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, October 30, 2006

West Ham 2 - 1 Blackburn (And Other Ramblings)

1. So That's What It Feels Like

If you type "French military victories" into Google and click on "I'm Feeling Lucky" you get an amusing result. I was beginning to think that something similar might pop up if you put in "West Ham victories".

Continuing that slightly racist theme then, I assume this is what a French military victory feels like.

2. Take That Roeder!

Whoo - hoo. Above Newcastle on goals scored. Hang on a minute, how can there be a team in the world who have netted less goals than us?

In conclusion then, Obafemi Martins - 10 and a half million reasons not to trust Italians.

3. The Stats

For the first time in weeks we had less possession than the opposition (52% for the visitors according to MoTD) and yet still won the game. I don't really know what to read into that, except to say that maybe the fact we were passing the ball to our own players seemed to make a difference.

If you go to the Opta season statistics at http://home.skysports.com/optastats.aspx?clid=21&hlid=OPTA_West_Ham_United&cpid=8 it reveals the spectacularly unsurprising fact that we have not played very well this year. It does however, back up my assertion that Hayden Mullins is the only outfield player to have earned his wages this season.

4. Euromillions

The following was an attacking sequence of play in the first half:

Defence splitting pass from Hayden Mullins : Bobby Zamora right footed cross : Teddy Sheringham reacts quickest to loose ball : Matthew Etherington wins 50:50 challenge : Michael Gray breaks up attack with good piece of defending. This is noteworthy for the fact that none of these things have ever happened before on a football pitch.

Therefore, those of you who didn't win the £74m Lottery rollover on Friday should note that the likelihood of each of the above events happening in succession greatly outweighs that of you winning the Lottery, so in a way - you're all winners.

5. And All The Lights That Lead The Way Are Blinding

Robert Green fills me with an unusual sensation that my Arsenal supporting friends tell me is known widely as "confidence". What seems to set him apart from Roy Carroll is his ability to occasionally make saves that one would not expect him to make, in addition to his generally good decision making.

His stop from Lucas Neill was both outstanding and crucial, for it ensured that when Blackburn inevitably scored their poxy late goal it was a consolation rather than an equaliser.

He seemed to have an exceptional second half yesterday. I say "seemed" because since the club installed those neon, retina burning advertising hoardings, everything that happens down the other end of the pitch is essentially theoretical for my part.

6. The Opposition

Blackburn were a bit crap all told. I must confess that I found it difficult to have much sympathy for Jason Roberts and his broken metatarsal, for he has what I like to call a "Sean Bean percentage".

This can be arrived at by analysing the number of adverts for which Sean Bean provides voiceovers - roughly 68% and comparing this to the number of challenges that a player makes during a game where he tries to injure opposition players. For Jason Roberts this 71% - et voila, a Sean Bean percentage.

7. The Referee

Alan Wiley incorrectly awarded us a corner from which we scored our second goal. Leaving aside the fact that it was a mistake, Blackburn should not be blaming anybody but themselves for allowing a team as inept as us to score from a corner.

Wiley evened things out in injury time by allowing Blackburn to take a quick free kick several yards from where the offence occurred, which led directly to Blackurn's late goal.

So all in all - we won, who cares?

8. Right Back Atcha

A competent right back? In claret and blue? Well, I never. Jonathan Spector was great. His crossing was somewhat poor but he really did look the business. He is also tremendously coiffured for a footballer, and I bet his jacket has a big "A" on it.

On the other flank George McCartney was not the worst ex-Sunderland full back on display. Let's leave it at that.

9. Ever Ready

I must admit that I was not enamoured of the decision to start Teddy Sheringham. One virtuoso perfomance later I am snacking on my words. My reservations were not about his ability but more for the same reason that I don't think Henry Cooper should challenge for the World Heavyweight Title anytime soon.

10. Stand Up Sit Down

I shall not dwell on this for too long but you have probably read something of the West Ham fans who were banned from Sunday's game for persistent standing. Although they have ostensibly been banned by the club this has been done at the behest of the Football Licensing Authority (FLA) who are stringently enforcing some ridiculous standing laws.

Irrespective of whether you are a West Ham fan or not, if you attend football games in the UK, I urge you to go to www.standupsitdown.co.uk and add your name to the petition there which is lobbying the Government to review standing at football games. Fans are now being banned from watching their teams play simply for standing up at a game. Now if I'm going to be banned I want it to be for something reasonable like hurling rockets at Michael Dawson, not standing up.

