Overly long writings about West Ham United FC. This is the kind of thing you might like, if you like this kind of thing.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

West Ham vs Fulham/Portsmouth (And Other Ramblings)

Fulham 0-0 West Ham

1. Why I Subscribe To Sky

I trust you all had a Merry Christmas. I wonder if you, as I did, flicked through the channels late on Christmas night, whilst sitting on the sofa feeling a little bit 'Paddy Kenny', and discovered the truly mental - "Michael Bolton - A Tribute on Ice"?

'What the hell is this - has he died?' I said, out loud, with perhaps a bit too much hope in my voice judging by the shocked gasps from the gallery. Apparently not, but there he was, standing beside an ice rink, butchering Nessun Dorma like, well, Michael Bolton, as some poor girl tried to ignore her bleeding ears and do a few back flips.

Anyway, this was all so surreal that I began to wonder if I wasn't living out some odd kind of experiment like The Truman Show whereby I am made to suffer purely for the entertainment of others.

A little tangential I know but it would certainly go a long way towards explaining how we could lose at home to Newcastle, Reading, Wigan and Portsmouth.

(And by the way - who the hell sings at their own tribute show?)

2. Errant Knight

Let's go back a bit - before I went through the looking glass to a world where Michael Bolton is worthy of tribute, and reminisce a little. Fulham seems a long time ago now, but we were actually quite good. Indeed if it were a boxing match we would have won comfortably on points.

If it was an actual boxing match it would have been crap though. Are there two softer teams in the league than us and Fulham?

I digress - we were unlucky with injuries again though. Zat Knight was injured for this game which gave Fulham an unfortunate fillip as it meant they could play an actual professional footballer in the middle of their defence instead. Knight was absent, having broken his jaw whilst "mucking around at home with his brother". If I ever get the chance to go back in time I'd like to come back and see Chris Coleman's reaction to getting that news.

You might imagine that if I had a power such as that I might choose something a bit more momentous like the Crucifixion, the "I have a dream" speech or us winning away from home but none of those would have fit the joke. Do keep up.

3. Y2K + 7?

Just in case you believe in these sorts of things I did notice a couple of worrying phenomena during this game that could indicate the world is shortly about to end:

Matthew Etherington hit the bar. With a header.

Marlon Harewood controlled a ball with his right foot and hit a swivelling half volley on to the post with his left.

Some Fulham fans sung.

Get as many bottles of water into your basement as you can.

4. The Statistics

We had 49% of possession which is evidence of a fairly competitive game. The difference being that we carved out a number of good chances, hitting the woodwork twice and twice having balls cleared off the line.

Fulham's best chance fell to Brian McBride who tried to slot it home whilst having an epileptic fit of some kind. He didn't score anyway.

5. The Referee

Chris Foy got the three major decisions of the game wrong. He failed to award Fulham a penalty after adjudging Spector to have fouled Tomasz Radzinski in the first half. Why anyone would bother to foul Radzinski is beyond me but there you go, he did, and it should have been a spot kick.

He then missed Liam Rosenior handling on the line at the other end before sending off Paul Konchesky with 5 minutes left after a perfectly timed tackle on Wayne Routledge.

All three of these, particularly the last one, merely highlighted how totally and utterly useless linesmen are these days. Konchesky clearly took the ball before Routledge tumbled over and the lino had a clear view of it. Rather than risk confrontation and assist the referee he took the easy option and kept quiet. When this card gets rescinded I sincerely hope that Chris Foy rings up the linesman and gives him a bit of abuse. Not only is it good for the soul every now and again (see "Dawson, Michael (n) - large inanimate object") but it might convince a few linesmen and women to expand their remit past merely awarding throw ins and corners.

6. The Opposition

Not since I last saw Sheffield United play (*shivers involuntarily*) have I seen a footballer go through 90 minutes and commit a foul every single time he was involved in play. Step forward then Michael Brown - one nasty little bastard if ever I saw one.

And perhaps not surprisingly a product of the Sheffield United youth academy, where one suspects they work on long throws, heading and granny bashing.

Also interesting to see that the player involved in the sending off was Wayne Routledge. A product of the Crystal Palace youth academy and a member of Iain Dowie's promotion winning team of 2004, who were master divers. Andy Johnson being first among cheats in that particular vintage.

It's interesting what a players history can tell you sometimes.

West Ham 1 -2 Portsmouth

1. There's Being Shocked And There's Being Shocking

Alan Curbishley pronounced himself "a bit shocked" at this first half display. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that he took some mind alteringly hard drugs during his sabbatical away from the game, because performances like this have been all too common at Upton Park this season.

I don't want to be the one who starts jerking his knee around uncontrollably but I do get a tad frustrated when games like this are casually swept under the carpet by pundits who say "Ashton comes back et voila - they'll be ok".

Well, no. Dean Ashton is coming back from a serious injury into a team bereft of confidence and seriously lacking creativity. Just how is he going to score any goals when we are playing 4-5-1 at home to bloody Portsmouth?

2. 4-5-1?

I don't want to offend Charlton fans unneccesarily but I have to say that perhaps Curbishley needs to adjust his expectations somewhat if he thinks it's acceptable to play this formation against anyone at home, let alone a team like Pompey.

That might have been ok at The Valley but it's not going to help him here. Not that there is any basis for us to have loftier aspirations than Charlton given the recent histories of both teams, but for whatever reason we do and Curbishley needs to be aware of that. Lose the crowd and you'll more than likely lose your job. Sort of like Gladiator but bloodier and more internecine.

This was a performance of such soporific listlessness that even yawning seemed like an act of great derring-do by comparison.

Just to clarify, I don't actually care if I offend any Charlton fans but I'm not intentionally trying to. I think they have enough to worry about what with having accidentally replaced Iain Dowie as manager with their coach driver for 11 games.

3. The Statistics

We had 60% possession in this game according to MoTD. This was somehow constructed into just 3 shots on target. It should give you some idea of the quality of this game that the team who had the ball for 3/5ths of the time managed one shot on goal every half an hour.

Just to throw the above into even sharper relief. If you imagine possession of the ball as the Superman films we had it right from the first one, all the way through General Zod and that weird one with Richard Pryor.

Sometimes it's easier to face surreality than reality.

4. The Opposition

Portsmouth remain impressive if only because they are so much more than the sum of their parts. They are well organised, solid defensively and in Pedro Mendes they have one of the Premiership's most underrated players. How tottenham considered him to be inferior to Jermain Jenas is a mystery. Mind you, how they consider anyone to be inferior to JJ is a profound conundrum.

All of that said - allowing Linvoy Primus to score against you is rather like shoving an apple up your nose. It's stupid, it's painful and absolutely impossible to do more than once in the same day.

5. While We're At It Department

How come when we've allowed a man with all the goalscoring frequency of a corpse to head the opening goal do we then promptly allow him to do it again? And why was he being marked by 5"11 Hayden Mullins?

The footballing equivalent of walking around a jail cell with your wallet open and moaning about being mugged.

6. Deja Vu

Just to go over a couple of points raised earlier this season:

This defending lark seems like a capital idea. Perhaps we'll give it a go one day.

Just what exactly is our midfield doing so well that Javier Mascherano cannot even get into the squad for games such as this? On that - in what situation are we ever likely to need both George McCartney and Christian Dailly on the bench? Because if it ever arises, it's probably time to abandon all hope.

Does Carlton Cole even exist anymore?

I bet when Carlos Tevez wrote home for Christmas he couldn't wait to tell his family how much he is enjoying watching Harewood and Zamora rampage around like two drunk elephants. His performance on Saturday showed more inspiration than the rest of them put together.

I'm not sure how much longer I can keep watching the same old faces trotting out there and under performing against the sides that we need to beat. One off barnstormers against the top 3 can't be relied upon to keep us up when we are playing so appallingly against everyone else.

Give the Boys form the Barrio a proper go Curbs. I'd rather be hung as a wolf than a sheep.

7. Just To Quell Any Optimism

Our run in:

Arsenal (a)
Chelsea (h)
Sheffield Utd (a)
Everton (h)
Wigan (a)
Bolton (h)
Man Utd (a)

I especially love those last 2 games. This is not a 38 game season folks, especially now that Charlton have sacked the groundsman and installed an actual professional football manager.......

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

I've been wondering whether or not to call a truce with Big 'Ol Useless Mike but then I watched the highlights of tottenham's two games over Christmas and saw him give away a goal in each.

At this time of year it's not wise to ignore signs from above.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

West Ham vs Fulham/Portsmouth : Christmas 2006 (Match Previews and Other Ramblings)

1. I Know, I Know, I Know

I'm sorry. I know I really should be doing a preview for each of these games but consider this. Imagine you are a jobbing session musician and the only two offers of work you have are for either James Blunt or Robbie Williams. Do you take one of them, or retain your dignity and take up employment as the back end of a pantomime horse?

That's kind of how I feel about the prospect of writing about playing both Fulham and Portsmouth in the space of four days.

So I've decided discretion is the better part of valour and gone for a combination.

2. Jolly Nice Chaps

Let's go chronologically then. We are off to Fulham first of all, a team who despite the huge weight of evidence to the contrary appear to be on course to survive another season in the Premiership.

This is despite the fact that Fulham's central defence consists of Zat Knight and Ian Pearce. Going through their first eleven makes for a who's who of Premiership mediocrity.

All of the above notwithstanding, they have lost just three times at home this season and have the best fanzine name around - "There's Only One F In Fulham".

Given that Fulham is quite possibly the least offensive football club in the land I can't find it within myself to mock them all that much. It follows therefore, that if you look hard enough you will find that Fulham FC is actually made entirely of marshmallow.

