Tony Hanna's Musings

Who's Going Down?

Statistically, there is still 21% of the season remaining for West Ham. In real terms, eight matches with five at home and three away. We only leave London once for a game at Leicester and in addition we have difficult away games at Arsenal and Chelsea where any points will be a bonus. We also have both Manchester clubs to play at the OS. For weeks now we have all been looking for the results of the other teams around us and hoping results go our way. If you are like me I have even been cheering on Spurs when they have played the likes of Palace and Huddersfield recently. Every little bit helps. Our destiny is in our own hands at the moment and we can only hope it stays that way. A loss against Southampton and it will not be. Every time one of the bottom half teams gets a couple of wins or a win and a draw, the points gained shoot them up the table and the feeling of impending safety sets in. When a few losses occur they are back in the mire again. That is the effect of so many teams being in the same scrap. Since that brilliant win at Huddersfield in mid-January we have taken five points from an available twenty one and we have slipped from 11th to 17th. So what is the relegation landscape looking like for the others? Here are the bookies odds and the run home for each of the clubs involved.

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West Brom are now dead and buried. With 20 points and seven games left they could mathematically still avoid the drop but they have only won three PL games all season and incredibly two of them were the first two games of the season!

Stoke City on 27 points are priced at 4/11 (73% chance) for the drop. They have played one more game than most now due to playing and getting beaten by Everton on the weekend. Their remaining fixtures are Arsenal (a), Spurs (h), West Ham (a), Burnley (h), Liverpool (a), Palace (h) and Swansea (a). I have watched them a few times recently and they are playing better than what their results are showing. Going down to ten men so early in the weekend game at home to Everton was a real blow for them.

Southampton on 28 points are priced at 9/4 (30%). Because of our reversed fixture with them at the start of the season, giving us the imbalance of three away games to start the campaign and the Saints three home games, that comes home to roost right now. It means West Ham now play five of their remaining eight at home but Southampton only have three of their remaining eight at home. Their run in is West Ham (a), Arsenal (a), Chelsea (h), Leicester (a), Bournemouth (h), Everton (a) and on the final day of the season they host Manchester City (h). They also have a fixture at Swansea (a) where no date has been determined as yet. They have taken the gamble to change manager at a late stage of the season, so whether Mark Hughes can orchestrate a “new manager bounce” will be crucial to their chances. They looked poor at Wigan on the weekend but did get a win there – something we and Man City failed to do in recent months. Taking away the two wins against bottom club West Brom, they have only won three other PL games this season which includes that 3-2 win against 10 man West Ham. Despite only recording 5 wins they can be difficult to beat as indicated by the fact they have drawn 13 matches this season – the highest amount in the League.

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Crystal Palace won on the weekend and move to 30 points which is the same as us but they are one place ahead due to a superior goal difference. The bookies make them a 7/1 chance (12.5%) for relegation. They are rated more than twice as likely to stay up than us, despite them being on the same points and having played one more game. This is obviously down to their remaining fixtures where they only have to play one more top six side. Their remaining seven fixtures are Liverpool (h), Bournemouth (a), Brighton (h), Watford (a), Leicester (h), Stoke (a) and West Brom (h). This really is the easiest run in of all the teams involved in the relegation battle. Theoretically, at least four of the teams they are yet to play should have very little to play for in terms of Europe or relegation. If Brighton win either of their next two games, both at home, you can make that five. They still have the very influential Zaha to return and for me they are the most unlikely side in the bottom six to get relegated despite being 19th in the form table (the table using only the past eight fixtures and designed to evaluate current form).

Huddersfield lost again on the weekend and are just one point ahead of us on 31 points having played one more game. The bookies rate them a 6/4 chance (40%) to bounce straight back to the Championship. Their remaining fixtures are Newcastle (a), Brighton (a), Watford (h), Chelsea (a), Everton (h), Man City (a) and Arsenal (h). Since the turn of the year the Terriors have beaten Bournemouth and West Brom and drawn with Swansea. They have lost every other PL game in 2018 and are 18th on the form table.

