Match Report

West Ham 2 - 1 Cheltenham: Will Morrison Start against Stoke City?

Ravel Morrison started his first competitive match for West Ham in yesterday evening’s Capital One Cup tie against League two side, Cheltenham Town. And he did not disappoint, with an impressive all round display and a very good strike to put West Ham 2-0 ahead. In the 46th minute, Morrison collected the ball, on the edge of the opposition penalty area, wrong footed the Cheltenham defence with a skilful piece of foot work and then sweetly curled a shot in to the net. That was the high point of a good display, in which Morrison demonstrated excellent technique, good passing ability, vision and a high work rate to boot.

Those fans expecting a torrent of goals were disappointed, but even if the quantity was absent, the quality was certainly there to be enjoyed. Prior to Morrison’s strike, Vaz Te opened the scoring, in the 42nd minute, with a very well taken, 25 yard free kick. Regardless of some lively and inventive approach play, two goals were the sum total of West Ham’s return on the night. Vaz Te’s free kick was won by Morrison, who was fouled by a clumsy challenge. Just prior to that, Morrison had been similarly fouled in the penalty box. Yet amazingly, not only was the penalty not given, but he was booked for supposedly throwing himself! The score line could still have been more heavily in West Ham’s favour, as Jack Collison went close with a drive tipped over the bar, George McCartney’s header hit the cross bar and Taylor had an effort cleared off the goal line. Cheltenham got a consolation goal in the 59th minute, when Richards converted a penalty kick. The penalty was awarded after Adrian was involved in a defensive misunderstanding and allegedly fouled McGlashan in an effort to retrieve the situation.

In terms of the starting line up, Sam Allardyce made eleven changes from the Newcastle Utd match. This saw Adrian, Razvan Rat and, promising young centre-back, Leo Chambers all making their first team debuts; plus McCartney, Tomkins, Collison, Taylor, Morrison, Diarra, Cole and Vaz Te all started. While Diame (in the 34th minute) and Downing (46th minute) were introduced from the bench. Worryingly, Diame’s introduction to the action was occasioned by an injury to Alou Diarra, who was stretched off the pitch. One can only hope that the injury is not as serious as it looked. A number of regular first teamers were rested for this match, including: Jussi, O’Brien, Demel, Collins, Reid, Noble, Jarvis and Maiga. it was perhaps disappointing that none of the U-21 trio of Ruddock, Lletget and Lee received a run out from the bench, but they will undoubtedly get their chance at some point this season. Both Nolan and Henderson were unused substitutes.

In conclusion, West Ham did just enough to ease past Cheltenham’s challenge and in to the draw for the 3rd round of the competition. There were a number of interesting aspects to the match, including McCartney’s return to fitness, the full debuts of Adrian, Rat & Chambers and Vaz Te getting a full 90 minutes. However, the overriding issue was undoubtedly the performance of Ravel Morrison; especially in light of the pre-match challenge issued to him by Sam Allardyce. Although facing League 2 opposition, Morrison did take the opportunity to reaffirm his claim to a first team place and scored a very well taken goal. The question is, will it be enough to guarantee him a starting place in the team for Saturday’s home Premier League match against Stoke City?

It should, but knowing Sam Allardyce’s past conservatism in team selection matters, it is more probable that he will be introduced from the bench. We shall see?

SJ. Chandos.

Transfer Gossip

Go for Jordan Rhodes and Try the Part-exchange Route!

It is hard to believe that the club will allow the transfer window to slam shut without bringing in the necessary striker reinforcements. Our current situation, pertaining to the club’s salary cap, is well documented and discussed on WHTID. It is a situation that should never have arisen, but it has. So, now we need to find a way out of the impasse. The objective is to off load two or three squad players and bring in at least one striker. And a solution could be to tie up a part-exchange deal.

Now, I doubt Henderson, Taylor, Vaz Te or McCartney will generate much interest in Turin or Lisbon, but they might in Blackburn! In these circumstances, drastic action is called for to find a suitable solution. Jordan Rhodes is probably the best goal scoring prospect outside the Premier League. He has a fanastic goal scoring record and, at 23 years of age, time for further development of his game. He is a full Scotland international and it is indicative of the direction of travel of English football that he has not yet been given a opportunity by a top tier club. Perhaps West Ham Utd should give Rhodes that opportunity?

Jordan Rhodes

To do that, we need to convince Blackburn Rovers to part with their prize asset. It will take money, a combined deal equivalent to at least £8m or above, and possibly the enticement of offering two or three experienced players in part-exchange. Sometimes clubs need to sacrifice a prize asset to strengthen their squad in other positions and bring in vital extra experience. In fact, we did much the same in the 1990s, when we sold Julian Dicks to Liverpool and took cash, plus David Burrows and Mike Marsh in part-exchange. And that bit of sharp business certainly paid dividends for us that season, it transformed us from relegation favourites and secured two players who were instrumental in ensuring a comfortable PL finish. While, more recently, we took Bobby Zamora from Spurs in part-exchange for Jermaine Defoe. That did not prove to be such a bad deal either, did it! Blackburn Rovers could see the value of transacting a similar sort of deal?

