The Mike Ireson Column

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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The Mike Ireson Column

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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Slightly Elderly Antelope

So here we are at the beginning of a new season. All our hopes and dreams that we’ve been cultivating over a long baron summer simmering away nicely.

Well mine were this time last week. So much so I invested ten of your English pounds on us coming away from Old Trafford with a victory. I wasn’t dizzy enough to think it was a certainty but, with the buzz of our fine acquisitions over the summer, felt there was a possibility (along with the fond memories of the Emirates on opening day two seasons ago when we weren’t given a hope). And with my bookmaker of choice offering me 10/1, I was well prepared to give them a wedgie and run off with cash.

And now, where my hopes and dreams were sailing last week, I’ve got the hump. Not because I lost a tenner, I always gamble responsibly because Ray Winstone tells me to, but because I didn’t get the feeling the players held up their side of the bargain in the hopes and dreams stakes.

There was a high level of negative faces, poor body language and a sense (to me) that this was a game three quarters of the way through the season, not an opening day.

The manager should be having to calm his players down on day 1, the over exuberance and excitement of starting a campaign after the rigours of pre season threatening to be their undoing. But I didn’t get that. I got the feeling of lethargy and in some cases half heartedness.

Don’t get me wrong I know we were playing a team that is likely to be serious title contenders, but what worried me is that I felt we could have got slapped with the same scoreline by a lesser team.

And yes I know we were missing 5 players that are definite first XI starters but surely the 5 who got an opportunity to show themselves off should have done so? Or looked like they were trying to?

I don’t often agree with the ‘rent a controversial quote’ style of punditry employed by Gary Neville but he was 100% right to call out Arthur Masuaku.

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His whole demeanour was that of a training ground game rather than a tough season opener at Old Trafford. He just didn’t seem to be taking it seriously.

If I feel that, what message does it send out to his teammates? And just as important, the slightly talented opposition who started to act like ravenous lions bearing down on 3 legged, eyesight not what it used to be, slightly elderly antelope.

And then there is Diafra Sakho. A man who clearly wanted to leg it away from the London Stadium last year and who, on Sunday’s evidence, hasn’t changed his mind.

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Yes he only played a bit part, but when he came on he just looked disinterested. His expressions and body language reminded me of a former West Ham forward who, when it appeared he wasn’t giving 100%, was given the treatment by the fans – Luis Boa Morte.

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Javier Hernandez didn’t stop running and trying (slightly conjuring up memories of a certain C Tevez), and his frustration was clear for all to see in the last 20 minutes as he felt alone doing that in the final third.

I really don’t like being negative here, especially on week one of the season, but I sincerely hope either a) I’m wrong, was watching a different game to everyone else and should go and have a sit down in a quiet room with a cup of tea or b) we get to see a team that appears to want to match our expectations.

Regardless of the result, we expect to see passion. Pulling on the jersey is not a chore, it’s an honour.

Next time we shall talk fluffy kittens, bouncing puppies, and how picking blackberries in a meadow on a summer’s day makes the world a better place.

COYI

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Homemade Shortbread

Firstly I’d like to apologise to Iain. As a regular contributor to this site for the last couple of seasons I haven’t been pulling my weight recently. A combination of workload and domestic commitments has left me devoid of time to do several things, including trying to write something coherent and readable here.

I’ve always considered it a true privilege to be able to write for this site and, along with giving myself a slap to actively make more time to help preserve this wonderful portal of all things claret and blue, I’d like to support Iain’s call to arms for new writers.

There is a very dedicated band of passionate, loyal, opinionated, funny people lurking in the comments section (and people who just read) who I for one would love to read more of.

Yes it is a bit daunting. There isn’t one piece that I have submitted that I haven’t thought “god is this good enough?/will people think I’m talking s##t”. But afterwards when it is up there in black and white for all to read you realise that as long as you have remembered where the spell check button is and you haven’t written one paragraph of 500 words that everything is fine.