Swansea are on 31 points just one ahead of us but are 5th on the form table. Fifteen points and just one loss in the last eight has taken them from long odds on to go down to a current price of 9/2 (18%). They finish the season with Man Utd (a), West Brom (a), Everton (h), Man City (a), Chelsea (h), Bournemouth (a) and Stoke (h). They also have that to be arranged fixture with Southampton (h) to be determined. It is hard to fathom where Swansea are at the moment. Will their recent good run of form falter or continue? They face three of the big five in the run in but also have a couple of very winnable games.

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Newcastle are on 32 points and sit in 13th position in the Premier League. They are 20/1 (4.76%) to do the yoyo. Whilst they look safe you can never say never but their remaining fixtures are Huddersfield (h), Leicester (a), Arsenal (h), Everton (a), West Brom (h), Watford (a), and Chelsea (h). They also have an away game at Spurs where a date is to be arranged. I fancied Newcastle to go down at the start of the season but it looks like they will prove me wrong. The form of Shelvey and Diame in recent weeks has really turned their fortunes around. This pair of in-form midfielders have really given them a good balance.

Brighton are four points above us on 34 points and are rated a 25/1 chance (3.85%) to be relegated. They are 8th in the form table with 11 points from the past eight matches. Their run in is Leicester (h), Huddersfield (h), Palace (a), Spurs (h), Burnley (a), Man Utd (h) and they play Liverpool (a) on the final day of the season. They have one fixture with no date set as well which is Man City (a).

Watford and Bournemouth (both on 36 points) look to have done enough to keep them safe now and both are priced at 100/1 for the drop. So what of us then?

West Ham are on 30 points and we are priced at 5/2 (28%) to be relegated. Our remaining fixtures are Southampton (h), Chelsea (a), Stoke (h), Arsenal (a), Man City (h), Leicester (a) and Everton (h). We also have Man Utd (h) where a date is to be determined. I still think 37 points will be safe this season and it is possible 36 may be enough too. Most seasons we see one or two teams surge and play themselves out of the relegation battle with a handful of games to go. Swansea’s run has come early but at present the bottom six in the PL are also the bottom six of the “form table”. I think it is anyone’s guess at the moment. If you want another go at predicting what will happen click here

Guest Post

Can the West Ham fans ever be United?

Guest post by The Original Russ

I was disappointed last week when the march was finally called off. Not just because it felt as though by doing so the board had in some way won, but because I felt it was important for the fans to show that they could be united.

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Andy Swallow, Mickey Morgan and others had done a great job in pulling together such large numbers of fans when they started the Real Fans Action Group and announcing the march. Other supporters groups joined forces and within a very short space of time we had a huge, united body of fans ready to tell the board what they thought. It was the large numbers and threat of the march that brought the board to the table and to make concessions on what the fans wanted, small numbers or splinter groups would never have got to where these guys got to in so short a time. The board had to divide the fans to win the battle which ultimately they did. Now we are left with fragmented bits, no cohesion and a board that are free to do as they wish once again.

So what is the way, for surely the fans need a voice and need to be heard. The promises and concessions gained by The Real West Ham Fans Action Group and the groups that joined together with it was in my opinion a great start and I never expected that to happen. But it is only that, a great start. My own view is that all of the fan groups have to come together again, to unite under one banner to again show strength to the board and let them know we aren’t going to go away and we will be holding them to account on the promises they made. The fan groups fell out, threats and allegations were made towards specific leading figures of those groups, it all became a mess, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be united again. Whether that is under a new name created and agreed by the relevant groups or whether that is under the WHUISA banner, the leaders of these groups have to start talking and it has to happen.

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The reason I chose WHUISA as the united body is simply because it is a properly set up organisation with an elected committee, a stated constitution and is already affiliated to the FSF. Those things are important as it legitimises the organisation and can call on the FSF to help. In the minutes of the last meeting it was telling that Tara Warren said WHUISA `was hard to deal with and had no agenda`. That’s a bad starting point. In my opinion what needs to happen is for anyone on the committee of WHUISA that was involved with the meetings that were had with the board and has been tainted, fairly or unfairly by the allegations made during the fall out from the march to step down, a new head be appointed of WHUISA and then representatives from the other fan groups be invited to join the WHUISA committee. A clear agenda and aims need to be set and agreed by all and a plan formulated on how those aims with be achieved.

