring it home this time, I’m seriously starting to think I’ll never see us as world champions. I hate the international breaks and the friendlies during the domestic season but I always enjoy the Euros and World Cups. Good stuff!

When I spoke to you last it was near the beginning of last season, at the time you were a tad disappointed with how the season was going, you must have been delighted with how it finished?
Absolutely. Nobody expected us to go on that Champions League run and finishing 4th was acceptable. The modern-day fan sadly seems not to care about the domestic cups any more but had we lifted the FA Cup for example, I’d have been delighted. All in all, it was a decent season. Nobody cares about the runners-up though so we have to try and build on that, this term.

Is Jorgen Klopp finally going to bring the title back to Anfield? How is the German maestro rated on Merseyside?
I think many supporters, ourselves and our rivals, know that Manchester City are the team to beat at the moment. If they fail to repeat their amazing form from last season and if our new signings deliver, there has to be a real chance for us. Rival fans are sarcastically saying “Don’t you know, Liverpool have won it already” but I’ve not seen our lot displaying that attitude and I interact with thousands of Reds every week.

When we discussed our previous match you intimated that West Ham might be wasting valuable time holding on to Slaven Bilic, and ultimately he departed: how did you rate our initial appointment of David Moyes, and what do you think Manuel Pelligrini brings to the table?
David Moyes isn’t a manager that excites me. He may be an old skool manager and I guess he brings what you’d expect but if I was a West Ham fan, I’d not have been celebrating his appointment. Manuel Pelligrini on the other hand is a managerial coup. It’s about time West Ham fans had someone who you would expect to do the business. Now we all know that things can go either way and there are no guarantees but I’m hoping Pelligrini can get the best out of your players and churn out some attractive, attacking football. One thing’s for sure, I can’t see him taking any prisoners. I hope it works out for you, after Sunday!

Last season you lost Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona, how do you rate your signings over the close season, and who are you most looking forward to seeing play?
Yes, the inevitable exit eventually happened. I’m happy with our signings and for once, our owners didn’t sell a key player to fund our business. Hopefully that will still be the case come the end of January. We managed to hold on to Mo Salah and Sadio Mané which was important. Liverpool fans have endured some poor goalkeeping errors for several years now so for me, the signing of Alisson made my summer. He needs time to adapt though. A new country and way of life, a new club, a new league, new team-mates and so on. The lad needs time to settle.

Although Dejan Lovric might think you have at least half the best central defence, in the world do you think you have finally got this recent weakspot solved?
No. Lovren does a job. He can be awesome one day and terrible the next. I wanted another centre-back bringing in to partner Virgil van Dijk. An injury to VVD and we are back to where we were. We don’t have a deep squad at all.

Which player are you most pleased to see remain at Liverpool, and conversely anyone you wish had been moved on?
Obviously I have to say Mo Salah. I thought there was a chance he would move to Real Madrid over the summer and I still think that’s part of his long term plan. There’s a lot of pressure from his homeland in business and politics for that to happen. I feel for the lad. He just wants to play football. Nobody will hold it against him if he moves on eventually. For now I’m just enjoying his contribution. I would have liked to have seen Daniel Sturridge moved out. There’s a lot of talk in the media that he’s been given another chance at Anfield but the reality is, nobody wanted to invest that much in him and with a year remaining on his very lucrative contract, he’s in no rush to leave. What else can the manager say? If he could stay fit, he would be great for us, he really would. There is nothing more that I’d like to see than Daniel staying fit and contributing but is he really going to overcome the various problems that seem to strike him down? I’m not convinced. I hope I’m wrong.

I expect you will be quaking at the prospect of a rejuvenated Everton on your doorstep?
Totes. But, if I’m completely honest, I want to see other clubs coming into the mix. It gets very boring and predictable in the league. Obviously it’s funny watching them struggle but I think we’d have a better league if the ‘smaller’ clubs could get stuck in a bit more.

Who’s going to win the League this year?
Liverpool, of course!

Early prediction for the relegated trio?
Cardiff City, Huddersfield and West Ham. Only pulling your chain! Brighton would be my third selection. I think there’s a lot of teams that could battle it out. Would you be surprised to see Newcastle down there? I wouldn’t. I hope they survive though. They’re another club with decent fans that deserve a break.

Historically , you must have taken more points from us at Anfield than any other team, are you confident that this will continue? Prediction for the score?
I refuse to do predictions because they always come back to haunt me. If I say Liverpool will batter you, we will get turned over. If I give a score it’ll come off because I didn’t have money on it! There’s no form on the opening day and it’s a whole new campaign so we’ll just have to see what happens.

How will Liverpool line up at the weekend? Formation/Team prediction?
I think we’ll see a 4-3-3 formation. There are doubts about the availability of new signing Fabinho. Jordan Henderson reported back late due to his participation at the World Cup and hasn’t had much time to train for this game although it sounds like he’s declared himself available regardless. Gini Wijnaldum could play in a holding position is an option after playing there in last weekend’s game against Napoli. Mané, Firmino, Salah will lead the attack. There are concerns over the defence due to injuries and fitness concerns.

Which West Ham player is going to cause you the most grief?
Jack Wilshere. I think he may feel that he has a point to prove. It’ll be interesting to see if he steps up.

Finally where do you think Liverpool will end season, and where will West Ham finish?
My heart says Liverpool will win it! My head says we will challenge and finish in the Top 3. We have to hope that our rivals drop points. As for West Ham, hopefully you will have a decent campaign. Surely a top half of the table finish. West Ham could go on to surprise a few clubs this season. Wishing you all the best for the new campaign!

Many thanks to Duncan for his time. I’m going for a 1 – 1 draw, why not be optimistic? It’s the dawning of a new something! COYI

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