Tony Hanna's Musings

Farewell and a Tribute to Bobby Moore

On the 21st August 2013 I wrote my first article for WHTID. Nine days later I wrote my 6th as Sean Whetstone and myself were trying to keep an article a day up for the site, working in tandem due to lack of writers. Different authors have been and gone over the years and after five years I have decided it is time for me to hang up my laptop and say goodbye as this will be my 195th and last article for the site. In the early years I mainly focused on nostalgia, more often than not based on my own experiences following the Hammers in the mid sixties and seventies. When those memories were exhausted I progressed to day to day views and in the transfer windows I put forward the bookies transfer market odds which I translated to perceived chances of players signing for or leaving West Ham. The journey has been one that has seen me make new friendships along the way with meet ups over the years – highlighted by the one at the Upton Park ground hotel that was simply special. It’s been fun writing for you lot, well most of the time lol, and I hope to see some of you again when I am next over, hopefully in 2019. Cheers

I was chatting to a fellow supporter recently who had told me about his reservations about VAR and how he might not attend games anymore should it be introduced to the PL. I reminded him about the times we first started to watch West Ham in the mid 60’s early 70’s. At that time there were only a couple of “divers” in the English game – the rest saw falling over in a tackle as weak in what was a hard man’s game at the time. The limited amount of German football we saw on TV in this era saw this possession game where they passed the ball around for ages without getting anywhere. My thoughts were if we ended up like that in England it would ruin the game. Then we saw the Italian and Spanish football on TV, full of dives and cheating. My thoughts were if we ended up like that in England it would ruin the game. So here we are in today’s game where we see 50 passes between centre backs, more back passes than forward passes and players diving all over the place and over time we have accepted it as normal in the English game. For me VAR is a necessary evil and will be accepted as easily in time as all of the abhorrent parts of the modern game which we have copied in an effort to try and keep up with the rest of the World. For me, if it (VAR) holds up play for three minutes a game and 90% of the time I can go away from a game and know we weren’t “done” by an offside goal or a bad penalty call I think I will be happier than I have been for many a season.

Finally, my favourite player of all time was Bobby Moore. As we all dream of another World Cup win it is fitting that my last piece will be dedicated to our wonderful legend.

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Born on the 12th April 1941 and passing away on the 24th February 1993, Bobby Moore made 646 appearances for the Hammers after making his debut against Manchester United in September 1958. He made his last appearance for West Ham in a cup tie against Hereford in January 1974 before moving on to play for Fulham in the twilight of his career. The footballing career that unfolded over those 16 years was only equalled by the measure of respect he went on to earn throughout the game from his peers and by those who loved to watch him play. In their history, West Ham have been at their best when they have played fast attacking football. It is ironic that the best player to ever play for the club was a defender – but one who the great Pele cited as the best defender that he ever played against.

Bobby was born in Barking, Essex. In 1956 he joined West Ham and quickly advanced through the youth set up. Malcolm Allison was a great mentor to Bobby in the early years and it was his place in the side he took when he made his debut in 1958. Malcolm was suffering from tuberculosis at the time and he never regained his place in the side. Bobby always remembered one piece of advice from Malcolm – “know what you are going to do with the ball before you get it. Always keep a picture in your mind where everyone is, that way when you get the ball you don’t have to think what to do with it.” Those words must have been ringing in his head in the last moments of the World Cup final in 1966. Bobby hung on to those words like it was one of the ten commandments. The hours he spent after training in his formative years, chatting with Malcolm Allison, Noel Cantwell, Dave Sexton and John Bond (all of whom went on to be successful managers), listening to their theories and explanations on how the game should be played, together with his natural flair for leadership, moulded the Bobby Moore that was to lead West Ham and England to glory.

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In a World of uncompromising defenders, Bobby shone like a beacon with his reading of the game and the immaculate timing of his tackles. For a central defender Bobby was not great in the air and he certainly was not quick. But there was always a calmness in his play, it was like his brain was doing all the work. He established himself in West Ham’s first team and in 1960 was called up for the England U23 side. Just two years later he was on the plane to Chile for the World Cup. He was so impressive on his debut against Peru in a pre-tournament friendly that he kept his place in the side until England’s exit against Brazil in the quarter finals. One year later, aged just 22, he captained England for the first time when the incumbent Jimmy Armfield was injured. Bobby had become the youngest player ever to captain the National side and only on his 12th appearance for England.

