Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Burnley

The Predictor League for Burnley is open. Enter your team HERE. Deadline is Saturday at 1pm.

After managing to put to the sword a surprisingly strong Conference team in Stockport County on Monday, West Ham return to action with a trip up to the opposite side of Manchester when we visit Burnley for a Saturday afternoon game. Ahead of the game I spoke once again to Tony Scoles, editor of Uptheclarets to discuss everything Claret and Blue.
Well we’re just about at the halfway point of the season. Things were looking a bit dodgy for you a few weeks ago, but 3 wins and a draw in the last 5 games has hauled you out of the relegation zone. How do you sum up the season so far?
We’ve played 16 games and it can almost be split in two. We only had two points from the first seven games and since we’ve picked up 14 points from the last nine games although there is an explanation to that.
We started the season with so many injuries which included our two central defenders James Tarkowski and Ben Mee. We were shipping goals which meant losing games, it was really as simple as that.
We are still not back to full strength but we’ve only a couple missing now and things are starting to look much better, more Dyche like and that stands us in good stead.

Winning away against Arsenal seems to have sparked your recovery, what’s caused the big turn around in your performance?
By the time we’d arrived at Arsenal we’d beaten Crystal Palace and then drawn against Everton which was arguably one of our best performances this season, a game we possibly would have one but for one slip just before half time.
The change in fortunes is, as I said, really down to having enough players available although I have to say it was nice to get a first ever Premier League win against Arsenal. We’ve been done by them so often with late and extremely dubious decisions it was one definitely to savour.

As I mentioned you have opened up a bit of a gap at the bottom. Are you confident that your good fortune will last?
I can’t imagine we will have another run of injuries in the way we did at the start of the season so I see no reason why the improvement can’t continue. I do really believe we will be some way clear by the end of the season and I suspect we might climb a few more places yet.

Manchester United currently sit at the top of the table, were you impressed by them in your midweek match?
You have to be impressed with a team that can string a run of results together in the way United did. They looked a decent side against us last night but then again so did we and it did take a deflected effort from Paul Pogba to beat us. They are not a traditional Manchester United side on that evidence, more a difficult team to break down which is a massive change from how they were playing just a few weeks ago.

“Of the players that have recently played for Burnley, and are currently plying their trade elsewhere, the likes of Danny Ings, Michael Keane, etc, are there any that you wish were still turning out at Turf Moor?*
Danny Ings was terrific for us in the promotion team in 2013/14 and then had a decent season for us in the Premier League. He’s definitely stepped up his game at Southampton and now looks a very dangerous player. Michael Keane was also outstanding for us but if I could bring a player back it would be Kieran Trippier. He was brilliant for us and there’s nothing a Burnley fan likes more than to see a player with his commitment.

We’re in a transfer window at the moment: so far Burnley have made no purchases. If Sean Dyce does decide to buy, where do you most need strengthening?
I do think we could do with a younger right back and I’d like to see a right sided midfield player and a central defender. Those would be the first three options for me. It would give us options in all positions and give the squad more balance.

You will obviously be delighted with Sean Dyce’s long term performance as Burnley manager, how do you rate the performance of West Ham’s David Moyes after his return to the club?
Moyes is a good manager; he showed that at Everton before being sunk at United with things, as I saw it, outside his control. I thought he did a decent job keeping you up first time round and I’m not sure why you binned him for Pellegrini. I know he’s not the most popular manager you’ve had but he’s doing a decent job there.
How will Burnley line up against West Ham on Saturday? Players/formation please.
It was more like the Burnley team we would expect against Manchester United. We will almost certainly play 4-4-2 and it wouldn’t be a big surprise if it were the same team which was: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, J?hann Berg Guðmundsson, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Robbie Brady, Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes. If not, then Dwight McNeil is pushing for his place back on the left of midfield now fit again and there might be a change up front that could see either Jay Rodriguez or Mat?j Vydra preferred to Wood or Barnes.

Finally, you beat us last time out, are you confident you are going to repeat that feat this weekend? Prediction for score?
Why not. I think we are going to start scoring goals soon so a 2-0 win wouldn’t surprise me.