Aren't they cute?

3. Errant Knight

Great story about Zat Knight. He was originally playing in non-league football when Kevin Keegan signed him. Keegan resigned not long after, possibly through shame, but it was later revealed that the price for signing Knight was a set of tracksuits.

I don't know about you but I think they overpaid.

It is also a little known fact about Knight that he is exactly the same height as the Eiffel Tower. Although he is not as mobile.

4. Another Tidbit

I once heard a possibly mythical story about Chris Coleman and Alan Pardew.

As you may know they were both team mates at Crystal Palace and when we played Fulham in the Cup a couple of years ago, Pardew made a comment to the effect that he could never keep up drinking with Coleman as he had, and I quote, "..hollow legs..".

It probably seemed an innocuous enough quote at the time but apparently it caused much consternation to the Fulham boss as he was still embroiled in legal action at the time over the car crash that ended his career.

Probably an urban myth but it does show how far Pardew progressed with his media skills. By the end he was making strangely out of context comments all over the place without libelling anyone. That's nice work Al.

5. The History

We have had some success at Fulham in recent years. 3 wins in a row, including a 2-1 victory last year.

However, it's a measure of our frankly offensive away form, that I would imagine Fulham fans view tomorrow as a home banker.

6. That Other Lot

Portsmouth arrive on Boxing Day, having a season that they would not have imagined possible just six months ago. Harry Redknapp is using a familiar modus operandi - filling his squad with ageing veterans on high priced contracts (sound familiar?) and relying on some fantastic home form.

Whilst I have a suspicion that Redknapp is probably being just as casual with Pompey's finances as he was with our own, it isn't likely to have quite the same effect as they are now backed by some substantial Russian finances. Which is enough to mildly anger me.

You see, I am one of those guys who sticks his hands in his pockets when the time comes to give Redknapp his ovation. My main problem was that by the end he was not replacing those players he was selling with any of a similar standard. The writing on that particular wall probably came when Rigobert Song popped up in our defence in place of Rio Ferdinand.

7. The History

We haven't played Portsmouth all that often and we have yet to beat them in 3 tries since we both returned to the Premiership. Last year saw them thump us 4-2 at Upton Park as everyone associated with West Ham had their eyes firmly fixed on our FA Cup quarter final two days later at Man City.

And let me tell you, if we play that badly again I say we cancel New Year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

West Ham 1 - 0 Man Utd (And Other Ramblings)

1. Once Upon A Time

Let me tell you a story. There was a blogger - erudite, ruggedly good looking and hopelessly immodest. And his lovely wife decided to take him to Bruges for his birthday weekend.

So as he lived it up for a couple of days, hardening his arteries with fries, beer and chocolate, his hometown football team pulled off yet another mind bendingly magnificent win.

The moral of the story?

All your cards got lost in the mail.

2. How I Got The News

Somewhere around the vicinity of Ghent I received a text from Sister Shark which made up for in content what it lacked in facts:

"We've only gone and won!"

At the time Mrs Shark and I were standing in a cramped compartment trying to determine exactly what that smell was when the news arrived. Mrs Shark thinks that our win can be directly attributed to her unrelenting optimism. I think it can be partly attributed to the juxtaposition of the planets and partly to Ryan Giggs poor finishing.

But mostly the planets.

3. So How Do You Write A Report For A Match You Didn't See Anything Of?

With great difficulty.

4. The Stats

We managed just 40% possession which is by some distance our lowest of the season. Of course given that I have seen barely anything of the game I can't comment at all on the quality of the possession. Given that we forced only one corner and committed 25 fouls I'm guessing that we spent a lot of time battling for the ball.

Here's something to ponder. According to the ESPN log http://soccernet.espn.go.com/match?id=199262&cc=5739 we had 4 shots on target and Edwin van der Saar made only 1 save. Now how exactly does that work?

5. The Opposition

If you believe the newspapers we are now Man United's bogey team, despite this being our first ever home win against them since the start of the Premiership.

Using that logic would make "Dude, Where's My Car?" a work of comic genius.

6. Firsts

Finally something bucks the trend at the statistical vacuum that is Upton Park.

Each of our previous 6 permanent managers had started their reigns with either a draw or a defeat. This, despite the commonly held belief that a new manager always inspires his team to new heights.

Pardew 1-1 vs Nottingham Forest (h)
Roeder 1-2 vs Middlesbrough (a)
Redknapp 0-0 vs Leeds (h)
Bonds 1-1 vs Blackburn (h)
Macari 1-1 vs Stoke (a)
Lyall 0-4 vs Man City (a)

Of course we did have the statistical anomaly that was Curbishley's previous record of 15 years without beating Man Utd which had to go at some point. Still - a bit of a shock either way.

Rest assured though - the last 164 times we have played a team where the opposition manager is in charge of his first game, we have lost every time. Hurrah for predictability.

7. And Finally

I couldn't leave without saying something about Nigel Reo-Coker.

I have been a huge critic of him this season. He has mustered three good performances all year against Liverpool, Arsenal and Man Utd. Which is a huge coincidence.

Whilst I would agree that he has been unfairly singled out amongst a group of under performing players, much of this has stemmed from his own insouciant attitude since the summer. The rumours that he demanded a move to either Arsenal or Man Utd won't go away and his subsequent sub par displays have only reinforced the commonly held opinion amongst the fans that he is setting his sights on a move away.

I have heard a lot of comments from the seats suggesting that this would be no bad thing but I would be loathe to see him depart and become the kind of player we hoped he could develop into with us. People seem to forget that Lampard was equally desperate to leave and look at the player he has become. Irrespective of whether you think he is a truly world class player one cannot deny he is twice the footballer he was at West Ham.

Some would point out that this is because he has been properly coached and forced to fight for his place at Chelsea but that is a different point. If we are now saying that Reo-Coker has to leave West Ham in order to progress as Lampard has, then there is something sorely lacking in our coaching staff.

Reo-Coker's athleticism and energy are boundless and if Wenger were to get hold of him and teach him to pass he could become a truly top player. And if you don't believe me, watch the FA Cup Final again. Through your fingers, obviously.

The furore surrounding the alleged hate mail he has received has shocked me only due to the clear manipulation of the media by his agent. If any of you out there are football agents and are currently trying to engineer a move for one of your players, may I suggest the following:

1) Publicly state that your client has received hate mail. Do this after he has scored the winning goal against Man Utd, and definitely not at the time he received it.

2) Go on national radio and television to discuss this. When pressed as to the exact nature of the abuse, say "I don't want to make a big deal out of it". It is crucial that you inore the irony of that comment. If you are an agent, the chances are you're not that bright so this shouldn't be too hard.

3) Produce no actual evidence of the letters. This is important - just say you threw them away because you weren't bothered by them. Then go on national radio and TV to explain this fact.
Smoke and mirrors are important in cases such as these. For it allows people to say "There's no smoke without fire". (See what I did there?)

4) Be Tony Finnegan, Nigel Reo-Coker's agent.

I'm not trying to minimise the insidious nature of these notes. If they exist. then shame on the morons who wrote them.

But come on - who is he trying to kid? Reo-Coker wants to leave and it's much easier if you can demonise the West Ham fans while you do it. Lampard's agent did a similar hatchet job.

The truth is that Premiership footballers must receive notes like this every week from the various nut jobs out there and we don't get to hear about them. I once wrote to Julian Dicks to tell him that I thought it was terrible the club didn't give him an automatic car whilst he recovered from knee surgery, and that barely got me a restraining order.

So I say Nigel - pull up your socks and start playing like a leader. And sack your agent.

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

I'm not one for grandiose statements and pointless jibes, as you know, but look what I noticed at the weekend.

tottenham managed their first away win of the season at Man City this Sunday. And Michael Dawson wasn't playing. And his replacement scored.

It would be tough to draw any lasting conclusions from that evidence........

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The King Is Dead

And so it goes. From pariah to messiah to fall guy in the space of three short years.

The Past

Unlike when Glenn Roeder was dismissed, this actually feels like the end of an era rather than the end of an error. Like most West Ham fans I greeted the news with shock and a feeling of sympathy towards Pardew. If nothing else he has rescued the club from the financial excesses of the Redknapp/Roeder years and one felt he had established a framework for an extended stay in the Premiership. For that we should be grateful.

Digging a little deeper, however, it has been clear for some time that something was awry, belied on the pitch by the twin Roederian traits of always conceding the first goal whilst rarely scoring ourselves. As of today we are the Premiership's joint lowest scoring team, which would have been inconceivable just a few short months ago.

When one ignores the fuzzy afterglow of Cardiff and the 2005-06 season, concentrating solely on this seasons efforts in isolation, it is clear that Pardew had been skating on thin ice for a while. A run of 8 defeats without a goal was horrific and the current run of 5 defeats in 6 with just a solitary goal to our name was heading that way too. On purely footballing terms alone, it is hard to argue with this decision.

There are going to be a multitude of post mortems written about Pardew and I doubt that we really need any more so I will keep this as brief as possible. In fact a lot of what I was going to say is actually covered rather well by a piece in this morning's Daily Mail - wait, where are you going? Come back.

Listen, hold your nose, try not to feel like you're betraying your country and click on this link http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/sport/football.html?in_article_id=421908&in_page_id=1779. It's really rather insightful.

The Present

All in all it would seem that the rumours of divisions in the squad had more than a grain of truth to them. I always felt that it was simply lazy journalism to suggest that the arrival of two class players like Mascherano and Tevez was an issue for Pardew. (Imagine the reaction if he hadn't agreed to take them on?). The issue was more about getting his tight knit, clique ridden team to embrace the new players, something at which he appears to have summarily failed. Instead it would seem that he has pandered to the mediocre by constantly selecting the likes of Zamora and Reo-Coker while the Argentines, Bowyer and Benayoun have struggled to get games.

