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

Monday, August 28, 2006

Liverpool 2 - 1 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Service Is Resumed

There are some things in life that I guess I will never get to experience. Standing on the moon, representing England in an Ashes Test, listening to a James Blunt song without wanting to lop off my own head. This is the natural order of things and to that list should of course be added - watching West Ham win at Anfield.

Let's not pretend we're surprised. We'll get over it, but by God wouldn't it be nice to even accidentally win one up there?

2. The Stats

Per MoTD we had 48% of the possession which is not all that bad for a visiting team at Liverpool. However, we managed to convert this into only 1 corner and just 4 shots on target. The former statistic mirrors our tally at Watford, and would suggest that our wide players are not getting to the byline and forcing challenges that lead to corners. In addition, one can probably assume that as a team we are not having enough shots on target that might lead to corners. Of course, that doesn't really matter against Jose Reina - all you need to do is mishit a cross and not take any penalties against him. Et voila.

Bobby Zamora scored his 4th goal of the season and leads the Premier League, a tally he reached on 14 December last season. And I particularly liked the fact he claimed his goal on Saturday was deliberate. Touche, Bob, I won't tell anyone.

We only failed to score in 6 away games last year. Although in the interests of pure entertainment we only kept two clean sheets. N.B: Exactly how do you not keep a clean sheet against Sunderland?

3. Marvellous Marlon

It's a bit deflating when you go one nil up at Anfield and within 2 minutes you know you're not going to win. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened when Marlon was put through on goal, briefly confused himself with Emile Heskey and put it wide. He just needs a goal, rather like last year, when he was put out of his misery by the visit of Aston Villa. And look who's coming to town in a couple of weeks.....I should caveat that slightly, as Villa are now managed by Martin O'Neill, who is more than competent, whilst last year they were managed by David O'Leary who is, well, not.

4. Positive Pards

I liked the fact that Pards read this column last week and decided to switch Bowyer and Benayoun. Unfortunately Rafael Benitez outsmarted us both and played Gerrard down the middle. Slightly disappointing then that we weren't able to create more from the flanks. They had Fabio Aurelio playing at left back after all, and he's as solid as butter.

5. Things To Be Positive About

Nigel Reo-Coker looked a bit more like his old self and a bit less like Christian Dailly. His passing is still woeful though.

I thought Ferdinand and Gabbidon did pretty well although the latter did allow Crouch to run off him for the second goal. Which isn't something to put on your CV.

John Paintsil still looks very good. It was his cross which set up the late chance for Bowyer. I am contractually obliged by the Lazy Tabloid Journalists Association to describe this opportunity as "Gilt Edged".

6. Things To Be Worried About

Tyrone Mears seems confused. I wonder if this is because he came from Preston where Billy Davies gave the sole instruction of "Act Portugese!" before each game. Poor old Tyrone clearly had that in mind on Saturday and upon being brought on, promptly fell over with no one else in view. Now that's quite Portugese and therefore quite good for Preston - but not all that good for us.

Call me old fashioned but I would have liked one of our players to have been within a hectare of Daniel Agger when he hit that shot.

7. Harry Potter and the Liverpool Striker

I'm not a huge fan of us letting humans score against us but I accept it must happen from time to time. I am far less enamoured about the idea of allowing a Goblin to do it, hence my extreme pleasure at the fact Craig Bellamy was kept off the scoresheet on Saturday.

8. The Opposition

Liverpool looked ok. Nothing more. Which is pretty much how I would have described the team that won the Champions League. And that probably says something about Rafael Benitez. If he was manager of Chelsea they'd have certainly won the Champions League by now and probably the Ryder Cup, too.

A lot of the press focused on the debut of Dirk Kuyt. I thought he came on, ran around a lot, had a few efforts, looked deeply ugly and didn't score. Now correct me if I'm wrong but that could be a description of any Liverpool striker these days. Kuyt was better than I gave him credit for but I confidently predict that come the end of the season he will have missed a golden opportunity somewhere which will cost them some silverware.

