Monday, April 30, 2007
Let us not forget folks, that no matter what happens from here on in, we’ll always have Wigan.
2. Let’s Start At The Beginning
I’m sure we’re all agreed that this was The Greatest Game In The World Ever. However, if there has been a worse half hour of football played anywhere in the known Universe this year than the opening thirty minutes of this match, then I’d be amazed.
I’m not going to suggest that Wigan were ‘better’ than us, as this would imply competence, but they were ‘not quite as awful’ as we were. Once Luis Boa Morte opened the scoring they simply gave up, however.
Now that is an entirely reasonable response to allowing Luis Boa Morte to score, but it was probably a bit galling for the home fans.
3. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
I don’t want to go on too much about Lucas Neill, lest Mrs Shark realise that I am secretly in love with him. Let me just say that I reckon he might be better than Tyrone Mears.
They were all great, to be fair. Not so much Luis Boa Morte but then again even he was not quite as useless as normal. He scored our opener, helped hugely by the fact that Wigan keeper John Filan went insane about 5 seconds beforehand. I have no idea what would possess a man to run towards Boa Morte when he’s bearing down on goal, but I’ll happily live with it.
Up to that point Boa Morte had been in direct opposition to Kevin Kilbane on the right side of the pitch, leading to some serious karmic badness. Mercifully, after forty minutes or so, someone (probably the Lord God Almighty himself) decided to end the suffering and switch Kilbane to the left. Cue 25,000 people exhaling and feeling a lot better about their feng-shui.
If I had to quibble - and come in it’s The H List so you knew I was going to - might I suggest that we missed a golden opportunity to ‘improve’ our goal difference from shameful to embarrassing. I mean, come on, Wigan finished the game with Matt Jackson and David Unsworth in the centre of their defence. This is like leaving two bags of charcoal on the edge of your box and hoping for the best.
Amidst all the joy let us not forget that we essentially have only one game left this season.
4. The Statistics
Unusually we dominated this game in every aspect bar possession. We had a 52% share of the ball and used it very wisely indeed, which is a never before typed sequence of words for this column.
According to Match of the Day the home team had 4 shots on target but I must confess that I cannot remember a single one. Certainly there were passages of play where the ball ended up in Robert Green’s hands but to call any of them actual ‘shots’ is an insult to handguns and vodka glasses everywhere.
Nigel Reo Coker picked up his 112th booking of the season. I’m prepared to forgive him on the grounds that he single-handedly took the entire Wigan midfield back to school for the day.
5. The Opposition
Paul Jewell was magnanimous in defeat, which is a direct result of him being Not Neil Warnock. He was less gracious about the result of the Premier League enquiry. Whilst I understand his frustration, it does not change the fact that his team are appalling.
If I was being polite about it I’d suggest that they should get more than 35 points before they start complaining about other teams. (And to that end, stop playing Josep Skoko as well).
But as I have no interest in being polite let me also add that it doesn’t help that Wigan’s chairman is rent a quote gobshite Dave Whelan. A man who makes Jose Mourinho’s outbursts look considered.
6. The Referee
The words ‘Graham Poll’ are often followed by much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Therefore I would be remiss if I didn’t point out he was excellent today. Admittedly it helped that the entire Wigan team seemed to go into anaphylactic shock after allowing Boa Morte to score (fair enough) and therefore stopped tackling, but he did a good job of keeping the game going and not booking anyone three times.
So a big ‘well done’ and a request to come next week as he might be the closest thing we have to a lucky charm.
Anyone else for a spot of Olympic Class Barrel Scraping?
7. The Beautiful Game
For the wonderful twenty minute period(s) on either side of half time it was like stepping back in time and watching last years West Ham. Our football was great and we repeatedly cut Wigan to shreds, culminating in Benayoun's strike. That goal summed up perfectly the gulf in class between the teams and could conceivably be the best goal we will score this year. Which might say as much about how well we've played this year as anything else.
It should be noted that following on from his Arsenal heroics, Lucas Neill (swoon) was once again the architect of our first goal with a carbon copy pass over the top. I'm just going to come right out and admit that he pulls at my heartstrings and I'm virtually stalking him.
Carlos Tevez is, was and always will be a legend at Upton Park. It's not even that he's played that well for us (it's all relative - he's been better than all our other strikers of course), but there is no question that his commitment to the cause has shamed his less vaunted colleagues. I will miss him and his curious hair when he departs.