Well many thanks once again to Tony for his time. I’m hoping that the extra bit of rest the West Ham players will have after our respective games will prove to be to our advantage, so I’m going for 1 – 2 to West Ham. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Stockport County

*The Predictor League for Stockport is open. Enter your team HERE. Deadline is Monday at 6pm. If you’ve already chosen Haller or Snodgrass you way want to edit your entry!"

This Week West Ham travel North to play against Stockport County in the FA Cup on Monday night. My mother’s family hail from there so obviously I know a little bit about Stockport County: my classmate’s uncle, Les Bradd turned out for them for a few years at the back end of the 1970’s. I know that the great George Best played a few games for them after he walked away from Man Utd, and of course we all know that Stockport County provides the answer to the Trivial Pursuits question: ‘Which Football Club is located closest to the River Mersey?’ Ahead of the game I chatted to my cousin, hardcore County fan, Alan Dakin to him for his thoughts about the game, and football at the other end of the professional game from the Premier League.

Hi Alan, Stockport is one of those teams that hung around the bottom two Leagues for years, but now you’re one of those ex-Football League clubs that are trying to get back in. How is that struggle going,?I know you’ve had a few changes of ownership as well as ground issues?
FIrst your classmate’s uncle is a player people still talk about to this day and is a MASSIVE County Legend, and has his own chant still to this day ….. “Les Bradd….scored a hat trick trick at Barnsley” (repeat) simple as that: 4-1 down at Barnsley with less than 10 mins to play, with fans leaving the ground and some already in their cars on the way home. You guessed it Les scored a hat trick to make it an incredible comeback to draw 4-4!
Getting back into the football league is still a struggle since we dropped out in 2011, many thought we would bounce straight back and would not be in the Conference long…..they were right, we got relegated again into the Conference North and turned part time. It then took us 6 years to get back to the Conference by winning the North title in 2019. But we have a harder job to get promotion again as there a lot of big ex league clubs with us, all trying to do the same. We have had a few people running the club during the bad days, most them ****ing half witted morons, but once we had people running the club who were County through and through, and knew what is was to be a fan, things slowly started to turn round and included bringing Jim back as manager (for a third time).
As for the ground, this now owned by the council and leased to us, after the council purchased it off the former owner who had moved Sales Sharks (Egg Chasers) to Edgeley Park years earlier, and we become their tenants. Thank God they have gone and we have the ground back as a football ground.

West Ham fans tend to get upset if we don’t get into the top half of the League, or that we’ve got to walk a mile to a ground we don’t really love to watch our team. What upsets Stockport County fans the most?
Not being in the Football League is a little upsetting, but what gets me is being patronized by supporters of so called big Premier league clubs…….I started supporting County (over 35 years ago) because they are my local team, not because we are in the top division, that is too easy, we are not sheep.

I see that your old ‘fan favourite’ Jim Gannon is your manager again: didn’t I read that the fans at one point demanded he be reinstated?
When it comes to the Manager there is no one who has done a better job than Jim in the last, how many years. Many have tried and failed (most miserably).
Jim IS Stockport County he gets what it is to be a County fan, he is a County fan. How many Managers have 3 spells at the same club as manager and keep returning? He has County in his blood.

West Ham fans will sympathise with you as to your ownership issues. Do the fans still own the club, or have you managed to get a rich benefactor to come in?
The ownership of the club was with the Fans Trust but that went tits up after 2008, when we went into admin and as stated previously we had a succession of idiots in charge and were as close as you can be to going out of existence. A very scary time as a supporter! But as of early 2020 we have been bought by a local business man called Mike Stott who has got plans to get us, not just back into the football league, but to the Championship and has so far delivered on what he has said, with the massive improvements to the ground and we now actually have our own training ground, not a local school. But with the current climate we are yet to see these in person only virtual tours.
On the playing front we returned back to being full time and money has been made available to bring in players to make that push back up. Money that are have not had for many many years: some might say never really had. I hope that we don’t just start buying anyone, like previous teams have tried to do and buy their way through the leagues, we need to build a legacy for the future and invest all the way throughout the club from top to bottom. Something that we have slowly been doing.

