Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With Spurs

This weekend West Ham entertain Spurs at home in the early Saturday game. The atmosphere will be rocking at the London Stadium as we try for our 4th clean sheet on the trot, and hopefully another home win against the old enemy. Ahead of the game I spoke to the Political Sketch writer on The Guardian – John Crace to discuss the game.

I suppose you will be quite happy to be playing West Ham away this weekend given your record playing at Wembley so far?
Absolutely. Much as Mauricio Pochettino might try to suggest otherwise, the team is struggling — as it did last season — to get used to Wembley. Apart from the Dortmund game in the Champions’ League, we have looked nervous and laboured at Wembley. Away, though, we have been looking like the real deal and have beaten both Newcastle and Everton at a canter.

After successively improving position over the past couple of seasons do you think you will finally reach the top spot, or do you think that will remain tantalisingly out of reach again?
Not a chance. Both Manchester clubs have hit the ground running and look a class apart from every other team in the League. And with our Wembley form showing no sign of improving, even a top four finish might be a big ask.

Where do you think West Ham can realistically finish the season?
In the top 10. It’s hard to imagine West Ham breaking in to the Champions League places, and the team would need to have an exceptional season even to make the Europa League.

Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and who will lift the title this season?
Too early to say. Crystal Palace have had a dreadful start, so must be in the frame, though Roy Hodgson has plenty of time to change that round. Huddersfield may also struggle for consistency over the full season, though people said that about Bournemouth when they first got promoted. That said, this year could be Bournemouth’s last!

Are you happy with your transfer dealings during the window? We know a little about Fernando Llorente, but what about your other purchases?
I’m happy enough with the players we bought. Llorente hasn’t had a great start, but he has the pedigree to make an impression up front if Harry Kane is injured or rested. Edinson Sanchez has fitted in comfortably at the centre of the back three, though probably needs to become a little more savvy; too often he makes rash challenges and gives away unnecessary free kicks. Serge Aurier also looked promising against Dortmund at right back: pacy down the flanks and good in defence. Juan Foyth also had a solid debut against Barnsley in the Carabao cup. Not quite so happy about selling Kyle Walker; I know £45m is a lot of money, but Spurs have missed him so far this season. Also not thrilled that, as usual, Spurs left so many signings to the last day. This invariably unsettles the side. Far better to get dealings done early in the window so the squad gets a chance to get to know each other

Pochettino seems to be a perfect fit for Spurs, what has he brought to your team since his arrival?
The main thing he has brought is stability. He knows how he wants his team to play and he knows his favoured starting XI. Over the three seasons he has been in charge the nucleus of the squad has remained pretty much the same. His real test is to come, though. There’s far less pressure on a manager and a team when expectations are low. Now Pochettino has raised the bar to where not qualifying for the Champions League would be considered a failure, he faces a different sort of challenge.

How do you rate West Ham’s Slaven Bilic as our manager?
Highly. I like his passion and his combative in-your-face approach.

Any particular memories of West Ham/Spurs games of the past?
I would have to go back to the game at Upton Park a few years ago when Gareth Bale scored THAT goal. To get a late winner when you are playing away is always somehow more satisfying than when you are at home; to get one of that quality is just the icing on the cake. I was right behind the goal and saw the ball from the time it left Bale’s foot to the time it hit the back of the net.

If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
Manuel Lanzini. He has pace and vision and the all important knack of making things happen. He has the skill and imagination to play the killer pass that breaks down stubborn defences.

Which Tottenham player(s) will be key to your hopes this season?
I’ll go for the obvious. Harry Kane. If he gets injured or loses form for any length of time then it’s hard to see Spurs’ making a serious challenge for a top four finish.

How do you expect Tottenham to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation prediction?
Five at the back, with Serge Aurier and Ben Davies playing as attacking wing backs. Eric Dier as central defensive midfielder just ahead of the back five. Three in midfield — Christian Eriksen, Mousa Dembele and Dele Alli. Kane up front.

Prediction for score?
2-0 to Spurs. We’re due a decent performance against West Ham having lost the last two away league fixtures 1-0 playing well below our best. And the team have looked much more comfortable on their travels than they have at home.

