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

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

West Ham 0 - 1 Watford (And Other Ramblings)

Some people are so predictable. There are those who might go to New Zealand for a month and come back with a deep golden tan and many tales of derring do. Not me folks. I have plumped instead for two weeks in bed with the flu, eating one slice of toast a day. Interestingly, during that time I have managed the not inconsiderable feat of putting on weight. When I die there's going to be one hell of a scrap for my metabolism.

Anyway, even from my sickbed a million miles away, I can hear the clanging chimes of doom for the Hammers. The home defeat to Watford surely signals the end of what I laughingly refer to as our relegation "fight". Many thanks to Ralph for the match report. The dog ate his preview, unfortunately.

1. An Apology For Abject Incompetence

I don’t get it. I paid a bunch of dosh for the necessary equipment to write the preview for the Watford match (admittedly a while ago although my recently acquired new Livebox doobie doesn’t seem to work as well as it should). I type stuff all day along and have done for years without incident and then when the time comes to step up to the plate and perform to a larger audience, it all goes wrong, the screen goes blank and all my work disappears in a brilliant glare of white that passes so slowly as to make Christian Dailly look like Marlon Harewood’s car travelling down the Barking Road on Saturday evening.

Ultimately it turned out I’d chosen entirely the wrong method to type out my preview. I had executed it poorly and had no back-up plan for when it all got formatted in .pear. Of course, the problem was an underlying one with my machine and webmail and, had I known, I would not have chosen that method of execution; you could almost say, it was broken when I found it. As it turns out I could not have executed a more accurate preview.

2. Science Fact

We had more possession and more shots and all that stuff but the ultimate statistic is 0-1 x 2. That against a side employing a man who hasn’t scored in twenty-nine games as their marksman. That said, we seem to employ at least five of those so who am I to criticise?

Obviously their chap Mahon should have walked for his Championship challenge on Reo-Coker who finally seems to have decided to start playing again but he did not and frankly, so what? Are we really so terrible that we can’t beat Watford unless they have a man sent-off? Yes, we are and that is about all you can say.

3. Neill? He Can Barely Stand

Another thirty minutes on the clock and now another month off. Why will my firm not pay me thousands a week to do that? They would even save money in the process through the spurt in productivity caused by my absence. Is there another reason beyond wage structure that Liverpool did not pursue their interest in Neill with the same verve that we did? Quite possibly. I am starting to wonder how much scouting Curbishley and his mate Lurch Day actually do. Apparently he still seems to be "having a look" at our squad and he barely seemed to know anything about them when he joined. For a club that he and his nearest and dearest seem to be so desperately passionate about that seems a bit peculiar.

That is the behaviour I normally associate with Chelsea fans who own season tickets in the expensive seats. Next time you meet one, see if you can get him to name his favourite Chelsea side and see how many names apart from Zola and "that chap Brabhook – the one that pegged it" they can name from before Ranieri was in charge. Anyway, I digress but you have to wonder how much time he spent in Lancashire and the Midlands (including Tottenham) watching his new charges.

I am starting to suspect that he has picked these guys with same amount of skill that most people pick their fantasy league teams. Upson: used to be at Arsenal, cleaner sheets than the Persil Nun Display Team. Lucas Neill: something about penalties in the World Cup – probably excellent. Boa Morte and Quashie: saw them once against Charlton and I think one of them may have scored and look, Quashie’s down here as a defender so that’s extra goals potential and now I just need a cheapo defender to use up my budget with… ah, Calum. Mascherano? How many points did he get last season? No thanks.

I guess Neill needs a run of injury free football before it is fair to judge him but at least we have our home grown Anton back now. Oh, hang on…

4. From Cornrow To Zero

Known for their ball skills but not their intelligence or attention span, Ferdinand the Younger once again highlighted the family trait with his new interpretation on the drag back idea. Unfortunately such pioneering new forms, as in any artistic medium, are rarely appreciated first time out and thus Henderson fell to the floor his face screwed up in disgust at Ferdinand’s vulgarity and Alan Wiley did what any self-respecting critic had to do and found against the accused.