8. Kudos Corner
In fairness to Alan Curbishley it is not possible to argue with this result. As apocalyptically bad as we were at Sheffield United, we were very good today.
In particular, his faith in George McCartney is being repaid in full as the spindly legged full back continues to confound me with his sterling performances. His run for the second goal was terrific and he did especially well to avoid the black hole of uselessness created in front of him by the awful Boa Morte/Kilbane dichotomy.
9. Oscillate Wildly
Listening to The Smiths on the way up to the game was a good idea. By the time I got there I was simply pleased to be alive, so the result was just a nice little bonus. If we stay up I'll do a H List titled only with songs by The Smiths.
Wait - come back!
Anyway, I should have known this was going to be a weird day. If an earthquake can strike Kent and Charlton can find 6,000 people to participate in "Operation Ewood" (Bless 'em), then I don't suppose there is any reason that we can't score three times away from home.
Naturally, the question you're dying to ask me is "When did we last win 3-0 away from home in the top flight, Shark?". The answer is "During The Boer War".
(OK - it was September 2000 at Coventry, but Jumping Jesophat, that is a long time).
10. It's A Long Way Down
Charlton took 71 coaches with them to Blackburn, and they got to see them lose 4-1. I'm not going to start rubbing it in as we're not exactly swimming away from the Titanic ourselves. I will point out that each of those 71 coaches had a row of spotty oiks on the back seat making somewhat rude gestures at motorists on the M1.
If nothing else I admire their dedication to the cause as doing it must have played havoc with their posture.
Although Charlton would seem to be gone, our fate remains inextricably tied to those around us. Sadly, both Wigan and Fulham get to play against the enormously pointless Middlesbrough before the end of the season which would seem to be their escape route. Of the two I'd say Fulham look more precarious given that they have Liverpool (h) and Boro (a).
All of this means that we must beat Bolton next week to give ourselves a realistic chance. A draw would rely on Wigan losing both games, whilst defeat for us doesn't bear thinking about as it would introduce goal difference into the equation, which just isn't fair as we spent 6 months using an imaginary defence.
Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering
Great answer from Big 'Ol Useless Mike to an inane question in the london paper last week. When asked who is favourite musician was, Mahogany Mick responded with "I like early Whitney Houston".
Whoah, whoah, whoah. Are you aware of the concept of newspapers, Michael? They are widely read, often by football fans or people you know.
And, and and. You're only 23 years old, man. This means that rather than liking it because you grew up with "early Whitney" you like it because you sought it out and learned to love it. Wow, that blows my mind.
I particularly like the specification that it must be "early Whitney" as it implies that she somehow got worse as her career progressed, or that she had an early golden period.
I too prefer the early Soviet missile programmes by the way.......
Friday, April 27, 2007
Tally-ho then. All I ask of you is that you travel with a sense of proportion. Hope will get you nowhere. And fast. Just resign yourself to an(other) afternoon of abjectivity and thus the only way is up.
To label this as a "must win" would be stretching the boundaries of that particular phrase to it's most tenuous limit. Instead I would describe this as a "Yeah, you'll really wanna win this one but even if you do you're still probably screwed" match.
Hope that's all cleared up then.
2. The History
We have a fantastic record at Wigan. And when I use that phrase I mean it in it's truest sense - "highly unrealistic or improbable". In four games at Wigan in the last 3 years we have drawn one and won three, all by a 2-1 margin. The word you're looking for is "Howonearthdidthathappen?".
Naturally, all of this has meant that we have an "abysmal" record against Wigan at Upton Park, losing three on the trot. This matters not, but I thought it might be helpful in adding a bit of context, lest you should think that we are somehow favourites for tomorrow.
We do absolutely love a last minute goal there though, as Nigel Reo-Coker proved when he gained us a reasonably undeserved 3 points last season. The question therefore arising is will it be a "winner" or a "poxy late consolation".
3. The Early Bird Massacres The Worm
Points gained when the opposition have scored first: 9
Points gained when we have scored first: 22
I have put my formidable intellect to work and come up with the following suggestion. SCORE FIRST. Early and often would be my preferred style, should anyone require further analysis.
And to think that some of you wouldn't buy The H List book. Pah!
