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, November 21, 2007

West Ham United vs Tottenham Hotspur - Match Preview

1. The Main Event

Hannibal of Carthage vs The Roman Empire.
He-Man vs Skeletor.
Barrymore vs the Crown Prosecution Service.

All titanic struggles between good and evil, all bubbling cauldrons of emotion for those involved, each yielding the capacity to bring tears of both joy and despair (perhaps not in the case of Barrymore, but definitely the other two).

West Ham United vs The Scum.

2. All I Want For Christmas Is...

I'm sure a lot of Hammers fans would agree that were we to be offered a guaranteed double over any Premiership opponent at the start of the season, most would go for Tottenham. I'd be happy with the lower reaches of midtable this season so long as we annihilated Spurs home and away.

Tottenham Hotspur epitomise everything wrong with the deluded football fan: living on past glories, continually claiming they are a 'massive club' despite having won nothing for 16 years* and refusing to accept that they are lumped in with the rest of us outside the Big Four despite 10 years of consistent evidence.

But above all, their arrogance in thinking they're entitled to be higher than they invariably are coupled with their inexplicable delusion of being a part of football's aristocracy is what rankles most.

They need a good hiding.

* - the '99 League Cup doesn't count because (a) it's the League Cup and (b) it was against Leicester. The only thing that would restore the prestige of the League Cup would be if we were to win it.

3. Tale Of The Tape

Last season's corresponding fixtures were not well received. A tame 1-0 loss at White Hart Lane was followed by a galling 4-3 home defeat, Bobby Z's equaliser negated only in the dying seconds.

In hindsight, it was that result which turned our season around - we went on to win 7 of our next 9, thereby clinging to our Premiership status. Still, like any disgruntled Australian who finds himself in Rome dressed in metallic pants would agree, 'I will have my vengeance'.

Spurs fans would argue it was just desserts after Yossi's swivel hips denied them a Champions League spot on the final day of the previous season . However, the nationwide scenes of celebration unrivalled since Churchill declared on 8th May 1945 that 'Ich bin ein The Daddy', proved it was for the good of the game.

The fact that 'Bubbles...' was the last ever song to be sung at Arsenal's Highbury stadium is testimony to that, particularly as we have largely dominated Wenger's young pretenders ever since.

We owe Spurs the most frustrating of defeats.

4. And Was Jerusalem Builded Here?

In a word - No.

In an international aside, Israel gave an undeserving England team another chance to claim a place at Euro 2008 and we blew it after a frankly flattering 3-2 defeat to Croatia.

It's no secret; we're just not good enough, outclassed consistently against any above average opposition. I'm sure every England fan in the country save for the ones in charge, know that long balls and hopeful flick-ons are not good enough when up against decent international opposition.

I have no problem whatsoever with England going out in the qualifying stages, for I am tired... Tired of players talking up their chances of winning a major competition, tired of under-performing and over-paid prima donnas ducking responsibility for continual failure, tired of the familiar hollow feeling as England crash out once again and compound the misery of fans forced to sit through the footballing equivalent of a Maroon 5 album.

The facts speak for themselves: the England football team have failed to win anything, failed even to make a major final for 41 miserable years - an appalling return on the emotional and financial investment of the fans. During that time, every other major European country (barring perennial underachievers, Spain) have either won a major trophy or made a final. In the last 20 years Italy, France, Germany, Holland and Czech Republic have all lived up to their billing.

I'm sick of the England squad saying how we have some of 'the best players in the world', only for our inevitable failure to be blamed on injuries, a bad draw, poor refereeing decisions, the cosmos - anything but the fact that we're sub-standard. I wouldn't mind the average performances so much if the players just kept their mouths shut.

There is an upside: I think we all now stand a much better chance of enjoying Euro 2008 next summer.

