Nigel Kahn’s Column

Losing My Religion

Life is bigger
It’s bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no I’ve said too much
I set it up

Its been a while since last I wrote. There are various reasons for that of which some are personal and some I struggle to admit. Partly it’s that when the club gets itself into a rut like it has, trying to write something different from the rest can be a struggle for me. I sit sometimes on the sidelines reading the social media outpourings and at times I wonder how these West Ham fans would have coped years ago.

For me, John Lyall is the greatest ever manager we have had and yet he is the only manager to relegate the club twice and when considering our last five relegations since his first in 1978, he took the longest time in getting the club promoted back to the top flight. Three season from 1978-1981.

How would social media and those who like me, who set themselves up as commentators on the club, have treated him? It’s quite possible if he survived not being sacked in 78, he would have been in 79 after his failure to achieve an instant return.

I very much doubt Sullivan would have allowed him the chance to win the cup in 1980 as he would have succumbed to fans questioning his tactics, and possibly his personality just as many pile into our current manager after this current sticky spell.

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

I’ve just watched a video by Gonzo on Hammers Chat. He was posed a question: Have Gold Sullivan & Brady destroyed West Ham?

I like Kris. In fact, he’s the only vlogger I watch now. I’ve shared & enjoyed his company many a time and always look forward to meeting him, yet watching this video I was surprised to hear him admit he believed in the move, that he was willing to trade the authenticity of West Ham at Upton Park for the move to get success.

He then waxes lyrical how he feels the three amigos have, as the question says, destroyed West Ham as was.

I found it tough watching though, mainly because I spent so long trying to fight the move. When I hear people admit they were taken in by the owners it highlights the failure of what I, and those others that campaigned as best we could, achieved.

When I hear fans admit they once bought into the dream only to realise it was false, there is no satisfaction of us being right, it actually just guts me more and I suspect those that I stood alongside feel the same.

Every whisper
Of every waking hour, I’m
Choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool
Oh no I’ve said too much
I set it up

The move has divided the fanbase like Brexit has divided the country. People on either side have no respect anymore for the other’s point of view. So many talk about uniting the fanbase. WHUISA was supposed to be an attempt to do that, yet that descended into a farce to the point where even though most of the committee were anti Board, I felt disenfranchised from those I was supposed to agree with. Three times elected onto the committee, yet three times I walked away, resigning, as my frustration at the ineptitude of some others on the committee left me nowhere to turn.

I look to Hammers United now, but they fail like many at WHUISA to grasp that if you want to set yourselves up as fan representatives, you have to deal with the people you despise the most. The owners. They claim the club refuses to engage but then fall into the trap the club set. They liaise with the club SLO by email, so the club can say they engage with them.

HU want to sit down with them, but on their terms. They fail to see it’s the club that sets the rules of engagement. HU now have complained to the FA, Premier League and even UEFA, trying to point a gun at the clubs head and say, talk to us.

The club will point out they have contact via the supporter liaison officer so they do talk to them. If they want to come in and meet, they have a forum set up, they just need to apply. How now will the club and HU ever have meaningful discussions after this stunt?

Who loses? Not the club, but the fans. HU would achieve far more from the inside, putting over members concerns, than they ever will emailing the S.L.O and complaining to the institutions that WHU are members of. They will never sanction WHU they will only side with them.

I attended the recent ticketing meeting, the outcome of which has led to the club announcing some changes. Away tickets that can’t be used will be able to be returned to the club, though refund will only happen if the ticket is then sold.

The ballot will not be a blanket 10% but be staggered, below 3,000 allocations it drops to 7%, then below 2,000, it goes to 5%. No ballot below 1500 allocation. I went into that meeting, I claimed to represent no one but myself, and yet the staggered ballot was put forward by me.

Whether you agree with it or not, just by being in the meeting, I’ve achieved more than HU have or WHUISA actually. Imagine what they could achieve for fans if they stopped acting like prima donnas and held their noses and went to the club.

Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I’ve said too much

West Ham to me feels like an addiction. It is my drug of choice. They say that addicts won’t start to kick the habit until they hit rock bottom, then they have to acknowledge that problem. I’m not sure I’m at that point yet. I didn’t attend the Sheffield United game. I now have work on Saturdays with my family. I could have made the game but decided not to and just five minutes into the game I was regretting not being there. Watching at home just didn’t feel right.

I had hoped I wouldn’t have missed it, but alas I’m still under this curse.

I do feel though, I am LOSING MY RELIGION.