It looked like the sort of offence that would have been similarly regarded at Twickenham and you have to wonder just what, if anything, our man was thinking.

5. Meanwhile Up The Other End

Marlon Harewood. Why on Earth was a man clearly on the verge of disappearing into a black hole of ineptitude allowed to take that penalty? Against Liverpool the other week as the game wore on he looked more and more timid and the minute the penalty was awarded it was clear we were going to miss had one of the regulars taken it. There were more miss vibes around the place than at an Ann Summers convention.

Surely that was the perfect moment to let the lively Tevez notch his first goal? The guy seem to have done everything but score and surely this was the moment but once again, as you would expect with a team full of players who seem more interested in fighting for their place under the protective tortoise shell than retaining their league status with the club they are at, innovation and clear thinking proved even rarer than three points away from home. It was like putting an alcoholic in front of an off-licence with a blank chequebook in its cruelty.

Gillian McKeith would not have visited this on one of her subjects and Harewood’s cupped hand to the ear "celebration" was put back on ice until the next time (inevitably the winner in a 1-0 win at Old Trafford after we’re already down on the last day of the season).

More and more this resembles the last relegation season. The "lift-off" never arrives and we go on losing games meekly, beating the odd giant at home whilst failing to use our best players properly (admittedly Ashton is not really going to achieve much with one leg even if he would still have made a better job of the penalty than Harewood… and that sitter from six yards out by Zamora... and... sod it, it is too depressing). At least Tevez is getting a game whereas Di Canio was barely getting a sniff under Roeder I suppose.

That said, that time round I distinctly remember some consistently rousing performances from Joe Cole that earned him Hammer Of The Year but could this be the year when nobody wins it? At the moment I think I’ll be voting for Mark Noble just for his consistency, goals to games ratio and victory ratio. I cannot think of anyone else who has done anything consistently above and beyond to warrant it. Every week we reach a new seemingly cathartic nadir but then the next week always brings that extra depth of weak surrender and depression.

An away trip to Charlton now just looks like another opportunity to disgrace ourselves. I think if West Ham were our parents, when we lost at Reading we heard them doing it whilst we had a friend to stay, this week we caught our Dad sniffing our Mum’s underwear on the sly and next week we could well be about to see the footballing equivalent of our Mother performing what the redtops would term "sordid acts" with next door’s spaniel on grainy video to pay for her crack habit. After this, relegation almost seems like sweet relief.

6. Managing Expectations

There was an excellent article in the Observer Sport Monthly about the "new breed" of scientific managers and how they have taken their lead from American sport. Pardew was among them as was Saturday’s victorious Aidy Boothroyd. The point made was that these guys came unstuck in the Premier League because principles that work in America and in the Championship where competition is much closer and there is a lot more scoring do not work in the Premier League where the quality is much more diverse and you cannot legislate for Gerrard notching one from forty yards in injury time or Kuyt sticking it in the back of your onion bag from somewhere deep in E6 right after you’ve finished your half-time tea and, oh, I dunno, say Daniel bleeding Agger also finding your top corner with a right-foot originated leather exocet launched from somewhere next to your striker. You know, those things just don’t happen with any familiarity, right?

So, what does work in the Premier League? Well, clearly Curbishley managed pretty well with his brand of nonplussed shoulder shrugging (notice he does not even bury his face in his hands any more when we concede) at the Valley but clearly he should be upping his game with us. If you take a look at the top three or four managers in the league, Mourinho, Ferguson, Wenger and I guess Benitez then they all possess that megalomaniacal streak, the control freakery to run their club from the players’ lunches to the colour of the carpets in the changing rooms, tactical innovation and, as everyone always points out about disgustingly successful people, attention to detale.