5. Friend or Defoe

Over the years it has not been uncommon for a few players to make the short trip between Upton Park and White Hart Lane: Martin Peters, Clive Allen and more recently Michael Carrick spring to mind. Surprisingly, not too much venom has been spat at these transgressors as the hatred seems to target the very clubs themselves moreso than individual players.

Until of course a young man named Jermaine made the incredibly swift transition from local hero to arch villain.

The stultifyingly stupid move of handing in a transfer request less than 24 hours after we were relegated in 2002-'03 did not exactly endear him to Hammers fans. Follow that up with a move to Spurs and well, you deserve everything you get frankly.

Whilst more than happy to see him rot on the bench as he has done these last few years, there is a dark corner of my psyche that secretly hopes Defoe scores in front of the Bobby Moore Stand just so the full vitriol can be unleashed upon him. 0bviously, there's a caveat here - they can go 1-0 up courtesy of The Evil Dwarf before we get 10 quick goals in a nail-biting finish.

6. Jol Be Fine

The recent sacking of ex-Spurs manager Martin Jol was a puzzling if not entirely unexpected decision for many football fans. The big Dutchman had won over many observers of the Premier League with his no nonsense attitude, dignity under pressure and attacking football - all whilst holding down a job as chief Bouncer at Spearmint Rhinos.

It appears that propelling a mediocre team to 5th place in the League two seasons in a row is no longer enough to guarantee your job 3 months into the following season. Chairman Daniel Levy's spineless move to undermine his popular manager could backfire drastically should the new incumbent, Juande Ramos, not do the business.

Why you would invest £40million in one man's transfer targets in the summer only to offload him at the first sign of trouble?

I doubt Martin Jol will have any trouble finding a job in another top European league before long. He's already received an ambitious request from Birmingham City after The Ginger Whinger left them for Wigan. Jol tactically said it was "too soon" for a return to football, which is Dutch for "Birmingham?! F*ck off."

7. Dangermen

Dimitar Berbatov is a class act, but has shown touches of the petulance which often accompanies such talents. Recently he has looked as though he could throw his toys out the pram on a whim, but he must be credited with helping millions of children around the world to count on Sesame Street. Ah...Ah...Ahhhh.

Robbie Keane has flashes of inspiration but I don't think would stand up to a pummeling with a bat. If we can just arm Matty Upson and get 35,000 people to look the other way.

Jermaine Jenas is massively overrated, I don't care what anyone says. Anyone who calls themselves 'JJ' should be put down.... a deep disused mine and covered in a hundred-weight of stinging nettles which are then sat upon by The Human Banoffee Pie, Paul Robinson.

Steed Malbranque, as his name suggests is in actual fact a horse. Expect him to win by a large Gallic nose down the final stretch in the 3-30 at Kempton, and then be fined for why he spent the afternoon at a Middlesex race course instead of an east London football ground.

Paul Robinson is the human equivalent of bread pudding: large, stoggy, immobile and gelatinous, but without the pleasant after taste (on close inspection, he is however covered in raisins).

Nothing to worry about here, then.

8. It's Raining Goals

Had you told me last week that leading into this game, Spurs and West Ham would have scored an aggregate of 9 goals in the previous fixture, I would've said "Spurs are gonna win 12-0?!" It turns out that both sides go into this match in fine goal-scoring form, albeit against two of the League's weakest opponents.

At the other end of the pitch, West Ham are only 4 goals away from conceding 5,000 in league football. Quite an achievement. The odds of us breaking the 6,000 barrier this season are surprisingly short.

At the time of going to press the signs are that Bellamy, Ashton, Ljungberg and maybe even Scott Parker all stand a good chance of at least making the squad for Sunday... and that Ferdinand has narrowly escaped a 10-stretch.

A conviction for Anton would not have upset me. We have ample cover at centre back and James Collins is long overdue a run in the side. Yes, Ferdinand is quick - but apparently not quick-witted. He is yet to fully comprehend the universal truth that if you earn thousands of pounds a week and still insist on going to a nightclub in Ilford, there's a good chance you'll end up in prison.

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