The Mike Ireson Column

Wet Patches on The Carpet

As I write this, it is a few days since we became the centre of attention as we took one manager to the vets to be put down, and resurrected another from football’s graveyard.

Dust has started to settle and some things have started to become a little clearer, whilst other things have become a little murkier with questions to be asked (and answered).

I, like many of you, have gone through a gambit of emotions since it became clear at the weekend that change was afoot.

On Saturday I was angry at yet another abject performance where, quite frankly, we were embarrassed. On and off the pitch.

But I still really wasn’t angry with Slaven Bilic. That is because I didn’t want to be. Like when an elderly dog leaves yet another wet patch on the carpet, you don’t want to be angry with them because you know it isn’t their fault and you ultimately still love them.

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Slaven ticked so many boxes for us that we ignored the wet patches for a long time. Unfortunately those wet patches were results and it could only go on so long before, despite your love, putting him out of his (and our) misery was the only option.

When the deed was done I was genuinely sad. A sadness I had not felt since John Lyall and Billy Bonds were shown the door. This felt like we were doing wrong by a family member.

Then came the anxiety. Not about who the next manager might be, as it was plain to see immediately it was going to be David Moyes.

He’s not a West Ham man, he won’t understand us like Slaven, it won’t feel the same, he’s lost it, does he know the West Ham way? Etc etc.

It didn’t feel right.

But who would?

Now, having watched his interviews and had a more rational think about it, I’m a lot more positive. Yes his reputation is tarnished, but that should work in our favour. We have a manager who must do well. Not for us but himself.

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Once the most desirable manager in the Premier League he finds himself in a situation where only some kind of success at West Ham will save what was once the brightest of career prospects.

With only a contract till the end of the season he has to come in firing on all cylinders. He is not here for the money or to keep the seat warm, he is here to succeed.

I imagine, if pushed, he would have taken the job for nothing. As he has made clear in all interviews he is here for redemption. Fail here and not only will he not get another contract with us but no top team will go near him.

This kind of drive and reward can only be good for us? Right?

It is this motivation that will enable him to tackle head on the biggest problem. The players.

Apparently, once relived of his duties Slaven Bilic telephoned a few of the senior players to ask where it had gone wrong (although I wonder why he hadn’t asked this question of them when he had a chance to rectify it).

The overwhelming consensus was that he was too nice and had been overly soft with certain members of the playing squad. Not imposing fines for lateness, certain individuals turning up for training when they fancied, and the rest of the squad being irked by this.

If you watched Sky Sports News on Monday you will have seen them trot out all the stats about why we were so bad. Least distance covered, least amount of sprints made etc, led them to conclude we were the unfittest squad in the league.

Well add those statistics to the stories of certain players poor attitude to training and discipline leads me to a different conclusion. We have the laziest squad who put the least amount of effort in.

Not everyone of course but we clearly have bad apples who think they are all that and a bag of chips.

Look upon any team of 11 that have been on the pitch this season and you cannot say they are unfit. They’re not coughing and wheezing after 70 minutes or look like they’ve done an army assault course at the end of the game.

If we had 11 Neil Ruddock’s out there I’d agree, but we have a team of professional athletes. Poor attitude has led us to have covered the least amount of ground, not poor physicality.

Now we can all quite easily speculate as to which individuals this may apply to but what we need is someone to come in and have the nuts to drop anyone with a rubbish attitude.

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David Moyes has already said this. If your attitude is poor or you appear to be unfit you’re dropped. And I back him to do this. The clock ticking over his head will not allow him to namby pamby around.

This will go one of two ways. At the moment I have belief that it will go the right way.

It will be very interesting to see which 11 players cross the white line at Watford. It may just tell you a lot about those that don’t ………

COYI


The Mike Ireson Column

There is No Camp 3

Here we are then. Another poxy international break and another opportunity for you to realise you really don’t care about the national team.