The years between 1964 and 1966 were iconic for West Ham, England and Bobby Moore. In 1964 Bobby lifted West Ham’s first ever FA Cup and he also became the permanent captain of England. He also went on to win the Footballer of the Year in England. In 1965 he again lifted a trophy at Wembley – this time it was the European Cup Winners Cup with a 2-0 win against 1860 Munich. A match that many say was the greatest game of football ever played on the hallowed turf. A year later in 1966 he lifted the World Cup for England in a 4-2 win against West Germany. The third time that he walked up those stairs to receive a trophy at Wembley he became a National hero.

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The three years of Wembley triumphs between 1964 and 1966 were the pinnacle of Bobby Moore’s career. But he was to play on for another eight years at Upton Park. The same successes were never achieved but that is not to say that the rest of his footballing life was dull! Bobby Moore had been Hammer of the Year in 1961 and 1963 and he was to go on and win the honour again in 1968 and 1970. Not only did he win HOTY four times but he also came second four times.

During 1966 Bobby Moore won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. He was the first footballer to win the award and he was also to go on and be honoured with an OBE in 1967. England manager Sir Alf Ramsey was to say of Bobby Moore; “My captain, my leader, my right hand man. He was the spirit and heartbeat of the team. A cool calculating footballer I could trust with my life. He was the supreme professional, the best I ever worked with. Without him England would never have won the World Cup.”

Bobby Moore again captained the England side in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. They were considered an even stronger side than the one that had won the Cup four years earlier. However, the tournament was full of controversy and much was made of the fact that England were being dealt some bad cards. A fortnight before the game the England team were doing some shopping in Bogota, Columbia. Bobby was accused of stealing a bracelet and once the story leaked it was World wide news. The whole affair was most unsavoury and did little to help England’s cause. The incident appeared to have conspiracy written all over it. Bobby was arrested and then released but when England had returned back to Columbia after a game in Ecuador, he was arrested again and placed under four days house arrest. Eventually the case was dropped after no evidence was forthcoming. England eventually lost a two goal lead in the quarter final against West Germany and lost 3-2. Gordon Banks, the best keeper in the World at the time, had eaten a “dodgy lasagne” the night before the game and his replacement Peter Bonetti had a game to forget. Nevertheless, Bobby Moore had now missed the chance to lead England to successive World Cups.

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Controversy was to follow Bobby sooner rather than later. On returning to England from the World Cup, Bobby Moore received an anonymous threat to kidnap his wife Tina and hold her to a 10,000 pound ransom. He pulled out of the preseason friendlies but later in the year things took a brighter turn when West Ham rewarded him with a testimonial game against Celtic. However, in January 1971, Bobby was again embroiled in controversy. A late night drinking episode in Blackpool the night before a Cup game came to light a few days after a shock 3-0 defeat. Manager Ron Greenwood was not happy and wanted to sack all the players concerned, including Bobby Moore. The Board persuaded Greenwood that fines and suspensions should suffice. However, the relationship between manager and player had been cool for some time and now it became distinctly frosty.

A year later Bobby was to make the headlines yet again during a League Cup semi-final replay against Stoke at Old Trafford. When Hammers keeper Bobby Ferguson was kicked in the head and had to go off the field, Bobby Moore took his place in goal. Shortly after, Stoke were awarded a penalty and Moore had the audacity to save Bernard’s spot kick. Unfortunately for Bobby and West Ham, Bernard hammered in the rebound. A 3-2 defeat saw Bobby miss out on another chance of Wembley glory. Gee, it was bloody wet that night!

In 1973 against Italy, Bobby Moore won his 108th and last England cap. It was a record number of caps and he also equalled Billy Wrights 90 appearances as captain. Bobby played every minute of every match in those 108 matches. The following year Bobby Moore played his last game for West Ham.