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

When tottenham carried out a recent medical on Big 'Ol Useless Mike he was found to have the following physical composition: 12% skin, 32% water, 6% blood, 8% Lego, 3% muscle, 4% cartilage, 23% bone, 4% replacement onions, 2% hair, 4% tar.

Note the unusually high blood to Lego ratio.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

West Ham vs Blackburn: 29 October 2006 (Match Preview and Other Ramblings)

1. Gadzooks!

A goal, you say? Not round here mate, you've got the wrong blog.

2. I Went To A Fight Once And An Ice Hockey Match Broke Out

Do West Ham actually play football anymore, or do we just serve as official tabloid fodder?

I'm just wondering because I am getting a tad sick of reading exactly the same article about us in every single daily newspaper, every single day?

"Beleagured club, Pardew's job on the line, players unsettled, Joorabchian, Icelandic biscuit magnate, Sven Goran Eriksson, where's my coffee Ralph blah blah blah" etc....

Cooey! Hello! Everybody look at Charlton please. When all is said and done I'm fairly confident that I'd rather have Dean Ashton and Carlos Tevez to bring back into a struggling side than Kevin Lisbie and Marcus Bent.

3. On The Other Hand

Should we really be mocking Charlton when Watford are above us in the table despite not having won a game yet?

4. Can His Parents Reid?

I can't believe that the press haven't picked up on the fact that at Chesterfield we played a man by the name of Kyel. (Correct spelling).

5. Hit The North

And so into town come everybody's favourite bruisers from the North West. You'll no doubt fall off your chair when I tell you that we went one down in both home games against Rovers last year, coming back to win 3-1 on the opening day of the season and 4-2 in the FA Cup 4th Round tie. A review of the Premiership meetings between us shows that neither team has ever done the double over the other and we have settled in to a nice little arrangement where neither team ever wins away from home. (We took that to extremes in 2001/02 win we lost 7-1 and God punished Roeder by making him drive Paolo di Canio home after the game, true story).

Anyway, Blackburn are somewhat of an eclectic bunch. Tugay is the best Premiership player you've never heard of, Morten Gamst Pedersen in cute in an understated way, Robbie Savage is an alien, Andy Todd won a reality TV competition for boxers to play football and Brad Friedel has a very strange accent.

Undeniably they do have a propensity to kick other teams but they also play reasonable football too, and given that Chesterfield just played us off the park I shall not dwell on our relative merits for very long.

6. Big Benni

Benni McCarthy was reputedly on the verge of joining West Ham last season, before former club Porto pulled the plug on the deal. Benni was apparently so disenchanted by this that he went completely off the rails (We must have been offering some serious money for someone to be upset at missing out on a move from Porto to Chigwell).

Things apparently deteriorated to such an extent that rumours abound that the night before a Champions League game Benni was caught with two women in his hotel room. When asked to explain he said "They are my hairdressers".

Now I don't know about you, but to me that has veered away from the area of "excuses" and into the realm of "background information".

7. Captain Average

Nigel Reo-Coker has been shocking this season. One decent performance at Portsmouth cannot hide the multitude of frankly, rubbish outings that have come either side. The curious decision to loan out Mark Noble and effectively tell NRC that he would not have to fight for his place has backfired enormously. Instead we have seen lazy, arrogant performances that have smacked of Paul Ince circa 1989 when the original Judas decided to stick on his favourite Man United shirt and get a few holiday snaps.

All of the above notwithstanding, Reo-Coker is still just 21 and dips in form are inevitable. That doesn't mean you play him in every game though Alan.

And Nigel, telling the whole world that you love reading "The Art of War" is great but even Sun Tzu believed in tracking back every once in a while you know.

8. Alan, Alan, Alan, Alan

Whenever I hear Sven Goran Eriksson mentioned as a replacement for Pardew my support for the latter only goes up. Whenever I hear Curbishley mentioned I wonder what can possibly be achieved by swapping one Alan for another. Whenever I hear of Big Phil Scolari I think in disgust of his Portugese teams rolling around, feigning injury.

Whenever I hear of Martin O'Neill I fall to the floor and weep like Madonna has just stolen my child.

