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, November 02, 2007

Portsmouth 0 - 0 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Why Psychotropic Drugs And The England Job Don't Go Together

Oh yes. If I was in charge of the nation's football team and was in desperate need of an away win in Russia to keep my job, I'd definitely play The Human Pudding : Paul Robinson in goal, ahead of David James and Robert Green.

2. File It Under - "Learning Experiences"

Trips to the coast can often reveal things you didn't know. Like the fact that the sea isn't all that refreshing, and piers are really not exciting.

But this little Southern jaunt was even more revelatory. They now have roofs in Portsmouth, which is a nice development, Craig Bellamy is an angry little man, Mike Dean is still a homer, and if the fate of the world ever rested on whether Nolberto Solano could head a football, then we'd all be going the way of dinosaurs, dodo's and Leeds United.

3. The Statistics

As befits a fairly even 0-0 draw, all the statistics suggest that this game should have been a stalemate. We had 49% of the ball which we converted into 12 shots at goal. Sadly as Solano had no less than 6 of them you won't be surprised to hear that our total on target was just 3.

The home side were not much better, mustering 3 efforts on target from a total of 11 attempts, although they did force 11 corner kicks to our 5.

Considering that Portsmouth's last home game saw them concede 4 times and still win by 3 goals, the chances of this game being scoreless were as remote as a Posh Spice brain cell, and yet here it is. Life sure can be strange sometimes. (See "Neville, Phil - England Career")

4. The Opposition

Whether you fall in to the Love or Hate category for Harry Redknapp, there can be no denying that he has done an admirable job at Portsmouth. His budget isn't exactly shoestring as owner Alexandre Gaydamak is hardly struggling for roubles but there is no denying that some of his less heralded signings such as James, Sol Campbell and Nico Kranjcar have proved very successful, allowing for a few higher profile failures such as David Nugent.

Where his Portsmouth sides differ from his West Ham teams are in the defensive areas where one can see Tony Adams has doubtlessly made a huge difference. His Fratton Park teams are well organised and attack with pace, two things that could rarely be said about us in the Redknapp era, although I could argue that there is less verve and attacking flair on show these days.

I have no explanation for the success of Benjani though. The man befuddles me. It is entirely possible that I have never seen a worse footballer. And remember people, I have seen Michael Dawson play several times.

5. The Referee

I would like to give you my opinions on Mike Dean's refereeing skills but sadly most of the decisions made in this match were made by the Portsmouth crowd. It will not surprise anyone to know that they were a touch one sided.

Blaming a referee for a poor result (not that this was a poor result but I'm talking generically) is not a sensible idea. It is nothing to do with Mike Dean that Nolberto Solano apparently has no neck muscles, or that Danny Gabbidon has wandering hands. All of the above being true doesn't mean that he wasn't woefully inconsistent throughout. In the interests of fairness, I should also point out that he spread his incompetence equally between the two sides, awarding us twice as many free kicks as the home team - but sadly it might have the ones that he didn't give that hurt us the most.

The penalty decision was a sickener but I cannot see that there can be much argument - Gabbidon should probably have learned by now that waving his hands around inside the box rarely meets with approval from officials. The only question was whether it was in or out of the box and we'd have all been screaming for a penalty if it was Campbell having the brain seizure and not Gabbidon.

My real issue with Dean was his unorthodox method for making his decisions. Let's have a look at his train of thought early in the first half:

(Hermann Hreidarsson takes out a 10 blade scalpel and expertly severs Craig Bellamys left ankle. West Ham appeal for a foul)

Mike Dean: "Ooh, that looked nasty"
Mike Dean's Inner Psyche: "It sure did Mike, he's lost his bloody foot there"
Mike Dean: "I should probably award a foul at least"
Mike Dean's Inner Psyche: "Hmm, I know where you're coming from but the home fans won't like it"
Mike Dean: "What should I do then?"
Mike Dean's Inner Psyche: "You know what to do"
Mike Dean"OK" (takes out Magic 8 Ball, shakes it vigorously, thinking "Should I give Bellamy a foul?" Magic 8 Ball says "YOU MUST BE KIDDING!")
Mike Dean (aloud): "No foul Bellamy, you Taff whinger!" (throws bloody stump back to Bellamy to rapturous applause from the Portsmouth fans, which he receives with a theatrical low bow).

Do you see my problem?

6. The Problem With Being A Right Winger

Well, the problem is that we didn't have one. Craig Bellamy spent far too much of the first half entangled in spat with Hreidarsson and was withdrawn at half time. Even though he was injured, the feeling persisted that Curbishley would have had to remove him anyway to to prevent him being sent off.

I know he's now our irritating twerp and all that, but it's not going to be any use to us if it results in referees turning against him 2 minutes into games.

Meanwhile our actual right winger was wandering around the middle of the park demonstrating exactly how not to head a football.

7. Cole Patrol

Carlton Cole played this entire game up front on his own, against two very good centre backs in Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distain, and did especially well. He was directly responsible for the two golden opportunities spurned by Solano on his Adventures At The Back Post, and looked like an all round decent Premiership centre forward.

He's not The Messiah, he's not even Paulo Wanchope, but he's better than most people let on, and whilst he remains the only striker at the club not suffering from The Plague he deserves a bit more support than he's getting.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it in this report so far, but we would have won this game 2-0 if Nolberto Solano could keep his eyes open and nod his head, simultaneously. And both goals would have been set up by Cole.

I'm just saying.

8. Twist And Shout

If you get the chance, go on to YouTube and watch Benjani's penalty miss. Not to detract from the excellence of Green's save but take a close look at the technique used.

Benjani ends up face down on the floor, facing away from goal.

I'm not even sure this is humanly possible. Of course, I'm not even sure that Benjani is human so maybe it makes sense.

Marvellous Redknapp quote though:

"I gave him a bollocking. He won't be taking another one that's for sure. He took the ball off Niko Kranjcar, who I would've been happy to see take it. Benji's been on a good run. But I gave him a bollocking. And I would've still given him a bollocking if he'd scored. Still, he worked his socks off. And, well, I do love him. And now I feel bad. I said to him in the dressing room, "Benji, you've been a silly boy," and he just sat there. No I feel really bad. He probably won't eat his fish and chips now, will he?"

9. Kudos

Green, obviously, Cole, Mullins and McCartney who was ace again. I think I'll give some love to Solano as well, because at least his head didn't fall completely from his shoulders during his many and varied attempts to head us a winner.

10. A Change Would Do You Good

Keen readers (Hi Dad!) will have noticed that The H List has decreased in frequency, and if I'm honest - quality - recently. There are a lot of reasons I could give you but the truth is that I am working on a plan to steal $30m from a Las Vegas casino and I'm trying to find a Chinese acrobat to help me. Sadly, this only gives me time to do the match reports.

With that in mind a mystery guest writer will be taking over the previews. It's not Russell Brand (our boy is camper if anything), but he knows his onions and will make sure that The H List gets back to more regular posts.

Fittingly his first post will be the 100th in H List history.

Hang on a minute - that's not fitting at all. I've done all the bloody work.

(This is how it started with Lennon and McCartney you know. In 30 years there will be a mad amputee comparing herself to Jesus on the TV and you'll look back to this moment with a nod of recognition.......)

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