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

Friday, May 04, 2007

West Ham vs Bolton : 5th May 2007 (Match Preview And Other Ramblings)

1. Love Will Tear Us Apart

I had a conversation recently with a friend as to whether this column was irreverent or irrelevant. I did a quick straw poll of the family and we settled on the latter although I would like to point out to Mama Shark that "bloody tedious" wasn't one of the available options.

On the other hand, we are playing Bolton this week.

2. Don't Play It Again Sam

So farewell Sam Allardyce. It won't be quite the same to see Bolton ruining the Beautiful Game without Fat Sam on the sidelines wearing his latest crime against fashion, chewing his gum in a very stern fashion and yelling orders into his Madonna style headset (but without the Vogue era moves, sadly).

Doubtless he will reappear at a "big club" soon, Newcastle are favourite in this respect, weirdly as they are "big" in a Scrabble sense, but not in an actual, real life kind of way.

The real question is whether or not the Bolton team decide that they want to win this one for the Gaffer, or if they want to get this one over with so they can go on holiday.

3. The History

We don't have a marvellous record against Bolton in recent times, in much the same way that humans don't have a great time of it against Great White Sharks. Rest assured, if there is a "y" in the day then you can be assured that Bolton will beat us.

They are going for their 5th straight League win against us with only our extra time 2-1 FA Cup replay win last year breaking the cycle. In the corresponding fixture last season we lost 2-1 and allowed Ivan Campo to score, which is marginally more difficult than finding a wild panda in Norfolk.

Earlier this season we lost 4-0 at The Reebok, causing Eggertsson to fire Alan Pardew and quite probably declare war on a small archipelago in the Pacific.

Let's just say it was a bad performance. Think Don Cheadle's cockney accent in Ocean's 11, think the life and work of David Hasselhoff, think Karl Rove rapping. You get the drift.

4. The Statistics

We have conceded the opening goal on a mere 24 occasions this season.

I. Can't. Go. On.

I mean, come on....24 times? Including 2 (two, Two, TWO, II, deux, duo, more than once - less than thrice) times against Watford? In the name of Katie Price herself, what is going on here?

I am well aware that God isn't a huge fan of mine, given that he has condemned me to a lifetime of West Ham and the England cricket team, but for crying out loud - I give to charity, I don't kill animals or baste homeless people, and rarely, if ever, do I indulge in nuclear proliferation. I deserve a break.

Our leading scorer against Bolton is Teddy Sheringham with 2 in the last two years. C'est naturellement, he is now playing poker for a living, or off in search of Atlantis, or dead or something.

Hope springs eternal though. Our last Premiership home win over this mob came in 2002 when we won 2-1, courtesy of Steve Lomas and Ian Pearce strikes either side of a Youri Djorkaeff goal, which is as unholy a footballing sandwich as you're ever likely to see.

I also saw us beat them 3-0 in 1997 when Gerry Taggart played for the visitors and managed the impressive feat of making John Hartson look svelte.

5. Mr Nice Guy

West Ham fans are one of the myriad groups in society who have been spat at by El Hadji Diouf.

Is it wrong to wish plane delays, tax audits and parking wardens upon someone? You bet it ain't.

6. Sorry To Burst Your Bubble

If ever a moment summed up a football club it came during Bolton's 3-1 home defeat against Reading . As Kevin Doyle lined up a penalty in the dying minutes, Bolton winger Stelios Giannakopopopopopolos stood behind with a balloon.

No, really.

As Doyle ran up to take the kick, Stelios simultaneously burst the balloon in an attempt to put him off.

On one hand you have to admire a side so devious that they're willing to sink to the level of American high school movies to try and gain an advantage. On the other hand there is such an inherent level of nastiness about this that it conjures up images of Kevin Davies shaking out little Mark Noble, stealing his lunch money and leaving him hanging on a peg.

I would really, really, really, really like to beat them. Really.

7. Just How Many Defining Moments Can A Team Have?

It is possible to play The Most Important Game Ever, every week? Yes, it is.

Lose tomorrow and it's sayonara folks. Defeat would leave us adrift of Wigan on Goal Difference with only a trip to Old Trafford remaining. Given that United were as bad as is humanly, and non humanly, possible against Milan on Wednesday I would say that our chances of avoiding defeat there next week are negligible.

A draw would provide flickering hope, but requires that Wigan lose both remaining games. This is optimistic at best because as awful as they were against us, they are only playing Middlesbrough and Sheffield United, which is not cause for fear if you are a Wigan fan. Although it is cause for a sickie if you're a journalist allocated to cover those games.

8. They're On Fire!

Hammers with hot boots include Bobby Zamora (5 goals in 8 games), Carlos Tevez (4 goals in 8 games) and Luis Boa Morte (A goal, a goal! I saw it, it went in! There were angels singing and God himself laughed and let us score two more!)

9. They're Not On Fire!

Hammers with ice cold boots include Marlon Harewood (3 goals in 30 games), Anton Ferdinand (0 tabloid stories this week) and Kepa Blanco (quoted this week as saying "I want to go back to Seville, I hate it here")

10. Wigan Are Free Whelan

Interesting approach from Wigan and Sheffield United this week to the news that we have received a paltry £5.5m fine for fielding Carlos Tevez when he was actually under contract to Joes Bakery at the time.

Both have instructed their lawyers to investigate the finding with a view to suing West Ham, the Premier League or anyone else who happened to be in the general vicinity of East London at the time.

(When I think of Dave Whelan's lawyers it just makes me think of that Alan Partridge saying "'Appen I bet 'e thinks I'm a right indecisive twat")

Intriguingly both Neil Warnock and Whelan have both publicly stated that they hope we get points docked and "go down". And therein lies the rub.

The punishment for our crime is not relegation (it cannot be a points deduction either according to the Premier League's own rules but let's gloss over that). Therefore, what these two are bleating on about is that they are unhappy we are now making a fist of staying up. Notice how nobody above the bottom 6 cares one way or the other about our fine? Of course they don't - nobody in their right mind would want to open the Pandora's Box that is Premiership transfers.

Wigan and Sheffield United want us to be docked points so that they can stay up - not because they are interested in the rules of the game or the integrity of the League. It's obvious but very few newspapers are pointing this out.

And with that in mind I will be very interested to see if they pursue us through the High Court should we finish in the bottom three anyway, and even more interested to see what would be the outcome if a draw at Brammall Lane on the last day would keep both teams in the Premiership.

Expect Italian style shenanigans - just without the flair, hairbands or grossly overblown hyperbole.


That odd sound you've been hearing all week? It's the sound of a billion football fans around the globe laughing at Leeds United. Could it have happened to a nicer group of people? Dennis Wise, Ken Bates, David Healy and Leeds fans in one fell swoop? There is a God.......

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