I won’t attempt watching an England friendly as the timescale to when I start scowling at the television, bemoaning that most of the team aren’t worthy of cleaning Kevin Keegan’s boots let alone pulling on the shirt has become frighteningly short.

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Even the dog gives me the skunk eye, bewildered at such bluster being spouted from the other end of the sofa.

I’ll Dip in and out of qualifiers, but I can’t stay the Distance. I grew up across a couple of generations of England squads where it meant something to be selected. You looked up to these players as they were playing for England. The afore mentioned Keegan, Brooking, Shilton, Hoddle, Lineker, Gascoigne, Pearce, Adams, Butcher, Robson, Wilkins etc. I can go on much longer.

Now what are people looking up to? Jake Livermore? Michael Keane? Harry Maguire? Phil Jones?

Enough to bring a tear to the eye of a grumpy old man.

But I Digress, I Didn’t come here to moan about England, I came here to do what one should always do during a dull international break and that is play devil’s advocate and try to get a debate going.

Although now I’ve chucked the England thing in you’ve got 2 topics to Discuss – double bubble!

Now I want to make it clear, I thought Slaven Bilic was the right man for the West Ham managers job when he was appointed, and I still think he is the right man.

But every time we don’t win a game there is usually a media led hub bub that Super Slav is on his way out of the exit. Currently only Everton’s woeful form is keeping his name from being the bookies favourite for the chop next. But he’s a close second.

So what if the 2 Dave’s were to actually strap him to the ejector seat and hit the button?

Current favourite to replace him is the villain from Scooby Doo before he has the mask pulled off, Manuel Pellegrini.

All the other usual suspects are there Mancini, Ancelotti, Benitez.

But one name is absent and surely there must be some mistake. For there can only be one possible candidate for the London Stadium hot seat.

Step forward Paolo Di Canio.

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Now, instantly you have just formed yourself in to one of just 2 camps.

Camp 1 – Spot on, he’s West Ham through and through, a legend, just the man we need.

Camp 2 – Are you mad? He is bordering on a lunatic with questionable political beliefs who will tear the squad apart and make us a laughing stock.

There is no camp 3, there is no in between.

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Camp 1: When manager of Swindon, across 95 games he had a win % of 56.8. Apart from Sir Trevor’s 2 short spells, no West Ham Manager has ever got near that. The best being Billy Bonds with 43.6. We’d take that kind of win rate all day long wouldn’t we?

Camp 2: When manager of Sunderland he alienated the squad so much a group of senior players demanded the board get rid of him. They Did. Managing a group of players at Swindon who relied on their pay packets and were in awe of a superstar is completely different to managing a squad of rich Premier League stars who need carrot rather than whacking great stick.

Camp 1: Just his presence on the touchline would help ramp up the atmosphere at the London Stadium. Regardless of anything else it would be worth it to see him run the length of the touchline and knee slide after a goal. The roof would come off the place. Surely a Di Canio/Dicks management team would get the players playing?

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Camp 2: This is a man who will argue with his own reflection. It would only be a matter of time before he fell out with everybody and he walked away/was escorted from the premises. A Di Canio/Dicks management team would be like the lunatics running the asylum.

A simple choice people – camp 1 or 2?

COYI


The Mike Ireson Column

Where football goes to die

An open letter to Tony Pulis

Dear Tony

Just had to drop you a line to thank you for the 10 hours of my life I’ll never get back.

I had really been looking forward to my first away game in a while, although not so much the drive up from the south coast but hey, over land and sea etc.

Having been delayed on the glorious M3 and forgoing my planned food break for just some wee relief akin to a Formula 1 pit stop, the sat nav brought me upon your ground.

Things started to look up when I managed to park directly opposite the ground (once I had been relieved of five of your English pounds). I’ve never parked so easily and so close to a ground, surely a sign that after the testing drive the day was going to get better.

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As I wended my way to the ground (for wended substitute crossed the road) I chanced upon a purveyor of what looked like quality hot meat products. So tasty did they look (and I was starving) I took up the offer of both a burger and hot dog.