4. That's Just So Last Year
Whilst researching the above statistic (cue dozens of H List readers spluttering their coffee, whilst mouthing "You research this stuff?") I did notice that we actually topped the Premiership in 05/06 for points gained from losing positions.
A lot of people point to this as an example of the superior team spirit under Pardew. I tend to view it as an example of how crap we were at starting games last year, but then I am an obstreperous sort.
The problem with the tendency of coming from behind is that it flies in the face of all known logic and statistical analysis. Anomalies are so called for a reason and as such we have now reverted to the norm in this area at least (I aspire for us to be "the norm" in lots of other areas by the way).
Of course, it shouldn't be forgotten that this current vintage are the antithesis of last year's team, despite the crossover in personnel. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that they're the Evil Relation of last year's side. You know, like that black Spiderman suit, or The Mummy Returns, or Graham Rooney - a man who makes a living from looking like his brother (a fact that no sane person would want to highlight).
5. The Opposition
I am on record as saying that I like Wigan, or at least I don't lose the will to live when watching them, a la Aston Villa. Paul Jewell is a good manager, hamstrung by geography and a curious attachment to 74 year old Arjan de Zeeuw.
Up front they will go with Emile Heskey, a man whose middle name is Ivanhoe, and who was England's starting left winger in the first game of the 2002 World Cup. Have a guess which of those two facts I find weirder.
Heskey is the man for whom the phrase "You might think he's underachieved but actually when you look back on it he's probably overachieved" was invented. Admittedly it's not that common a phrase but let's all spread the gospel.
6. Anton And On And On And Someone Just Lock His Bloody Door
Anton Ferdinand continues his crusade to win the title of "Premiership's Stupidest Footballer". It hardly bears thinking about that he's clearly winning the race too.
Not content with the upcoming trial at Crown Court, Anton decided that the week before our latest Biggest Game Ever was no time for him to exhibit any sign of being a professional footballer (or indeed a sentient being) and decided to head to Time and Envy in Romford for a midweek mambo.
Naturally, this evolved into a full scale brawl on the dance floor when he dropped some jewellery at an inopportune moment.
They never cease to make you proud, do they?7. Let's Take A Poll
The referee for tomorrow's game is our hero, Graham Poll. We won at Arsenal in spite of this so I have upgraded my feelings on this from "Desperation" to "Mild Panic".
It did get me thinking about the night that made Poll infamous though. The Australia - Croatia match at the Germany 2006 World Cup. That was the night that he booked Croatian centre back Dario Simic 3 times before sending him off. Now what really cracks me up about this is that Simic got his last booking for a professional foul/dissent combo.
Just think how loony you have to be to do that when you've already been booked twice.
8. Will The Real West Ham Please Stand Up
Not that I want to wander too far down the road of mindless optimism, but if we win tomorrow then we'd be level on points with Wigan. That, of course, means little given that we are hardly likely to pick up any more points this year but it would be nice to at least make a gesture towards fighting.
I have a feeling that Lucas Neill will be the man who sets the tone tomorrow. For all his noble talk, Reo-Coker is not a man who tends to lead by example, unless you count that odd Laffy Taffy dance thing he got them all doing last year.
9. Fine, You Take Him
So the waiting is over, until someone else appeals, and we have been fined £5.5m as a result of the signings of Tevez and Mascherano.
My immediate thought is to simply donate Luis Boa Morte to the cause. If the Premier League won't accept that then maybe we could get away with simply donating him to medical science.
My second thought is to sacrifice Terence Brown and Paul Aldridge to the sun god Ra by tying them to a boat on the Thames and catapulting forks across the waves at them. Nothing too fancy, like.
10. The DenouementYou've got to love a country where it's okay for Jon Obi Mikel to allegedly sign a contract with Manchester United under extreme duress, and then they are able to turn around and sell him for £6m to Chelsea because that's actually what he fancied doing all along.
Needless to say the Premier League felt no need to investigate that particular transfer.
Of course, it would seem that we have crossed a line somewhere and are now paying the price. I must say that it smarts a little to be the club who finally get caught with a dodgy calculator when the entire universe is happy enough to accept that everyone is doing it.
I'm more than willing to admit that I know absolutely nothing about the Premier League or it's compliance regulations but then of course it's not my job to advise anybody about it. Sadly the Club's legal advisers didn't take quite the same honourable position.