The departure of Peter Grant to manage Norwich appears to have affected the equilibrium of the squad to a far greater degree than was first thought and of course, if half the scurrilous off pitch rumours are true, then it would seem that Pardew lost the respect of the dressing room right around the time Dean Ashton lost a 50-50 to hard man Shaun Wright Phillips and broke his ankle.

The Future

So who's next? All the smart money yesterday was on Claudio Ranieri, he of the mangled English and strange dress sense. His record at Chelsea was excellent whilst his record at Valencia was, well, not.

All of today's money is being put on Alan Curbishley.

Whilst he would have been a popular choice in the aftermath of the Roeder era, it remains to be seen if he would be so warmly embraced today. Few fans would view him as little more than a sideways step and a curious way for the new owners to proceed. Replacing the man who showed signs of being able to keep us in the Premiership for years with a man who has a track record of keeping teams in the Premiership for years? It doesn't exactly smack of the Champions League football that we are now apparently aiming for.

One name that has been mentioned is Paul Jewell of Wigan. As I mentioned last week, I am a fan and think he has done a great job wherever he has been. Quite why he would leave Wigan to come to us is not immediately obvious - he is under no pressure there and has a decent amount of money to spend. Whether he wants a higher profile position remains to be seen. I'd love to hear him explain his tactics to Tevez with that accent though.

Sven Goran Eriksson has ruled himself out. Exhale people, exhale.

My own preference? Guus Hiddink for what it's worth, although he's only the most sought after coach in the world. For all the likelihood of that happening I may as well say I'd like a pterodactyl for Christmas. He'll never come to West Ham

Whoever he picks it is most important that Magnusson ensures that whoever he gets has a name that scans nicely with ".............'s Claret and Blue Army" and unfortunately none of the above qualify. Thus the search must go on.........

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bolton 4 -0 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

**** Pardew sacked as of 2.15pm today. Some possible H List reaction to follow tomorrow. Then again, maybe not, I'm a mercurial sort of fellow****

1. You Should Count Yourself Lucky

At least you only have to watch this garbage, I have to write about it too.

2. The Vent

I feel I've been patient. Hell, I think we've all been incredibly patient, but this one might be the straw that breaks the camels back. Everyone involved in this debacle should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

This was a disgraceful display. Inept, gutless, insipid and downright woeful. Alan Pardew's team selection was somewhat puzzling in that it included both George McCartney and Christian Dailly who are both limited at best, and liabilities at worst. That said, they were far from the worst offenders in this particular crime against football.

In the vast annals of our crap away defeats this one sits proudly alongside the infamous 7-1 defeats at Blackurn and Man Utd and the 6-0 reverses at Everton and Oldham.

In fact, if I didn't have my friend Chris watching the game with me, yelling Borat quotes across the room, this would have been the biggest waste of 90 minutes of my life since an acquaintance once said to me "You should really watch Van Helsing, it's great".

3. The Best West Ham Performance Of The Night

A word for the few thousand hardy lunatics who made the trip to the "(Permanently Half Empty) Reebok Stadium".

They were magnificent, heartily outsinging the home fans. Now I will admit that isn't too tricky given that Miss Shark Junior and I managed that on our own from our front room. (Although we were singing "If You're Happy And You Know It Clap Your Hands!" which was a blatant lie, but you have to put on a brave face for the kids at times like this). They did it at 4-0 down as well.

So then - a Victoria Cross for each of the travelling fans and a Victoria Beckham album for each of the travelling players and coaching staff.

4. The Statistics

We mustered 47% possession which must have come mostly from kicks offs and goal kicks because I can't recall more than 4 consecutive passes at any stage. More tellingly the shot count was 17 to 3 in Bolton's favour without us mustering even one attempt on target.

So if you think about it, Bolton could conceivably have played this game without a goalkeeper and we would still have lost 4-0.

Remember though - 'tis the season to be jolly.

5. The Opposition

Bolton are like trips to the dentist.

I hate them, they come round a couple of times a year, are unavoidable, and almost always end up with me writhing around in agony on the floor.

Be that as it may, they were still a million times better than us.

6. The Referee

On another day I might have taken umbrage at Howard Webb's rather laissez faire approach to Bolton's overly physical style but when our players were being so lily livered all over the pitch you just have to shrug your shoulders and drink another beer.

7. Crimes Committed

Just to confirm then that Kevin Davies has now scored 50% of his seasons goals against us. Nothing to be ashamed of there, so let's move on.

I can't actually work out what offended me more. The crime against humanity of letting El Hadji Diouf run unopposed from the halfway line and score, or the crime against fashion that was the pink and beige scarf Sam Allardyce was wearing.

8. The Hangman's Noose

Rather ominously for Alan Pardew, Sky showed a montage of the new chairman's reaction to the goals going in, and I must say, he did not look happy. In fact he looked P45 unhappy.

I would go so far as to say he looked liked I did, except for the fact that my world weary visage remains unchanged on days like this. I've seen us lose 3-0 at Notts County for heaven's sake.

I also don't have a forehead the size of Mount Rushmore.

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

This morning as I stood crushed into a 3 inch space on the delayed (naturally) 08.48 all stations from Romford to Liverpool Street, it occurred to me that human beings are not overly intelligent.

Why else would I pay £8 for the dubious privilege of watching my team capitulate in the rain at Bolton despite predicting exactly that result on Friday night? Why also would you delay said train by 30 minutes simply by trying to force yourself in to a millimetre of space when there is a train RIGHT BEHIND this one? (Either that or somebody decided to hold a Professional Morons Competition this morning at Maryland).

Anyhow - to the bloke who gave Michael Dawson 9 out of 10 in The Observer - do you know what an own goal is?...........

Friday, December 08, 2006

Bolton vs West Ham: 8 December 2006 (Match Preview and Other Ramblings)

1. Department Of The Delusional

Splendid. An away game that has the feeling of being a seminal moment in our season, and it's against the league's bully boy long ball merchants. If ever a quote defined a club it's Sam Allardyce saying - "People shouldn't call us a long ball team, we're a long passing team".

Right Samuel, you keep telling yourself that and in the meantime we'll all fix our necks at a 45 degree angle and prepare for boredom.

2. I Need To Chill Out

In case it doesn't seep through, I absolutely despise Bolton.

If you took a straw poll of Premiership fans I think you'd find Bolton right at the top of any list of least favoured opponents. There has never been a game played involving them that has been even remotely entertaining. In fact the only possible pleasure that can be derived from watching a match played by Bolton is through them losing. And possibly by El Hadji Diouf contracting Dutch Elm disease.

In the case of Bolton I am afraid I have surrendered to my emotions and given in to the Dark Side of the Force. I hate everything about them - Allardyce, Kevin Davies, El Hadji Diouf, that crappy Meccano stadium, their long ball game, the fact they play music when they score etc....

And God help me if they don't beat us every time we play them.

3. The History

Well, we have never won at the Reebok and in fact have mustered just one goal there, a late consolation from Sheringham last year when we were thumped 4-1. We actually had to play Bolton 5 times last year and won just once, the FA Cup 5th Round replay at Upton Park.

In fairness, that can't disguise the fact that 5 times is an unnecessary punishment for whatever sins we all committed in a previous life though.

4. These Sweeping Changes

Pardew has intimated in his pre match statements that he may wield the axe for this game. I can't see that he is going to be able to make too many changes given that Ferdinand and Gabbidon are both likely to be out injured and we will probably play for a draw.

After my clarion call for Mascherano and indeed possibly even Mark Noble, I am backing up faster than the French army when I say that I can't see a December trip to the Reebok being quite the right game to pitch them in to.

5. Away Day Blues

We have now gone ten hours without a goal away from home and you could make a very strong argument that the only two we have managed this year were both accidental.

So nothing to worry about there.

6. Time To Revert To Predictions

I made a promise to stop making predictions earlier in the year. And look where that has got us. So in the interests of karma I am going to plump for a poxy 2-0 defeat.

7. Allardyce v McClaren

Remember when they appointed Steve McClaren and the nation sighed, wrote off 2010 and started dreaming of the 2014 World Cup?

Well, file it away under "It could have been worse". The man who campaigned most visibly was Sam Allardyce. Just think, we could have been knocking balls into the corner for Wayne Rooney to chase so he could force long throws and corners from which his strike partner Kevin Davies could fail to score.

And best of all we could have seen England playing 4-5-1 away against Macedonia.

8. And Just To Round Off

Here's a link to make you proud. Thanks to Dave, a loyal reader who sent me this with the memorable quote "Our skipper - Bobby Moore must be turning in his grave". I can assure you it's safe for work, but be warned you will see two of our players dancing unnecessarily. I'll leave it up to you to take the plunge......


Thursday, December 07, 2006

West Ham 0 -2 Wigan (And Other Ramblings)

1. Emile Heskey and Richard Curtis = Too Much

All I really needed to truly top off this fantastic night was to come home and find Mrs Shark watching the saccharine vomit inducer Love Actually on the telly.

So an especially big thank you to the ITV executive who made that particular dream a reality.

2. Jeremy We Hardly Knew Ye

A lot of people hate our PA announcer Jeremy Nicholas. I personally think that there are far more worthy targets of our vitriol (anagram - Michae Ldawson) and he does play The Buzzcocks from time to time which is a redeeming feature, but I know I'm in the minority.

Anyway, introducing our new chairman Eggert Magnusson as Magnus Eggertsson can't have helped his prospects of getting a good Christmas bonus.