What encouragement then to see our man in the bench jacket playing, in recent games, a drink sodden gambler alongside a coke fiend whilst trying to figure out who plays where and seemingly having tiffs with the few members of the squad he appears to have managed to learn the names of in his first few weeks. Not to mention the complete tactical wonderment of Nigel Quashie starting every week come hell or high water (usually it is the former) whilst Mark Noble is put on the fast track to clinical depression in the stiffs or in Suffolk so that he can fit in with the rest of the squad and, to top it off, a complete inability to change any of that around when the wheels come off. Obviously I’ll be the first to two-facedly herald Curbs if he keeps us up but at this rate, that seems a distant dream.

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

Even we didn’t try and sign him in January.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Aston Villa 1 - 0 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

Many thanks to Overseas Iron who has kindly provided the preview and report for our fun filled trip to Villa Park.

1 – Hitmen Hammers

Find yourself aching to hurt someone? Have an arch nemesis you'd desperately like to see writhing in pain very soon? Simple. Get them to sign for West Ham United and watch them stretchered off within minutes of their debut.

Matthew Upson managed to last longer than Lucas Neill by two minutes, successfully staying on the field a full half an hour before being forced to retire with a torn calf muscle. The news is that he is out for 3 weeks, although the recently acquired medical staff recruited direct from The Somme circa 1915, hope to have him back in the field sooner.

He will no doubt miss the next two vital games however and our chances could be all but gone by the time Upson returns. Do you reckon Colin Foster could still do a job for us? Anyone got Geoff Pike's number?

2 – Taming Of The Carew

Why didn't I just keep my big mouth shut?

Having questioned the big Villa forwards abilities in the match preview, he goes and puts in a performance which stretched our defence to and fro and also scored the only goal of the game.

Carew proved adept at holding up the ball, allowing midfielders to run on and wasn't shy of running into the corners to pick up a pass, thereby creating space for team mates in the centre.

Looks like the doubts I cast proved sufficient to spur on Big John. He must be an H-List reader.

Did I ever tell you how I've never rated Marlon Harewood?

PS – I can't rightly lay claim to the first class title for this section, it was The Shark's suggestion. His creative tentacles are trans-global.

3 – Tale Of The Tape

Having trawled through a variety of stats, I couldn't manage to drag my attention away from just one - namely that we managed just 2 shots on goal in 90 minutes of "professional" football. Both efforts coming in the 89th minute.

Is our team so devoid of footballing savvy that it only occurs to them seconds before the end of a match in which they are 1-0 down that they should perhaps, you know, hit the ball goalwards? Or were we so outclassed by an average mid-table outfit that it was never on the cards anyway?

Sometimes I think that we ourselves could do a better job. Sure, we'd end up on the losing side and our 'shots on goal' would closely resemble Peter Kay's kick-ups on that John Smiths ad, but I daresay we'd manage more than two.

'Ave it.

4 – And The Beat Goes Wrong

Would this entry be set to music, it would have to be 'The Death March'. Or perhaps 'The Last Post'. The similarities in mood between this season and our last relegation year are becoming increasingly evident.

Yes, we shouldn't need a wholesale clear out of 'talent' like last time thanks to Eggy's deep pockets but I can't imagine too many top flight players hanging around for a year in The Championship – particularly the recent signings.

And with Liverpool now joining the likes of Man United, Chelsea and Villa and suddenly finding themselves flush with cash, perhaps our dreams of those biscuit billions propelling us to the big-time seem more distant than ever.

5 – The Final Countdown

No, I'm not proposing we could still make it into Europe next year (see what I did there?), but a drastic upturn in fortunes is sorely needed.

Most pundits seem to agree that we have had more than our fair share of bad luck and at the worst possible time of the season, but I'd rather cling to our Premiership status whilst being as despised as Robbie Savage (terrible about that broken leg, wasn't it?) than go down with a conciliatory pat on the back.