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When Bobby Moore was sold to Fulham in 1974 I doubt many fans would have thought that he would be playing against his former club in a Wembley Cup Final the following year? Of course the Hammers won by two goals to nil, but Bobby had an excellent game. It was his last appearance at Wembley. He went on to play over 100 games for the Cottagers before ending his career in the North American leagues. Bobby had a less distinguished career after his playing days. He managed Southend United from 1984 until 1986 in what were financially difficult times for the club. This had followed short stints managing Eastern AA in Hong Kong and Oxford City. In 1986 he divorced his wife Tina and he married Stephanie Moore five years later in 1991.

It now seems absurd that the only Captain of England to ever lift the World Cup was commentating and analysing games for London radio station Capital Gold in 1990. Nowadays, players that could only dream of equalling Bobby’s stature in the game can earn fortunes in the media – post playing days. On the 14th February 1993 he publicly announced he was suffering from bowel and liver cancer. Ten days later on the 24th February 1993 Bobby Moore passed away aged just 51. Within hours the gates of Upton Park became a shrine as West Ham fans left scarves and memorabilia there as a mark of respect and remembrance. Shortly after his death, what was the old South Bank at West Ham was renamed the Bobby Moore stand as a tribute to our fallen hero.

In the years that have followed, the name Bobby Moore has become iconic once again in the lives of all West Ham fans. In 1993 The Bobby Moore Fund was formed by Bobby’s second wife Stephanie Moore. A charity to raise money for research into bowel cancer and to raise awareness of the disease. In 2002 Bobby was made an inaugural inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame. A year later Prince Andrew unveiled a sculpture of Bobby Moore holding the Jules Rimet trophy near the Boleyn ground at the junction of Green St and Barking Road. Bobby is shown on the shoulders of Geoff Hurst and Ray Wilson together with Martin Peters. In the same year he was selected by the FA as the Golden Player of England as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years. In 2007 a statue of Bobby was unveiled outside of the new Wembley, looking down Wembley Way. Dubbed the “Colossus of Wembley” the statue contains a moving inscription. “Immaculate footballer, Imperial defender, Immortal hero of 1966, First Englishman to raise the World Cup aloft, National Treasure, Master of Wembley, Lord of the game, Captain extraordinary, Gentleman for all time” As a mark of respect the following year West Ham retired the number six shirt that Bobby made had made his own for 16 years. The last official number six shirt was given to Stephanie Moore.

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The club now use the “Moore than a football club” slogan in much of their advertising. The years since his passing still have us remembering each anniversary of his death. But at the same time it allows those of us lucky enough to have watched him in our younger days, remember the many great times watching Bobby in a West Ham or England shirt. In my first years of going to Upton Park I used to stand down behind the North Bank goal. I can still visualise him standing guard at the near post at corners, so near I could almost reach out and touch him. Always concentrating, always impeccable. Even the way he led the team out holding the ball in an imperious way over the top of his hip demonstrated the man was all class. The little jig he did with Jimmy Greaves after the two of them became entangled in the centre circle during a match against Spurs still makes me smile as I reminisce. Oh they were wonderful days – thank you Bobby.


Tony Hanna's Musings

Who to keep and who to sell?

If rumours are to be believed Manuel Pellegrini will get around a £65 million transfer kitty plus any incoming monies from player sales to spend on new arrivals. Some fans have called for a mass clear out within the squad but I doubt very much whether that will happen – at least to the degree some might wish for. Others, like myself, can see the validity of moving on a more manageable number of players and here are my thoughts on which ones we should keep and which ones we should move on. It is all hypothetical so feel free to agree or disagree. When the window shuts prior to the first game of the season I will follow up this article with one that critiques the present views.

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Goalkeepers

I would keep Adrian. It will depend on the full transfer kitty available whether there is value in paying 20-30m for a new keeper when there are much greater priorities with regard to strengthening the team. We will definitely have to spend some dosh on at least an understudy unless Pellegrini identifies a good loan or a free transfer move in the market. Despite Hart enjoying some of his best years under Pellegrini at City, it would be a huge surprise if his loan deal at the Hammers was renewed by his old boss. Youngster Trott will inevitably be kept as third choice.