3. The Stats

According to http://soccernet.espn.go.com/gamecast/gamecast?matchId=199241&date=20061206&lang=en&league=ENG.1&cc=5739 we had 49% possession but did muster 14 attempts at goal. I did miss the first 30 seconds of the second half so I'll assume 9 of them came then as I cannot recall anything approaching that many attempts on goal.

Mind you, according to that summary Wigan won 3-0 so perhaps it's not be trusted. This much I can tell you - we were dire. And when I say dire I mean Pearl Harbour dire, which is slightly worse than Kieron Dyer.

4. The Opposition

In as much as it is possible to like an opposition side, I like Wigan. They play fast paced, attractive and attacking football, with an edge of physicality that I wish we had.

They are also enormous. An uninitiated observer watching this would have thought it was a game between 11 boy scouts and a group of Masai warriors. They might also have questioned what Carlos Tevez did to deserve being marooned out on the right hand side in the 2nd half - but more on that later.

5. Zizou He Ain't

After my passionate championing of James Collins earlier in the season, I can't deny I was a bit gutted to see him get turned inside out by Zinedine Kilbane for the first goal. You see Big Kev is a nice fellow but he makes one trick ponies look outrageously gifted.

6. The Sordid Truth

OK - I've held off as long as I can but my knee is jerking uncontrollably now. This season has all the hallmarks of the Roeder era and Pardew is not impressing with his ability to deal with it so far.

If you have read as much internet tittle-tattle as I have, you will have heard all the rumours currently swirling about the club. The convenient smokescreen provided by the takeover and the arrival of Tevez and Mascherano has now dissipated and far more is coming to light. The team spirit and desire of last year is sorely lacking, giving credence to the suggestion that there is a clique within the dressing room. The supposed leaders of this group are Reo-Coker, Ferdinand and Zamora, each of whom has been performing dismally for an extended period of time without ever having their place in the team threatened. This policy of appeasing average players at the expense of apparently world class alternatives is one of many areas where Pardew appears to have failed this season.

The revelation that our first choice goalkeeper has a gambling problem was alarming but not as shocking as the widespread suggestion that he is far from the only one in the dressing room with the habit. Indeed there has long been a rumour that a prominent member of the team had his pay docked by the club at one point in order to repay local boomakers, to whom he had become seriously indebted.

There is also a frankly, libellous rumour currently circulating about Pardew himself that I can't touch on but I can assure you if you want to log on to any of the various forums around (www.westhamonline.net is probably the "best" for ridiculous innuendo) you can find out for yourself.

Of course, much of the above is probably rubbish, but if even a fraction of it is true it's, erm, worrying.

Anyway, to borrow from William Shakespeare, something is rotten in the state of Denmark and it has translated all too obviously on to the pitch. I rather suspect that the New Year will bring an altogether changed West Ham. And that can't come soon enough.

7. And On The Pitch

What exactly is it that our midfield is doing so well that the Argentina playmaker Javier Mascherano can't even get into our squad? Fair play to Hayden Mullins for being one of the few to earn his wages this year but the sad truth is that Etherington, Bowyer, Benayoun and Reo-Coker have all been consistently poor for much of the season.

Ultimately if they can't do the job then perhaps we need to try Mullins and Mascherano together and find some way to allow Tevez the free role he obviously craves? And for the love of God - when Tevez has just hit the post and is our only threat of scoring a goal, why bring on Sheringham and waste him out on the right, as has happened in the last two games?

I don't think any of the above is all that outrageous given that we are firmly embedded in the bottom 3 and have just spent 90 minutes whacking long, high balls at Tevez whilst he's being marked by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, or in the case of Paul Konchesky straight out of play.

8. The Decline Of The Konch

On that topic, nice post from Dot Cotton:

"Question, are you able to tell me from your stats the last time Konchesky found a teammate with a pass? I'm assuming you'll need to go back to his days for Senrab FC with Defoe,Zamora and Terry. The guy should be dropped........from a great height."

Nice bit of vitriol seeping through there. Truthfully I can't recall the last time he had a good game. Of course, don't forget that last May, one of those misplaced passes actually ended up being our third goal in the FA Cup Final. So hope springs eternal.

9. Trivial I Know

I have never seen a team take so many poor throw in's during one 90 minute period. Spector was particularly victimised, receiving an assortment of them at his head, thigh and chest and putting him immediately under pressure.

Of course, the fact that he also had Yossi Benayoun in front of him didn't help as I think Yossi had his invisibility cloak on last night.

10. Let's Be Positive

At least our next two games aren't away to Bolton and home to Man Utd..........

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

West Ham vs Wigan: 6 December 2006 (Match Preview and Other Ramblings)

1. Excellent!

A home game against a team who usually perform a nice slice and dice of our backside and serve it up to us on a platter. Our last two home games against Wigan have been truly dismal - imagine watching a film starring Josh Hartnett and Ashton Kutcher. Yep, that bad.

2. With Brevity

No, no - not Rufus, I mean this is going to be brief. Look people - I have a job. A not very exciting one for sure, but certainly an actual one. So I'm struggling to spin out this preview with the usual pointless meanderings that you've come to know and loathe. To that extent let me tell you something. We always lose games like this.

The opposition have come off a hiding in their last game and have no doubt spent the last week working on their defending (oh joy). We are under a bit of pressure to win and I sense an ever so slight ripple of frustration amongst the populace at Upton Park. Losing to a steady stream of crap teams away from home does make your home games even more important than they should be.

And let's face it - is it possible for a Chairman's statement that includes the phrase "Hey Alan - if you fail, it's your throat that gets cut" to ever contain a positive message?

3. That Losing Feeling

A question for you all. When was the last time West Ham played away from home in the Premiership, were awful, palpably the worse of the two teams and yet still won?

My offering is a 2-1 win at Bradford on February 24 2001. Of course we haven't won all that many since then either way, but I think you get my drift. Feel free to post some of your own suggestions at the end of this drivel.

I can supply you with a long list of teams who have managed to win at Upton Park despite being awful though.

4. A Man After My Own Heart

Dean Ashton's first thought when he heard that Eggert Magnusson was taking over - "Brilliant, perhaps he can sort me out with some more biscuits before games. I love them, it's my pre-match ritual. I especially love Bourbon Creams".

Not for Deano the revised new contract or demands for a new improved car parking spot. He went down the route of biscuits and I, for one, admire that.

He's just re-ignited my dream of being a Premiership footballer. And let's face it - watching Lee Carlsey waddle about on Sunday only added fuel to the fire.

5. December Fools Day?

We were linked with Craig Bellamy this morning in the Express. Now I don't want to seem racialist, but for God's sake - I do not want goblins in my West Ham team. I'm sorry, but it's just the way I feel.

6. The Rovers Return

If Blackburn didn't exist would any of the teams at the bottom of the Premiership have any points at all?

7. Shaun Wright Phillips Sighting

He played last night, he scored and he doesn't want to leave Chelsea. This will not deter sweet talking, sugar coating Eggert, I'd imagine. Perhaps he can use that splendid "throat slitting" line on Shaun, I bet he'd love that.

Of course, being Viking a phrase like that could be a chat up line for all we know.

8. Quotes Of The Year

These were fairly recent but I loved them both either way and I'm happy to give them frontrunner staus for any end of year awards:

New Charlton bus driver Les Reed - "Perhaps Ferenc Puskas was the first Andy Reid".

Good point Les, was young Ferenc 4 stone overweight and did he have his career ruined by a move to tottenham aswell?

Midlesbrough tea boy Malcolm Christie - "My wife was beginning to doubt I was a professional footballer at all!"

Ladies, Gentlemen, I give you Mrs Malcolm Christie, a better talent evaluator than Gareth Southgate...........

Everton 2 -0 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Let Me Rub My Eyes

Holy crap. Let's dominate them early, near batter the opposition into submission before inexplicably turning to dust and somehow end up 2-0 down.

It's nice that I can write exactly the same paragraph about West Ham as I can about England's cricket team.

My sporting teams are plumbing new depths of ineptitude before my eyes.

2. Where Have I Been?

Before I begin in earnest, an apology for the lack of a preview for the Everton game. My employers appear to be clinging to the antiquated notion that I should be actually producing something in return for my wages.

I have tried to explain the concept of Jude Law to them, but all to no avail.

3. Wikipedia Is Ace

I did have a quick look on Wikipedia for facts about Everton and the entry simply says "Everton suck". (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everton_F.C.)

You can't disagree that it makes up for in accuracy what it lacks in depth.

4. The Crest Of A Good Idea

Everton's club crest has the motto "Nil Satis Nisi Optimum" on it, which is Latin for "Interminably Dull".

When considering that we contrived to lose to them on Sunday it is worth pointing out that blokes such as Lee Carsley, Alan Stubbs and James Beattie all actually played the whole game. Now when you ponder that these men usually can't get into the Everton team it just makes a fellow depressed.

I cannot begin to express how frustrating it is to lose to a team who are devoid of their best players and for the most part of this game, completely devoid of attacking threat. I will concede that Leon Osman is one of the most underrated players around but for the love of God, most of that team are just worker bees.

5. The Stats

Is it possible to have 14 corners and not actually muster an attempt on goal from any of them? I would have said that it was a physical impossibility until I watched us chip every single one aimlessly to the front post. Of course, we have scored twice from corners in this Millenium so perhaps I'm asking too much but there was a depressing familiarity to Sunday's game.

By the way, Carlos Tevez had 8 shots at goal today. I have a feeling that's how you score goals away from home, but it's been quite a while so I can't really remember.