All clubs have suffered through Covid, but I expect at the level Stockport are playing the suffering is a bit more acute: how are you coping with the crisis?
As the new owner took charge just before Covid struck he has still gone ahead with ground improvements and we are a lot better of than most, but I dread to think what situation we would be in if it this was a couple of years ago, when we were struggling in the Conference North…..Very Scary

Another thing I remember about Stockport is they used to play on a Friday night to avoid the competition with your close rivals up the A6 in Manchester. Did that still apply (until Covid intervened)?
‘Friday night is County night!’ is a thing of the past. We have a fantastic fan base, all you need to do is look at the crowds we were getting compared to clubs in Leagues 1 and 2. And the away support is on another level, the Conference North Clubs will be missing the money we would bring in with the crowds. Who care about the clubs up the A6. WE ARE COUNTY.

I know that West Ham have played Stockport County twice (three including replay) during my lifetime (and not won) the last time in ’96 when I was conveniently living in Jamaica, and managed to avoid the ignominy. Did you go to the game, and if so what memories do you have of the occasion?
Who can forget the that night in 1996, and yes I was there and I remember the atmosphere being electric and we knew we had a chance with the form we were in. The fans had a feeling that an upset was on the cards as that season we feared no one, and had a tremendous team and it was a Team.The weather was bloody awful with non stop rain but we played our normal game and the goal from Iain Dowie (OG) has gone down in County history. It was a brilliant header.
We all went mental then suddenly looked at each other thinking …..‘Did he really just do that?’ Then: ’Sod it! Who cares!

He was a great header of the ball! Which of your players are most likely to cause us problems on Monday night?
If on form then John Rooney could be the player to look out for, can blow hot and cold but has a good goalscoring record this season…. you never know in a game like this.

How can we expect you to line up against West Ham on Monday? Players/formation please.
You never can tell what team Jim will put out, he always keeps us guessing.
But if on form then John Rooney could be the player to look out for, can blow hot and cold but has a good goalscoring record this season, you never know in a game like this.
On formation he will also keep us guessing until we see the team, then we might have a idea, as Jim likes to mix and match, could be 3 4 2 1, then change it….Who knows?

Finally are you confident of victory? Prediction for score please?
I don’t take a lot of notice when Premiership games are on unless my wife Fiona is watching the Faded Blues from up the A6. But with the money and squad you have, you should cause us problems, but will they like playing up north on a cold Monday night? I don’t care who puts on the Shirt of County as long as they know what it means to wear it and play with pride and realise what an honour it is to wear the Blue and White and remember it is a Team game, so no social loafers. (Long running joke from a description of players that Jim took over in his 2nd spell as manager, from Deitmar Hamman……yes that Deitmar Hamman).
Predictions …….If you play the kids then we have a slim chance, but you should still win, so as we long as we don’t disgrace ourselves. So Hammers to shade it 2-1. (I’m normally wrong). Just look what Chorley did to Derby…….you never know what happens in the Cup.

Well many thanks to Alan for his thoughts, it’s always interesting to get a different perspective of the game. We think we’ve got it bad! I have to commend him on his optimism as well, as I think that we should run out easy victors, but so as not to tempt the footall gods to punsh me for my hubris, I’m only going for 0 – 3 to West Ham. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Everton

To enter the Everton Predictor League, click HERE. Entries can be made until 3.30pm on Friday. The Southampton scores were the lowest of the season. View them HERE. Well done Hammer63 for toppong the league wit 53 points.

Happy New Year to all! West Ham open up their new decade with a visit to Liverpool to take on an Everton team who are currently flying in the table. West Ham fans will know that we have a terrible record on our travels to Goodison Park, and will be praying that the football gods are on our side. Ahead of the game I chatted to James Pool, member of my poker school, and lifelong Everton fan to discuss the game.
Hi James, Everton are having their best start to the league for years. What’s the main reason for the big turnaround compared to previous years?
Carlo Fantastico. Carlo Magnifico. And his 4 great signings: James, Allan, Doucoure & Godfrey. Knew what he needed & got them.