9. The Referee

Alan Wiley - I didn't notice him very much which is probably a good thing. He did disallow a goal from Harewood for a "foul" on Aurelio that would not have been given if it had been Crouch on Konchesky. C'est la vie - the Premier League does not have the same 4 sides in the Champions League every year by accident.

10. Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

tottenham lost 2-0 at home to Everton. The visitors played for an hour with just ten men by the way. For the last few minutes Michael Dawson played up front for tottenham. Just how desperate do you have to be to play a Jim'll Fix It winner in a Premier League game?


......Everton won at tottenham with 10 men. Did I already mention that? Don't worry, facts like that are similar to fine wine - they get better with age...........Charlton beat Bolton. Could Ronaldo have got two less intimidating sets of fans for his first two trips away than Charlton and Watford? He'll get a tougher time at a Girl Guide convention........Watford lost 2-1 to Man Utd. Did anybody else think Darius Henderson looked remarkably unpeturbed at missing that chance from 4 millimetres?........Fulham beat Sheffield United. Jimmy Bullard scored the winner with a great free kick. Paddy Kenny didn't move a muscle. And I mean all game.......Man City beat Arsenal. Is it just me or does Theo Walcott have a massive backside?.........Wigan beat Reading. I'm assuming that was a football game, there is no evidence that anybody actually attended it though.......

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Liverpool vs West Ham : 26 August 2006 (Match Preview and Other Ramblings)

1. I've Got A Bad Feeling About This....

There has been altogether too much optimism flying around about our visit to Liverpool this week. It's known as fate, my friends. We play Liverpool in one of the all time great cup finals. We lose on penalties but win the admiration of Scousers everywhere because we were, like, you know, the better team. Great. Fast forward a couple of months and we are scheduled to play them in their opening home fixture where they get to parade the aforementioned trophy around before the match. Splendid.

Combine that with the fact that our last victory at Anfield came a couple of weeks after Agincourt, and that Liverpool haven't lost a home game in 10 months and I'd say you have a recipe for, what we in the trade like to call, a shellacking.

2. Things To Be Positive About

I'm sorry, were you talking to me?

3. Things To Be Worried About

We were fairly insipid away from home last year against the top 4 teams. Defeats at Chelski, Man Utd and Liverpool came at a combined scoreline of 1-7 and whilst the 3-2 win at Highbury was undeniably orgasmic it doesn't counter the fact that we, like the rest of the Premiership are quite a distance from the Champions League teams. Indeed, we didn't beat Liverpool in any of the 3 games we played against them last year.

Have I mentioned we don't win at Anfield all that frequently? Specifically, that would be Halley's Comet type frequency. The last West Ham player to score a winning goal at Anfield was Sir Geoff Hurst in 1963. And any time you've got a Knight of the Realm appearing in your stats, someone, somewhere, hasn't done their job properly.

Liverpool also hold an ever so slight edge over us when one looks at the overall record between the two teams. And by slight edge I'm talking "German Army over French Army in 1941" sort of edge.

In 98 games between the 2 sides, we have won 20. Right-o.

4. The Gerrard Problem

The most criminal of the myriad offences committed by Sven Goran Eriksson was his misuse of Steven Gerrard (I'm putting that just ahead of giving an England cap to cereal box competition winner Gavin McCann).

Liverpool appear to have built their team around Gerrard, playing him in a nominal wide right position, which in truth appears to be a free role designed to allow him to influence games from anywhere on the pitch. For England, meanwhile, he seemed to play in a position I would best characterize as "Doing Lampard's running for him". Rafael Benitez is a better manager than Sven Goran Eriksson. Raphael the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle is a better manager than Sven Goran Eriksson.

No doubt much of Pardew's preparations this week will be around who should mark the Scouse captain. My initial suggestion would be the VII Armoured Corps. Failing that - use Kryptonite.

Either way I'm thinking it might not be a job for Yossi Benayoun.

5. OK - Glimmers of Hope

Liverpool are expected to start their new signing Dirk Kuyt. Whilst I appreciate Newtons (Isaac, not Shaun) Immutable Law of Debutant Goalscorers applies here, I did happen to watch Kuyt fairly closely in the World Cup and he made Kevin Davies look like a clinical, cold blooded assassin.