We must beat Watford (H) and Charlton (A) in our next two games. If we don't, I think it could be over for us. The break in-between these two key fixtures will hopefully give some first choice players a better chance of returning.

At least 6 wins from the rest of the season I feel are required. Sheffield United (A), Wigan (A), Bolton (H), Middlesbrough (H), Everton (H) and The Scum (H) are all still to come and we're capable of beating all of them if we can just get some of that confidence and rhythm back from last year.

Obviously our final day of the season outing to Old Trafford is a banker.

6 – "AWOOGA!"

Where is John Fashanu's famous primetime battle cry when you need it? He never once shirked from his Gladiatorial duties when times were tough - not when viewing figures dipped, not when 'Shadow' got expelled for steroid abuse (in hindsight, his eyes were a dead giveaway), not even when 'Hunter' foraged through Ulrika's leafy canopy.

OK, so things are looking rough at the moment, but West Ham have always been able to count on near masochistic levels of support. Sure we can be outspoken and occasionally vociferous, but attendances won't be flagging between now and May and all it could take is to go ahead in a game (a radical proposition, I grant you) for the boys to hopefully kick on from there.

Come on you Irons!!

7 – Au Revoir

So my tenure as the H-List blogspotter comes to an end. Let's hope a change in personnel brings a change in fortune.

But of course…

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

I've just reeled in disbelief having noticed Michael Dawson warming the bench during England vs Spain (what a goal by Iniesta). I don't have the statistics to critically analyse Dawson's performances but my hatred for all things tottenham should see me through.

Suffice to say that a dishevelled, drunken, semi-comatose, drooling, incapacitated, half-dead Thora Hird sellotaped to a Stannah Stairlift could put in a more solid performance at the centre of England's, tottenham's or any other defence you care to mention.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Aston Villa vs West Ham : 3rd February 2007(Match Preview And Other Ramblings)

Thanks very much to Overseas Iron for this match preview in my absence.

1 - Disclaimer

Before we begin, I'd like to get in early the fact that this edition of the H-List may not be as insightful, competent or well-structured as previous editions. Mr Shark has abandoned Blighty for sunnier climbs leaving me in charge for the Villa game. It's true to say that the Shark manages to research and analyse every game extensively despite being constantly busy with either his job, wife or young child...

But I've got a Sony PSP and we all know which takes up the most time in the life of a young man.

2 - Fortunes On The Upson?

As you will all be aware, West Ham claimed the biggest scalp of transfer deadline day by finally bringing Matthew Upson to Upton Park for an intial fee of £6 million, much to Steve Bruce's annoyance. I loved the fact that Bruce whined through his horrifically disfigured staircase of a nose about a disregard for contractual obligations. Maybe you should voice your complaints to Palace fans, Steve?

Upson, potentially, could be the rock upon which a successful survival campaign can be built and hopefully will light a fire up the backsides of the hitherto under-achieving Gabbidon and Ferdinand. With the arrival of Davenport, Neill and now Upson, Tyrone Mears loaned out to Derby and the writing seemingly on the wall for Konchesky, it appears Curbs is determined to use Eggy's millions to let everyone know who's boss.

Upson and Davenport sound to me like a promising centre-back partnership and we can hope that the new arrivals will at least provide some healthy competition for the feeble excuse for a defence we've had up 'til now. Perhaps it would be prudent to separate the wheat from the chaff, lest we want a Ranieri-esque squad of around 4 billion.

3 - Quick On The Draw

After an impressive start, Villa have trailed off and are only 9 points ahead of us having flirted briefly with those coveted Champions League spots. This could well be due to the fact that they (along with Fulham) top the league in taking a single point from games, with 11 draws so far this season.

By all accounts they looked not half bad against Newcastle in midweek, despite conceeding twice in the first 7 minutes, and can look menacing in attack on their day. However, despite beating Watford last week they have won only one of their last 6 home games. OK, so we haven't won away from home all season but there's got to be something in all these meaningless stats, hasn't there? Perhaps not... if there is then our fate is sealed.