This is not a news site, it is an opinion site. There are no wrong opinions.

I was a long time reader here and always thought, you know what, I reckon I could have a crack at writing some stuff. And after blustering for far too long I’m so glad I threw my hat in the ring. So if you’re thinking the same thing, then do it.

It is not always easy, the point I was actually going to write about 287 words ago is that everything has gone a bit beige.

Last season was a belter. A new manager, a surprising upturn in fortunes on the field, beating all the big boys, saying farewell to our home, the rise of a new superstar. The season progressed at what felt like 100mph.

This season we started life in new surroundings, had a massive dip in form, flirted with the relegation zone before Christmas, lost the aforementioned superstar, dragged ourselves up to mid table.

And that is where we find ourselves now. Entrenched in the beige alternate reality that is mid table. It is highly likely we will finish the season somewhere between 9th and 11th. We seem to be free of any drama and it has all gone a bit One Show. Bland, poodling along at a very safe 26mph in a 30 zone.

For the last season and a half we’ve been racing round Silverstone at breakneck speed, the g-force distorting our lovely features, twisting and turning through the chicanes, not quite certain what is coming up next.

Now we are on that straight country road. Bimbling along admiring the scenery, making a vow that we’re going to make that lovely oldie worldy pub we’ve just driven past our local by moving out this way.

Look at that tea shop, isn’t it lovely, I bet they do lovely homemade shortbread.

This is what it is like to be a Stoke fan every season.

That was my 530 words – where’s yours?

COYI


The Mike Ireson Column

Good defeats evil

What a difference a week/day/45 minutes (delete as appropriate ) make. Rollercoaster ride doesn’t get close to describing what it is like to be a Hammers fan at the moment.

Just over a week ago West Ham had their proverbial pants pulled down and Manchester City administered a humiliating bare backside thrashing. One of the most depressing displays many of us can remember, made all too worse by the fact it was beamed live around the world.

As an advert to entice other players and global supporters to join our merry band it couldn’t have gone more disastrously.

We would have made a more positive impression if we had sent the Chuckle Brothers round to take a dump on the carpet in front of the TV.

Then just as we thought it was safe to venture out in public again our ‘star player’decided he didn’t want to be our friend anymore and was going to refuse to have a kick about with us because he wanted to go and play with the bigger boys.

Wallop! We took that sucker punch right between the eyes. We’re on our knees having been globally shamed and someone decides to aim a half eaten, luke warm, covered in chilli sauce kebab at our head.

Oh the indignity of it all. We spent the whole summer fending off the jibes that ‘star player’ was too good for us and he’d go to a ‘proper club’ etc etc.

It’s ok he’s signed a new contract. He is one of us. He’s got his own song.

That’ll teach us.

So it had been a pretty bad week overall. We were lower than the morals of an ungrateful French alley cat.

We needed something, anything to cheer us up. After the first 45 minutes against Crystal Palace it didn’t look hopeful.

But then something magical happened. There is a God after all. We got a second half display to warm the most miserable of cockles.

Over Christmas I had spent an enjoyable couple of hours watching Escape to Victory. And this was ours. No we didn’t want to leg it at half time down the tunnel that the resistance had made for us. We wanted to go back out and win the game.

Come on lads, let’s stick it to Johnny foreigner from south of the river. Andy Carroll did his best Pele impression walloping the ball in to the back of the net with both feet as high as his head.

This is what we needed. A display of old. Lanzini, Carroll and Antonio reminding us that we had more than one ‘star player’.

Oh how good it was to be a West Ham fan again. All was not lost, good always defeats evil (sorry, slightly over dramatic).

I could watch those 3 goals over and over again. Not just for the quality but for the significance that after a week of absolute s###, all was not lost.

Everything was going to be alright. That stray dog on the street wasn’t going to the pound, little Timmy and his family were going to take him in and make it all better.

Well that’s where we are now. Let’s see what the next week brings ……….

COYI


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