The Terence Bates Column

Madness & Embarrassment

Madness and embarrasment, two thoughts and feelings that sum up my view of the start to the season. I have held back on trying to be scathing and critical, but I cannot hold back anymore after recent experiences. Yes this is a rant, I want to apologise in advance but feel this needs to be broadcast.

An old Madness song from many moons back… one chorus goes…

No commitment, you’re an embarrassment,
Yes, an embarrassment, a living endorsement,
The intention that you have booked,
Was an intention that was overlooked.

Actually whittle that down to the one word…

‘Embarrassment’

For me this embarrassment stretches way beyond the dire performances on the pitch and the nine goals conceded in the two games against Arsenal and Manchester United. Any long-suffering West Ham fan has seen this all before and it helps shape our gallows-terraces humour. I certainly have lived through this before and can put up with this to a point. But embarrassment for me encapsulates other aspects of this new season and all its lost promise and golden shine.

Two years ago I secured early seats in Club London, the cost for two seats? A cool £4k per year and a £1k sign on fee. I breathed deep and thought stuff it, I am going to treat myself in what was going to be a new exciting golden era. There was a vision of a supporters lounge where one could get decent food and hey free drinks at half time. I could treat business clients to a great football experience as the Sales Exec and slick brochure informed me.

I will at this point concur, I am a snob when it comes to food and wine (I work in the hospitality industry and set myself high standards), and the only enjoyment I have ever got from food served at football grounds was to mock and poke humour at its taste, quality and presentation. So decent food and drinks is important to me, especially when I am paying a whopping 4k a year to watch a game of footie.

So season kicks off and there I am sitting in a great location one metre away from the players, I can literally touch Andy Carroll on the shoulder where one could whisper in his ear ‘Get out there son and shove it up em’.

Ultimately the large sum of money I paid out is to see good football in a safe enjoyable environment and also with the private supporters lounge surely have some decent food, wine and beer to consume with or without friends, family or business associates. Tick…Tick… Tick… all boxes, surely?

For ten years 1980-1990, I all but stopped going to see live football because of the troubles on the terraces. When Hillsborough and Heysel unfolded I literally vomited. The journey of football fans had reached a point of putting your very life at risk. Dark days. I don’t like some subscribe to the rose tinted view of the good old days in decrepid dangerous stadiums and an environment where your personal safety was in doubt because of hostile rival supporters. I found it It embarrassing to explain myself to those elsewhere in the world that whilst you liked football you were not a signed-up member of the ICF who kicked other fans heads in and smashed up stadiums. Embarrassing to think that some of my fellow fans were simply arseholes. But that was then, wasn’t it?

So here we are in the post-hooligan era where some of those involved with the ICF are either writing their memoirs and books, running their businesses or property portfolios or sitting in the … corporate boxes. Yes, this is what I learnt on Friday evening before the Arsenal game, from ironically a well connected Arsenal fan.

Ok I can live with that, redemption/change of times/a phase of life etc.. etc. Life goes on, whatever.

So, the new season unfolds. On the pitch a disaster. Off the pitch fans are fighting other fans and fighting amongst themselves, oh jolly it’s an… Embarrassment.

Ok we can argue for perspective and the media cranking it up as they always do. But when you sit behind Andy Carrol and the rest of the players/coaches/medical team and even the manager and you then see their eyes looking up with hands/fingers pointing to fans in the stands who are fighting …. well it’s an… Embarrassment.

And maybe, if you want to try and understand why things are so rubbish on the pitch, perhaps the distraction of fans being rubbish in the stands might just affect morale in the dressing room.

But I am ok, aren’t I? I am in Club London a section of the ground aimed at supporters who don’t mind paying that bit extra for a cozy lounge and hospitality, business people and professionals, nothing wrong with that we are fans too.

So the first games arrive and the stadium looks impressive and yes the pitch is further away than the Boleyn, but I have great seats and I can engage in banter with the players on the subs benches. Cool, my 16-year-old son is well impressed as would surely be any business friends I decide to take to a game.

So here we are having stuttered and fought our way some three plus months later. The club and whomever have finally figured we must segregate fans and here is a novel idea… why don’t we get the police on board? We will also issue life-long bans to anyone causing trouble.

