The GoatyGav Column
Second week on the spin for disparate subjects but bear with me as there is a link.
In the Burnley match I heard a few choruses of “Super, Super Fab, Super Fab Balbuena!” Before then I was singing a similar song but with Fabianski’s name instead. Seems there might be a bit of competition for who claims that particular chant between ‘The General’ and our Polish number 1.
When he first arrived at the club there was some discussion over whether ?ukasz Fabia?ski would establish himself as first choice between the sticks for us. He had his work cut out, IMO, because of the cult hero status of Adrian. Whatever happens to our current Spanish keeper he’ll always have a special place in our hearts as fans. Yes, he’s been capable of the odd howler of a game, but for the most part he’s proven himself an excellent shot stopper. It’s as much, however, his attitude, clear love for the club and the genuine, heart on the sleeve, honesty of the man that so many of us admire. So when he was displaced by LF the new signing had a job to convince us. I’m pleased to say that the Polish stopper has come through the test with shining colours. He’s been incredible. How much of the Balbuena & Diop confident partnership that’s developing is down to the keeper should not be underestimated. Maybe it’s the other way around? Well – yes, that can be argued but what you can’t deny are so many of the excellent saves that he’s made so far this season.
With Fabianski’s first clean sheet, since the Macclesfield rout in September, now registered I wouldn’t back against the former Poznan, Warsaw, Arsenal and Swansea man to go on to play the best football of his career with us. Now 33 years of age he has the commanding presence that his extensive experience lends him. When you look at some of the saves he’s made since joining you might be mistaken, if you weren’t aware of the fact, in believing he’s much younger – such has been his agility and conditioning.
Successful teams all tend to have a very solid base of the ‘spine’. Our current two Centre Backs and Goalkeeper provide a sound basis to build upon. With all three new signings in these positions now adapting, both to the league, in the case of the outfield positions, and to each other, the confidence seems to grow with each passing game. This weekend the likes of Anderson and Noble, deservedly, took the plaudits. The unsung heroes, however, were Diop and the two ‘Super Fabs’. What remains to be seen, or heard, is whether our Paraguyan defensive rock or our 6ft 3in stopper retains the ‘Super Fab’ chant. Either way it’s, sadly, hard to see Adrian staying beyond January as, at 31 years old, he’s going to want first team football. From a selfish point of view I hope I’m wrong and we manage to retain both goalies but I wouldn’t hold it against the Spaniard for wanting to play more regularly. Whatever happens we’re unlikely to have a keeper who cares as much as Adrian San Miguel del Castillo cares about us again in the future.
One thing that I’m not finding so difficult, away from the thought of losing our glove shedding, penalty scoring, goalkeeping hero is the belief that the team’s confidence can keep growing. I think that 8th position should be the expectation along with a cup run to be proud of. Tonight’s draw saw us pitted against Birmingham, in an excellent home draw, in the 3rd round. Always my favourite footballing weekend of the year the 3rd round is the most dramatic stage of the season for me. The magic of the cup never died in my view. So what if Manchester United once decided to pull out? Who cares if pundits and media suggest it’s had it’s day? The David and Goliath matches where the underdogs punch above their weight, sometimes providing the most theatrical and interesting of shocks and stories (second, maybe, to Leicester’s Premier League win), are where it’s at. The cups also provide clubs like ours with their best opportunity to win silverware. I know I’ve written about this before but this cup, this year, offers a very special chance.
Listening to a sports phone in last night I was amused and entertained by one caller in particular. I have to admit that it was quite easy listening as I smiled wryly at the Manchester Unite fan explaining how he’d ‘had enough’ of the current manager, the way his team is playing, being outside of the top four and the lack of recent success. I couldn’t be absolutely certain but I guessed that the ‘supporter’ was of a certain age that, most probably, meant he grew up in an era when his team were winning awards practically every season. Premier League titles, Champion’s League trophies, Cups and international tournament accolades galore year in year out. The thing that occurred to me was that this fan was completely unaware that periods of footballing triumph go in cycles. Arsenal dominated in the ‘30’s. Liverpool reigned supreme in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. His team, under Alex Ferguson, won the lot in the ‘90’s and noughties. Saying you’ve ‘had enough’ because your team ‘only’ won the League Cup the previous season and are lying in 7th in the league this term provided all the evidence I needed to back up my opinion that this fan was naïve enough to think his team should be dominating ‘ad infinitum’. Sam Allardyce once, foolishly, called us deluded. I don’t think it would be too far off the mark to suggest that many of the same generation of Manchester United fans, to the aforementioned caller to the radio show, are deluded in their belief that they should always be winning games and gongs season after season.
Bringing it back to West Ham I’ve got a gut feeling that the cycle I referred to above is about to turn our way. I’m not saying that we’re going to win anything. I hope with all my heart that we do but I’m convinced that exciting times are ahead for us. As for the very special chance the cup offers us? A good cup run this season could well act as a start of that cyclical return to a highly competitive West Ham and, especially for the West Ham contemporaries of those Manchester United fans who’ve grown up on nothing but success, that’s what we all want.
So off to Cardiff tonight – looking forward to a great game and a couple of beers as I’m not driving :) .
COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!