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Defenders

Zabaletta still has one year to go on his contract. He is another player who played in Man City’s title win under Pellegrini. It makes little sense to sell at this point of time as even if the manager wants to sign a first choice right back, Zab would make a great back up – keep. I doubt any West Ham fan wants the club to sell Rice but there may be quite a few that would move Reid on given his injury record. However, with a lucrative long term contract in his pocket I doubt very much that he is going anywhere, but we did manage to move both Fonte and Ayew to pastures new in the last window so never say never! I would sell – if the opportunity arose. Players who have hamstring problems, especially later in their careers, will spend more time in “physio room” than on the pitch. Antonio, who will feature later in this article is another player who falls into this category. Ogbonna had an excellent season and will be a keep for me. There is a lot of sentiment for James Collins at the moment and quite rightly so. On a small contract with bonuses for appearances, I would – keep. Based on tweets from ex players in the past few days though, confirming Ginge was let go, I doubt he will be in the equation for next season. Cresswell is an interesting one. He has been poor at full back in recent times but can deliver a good cross and free kick. Since moving next to Ogbonna in a back three he has performed much better and he does seem to have built a good understanding with Masuaku. I am on the fence a bit with “Cressy” but I have my suspicions that the new boss may want to play four at the back and on that basis I would – sell. On to Masuaku and before his indiscretion at Wigan he was fast becoming a fan favourite. Arthur had been in most fans top three picks for HOTY at the time. We missed his drive forward for six matches but he is no left back either and if he is to remain a first team regular under Pellegrini it would probably be as a left sided midfielder – keep. Byram comes under the Reid and Antonio banner – sell.

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Midfielders

Noble will not be sold but if Pellegrini spends big on two quality midfielders it could relegate Mark to becoming a fringe player. It will be interesting to see how this situation pans out. Kouyate was one of the first names on the team sheet a few seasons ago but since Payet’s departure his performances have become inconsistent and erratic. There is no doubt he still has the engine but whether he has the ball control and skills required in a Pellegrini midfield is doubtful. There is still a good fee to be had so – sell. Pellegrini’s arrival will almost certainly whet the appetite of fellow South American Lanzini. In an advanced role behind Arnautovic, and when fully fit, it is an exciting combination. Keep. Mario’s loan deal is now over and if we can get the player on another loan deal, or buy at around 20-25m I would – buy. Young Fernandes is another who missed much of the season with injury. We did see what a good player he could become in the match at home to Southampton, but there have been too many other games where he has not delivered. He still makes a good squad player – keep. Obiang is another who has had injury problems over the past two seasons. Fit and at his best he is ok, but is he really at the level we need to be if we want to become a top ten team? I doubt it –sell. Antonio is bordering on the midfield or the striker section. I was excited with his arrival from Forest after seeing his rampaging runs, tearing apart Championship defences. We have seen some cameos of the same at West Ham but too often he has been played out of position. Right back or right wing back exposes his defensive weaknesses and whilst he scares the death out of centre backs when he has played as a striker, his finishing and final ball options are often poor. He reminds me a bit of Ayew in that – ‘what really is his best position’ – and for me it is wide right of an attacking three and I doubt we will ever play that formation. Given he would command a good fee and taking into consideration his hamstring problems –sell. Robert Snodgrass has been on loan at Aston Villa and I would be surprised if West Ham knocked back any acceptable offer considering certain unwise twitter comments that were made public earlier on in the season. Sell.

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Forwards This will be interesting! Arnautovic, our top scorer and HOTY is an obvious keep. I doubt too many will disagree. Hugill is one of the strangest signings since Savio. Good judges I know who have actually seen him play more than late substitution roles tell me his control and first touch is to put it mildly, not that good. Perhaps he was a security blanket signing should we have got relegated, I don’t know. Whatever we can get for him – sell. Now to the two players who will probably cause the most disagreement between our readers. Andy Carroll. We all know his injury record and we all know how good he can be at his best. The much maligned striker only has one more year of what was initially a very lucrative contract to run. He will be a free agent after this next season and I would suggest any suiter’s would have to cough up around 10-15m should they want to buy during this summer window. This really is one I am on the fence with but at a push I would – keep. Hernandez is probably one that will divide opinions even more. Right from day one I was one of the few that doubted he would be a success at West Ham. I wrote the same in an article at the time and even made bets with fellow fans that he would not achieve goal targets. Yet some fans believe he is the best striker we have had in years and it was down to Moyes and Bilic not playing him in the right position or system that saw him have a season he would like to forget. In reality, in today’s PL is he ever going to be anything more than a super sub? That is what football is often all about – opinions. My opinion is –sell. I doubt either Carroll or Hernandez will be happy at the thought that they probably won’t be automatic starters next season. It was doubted that the latter would stay at the club because of this and he would push for a move but under Pellegrini I think it more likely that AC may be sold and Hernandez be assured of more game time. I watched a youtube clip of Pellegrini the other day and he stated that he believed that there were three things he needed to install in the players minds at clubs he managed. One of those things was to make all players in the squad realise and accept that they all had an important role in the team, even if they weren’t being selected. All the players need to believe in a common goal, where everyone feels important. The video is below.