Back to food and the VIP Club London Lounge. I said early on I am a food/beer/wine snob and I make no apology for this because I am paying 4k a year. I do not expect to be served up Walkers Crisps/Minstrels/Fanta/Rubbish Heineken beer in plastic bottles and even more rubbish headache inducing wine in plastic glasses… all of this is another… embarrassment.

Where is the effort? Where is the consideration that hey we care about the local community? Why not get your beer from ELB (East London Brewery)? They brew fantastic beer two miles away or Crate brewery who are even closer? Why not Dalston Cola or Kennedy pies? Why not support Kent or Essex wines who are now producing decent quality wines? These are small and relatively local businesses, sustainability is huge kudos for any business to embrace, where is the effort to move forward in this department?

What else isn’t impressive is the body search and frisk as I enter Club London. I make my thoughts known to the security guard and he shrugs his shoulders,’ Just doing my job mate’. I tell him I have been following this club for 52 years and have never had to suffer the intrusiveness of being frisked. Imagine taking a business client to a game and serving him a pack of Minstrels, a Fanta and subjecting him to a body search by a burly doorman? (Yeah! Yeah! I’ll say it for you…. some might enjoy that ).

Well for the Burnley game I am doing exactly that as I am treating an esteemed Professor friend to a trip to our bright new stadium. I am having to forewarn him of what to expect.

This is an F***ing embarrassment.

But still I can find solace in the fact that despite the body search, despite Minstrels/Fanta and rubbish beer/wine, despite our team at times playing like the Royal Oak’s second string side, I am still safe because any aggro in the stadium is confined elsewhere…. Phew.

But then…. Arsenal’s second goal goes in and two colourful West Ham fans next to me turn on the guy in front, who about my age (a couple of years short of 60) happens to cheer when Arsenal score. Oh, so it all kicks off and it’s well yeah you guessed it, it’s an… EMBARRASSMENT!

The guy in front is with his son who happens to be a West Ham Fan…. Hey guess what numbskulls?… Some dads and sons/mums/daughters support different teams.

Ok perhaps the Gooners fan should have kept his gob shut, not because it’s wrong to be excited, but because some football fans sink to such a base level, that when it comes to watching their team lose, you just don’t know what can unfold.

The two West Ham late-twenties fans to the side of me go mental and cry to the stewards to get this 60 year old quite harmless looking guy removed from the stadium, which is what they do. He tries to explain to everyone that his teenage son is supporting West Ham and he is cheering Arsenal in some kind of naïve, unreasonable (sic) and ironic belief that this should be acceptable.

Witnessing this is my 16-year-old son, who shakes his head in…. Embarrassment. It truly is.

So to the midweek Burnley game. I am taking a friend of mine who is an author, a political and history professor and whom teaches at a London University. He lives and commutes from Porto Portugal. We share a passion for both football and Jazz. He has a great professional pedigree having interviewed and met many world leaders including ‘West Ham fan’ Barack Obama. He is also well connected in the football world having known and befriended the late ex West Ham player and esteemed coach Malcom Allison who had a stint and strong connections in the Portuguese football world.

My friend the professor has never been to the Olympic stadium and is really looking forward to the experience…

Ho hum fingers crossed.

Click here to view the leaderboard

The Terence Bates Column

Strike Force or Farce? A Lesson in Mathematics.

So finally West Ham have signed Italian striker Simeone Zaza from Juventus on some elaborate loan deal.

Football is really a simple game you have to score more goals than your opponents and win. In order to do this, you need good players and players who can score those goals.

West Ham despite their relative success last season struggled to smash those goals in on a consistent week to week basis, certainly in a way that would have elevated them to the top four or even stand a chance of winning top spot like Leicester did with Vardy their goal machine.

So with that in mind the club rightfully recognised the need for improvement to find a striker that can hit the back of the net regularly and rack up the goal count and made it a transfer priority bringing in no less than four strikers Zaza, Ayew, Fletcher and Calleri

And here is a summary of our Strike Force on the main First Team squad, a motley crew of;

  • Andy Carroll
  • Diafra Sahko
  • Andre Ayew
  • Enner Valencia (now departed)
  • Jonathon Calleri
  • Fletcher
  • Simeone Zaza.

Yep seven forwards/strikers. Pretty impressive?