If the main reason is Carlo Ancellotti, what are his qualities compared to the many managers you’ve had since David Moyes left you?
He’s a humble genius. Very relaxed, confident in all he does and all who work & play for him, communicates brilliantly. He gives everyone self-belief (look what he’s done to Sigurdsson, Keane, DCL, Davies, Iwobi etc) & creates a camaraderie like we’ve not seen in years.

Dominic Calvett-Lewin in particular is having a great run of form. Has his run of scoring taken you by surprise, or have you always been confident in his ability?
Totally by surprise. But then again, if Big Dunc believed in him then I certainly should have. His leap & control of the ball in the air is phenomenal…Michael Jordan-like.
And as an example of Carlo’s great communication, his brief to him to be Inzaghi-like (one-touch & stay central) was simple, and this and has been delivered by DCL.

Apart from Calvert-Lewin, which players have most impressed you this season?
Allan, Keane, Mina, Doucoure, James Rodriguez, Godfrey. And even Iwobi – another man transformed under his guidance.

Going back to David Moyes, how do you rate his performance as West Ham manager?
Solid. He looks like he has his mojo back & is making everyone & the team a whole lot better. Just like he did at Everton. He deserves huge respect & he’ll give you everything & more in return. Love Moyes.

That’s nice to hear, hope it turns out to be true. Also on the subject of duel West Ham/Everton managers are you pleased to see Big Sam back in the game at West Brom, and do you think he will keep them up?
I wasn’t, but changed my mind having seen him wind Klopp up. But even he can’t rescue West Brom …. just seen they’re 4-0 down to Leeds!

Turned out to be 5-0. Difficult job. Which brings us to the bottom of the table: still not half-way through the season yet, but who are your three picks to be relegated come the end of April?
Sheffield United, West Brom &……Brighton. Fulham look good & my son’s a big fan! Dyche will battle Burnley out too!

Likewise at the top of the table, Everton currently sit 2nd. Will you be able to keep this up? Where do you think Everton will finish the season, have you the gall to pick them for your ultimate selection for top four at the end of the season?
It’s the weirdest season, and Carlo is capable of anything. Hoping for Top 4 – why not! Would need Chelsea & Spurs to keep messing up though!

Well I admire your confidence. Which West Ham players, if any, would you like to see in the Everton squad, and why?
Antonio & Bowen. Great options from the bench!:)

Any particular memories of Everton/West Ham games of the past?
2 big ones: Moyes’ last game in charge at Goodison. Travelled up with my mate James for the big emotional send-off. 2-0 & 6th place. Legend.
1994 relegation scrap at Upton Park when your man Cottee slid in our 72nd minute winner in front of the away end. My mate James got a bit of a Barking Road kicking for still wearing his blue scarf as we quietly wandered home.

Both games have been conveniently erased from my memory. Sad to hear of attack on the way home. How will Everton line-up against West Ham on Friday? Players/formation?
Arguably our 4 best players (James, Allan, Richarlison, Digne) are still unavailable. So Carlo will once again turn to his 4 Centre-backs as a back 4. Formation: 4-2-3-1
Pickford, Godfrey, Keane, Mina, Holgate, Doucoure, Davies, Sigurdsson, Iwobi, Bernard, DCL

Are you going to be able to take advantage of the extra prep time you will have had after the cancellation of your match against Man City? Prediction for score please?
2-0 Everton. Extra rest won’t matter, but think we have the confidence & momentum to keep the run going.

Thanks to James for his thoughts. Unfortunately, I think the amount of rest will count. The two things that give me any hope are firstly Antonio might be back, & that Moyes will not want to go down against Everton, although having said that I’m sure he didn’t want to go down against Man Utd! I’m going for a 2 -2 draw. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Manchester United

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Man U is open HERE. Entries can be submitted until 3.30pm this afternoon.