9. The Grass Actually Is Greener

Robert Green was outstanding on Tuesday. Of course, when you go away to a struggling 1st Division side and your goalkeeper wins man of the match it does hint that maybe your defence isn't so flash.

10. Erm, Hang On

After losing at tottenham Pardew was quoted as saying that we lacked quality in and around the box.

If only we had an internationally proven, world class striker that we could build our team around. Of course, that's just a pipe dream for a club like us. Best stick Bobby Zamora up there then.........

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Chesterfield 2 - 1 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Carling Cup Shock - West Ham Score Goal!

Congratulations to Chesterfield on their well deserved win.

And as Jude Law said to his nanny - "Now, let's you and I pretend that last night never happened and I'll see you on Friday."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

tottenham 1 -0 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Whoddathunkit?

If you get frustrated enough you can poke a candle through your own chest.

To summarise then: We played a mediocre team, conceded an above average goal to a below average player, didn't have many shots on target, didn't score but we tried hard.

I just cut and paste that in now.

2. Amused Or Bemused?

Is there any point at which our continued total ineptitude becomes amusing? No? I agree - I'm just checking.

I only ask because 144 games without scoring, or whatever our current run is, does tend to wear ones patience ever so thin.

3. The Stats

49% possession. Whatever. You're playing against Jermaine Jenas - he gives you 25% on his own. 2 shots on target all game would suggest that we are simply not good enough at this level. I swear to God I keep expecting to look over and see Glenn Roeder "orchestrating" events from the sidelines.

4. The Opposition

tottenham ain't that good. They are good enough to beat us which sets them apart from absolutely nobody in this league, and quite probably several other leagues too.

Aaron Lennon is really quite a good player though - he is going to have a fantastic career for one of the Big 4 when he eventually moves on, a la Michael Carrick.

5. The Ref

Good old Steve Bennett, a man I lovingly referred to as a "plankton" after the first game of the season. He managed to stand watching Jermain Defoe biting Javier Mascherano and only booked him. Not that it would have made any difference but I think I would have enjoyed seeing him send off Defoe. What am I saying? I would have definitely enjoyed that.

6. West Ham United Nations

The nationalities of those who have scored against us this year.

English, English, Danish, English, English, Italian, Irish, Nigerian, Greek, Greek, Brazilian, Brazilian, Italian, Korean, Nigerian, English, Egyptian.

Say what you like about us but we are non-discriminatory in our uselessness. It is probably some sort of karmic justice that a defence as appalling as ours should let a player as appalling as Mido score the winner.

7. On The Plus Side

Charlton exist. Otherwise this season could have been a bit embarrassing.

8. Tactical Wariness

West Ham Substitution: 82 Mins - Marlon Harewood replaced by Christian Dailly.

And moving right along.

9. The Future's Bright

I still have faith in Alan Pardew. He has taken us this far against somewhat spectacular odds, and the Premiership is so consistently average that there is no reason we cannot, you know, score again this season.

Our next 4 games are Blackburn (h), Arsenal (h), Boro (a), Chelsea (h). So things aren't getting any easier but we have summarily proved that we cannot score against the worst the league has to offer so we may aswell try against the best. It cannot get any worse.......


There won't be an update for Chesterfield, not that they are not good enough, but because I am working on an article for The Monkey Tree magazine (www.themonkeytreemagazine.co.uk). This is a free magazine distributed to parents in the Loughton, Chigwell and Buckhurst Hill area (I guess I didn't feel that my current readership was niche enough).

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

Some of you might think that today is not a good day to mock young Michael, however you'd be wrong. It's never a bad day.

I have come to the conclusion that Michael Dawson is not, as previously stated, a large flat piece of wood. I now believe he is a large, hollow piece of wood. Filled with hundreds of miniature soldiers who will burst out of him one night and invade Troy. A sort of Trojan donkey, if you will.......

Thursday, October 19, 2006

tottenham vs West Ham: 22 October 2006 (Match Preview and Other Ramblings)

1. That Time Of Year

I can honestly say I hate playing tottenham away. It always strikes me as being rather like asking out your attractive new secretary. The potential rewards might well be great, but if it doesn't go well, then you face a lifetime of shame and mockery.

I'm a coward so I'd take a draw if it was offered to me right now. Of course for that to happen would mean that we had kept a clean sheet or scored a goal, either of which would defy all known laws of physics.