7 Up… on the striker’s front should be fizzing those goals in… but behind this statistic of seven strikers lie the real statistics…. and it is not really fizzy at all.

  • Diafra Sahko: 179 games, 66 goals = 1 goal in 2.71 games = 14 goals every 38 games.
  • Simeone Zaza: 156 games, 58 goals = 1 goal in 2.72 games = 14 goals every 38 games.
  • Andy Carroll: 252 games, 68, goals = 1 goal in 3.71 games = 10 goals every 38 games
  • Andre Ayew: 294 games, 79 goals = 1 goal in 3.72 games = 10 goals every 38 games
  • Enner Valencia: 260 games 61 goals = 1 goal in 4.26 games = 9 goals every 38 games
  • Jonathon Calleri: 123 games,45 goals = 1 goal in 2.73 games = 10 goals every 38 games
  • Ashley Fletcher: 30 game, 8 goals = 1 goal in 3.75 games = 10 goals every 38 games

Average it out and combined all seven players average just 11 goals per season.

Ok there are some mitigating aspects of the above. Fletcher is just on his journey, a smaller argument could be made for Calleri and Ayew has played most of his time as a winger/midfielder, but he has been heralded in as a goal scorer and repackaged as a striker. Sahko of course is in the naughty room and will eventually find his way out. A depressed looking Valencia will I figure soon follow, despite Slaven Bilic’s unwavering faith in him.

Further maths will show that we paid £15 million for an injury prone Carroll, £20 Million for an injured after 1 game Ayew and the latest goal scoring messiah Zaza costing a reported £24 million (should his stay extend beyond the loan period). Fletcher was a free out of contract signing, Calleri is on loan and I will put a value on him at say £4.5 million, Diafra Sahko cost £4.5 million and Enner Valencia cost £12 million.

Total of that lot is a whopping £80 million.

I am trying not to be negative here, but it is a tough call. This is a reality check. The stats contrary to the oft repeated ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ quote, do not in this case lie, these are footballers and not some dodgy politician. There are enough goals and games to be scrutinised here to highlight the goal ratios and figures. It doesn’t mean they are ‘bad’ footballers.

However, I can’t help but think there is a smack of desperation at the club in the strikers department. Ayew, £20 million really? ZaZa £24 million are we really sure?

When Zlatan Ibrahimovic was touted around as a free out of contract player, but with wage demands of a mind boggling 260k per week at the age of 34, we looked and then baulked at those wage demands and probably could not compete with the appeal of Mourinho.

Yet look at his stats; 681 games, 396 goals = 1 goal in 1.72 games = 22 goals every 38 games.

There is your trophy winning striker, despite his age.

Consistent goal scoring Ibrahimovic is head and shoulders above all of our strikers and not just in height. And at the age of 34 has already scored 4 goals in 4 games for Manchester United. Tough as old boots with few injuries, Andy Carroll will have to play until he is 94 to rack up the number of appearances Zlaten Ibrahimovic has notched up.

We missed a trick here didn’t we?

We perhaps should have offered him £350k a week and trumped Man United, crazy I know. We could have cut the deal as a signing on fee and wages to match Payet, that way it would appear the wage integrity structure (If that is what it is called) remained in place.

We really should be doing more number crunching as opposed to panic buying, which is how it is coming across to me.

NOTE: This article was written before Valencia’s loan to Everton.

Click here to view the leaderboard

The Terence Bates Column

Grrr…. Boo… Boooo ….. Boooooooo!

‘Get off the pitch you muppet!’… ‘You’re shite mate!’… ‘My effing Nan can play better than that!’… ‘What a donkey!’ Booooooooo…… and on it goes….

Whoaoh everyone. Talk about doom and gloom. we lost to Astra again, yes it’s painful, but let’s get some perspective…

1. Astra are not Real Madrid, but they are not Accrington Stanley either. Astra won their league last season, there is good football in Romania, they are a useful side.

2. We could have scored 6/7/8 goals such were our chances, and whilst luck played a big part in this, we didn’t take those chances. This was a very one-sided game. We could have won even with a second string filled with young prospects, but we didn’t. That’s life, move on.

3. Their goalkeeper had the game of his life.

4. Out injured Payet, Lanzini, Noble, Carroll, Sahko, Ayew, Cresswell Sofiane Feghouli etc… almost all our first choice players.