One thing's for sure, two mediocre defences fighting it out for the right to concede the first goal should make for a fascinating contest.

4 - Brand New Brummies

Ashley Young will be making his home debut in a slightly different shade of claret and blue than some may have hoped for and could conceivably prove a handful - nothing a first minute, knee-high challenge from Christian 'The Enforcer' wouldn't sort out though.

John Carew will no doubt start too. Carew is one of those footballers who has confounded me in his time as a professional. Once touted as potential Real Madrid material, I've never rated him having seen more than a few lacklustre displays in the Champions League. He just seems to be a third rate Thierry Henry... which admittedly still makes him a first class Carlton Cole but not the unstoppable goal-machine he has often been described. Obviously, having cast doubts over his ability, watch him score 12 of the best goals you've ever seen on Saturday.

In addition, Villa also have Patrick Berger - an ageing but still dangerous attacking option to come off the bench in the last 20 minutes.

The Villans will no doubt be up for it with 'Man-Manager Supremo' Martin O'Neill at the helm. If we don't match them for commitment and work-rate, then I think it will be a morose journey back down the M1 for the Hammers faithful. We took 4 points off Villa in 2005/06 and won the corresponding fixture last year 2-1 having gone 1-0 down, with both Zamora and Harewood on the scoresheet.

I know. Inconceivable.

5 - Untouchable Ulsterman

Just what has Roy Carroll got to do to be dropped? How much money must Curbs be into him for? Is the imminent arrival of a cross into the box during the 4th round of the FA Cup really the time to practice an impression of a migrating Canadian goose? Not even Roy would've put money on maintaining his place in the side so consistently over recent weeks.

Robert Green must be wondering how he alone can seemingly be the only one to pay for the 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Reading. He has the potential to be England's Number 1 and the capacity to pull off saves he has no right to. It's hard to see how a once regular member of the England squad can not warrant a regular starting place in a team languishing at the foot of the table, particularly when he is being kept out by a craggy-faced caveman with a gambling problem who reeks of booze. If good sense prevails (which it rarely does at the Boleyn), Green will be between the sticks at Villa Park.

6 - Firing Blancos

Only just managing to find the back of the net from 6cms out with the outside of your shin does not qualify you as a striking threat, therefore Carlton Cole's place in the starting line-up should not be assured. In fact, none of our strikers have played well enough this season to insure they're an automatic selection. With Dean Ashton apparently having died from a broken ankle, Carlos Tevez still trying to figure out what ever possessed him to come to Upton Park and Marlon and Bobby Z both about as incisive as a gummy bear, the dire situation is screaming for fresh blood. Scoring one goal every 2 hours over the course of this season doesn't bode well... One goal after 60 seconds is a far better return.

Enter Kepo.

Curbs would do well to start with the young Spaniard - he seems both eager and positive and has the added benefit of not having every ounce of optimism sucked from his soul in recent months, like the rest of us. Let's hope some brave selection decisions are made this weekend and not the usual load of bamboozling nonsense.

The next three games are make or break. Anything less than 6 points minimum I don't think will be good enough.

7 - Why Have You Forsaken Us, Oh Lord?

Just in case you're not all miserable enough, it has emerged today that West Ham could be docked points in the advent of the Javier Mascherano debacle. Those scumbags up at Wigan have apprently called into question whether the arrival of Tevez and Mascherano broke the Premier League's Rule U18.

Rule U18 states that a club can not sign a player owned by a 'third party' who would have the "ability materially to influence it's policies or the performance of it's teams". The new regime is declaring that they were not in charge at the time of the signings but the prospect of being docked points is real and could be the final nail in our Premiership coffin.

Let's hope those bigwigs at the Premier League who could be called upon to investigate any alleged wrongdoing are big biscuit fans. Eggy could slip them a packet of Jammy Dodgers and a few Hob-Nobs each and sweep any incriminating crumbs under the carpet.