My thanks to @JohnJCrace for his comments, however I don’t think I can share his North London optimism, I’m going for a repeat of the last two years’ scoreline 1 – 0 to the Hammers – Come on you Irons!

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A: Huddersfield Town

After our pointless start to the season West Ham at last have a home fixture on Monday night against Premier League new boys Huddersfield Town who we last played at home in the league in 1972. We won that game 3-0 with a brace from Clyde Best and one from ‘Pop’ Robson. So far this season they have had two wins and incredibly have yet to concede a goal. This may not be the easy 3 point win that we might have presumed would be ours before the season started. Ahead of the game I spoke to John McNamara from Huddersfield fan site “terrierblog.co.uk”:https://www.terrierblog.co.uk/ to ask for his opinions on Huddersfield and Monday night’s game.

First off, congratulations on reaching the Premier League, at this stage last season did you realistically think you would be getting promoted?
Absolutely not. When we beat Newcastle away in the second game of the season, after several pints I tentatively suggested to my friends that we might get promoted. I was shot down in flames and kept my faint hopes/pipe dream to myself until around February when it looked like we might actually be serious contenders.

I don’t suppose there can be many of your fans alive who will remember your three consecutive league titles, and your FA Cup win, so you must be loving it, being ‘top dogs’ in Yorkshire again, lording it over the likes of ‘Dirty Leeds’.
I’ve only ever met one person who remembers the league titles, although I suspect he may have been exaggerating a bit! It’s brilliant to be the best team in Yorkshire, especially when we’ve had to endure the taunts of Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday fans for so long. I’ve grown tired of hearing about Chris Waddle and Lucas Radebe, we’re the number ones now and we’re not trading on past glories.

What’s the biggest difference between the Championship and the Premier League?
I’d say the ingenuity of attacks. In the Championship goals become almost predictable, a plethora of corners, throw-ins and long balls eventually lead to a chance or a goal. In the Premier League teams have the ability to get in behind your defence in the blink of an eye, no matter how well your defence was set.

You’ve had a great start to the season, but what position do you think Huddersfield Town will finish come next May?
In a pre-season blog I predicted we’d finish 16th, and I’ll stick by that. We will surprise teams this season and we’re nowhere near the relegation certainties that some pundits say we are. I don’t expect us to carry on this fantastic form but I do think we’ll get enough points to survive.

Your start is in direct contrast to ours: where do you think West Ham will end the season?
I had you as 11th in the aforementioned prediction, however I think I plumped for that because I like Slaven Bilic and I want to see him to do well. Now I think your position will ultimately depend on which manager you choose to go for after Bilic is shown the door. If he stays I think you could well finish 14th/15th.

Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and who will lift the title this season?
Brighton definitely, I don’t think Hughton is tactically up to the task of the Premier League, I also see Swansea’s luck running out this term and I fear for Palace. I don’t trust their chairman to pick the right manager when he inevitably grows tired of De Boer. For the league, United are looking ominously well-drilled and Mourinho seems determined.

Dave Wagner seems to be doing a great job as your manager, tell us a bit about him, and how do the fans view him?
David Wagner was appointed completely from left-field. He’s the former Dortmund reserve team coach and he’s equally as entertaining as Jurgen Klopp. Wagner has helped to create an identity at the club which was sadly lacking when he joined, he’s also developed a real bond between the players and the fans, which is refreshing to see. In short, he’s a God and a legend, we love him!

Happy with your transfer window dealings? Are there any areas that you think still need improving?
Very happy. There’s always areas that could do with improving though and I’d have liked to see one more striker to come in and provide cover since Nahki Wells left for Burnley.

If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
Michail Antonio. Whilst I don’t think he’s your best player I think he’d be the best suited to our style, he’s full-on, physical and aggressive, and that would suit us down to the ground!

Which Huddersfield player(s) will be key to your hopes this season?
The two most important players in my opinion are centre-back Schindler and central midfielder Mooy, they’re the spine of our team. Schindler is imperious at the back and a real leader and Mooy dictates our play and is capable of moments of magic.

How do you expect Huddersfield to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation prediction?
We’ll play 4-2-3-1 and I’m almost certain our team will look like this;

Prediction for score?
I believe that our aggressive pressing will worry your defence and capitalise on any lack of confidence. I can see us taking a first-half lead and losing it in the second. I’ll go for 2-2.