5. Astra scored with virtually the only one chance they had, a sucker punch against the run of play. It happens.

6. Did we really need the distraction of the Europa League at the moment? We are not ready, are we? We do not have a high enough quality squad to foray into Europe and succeed on the domestic front at the same time coping with inevitable injuries, few teams do. Let’s be realistic, this will take time and money.

For me the most noticeable aspects of the Astra game was how we missed Noble and just like in the game against Bournemouth we lacked a killer finisher. Of course this is ignoring the absence of Payet. This is a carry on from last season where we achieved a lofty position, yet we still lacked that killer striker that could have really elevated us in the top four. When Payet was out last season we couldn’t score for toffee, but did grind out a succession of draws. As unpopular as this is I wish we had buried the hatchet and signed Jermain Defoe. This was one of those frustrating games and had we played for a month of Sundays we may still not of scored, yet a player like Defoe can make the difference as he has shown at Sunderland.

And new boys Tore, Calleri and Nordveit? Before we execute them after three games shall we take a step back?

Tore hasn’t made an impact yet and yes maybe, he won’t. His strengths are passing and running with the ball to create chances (There wasn’t this berating noise after he flighted in a beautiful cross for Antonio to score against Bournemouth… was there?). His weaknesses are in challenging for the ball and as a result any defensive contribution, it is noticeable, it could be a problem.

Nordviet? He was a constant in Gladbach’s team for 200 games in the Bundeslige over 6 seasons. Last season they qualified for the Champions league, he arrived on the back of being out of contract with Gladbach. He is a ball winner and has good stats for passing accuracy and completion, he put in some inch perfect long balls to set up attacks against Astra. He needs time to settle, I think he is a good player but clearly not a great player. His weaknesses are when he goes forward he loses concentration and can lose possession. However, you don’t play 200 games in the Bundeslige consistently for one club without being a useful player.

Calleri, is a rookie striker and what I would call a punt. He is on loan and like Lanzini it is a punt based on showing promise and potential that could lead to a permanent transfer. His stats for scoring are around 1 goal per 3 games. He is not prolific in the goal scoring department, it is there for us all to see, this player is unlikely to score more than 12 goals per season. But he still needs time to prove himself and those statistics wrong, he is a young apprentice after all.

One other note my seat is within touching distance of the subs and coaches seating. It is an interesting position to watch the players expressions. If you really want to see us struggle this season then continue getting on the back of players like Valencia, Calleri, Tore and Nordviet, berate them destroy their confidence, make them scared to try, force them out and also show the other players sitting next to them what they have in store for them should they have a bad day at the office. Let’s create a horrible environment for all West Ham players to both play in and sit close to the spectators.

Confidence is a huge part of success and even the best players can lose confidence and have bad runs, look at Valencia. Bilic is a good motivator, yet all his good work could easily be screwed up by the boo boys and impatience of certain supporters that kill players confidence.

So let’s not morph into a poor man’s Arsenal… let’s be smart and mature, let’s be the 12th man, not the bogey man.

Click here to view the leaderboard

The Terence Bates Column

Hackney Hamsters

When the announcement was made that London had won the Olympic bid, I just knew the Hammers would move into the new Stadium, it was despite all the subsequent shenanigans, as they say ‘written in the stars’.

For me this relocation is perfect.

Living in Highbury and working in Hackney, the journey to Upton Park and the Boleyn Ground was a pain and if driving normally meant being jammed up at Wanstead Flats with my head banging the steering wheel, (especially profound during Allardyce’s reign).

I secured my season ticket in the early months of 2015 and reasoned that virtually all the Hammers fans would make their way via Stratford and the Westfield centre.

So I devised my cunning plan, that naturally assumed I would be the only one in the know of a back-door route to the stadium via the Hackney Hipsters capital of Hackney Wick.

This was perfect for other reasons aside from travelling. I could also now look forward to…. eating tasty food.

Hackney Wick is an area I know well and as I work in the food and events industry I could look to a familiar and better choice of sustenance on match days as well as an easier route to the game… hey I even sport a beard these days, so I can slot in unnoticed.