Paul Konchesky scored in his last game against Liverpool. So did Dean Ash - awwwwww bugger.

Lee Bowyer has as many red cards as he does goals in his career against The Reds (2). Our other top scorers against them - Sheringham and Konchesky, also with 2 each. Can I suggest the merits of a lie in tomorrow?

They are missing a few players - namely Riise, Carragher, Sissoko and Stephen Warnock. Harry Kewell is also out which is a negative for us and Warnock not playing is a bit like like a tank not having windscreen wipers.

6. Take Cole to Liverpool

Carlton Cole is now down to an average of 1 measly goal per 12 minutes played. This will (WILL) equate to 7 goals at Liverpool.

7. Say What? The Poor Man's Djimi Traore!

Reading some comments on the BBC 6-0-6 website I saw new Liverpool centre back Daniel Agger referred to as the above by a Scouse fan. Just how bad do you have to be get that nickname? Is he legally blind? Does he have one leg? Is he Michael Dawson? Blimey - note to Pards - "Target the Dane".

8. I Feel A Bit Sicily

I couldn't let the occasion pass without comment. We will play Palermo in the UEFA Cup 1st Round. Leaving aside for a moment the Pythagorean calculation required in order to seed Newcastle and Blackburn, but not West Ham or tottenham - what a great feeling.

I am extremely excited about watching us not keep clean sheets in mainland Europe as well as our own fair isle.........

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Watford 1 - 1 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. You've Got To Accentuate The Positive

Right, let's examine the good stuff. We're unbeaten, we're top of the league and we have the Premiership's leading goalscorer. I've been desperately trying to alter the progress of the space/time continuum to ensure that this never changes. It's not worked all that well but I'll keep trying - it will never get any better for us after all. Also, I don't know about you but I think that 1 point buffer we've got over Chelski might prove crucial come the end of the year.

What a save from Roy Carroll.

We already have 4 points acquired from games where we were behind. I love Alan Pardew and his anti-Dementor policy.

2. Aaaaaand The Negative

I'm not a huge fan of altering our style of play to face anyone, as our success last year was based on a fluid 4-4-2 system and certainly not an alien 3-5-2 formation. Doing it against a newly promoted team is especially curious. Despite the fact that it was Watford's first home game of the season, it doesn't change the fact that they are still Watford and they still had Chris Powell playing for them. I'm also slightly concerned that if we're playing 5 at the back against Watford we could end up with 14 defenders at Stamford Bridge.

Marlon King now has 3 goals in 4 games against us. I wouldn't mind but two of them have been of the outstanding type. And Marlon King is anything but outstanding.

According to Guardian we only earned 1 corner tonight. I'd say that's cause for concern. Did I mention Chris Powell was playing for them?

Please don't misunderstand me - Watford deserved at least a share of the spoils tonight and contextually it was good point for us, but I'm keen that we set our sights slightly higher than getting a draw at the newly promoted teams.

3. From A to Z

I'm pleased for Bobby Zamora, he's not making me pine for Dean Ashton. I especially love the way he holds up his fingers and counts down the 6 seconds when opposition keepers have the ball.

3 goals in 2 games is a great start and it would be fantastic to see him return to the goalscoring form of his Brighton days. In particular, I like the fact that he has a penchant for scoring away from home (settle down Carlton, that's not a euphemism).

I'm also pleased that Dean Ashton and Bobby Zamora have surnames that are alphabetical bookends, otherwise this title wouldn't have made any sense.

4. Prediction

I have made three predictions so far and got them all wrong. I confidently predict that I will stop making any more predictions. Except this one - tottenham won't go down this year. Come on God - you know how this works.

5. Sartorial Inelegance

Is Alan Pardew coming to games directly from the bowling green? I mean, what in the name of Phil "The Power" Taylor is Pardew wearing these days? A white polo shirt tucked into dark chinos? He's making me long for Roeder's leather jacket.

6. Roy's The Boy

Carroll is great at screaming at his back 4 isn't he? I always think that's the mark of a good keeper - how well you can blame everyone else for your mistakes. And he really is top notch. You get a great schooling at Old Trafford I suppose.