As outlined above, the club is no longer resembling anything I thought the club ever stood for, wiped away on a gamble that while that in my belief will never pay off for the fans. The one thing that has grown far bigger than anything else to do with West Ham since we moved, is the share price. The true reason for this debacle.

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
But that was just a dream
That was just a dream
just a dream, just a dream
dream


Nigel Kahn’s Column

Ticket to Ride

When asked, as generally, I am, to give one good thing about the move to Stratford, in my opinion, I can only point to the fact that more fans than before now can attend. I’ll hold my hands up as well as before the move I never believed West Ham would get 54,000 fans in the ground let alone 60,000.

Of course, the truth is we don’t get that many in the ground all at the same time but the club have sold that many tickets if people choose not to attend there’s not a lot the club can do about that.

That increase in fan base attendance though has created a problem elsewhere, away tickets.

Back in the good old days of Upton Park, West Ham had generally averaged 34,000 fans of which around 21,000 were season ticket holders. Away tickets were not as hard to come by, generally. The allocation sold out, but many a game would get to general sale, aside from the London derbies. To get to the FA cup semi-final in 2006 you needed only just 1 away ticket point to get hold of one of the 19,000 tickets West Ham were allocated. Then, for the final, every fan that bought a ticket to the semi was able to get a ticket for the final in Cardiff.

Fast forward 13 years and with the club increasing season ticket holders from the average around 21,000 up to the max of 26,000 at the Boleyn to the current tally of 57,000 at the OS. that rise in fan base naturally brings with it a demand for away tickets. Another factor as well is that away tickets are capped at £30 where before the cap was brought in you could pay up to £55 for Arsenal away.

The club’s system has been criticised by some as not being fair in the way they distribute away tickets, especially recently with the introduction of the 10% ballot. Every away game you attend, you are given 1 point. The club now also award points for attending home cup games. This is done to try to increase the attendance for generally unattractive home games in the early rounds of the cups.

It seems now, though, that getting an away ticket (from the club) is a closed shop, with fans that have managed to build up their points to a level possibly buying for games they know they can’t attend. They do this to accumulate the point knowing they can easily sell the ticket on. With many fans feeling locked out, most are either new or fans coming back to attending. Add into that the fact the large and growing international support that book trips over in the hope of attending as many games as possible while in the country for their visit, many are calling on the club to do something to distribute the tickets more fairly.

But what is fair? After all, in life, as one group of fans gain access so does another group possibly lose access.

The club currently has 700 away season tickets, then the 800 bondholders have first dibs on buying, a percentage is put aside for corporate fans as well before the point holders get a chance, With 10% put aside for the ballot, that leaves generally around 50% of the seats available to the point holders. Academy members have no chance let alone general sale buyers.

What is the answer? What do you think is the fairest way to distribute away tickets? Please tell me in the comments section.

On the 2nd of October, I have been invited to attend the ticketing subgroup of the OSAB, and I want to know what as many West Ham fans as possible think on this, and I will do my best to put that to the clubs representatives at the meeting. I’m not a member of the OSAB so I’m not constrained by it or the club.

One thing I will say, WHUISA and Hammers United are the two Independent fan groups looking to represent fans as a whole in dealings with the club. As a result of their insistence of talking to the club their way and not the club’s way, they won’t have anyone at the meeting to put across their members thoughts to the ticketing department. In my opinion, that is a mistake. Fan representation should be about getting your members’ voices heard by the club, by whatever means is open to you. I won’t darken WHUISAs doorstep ever again while the current charlatans are in charge, they are not interested in representing members, just themselves and their opinions.

The OSAB is not great but at the moment it is the only way to walk in the door, so I will do that. I will give my take on ticketing and more important use what I read below to put to the club as well.

I will naturally report back next week on the meeting outcome, unedited by the club that’s for sure.


Nigel Kahn’s Column

What Difference Has Pellegrini Made?

All men have secrets and here is mine
So let it be known
For we have been through hell and high tide
I think I can rely on you…
And yet you start to recoil
Heavy words are so lightly thrown
But still I’d leap in front of a flying bullet for you

Has Manuel Pellegrini’s time made a difference to the club? After all, he is the most decorated manager the club have ever hired, not just in the Daves’ time here, but also in our entire history. All men have secrets, but what is his and is it touched with magic?

Before coming to West Ham, he had won titles abroad and here with Man City and taken two unfancied teams in Spain, Villareal and Malaga, into Champions League qualification. Can he repeat that with West Ham though and get the owners out of the next level hole they dug for themselves? Will he be the difference between actual real tangible success in the league, something West Ham has never achieved in top flight, or will he be dragged down to West Ham’s level and in between the great performances the usual story of don’t travel well and having a soft underbelly will continue as it has done for virtually every other of the 16 or 17 if you include Sir Trev, managers that came before him?