The area is a culinary and beer delight with places like Forman’s and its reputation as the oldest smoked fish establishment in the world and with an award winning restaurant attached, the Crate Brewery with it’s in-house brewed craft beers and stone-baked pizzas that can be consumed on a rowing boat, elsewhere the German Deli bring big sausages cool dogs as opposed to hot dogs and German beers for those wonderful European nights we are surely destined to experience come the winter months.

People I know including Olympian Johnny Herbert and his brother Leon at Crea8 in the old Hackney baths could expect a visit from me. They have a bar and eaterie too.

Then there is The Counter Café a canal side venue for brunches, salads and tasty pies with real meat and proper Veggie options where you can float on the river on a pontoon (Excessive beer drinking not advised) with its views of the Olympic stadium… our new home!

For great breakfasts and brunches, there is The Hackney Pearl with yummy scrambled eggs and divine sourdough rye toast.

Oh wow the list is endless.

All this mouth-watering food is light years away from Ken’s Cafe where I once met WTID founder Iain Dale and sat there eating just a Kit-Kat for fear of revealing my food snobbery and even further light years (If that were possible) from the greasy chips and dodgy hot dogs from the trailers and vans that polluted my tummy and taste bud thoughts on match days along Green Street. We are in the big league in more ways than we imagined.

I had figured that none of this new culinary delight and alternative route to the Olympic stadium would surely be on the radar of the largely exiled East Londoners who now reside in the counties of Essex and Kent and who would ‘obviously’ zip in via Stratford International Station.

So the season beckons and match day finally arrives for the opening Premier League game against the seaside team of AFC Bournemouth and it’s on a Sunday… perfect.

I initially rationalised that my workplace which is in Clapton and close to the river Lea meant I could easily drive to work, dump the car and jump on my single speed urban pushbike and enjoy a scenic route into the stadium. But for now largely influenced by my bike being stolen (grrrr), I decide to simply drive into Hackney Wick, park up, walk across the river bridge and make my short way to the stadium… simples.

My cunning plan just like Black Adders Baldrick’s was naturally flawed, those dastardly exiled West Ham fans had got in before me and discovered the lack of parking restrictions and the ease of access to the stadium which was too tempting to ignore. So parking on the day for me was now a challenge, but I found the last spot on a bend in Rothbury Road that only I would be churlish enough to consider…. yet worse was to come.

There at the Crate Brewery and the German Deli were claret and blue shirts… everywhere.

On one side we had bewildered bearded ‘Hackney Hipsters’ the new media crew who some years back had arrived in town via Yorkshire/Staffordshire/Lancs/Berlin/Utrecht and brought with them…. err well actually forgot to bring with them razors. Here at their regular watering holes, they were faced with a sea of equally bewildered claret and blue football shirts singing bizarre gruff songs about blowing bubbles and something about ‘Irons! Irons!’ that induced a few raised hairy eyebrows amongst the metropolitan hipsters. I was going to struggle for a seat and have to queue… darn.

So then it dawned on me, we now have the early seedlings of a genetic mutation of what will become to known as…. the Hackney Hamsters.

Complete with claret beards and blue eyes singing ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’ nouveau-indie style with cranking guitar and funky electro synths, whilst munching foraged mushroom drenched with fresh garlic, layered with sea-salt blighted samphire relish in organic sourdough rye bread, all whilst supping on a Climpson’s and Sons flat white coffee or swigging Kernel Wild Beer….

Yep… the Hamsters have landed…

Welcome to the new football season!

COYI….

.

Click here to view the leaderboard

The Terence Bates Column

Such a…Perfect Day...

A Lou Reed song and one of my favourite records…. And a song to be applied to…

September 19th 2015, a day that is etched into my life time memories for many reasons. I am going to share this day and story with you and let out a secret that could very much land me in big big trouble!

West Ham were playing Manchester City at the Eithad Stadium and frankly were expecting to get walloped by almost everyone. The season before I had for the first time travelled to the Eithad and watched West Ham get beat 2-0. Manager at the time Sam Allardyce pictured here captured perfectly how I felt.

So come to… September 19th 2015 Manchester City were riding high, unbeaten and frankly looking unbeatable and on course to go 6 points clear at the top of the Premier League. West Ham at this stage had beaten Arsenal and Liverpool to a great fanfare, but also suffered losses to Bournemouth and Leicester sending out at the time mixed messages as to their performances. The media, like West Ham fans were a little bit unsure as to the quality of the two stand out results and our less than favourite pundit Mark La-wrong-sen was unhappy with the Liverpool performance and believes that West Ham are not a ‘good’ team (apply expletive here!).