6. The Opposition

Everton suck. (See above). Andy Johnson is a diver and James Beattie is a modern marvel in that I have never seem him without a piece of chewing gum in his gob.

All of the above not withstanding, isn't it amazing what a little effort can do? (I'm staring squarely at you Nigel Reo-Coker)

7. The Referee

Yep, there was one. He did ok.

8. My Brand New Carlos

Fresh from a terrific strop after his previous game, Carlos Tevez was terrific in a different way against Everton. At the heart of all our best moves and full of running he put Bobby Zamora to shame with his all round performance.

If we had a couple more players on his wavelength we might actually have scored in this game. We got fairly close with Bowyer's early effort but after that we scrabbled around like a one armed man in a wheelbarrow race.

9. A Change Is As Good As A Rest

Can anybody explain to me what Bobby Zamora and Nigel Reo-Coker are still doing in this team? We haven't scored in 172 consecutive away games and our centre forward has not yet been dropped whilst our attacking midfielder remains immovable despite giving the ball away with alarming frequency.

If all the reports are true and he does leave English football to go and play for Arsenal in January then I can't say I will be missing him too much. His attitude this year has been poor and his performances well below par. I don't actually think that dropping Reo-Coker will do much good because we have no natural replacement for him (Bowyer no longer has the legs to play through the middle) but it might send a message to the rest of the team that coasting is no longer tolerated.

Truth be told the recent home wins have just papered over the cracks of what has thus far been a truly dismal season. The Premiership is unrelentingly mediocre nowadays and if teams like Bolton and Portsmouth can ensconce themselves in the upper reaches of the table then there is no reason why we should be scratching around at the bottom of the league. But we are. And it would be nice if a few more of the players showed they realised that too.

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

Credit where is it's due department - Mike played 90 minutes against Arsenal on Saturday and didn't set off any fire alarms. That's nice work son. Now for actual tackling...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

West Ham 1 - 0 Sheffield United (And Other Ramblings)

1. How Do You Say Refund In Icelandic?

Does anyone know if there is any truth in the rumour that Eggert Magnusson was seen after this game outside shouting at Terence Brown in the car park "I thought you said they were professional?"

2. Our New Youth Policy

I'm all for indoctrinating young kids into the West Ham way, but the petrified look on Magnusson's 2 year old grandson's face was enough to make even the most hard hearted Hammer feel for the lad.

In fairness to him though I felt he displayed better movement in his brief stint on the pitch than Matthew Etherington did all day.

3. The Battle Of Nicknames

This game did exhibit two of the more manly nicknames in British football - "The Hammers" versus "The Blades". Both of which possess slightly more testosterone than "The Shrimpers", which is what our near neighbours Southend United go by.

Of course all three simply do not compare to the South African team who are actually named "Dangerous Darkies". And you can Google that if you think I'm making it up.

4. I'll Never Get That Two Hours Back

This game was atrocious. Sheffield United came and played solely for a 0-0 draw whilst we are so lacking in creativity that our goalkeeper actually advanced further up the left flank in the first half on Saturday than our left winger.

There are ways innumerable that I could have better spent my Saturday afternoon:

Painting the inside of my airing cupboard, having a root canal, alphabetising my school reports, learning French etc....

By the way, I hope you all appreciate the deliciousness of beating Sheffield United by virtue of a well worked corner routine.

5. The Statistics

We had 56% possession, that we converted to 7 shots on target. All well and good, but few who were there could deny that this was a poor performance overall. Especially given that the opposition were not exactly "ept".

6. The Opposition

I suppose I've touched on it above but I don't really class Sheffield United as actual Premiership opposition. Teams like this are the footballing equivalent of a romantic comedy. One comes along every year and you go to see it because you are forced to, you despise it because it's the same old turgid crap as always and it will simply disappear into the abyss to be replaced by another one exactly the same next year.

7. The Referee

Mike Riley simply looks hapless. He gets a lot of decisions wrong and appears to have absolutely no muscles in the lower half of his body.

That said, I thought that it was a clear foul by Derek Geary on Robert Green and thus his last minute blowing up to disallow a goal for Sheffield United was correct.

8. Carlos On The Way?

Much has been made of Carlos Tevez storming out of Upton Park following his substitution. In truth, I thought he looked devoid of match fitness and although he showed flashes of inspiration we seemed to be crying out for a more physical presence up front.

I probably would have replaced him with Harewood rather then Sheringham but the principle seems to have been the same. Indeed, Pardew himself suggested that he wanted more height on the pitch to defend set pieces.

Much will depend now on how Tevez reacts to his inevitable fine. Presumably, if he is suitably contrite Pardew will forgive him and play him at Everton next week. If not then we've probably seen the end of him.

I say give him a break - he's 22 and he doesn't speak much English. Sort of like Lee Bowyer but with potential. Class strikers are hard to come by and he is obviously frustrated by his inability to score. Once the first goal arrives I think we'll see the best of Tevez - I just hope that it's not at Valencia or Barcelona that it happens.

9. So Long, Colin

Neil Warnock will be a loss to the Premiership in terms of his quoteability, but for the odious nature of his team it won't be tough to wave him goodbye.

It was instructive to see Paddy Kenny timewasting from the very first dead ball of the day. You reap what you sow Colin.

And while we're talking of young Paddy....

10. Special Guest Appearance : Token Paddy Kenny Slaughtering

Following his little contre-temps last week, Neil Warnock has banned Paddy from going to curry shops in Halifax.

And judging from the state of him that might leave Paddy with a fair bit of spare time....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

West Ham vs Sheffield United: 25 November 2006 (Match Preview and Other Ramblings)

1. What Just Happened?

Now that was a fairly run of the mill week.

The takeover we have long dreamt of finally materialised, our goalkeeper made the front page of The Sun due to his gambling and booze addiction, before our centre back decided that wasn't rock'n'roll enough and made the front page of The Evening Standard for ABH.

We still lost of course.

2. Here Comes The Sson

I'm not sure I think that being an Icelandic millionaire is all that significant. Having been to Rekjavik I can confirm that it is by some distance the most expensive place in the Universe. A good reference point would be to say that it is like permanently living in an airport:

"Excuse me, how much for that pint of milk? - Nine pounds, Sir" - that kind of thing. So, in short, any Icelander who isn't a millionaire probably isn't trying hard enough.

However, since the arrival of our Icelandic pals we have been strongly linked with a £10m bid for Shaun Wright-Phillips and there is much talk of European adventures. And that usually only happens on computer games.

3. Roy's A Boy

Roy Carroll never makes any saves that you wouldn't expect him to make, but he does stop most things that he should. (Re-read that sentence, it makes sense after a while).

This probably makes him an average Premiership keeper, but not much more. Particularly given that he is being kept out of his national side by a man named "Maik".

His form this year, however, was unquestionably erratic until his recent axing and it seems that this is now being attributed to a drink and gambling problem.

I won't be flippant about it, for it's a serious problem but it isn't all that flash for the club when one of their players is alleged to owe £30,000 to a team mate.

4. Anton And On

Anton Ferdinand's charge for ABH will cast a long shadow over the rest of this season, and isn't going to help his career a great deal. Of course, Faces nightclub is arguably the last place any breathing human being should want to be spending their evenings in the first place so perhaps he is reaping what he has sown.

It just goes to prove that no good can come of going out in Ilford. And so says a man who lived there for 20 years. Mind you, I did then move to Romford so I should keep quiet.

5. Pergatory

I have mixed emotions about tomorrows game. On the one hand I am excited about the takeover and Carlos Tevez running amok whilst Sheffield United disintegrate around him. On the other I do have to watch Sheffield United play "football" which cannot ever possibly be considered as entertainment.

During our 2 year exile in the Championship we had the pleasure of facing them no less than 6 times and emerged victorious just the once.

Much like lorry drivers are no longer allowed to drive after a certain number of hours on the road, so too should football fans be exempt from watching more than 2 games against Sheffield United in any two year period.

6. Alright Colin?

Although I have done a piece on footballing nicknames previously I did leave out the all time greatest. Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock is known widely around the game as "Colin".

This is because it's the first part of an anagram of his name. Why don't you see if you can work out the rest?

Not since Virginia Bottomley was christened "Evil Tory Bigot" has an anagram been so apt.

7. Numbers

Marlon Harewood has scored 7 times against Sheffield United in 14 appearances against them.

There are no other statistics of any note relating to this team except ones I have made up, such as:

Neil Warnock is 24% vinegar.

Derek Geary is just 8 inches tall but you won't notice because you'll just think he's up the other end of the pitch all the time.

There are only two people in the world called Phil Jagielka. One captains Sheffield United whilst the other lives in Poland and is a 67 year old retired policeman. He is, however, the better footballer of the two.

Staring directly at their away kit for more than 12 seconds can burn your retinas away.

And so on.

8. Eye Say

My favourite Celebrity Fat Club member, Paddy Kenny, should be in goal for Sheffield United tomorrow. Paddy is an example to all talentless obese people everywhere. With just a little bit of luck and lots of incriminating photographs, you too can make it right to the top of your profession. If by "top" you mean "really out of your depth".

Also, Paddy did hit the news recently for getting his eyebrow bitten off in a Halifax curry house. As you do.

Some things don't really need commenting on.

9. Lastly

We have now entered the most crucial part of our season. Upcoming games against the likes of Sheffield United, Wigan, Everton and Fulham will define whether we spend the rest of 06/07 fighting it out with the dead men or pushing on for that elusive 12th spot that we all covet so dearly.

Much like the first Ashes Test our chances of success have already been obliterated by a poor start, but consolidation is key in itself with a new TV deal on the horizon and the ever widening gap between the elite pigs at the head of the trough and the mediocre swine like ourselves at the bottom.