Its not going to be a 5 minute job and it will require dedicated West Ham supporters that want the best for the club and supporters. What we don’t need are personal agendas and egos. A new date needs to be set for a march, sometime early in the new season when the board can again see the strength of the united fans and also know that if they don’t fulfil their promises they will be held to account. This should be a peaceful march to show strength, not a protest march. With more time to plan even greater numbers could attend. Work with the media who seem to be very much `pro` the fans, get some support from celebrity West Ham fans, ex players, those that can raise the profile of the supporters group, give it a louder voice. The board aren’t going to sell the club anytime soon and if things carry on as they are, who in their right minds are going to want to buy a toxic club? Even if someone does buy it they are not going to knock it down and they aren’t going to build a new one. We have to be realistic, we cant go back to Upton Park, many will never forgive or forget what they have done but we have to move forward. We are at the OS and that won’t change. The fans need to unite, build bridges with the board and a make this club the one we want to support. Show how powerful we can be, show how formidable and intimidating we can be to the opposition, and not cause our team to self destruct.

Since the last meeting and the cancellation of the march the club have said they will only meet with the SAB – this is unacceptable. The SAB is a focus group of fans selected by the board, they do not represent the fans or their views. The club need to understand that this isn’t acceptable and that they have to engage on a regular basis with representatives from an independent supporters group. The fans must unite and once they have, the board must acknowledge them.

Tony Hanna's Musings

Siege mentality or couldn't care less?

After last weekend I feel it is a blessing that we have a three week break until our next game. Hopefully it will be a period of time where at least the worst of the dust will settle. Normally I hate these International breaks but for once it couldn’t have come at a better time. I first started attending matches at West Ham over 50 years ago but Saturday was the first time I felt ashamed of what our club has become as I watched the scenes unfold. As I wrote in my article last week “I must admit to feeling as low as I ever have about supporting West Ham” – the feeling has sunk to an even deeper level in just a few days. Whilst I will never stop supporting the Hammers, I am really questioning my personal investment of time and energy in all things West Ham.

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If Lanzini had slotted home his one on one with the keeper I doubt those nasty scenes would have even eventuated. For the first hour of the match there was only one team that was going to win, and it wasn’t Burnley, although the more the game went on it had a draw written all over it. Hypothetically, Ashley Barnes could hit his shot twenty times and nineteen would miss the target. Unfortunately for us he struck gold this time. It has been a similar story for a couple of seasons. After riding our luck in the Payet season where things just seemed to go our way so many times, the past two seasons we have rarely got the rub of the green. On the positive side West Brom just about ensured their relegation with a 4-1 home loss to Leicester leaving just two instead of three remaining trap door relegation places. Losses for Southampton, Stoke and Palace ensured there is still a three point buffer between us and eighteenth so things could have been worse. The matter of relegation is still in our hands but we need to find a win somehow or we will start to need to rely on other clubs results as well as our own. I dread to think what might happen if we go a goal down to Southampton in our next match!

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The manager must take a slice of the blame for our current form. We have players that are not up to standard and haven’t been for while, yet nothing was done in the January transfer window. It might be a difficult window to operate in but the Championship will be an even more difficult place to operate from. Letting Fonte and Ayew go were good deals financially but poor squad wise. Adequate replacements should have been at least a prerequisite. Hart made two awful mistakes again and one led to a goal. Cresswell is so timid he shouldn’t be anywhere near a Premier League club. Collins has been a great servant and still gives his all, but again he is not PL standard. Noble is a great trier but seriously lacks pace. All West Ham fans know that Antonio is no right wing back yet Moyes thinks he will be better at left wing back! In my opinion many of our players are either already getting their agents to find them new clubs for next season or, at the very least, have already given up on this season. Four of our last eight matches are against top six sides and whilst we only venture outside of London once for the rest of the season I will be very surprised if we stay up. I can only imagine that Jordan Hugill has been bought in case we go down and what was Moyes thinking when bringing in Evra, especially on higher wages than some of our established players. What message does that send? Whilst he is prone to the odd bad mistake I really think we have missed Masuaku’s drive forward on the left. He will be available for selection against Southampton and Moyes simply must select him.