I can't help feeling that if Chelsea had signed the Argentinians, then today would have had a very different outcome. We almost seem to have been punished for having the temerity to have tried it. Regrettably, we have actually been punished for being totally, completely and utterly crap at off field activities. God Bless Terence Brown.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Wow. A heartbreaking loss without the heartbreak. Or the loss.
I'm happy. Not "You've won the lottery" happy, or "James Blunt has permanent laryngitis" happy but I am veering in the general direction of being pleased.
You see, this does now mean that I will be travelling to Wigan next Saturday filled with hope, which we know is the natural enemy of all West Ham fans.
2. Department Of The Insane
I'm not nearly as smart as I think I am, but I do like to think that I have a reasonable degree of intelligence. If required, I have enough Italian to be able to utter the phrase "Unfortunately, I'm not a doctor - I'm English", or if needed I could advise you on the intricacies of Double Tax Treaties, or maybe even write a quick essay on the rise to power of Benito Mussolini.
Admirable talents all, I'm sure you'll agree, except that not one of them qualifies me to comment on the brain warping selections currently being made by Alan Curbishley.
He replaced Luis Boa Morte with Matthew Etherington (more on which later), which is a tremendously good example of the phrase "addition by subtraction". So far, so blurgh.
The real puzzler was the inexplicable decision to go into this game without a goalkeeper on the bench. What possible logic could exist whereby it was more important for us to have Jonathan Spector as a substitute than to have cover for an injury Robert Green (who actually did dislocate his finger)?
A decision so innately crap that it's just amazing that the Cricket World Cup organizing committee weren't involved in it somewhere.
3. The Statistics
Well, we had 55% possession and converted it into 3 shots on target. Everton, meanwhile, for all their bluster didn't manage a single effort on goal.
They did fashion two reasonable chances I suppose, Arteta hitting one just over the bar and James Beattie hitting the other just over the International Space Station.
I never imagined that I would write this, but........Everton were way, way, way worse than us.
4. The Opposition
I can say without fear of contradiction that Everton are the tallest team in the world. They are enormous. It is entirely possible that their corner routines can be seen from space, which seems pertinent given that this is where most of James Beattie's shots end up (see above).
David Moyes has stated that he believes Everton deserved something from this game. I state again - they did not have shot on target all match. I struggle to see how this deserves anything other than tarring, feathering and a public stapling to the Angel of the North.
5. The Referee
Mark Clattenburg did the honours. He was woefully inconsistent although that's an expected side effect of officiating games as tense as these.
If I was going to have a minor quibble it would be with his decision to ask the Everton bench how much added time they would like at the end of the game. Moyes's answer of "until we score" was probably not quite accurate. It also took around 5 years off my life expectancy, so thanks for that Mark.
6. A Set Piece Of My Mind
Not to get too negative but there is a facet of our play that does tend to drive me to a town called Distraction and then throw me off the docks.
We are incredibly naive in dealing with teams such as Everton. Once Andy Johnson went off, and with Tim Cahill absent, it was obvious that their sole chance of scoring was going to come from whacking the ball long and hoping one of their rubbish but elongated remaining players would head one in.
Why then, would you ever foul somebody like Phil Neville when he's within a nautical mile of our goal? Rather like last week when Anton Ferdinand stopped Christian Nade from doing whatever Christian Nade does when within sight of our box, with a ridiculous challenge, so too Nigel Reo-Coker this time round.
The thing is - Phil Neville is more likely to spontaneously combust than he is to do anything even approaching useful in that situation. I'm not saying that we shouldn't be tackling at all, but Holy Mother of Carlos Tevez - know your enemy, chaps.
7. King George(*)
Kudos where it is due. George McCartney was great yesterday. To the extent that I have had to gather up several of my earlier columns and eat them. I'm not so sure that he is the ultimate answer to our problems at left back but you can't help but root for a man with legs that thin.
*(I've used this title so that in future when he mucks up I can use the header "The Madness Of King George". You've got to have foresight, people)
8. Who's Left?
Let's not gloss over this. The left back position is looking solid enough but in front of him remains a deep pit of despair.
Admittedly, Boa Morte did actually do some useful things when he came on. I have therefore downgraded him from "Prince Edward" to "Prince Andrew" on The H List scale of uselessness. Prior to that Etherington had played 74 minutes without contracting any variant of the West Nile Flu, which is pleasing. He had also failed to get past Tony Hibbert even once, which is impossible.