2. Let's Laugh At Someone Else - While We Still Can

Before we begin in earnest - a quick diversion. Whilst chatting away with Papa Shark last night he told me a tremendously entertaining (if questionably truthful) story about Charlton Athletic. You remember Charlton, right? Conceded 3. To us. I know - it's mind bending.

Anyway, they have understandably been reeling since allowing Carlton Cole to score against them and with that in mind their skipper Luke Young decided to organise a players team bonding outing. This was attended by no fewer than 2 of the Charlton squad.

It's tough to buy camaraderie like that.

3. Central To England's Problems

England have quite a few good central defenders available to them currently. And Michael Dawson.

tottenham have two England central defenders available to them. Ledley King and Michael Dawson (It says here - stop guffawing at the back).

So I got to thinking, how would I rank the English qualified centre backs available to partner Rio Ferdinand? My two cents worth:

1. Jamie Carragher 2. Ledley King 3. Jonathan Woodgate (when he's fit, in which case I suppose I might as well just say "Fabio Cannavaro - if he was English") 4. Sol Campbell 5. John Terry 6. Anton Ferdinand 7. Wes Brown

Some selected others for your information:

28. The Millenium Dome 112. Dame Judie Dench 209. Play with 10 men 614. Michael Dawson

3. Forsooth I Cannot Change It

Despite all the well deserved mockery it is inevitable that Michael Dawson will either one day score against us or join us. And I can't think which would be worse.

4. Recent History

I doubt that any of you will remember the two games we played against tottenham last year. Let me refresh your memory:

tottenham 1-1 West Ham : 20.11.2005

Amazingly we go one down after leaving Mido unmarked in 4 miles of untouched real estate. Rather brilliantly, Michael Dawson (remember him?) needlessly concedes a last minute corner. Shaka Hislop ventures into the box, causes pandemonium and in the ensuing melee Anton Ferdinand heads our equaliser. Young Anton promptly celebrates by having an epilectic fit in the corner, although he later claims this is "dancing". The 4 minutes of injury time are taken up by Hislop trying to get back to his goal.

West Ham 2-1 tottenham : 07.05.2005

Buoyed by the prospect of an upcoming FA Cup Final and the chance to deprive tottenham of a Champions League place, a much depleted West Ham side batters the visitors. Carl Fletcher puts us ahead within ten minutes, Jermain Defoe shows that he hasn't been completely ruined by tottenham and equalises. With ten minutes to go Yossi Benayoun skips into the area and scoops in the winner, in the process humiliating my all time favourite tottenham player, Michael Dawson.

5. Strongly Worded Letters

The more observant of you will notice that the paragraphs above contain no mention of the nonsensical "food poisoning" suffered by tottenham. That is primarily because I don't care, but also because it was just tough luck. All tests carried out on the food served to the tottenham players showed absolutely nothing was wrong with it, and that the illness could be attributed to a simple viral infection. In addition, tottenham later confessed that it affected only two of their first team.

For all their bleating I cannot believe that tottenham were not sued by The Marriott considering that the rumours about food poisoning were started by tottenham with no evidence to support the claim.

Hilariously, chairman Daniel Levy then wrote a letter to the Premier League protesting against the game being played. It appeared to have been written without the following:

a) a grasp of the rules of English grammar
b) punctuation
c) a cerebrum

Unlike this column, of course, which is much more better.

6. Carlitos Way

There is a quite disturbing swell of belief amongst Hammers fans that Sunday is going to be the day that Carlos Tevez breaks out and scores for us. Not that I wouldn't love for him to do that but it does rather strike me as wishful thinking. The man is recovering from injury and he has a top ten hit in Argentina. That's a tough schedule he's juggling, by anybody's standards.

What I would very much like to see, however, is Carlos Tevez playing as a cente forward. No 4-5-1 rubbish. I think we have already proved that we are incapable of defending irrespective of formation so we might as well have a go.

7. The Grass Is Greener

By all accounts Robert Green is set to start in goal instead of Roy Carroll. Whatever you think of their relative playing skills, that haircut isn't an improvement.

8. Jol Love This

Does anybody else think that Martin Jol looks like he should be propping a bar in a small Cornish village slagging off the price of petrol?

9. Newton's Immutable Law Of Returning Players

I'm not sure is relevant to us given we never score against anyone, however, all footballers must notch against their old clubs at some point. Therefore, Sheringham, Zamora, Etherington and Konchesky should all be in line for some action this weekend. Of course, if we score 4 times Hell will freeze over for sure and we'll all have trouble getting home then.