So, what difference does it make?
So, what difference does it make?
It makes none
But now you have gone
And you must be looking very old tonight

Embed from Getty Images

Last season Pellegrini came in a big fanfare, bringing with him optimism and allowing the overtly ambitious West Ham fans to think top 6 here we come. Four games in, the doom merchants were predicting relegation and implosion, as we achieved as much as Norway used to in Eurovision song contest. Null points.

Then the green shoots of recovery were sown with a battling point against Chelsea and we followed that up a few weeks later with victory over Man United, that then spurred the hammers up the table to a point where maybe 7th spot was a possibility, but as the season ended the same old West Ham was just as evident. The cup defeat to Wimbledon showed that no matter the pedigree of West Ham’s manager, the soft under belly is still there at times.

The devil will find work for idle hands to do
I stole and I lied, and why?
Because you asked me to!
But now you make me feel so ashamed
Because I’ve only got two hands
Well, I’m still fond of you, oh-ho-oh

I must admit, except the fat sham, I have generally enjoyed watching West Ham under every manager I’ve seen, and my first game would have been in the Greenwood era. Those that failed or are perceived to have failed had some form of success. Macari’s record is not as bad as many believe, and he rightly can point to his success being the players he left Bonds with, possibly far better than any Bonzo signed and nearly all lasted longer than Bonzo did.

Glen Roeder achieved the 2nd highest premier league finish or 4th highest top flight position if you prefer in his first season, and the worst manager for me, Avram Grant, I still will never forget the United win in the snow and he had us 45 minutes away from Wembley in the League Cup Semi-final before the typical implosion in Birmingham.

Pellegrini so far has had the same good games and poor games under his watch, as nearly every other manager we have had.
so I do ask….

So, what difference does it make?
Oh, what difference does it make?
Oh, it makes none
But now you have gone
And your prejudice won’t keep you warm tonight

In the transfer market is perhaps where we see a difference in the way West Ham have operated in the past and how we are operating now. Previously under the Daves it seems we were always looking to sign the finished article of a player, normally aged 27 or above and generally has had no resale value when they have left. I have heard it claimed that under the Daves we have stopped being a selling club, but that may be that we haven’t had the players the bigger clubs wanted, so we never got to test the selling club tag.

Under Pellegrini, we have had 3 Transfer windows, and you can see the improvements in the quality of player being signed, not necessary for massive money either. Diop and Balbuena easily could be sold for more than we paid, Anderson the same, resupposing we would want to sell them. But if we acknowledge that other clubs are interested in our players, that must mean we have improved the playing stock from the days when no one wanted to steal our stars.

Here it is evident that Pellegrini surely has made difference if only in his team helping to educate DS, who still is involved in transfers, in the quality is the key, not quantity, and quality can be found anywhere, not just in signing players who are tried and trusted in the Premier League.

Embed from Getty Images

Oh, the devil will find work for idle hands to do
I stole, and then I lied
Just because you asked me to
But now you know the truth about me
You won’t see me anymore
Well, I’m still fond of you, oh-ho-oh

Pellegrini, though, does not come cheap, and though we are earning more money as a club, that is mainly through the PL TV deal rather than anything else that then has allowed us to spend more than usual. He actually now needs to show the extra finance in him, and his back-room team is worth it. If we fail this season and next to break top 7, then he wouldn’t have made any difference in the actual advancement of the club. Problem I see is, If Pellegrini can’t advance this club, who can, and who or what is stopping that from happening?

The Dave’s gamble on hiring the highest calibre of manager they ever had rests on can Pellegrini change the owners and take the club from its historical position of constant under achievers to finally become the club many of us think and believe we are or should be.

But no more apologies
No more, no more apologies
Oh, I’m too tired
I’m so sick and tired
And I’m feeling very sick and ill today
But I’m still fond of you, oh-ho-oh
Oh, my sacred one…


Nigel Kahn’s Column

Financially Dead and Bury'ed

In 1885 Bury football club was formed, in 2019 it was wiped off the face of the football planet, stuck with an owner that was unable to prove he had the funds to see it through the season. The Football League gave up extending its deadline when potential buyers walked away at the last minute.

I’m sure there is more to come out about who and what conspired to run this club into the ground but now it becomes a cautionary tale to all football fans outside of supporting the biggest clubs how a club should live within its means, only spending what it can afford. As it seems Bury have for years lived beyond their means, spending what they didn’t have. Perhaps what makes this even harder is they won promotion and therefore were looking at an increase on their income by playing in a higher division.