I can take no more. Be gone. Off with their heads. They need to be replaced and my only criteria is that the individual be a carbon based life form, and have a functioning respiratory system.
9. The 3 Wise Men
Three blokes ran on to the pitch towards the end of the game, presumably to see if they could incite a modern day lynching. Unusually the men in question weren't our substitutes, although Carlton Cole gave it a whirl (What in the name of Merlin's Beard was his performance all about?).
10. Hats Off
Bobby Zamora and Lucas Neill.
A sumptuous goal from the former and the nearest thing I've seen to a complete right back performance from the latter. It wasn't anywhere near being a complete right back performance of course, but this is West Ham so it's still the nearest I've seen.
Token Jermaine Jenas Observation
Ordinarily of course this would be the section devoted to mocking Michael Dawson. However, Jermaine Jenas did something so far above his skill set that President Bush got a call about it, so I felt I needed to mention it.
Jenas got some stick for over celebrating, but I say fair enough. Think about it. Jermaine Jenas is an appalling footballer. Truly atrocious. The poster boy for those who argue that little things like genetics and physical ability do not determine how good a footballer is.
For him to score a goal that good in the last minute of a North London derby is like you or I ending up on the new twenty pound note for inventing hover boards.
Give the guy a break folks.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Before I begin previewing tomorrow's game (and why wouldn't I want to put that little delight off for a while) I'd like to thank the good folks at http://www.whoateallthepies.tv/ who have named The H List as their Blog of the Week.
I'd also like to thank our back 4 whose perfectly timed year long career sabbatical has provided a rich seam of comedy gold.
Anyway, backwards and downwards...
2. The History
I'm afraid that things don't look all that bright for us in terms of a win tomorrow. Everton tend to play pretty well at our place and indeed our last win over them at Upton Park was in 2002 courtesy of a Trevor Sinclair goal. My recollection of that night is that it was freezing cold and the game would have benefitted hugely from some sort of mild distraction like sky diving squirrels or an influx of locusts, such was the boredom.
The game last year was an enjoyable 2-2 draw highlighted by a rare outbreak of Marlon Harewood not being inept when faced with an opposition goalkeeper. It was also notable as Shaun Newton came on and I didn't vomit up my small intestine as a result.
Our earlier encounter this season ended in an abject 2-0 defeat at their place. (Note: I just have that line saved to my clipboard nowadays).
3. The Opposition
Everton are one of those teams that never ever excite you, but never ever make it easy. They are filled with players who could charitably be called "ballast" and yet sit proudly in 5th place mocking our over paid, under exerted, sweat avoiders.
If rumours are to be believed, Phil Neville is playing fantastically for them, something which just hurts my spleen to type.
And of course, there is Andy Johnson.
AJ, as he should never be known, has gained many plaudits for his chivalrous decision to stop falling over everytime somebody looks at him askew. I suppose it is churlish (for I am a churl) to criticise somebody for trying to improve his image, but a man of my lofty principles simply cannot stoop to praising a fellow for cheating less than he used to.
4. Where Do We Go From Here?
Quite what Curbishley plans to do in order to prevent a hat trick of alarming 3 goal defeats is way beyond the simple grasp of a man such as myself. Looking back over some old H List entries I note that I have been randomly calling for change all season with little noticeable foresight.
For instance, I have had Marlon Harewood in and out of the side all year. I don't know what I want right now but shaking him all about would at least complete the set.
Apparently Anton Ferdinand is set to return to the side after a groin strain, presumably sustained in the process of not preventing Jon Fucking Stead from scoring against us last week. As far as I'm concerned, unless his groin muscle fell out of his leg during the game then injury is no excuse....
5. Luis, Luis
I'm afraid that Boa Morte gets his own section this week on account of putting in the least effective performance I have ever seen from a West Ham player on Wednesday night. And that is really saying something considering I watched Richard Garcia's career from start to interminable finish.
What on earth has happened to this guy? He used to be so average, which is several levels above his current status. Against Chelsea he was faced by Lassana Diarra, a player who is comprised entirely of pasta, and failed to do anything even vaguely competent. At half time Mourinho replaced Diarra with Paolo Ferreira, possibly for a bet, and the pair promptly spent the next 45 minutes falling over in some sort of Portugese synchronised diving ritual.