Defoe has already scored against us, naturally, so I can confirm it definitely applies to our opposition. Oh joy............

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Portsmouth 2 - 0 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Well I Don't Think Any Of Us Could Have Seen That Coming

I'm fairly confident that the word you're looking for is "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh".

2. I Saw Us Score A Goal Once, Son

6 games without a goal and the last man to score at the Boleyn was Henry VIII. I count myself as mildly frustrated at this point. I could just about cope with our ongoing impotence if we looked like we might be on the verge of scoring, but we simply don't. In fact we look like a team who will never score again. We're turning into (gulp) .... Sunderland.

3. Use The Force!

I'm running out of ways to say this. Perhaps Master Yoda can help me:

"Stop the first goal letting in you twats".

I think that just about covers it.

4. The Stats

Per www.espn.com and their excellent Gamecast, Portsmouth managed 19 shots, of which 6 were on target. We mustered a mighty 6 in total of which just 3 were on target, and none were mighty. We did not manage a single effort from inside the box which suggests once again that we are just not incisive enough to score goals in this division at present. How would you feel if I told you that Portsmouth's back 4 had four times as many shots as our 4 strikers in total? Pretty chipper - no doubt.

Frustratingly we had 56% possession, all of which combines to prove that we are pretty decent at keeping the ball in areas where we cannot hurt the opposition, so they tend to let us have it. And why not? Great White Sharks ain't so tough when you get them in a boxing ring.

5. The Opposition

Pompey came as advertised really. Very strong defensively and adequate going forward. It's tough to imagine them in Europe but then it's even tougher to imagine us in Europe and we managed it. Of course we were about as successful as the Spanish Armada but that's not the point.

They are essentially an identikit Premiership team. A few ex internationals on the way out but who are still holding their own, mixed in with a few decent English journeyman who've been around a bit and a manager who knows not to get caught out by Panorama documentaries.

6. The Referee

Graham Poll defies description. Of the estimated one million words in the English language none of them are sufficient to articulate quite how many decisions he gets consistently wrong. Pompey's first goal for instance.

That said, blaming Poll for our continued uselesness is pretty dumb. We may as well blame James Blunt. Not that I am against heaping opprubrium on James Blunt you understand, but there are plenty of legitimate reasons to do that without dragging West Ham into it....

7. My Dictionary And Your Dictionary Must Be Different

Does anybody else find it offensive to concede yet another goal to Andy Cole? This is the man who released his own rap record, modestly titled "I'm Outstanding". Sure.

And Ashton Kutcher is going to release a film called "I'm Quite The Thespian".

8. Karma Police

Elsewhere, Francis Lampard scored with a shot that took not one, but two deflections on it's way in. Some people would use this as further evidence that Lampard is the luckiest man alive. I just treat it as an example that the Universe is in good working order. You know what I mean - Has the Sun come up? Check. Is gravity still working? Check. Has Francis Lampard scored a deflected goal? Check. Excellent - I can go out today.

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering.

Wow. That's two weeks in a row that Mike has had to go off with concussion. I'm wondering if his brain hasn't just overloaded with the sudden realisation that somebody is actually paying him to be this incompetent.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Portsmouth vs West Ham: 14 October 2006 (Match Preview and Other Ramblings)

1. Gathering Gooners

Back to the grind then. Another rudimentary away trip against the Premiership's 4th place team, who exude those most un-Redknapp like qualities of being both sound defensively and hard to beat.

One thing that has always characterised Harry Redknapp's teams is his determination to fill them with ex-Arsenal players. Winterburn, Campbell, Wright, Kanu, Merson and Suker have all popped up with him at the end of their careers and I'd be willing to stick a few quid on Thierry Henry finishing with one last, horrific season for Pompey at the age of 37.

He'll still score against us though.

2. History

Not much to go on here. Last year we drew 1-1 at Fratton Park, utilising the always deadly James Collins for our equaliser (we went 1 down, naturally). The reverse fixture ended in a 4-2 defeat, featuring a perfomance so dismal that I was forced to pour battery acid down my neck. I can confirm it does smart a little.