Thanks for that John, however Slaven will surely have got the boys up for this one, and for my first visit to the London Stadium of the season I think I’ll be watching a home win. 2 – 1 to the Hammers – Come on you Irons!

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With the Magpies

After last week’s heart-breaking last minute away loss to Southampton, we at least received a little bit of cheer beating Cheltenham away in what I shall still call the League Cup. On Saturday Hammers fans face a journey to Newcastle to watch West Ham try to gain their first points of the season. Ahead of the game I spoke to Newcastle fan Dave Punton from “www.themag.co.uk”:http://www/themag.co.uk to find out his opinions about the fixture.

A poor start to the season has left both our clubs pointless after two games, in what position do you expect Newcastle to finish the season?
As a newly promoted side it’s going to be tough for NUFC to find their feet in this league. It seems a league that gets harder and harder to operate in due to the finances required. It’s very early to make predictions but I suspect a slog for NUFC. Maybe 16th or 17th, maybe even 18th and relegation again. We have a manager with a fantastic CV behind him, my hope is he can give us that extra something over the whole season that gets us to 40 points, if he doesn’t walk away. So plenty of fun ahead then!

Early days yet, but what league position can West Ham realistically achieve this season?
Tenth. West Ham are a well established Premier League club and have got enough there in the squad to be fine, though there does seem to be talk that Bilic is under more pressure. If the hangover from switching stadiums has worn off then who knows, maybe you can finish a few places higher. Moving to that athletics stadium seems to have hindered the club in some way, though that’s just a guess.

Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and who will lift the title this season?
Well I’ve got to back NUFC to stay up, despite the growing concerns, so on that basis I’ll go for Brighton, Palace and Huddersfield. I think the title will be Man City’s.

The press keep on touting Rafa to be West Ham’s next manager. How do you view this speculation, and how do you rate West Ham’s manager Slaven Bilic as a manager?
I wouldn’t rule anything out. Mike Ashley would listen to any offer if the right money was put on the table to release Benitez from his contract. We know that Rafa wants to work in the UK and his family still live on Merseyside. Newcastle was a good fit for him, and I genuinely feel he loves the passion and everything that NUFC is, but the honeymoon may well be over. He’s clearly not happy with the way the club has gone about business this summer, though most of his media statements have centred on one of a man staying put. If a real offer for his services landed then I do wonder what would happen. His departure would shaft NUFC.
Bilic has done a pretty good job at West Ham and I like him. He knows how to put a team together. Is he the man for the long term there? Maybe not. Results have slipped and there seems to be speculation about the his position. West Ham would be an attractive option for a lot good managers, not just Benitez.

Presumably you are happy with Rafa as ‘The Gaffer’?
Benitez has been a breath of fresh air. The contrast between him and his two predecessors is marked, though as I said earlier, there is a sense that the gloss of promotion has well and truly been rubbed off.
Here is a manager who knows how to set up a team, everyone knows their jobs and he gets it spot on with the media. He’s singlehandedly transformed the club’s PR, though Ashley is doing his level best to wreck that. My only issue with Rafa is he can lack a bit of flexibility on shaking things up when it’s not going well, and he seems to prefer defensive games at home, which irks a few. However, the way he rebuilt NUFC last summer and oversaw promotion was nothing short of turning water into wine.

Mike Ashley has been interviewed recently about his time at your club, having read what he said do you have confidence in your long-term future?
Simple answer: no. The Sky interview was stage managed tripe which saw Ashley try to submit his disclaimer for all the strategic blunders he’s made. The nonsense about being unable to compete was rubbish too, as fans don’t expect to compete with the likes of Man City and Chelsea, but Bournemouth and Huddersfield would be realistic for a billionaire. It’s the unhappiest marriage in football and NUFC fans have had ten years of this clown. Don’t buy into the media narrative that he’s just a nice honest bloke doing his best. He thinks he can run a Premier League club on buttons and it’s a fundamentally flawed approach.

Ashley has stated that Rafa will not have a lot of cash to spend, but are you hoping for more additions to your squad before the end of the month, and if so where do you think needs strengthening?
The club has a low net spend and we need more players with top-flight experience. We need a playmaker, a left back and a centre mid. We take too long over transfer deals and that glacial pace is a worry.