Never buy anything in the January sales. Especially not from Harrods.
6. Here Are My Straws, Wanna Clutch At 'Em?
The ever positive Curbs believes that 3 consecutive wins could still see us safe which at least proves that the supply of hard drugs into the East End hasn't dried up.
Not that this column is renowned for an excess of positivity but our last 4 games yielded just 4 points in the corresponding fixtures last year. Don't get me wrong though, I'm delighted that he appears to have moved on from giving team talks that consist entirely of him lying on the floor yelling "We're all doomed!".
7. Hit The North!
Our last 4 games are against teams from the North West of England. It will surprise absolutely nobody to learn that we have mustered just 3 points from games against teams from this region all year. In keeping with the general insanity of our performances however, those 3 points did come against Manchester United.
So the title of this piece should really be "Gently prod the North" or "Could you at least tickle the North?".....
Thursday, April 19, 2007
A victory for purists everywhere then.
The Chelsea coach was bricked (I'm not fussed), the Chelsea team conducted themselves with all the class of a drunken stag party (I'm more fussed but I'll cope) and we implemented defensive techniques taken straight from The French Border Guards Handbook - 1939 edition (I'm incredibly fussed).
2. Sing When You're Fishing
Some nice work on the pre match entertainment. Someone at the club finally made the glaringly obvious connection between West Ham and Icelandic opera, and we were thus treated to a stirring appearance by renowned tenor, Cortes. In fairness to the lad, his was the best on pitch performance of the night by a Hammer.
It was somewhat fitting that during the warm up, our players were busy peppering the stadium forecourt with their shooting, as the elegiac strains of Nessum Dorma rang around Upton Park.
I believe these are known as 'omens'.
3. The Statistics
This was not a game that lent itself easily to statistical analysis. We had just 41% possession but forced 9 corners to Chelsea's 5 and actually enjoyed a significant territorial advantage according to the Opta stats. Tellingly though, we committed an amazing 21 fouls, including a marvellous attempt at open knee surgery by Nigel Reo-Coker on Wayne Bridge.
All of which would combine to suggest that we didn't have the ball very much but when we did we got it forward relatively quickly and used it as uselessly as one might expect.
Even more interestingly we have not been caught offside against Chelsea in either game this year. Make of that what you will.
4. The Opposition
A delight, as always.
The first half was fairly even, with Wright Phillip's tremendous first goal practically screaming "Look, they haven't completely ruined my career!". Although I wouldn't say it was against the run of play, that Chelsea strike was slightly harsh on us and as such Tevez's equaliser was just reward for lots of hard work, even if was heavily reliant upon Petr Cech suddenly being struck down with a severe case of chocolate wrists.
Thereafter followed 34 seconds of ecstasy (about par for the course these days) before Wright-Phillips remembered he wasn't crap anymore and whacked in a second.
Interestingly, our first half tactics of "chasing about everywhere as fast as possible" unnerved Chelsea slightly and it was especially pleasurable to see John Terry getting the run around from the Bobby Zamora clone we currently have up front.
The second half saw Chelsea return to full functionality as they closed out the game with some good finishing, nice passing and a whole barnyard full of ridiculous dives. Ho, hum.
5. The Referee
Unusually, Mike Dean wasn't appalling and even managed a Premiership first by awarding a foul against Terry in the first half.
There was a nonsensical moment in the second period when Drogba was told to leave the pitch for treatment. He proceeded to wander over in the vague direction of the touchline, have a whinge about the obscene price of petrol in this country and then run back on to play a major part in the crucial third goal, never once leaving the playing area.
I'm not saying that it made a huge difference, but it would be nice if the teams at the top of the Premiership had the same laws applied to them as the rest of us.
6. An Inherent Nobility
I'm not quite ready to proclaim Mark Noble as "The Saviour" but I am ready to anoint him as "Not Nigel Quashie". He ran around a lot, put in a few decent challenges and generally looked promising without having any significant impact on the game.
In about 3 years he will be the lynchpin of our midfield. And probably just about to be sold.
7. The Return Of The Prodigal Sons
Our favourite ex player had a prototypical Lampardic game. He was heavily involved in two of the goals but for the rest of the time he was simply heavy.