7. Europe (The Continent Not The Band)

We're in the UEFA Cup draw this week. I'm mildly pleased by this fact.


tottenham beat Sheffield United. Neil Warnock thinks the Blades should have had a penalty to the surprise of no one in this cosmos.........Kevin Phillips moved to Championship side West Brom today for £700,000 - Adi Akinbiyi started a Premiership game tonight. I had to get Mrs Shark to type that sentence as my fingers went on strike and refused to......Sky have really done a fine job picking their live games so far - Sheffield United vs Liverpool (Ho), Bolton vs tottenham (Hum), Man United vs Fulham (Hang on a minute), Chelski vs Man City (What the fuck?). Do you think Sky are aware that 95% of Premiership fans care as much about Chelski as they do about shoes? Me either..............

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

Michael Dawson marked Adi Akinbiyi tonight. Has their ever been a more useless Marker/Markee combination in the history of Association Football? Under no circumstances should you try to add up the cumulative fees that these two "footballers" have been transferred for. Your head will explode.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Watford vs West Ham : 22 August 2006 (Match Preview and Other Ramblings)

1. The Road Less Travelled

In preparation for tomorrows game I thought I'd take a quick peek at last years Away League table at http://www.premierleague.com/fapl.rac?command=forwardOnly&nextPage=actimStatistics.

Now I knew we were pretty tasty but not to the extent of finishing 5th in the league, with 7 wins and 4 draws. We were better than tottenham, Arsenal and, gulp, Fulham (who managed a whopping 7 points all year). Check out the state of your flabber - because mine was ghasted when I read that. Oh, me of little faith.

2. History

Recent contests between these two sides have been fairly one sided. 2004/05 saw us win 3-2 at home and 2-1 at Vicarage Road on the last day of the season. The first game was noticeable for Watford managing the previously impossible feat of letting Sergiy Rebrov score against them. In addition, they let us score from a corner and come back from 2-0 down. Which is Zeus's way of telling Watford fans - "You're not in my good books".

The previous season saw us win 4-0 at home and draw 0-0 away. Anton Ferdinand was on the bench for the second game behind Ian Pearce. No wonder it stormed that day, the Gods were probably trying to kill Pardew.

BUT. Get this kids - in 28 League games between the two teams we've won 20! We also have an unbeaten ten match run at Vicarage Road on the line tonight. Yowzah, that's a period of extended competence that confounds all my previous experience of following West Ham. Of course, this is still West Ham so the last time they beat us they did it to the tune of 5-0, in 1984/85.

3. Take Cole To Watford

Carlton Cole is averaging 1 goal every 5 minutes whilst playing for us. So if starts tomorrow he should, BY RIGHTS, score 18 goals. I suggest you play him Pards, we could get a draw.

4. Promotion Blues

Promoted teams haven't done too well in their first home games in recent years. Last year we beat Blackburn, Wigan lost to Chelski, and Sunderland lost to Charlton. Of course, Wigan and us are professional football teams whilst Sunderland are a collection of Parcelforce drivers so I won't compare us any further.

Reading and Sheffield Utd survived the weekend and Watford will be hoping to do the same. Over the last 3 years the promoted teams have amassed a record of 2 wins, 2 draws and 4 defeats so the odds aren't stacked in their favour. But, then we're predictable in the same way that cats are so there is hope for them.

Our first away game last year saw us draw 0-0 at Newcastle. This game was notable for Paul Konchesky getting a red card, later rescinded when West Ham appealed using the arcane argument that tackling a Newcastle player isn't an automatic sending off.

This game marked our first clean sheet of the season away from Upton Park. Our second came on May 1 at West Brom, our last away game of the season. A piffling little run of 18 Premiership away games without failing to concede.

5. Don't Give Him Any Leeway

Lee Bowyer was Gerrardic against Charlton. Now there was precedent for this as he was voted Player of the Year at Newcastle last season. You could say that's a bit like being nominated as the best singer in Girls Aloud, but we should respect them (Geordies, not Girls Aloud) as they love their football up there after all.