Bimbling towards the away end the hot meat products turned out to be as scrumptious as they looked. Another win. An extra bit of spring appeared in my step as the gods seemed to be aligning.

In to the ground and a kindly steward pointed me in the direction of my seat. I was delighted at what was a really good view and an aisle seat. Being six foot two I’m always grateful of a bit of extra room. Another win.

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What could go wrong now?

Well that question was answered when the referee blew his whistle to get the game underway.

I, and everyone else in the ground, was treated to a masterclass in game killing and tedium.

West Ham tried their best, yes we weren’t on top form with some sloppy passing, but as the away side we had 63% possession. That stat sums up how negative and disinterested in creating anything for yourselves you were.

From the first minute you played for a 0-0 draw. Well done.

Now yes I do feel a bit sorry for myself being in attendance at such a dreadful spectacle, but my heart actually goes out to your own fans.

Man alive, how awful must it be to know you’re going to be served up this tosh every week. Your ground is a nice ground, all four stands close to the pitch. There should be a cauldron atmosphere there. It’s perfect for creating noise and intimidating opposition.

But as I looked round during the game there was nothing. No singing, no chanting, no atmosphere. Just blank expressions of fans who had had any kind of enthusiasm battered out of them by week after week of negative non-football.

You are in danger of losing a generation of fans. When the kids attending now with their parents grow up will they have the same desire and passion for their team as they should?

Not when their memories are of such negative non-football. When they start drifting away and not in turn bringing their children the club is in trouble.

Yes I’m sure you’ll grind out enough points to achieve Premier league survival again, but at what cost?

On the 3 hour drive home I entertained myself with guessing how long the highlights would be on Match of the Day. I settled on 3. There were actually 5, but 1 minute of that was devoted to talking about Gareth Barry during the warm up, and another minute was spent on several replays of Ben Foster and his special way of saying hello to oncoming forwards. So a net of 3, another win.

So, after arriving home at 8.30, 10 hours after I had left, what I had I got from the day? A decent parking space, some nice food, an aisle seat and I realised my phone took a pretty nifty picture.

I had also visited a four sided graveyard where football goes to die.

Yours sincerely

Mike Ireson

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Custard Creams and Carpet Bowls

Well wasn’t that a sight to behold?

No I’m not talking about our long overdue victory (although of course it was very welcome and pleasing), I’m talking about Slaven Bilic on the touchline, rain bucketing down and him, resplendent in a jumper and smart trousers like he was taking a late summer evening stroll down by the beach.

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He had started off sporting the standard issue West Ham blazer but when this turned out to be more absorbent than the most efficient sponge known to man, he discarded it. Then, as usual, he prowled and paced the technical area, oblivious to the downpour, almost daring it to rain harder and throw in a bit of thunder and lightning.

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This kind of thing makes me like him that bit more. I want to like our manager, whoever that might be.

It doesn’t feel quite right when the man steering the ship isn’t your sort of guy. And lets face it we’ve had our fair share of the type of manager that you just can’t really like.

And it isn’t just us, I’m sure fans of every other club too would prefer to have a manager who just feels right. We, after all, invest our lives in this club and as we trundle along that journey we want to do so with people we feel share our passion. Can you imagine every manager we have being an Avram Grant? Jesus wept.

Slaven obviously had a hand in sealing the impression of another manager as one who you just couldn’t warm to. I am of course referring to the wally with the brolly, Steve McClaren.

That infamous night 10 years ago at Wembley where Slaven, then Croatia manager, strode around the touchline in the rain with no protection and McClaren chose to shelter under an umbrella. Slaven giving the impression, as he did on Monday, that he was prepared to take the soaking with the players and show a bond and unity.

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McClaren was ridiculed for being a wimp under the brolly.

This was of course more to do with hair than anything else. McClaren thought then, as he does now, that by overgrowing and over styling the remaining 14 strands of hair in the middle of your head that we would all think he still has a full head of hair, and a normal fringe.