And with that lovely image I bid you all adieu, and request that whatever you do tomorrow it involves abusing Neil Warnock...........

Monday, November 20, 2006

Chelsea 1 - 0 West Ham: 18 November 2006 (And Other Ramblings)

With Apologies.....

It's almost as though the American owners of this site have little or no interest in the Icelandic takeover of our club. Anyway - this site has been down for maintenance, hence the delay.

1. Will The Real West Ham Please Stand Up?

I don't know about the rest of you but performances like Saturday just make me annoyed. If we can play like that against an, admittedly poor, Chelsea then why on earth were we so insipid against Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Man City?

I don't just lose my competitive edge because I happen to be playing against my 4 year old cousin in the garden. I batter and humiliate him until he knows that Cousin Shark reigns supreme. Don't worry - this is unquestionably fun and enjoyable for us both.

Now Pards, start doing it to the rest of the Premiership please.

2. The Geremi Style Show

Being beaten by a Geremi free kick is like being tickled to death by a scorpion.

You know - surprising.

3. No Way, Jose

So Jose Mourinho thinks we're a good side. Well, that's great. Do we get points for style nowadays? So help me God, if I hear another manager say what a top team we are before waltzing off with three points I think I might burst. And not in a good way.

4. The Statistics

So we had 48% possession at Stamford Bridge, that's really pretty good. And we transformed that into 0 shots on target. That's only really pretty good if you're Sunderland.

We had more corners than them. I don't know why that makes any difference. Pentagons have more corners than crosses and it didn't help medieval witches against the Church.

5. Where Did It All Go Wrong?

I can't argue with playing 5 across the middle against Chelsea. The problem for a team of our limited stature is that we do not have the inventiveness required to create goals when we are not playing well, or when we have our backs to the wall. (So: ie - when we are away from home).

We are second bottom of the league in goals scored and it's not really a mystery as to why. A number of our players have dropped off hugely in terms of perfomance from last year and whilst our plan of playing at a high tempo and running around quickly is all very well, when that doesn't work we seem to have no other ideas. I had hoped that Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez would solve the problem but trying to assimilate them into the team has simply exacerbated all the other issues.

In short then - we are no longer a surprise in this league. So our priorities for January should be a creative midfielder and some sort of miracle cure for Dean Ashton's ankle. The odd clean sheet wouldn't go amiss either but I'm wary of asking for too much around Christmas time.

6. The Opposition

Are Chelsea the best this country has to offer? Are they really one of Europe's finest? Really? I ask that not in jest - but you simply wouldn't have believed it from this performance.
Didier Drogba is awesome though.

Francis Lampard is not.

7. The Referee

Mike Dean did okay-ish. He did what all referees do and gave most of the decisions to Chelsea. We can't argue that the decision to award the foul that led to the goal wasn't correct, however.

I remain confident that before the end of this season we will be awarded a penalty kick. You've gotta have hope. For where would we be without hope? Let me tell you - Charlton.

8. How Did You Get Here?

A quick run down on how most people access this site. I think I coral most of my readers by sending out an email when it's updated. Some folks are related to me and have little choice in the matter. Then there are some who stumble across The H List by Google searches:

The most common:

"Nigel Reo-Coker MTV Cribs"
"Yossi Benayoun MTV Cribs"

The most amusing:

"James Collins is shit"
"How do you pierce an apple with a straw"

You will note that there are none saying such things as "West Ham United goals and statistics" or "West Ham United free flowing football".

I think this says much about the quality of both this blog and West Ham United circa 2006/07.

9. The Takeover

Thus, the day we all dreamed of as little boys and girls has finally arrived. West Ham United has been purchased by an Icelandic biscuit magnate. This is marvellous because Russian oil oligarchs are just soooooo last century.

One other reason for the delay in this weeks column is because I wanted to hold off until the takeover was a least somewhat confirmed. As it stands things have progressed quickly and we are now owned by someone other than Terry Brown.

So, farewell Terry. Please don't let your bulging wallet knock over the model ship you paid £50k for on your way out, you useless lump of wax.

And what of the new owners? Well, Eggert Magnusson has quite possibly the largest forehead in Christendom. He is also a former chief of the Icelandic FA and a UEFA delegate, so one assumes he is at least more familiar with the politics of football than Kia Joorabchian, who really should have come wrapped in a blanket saying "Chancer".

Main backer Bjorgulfur Gudmundsson is reputedly a billionaire financier, although he does have a fraud conviction on his CV. However, that kind of thing is like a badge of honour in English football and no doubt he'll settle in easily enough. More importantly he is the father of the worlds 350th richest man. Let's hope they are still friendly. (It's fairly typical of West Ham to be bought by a very rich man's father, as opposed to the actual moneybags himself).

Anyhow, the new chaps are saying all the right things and most importantly they are not Terry Brown and his cronies. Worryingly the former board will all still retain their positions but hopefully with greatly reduced input. Much like the majority of you, I'd imagine, I view the new men with suspicion, wariness and secret optimism. They are not promising to make us the new Chelsea and I, for one, do not want them to anyway. I like my football clubs with soul thank you very much.

So all hail Eggert, his unfeasibly large forehead and excessive consonants. Do not sell off the family silver.............

10. Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

You thought I'd forget amidst all the hullabuloo? How little you know me and my petty jealousies dear reader. Michael Dawson as a chemical equation :


Aimless Punts (2), Missed Tackles (3), Crosses Out (2), Skinnings (7) Own Goals (3) = A Waste of £4m

And that was just this Sunday's perfomance.................

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Chelsea vs West Ham: 18 November 2006 (Match Preview and Other Ramblings)

1. How To Drive A Fanbase Insane

From our relegation season:

Number of points mustered by West Ham against Chelsea : 6
Number of points mustered by West Ham against Charlton, Birmingham, Everton, Leeds, Bolton, Aston Villa and Southampton : 5

And Trevor Brooking managed one of the victories against Chelsea. Again, I feel I must say - nice one Glenn.

2. Weird

Since the advent of the Premier League we have managed an impressive 9 wins over Chelsea. Of course, they weren't always the Galactic Empire that they are now but that didn't stop them going 16 years without defeat against tottenham so it's still a very decent record.

In the same time span we have beaten Aston Villa just 4 times. Sometimes statistics just make your head hurt.

3. I Beg Of You - Don't Expect Anything

I'm sure that there are some Hammers fans out there who go to games like this with a sense of hope. I am not one of them.

I once made a foray into positive thinking on April Fools Day, 2000 before an away trip to Manchester United. We took the lead early on through Paolo Wanchope before letting in a flurry of 7 quick goals and losing 7-1. Et voila - no more mindless optimism.

Games like this are little more than an exercise in survival. Survive without being embarrassed, without injuries, without suspensions and without letting Lampard score. And I think we can do it.

4. An Insight Into The Mind Of Football Fans

If you are reading this column and you aren't interested in football then the chances are that you are either here by accident or you're married to me.

Therefore, let me explain something to you. We football fans live in the world of the "what if".

An example - If West Ham had held on to Joe Cole, Francis Lampard and Glenn Johnson then we would have the core of a good team. Add to that John Terry who was born in Barking to a West Ham family and was with the club until the age of 14 so by rights should be a Hammer. Mix in Didier Drogba and Petr Cech, both of whom were due to join West Ham on pre-arranged deals before relegation scuppered the transfers. Lastly, don't forget that we had Andriy Shevchenko on trial at the tender age of 20 only to be sent home by Harry Redknapp on the grounds that ..."He didn't pull up any trees". My God - was he supposed to?

Anyway - not a bad team there.

To think like this is, of course, madness. But then, so is spending £21m on Shaun Wright-Phillips and only playing him during Lent.

5. Captain Mediocre

You know when you hear Will Young's version of "Light My Fire" and you look out the window and think "How can I can be hearing thunder when it's not raining" before you realise that it's actually the sound of Jim Morrison spinning wildly in his grave?

That's what happens to me when people compare John Terry to Bobby Moore.

If I had to list out John Terry's main attributes they would be: aerial ability, courage, Claude Makalele, pointing and shouting, Petr Cech, that funny way he wears his socks and William Gallas.

I'm not denying that he is a fine Premiership player but I have long thought that he is not good enough at International or Champions League level. In the biggest games of his career Terry has been cruelly exposed. Think of Fernando Morientes ripping him apart in the Champions League semi final against Monaco or when he was outjumped in the quarter finals of Euro 2004 by the estimable Helder Postiga.

And those socks have to go.

6. The Special One?

For a man who has taken Chelsea no further in the Champions League than Claudio Ranieri ever did, Jose Mourinho has a very high opinion of himself. He's an excellent manager, certainly, but the man has spent enough money to fund the Olympics on his own.

7. Central To Our Problems

Not to alarm you all unduly but both Danny Gabbidon and James Collins pulled out injured from the Welsh squad this week. And Anton Ferdinand was not fit to play last week.

I remain unconvinced that likely replacements George McCartney and Christian Dailly are quite up to the task of marking Drogba and Shevchenko.

8. When I Said He Wouldn't Score

The next time that Francis Lampard hits a speculative long range shot that takes a whopping deflection into the net, it will make him the all time leading midfield scorer for Chelsea. It will be his 77th goal for them, I believe, which is a truly remarkable record.

Even more notable is that he will be surpassing the record of Dennis Wise who was a heroically useless footballer.

Anyway - if you think this won't happen on Saturday you are officially nuts.

9. You Only Sing When You're Fine Dining

Department of the Obvious update: Jose Mourinho reckons that Chelsea fans don't sing very much.