If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
I like Lanzini but I have to say Andy Carroll given he’s from Newcastle and would give his all for the cause. Pity about all the injuries he gets.

Which Newcastle player(s) will be key to your hopes this season?
Gayle’s goals were the key last season, but he’ll need others to help him out, namely Atsu, Mitrovic and Perez. We have to keep the first choice back four fit and Yedlin at right back is an important player for his pace, as is Matt Ritchie in midfield, not least for his desire and passion for the cause. He’s a great lad.

How do you expect Newcastle to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation prediction?
Rafa will deploy his 4-2-3-1 formation. I’d imagine he’ll want to keep it tight and try and pinch a goal and then probe for a second. I’d like to see us give it a right go and not play so deep, like we did against Spurs.

Prediction for score
The mood music isn’t great at the moment. I’d snap your hand off for 1-1.

Buoyed by the fact we have scored four goals in a week, combined with a confidence sapping midweek defeat, for Newcastle I’m going for our first league victory of the season 1 – 3 to West Ham – Come on you Irons!

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View From The Other Side

Opposition Q&A with the Saints

After last week’s painful thrashing at the hands of Manchester United West Ham travel to Southampton for the second of our four away game start to the season. Our recent results against them have been a bit mixed, but we did come from behind to beat them 1-3 at St Mary’s last season. I spoke to season ticket holder and lifelong fan Simon Lacey from Dance Company New Adventures to discuss the game.

What are your expectations for Southampton this season? Will you finish just above West Ham for the 5th consecutive season?
Somewhere between 7th and 10th and expect West Ham to be between 10th and 13th

Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and who will lift the title this season?
Brighton, Swansea, Palace for the drop, Man City champions

How do you rate West Ham’s manager Slaven Bilic as a manager?
Like him as a person as honest and seems to relate well to other managers, don’t rate his tactical astuteness and ability to shape or reshape a team

Early days yet, but what league position can West Ham realistically achieve this season?

What do you think of the news that Southampton has a new foreign interest on the board?
The previous owners did nothing wrong and just about everything right so would have rather had no change even if it meant no extra money to spend. Time will tell on the new owner and, as ever, the supporters will just have to take the rough or smooth.

Southampton have also recently appointed a new manager, who will be your third manager in 3 years, will he be able to sustain the success that the last couple have been able to bring to the club?
I would have kept Puel for another year but we seem to be the best at appointing managers (like the purchase of good players for great price); witness 2 of the last 3 managing top 7 clubs in last year’s Premiership so optimistic for more of the same.

If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
That’s a tough one but probably Lanzini as he is the one that seems to offer something different, or possibly Winston Ried as seems fairly reliable (not Jose “give a penalty” Fonte!)

What do you think of Southampton’s ‘Transfer Window’ deals, do you think you have finished your summer trading yet?
We always buy players I have never heard of and they do very well so same applies to Bedanarek and Lemina; expect there will be at least one more but we tend to fall under the gossip radar unless its fallen greats trying to illegally poach our players; on that subject we should keep Van Dyke whether he plays or not and the FA/Premier League should transfer embargo Liverpool.

Which Saints player(s) will be key to your hopes this season?
Gabbiadini up front, Ward-Prowse to run games more from midfield, Forster to warrant his new deal after last season’s amateurish and command his box in all ways and the joker in the pack, Boufal to come good.

How do you expect Southampton to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation prediction?
Same as last week against Swansea in terms of formation i.e. 4, 2, 3,1 that become sort of 4, 2, 2.5, 1.5 but Boufal may start instead of Redmond and Lamina for Davis or Ware-Prowse; could also start Austin for Gabbiadini and Bertrand went straight down the tunnel when subbed so MacQueen or Targett for him at left back if any injury i.e Forster, Cedric, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand, Romeo, Lamina, Boufal, Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Gabbiadini. Couldaldo

Prediction for score?

My thanks to Simon for his thoughts on the fixture and his prediction. Dance fans can catch up with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures on “New Adventures” :http://www.new-adventures.net

I’m hoping for a repeat of last year’s victory, but will accept a draw, 1-2 to the Hammers Let’s hope we can secure our first goals and points of the season. Come on you Irons!

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