We'll win. We'd better, as we're away to Liverpool on Saturday and I'm looking forward to that in the same way I'm anticipating my next trip to a funeral parlour. If we do win, it will be by one goal. The last time we won away from home in the league by more than the odd goal was at Ipswich on Jan 1 2005 in the Championship, and the last time in the Premiership was seemingly on Sep 23 2000 at Coventry when we won 3-0 (I'm caveating that one as our results for 2000-2002 appear not to be listed anywhere on the web. Which is weird when you consider what you can find on the Web........).


Nicolas Anelka and Sam Allardyce? I don't foresee any problems there whatsoever.........tottenham play Sheffield United tonight. The Blades are the only football team I've ever seen who try and play the entire game using only their elbows.........Mrs Shark read this column for the first time last night. Her only question? "What's a Djimi Traore?". My answer? - "French/Malian mammal, latterly found in the UK. Has no discernible motor skills. "....

Sunday, August 20, 2006

West Ham 3 -1 Charlton (And Other Ramblings)

1. Is Anybody Else Having Trouble Seeing?

I made the mistake of looking directly at Roy Carroll's jersey and my eyes have only just stopped bleeding.

2. Jimmy Doesn't Score

Much like George W Bush I believe that man and fish can peacefully co-exist. Now, I also believe that the West Ham back 4 and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink can spend an afternoon together without the former feeling the need to donate goals to the latter. That's now 2 games in a row that JFH has failed to score against us. Laugh? I nearly bought my own beer, kids.

3. Things To Be Pleased About

Lee Bowyer was assisterrific. 3 key contributions and a shot that curled on to the post after a really quite tremendous move. All in all he looked rather like a professional footballer, unlike his last stint with us, when he looked the exact opposite. Which would be Seth Johnson.

John Paintsil has declared that his aim for the season is to get all the fans spelling his name properly. Now that isn't all that lofty a goal but it's better than the entire England's squad's desire to "write" an autobiography. Either way, he looked pretty impressive when he came on. Quick, nimble and not a bad passer. Of course he was playing against Bryan Hughes, who is a lampshade with a football shirt draped over him, but you can only beat what's put in front of you.

As a collective unit we were outstanding. Full of pace and inventiveness and much too good for Charlton even when they were at full strength. Bobby Z scored twice and Carlton Cole netted with his second touch. All of which bodes well for our Ashtonless near future.

Hayden Mullins was outstanding without doing anything noticeably briliant. What an oxymoron. Djimi Traore was awful without doing anything much at all. What a moron.

4. Things To Be Worried About

Tyrone Mears looked pretty overwhelmed by it all. He could have been put off by Charlton's odd choice of sock.

Danny Gabbidon and Anton Ferdinand didn't have much to do, but they didn't look all that glorious doing it. I suspect that it's a lack of match sharpness but they really want to sort that out before we go to Liverpool next week. I rather suspect that Steven Gerrard will present more of a threat than Matt Holland.

5. White Lightning

Was our entire outfield line up wearing white boots?

6. 3 Is A Magic Number

According to BBC MoTD we had 67% of the possession. Which you really should against 10 men.

That converted into 16 attempts on goal but just a paltry 5 on target, which isn't all that clever. Charlton apparently managed 3 efforts on target but I can't for the life of me remember them. I'm pretty sure that tally includes the incident when Darren Bent gave it back to Carroll from a drop ball. And anytime you're relying on chivalry to pad out your stats, then you've been mullered.

Zamora scored twice from 3 shots on goal, although I'd scarcely characterise his second goal as a bona fide shot. Still, I'm not complaining.

7. I Suppose He Does Traore

It amazes me that professional footballers still stand in front of quick free kicks. Then again, it amazes me that Djimi Traore is still a professional footballer. The next time you think your career is going well just remember that Djimi Traore has a Champions League winners medal. It's important to stay grounded folks.