3. Ancient History

While we're on the subject of trips to the South Coast I can also confirm that the coldest I have ever been in my life was on 8 December 1990 at Fratton Park. We managed a 1-0 victory courtesy of a late Trevor Morley header, and I lost all feeling in the lower half of my body, an afliction that appears to affect Jermaine Jenas to this day.

Another reason I recall this game vividly, aside from my heroically inadequate wax jacket, was that Ian Bishop broke his ribs after about 70 minutes and had to play on through the blizzard as we had used all our subs. Never let anybody tell you that he was a soft touch. By comparison, Rio Ferdinand once missed a game because he strained a knee whilst watching TV.

Anyway - I can never return to Fratton Park. Just thinking about it makes my teeth chatter and I involuntarily yell "Why wouldn't you put a roof on, you buffoons!" at passing strangers.

4. The Case For The Defence

Pompey have played 7 games and kept 5 clean sheets. We have played 7 games and kept none and are currently on a run of 1 clean sheet in 21 Premiership away games. I can honestly say that a boring 0-0 draw would be a step in the right direction tomorrow, although there is more chance of George W Bush using the word "verisimilitude" in it's correct context than that happening.

Whilst I am opposed to changing players simply for the sake of it I would replace Danny Gabbidon with James Collins if the latter is fit. Gabbidon has been coasting for a while now and still doesn't look fully recovered from his summer hernia operation. He was also a part of the Welsh team that lost 5-1 to Slovakia in the week and I'm assuming post traumatic stress disorder is not good for footballers.

Anton Ferdinand was arrested yesterday on suspicion of assault. Good to see he is trying to acquire the mother of all footballing accessories - a criminal record. Of course, what's truly criminal about his whole affair is that he was at Faces nightclub in the first place.

Anton - you earn good money, get yourself down to Chinawhite with the rest of the Premiership, son.

5. Customs and Exercise

Apparently, John Paintsil will not be available for this game because he went back to Ghana in the week and upon his return to Heathrow was stopped from entering the country by Immigration officials, as he only had a copy of his work permit. Aside from the startling revelation that we actually have Immigration officials in the UK what is really interesting about this is that it makes him only the second stupidest right back in the fixture.

You see, everyone's favourite ex Hammer and new Pompey defender Glen Johnson turned up to Heathrow last year without his passport. For a Champions League fixture. At Barcelona. And you can imagine Jose Mourinho being his usual laid back self about that.

6. You're Not Very Good

Pompey are a tad inexplicable in that they feature players with the dubious qualities of Andy O'Brien and Benjani Mwaruwari, yet they are still doing very well. Now I think regular readers will know that this column does not lower itself to sweeping generalisations or smart arsed comments with no factual basis. I would hope that you all know me well enough to realise that anything on this list is backed up by hard statistical evidence. I am merely a window for you all into Premiership life, if you will.

Therefore, when I say that Andy O'Brien is comprised entirely of chewing gum you should know that I have hard data to back it up.

7. The Drugs Don't Work

Francis Lampard is apparently on the shortlist for FIFA World Player of the Year. Hang on a minute. Who's on drugs here? Me - because I can't tell if I'm hallucinating, or them because I might not be? 'Cos someone sure as hell is.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

England, Your Questions Answered (And Other Ramblings)

1. It's All About The Timing

1-0 down in Croatia. Against a team who have never lost a competitive game at home. With 21 minutes to go.

You can't say that there was anything wrong with the timing of Gary Neville's first international goal.

2. Formation Blues

I didn't really have any problem with Steve McClaren trying a 3-5-2 formation tonight. Not that I can think of a team, domestic or international, who have ever had any success using that line up, but then I can't recall an England team of recent vintage who have had success using any line up at all.

Might I suggest that England's problems lie not with the formation but the players.

England are guileless.

If Wayne Rooney is injured, suspended or distracted by Colleen's latest shopping spree, then it is impossible to see where a goal will come from. Francis Lampard is hamstrung by not having Claude Makelele to do all his defending and Steven Gerrard is hamstrung by having Francis Lampard meandering around next to him.

3. The Stats

Has anybody else been mystified by the ridiculously euphoric media reaction to the reign of Steve McClaren prior to this weekend? Here's an interesting little experiment. I have listed England's last 10 opponents below, with the result in parentheses and their current FIFA world ranking on the right.