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Youngsters Oxford and Burke are ones where I would grab any reasonable fee we can. The former’s attitude appears to be a problem and the latter needs to be moved on for the good of his own career in my opinion. Cullen, Haksabanovic, Browne and Quina will most likely be given more time as squad players and it will be interesting to see what lies ahead for Samuelson and Martinez. In my “sell” choices there are only two players who played regularly in the second half of the season, Cresswell and Kouyate and I would imagine we would get around 30m for the pair. Senior players who either spent too much time on the bench or in the physio room could command up to 65m. They were Reid, Obiang, Antonio and Hernandez. Out on loan player Snodgrass may fetch 10m. Fringe players and youngsters in Byram, Hugill, Oxford and Burke could possibly collect 25m. I doubt all those players mentioned would be moved on, but if they were Pellegrini’s 60m transfer kitty would be bolstered to around 190m to buy around eight or nine new players. Considering that I would imagine we would also still be looking for a few loan deals and possibly some “frees”, I reckon our new manager has got a good platform from which to work from.


Tony Hanna's Musings

Thumbs Up to Moyes

Last week I was each way on my opinion of whether West Ham should continue with David Moyes beyond this season. I am at the point now where I really hope he gets a new contract. When he was appointed I am sure most of us would have taken 13th and 42 points in a heartbeat? The football we played against Everton on the weekend was delightful and the way Arnie, Lanzini and Mario linked together was hopefully a taster of what is to come next season. But on reflection the advantage Moyes holds now is that he knows the players inside out. He knows what the team can do and what it can’t. He knows where we need to improve and he knows who is surplus to requirements. Get a new manager in now and he won’t know any of this until he has got games under his belt and the likelihood will be that our summer transfer budget will be spent on hopefully the best players we can buy in our budget, but without the knowledge of who we really need to get the best out of the team. So it is a thumbs up for David Moyes from me. Personally, I would keep Adrian as number one next season. To get a top keeper will be expensive and I just don’t see the need when the money is best spent elsewhere. The central defensive midfield role is the top priority and I would also like to see Mario signed on a permanent deal or at least for an extended year-long loan. As for signings, one of the first ones I would try and get done is Craig Dawson from West Brom. He is a quality defender who can play full back or as a central defender.

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Back in mid-November when David Moyes became manager I asked in my article for your predicted finishing positions in the league. We were currently 18th in the table. Forty seven of you had a crack and there were five people who correctly predicted 13th. They were; Heedsy, Iron Mike, Milk Man, Dave Innots and Rob who had a cheeky double chance 13th/14th tip. There were a few including myself that missed by one; the others were hammermolder, Hammertime Mikey, Tom, IronFish, Daz and Paul Smith. Peter Jameson was the only one who had us getting relegated which is remarkable considering our plight at the time so I am sure he is very pleased to get the wooden spoon! Thanks to all for having a go.

