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

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.........