The GoatyGav Column

In his first few games for West Ham Seb Haller looked the real deal. Even against Man City his movement and interplay with others looked decent and gave us hope that we would, once again, be looking at a striker capable of 15+ top flight goals per season. Carlton Cole’s haul of fifteen, in the 2011-12 season, consisted of fourteen in the Championship and before that Marlon Harewood managed eighteen in the same division, with four others, then sixteen in total, fourteen of which were in the top flight, in consecutive seasons between 2004-’06. The last time a striker managed the feat was in the 1999-2000 season when the mercurial Paulo di Canio netted sixteen in the Premier League.

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It became clear that the negative comments being made towards our record signing were starting to have an effect on him when he spoke out publicly about some sections of support placing blame at his door for the team’s poor form. I remember commenting a few times about how Seb must be wondering what he’s left a successful team, who are playing in Europe, for. The Sun newspaper report broke the story that Haller was upset that he was being portrayed as lazy, that fans were unhappy with his work ethic and expected more from him. I wonder if opinions have changed since the change of shape of the team at St Mary’s last Saturday evening?

In the first half of last weekend’s game you could have been mistaken for thinking that Haller and Antonio had been playing up front together for years. It was a real joy to behold. If their partnership is allowed to flourish we could have a truly potent strike force on our hands. In today’s game it’s very rare that you get the likes of a, 1985-’86 equivalent, Cottee/McAvennie haul but I’d really like to see our current two be given time together to cause the same kind of havoc in opposition defences that they did against Southampton.

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For those who were stating that “there’s a reason the top clubs weren’t in for Haller this Summer,” I’m over the moon for the Frenchman to have shoved those words firmly down the throats of his detractors. In your face nay-sayers!

All Super Seb needed was someone to play off. It’s as plain as day that he cannot operate as a lone striker. He played in an extremely effective front three at Frankfurt. He often acted as a foil for Luka Jovi? or Ante Rebi? with the triumvirate netting an incredible fifty-seven times during last season with Seb hitting twenty of them. This is not a selfish striker but a true team player and a massive asset to our club. He has been adapting to the Premier League and, if allowed to play alongside another front man like he did last weekend, is only going to improve for us.

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Another player who has taken time to adapt but is now showing signs of improvement is Pablo Fornals. He is a truly classy midfielder for me. Technically gifted with great vision and awareness along with a tremendous strike I can only see him getting better and better. With Mark Noble playing so many games, missing very few minutes this season and even fewer in the last six matches, the central midfield area is one that we are going to need plenty of backup in. This season to date Nobes has started fifteen of our seventeen outings in the Prem as well as our solitary League Cup sojourn.

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I know that the lads were hanging on towards the end of the game on Saturday however the overall performance was light years better than we’ve been watching lately. There was a pace and purpose in our passing that I’ve not seen for quite some time – long may it continue!

The ladies match against Bristol City, scheduled for yesterday, was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch (amazing – eh?) however the highlights of the emphatic seven-nil win against Crystal Palace can now be viewed on the official site. click here for the official site page with the video content. Leanne Kiernan headed the opener following a well worked corner, Laura Vetterlein glanced the next home directly from another corner, Adriana Leon capitalised on a sloppy keeper clearance for the third, a sweet strike from outside the box for the fourth was hit by Kenza Dali, a good team goal finished by Kate Longhurst provided the fifth, an absolute top draw peach of a lob, and certain goal of the season contender, from Dali for the sixth and some very sharp, slick play before a cool finish from Longhurst for the last one showed the gap in class between the two teams.

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Despite an impressive four-nil win it wasn’t all good news for the PL2 team earlier today (as I write). Sadly Ben Johnson left the field with an injury having already suffering a long lay off since the start of this league campaign. Backup at Right Back is needed in the first team squad and after Ben’s encouraging pre-season performances with the first team his hamstring injury has kept him out for months so it was good news he was making his second comeback game. Limping off after fifteen minutes the poor lad looked disconsolate and may be in for another lengthy lay off. With the lightening quick Wilfred Zaha in the offing for the opposition in our next Premier League match it’s a blow we could have done without.

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A gap now until our next match will hopefully provide the players with some rest and recuperation ahead of the visit to Selhurst Park on Boxing Day. Let’s hope the boys can do the business in South London to bring Christmas joy to us Hammers.

COYI!