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So, it is goodbye to West Brom, Stoke and Swansea. At the beginning of the season I doubt many would have predicted that trio in its entirety getting relegated, especially with Brighton and Huddersfield in the frame. Which leads me to reconfirm one of my strong view points on relegation matters. I wrote an article a few years ago titled “Is three up, three down fair?” I followed that up this season with a similar piece. Last week I wrote an article “Survival in the League of Fourteen.” For those who missed it that article focused on how the PL has now become two divisions in one. An elite group of six with a separate division of fourteen clubs who are basically playing with a singular goal of avoiding the drop. When I started going to football in the 1960’s there were 22 clubs in the top flight, a league we fondly remember as the old first division. Every season two teams were relegated (9%) and the top two from the 2nd division took their place. The 1960’s through to 1980 was an era where up to fourteen teams every season had some slither of a chance of winning the title when the competition started. In the 23 seasons from 1958 to 1981 there were no fewer than 13 different Champions. I saw Manchester United, Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester City all relegated. Forward to today and we now have twenty teams, a reduction of two, yet an increase up to three teams who will be replaced each season. With the elite six having no chance of being relegated that effectively means three from fourteen (21.4%) will drop – quite an increase from 9%. But when you get a season like this one when none of the clubs that were promoted last season have been relegated and none of last seasons relegated teams are promoted back, it effectively means in just two seasons that SIX of the fourteen bottom dwellers (42.8%) have changed. Middlesbrough could alter that stat if they are promoted through the play offs but I hope you see where I am going here? The effect relegation has on clubs is awful. Already we have clubs and forum sites looking at the lists of players at Stoke, Swansea and West Brom to see what players will be easy pickings. This whole scenario is only making this league of fourteen more unstable and the top six are loving it. Their financial stability and growth means they will grow even more powerful at the expense of the others whilst this system is in place.

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The transfer news is very thin on the ground at present and I would imagine the decision on David Moyes tenure at the club will play a significant part on any early dealings. Here are some early odds that I am sure will fluctuate over the next week or so.

Manuel Lanzini is 1-2 (66%) to remain at West Ham with Liverpool at 5/2 (28%) for his signature. Looks like this could be a bit of re-run of the winter window, hopefully with the same result.
Joe Hart his future seems as up in the air as it was before he signed his loan deal with the Hammers last year. Celtic are 3/1 (25%) favourites and we are second favourites at 6/1 (14%) which just goes to show I think the bookies are just guessing as much as Joe is at present.
Craig Dawson is 14/1 (6.67%) to join the Hammers with Newcastle and Celtic the early favourites to sign a player who I think would be a great acquisition for our club.
Marouane Fellaini is 7/1 (12.5%) to become a West Ham player although the way the market is framed I think the bookies have as much of a clue about where he will end up as they do Joe Hart.
Shaqiri has a number of clubs showing interest after Stokes relegation and Everton currently lead the pack. West Ham are quoted at 6/1 (14%).

Elsewhere Spurs at 5/4 (44%) are leading the chase for Alfie Mawson and our January interest in him seems to have waned. Antoine Griezmann looks Barcelona bound and Liverpool are strong favourites to sign Jack Butland and Nabil Fekir. Burnley lead a pack of clubs for West Broms Jay Rodriguez whilst Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez could end up at either Man City or Chelsea.


Tony Hanna's Musings

Surviving in the League of Fourteen

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Piece of cake! I am not sure what all the fuss was about and why many Hammers fans were getting so anxious. Even at the Burnley game the fans were lobbing money at the owners to help with next seasons Premier League war chest. They knew. Two more wins this week and we will break into the top half of the division. Seriously though, I had a little play with the PL table predictor and two more wins would probably put us 10th. We did actually look like a decent side again at Leicester, not dissimilar to the performance at home to Southampton. Both these teams weren’t at their best but often that can be put down to how well the opposition performs. I know some of you understand the bookies odds I post quite often on things like relegation and transfer markets, but I realise it goes over the top of the heads of others. But the one thing you get from the bookies, especially on things like the relegation markets, is an unemotional professional opinion based on stats, data and the most likely probabilities using a plethora of computer based information. They don’t always get it right but they are generally more accurate than the fan who has that emotional attachment. The bookies have had the Hammers at 14/1 (6.5% chance) and longer in the relegation market for several weeks now, whilst I would guess that at least half on here (50% chance) had us going down over the same period. It is the reason I like to post the bookies odds on a regular basis, to bring some perspective. However, even I must admit to doubting the bookies at times during the back end of this season. Looking at some stats before the Leicester game it showed we had only won two out of our last twelve games. However, if you ignored games played against the top six we had 4W 3D 3L in our past ten and after the weekends result you can now make that 5 wins from our past 11 against the league of fourteen.