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David Moyes is taking advantage of the three week break and is taking the team away for a short warm weather break in Miami. This is an opportunity to install a siege mentality within the playing group. If he can do this we still have hope. If the players don’t care where they are playing next season it will be a worthless exercise. Back in my playing days I remember the bonding effect that a team getaway could have and I am sure if done in the right spirit the benefits when it is done at a professional level could be significant. Three weeks without a game will hopefully bring a freshness to the squad and be a time for a refocus.

Five of our remaining eight games are at home and tensions I am sure will get high at times. If the support in the ground becomes toxic Moyes must have the players prepared with an “us and them” siege mentality. In some ways even raise their game further when times become more trying. As I alluded to earlier though, I don’t think too many of them have the stomach for it. I hope they prove me wrong. Often our home support has come to the rescue in the past and raised the roof in times of need, but at the moment Moyes and the team can’t rely on that. Trevor Brooking said after the game that unhappy fans should stay away from the last five home matches. Unfortunately, I think that is unlikely and the ones that will stay away are the ones that have just had enough of the shenanigans.

Guest Post

Not the best away day

Guest post by Voice of Reason

Saturday 3rd March – Swansea away

In attendance: BSB, VoR, The OriginalRuss, Barney Magrew. Tickets also purchased for Irons 1959 and Safehands.

For 24 hours before the game we endured a logistical nightmare! Irons 1959 had been on a City Break to Venice with his sister who lives in Wales and wanted to go to the game, but we couldn’t get a ticket for her. They were coming back to Bristol Airport on the Friday and we arranged to pick Irons up from his sister’s house near Cardiff on the way to Swansea. All sorted. Safehands had to pull out on Friday, due to forgetting about the heats of the World’s Strongest Man, so we arranged to only take one car. BSB and me would pick up Russ, we would pick up Barney near Chippenham, then Irons and everything is hunky dory. Still sorted. But then Irons and his sister got snowed in at Venice and all hell broke out in our Administration Offices. Numerous texts and emails went back and forth between BSB and Irons before we found out that Irons and Ms Irons were flying back into Gatwick late Friday night and we would be contacted with an update asap. Then Iron’s battery on his phone went flat. He had packed the charger in his sister’s suitcase so that was him out of immediate contact. He used to be a teacher you know. Amazing. Still with me?

I heard nothing before I went to bed and, when I rose from my pit, I luckily checked my emails (which I don’t normally do at that time of the morning) to find one from Irons ordering me to pick his sister up from his house in Ilford at 6.45am and give her a lift home. Failure to do this would result in detention and being banned from games for the rest of the term. Irons had decided that he was not going to the game now as he was too tired. This left us with 2 spare tickets and Iron’s sister didn’t now want one.
From Iron’s house to BSB’s with a lady and a large suitcase on board (I almost wrote a large lady and a suitcase there which really would get me into trouble!), transfer into the BSBmobile, off around the M25 to pick up Russ, down the M4 to meet Barney, drop off Iron’s sister at Newport station so she could get a taxi (I’m not sure she wanted us to be seen loitering around her gaff) and then along to Swansea. So you see what we have to put up with?

Then, of course, it got worse. A shambles of a performance, resulting in a 4-1 loss and every ‘orrible ‘erbert turned up, despite the snow and travel warnings.

Much was made of David Gold being accosted by fans while he was getting back into his roller, but if it is any consolation to him, it was probably worse for us with what was around us in the stadium. They were not complaining about the board, they just lacked, err, a few basic social skills. Although I have to say that there was some world class pointing going on, the best of which came from some bloke in front of us who wanted a Swansea fan removed for “looking at him”. And you know what? That bloke looked at him more than once. Disgusting. A good drive home and thanks to Russ who did the majority of the driving and congratulations to Irons for having the good sense to give it all a miss.

VoR: 6 out of 10 for effort but could do better.