My best friend Dean also a Hammers fan and I were talking about the forthcoming match against City and both of us were hugely optimistic after all West Ham had turned over Arsenal and Liverpool, so we were looking forward to the game which was live on TV with a 5.30 kick off on Saturday 19th September. A date indelibly inscribed into my head.

The weather was also perfect certainly in London, dry and warmish with the sun showing its hat every now and then. So what could possibly get in the way of us watching the match on TV or in the pub?

Well a wedding was in the way for both my friend Dean and I. And what’s worse, the wedding was just like the match, a late kick off on the Saturday set at 5.30 how ruddy inconvenient!

What inconsiderate idiot would do this to me and have their wedding on this day at this specific same time?

Err… well me to be precise I was the architect of missing the game live in any way, shape or form. Three months earlier I had proposed to my then long term girlfriend Hilary and we set the date for the 19th September at Stoke Newington Town Hall. I was getting married, but not in the morning like most do, no I was getting married at 5.30 precise. Doh.

Weddings my god are one of the most stressful things to organise, surely a good reason not to get divorced is in order not to face the stress of getting married again!

The reception venue was still not complete on the Friday night before the wedding, the electrics had malfunctioned, the wine had gone missing in transit from the merchants and I ridiculously decided I didn’t like my suit on the morning of the wedding and much to everyone’s disdain decided to go to Charlie Allen’s a local tailor on the Saturday morning and get a new one. The TV programme ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’ had nothing on what was unfolding here in East and North London, and to cap the stress of organising a wedding I was going to miss the live game of Manchester City v West Ham.

What was needed was a Black Adder Baldrick type inspiration… Indeed a ‘cunning plan’. Dean had been appointed as Best Man. There was no way he was getting out of his duties, he was not going to call in sick with a hangover or saunter up later, we were in this together.

We figured it would probably not go down too well if I had my eyes glued to my iPhone or zip out my iPad to follow the game live during the service. Dean likewise would need to be discreet. Texting was out of the question. So Dean had his phone and mini headphone wired to one ear and we devised hand signals. Right hand up with finger pointing up meant West ham had scored, left hand finger pointing up meant City had scored. What could possibly go wrong?…

West Ham scoring is what could go wrong! Six minutes played and there was I holding hands with my bride to be gazing into her eyes and out of the corner of my eye I see best man Dean who could hardly contain his glee, giving out a secret hand signal like a professional bidder at a Sotheby’s Auction. 1-0. My reaction?… aargh I fluffed my lines and drew sniggers from all the audience in the Town Hall chambers!

Whoops… I regained my composure and the rest of the ceremony went smoothly and beautifully. My bride looked stunning in a dress she had designed (I have to mention this!) and I knew I had made the perfect decision to marry a wonderful woman and West Ham were winning 1-0! How could it possibly get better?

The ceremony finished at 6.00 some 30 minutes after the ceremony had begun. We then marched hand in hand out to the sunshine and our waiting guests (That’s me and my Bride/wife… not me and the Best Man). There were cheers, there were tears, there was joy, there was confetti and there was oddly bubbles randomly blown by some of the children and then there was this….

6.02 minutes and Dean approaches me and whispers in my ear ‘Sahko has put us two up!’ Set free of focusing on the registrar and the protocols of the marriage ceremony I could throw the shackles of restraint away.

I could write another thousand words to explain and capture the thoughts in my head at the time… but as they say a picture paints a thousand words. To many on that day these images captures some lovely moments…

We've Scored!

Only the Best Man and I knew the other contributing factors to this image! I’d got the girl and the Hammers were also winners. Purr…fect.

This Saturday West Ham entertain Manchester City at the Boleyn Ground in what will be the last time City are likely to play at the ground in the return fixture. The game again is live on TV, I won’t be getting married this time and as perfect a day as it could be if West Ham win, it will never ever be as perfect as the 19th September 2015, for obvious reasons! COYI.

Click here to view the leaderboard

Copyright © 2017 Iain Dale Limited. Terms and conditions. Cookies.
Website by Russell Brown.