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Over the weekend I listened to the Leicester and Everton fans singing for their current managers to, well to put it mildly, leave. Both clubs were in peril early on in the season. In particular, Everton had spent large chunks on improving their squad with the money gained from the sale of Lukaku and together with Leicester were under achieving compared to club and fans expectations. Like us, they both decided to part with their managers prior to the New Year with Puel replacing Shakespear and Allardyce replacing Koeman (although in between former player Unsworth was given a trial run in the job). Everton and Leicester currently sit 8th and 9th whilst we have now avoided the drop after replacing Bilic for Moyes. For those two teams to now be sitting in the top half of the league and their fans not being satisfied just goes to show how tough a task it is for any manager to appease the modern day fan. Whilst we have the inequality of the super power top six and the bottom feeding league of fourteen it will remain the same. The fans of the clubs that have been in the league of 14 the longest will demand more –and that includes us. We want good football as well as results but in this league of fourteen, three teams will be relegated every season. That is a just over a whopping 20% turnover of clubs every season. That’s pressure! Everton fans hate the football being dished up by Sam but forget the hole they were in when he took over. On the flip side you get a side like Burnley. Happy to be in the PL but from a neutral point of view they are dire to watch. They remind me of Stoke when they were first promoted. Happy with any dross served up as long as they remain in the top flight. However, given a few seasons of success in retaining their PL status they will turn on the manager unless the style changes and in a couple more seasons they will probably be just where Stoke are now.

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Which brings us to us. Several months ago most of us would have settled for safety. We have got it. A week ago there seemed to be a divide in the dressing room. Now we have photos of player camaraderie all over social network sites – overjoyed with what it meant to them to secure our spot in the Premier League for another season. We started the season with three consecutive away games because we don’t own our own stadium anymore which put us on the back foot right from the start of the season. We have sacked a manager, only the 15th in our history. We have had organised protest marches cancelled and there have been organised pitch invasions carried out. It has been quite a roller coaster season. One I personally will be glad to see the back of. Stoke are relegated and almost certainly West Brom – one of Southampton, Swansea and Huddersfield will join them. Should Swansea survive 10% of the PL will be Welsh next season.. Oh the fun and the thought of watching a Burnley v Cardiff match makes me cringe. Whether Moyes will be manager next season may well depend on how the players play out the last two games of the season. The owners need to make their decision on this position as soon as possible. After the season we have endured as fans I think the players owe us two ripping performances. There is no pressure now and if we meekly cave in during these two games I would be seriously questioning whether Moyes is the right man for the job. We have a World Cup looming in a few weeks and this year the summer transfer window will close before the start of the season leaving much less time for transfer deals to be completed. A good idea in my opinion and over the next few months I will occasionally be writing up my transfer market “bookies updates” for the site.


Tony Hanna's Musings

Tensions rising as we enter the final week

The last nine days of the PL season are fast approaching and to be honest I can’t wait until it is all over. New broom and all that springs to mind. Three games; away to Leicester, home to the Moaning ones and Everton are the last course of what has mostly been an unpalatable season. One more win or two draws should be enough to see us survive but I know a lot of our fans are expecting the same menu to be dished up next season. Our odds of staying up barely flinched despite the result on the weekend and this was based on the fact the bookies expected nothing less than a comprehensive Manchester City victory and had factored their prices for same. Before the game on the blog I wrote that I would take a 2-0 defeat right then to protect our goal difference. Dan Coker backed me up and whilst we both wanted a better performance from our team we were both being realistic. Whilst saying taking a 2-0 defeat prior to the event sounds defeatist, it was a hypothetical viewpoint and it does not mean you accept defeat –it just means as a fan you hope for the best but fear the worst. It didn’t start well with our “guard of honour.” What the hell was that about? I can understand it happening on the day they are crowned but anything after, especially for a team fighting relegation, is absurd.

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I won’t dwell on our game against City. Dave and HH have written their views in the past couple of days and I have little to add other than the ref disallowing Arnie’s goal was a disgraceful decision and taking goalkeeper protection rules way too far. I was also disappointed when Evra was picked ahead of Masuaku and my annoyance only increased when that players deflection started the rot. Evra has started three times for the Hammers now, all for 4-1 losses. What is most concerning to me though is there seems to be an underlying discontent within the playing group. There are several players who look quite disinterested and I just don’t get the vibe – the group isn’t putting in anywhere near the effort our supporters deserve. Stoke City lack the quality we have and will probably go down, but watch their games and tell me their players don’t care. They are giving it their all. I can’t say that about West Ham at the moment. Apparently, now we have Andy Carroll walking off down the tunnel before the end of the game because he was an unused sub. Rumours abound that he was sent home from training on Monday. I like to see players show emotion but it has to be tempered with the right team ethos. Moyes has been openly critical of players in recent weeks and there is little doubt tensions are high behind the scenes. All this when we really need everyone pulling together. We rarely handle three games in a week well and it is likely we will use the majority of our fringe players at some stage next week so we need them all to be correctly focused.