Many of us older generation of fans lay claim that football didn’t start in 1992 with the formation of the Premier League, it existed long before then. Commentators these days seem to only mention Premier League records, when giving fill information during a game. This is for me a slap in the face of those that went before, but the (E)PL is the paymaster now, not us fans.

Embed from Getty Images

Years ago, before the PL we didn’t have the wall to wall coverage on TV. There was a TV deal that included live TV games and highlight packages, that money was paid to the Football league who redistributed the money more evenly through all the leagues, not just the top division who it was deemed most armchair fans wanted to watch. The greed of the bigger clubs in creating the Premier League was all about taking more control of the TV money.

I’M ALL RIGHT JACK, SOD THE REST

Ten years ago, West ham were struggling financially, we were owned by a bank that inherited us as a bad debt. The bank itself was struggling as the Icelandic banking system helped push the world into recession, not just West Ham. Gold and Sullivan managed to win the three-way competition to buy us and then set about trying to right the sinking ship, as the finances were dragging the club down.

They claimed on the day they bought the club we were £100 million in debt and were still finding more. The debt racked up in just 3 years by owners who were chasing a dream of propelling the club into places they had threatened to be in in the past, but never achieved it regularly.

Part of the Daves’ mantra when buying the club was a 7-year plan to put us in the Champions League, achieved off the back no less by moving the club into a larger stadium they didn’t have to pay to build. 10 tears, sorry years, on we as a club are no nearer in my opinion reaching that goal, more because football finances at the top of the PL tree is outstripping the finances of those below them in the same league, let alone the lower league clubs.

The Daves for years have been criticised by many for their tight grip on the purse strings at the club, Even this season many while welcoming the big money (for West ham) spent on two players, still bemoaned the fact they only net spent around £35 million against the £120 odd million earned by its membership of the PL last season.

Those that listen to Moore than Just a Podcast will have heard me repeatedly say that clubs should only spend what they earn. No club should be bankrolled by a sugar daddy owner. I don’t want the Daves putting their own money into the club as at some point they will want it back and that is where trouble begins. Too many fans think that the club’s money is the same as the owner’s money and vice versa. It’s not, they are separate entities and as such should be treated that way. Football needs to look now with the loss of Bury at the way football clubs are funded and bring in legislation to protect clubs from being saddled with owner’s debts or other debts that could be unsustainable in the event of relegation of any league.

Embed from Getty Images

Fans also need to understand that money can not or should not be thrown around like confetti at a wedding, in the attempt to take them to whatever their perceived next level is, be it promotion or qualification for Europe regularly as our goal was supposed to be.

Don’t misunderstand me here. While I’ll defend the owners in the cautious way they spend money I still look forward to the day they leave. I just hope they don’t leave us financially in the mess many other clubs, just as loved by their fans as we do ours, were left in.

Bury’s demise should be a warning to football, not just those lower down the scale.


Nigel Kahn’s Column

The Queen is Dead

Oh! Take me back to dear old Boleyn, 
Put me on the train for Upton Park, 
Take me anywhere, 
Drop me anywhere, 
Barking Road, The chicken run 
But I don’t care,
I should like to see my……..

 
Well, Saturday’s game was an eye-opener that was for sure, not just the way the team performed either. VARs full introduction to the Premier League for me highlighted the very reason I have opposed it. It could turn out to be actually detrimental and destructive to the fan experience inside the stadium. 

I’m sure it was a great theatre for those at home or in a pub/bar but for me, and quite a few others inside the stadium, it was detrimental to the beautiful game. How we got to this position is too long and varied for a mere peasant like me to dissect, but i’ll throw my two pennyworth in to try and get you all to understand why I feel this way.

Oh, and before the dinosaur tag is thrown at me, I’m not anti-technology per se. Goal-line technology should have been introduced years ago, across all organised pro or semi-pro leagues. The object of the game we all watch and spend more time tearing apart than we do watch, is to score a goal. The whole ball crossing the line is a definitive non-subjective fact. It either did or it didn’t. 
 