Of course we would all love to see West Ham play beautiful football whilst winning, but it is quite pleasing to get three victories on the bounce whilst not being anywhere near our best. This weekend West Ham United welcome a Man Utd team on a similar run to the London Stadium for a tea-time kick off on Saturday. Ahead of the game I spoke to lifelong fan and ‘Cockney RedTim Davies to garner his thoughts on the season and the match.
Hi Tim. After a rather indifferent start to the season, it looks like Manchester United have finally started to get their act together, most notably winning away against Southampton: but where do you realistically think Manchester United will finish the season?
Main issue is inconsistency. We can beat anyone, but then lose to Palace, Arsenal etc. Overall team feels more structured than in previous times under say Jose. Forward line is awesome and Cavani a revelation. Bruno is great as is VDB. Defence is concerning. I think we can certainly make top 4. The League is generally wide open – but not saying we’re winning it!

Is Ole Gunnar Solskjær the man to take you forward, or are your board being a bit too indulgent towards one of your ex-players?
OGS has brought an identity and his signings have been overall very good, after variable quality of LVG & Jose. I think he is more tactically astute than some give him credit for. e.g. results against PSG, etc. Having said that too many indifferent displays, e.g. Arse (totally didn’t show up) and some strange decisions e.g. Pogba playing over VDB. On balance more time should be given, despite some of the bollocks written in the press.
With your recent signing of Edison Cavani, who must be well into his 30s, it looks like Manchester Utd are following in the footsteps of West Ham of old: signing one-time-great players towards the end of their careers. Who do you hope to be signing over the next transfer break?
Not necessarily a new thing for us and I would remind you of Van Persie & Zlatan. Both did okay? Our priority needs to be in defence – Maguire & Lindelof doesn’t function well enough as a pairing.

Which Manchester United players are playing consistently well for you, and conversely who have been dreadful?
Bruno awesome, Rashford very good, Fred greatly improved, VDB looking really promising as does Teles. Martial has been disappointing but has had a few knocks and he’s a player who needs a run in the team. Maguire has obviously been a big concern post Mykonos, but I feel he has played better recently.

It must rankle a bit seeing your greatest rivals fighting it out to be top dogs in the League over the past 3 or 4 years. Who at his stage of the season do you think will end up winning the league come next May? And who will fill the next 3 places in the league?
All league struggles are cyclical. Under Fergie we dominated for around 20 years but it cannot last forever. Strangely perhaps as a Red I’ve quite enjoyed watching Liverpool over the last few seasons, dynamic attacking football. But this year it is genuinely wide open. Despite losing 3 games we are not that far behind. Liverpool getting injuries and other teams know better what they do. Retaining the league one of the hardest jobs going. City a little adrift and not quite at the level they were at. Spurs are the most improved side, but can they overcome the usual mental frailty? As a West Ham fan I’m sure you would say and I hope not! Not sure if Bale really there at this moment. Chelsea are also looking quite strong and unlike Spurs they know how to do it.

There is a small group of teams that look like being cast adrift from the rest of the table. Who are your three tips for the drop?
Sadly Fulham, Sheffield United & West Brom.

After a bit of a sabbatical your ex-manager David Moyes has ended up at West Ham – what do you think of the job he is doing for us, and why might he be a better fit at West Ham, than at Manchester United?
He is not a manager that I’m fond of, but I am biased. He is certainly doing better for you , as he did at Everton before. I think at Utd the job was too big for Moyes and he seemed to shrink in the post. Then again many have suffered, who had big reps, even Jose. Perhaps more modest ambitions suit Moyes better?

Presumably you mean Man United! Which West Ham players, if any would you like to see turning out for you?
I like Antonio, very difficult to play against. Fornals is also doing very well and in my Fantasy footy team right now.

How will you line up on Sunday? Players/formation
Diamond or 4231
Cavani might get a start but depends if banned! Or how goes against PSG. I would like to see VDB

It’s not very often that West Ham sit above Manchester United in the table: you must be wary of meeting a team in the top 5 of the table? Which of our two clubs is going to be able to continue their current winning run? Are you confident of victory? Prediction for the score please.
Recently Utd have performed well against top 6. Arguably lower clubs have proved more difficult to break down. This went out of the window against Spuds, but it did include the Lamela theatrics, which had a big impact. Confident? Depends if we turn up. Record against London sides awful this season, but maybe time to buck the trend. Away record is good and normally dodgy away record against Irons is driven by your supporters.
I’m going for a 1-2 win, but tbh any score is possible.