8. The Referee

There was quite a bit of grumbling about Howard Webb inside the ground. I personally thought he was fairly consistent. He got the first decision of the match wrong and pretty much everything else thereafter. Gabbidon should certainly have been booked and quite possibly sent off for his handball, whilst two perfectly good goals were ruled out for Harewood and Darren Bent. On the England Managers Scale of Rubbishness I'd grade his performance as Erikssonian.

9. The Opposition

It's quite hard to judge a team when they play in a game officiated by plankton. Charlton look quite good up front and below average everywhere else. Andy Reid weighs approximately 24 stone and has all the pace of parliamentary reform but he does have the skill set of a Premiership footballer I suppose, and should help. Unlike Talal El-Karkouri who has the skill set of a film extra.

In honour of Iain Dowie and his legendary "bouncebackability" statement I have decided to create my own phrase - "hasnoability" (see "Dawson, Michael (n)")

10. Farewell

Just wanted to say a quick goodbye to Eidur Gudjohnsen, the only man at Chelski with both an English accent and a passing familiarity with sentence construction. One thing I shall not miss is his goal celebration which annoyed the life out of me. For that very same reason I hate it when Malcolm Christie scores, which is akin to saying you hate it when asteroids land on your roof so I won't meditate on it too long.


.......Aston Villa got a draw at Arsenal which constitutes a victory for Martin O'Neill over all known forces in the Universe........Bolton beat tottenham, with Kevin Davies scoring. This must be like being bitten by a non-venomous snake - I guess it won't kill you but I bet it makes you cry.....Newcastle beat Wigan. Kieron Dyer missed his 147th successive game with injury. At this point I'll just assume he's in a coma........Sheffield United drew with Liverpool. No reports yet as to whether Paddy Kenny ate anyone......Portsmouth beat Blackburn to go top of the league, which is a sentence I never thought I'd type whilst we were still using fossil fuels...........Reading beat Boro. I'd consider that a victory for the Red-Headed League.......Everton got a streaky win over Watford. Interestingly Andy Johnson didn't take their penalty. If he's not going to take them then he won't benefit from his diving this year and Mikel Arteta could win the Golden Boot.Seriously.......Man United beat Fulham 5-1 which I'd treat as a fantastic result if I were a Fulham fan.......Chelski beat Man City and Francis Lampard scored with a deflected shot. I suspect the sun might rise tomorrow.....

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

As mentioned above Kevin Davies scored against tottenham this weekend. Last season he scored 7 times in 37 games, which is y'know, crap. Anyhow Michael Dawson and the tottenham defence let him score against them this weekend. The only sensible conclusion to be drawn from this is that Michael Dawson is a large, flat piece of wood.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

England = Aston Villa (And Other World Cup Ramblings)

1. "England Is Mine - She Owes Me A Living"

Watching England always puts me in mind of The Smiths. Read into that what you will.

So England beat the European Champions 4-0. Ho hum. I wouldn't categorise myself as overwhelmed, or underwhelmed, just paint me plain old whelmed. Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to have seen England play like that in the summer but the point remains that none of the teams we came up against in Germany would have ever allowed us to play in that way.

The fact that Greece are European Champions remains one of the most mind boggling feats in footballing history, and proof if it were needed that there is such a thing as karma. What happened that balmy (barmy?) night in Portugal shows beyond all doubt that for every human being there will come a moment when the stars and planets juxtapose themselves in such a fashion that the fates will conspire to allow an event which absolutely defies all logic and reason. For one such event to happen to an entire country at once is a little unusual but c'est la vie. This phenomena also explains why Scarlett Johanssen is going out with Josh Hartnett if you're interested. Indeed some cruel folk might suggest that the Greek back 4 appear to be to man marking what young Josh is to method acting. But not me.

Anyway - don't mention the war, onwards and upwards, didn't JT look inspirational, great finish by Lampard etc...

2. England = Aston Villa

Now in my last column I did level a fairly serious accusation at my own country by labelling them as the Aston Villa of the international scene. Lest I end up in the Tower, I think I should try and back that claim up.

I propose to test this theory by using a fairly straightforward ranking method for all World Cups dating back to, in this example, 1994.