When the going was tough for the first thirty minutes, he was absent without leave before easing himself into the fray as we took the strange decision to play "rush goalie" in the second half.
I must say I did enjoy the Bobby Moore Lower's version of "You're just a shit Steven Gerrard", however.
Joe Cole got a nice reception and wore the tightest pair of shorts this side of a Christina Aguilera video. I'm assuming that one did not have a bearing on the other.
8. You Know Things Are Bad When...
Substitution - West Ham : Nigel Reo-Coker replaced by Hayden Mullins (76)
Substitution - Chelsea : Frank Lampard replaced by Michael Ballack (78)
9. Department Of Silver Linings
I did receive an email from a Stockport supporting friend who told me to thank Carlos Tevez for preventing Chelsea from going 9 League games without conceding a goal. This means that the record stays with the men from Edgeley Park. He's a nice fella so I have decided not to make a smart remark about how good the current vintage must be for that to have been relevant.
Elsewhere it was nice to see Tevez skin Lampard in the build up to his wonder goal.
I know, I know - if I was in the Navy I would be a petty officer.
10. I'm Alright At Crosswords But...
I like to think I'm a reasonably intelligent chap but I have simply given up trying to work out what Curbishley's team selections are all about. Now don't get me wrong - I'm completely on board with replacing Anton Ferdinand with someone in possession of a functioning cerebrum, but the decision to shift the hitherto impressive Lucas Neill in to the middle and leave Davenport on the bench was a curious one.
Neill suffered, I suffered, my neighbours cat is limping, it's all connected Alan.
Likewise replacing Matthew Etherington, after three games where his only noticeable contribution was not dying whilst on the pitch, was a sound idea. Unfortunately he chose Luis Boa Morte who made the courageous, if ultimately foolhardy decision to play this game whilst stoned out of his mind.
11. Atmospheric Pressure
The fans had a great time last night. The game was fairly even for 52 minutes, after which point it turned into a half hour mockathon of the 3,000 fans dressed as mannequins that Chelsea brought with them. I'd say that was an improvement on the 5,000 that went to the FA Cup Semi Final dressed as empty seats though.
I'm not trying to insult genuine Chelsea fans, as I'm sure there are dozens out there, but it's a natural symptom of success that your support will always be diluted by the new wave of fans eager to latch on to a winning team.
Interestingly, as recently as August 2003 we attracted a crowd of 30,370 for a midweek Championship home game with Bradford City, whilst on the same night Chelsea mustered less for a Champions League match against Zilina.
I don't exactly know what my point is here but it probably involves Michael Dawson being rubbish....
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
It's West Ham. It's Chelsea. It's our biggest game of the season. So how do I want to start this weeks column? With a reference to Jane Austen, of course.
You see, there is a marvellously heart warming tale of romance and chivalry currently doing the rounds, that Big Jane herself would have been proud to script.
Fed up with losing column inches to Prince William, our first team squad have stormed back on to page 7 of the News of the World with the tremendously everyday tale of the former West Ham PR girl who has been impregnated by one of our players.
Naturally she's unable to tell us who exactly is the papa because she has (and I quote) "been seeing Anton Ferdinand and Carlton Cole for the last year". Leaving aside the inherent madness of that statement, both players have come out and said that they will stand by her. Given that everyone else is, I suppose I might as well come out and state that I'm standing by her too.
She's 19, of course, just to add to the fuzzy glow. In case, you're interested she has apparently made up her mind as to who she hopes the father will be. To quote a well placed source - "she is desperate for a baby Carlton".
Which is exactly what Emma Woodhouse would say.
2. Spring Forward, Fall Back
Given the above it does make me chuckle when I hear people say that Alan Curbishley is not able to handle the pressure of managing a club like West Ham. Well, really, who the hell is? I've had a long think about it and the only suitable name that I can think of is Jerry Springer.
3. The Ferd Degree
My initial thought after his on pitch lobotomy on Saturday was that Ferdinand would likely be dropped for this game. Little did I realise that the other 19 centre backs on our books were still injured.
I'm mostly concerned for his mental state. In the last 4 days he has possibly fathered Carlton Cole's new baby and, more traumatically, allowed Jon Fucking Stead to score against him.
4. Less Boos, More Booze
Given that it's a top 3 team visiting us tomorrow, there are obviously a couple of ex-Hammers returning. Glen Johnson is not amongst them as he is currently in Portsmouth acquiring a new toilet seat and accompanying criminal record.