Many thanks to Tim (obviously a man who loves abbreviations!) for his time and considerations. I’m hoping that we can take advantage of Man Utd between 2 important Champions League games, although we will have to ‘up our ante’ compared to our last three performances. I’m going to reverse his prediction and go for a 2 – 1 victory for West Ham. COYI That last one’s for Tim!

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Aston Villa

Back to the grill again. This week West Ham take on a rejuvenated Aston Villa in a Monday night game at the London Stadium. Ahead of the game I once again chatted to James Rushton managing editor of Aston Villa blog 7500 to Holte to discuss everything Claret & Blue.

Hi James, the last time we played was at the very end of last season, when you got a point at our place to keep you in the division. A tense end to the season, were you at all worried on the day?
Yep, I was terrified! Anything can happen in football, and one moment of bad luck could’ve ended it for Villa – thankfully, that didn’t happen and we’re still going. It was a nailbiter though.

This season you’ve had an incredible start including that phenomenal victory against Liverpool. That must have been a happy day! What’s caused the change in form?
I think we’ve toned down our naïve attacking intent a little, and focused a little more on quick counters. It’s worked wonders and the system with a deeper line and a quicker forward in Watkins is making all the difference.

Jack Grealish looks to be getting better and better, you must have breathed a heavy sigh of relief when he signed his recent contract? What are his main attributes?
Absolutely. I think he’s quite unique, his change of pace and when dribbling and the fact he can cut across players with ease stands out for me. He’s got all he needs to be one of the very best players in Villa’s history. He’s also got a brilliant eye for a pass, and he just makes it look so easy.

Tyrone Mings also seems to be having a good season from where I sit. Is he deserving of a permanent place in the England squad?
I know people pick on Mings for some of his errors, but as a left footed and progressive defender, he’s worth a call-up for that alone! He’s solid, mostly reliable and has grounded Villa’s defence. I really like him.

Villa have got a few players in during the close season, who of your new imports are impressing you?
EMI Martinez has been a revelation. I genuinely didn’t think a Villa goalkeeper could be so consistently good! Worth every single penny. Seems to block everything, make all the right decisions even when he concedes and is a leader.

Although you beat Arsenal a couple of weeks ago, you’ve had a couple of poor results as well recently, where do you realistically see Aston Villa finishing at the end of this season?
Momentum could die out quickly, but I like the way we take to away fixtures. We seem to spring out, hit hard and hit fast. We are perhaps overconfident at home and gear that approach up too much. I’d love a top ten finish, but anywhere from 10-12, where I think we’ll finish, will be a massive sign of progress.

At the moment you sit just above us in the table, but with amongst others, both Manchester clubs, and the aforementioned Arse, where do you think West Ham will/can finish?
I think you might be in the same boat as us, maybe a little better or maybe a little worse. We’ve had positive starts and now we make the most of it – or try to. Maybe 11th?

Still early days, but while we’re in the mood, who will win the League, and who will fill in the next three positions?
I believe Liverpool will take it again. Backed up by Liverpool, Chelsea and maybe Spurs? I think the latter side could wing it this season.

Who are your three early picks for relegation?
Honestly, it was us, you and maybe West Brom or Fulham? I was a little wary of the Baggies’ momentum coming up. However, that prediction seems to be a load of tosh now.

How will Aston Villa line up against West Ham on Monday? Players/formation?
Pretty much how we did last time, apart from the new players. It’s always a variation on the 433 and the only thing that changes is the role of a few players. Grealish, Watkins and Trezeguet will lead the line. McGinn, Traore and Douglas Luiz will be the likely midfield trio and Mings, Konsa, Targett and Cash along with Martinez will back us up at the back.

Finally, how do you see the game going on Monday, and are you confident if a victory? Prediction for score please?
I think Villa are a good away side, and not to take anything away from West Ham, but this should be a Villa victory based on prior evidence! 2-1 to the Villa.

Many thanks to James for his time and considerations. Although we haven’t played brilliantly in our last two games, we have still won, so I’m hoping we can continue that: 3-1 to West Ham. COYI

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