By attributing a score to each country based upon where they have exited the competition it is possible to roughly get a picture of how each country has performed. To that end I have awarded 2 points for a Group Stage (GS) exit, 4 for 2nd Round (R2), 6 for Quarter Finals (QF), 8 for Semi Finals (SF), 10 for losing finalists (F) and 12 for Winners (W).

Using that system produces some interesting results. Try matching up the following countries with the scores below, as determined using the rather excellent http://www.planetworldcup.com/ - England, Mexico, USA, Germany & Brazil:

Country A - 40
Country B - 30
Country C - 16
Country D - 16
Country E - 14

It probably doesn't take the brains of Paul Danan to work out that countries A & B are Brazil and Germany respectively. Countries C &D are Mexico and England and the USA are country E. (Yes, that's the USA hanging grimly to our coat tails there).

Interestingly England's performance puts them on par with not only Mexico but Sweden and every English pundits "under achieving" whipping boys, Spain. Averaging these 4 World Cup performances out gives England an average of 4 points, putting us a 2nd round team and no more.

Now, I KNOW what you're going to say. England's perfomance is heavily impeded by the fact that we did not qualify for USA 1994. Leaving aside the fact that non-qualification for a World Cup should probably tell you all you need to know about the international pecking order, this is a valid point.

If you therefore only take England's average for tournaments in which we've qualified that number rises to a slightly less Mexican 5.33, but still firmly in that bracket between R2 and QF losers.

Truth be told the point I'm eventually arriving at is that England performed exactly as history suggested we would in Germany. Ergo, my young padawans, why all the weeping and gnashing of teeth? Next time you feel the urge to stick £50 on an over hyped, consistently mediocre, sleeping "giant" of the game may I suggest that in doing so you are effectively backing Aston Villa to win the Premiership. Which is idiotic. And something you don't want to do.

3. The Link Between Lampard and Paltrow

Ever seen the film "Sliding Doors"? Nope, me either, But as I understand it the basic premise of the film is that there are alternate realities in which certain events haven't happened and thus the course of history is altered in those timelines. At some point these realities meet and the confluence of events reveals the truth, and Rebus gets together with Gwyneth Paltrow. Naturally.

Does this mean therefore, that there was a parallel universe where Francis Lampard would shoot and NOT have the ball deflect into the net? As I work it out (in my head) young Francis scores roughly 63% of his goals in our dimension, via a deflection. Interesting to note then that during the World Cup the canny opposition coaches noticed this and instructed their men to go nowhere near Francis and let him keep shooting. And boy, didn't that pay off. I can only assume, therefore, that Germany marked the moment when Francis's two alternate realities converged. Shame.

4. The Curious Incident of the Fox in the Box

(With apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Has anybody seen Jermain Iscariot? The last time we saw him he was leaving the Boleyn Ground with a healthy 0.31 Goals Per Game ratio and portable transfer request hanging out of his back pocket.

At tottenham this ratio has increased slightly to 0.32 which is amazing considering the usual decimation of young talent over there (Jermain, meet Andy, Wayne, Calum, Sergiy) but Iscariot has still continued to fail dismally at international level.

His current record for England is a paltry 1 goal in 17 caps. Admittedly this includes a large number of substitute appearances, but games against Northern Ireland and Wales are still goalscoring manna, Shirley.

In fact his England career to this point very closely resembles those of Teddy Sheringham (2 in his first 17) and Ian Wright (1 in his first 15). Sheringham recovered quite well to end up with a respectable record but Wright never really coped with international football. All in all I've decided I don't really care what happens to Iscariot but while he's taking space up there it would be nice if he, you know, nicked one off Crouchy's toe every now and again. It's either that or Vassell, so all things considered.....Go Judas!

5. What Jamaica That?

In the last two England friendlies Peter Crouch has scored 5 goals. The only logical conclusion to be drawn from this is that we are not playing strong enough opposition.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

West Ham vs Charlton : 19 August 2006 (Match Preview and Other Ramblings)

1. First Day Jitters

The recent historical performance of these two teams on opening day is actually fairly poor. Since the 2001/02 season Charlton have lost 4 of their opening fixtures and won just 1. Their solitary victory came last year at Sunderland, which is the footballing equivalent of beating your 4 year old child at chess and probably shouldn't be counted anyway. More relevant perhaps is the 3-0 defeat at home to Man City in 2003/04 and the 4-1 reversal at Bolton a year later, but these were all "achieved" under Curbishley and one has to assume that Iain Dowie will inspire a better than average performance this time from The Addicks.