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Tony Hanna's Musings

Three down and the FA Cup

Well that was a shambles wasn’t it? Selling Fonte was financially a good bit of business but when you are left with only three experienced centre backs and two are missing and the other one is crocked after a few minutes it doesn’t quite look so clever. Whatever the injuries though, there was a distinct lack of effort on Saturday. Something we have seen all too often this season. Eleven goals conceded in our past three away games and three points above the relegation zone – these are very worrying times for our club. To add to the woes it appears defenders Winston Reid and Sam Byram are out for the rest of the season with injuries.

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I must admit to feeling as low as I ever have about supporting West Ham. Over fifty years I have seen a few relegations and some tough times but there was always the chance things would get better. I am not sure what “better” really means nowadays. Perhaps it is 11th instead of 14th. The “Payet” season was a once off – every other season seems just a grind to stay in the sanctuary of the top flight. The bottom half of the PL has become a pressure cooker which when any of these teams play each other, with some exceptions, provides football matches where at least one of the teams plays gripped in fear. Often both teams do.

I wrote an article a few years ago suggesting that relegating three teams every season was bad for the game. Most of the responses at the time suggested fans on here preferred three up, three down. Conversely for me it further enriches the rich, whilst the gap between the rich and poor grows bigger. Before the inception of the Premier League in 1992, we had the old first division that consisted of 22 clubs. Each season two teams were relegated and were replaced by the top two in division two. In the Premier League we have reduced the amount of competing teams to twenty, but increased the quantity relegated by 50% to three. The main problem here is that too many clubs go down, and with it comes the financial meltdown that results in those relegated losing their best players and most streams of high revenue. Realistically the parachute payments don’t help much because these teams can rarely keep their best players. All this uncertainty only makes the elite six stronger. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to see fresh blood in the PL each season – just not as much as we are getting. Even a compromise of the team finishing 18th joining the top five teams from the Championship in the play offs would be a better option in my view.

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With their vastly better resources this elite six are safe from relegation. No need to name them, in the Premier League era we all know who they are. That leaves 14 others and just to show the inequality this season – every one of them has a negative goal difference. The team in seventh isn’t even averaging a goal a game! Now, if over a two season period none of the newly promoted teams get relegated we get six new teams bi-annually. That is a 42% turnaround (discounting the top six) of Premier League clubs every two seasons in those circumstances – all in the name of play off revenues and keeping the big six quite firmly in their place. Even if you include the top six it is still a 30% turnaround. Whilst some of the relegated teams do bounce back and the long term familiarity of the teams in the top division may not seem to change too much, the whole process of going down and returning only stunts the ability of these clubs to form any type of assault on the top six or at least create some sort of stability. If you look back at the PL table just five years ago there are seven different teams playing in the PL now which is a 50% turnover of the standard fourteen that feed for the scraps each year.

These top clubs, especially in the Champions League, are playing the sort of football we can only envy at West Ham. The gap is widening all the time as the top players become unaffordable for the also rans, and even if you have the money you don’t have the draw of the Champions League. In a few months time there will be a World Cup. In my younger years that was the equivalent of football heaven even when England hadn’t qualified. A chance to see football at its best. In my opinion the latter stages of the CL provides a better quality game than International football nowadays.

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I can fully understand why many West Ham fans say they would prefer to win the FA Cup than avoid relegation. What other chance do we have of winning something? However, relegation might mean a drop into the abyss. We have seen what it can do to clubs like Coventry, Portsmouth and many others. From a fans perspective those who do not or cannot attend games it would mean not being able to watch our club play every week any more. A spokesperson for the club spouts every year that the aim is to win a Cup this season. Yet, when the teams are announced for the Cup ties we consistently see a weaker team selection than what is being put out in the League. There is no doubt the club has just one priority, and it is not winning a trophy – the Premier League is all that matters. That only makes business sense. I question the often used phrase “would like a good cup run” this season. I wouldn’t. There is not much point in having a good run – I want to win the bloody thing! If we are going to be half hearted about it I would prefer we just bow out in the first round we play. Anyway, what is your preference? Hypothetically, would you sacrifice say five years of playing Premier League, playing in the lower leagues for another FA Cup trophy?

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