Croatia (L) 24
Macedonia (D) 51
Andorra (W) 160
Greece (W) 22
Portugal (D) 9
Ecuador (W) 30
Sweden (D) 18
Trinidad & Tobago (W) 56
Paraguay (W) 21
Jamaica (W) 77

If we then take those rankings and apply them to the current English League you get the following run:

Preston (L)
Crewe (D)
St Benedicts U12 (W)
Birmingham (W)
Blackburn (D)
Derby (W)
Sheffield United (D)
Swansea (W)
Cardiff (W)
Hartlepool (W)

Now if West Ham went on that particular run I'd be pleased enough I guess, but I don't think I'd be touting them to win the Premiership. Yet prior to the defeat in Zagreb, England were favourites to win Euro 2008. The phrase you're looking for is "mind-boggling".

In case you're interested, the only victory England have managed in recent memory over a team currently ranked in the top 20 is a streaky 2-1 win over Uruguay in March.

3. He Does Dance Like A Robot I Suppose

Applying the method above to Peter Crouch's goal record makes for interesting reading. The highest ranking team he has scored against is also Uruguay. Of his 11 goals, 8 have come against teams ranked lower than 50 in the world. You can't see me, but I am wearing a t-shirt saying "Unimpressed".

On the back it says "John Terry is NOT international class" but that is another column all together.

4. When Irish Eyes Are Weeping

As a Shark with Gaelic heritage I was fairly apopletic at the Republic of Ireland's performance in Cyprus this weekend. Would it be remiss of me to point out the following to Steve Staunton?

Goals conceded against a team of waiters with Paddy Kenny in goal : 5.
Goals conceded against a team of world class footballers with some bloke I've never heard of in goal : 1.

There is, perhaps, a lesson in there somewhere.

5. It's Hard To Find A Genuine Left Winger In England - Ask A Labour Voter

Does anyone else wonder if he had been born right footed, or indeed anywhere on mainland Europe, that Stewart Downing would not be a professional footballer?

I don't actually blame Downing for his continued appalling displays for England. It is the managers job to put players in the position best suited to their range of skills. For Steven Gerrard this is a free role, for Wayne Rooney it is in the hole between the midfield and striker. For Stewart Downing it is behind the confectionery counter at his local Odeon cinema.

6. And On To Your Questions

Many thanks to those of you have posted comments on the site. I welcome all feedback, except negative stuff or anything posted by the family of Michael Dawson.

You can leave messages by clicking on the link that says "o comments" and leave your questions or abuse there. I'll endeavour to answer anything I can.

First thanks then to "Overseas Iron" who posted the following:

a) Is the Argentinian/takeover situation more trouble than it's worth?

In short, no. I do not see how the addition of two world class players can be considered a negative. The real test here is for Pardew and his staff to alter our style of play sufficiently to incorporate Tevez and Mascherano successfully. Remember they have come from an Argentinian set up geared to keeping the ball for extended periods of time. Conversely, Premiership teams cough up possession incessantly, and at great pace, and that will presumably be something of a culture shock.

In respect of the takeover I concede it is unsettling for the fans, and probably the administrative staff, but given that our players are all employed on a contract basis and will be paid their wages irrespective of who owns the club I simply do not accept that it should have any detrimental affect on the teams performance. Sending out a back 4 who can best be described as "imaginary" will do, however.

b) With our new arrivals, what's the best midfield option/personnel?

Few Hammers fans would disagree that the best midfield foursome we could put out right now would be Face, Murdoch, Hannibal and BA Baracus.

On the off chance they're all injured I would settle for Etherington, Mascherano, Reo-Coker and Benayoun, although NRC has been well below par this year. In truth, Bowyer and Mullins have been far from our worst performers so far but I would always have Benayoun in my team, and I have faith that Mascherano will begin to impose himself on games shortly.

c) Is there a danger that loyal and effective servants to date will become disheartened at recent goings on at the Boleyn? (Mullins in particular)

This is a prescient question. The issue of morale has always seemed crucial to our continued success, something that is constantly proved by our ability to rescue seemingly lost causes. Of course I would argue that if we had better players we would not find ourselves behind so often and therefore might not need to rely on team spirit to such an extent.

However, were we to marginalise the previously central figures of Harewood, Mullins and Zamora before selling off Tevez and Mascherano it would be tough to imagine that wouldn't negatively impact the squad.

In short, as much as I love Hayden Mullins, I place my own happiness above his.......