The real beauty of a part-exchange deal, in our current situation, is that it effectively ‘kills three birds with one stone.’ It would secure a new striker, move on some fringe squad players and generate some room for manoeuvre in the salary budget. Offering Vaz Te could be a deal clincher, because he is a tried and proven goal scorer at Championship level. Add in the experience of Matt Taylor and/or George McCartney as well, plus c.£5m, and arguably it looks a good package for the Championship club. Of course, there may be difficulties getting our fringe players to move or Blackburn Rovers may just prefer to keep Jordan Rhodes. But there is an old saying, which is: ‘if you do not ask, you do not get’ and that is certainly the case here.

As Iain has pointed out, Sam Allardyce has made recent public statements which seem to rule out the possibility of bringing in another striker. And that could, indeed, either be Allardyce turning up the heat on the co-owners to deliver or a straightforward statement of the probable outcome of the present state of financial affairs. Who knows? But what is certain is that the club would be taking a significant risk in not strengthening their strike force. I am sure that the club are pursuing all possible options to get surplus players out and the right players in. All this blog does is float the idea that we could try to tie it all up in one major deal that secures a promising British talent like Jordan Rhodes. It could very well prove to be one of the deals of the season.

As I stated previously, the ‘end game’ of this transfer window could very well be tense for us. All we can hope is that, through this or some other route, the club capture the signing(s) that will give us a greater cutting edge in attack. Sam Allardyce, David Sullivan and David Gold all know that further transfer business is necessary. So, lets hope that they collectively ensure that it happens. The degree of success that we achieve this season could very well hang upon it!

SJ. Chandos.

Transfer Gossip

Are We In For a Tense Finale to the Transfer Window?

The answer to the question posed is, in all probability, yes, we are! With the club right up against its proscribed player salary cap, and an additional player or two still needed, we will have to sell before we can buy. In that respect, Henderson, McCartney, Taylor and Vaz Te are obvious candidates for outgoing transfer business. The issue, however, is whether we can actually sell them and if the accrued savings on their salaries are sufficient to facilitate us bring in players of the class of Quagliarella or Ba? If not then we may be forced to sell one or two other members of the squad. If we find ourselves in that territory, then names such as Diarra and Maiga could come in to the equation.

Personally, I find it difficult to understand how we have got ourselves in to this uncomfortable position. I can understand the emphasis being upon incoming signings, but the club must have known some time ago that we were approaching the salary cap and could have made plans to move out one or two fringe players. We know that Sam Allardyce began warning against the possible adverse impact of the new Fair Play rules, on our transfer dealings, back in May. We also know that Stephen Henderson was marginal for virtually the whole all of last season. So, why did we not move to quickly sell him when the signing of Adrian was confirmed weeks ago? Similarly, it was a strong proposition that we needed to trade up on players such as Taylor and Vaz Te as a pre-requisite for progressing as a club this summer. So, why not seek to sell them earlier in the transfer window? I hope that I am not being unduly unfair to the club, but surely our current transfer hiatus is at least partially a result of some poor planning.

Do not get me wrong, I think that we have made some very good acquisitions this summer. Securing Andy Carroll’s services on a permanent deal was a landmark piece of business; while Razvan Rat, Adrian and Stuart Downing are all excellent signings that improve the quality of the squad. And all due credit to the club for transacting that business. However, we knew that signing a quality, second striker was always the top priority, once Carroll was on board. Yet, we find ourselves entering the final two weeks of the window and that key signing has still not been secured. And, to compound the situation, our room for manoeuvre is severely restricted by this salary cap obstacle. Arguably, the club should have anticipated this potential problem arising and taken prompt action to circumvent it. I always strive to be fair and view an issue from all possible angles, but that is an inescapable conclusion in my book.

So, time is beginning to run down rapidly and the club have to do some pretty slick business to achieve their objectives before the deadline at 11pm, on 2 September 2013. As stated, it is a possibility that players like Diarra and Maiga may have to be sacrificed to facilitate a deal(s) for a class striker(s). That is a shame because both Diarra and Maiga have shown quality in pre-season. Diarra is exactly the type of defensive midfield anchor that we will need in some of the tougher away matches this season. He is also a very useful as a player to put on to help ‘close up shop’ and protect a lead. While I would have liked to have seen Maiga get another chance to prove himself in the PL. His ability to play both as a central striker and out wide is also useful to retain in the squad. But if one or both players need to be sacrificed for the greater good of our season then so be it.

One proposed move that I am, however, totally opposed to is the sale of James Tomkins, especially for a fee in the region of £6m! I believe that with Reid, Collins and Tomkins we have good cover in central defence. Add the highly promising Leo Chambers in to that mix and the situation looks even better. But what is the value of weakening our central defence to strengthen our attack? That is arguably a classic case of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul.’ I also do not rate our chances of signing a centre-back as good as Tomkins, nor do I believe the rumour that we will sign the likes of Christopher Samba. As such, if Reid or Collins are injured or suspended we could find ourselves with defensive problems. I continue to believe in Tomkins’ ability and the likelihood that he and Reid will recommence their promising defensive partnership sooner rather than later. Lets hope that David Gold remains consistent in his prior view that Tomkins will not be sold because he represents the future of the club.

So it is my expectation that we could be in for a nerve racking finale to the transfer window. However, there is always the hope that this interpretation is unduly pessimistic and the club manages to complete any remaining transfer business quickly and well before the window closes. We are one PL match in to the new season and the really encouraging thing is that we are solid in defence and scoring goals from midfield. Allied to that, we now have pace and skill on the flanks. These are all very positive developments and if we can just secure a greater cutting edge up front, then the indicative signs are pointing towards another very good PL campaign and a possible cup run.

SJ. Chandos.

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