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

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

West Ham vs Fulham/Portsmouth (And Other Ramblings)

Fulham 0-0 West Ham

1. Why I Subscribe To Sky

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

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

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

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

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

2. Errant Knight

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

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

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

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

3. Y2K + 7?

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

Matthew Etherington hit the bar. With a header.

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

Some Fulham fans sung.

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

4. The Statistics

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

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

5. The Referee

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

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

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

6. The Opposition

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

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

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

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

West Ham 1 -2 Portsmouth

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

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

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

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

2. 4-5-1?

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

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

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

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

3. The Statistics

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

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

Sometimes it's easier to face surreality than reality.

4. The Opposition

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

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

5. While We're At It Department

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

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

6. Deja Vu

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

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

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

Does Carlton Cole even exist anymore?

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

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

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

7. Just To Quell Any Optimism

Our run in:

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

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

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

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

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

Saturday, December 23, 2006

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

1. I Know, I Know, I Know

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

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

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

2. Jolly Nice Chaps

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

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

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

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

Aren't they cute?

3. Errant Knight

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

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

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

4. Another Tidbit

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

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

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

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

5. The History

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

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

6. That Other Lot

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

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

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

7. The History

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

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

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

1. Once Upon A Time

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

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

The moral of the story?

All your cards got lost in the mail.

2. How I Got The News

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

"We've only gone and won!"

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

But mostly the planets.

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

With great difficulty.

4. The Stats

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

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

5. The Opposition

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

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

6. Firsts

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

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

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

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

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

7. And Finally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The King Is Dead

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

The Past

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

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

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

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

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

The Present

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

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

The Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bolton 4 -0 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

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

1. You Should Count Yourself Lucky

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

2. The Vent

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

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

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

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

3. The Best West Ham Performance Of The Night

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

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

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

4. The Statistics

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

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

Remember though - 'tis the season to be jolly.

5. The Opposition

Bolton are like trips to the dentist.

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

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

6. The Referee

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

7. Crimes Committed

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

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

8. The Hangman's Noose

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

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

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

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

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

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

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

Friday, December 08, 2006

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

1. Department Of The Delusional

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

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

2. I Need To Chill Out

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

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

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

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

3. The History

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

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

4. These Sweeping Changes

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

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

5. Away Day Blues

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

So nothing to worry about there.

6. Time To Revert To Predictions

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

7. Allardyce v McClaren

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

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

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

8. And Just To Round Off

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


Thursday, December 07, 2006

West Ham 0 -2 Wigan (And Other Ramblings)

1. Emile Heskey and Richard Curtis = Too Much

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

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

2. Jeremy We Hardly Knew Ye

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

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

3. The Stats

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

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

4. The Opposition

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

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

5. Zizou He Ain't

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

6. The Sordid Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. And On The Pitch

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

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

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

8. The Decline Of The Konch

On that topic, nice post from Dot Cotton:

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

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

9. Trivial I Know

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

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

10. Let's Be Positive

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

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

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

1. Excellent!

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

2. With Brevity

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

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

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

3. That Losing Feeling

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

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

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

4. A Man After My Own Heart

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

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

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

5. December Fools Day?

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

6. The Rovers Return

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

7. Shaun Wright Phillips Sighting

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

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

8. Quotes Of The Year

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

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

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

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

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

Everton 2 -0 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Let Me Rub My Eyes

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

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

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

2. Where Have I Been?

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

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

3. Wikipedia Is Ace

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

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

4. The Crest Of A Good Idea

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

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

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

5. The Stats

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

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

6. The Opposition

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

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

7. The Referee

Yep, there was one. He did ok.

8. My Brand New Carlos

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

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

9. A Change Is As Good As A Rest

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

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

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

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

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