Monday, October 02, 2006

West Ham 0 - 1 Reading (And Other Ramblings)

1. We're Supposed To Do This Without Parental Help - Sweetie, That's Orphan Talk

You guessed it. Homer and the gang are back. Tonight's update is peppered with Simpson's quotes. I can't keep putting this column together without them - my wife needs an explanation as to why I'm weeping while I write this.

2. Make Me Proud...Or At Least Less Ashamed

What joyous occasion is this? We are above Sheffield United. On goal difference. It is little wonder we had a storm of biblical proportions at the game yesterday - wasn't Neil Warnock one of the 7 plagues of Egypt?

I can't say I'm surprised by yesterday. There are children in the Gabon who were not surprised about yesterday.

3. Call This An Unfair Generalization If You Must, But Old People Are No Good At Everything

Actually, maybe not. Teddy Sheringham was excellent when he was wheeled on yesterday. I genuinely thought his tenure with us was over but the fact remains that he is one of only three players we have who has any guile or creativity, Benayoun and Tevez being the others. And the problem is that those three have been in and out of the team all year. The remainder of the team run around very fast, which worked well for a year but seems to have ground to a halt now. The footballing equivalent of The Circle Line, if you will.

4. What IS Your Fascination With My Forbidden Closet Of Mysteries?

Take a quick look at our fixture list so far. Charlton (h), Watford (a), Liverpool (a), Aston Villa (h), Newcastle (h), Manchester City (a) and Reading (h). This is the soft underbelly of the league. Gaining 5 points from that set of games should be grave cause for concern as we have much tougher tests ahead.

Now far be it for me to tell Alan Pardew what he should be working on in training (Defending) but we surely do need to work on something (Defending) over the next two weeks (Defending).


5. See Ya In Court, Simpson. Oh, And Bring That Evidence With Ya; Otherwise, I Got No Case And You'll Go Scot-Free.

How in the name of Glenn Roeder is it possible for a team to have 69% possession and lose? Think about that - for every 10 minutes of that game we had the ball for 7 of them. And turned it into nothing. Jehovas Witnesses have a better conversion percentage than that.

To make matters worse Reading only mustered 1 shot on target all game and scored with it. No arguments that it was a fantastic strike from Seol but I'd have preferred it if maybe one of our players had meandered out to try and tackle him. But then I'm an old fashioned coot.

6. Maybe, Just Once, Someone Will Call Me "Sir" Without Adding, "You're Making A Scene."

Roy Carroll loves a scrap doesn't he? Any excuses and he will leg it out of his goal for a pointless argument. Of course, it is quite easy to do that when you know that nobody will ever attempt to hit you. This is how Robbie Savage has acquired a nano-reputation as a "hardman". In much the same way that Josh Hartnett is an "actor", or Robbie Williams is a "musician".

7. Kids, Just Because I Don't Care Doesn't Mean I'm Not Listening

I don't think I've longed for a Ghanaian man as much as I'm longing for John Paintsil right now. I don't even care that he can't spell his name right. It never stopped me loving Ashlee Simpson after all. Wait, wait - forget I said that.

8. They Think They're So High And Mighty, Just Because They Never Got Caught Driving Without Pants

I am not Sam Allardyce, therefore I do not believe that every defeat can be attributed to the performance of the referee. That said, Uriah Rennie officiated this game like an amoeba.

9. Oh, Everything Looks Bad If You Remember It

Over the course of our past 5 games I have disproved the commonly held notion that a man cannot disembowel himself using only spaghetti.

10. That Guy Impressed Me And I Am Not Easily Impressed. Wow. A *Blue Car*.

Reading can certainly defend well. I am a big fan of Steven Sidwell too, although it is simply rude to run 80 yards and head a last minute effort off the line. You'd never catch Nigel Reo-Coker doing anything so strenous.

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

Big ol' useless Mike went off with a head injury yesterday. It doesn't feel right kicking a man when he's down, so I thought this week we could focus on his England colleague Jermaine Jenas (it hurts just to type that).

Yesterday Jenas added another beauty to his list of "Reasons Never To Pick Him For England Again". When attempting to strike a late shot with his right foot he accidentally kicked it with his left instead. Meditate on that for the moment and then consider that this man was selected instead of a 5th striker for the World Cup. And now cry.

The H List....

......Will be updated later today.

It takes a while to recover from something like yesterday.