Next week - "Jose says that James Blunt is a bit crap".

10. The Morning After The Night Before

Once we get this game out of the way we define the phrase "From the sublime to the ridiculous".

Our fixture list reads "Chelsea - A, Sheffield United - H".

Of course, the Premier League is the best in the world.

11. The Kids Are Alright

I'm slightly alarmed by a report that I just saw on Sky Sports News. It featured Alan Pardew using his new favourite word of the week - "enthused" appears to have replaced "exuberance", so it seems he's still on the letter "E" anyway.

Yet more strange was the sight of Alan deep in conversation with what appeared to be a 13 year old boy on the training ground.........whilst he was actually taking training. Perhaps our tactics for Saturday will involve water balloons. This would be an improvement on last years effort it must be said...........

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Middlesbrough 1 - 0 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water

I hate, I say HATE, losing to teams who play music when they score a goal. If you have to try and artificially engender a good atmosphere at your ground after you score a goal then your fans should have the word "plastic" tattooed on their foreheads.

2. The Myth Of The Modern Game

Much has been made of the supposed improvement in conditioning, tactics and general flair in modern football. A.Hem.

Consider this - Stewart Downing has played in a World Cup, Tim Cahill has been nominated for World Footballer of the Year (Ballon D'Or), Andy Johnson is apparently a "top" level English striker and Middlesbrough reached the UEFA Cup Final last season.

Modern football is rubbish and todays game is Exhibit A. At a time when the money in football has never been higher, the basic skill level has never been lower.

You're probably thinking that I'm extrapolating quite a lot from a typically inept West Ham away performance, but my real problem is that we have somehow sunk to 16th in a league that currently "boasts" Aston Villa, Bolton and Portsmouth in it's top 5.

My point is this - beating Arsenal is a wonderful thing. But there are far more average teams out there - and they are all beating us.

3. Reverting To The Mean

Marlon King, Peter Crouch, Obafemi Martins, Georgios Samaras, Mido and now Massimo Maccarone. Two things these men share in common. They are all unfailingly average and they have all scored against us this year.

To put that into military terms, this is like being invaded by Finland.

4. OK Then

How negative do you have to be to play one up front, at home, against us? We have now kept one clean sheet in 24 Premiership games. Perhaps those UEFA Pro Licenses teach managers to actually study the opposition before games?

5. The Stats

As is customary these days we had more possession, 51%, and converted that into absolutely nothing of any note. 1 corner and 2 shots on target, much like Paddy Kenny's, are not figures to be proud of.

When Alan Pardew says "Defeat here is not a disgrace", I say - "Alan, old chap. If you go to a team where the keeper is wearing an all white kit and he comes off the pitch without a mark of dirt on him, someone hasn't done their job properly ".

6. The Opposition

Middlesbrough is where good footballers go to die. Jonathan Woodgate was more likely to get an England call up when he was permanently injured at Real Madrid than by playing in that footballing wasteland.

I suppose I can sum it up best by saying that I have absolutely no interest in ever watching Middlesbrough play football apart from the two times a year that they bore the life out of me against West Ham. Even then I do it under duress.

7. The Referee

Yes, there was one - Mark Halsey. He didn't give us a penalty for a semi reasonable shout when Benayoun was fouled. C'est la vie, we could have tried actually shooting at goal if we were that keen on scoring.

8. Is It That Bad?

Well, yes it is but from the corresponding fixtures last year we gained 14 points, against 11 so far this year. Simply put though we just don't look anywhere near as good as we did last term.

All the dynamism has disappeared from our play and a chronic lack of flair is being exposed. We are no longer a surprise package and the slew of new contracts handed out in the summer appears to have dulled the hunger so evident last year.

And now we're letting a man made of pasta score against us.

9. Carlito, Sway

It just needs a goal and Carlitos Tevez will be off and running. Probably to Barcelona, but any kind of movement from our front two would be quite welcome at this point.

10. Points Mean Prizes

Just to forewarn you, we're away to Chelsea next week. Given that last year we went 1-0 up, and then Chelsea went down to 10 men, and we still lost 4-1, I am not holding out all that much hope.

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

The poor bugger hasn't even played yet this week, so how can I be slaughtering him I hear you ask? Well....

"And here comes Peter Crouch, like some sort of rampaging super-spider" - so says Peter Drury of our hapless international spearhead.

And to extend that analogy further - does this make Michael Dawson some sort of rampaging amoeba?.....

(With thanks to Overseas Iron for the original spot - nice to see that abusing Michael Dawson is now an international pastime)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Middlesbrough vs West Ham: 11 November 2006 (Match Preview and Other Ramblings)

1. Just Before We Begin

I read with great amusement this morning that Teddy Sheringham (40) has been told to grow up and act his age by Cesc Fabregas's daddy (39).

"Waiter - what is that, it's delicious"
"That's known as 'irony', Sir".

I wonder if Wenger has rung up Pardew and told him that "my dad is bigger than yours"?

2. And We Begin

Gareth Southgate should not even be in charge of Boro, according to the Premier League's own criteria that he must have successfully obtained a UEFA Pro Coaching License. (Glenn Roeder doesn't have one either to the surprise of no football fan with eyesight).

Boro argue he has not had time to pass the course, as Southgate was playing right up until he was asked to take on the role of Boro manager, when Steve McClaren left to decimate what is left of England's young footballing talent.

The amusing part about this whole affair is that to pass the course one simply has to attend the course. It is not examination based, which sounds rather like an R.E GCSE to me. And anyway, how can a professional footballer not have time to do anything? The hours aren't exactly taxing. 9-12, 4 days a week, one half day at weekends and a month off in the summer. I think I'd get by.
So the upshot is - in the UK, you require a licence to watch TV and a licence to manage Middlesbrough, but they'll let anyone have children. This column's suddenly gone all Daily Mail.

3. The History

The two clubs have now settled into a routine rather similar to the one we have with Blackburn. We win at home and lose away. Usually in as dismal a fashion as possible.

Last year we went down 2-0 at the Riverside, to goals by Hasselbaink and Maccarone. Now allowing Jimmy Floyd to score against us is par for the course but letting Maccarone do it is equivalent to surviving a shipwreck, swimming through shark infested waters and being run over by an ambulance when you get to the beach.

Our last victory at Boro came in March 1990. Ho, and indeed, hum.

4. Semi. Final.

We did beat them 1-0 at Villa Park in the FA Cup semi final though. Which was nice.

As much as anything that game will be remembered for lovely, innocent Marlon Harewood answering the question "Marlon, is it fair to say that West Ham only really turned up at half time today?" with the immortal response - "No way! We've been here all day!".

I love that man-child.

5. An Interesting Comparison

Against the Premiership's Big 4 (Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man Utd) have a look at the records of the following 4 strikers:

Player A - Games: 29 Goals : 5 (0.17 goals per game)
Player B - Games : 10 Goals : 3 (0.30 goals per game)
Player C - Games :40 Goals : 11 (0.27 goals per game)
Player D - Games : 35 Goals :3 (0.08 goals per game)

Based on the commonly held belief that top strikers score against top teams you would therefore think that these games would be be a reaonable indicator of what a striker is capable of producing in the Premier League. So what can we deduce from the following?

Player A = Wayne Rooney
Player B = Marlon Harewood
Player C = Jermain Defoe
Player D = Craig Bellamy

Marlon is twice as good as Wayne Rooney? Yep, that'll be it.

In case you're interested 8 of Defoe's goals against the best teams came whilst playing for West Ham. I don't know what to deduce from that, but I'm fairly certain it supports my theory that they are destroying him over there.

And by the way - what does a proper striker do against the Big 4? Step forward Thierry Henry and your 25 goals in 46 games (0.54 goals per game). He might just have a future, that lad.

6. Onward Christian, Soldier

If Anton Ferdinand is injured for tomorrows game I would rather play Christian Dailly than George McCartney in his place. I can't deny that the former Sunderland and Northern Ireland captain (these are not actually honours, as such) undeniably played well last week but I have no faith that he can continue in the same vein against Boro.

You see, Mark Viduka might be a rather rotund Hobbit and I'm fairly certain that Malcolm Christie is little more than a theoretical concept, but Yakubu is a high class Premiership forward after all.

7. What If?

Off topic slightly but who do we think suffer more? Our strikers because they have to play against proper defences every week and never get the chance to play against ours? Or the defenders who never keep clean sheets but might if they were able to mark our strikers each week?

8. England Expects

Stewart Downing is in the England squad.

*Repeats to himself* - "I can win a Nobel Prize for Literature. I can win a Nobel Prize for Literature, I can ......."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

West Ham 1 - 0 Arsenal (And Other Ramblings)

1. Well, That Was Fun

It seems a fitting end to an explosive day to be sitting here in the serene Basra-lite atmosphere created by the combination of Fireworks Night and Diwali, writing about this game.

2. Like The Murphy's - They're Not Bitter

At least Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal team took their defeat with all the good grace, class and dignity that we have come to associate them with.

The Librarians really should come with a health warning saying "Very aesthetically pleasing until defeat, at which point liable to turn childish and petulant. (Also, not available in English)".

3. I'll Bet He Saw That

The Wenger - Pardew bout was marvellously entertaining, purely because it mirrored events on the pitch quite closely. The professorial Arsenal hurried, hassled and eventually reduced to infantile nonsense. The all action Hammers, by contrast, making up for their lack of experience through sheer force of will and a great deal of effort.

In many ways, however, I wish the off the field shenanigans hadn't happened. It will simply deflect away from our performance on a day when we were excellent in every aspect.

You can bet that Pardew will be getting a congratulatory phone call from Alex Ferguson tonight though.