Should such a downpour effect itself upon the McClaren head then this elaborate smoke and mirrors deception would be cruelly exposed to the world. Steve, save yourself a ton of money in hairspray and just give it up mate.

Monday’s victory also saved us from getting dragged in to a media hyped Crystal Palace type saga. We would have looked as foolish as they did by hitting the panic button after just 4 games.

The major lesson to be learned here is that there are very few candidates out there to replace your manager should you decide to give them the old heave ho.

Frank De Boer is further example that being successful elsewhere is no preparation for the Premier League. It takes time to adjust and time to adapt a team to play a different way. Time he didn’t get. And who have Palace now turned to? Well they have rescued Roy Hodgson from a retirement home somewhere on the south coast and he is now charged with turning round a failing Premier League team rather than waiting for the tea and custard creams to be brought round before the afternoon games of bingo and carpet bowls.

No disrespect to Roy, but who does the next team to sack their manager turn to? Kevin Keegan? Terry Venables?

Steve – dust your brolly off.

COYI

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Burning Fivers For Fun

I’ve got a confession to make. It’s my fault we’ve had a rubbish start to the season.

I should know better. It’s like waking up with a hangover on a work day. You promise yourself you’ll never do it again. Nothing ever good comes of it. But ultimately you know it’s your mouth writing cheques your drinking arm can’t cash.

In this particular case it is having a bet on us pre-season.

You know what it’s like. The long summer starved of any decent football, the app of your bookmaker just a thumb tap away.

We go and make 4 decent signings and hope swells within you.

This could be our year.

Best squad for ages.

Proven quality must pay dividends.

Etc. etc.

Any previous woes are a long, distant memory.

I thought I’d warned myself off of pre-season bets as invariably the opposite will happen to whatever is wagered upon.

I’m still living down last summers terrific bet of us finishing second in the league behind Man Utd. How was I to know our hero star player was to perform the most astonishing role reversal in to despised villain and derail the season?

And the year before that? Well I guaranteed Andy Carroll being injured for most of it by placing money on him being top scorer in the league.

These aren’t bets placed on fact, form or probability. They are the product of too much time spent in the garden, possibly alcohol, and most certainly this claret and blue blood coursing through our veins.

So I had successfully not looked at any odds on anything to do with us until about 2 weeks before the start of the season. But there was that buzz starting. The new signings, the talent we already had. The claret and blue was rushing to my brain and I was becoming weak.

Just one look. Can’t do any harm? Just going to look, yes sir, definitely not putting any money on. Nope. I’ve learnt my lesson.

So as my thumb scrolled through the minefield of weird and wonderful wagers available, one stuck out. The team to be top of the table on September 1st.

Hmmmm, I wonder what we are? Another quick scroll and I swear the phone started to flash and whir and light up like a well worn fruit machine down the front at Southend.

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100/1 !!!!

Now as even as the most ardent non-betting person knows, if something is 100/1 you may as well just go and set light to your money. Either way you aren’t seeing it again.

But instead of moving along, something itched in my foggy brain. A quick re-check of the fixtures for August and the itch became the sound of bongo drums.

3 games, all away, 2 more than winnable and one punt.

Now with this fine looking squad it isn’t implausible we could nick something at Old Trafford, then go and get maximum points at Saints and Newcastle who both are definitely not as good as us. And with all games being away there isn’t the worry of the stadium of doom making us play like we hadn’t met before.

See? Now I say it like that it doesn’t sound that stupid. Does it?

It probably won’t happen, but it could. Wallop. On goes a fiver and I sit back deciding how I’ll spend my 500 quid at the start of September.

I should have just burnt the flipping fiver.

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The law of sod (as always) took over and we ended up not top, oh no. Rock bloody bottom with our pants pulled down round our ankles.

I’m sorry. I promise I won’t do it again. I’ve learnt my lesson now.

In fact next summer I might just have the same bet but put it on Tottenham and see if the curse works on them too.

COYI

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