We, on the other hand, have been unsurprisingly inconsistent. 2 defeats, 2 wins and a draw since 2001/02. The best result would be last years 3-1 triumph over Blackburn and the worst, the shockingly awful 4-0 defeat at Newcastle circa Roeder. In between there was a win at Preston and a draw to Leicester to not get excited about.

In short, then, it's hard to look past a draw. Quite interesting though that one often thinks of Charlton as a fast starting, slow finishing team when this (admittedly very small) sample size suggests that they aren't THAT quick off the blocks.

2. Jimmy Will Score

The likelihood of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink not scoring against us on Saturday is so miniscule that there is no adequate comparison in the universe for me to give you. According to www.soccerbase.com JFH has played 15 games against West Ham in his career and scored 13 times. This gives him a Goals Per Game ratio of 0.8666667 and means that if he were to play all 38 of his games against West Ham he would score 33 goals. Which is a quite impressive, Andrea Silenzi type figure (look him up). I don't know why we don't just buy him and save ourselves 2 goals a year.

Of course it is not yet possible to lose a game 0.8666667 - 0 but if it came down to tottenham winning or losing a Champions League place I suspect Daniel Levy might write a strongly worded letter on the subject.

3. Nothing Good Comes Of Playing For England

I'm really not all that fussed about the English national side (mainly because they are the international equivalent of Aston Villa) but for any Hammers out there keeping score, I now make it 3 consecutive call ups injured whilst on duty with the 3 Lions.

Dean Ashton of course has had his ankle broken today by the mighty Shaun Wright-Phillips, Nigel Reo-Coker had to pull out of the pre World Cup training squad with a back injury (quite possibly sustained whilst carrying Jermaine Jenas through the warm up sessions) and aeons ago David James injured his knee against Holland before he'd even had a chance to lose his concentration in a game for us.

I'm happy to be corrected but I think that's our complete litany of woe for recent years. Of course this doesn't include Anton Ferdinand, who was injured already in the summer and thus couldn't be called up to the stand by list for Germany 2006 (thus leading to the terrifying prospect of Michael Dawson somehow appearing in a World Cup), and Robert Green who we are apparently about to buy, and who is naturally recovering from an injury sustained whilst playing for England.

In short, if McClaren comes anywhere near Chadwell Heath I suggest that Pardew turns out the lights, draws the curtains and doesn't answer the front door bell.

4. Aston Villa Takeover Bid

One day I suspect that someone will put forward a cogent argument explaining the reason for the existence of Aston Villa. Until then I shall continue to view them as the most pointless sports organization in the Universe. Not that I'm knocking them or the 6 splendid points they kindly donated to our comeback season but all in all I remain convinced that if Villa didn't fulfill a Premiership fixture nobody would notice.

By the way, if you get a minute check out the record of Randy Lerner's Cleveland Browns NFL team since they returned to the league. I, for one, am hoping for this level of success in Birmingham.

5. Sandwiches

Having digressed slightly I shall finish off by pointing out that should Darren Bent play on Saturday he will be depriving us of one of the great all time reasons for missing a game. Just in case you missed it Darren allegedly nearly severed his finger this summer whilst making himself a sandwich. Now we are all aware that bread related activities are fraught with danger, but what really caught my eye about this one was that young Darren confessed to not knowing what type of sandwich he was making at the time. Now I don't know about you folks but that kind of culinary high wire walking is way beyond my level of thinking........*shakes head and walks to kitchen*.....


Welcome to what is intended to be a weekly update on the progress of West Ham United, in addition to being a general commentary on the state of the English Premier League.

This will be a West Ham centric view of the Premiership with some attempted analysis of available statistics thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately there is not a great deal of easily accessible data but I'll do my best.....