4. My Mate Cesc

You may have seen Cesc Fabregas throw a couple of "punches" at Teddy Sheringham after full time. I hesitate to use the term as it's really an insult to those men and women who earn a living practising the noble art. In fairness to broody teenager Cesc though, it can't be all that heartening to hit a man old enough to be your father in the stomach and have him laugh at you. Twice.

Thus, if any Arsenal fan ever tries to tell you that Cesc Fabregas is a midfield hardman please make them watch that particular bit of footage until they cry.

5. The Stats

We had 44% possession today which is low for us but quite high for a team playing Arsenal. Arsenal's ability to keep the ball is a wonder to behold and it is a real shame that they have no English players in their first choice XI. I say that not because of xenophobia but because if they had, say, three English players it might improve our national team a little. If England were even 3/11ths as good as Arsenal it would be an improvement.

Actually, if England were 3/11ths as good as West Ham on yesterdays evidence it would be an improvement.

6. The Opposition

Arsenal are unquestionably a majestic football team. However, they are also a collection of repugnant individuals. Wenger, Jens Lehmann, Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry are all devoid of redeeming features. That said - when you have Lee Bowyer in your team it's tough to point fingers.

To balance that up a bit, I do love Kolo Toure. How keen is he? He's the kind of guy who looks like he puts his shoes on enthusiastically.

7. The Referee

Rob Styles got the one major decision of the game right and for that he deserves much credit. Not awarding a penalty for Spector's tackle on Hleb was the correct choice, as was not giving us one for the challenge on Bowyer. Elsewhere, he was mediocre and inconsistent and I don't care one bit.

8. Credit Where It's Due Department

Pardew was tactically superb today. I was initially fearful of the 4-5-1 formation as it is endorsed by Sam Allardyce, and anything he favours usually ends in boredom.

However, the additional man in midfield meant that we were able to prevent Arsenal's usual slick passing and movement, and even break sporadically ourselves. More importantly than that, Danny Gabbidon and the rest of our back 4 were immense. To get into November without keeping a clean sheet is notable, particularly when you've played Newcastle, but to then record your first shut out against Thierry Henry and Arsenal simply defies rational analysis.

To do it with George McCartney at the centre of your defence is, well, how can I put this - bordering on the insane.

It also says much for our outstanding defensive performance that the visitors mustered just two shots on target the entire game. And while we're at it, my manly love for Robert Green grows by the game, if you're interested.

9. Just Thought I'd Flag It

An unusual phenomenon I've noticed in the Premiership this year. Linesmen the league over appear to be breaking their flags at an unholy rate. Just how on earth do you irreparably damage a flag when all you're doing is waving it?

All I can say is that I'm glad they weren't carrying the banners of King Henry V at Agincourt.

10. Matt Finish

A word then for Matthew Etherington who battled away down the left flank and eventually created our goal through persistence and out muscling Matthieu Flamini. Now the latter may be so useless that he should have "ballast" on the back of his shirt but you can only beat those who oppose you.

11. Just To Clarify

West Ham beat Arsenal and kept a clean sheet. tottenham beat Chelsea for the first time in 16 years and Saddam Hussein was found guilty of crimes against humanity. That's an unusual day. I was going to nip out and check if Hell had indeed frozen over but mercifully Ikea isn't open this time of night.

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

Mrs Dawson: "Hang on a minute - he scored a goal. That verges on competent doesn't it?And he was singled out by Ian Wright on MoTD for extra praise".

HeadHammerShark: "But Ian Wright has the cerebral capacity of an apricot."

Mrs Dawson: "OK ignore that then. But they did beat Chelsea "

HeadHammerShark: "Well, even Middlesbrough can do that. Might I point out he was part of the defence who allowed Claude Makalele to score against them, which is scientifically impossible?"

Mrs Dawson: "You're right, he's rubbish. You do write beautifully though. Keep it up - I never miss a column"

NB: The above discussion may not have ever taken place. It's difficult to recall as my head has nearly exploded courtesy of the Blitz currently taking place outside my house......

Thursday, November 02, 2006

West Ham vs Arsenal: 4 November 2006 (Match Preview and Other Ramblings)

1. The Only Way Is Up

Allllllriiiiiiight then. A win, some goals and Carlos Tevez not being loaned to Barcelona! Never again shall this column be negative or funereal. I have cast off my lachrymose cloak and I shall henceforth exude positivity, unfettered by pessimism or, you know, facts.

So hand me that fixture list my good man. Who are our next victims? What's that you say? Arsenal?

Oh for Gods sake.

2. Say What?

Backtracking slightly, rumours abound today that we have turned down an enquiry from Barcelona asking for Carlos Tevez on loan. Aside from quite how mind bending it is for that team to be begging us for one of our players, I am wondering exactly how Carlos feels about that.

I have no doubt he is learning hugely from just training with Bobby Zamora and Marlon Harewood and, of course, watching them play, but I can't help thinking he might have jumped at that particular opportunity.

3. The Globetrotters

And you thought we were out of the European competitions. Here come Racing Club de Arsenal and their whopping English contingent of 2 squad members. I don't suppose that I am either the first or the last person to say this, but I would be loathe to sacrifice the "Englishness" of our club even if it meant extended success, and in fairness, magnificent football, as Arsenal have done.

Occasionally including Justin Hoyte in your side does not make you an English team. Indeed, the list of young English players who have left Arsenal in recent years is eye opening.

Matthew Upson, Jermaine Pennant, Richard Wright, Francis Jeffers, David Bentley, James Harper and Steve Sidwell have all moved on to pastures new. Taking Sidwell and Upson as examples, it is fair to say that they would never have displaced Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell respectively, but less reasonable to suggest that they were not as good as Mathieu Flamini and Phillipe Senderos - both of whom are made entirely of wax.

In short, then - Marlon Harewood might be a comedy act, but he's our comedy act.

4. Hooray Henry

I can't have been alone in giggling at Thierry Henry's pleas for Arsenal fans to stop "moaning" and leaving games early, just because they are drawing 1-1 at home to Everton.

By the way - moaning over a draw? Some people don't know they're born. Can you imagine if they went 8 games without a goal? Those crazy Librarians - they'd be tutting wildly and saying "honestly" under their breath.

Anyway, in fairness to Thierry, Arsenal fans are so quiet that people getting up to leave would probably create the same sort of disturbance as if you did it at the World Snooker Championships. So remember on Sunday............Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

5. Cesc Fabulous?

I have something called my DOG (*) Index. This currently reads as follows:

1. tottenham 2. Newcastle 3. Craig Bellamy 4. Cesc Fabregas 5. Leeds United 6. Sam Allardyce 7. Nigel Reo-Coker 8. Stewart Downing 9. Graham Poll 10. Peter Ridsdale

This is calculated by taking each entities perception of their own talent , multiplying it by their self promoting attitude and dividing it by their actual achievments.

*Delusions of Grandeur

If you're wondering how Cesc Fabregas got in there despite being quite good, it's because he wore "Cesc" on the back of his shirt during the World Cup despite not being Brazilian, Asian or one of football's all time legends. And you thought it was something petty.

6. If We Didn't Have Bad Luck.......

The Librarians are a magisterial football team but we have not had much luck against them over the years. Amidst a couple of 4-0 batterings we've also mustered up some fairly good performances that have been marred by ill fortune.

In particular one thinks of the 2002/03 home game, a now infamous 2-2 draw where we squandered a 2 goal lead, hit the post and Freddie Kanoute missed a penalty before we conceded a last minute equaliser. When asked if he could change one thing about that relagation season, chariman Terry Brown responded - "I would have made Trevor Sinclair take that penalty". Interesting bit of blame re-direction there.

7. Forza Paolo

Fruitloop and fascist though he may be Paolo di Canio has given me the only West Ham victory over Arsenal at Upton Park that I've ever seen.

It was October 3 1999 and Paolo took a break from impersonating Oswald Moseley to score two fantastic goals, and generally embarrass Martin Keown.

In addition, Patrick Vieira was sent off (quelle surprise), Arsene Wenger didn't see it (quelle surprisier) and we won despite Neil Ruddock and Igor Stimac marking Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp (c'est miracle).

Otherwise, the stats make for quite grim reading. Since 1987 Britain has invaded Iraq more times than we have beaten Arsenal at home. Okey dokey.

8. Michael Dawson - An Apology

As some of you may have seen, I have been contacted by Big Ol' Useless Mike's legal team to request that I stop slandering him. Therefore, in the spirit of the impending season of goodwill and in the interests of avoiding a court case (although wouldn't you just love to see them be forced to prove in a court of law that Michael Dawson was not in fact a hollowed out Trojan Donkey) I would like to make the following apology:

Michael - I am sorry that you are an appalling footballer who is made entirely of wood. Get better soon - in every sense.

Some of you have asked for an explanation of my continued mocking of Mahogony Mickey. Well, I can't give you a good one. It's almost completely irrational.

I'm sure that he doesn't leave his car in disabled parking spaces (like the odious El-Hadji Diouf), or spit at fellow players (like the odious El-Hadji Diouf) or worse still, spit at fans (like the odious El Hadji-Diouf) but I still feel a need to ridicule him incessantly. I'm not proud of it (well maybe a little) but there you go. It first started when a Forest fan told me to watch him as he was the next Bobby Moore (blasphemy) and so I watched him very closely as he played 3 games against West Ham and allowed Jermain Defoe to score 4 times. Then he moved to tottenham and now he's giving away penalties for England. I think that's reason enough. His whole career is fairly inexplicable - he's a footballing Robbie Williams if you will.

Either way, I'm pretty sure he's stopped reading this column.........