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

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Middlesbrough vs West Ham United: Match Preview - 22/12/2007

1. Chore Of Duty

Following the news that HeadHammer Shark has been colonised off the coast of Japan having been mistaken for a small island, it falls upon my well-toned deltoids to provide a brief summary of Saturday's game.

In short, we were rubbish.

Everton were slightly above average, but nothing a determined and coherent home performance wouldn't have been able to deal with. The Toffees were adept at providing support for Yakubu in numbers from midfield and passing to feet - whereas we were happy floating 30 yard balls up from the halfway line, which were easily dealt with.

Scott Parker was our best performer, displaying an obvious return to fitness as he was all over the pitch for much of the game. His was a determined, neat and tidy display but still lacking in any creative spark.

The one semi-creative element we had on the pitch was Nobby Solano - so Curbishley obviously decided to take him off for Mark Noble, meaning we had three like-for-like players on the pitch at the same time in Mullins, Noble and Parker.

West Ham have always had some sort of creative force in the attacking half of the pitch, be it Tevez, Benayoun, DiCanio, Berkovic, Brooking... It's been obvious for a while now that we are sorely lacking in this area and appear both devoid of ideas and toothless in attack, particularly at home.

On the positive side, it was pointed out to me that He-Man frequents a seat in the corner flag area on the left of the Bobby Moore Lower - so at least our rejuvenated commercial sector is forging a solid fanbase in the as yet untapped market of Eternia.

2. Aurora Boroalis

And so onto this weekend.

Far from being 'northern lights' (in answer to your question, yes - I am a literary genius), Boro must be one of the more tedious sides in the Premier League.

Another component of the fallacy that is the North East 'hotbed of football', one can't really blame the local out-of-work miners for not delving into their ration books more often for a regular trip to the Riverside.

Average attendances of just six are more a testament to the restrictive nature of Gareth Southgate's proposterous, natural impasse of a nose. Many a Teesider has fallen to their death trying to scale their manager's prohibitive proboscis in a bid to gain entry to the stadium.

Those few who make it are rarely treated to anything more than the mediocre, although they have found some form of late. At the moment we seem to be meeting all manner of teams just as they hit their stride.

3. History

Middlesbrough will be the first team that we will have played both home and away in the League this season, after our flattering 3-0 win at Upton Park back in mid-September.

Last season saw us beat them 2-0 at home (Tevez & Zamora) in what was easily the worst display by a visiting side to the Boleyn, and then lose 1-0 at the Riverside to a goal from everyone's favourite Italian slaphead who isn't Pierluigi Collina - Massimo Maccarone.

Again, you would fancy us to do better away from home this year as they would be expected to bring the game to us. I still have a problem with our distinct lack of creativity, however. I think we're all chomping at the bit to see just how good Julien Faubert is.

4. The Ungrateful 'Hotbed'

From a neutral perspective, Boro Head Honcho Steve Gibson is probably the most likeable Chairman in the league. His support and passion for a truly average outfit has been unwavering for many years now.

Just what he gets out of the relationship is puzzling. Having pumped millions into the club, moved them to a new stadium and done everything in his power to insure that more than fifteen people turn up each week, his only return seems to be the admiration of all fans bar those of his own team.

I wouldn't bother if I were you, Steve. Rumour has it there are some excellent investment opportunities coming up in newly-liberated Basra.

Apparently, Insurgents XI are effective down the far right-wing and are dynamite upfront. And unlike your army of Premiership journeymen, their players always go out with a bang.

5. Sunnyside Up

Speaking of Chairmen, our own beloved Eggy has decided to relinquish his post at West Ham to concentrate on his other business interests.

Being a lifelong supporter, I can hardly remember any interaction between the fans and the Board before Magnusson's arrival in November of last year. The only time we ever heard from them was when they wanted us to front up for hair-brained schemes like the Hammers Bonds.

Magnusson has been a breath of fresh air and I'm sure will be missed. Simple steps such as bringing Billy Bonds back from the exile imposed upon him by Brown will forever endear Eggy to Hammers fans, and his no-nonsense ripostes to outside criticisms were a welcome addition.

Hopefully he'll be back at Upton Park before too long.

We can rest assured that our loss will be the U.S.S Enterprise's gain.

6. Bjorg Again


So now the real money man emerges from the Boardroom shadows.

Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson has pledged to do everything in his power to secure a move to a brand new £250million, 60,000-seater stadium at the former Parcelforce site near West Ham Tube.

He has also promised to invest a further £30million into our coffers in the near future - although his assertion that this will be ploughed into "the financial base of the club" suggests that this money won't be freely put in the transfer kitty.

Gudmundsson has also spoken of his desire to liaise closely with the fans, as he believes "regular dialogue and feedback is crucial to our success" - words you'd never have heard from Terry Brown.

Opinions are yet to be fully formed as we have heard so little of Gudmundsson thus far, but he appears determined and certainly can not be accused of not putting his money where his mouth is.

7. The Opposition

Generally speaking, Boro are a team of Premier League journeymen with the odd once-promising-youngster-who-has-never-fulfilled-his-potential thrown in.

Midfield man Fabio Rochemback will miss Saturday's clash having received his fifth yellow card of the season and Julio Arca is facing a late fitness test after picking up a slight knock. Tuncay Sanli seems to have settled in and has scored three in three, including his splendid effort against Derby at the weekend.

Stuart Downing is still rubbish.

Gareth Southgate's pitch-straddling, Berlin Wall of a nose could provide us with our biggest obstacle to scoring. If the spirit of fairness has any part to play this weekend, Southgate's technical area will be moved to Normandy.

8. Backwards In Going Forwards

Strap yourselves in - here we go again....

Carlton Cole will be out for a while with a hip injury, Craig Bellamy needs another operation, Boa Morte is injured (allegedly involving a kilo of ketamine and a Matador outfit), Zamora is still out and Henri Camara is off to the African Cup Of Nations.

Therefore it comes as no surprise that Curbishley has recently conceded a January transfer window foray could prove necessary, having ruled out that option a few weeks ago.

Dean Ashton still doesn't look in tip-top shape, although regular starts will help him there and I have no desire to see one of our plentiful midfielders shoved upfront for a few weeks as a stop-gap solution.

The prospect of Eidur Gudjohnsen arriving from Barcelona has resurfaced recently, with Villa also interested and personally I'd love to see him come to Upton Park.

I've always thought he has a touch of class and, like Ashton, never seems to panic when in possession and surrounded by heavy-handed defenders. He could be part of the answer to our creative problems.

If the money's there, then why not? Healthy competition, 'survival of the fittest' and all that - Darwin was on to something before he trashed his canoe and fled to Panama.

9. In Summary

Despite injuries, we should be winning games like this as Middlesbrough are not the most defensively sound...

...(surprising for a team managed by the man whose nose played a central role in repelling Mongols from China in the 14th century).

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