Farewell to Stratford’s cheerless marshes 
Hemmed in like a boar between arches 
Her very Lowness with a head in a sling 
I’m truly sorry – but it sounds like a wonderful thing 
I said Dave’s, don’t you ever crave 
To appear on the front of the Daily Sport 
Dressed in your Mother’s underwear? 
And so, I checked all the registered historical facts 
And I was shocked into shame to discover 
How I’m the eighteenth pale descendant 
Of some old cockney or other 

 
The FA a few years back tried and failed to bring respect to referees after years of them being used as scapegoats by players and managers for their own failings. Game after game, week after week, in front of the TV cameras managers would blame this defeat or that defeat on a referee’s decision that changed the game. At the same time, the manager of the winning team would generally point out how well his team had played and how his tactics paid off. He wouldn’t, though, thank the ref for his great performance.  The fans of the losing team would then latch on to their manager’s blame and lambast the refs on social media and so the circle was rounded. This continued on and on with the FA failing to really protect referees from the criticism levelled at them from losing managers.

With the wall to wall coverage of football now, that was possibly started when Sky Sports ews was launched, there is far more dissection of games and as such decisions made by refs. There are now far more TV cameras in the grounds than ever before. They can record contentious issues from multiple angles, playing them back time and time again. The referee missed so and so foul but look, if we look from another angle you can see there was contact, totally ignoring the fact that the referee sees it from one angle, and actually has a split decision of fewer than 2 seconds to make the decision on whether a foul was committed. 

All put together, then the bandwagon of technology “supposedly” to help referees was first mooted. First, we have goal-line technology, which as I said above I broadly support. But that’s not enough. The referees need extra help we were told. Fans drip-fed on the ‘fact’ that referee mistakes are to blame for their club losing fall into line and demand they want technology. 

According to many West Ham fans on social media, I include this site in that. West ham lost 8 points last season due to officials’ mistakes. They cried ‘we could have finished 7th with those and qualified for Europe. It is not fair. We Want VAR.’

Looking back you could see why many now would support its introduction, yet there was a recent study of every game last season and they used VAR in all those games to see if the results would have been the same. West Ham would have benefitted to the tune of……. 1 point. Not 8 points but 1, moving us into 9th, Instead of 10th. Why is that, I don’t hear you say. Well… because what a lot of fans forget is the old adage of swings and roundabouts. If we had just played on the swings we would have got 8 extra points, but we didn’t, we went on the roundabout, that meant VAR was used against us as well, evening out the playing field it seems.
 
 
Oh, has the game changed, or have I changed? 
Oh has the game changed, or have I changed? 
Some 90-year-old tough who peddles porn 
I swear to God 
I swear: I never even knew what porn were
So, I broke into the palace 
With a sponge and a rusty spanner 
Brady said: “Eh, I know you, and you cannot write”
I said: “That’s nothing – you should hear me on a podcast”
We can go for a walk where it’s quiet and dry 
And talk about football things 
But when you’re tied to Sullivan’s apron
No-one talks about castration

Now I get to a contentious bit for me and I make no apologies for this. I don’t think I’ve really pushed the fact I’m on Moore than Just a podcast on here. I prefer to keep those separate even though the lord of the manor is a welcome stand-in on the show when we are presenter lite. This week though I alluded on the podcast to an exchange of different views with a regular poster on here who hails from Romania. It seems some heard it and brought it into the discussion on here. As per usual, some chose to misconstrue what I said but nothing new there. But I stand by what I said and that is that during my anti-VAR rant I criticised him for the fact he claimed that VAR had not held up the game unduly.
Now the fact that I and those around me got frustrated with the delays says to me I knew there were delays and they were unduly lengthy. The internet is a great invention, and without it, you wouldn’t be reading this and 95% of those reading this that know me wouldn’t of, but, meanwhile, in TV land you are fed the constant replays, you get told what’s going on and that leads to some watching on TV thinking they can tell someone at the game, “I don’t know what your moaning about there wasn’t much of a holdup.”

As the (changed) song lyrics above say, has the game changed or have I changed? The answer to that is the game has changed and if VAR is kept it is not for the betterment of fans IN THE STADIUM
 
Past the pub who saps your body 
And the club who’ll snatch your money 
The Queen is dead, boys 
And it’s so lonely on a limb 
Past the pub that wrecks your body 
And the club – all they want is your money 
The Queen is dead, boys 
And it’s so lonely on a limb 

 
What is the point of professional football, for what reason is it played? Is it for entertainment to those in attendance or those at home on TV? Is it to fund players personal lifestyles or to create wealth for owners? Years ago, it seemed it was organised for the entertainment of the local population to cheer on the team that represented where they live. Now I’m stupid enough to think that is the case or should still be the case. But TV has gone in around 50 years from showing the highlights of one game to now controlling when and now how the game is played. The Queen that I knew is dead boys. 
 
 
Life is very long when you’re lonely (repeat 4 times)
 
(my thanks to Morrissey & Marr for the influence)

 
 


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