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A few weeks ago I was torn between wanting Moyes to stay as manager next season or not – not that my thoughts carry any weight but hey, we all like to have an opinion. Last week I wrote that I thought he would be given at least a year providing we stay up. It is fair to say that he is still working with the previous managers team, not his own, but if the January window signings of Evra and Hugill are anything to go by I am rather sceptical that he is what we need. Moyes joined at a time when many thought Bilic was taking us down. It is hypothetical as to what would have happened but apart from the wins against Stoke, Huddersfield and Southampton I have not enjoyed what I have seen under his tenure. At one point we moved up to 11th and whilst we were not clear of the relegation zone points wise, we did seem to be comfortably edging away from the drop zone. Since those heady days it has become quite bland at best. Whoever does manage us next season will have a task ahead as unless there are some considerable changes I fear what may be put off this season will come home to roost next season. There must also be a full scale investigation using independent experts in their field into why we are having so many injuries at the club. When something keeps happening season after season, to a greater degree than the majority of our opponents, there just has to be an underlying reason. Whether it is buying the wrong players, keeping the wrong players, training grounds, incorrect warm ups and warm downs, training techniques, how players handle their physical well being – all these questions must be asked together with do we have the correct medical team in place? I still recall another West Ham fan site writing last August that the signing of Gary Lewin could be the best signing of the season. I shook my head at the time but hoped they were right. I don’t think they were.

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Just a recap of what lies ahead next week and the odds for what set of supporters will be crying on the last day of the season;

West Brom (36 games 28 points) are making a remarkable end of season surge. Too late for them though and they have Spurs (h) and Palace (a) left to play and the bookies aren’t even pricing them in the markets.

Stoke City (36 games 30 points) are still scrapping but are just so toothless up front. Their two remaining games are Palace (h) and Swansea (a), the latter could be a last day cup final of sorts for both teams. Bookies price is 1/10 for the drop. Put ten quid on to win a quid in other words.

Southampton (35 games 32 points) are showing good recovery signs. Of all the teams at the bottom they are the ones I personally want to see go down, but my guess is they won’t. They are left with Everton (a), Swansea (a) and their only home game remaining is Man City on the final day of the season. The exchanges have them at 5/4 (44% chance) for the drop which is a bit more generous than the Corporate bookies who have them even money (50%).

Swansea (35 games 33 points) play Bournemouth (a) and then have critical home games against Southampton and Stoke to come and likely hold the key to who goes down. Bookies have them at 5/2 (28%) to be playing Championship football next season.

Huddersfield (35 games 35 points) have the toughest run in and losing at home to Everton on the weekend was a huge blow for them as a win would have almost certainly made them safe. They finish the season with Man City (a), Chelsea (a) and Arsenal (h) which will be Arsene Wenger’s last game in charge at the Gunners unless they reach the Europa League final which is scheduled a few days later. Reaching the final or not will have a huge impact on how seriously Arsenal take this game. Reach the final and Arsenal will have their minds (and best players) elsewhere – miss the final and they will be up for the Huddersfield game as Wenger bows out. The bookies have Huddersfield at 13/8 (38%) to go down.

West Ham (35 games 35 points) have Leicester (a), Moan Utd (h) and bogey team Everton (h) left to play. The bookies rate us as a 14/1 (6.67%) chance.

Just a side note here. Littlefork has been a poster on here since 2013 and whilst I don’t know the fella he has always been a well mannered and balanced poster on the site. Yesterday he posted the following; “Life’s hard atm for the littlefork family as eldest grandson is fighting bacterial meningitis. Out of immediate danger through cranial surgery but a long way to go. Positive thoughts from the west ham family please”. To one of our own I send best wishes from the WHTID family


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