Of those who actually will be there, I don't understand why people boo Joe Cole. Sure, he plays for Chelsea which carries with it an innate evilness, but on the grand scale of Judasness he is quite some distance behind his predecessors.
In his last season with us he was simply immense, developing into the player we always dreamed of, and sadly one that Chelsea did too. I don't blame him for not extending his contract with us and signing up for a Roederian future in the Championship. He gave the club plenty of warning and £6.6m, whilst a low fee, was better than the 3 bags of peanuts we got for Michael Carrick.
I do understand why people boo Francis Lampard. I just don't bother anymore. We're going to lose, they're both going to score, just get yourself a beer.
5. The History
We have a pretty good record against Chelsea in the Premiership era. Of course, they did suffer from a severe case of tottenhamic Syndrome through the 90's when they were busy telling us what a massive club they were and simultaneously fielding a team including Jody Morris, but it's still fairly surprising.
Earlier this season we lost 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, during which time we managed the singular feat of conceding a goal to Geremi. Naturally, no other team in Europe has managed that this season.
Last year we lost 3-1 at Upton Park, although it should be noted that we were clinging on grimly at 1-1 until Didier Drogba went all Didier Drogba on us in the second half. This was also notable as Francis Lampard scored his first ever goal against us and got so excited he forgot to kiss his badge.
The whole country got a bit upset when Wayne Rooney was sent off at the World Cup after a tussle with Ricardo Carvalho. I personally have absolutely no problem with any sequence of events that ends up with someone stamping on Ricardo Carvalho's genitalia, but then I do hate that Portugese team to an unhealthy degree.
By the way - has there ever been a more odious combination of club, national team and individual as Carvalho (Chelsea & Portugal)?
I suppose Emre (Newcastle & Turkey) is giving it a good go but Newcastle aren't so much "hateful" as "completely irrelevant".
7. The Story Of Us
Given that we were busy advertising adidas on Saturday (Letting Sheffield United score 3 times - "Impossible Is Nothing") it's tough to imagine that there won't be some changes for this game. Matthew Etherington has done a very passable impression of a large empty piece of grass in recent weeks so I would be looking to replace him.
The natural choice would seem to be Luis Boa Morte but I've gone off him a tad since he made his debut wearing only a pair of flip flops and a towel. I might look instead at Yossi Benayoun, particularly given that Chelsea will most likely play makeshift full back Michael Essien against him on the left side. (As far as weaknesses go, that one compares to "eczema")
Marlon Harewood did score against Chelsea in the defeat last year but seems to have fallen by the wayside on our unstoppable charge to 19th place.
Teddy Sheringham appears to have retired from football and taken up poker. In yesterday's the london paper he was pictured at a tournament with Roy Carroll. The latter is a recovering gambling addict so that was especially reassuring.
Kepa Blanco is a figment of your imagination.
8. You'll Manage
The chances are that at some point tomorrow you will encounter a nouveau Chelsea fan. An awful lot of them have become lifelong supporters since Roman Abramovich took over. Should you need to set some sort of impromptu test for them, just ask them who their manager was before Glenn Hoddle.
And prepare for a blank face.
(The answer is Dave Webb, by the way, but I wouldn't expect you to know that).
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Roll up, roll up! Get your big time Charlies here. Big salaries, big ideas, big heads. May need to insert heart.
2. That Was A Little Unkind
OK, OK, I concede it's a little unfair to wax lyrical over them one week when we win at Arsenal and to then call them gutless after a defeat at Sheffield United, but I can't help it - Jumping Jack Flash, I am fuming after this. I'm one hunkaburning vitriol and I'm not ready to accept any of Curbishley's platitudes about "keeping" on trying hard for the rest of the season.
This was the season.
3. Anton And On
We might as well start with the first goal then. I have just one question really - why bother, Anton? It's Christian Nade, how much damage is he really going to do? What's the worst that could have happened? Sure, he might have taken up piracy, committed mail fraud or invaded Scotland but I sincerely doubt he would have actually scored.
Of course, God himself couldn't possibly have foreseen that Michael Tonge would do something "quite good" with the subsequent free kick and prove that even a broken clock is right twice a day.
4. It Will Stand Him In Good Stead?
So, Jon Stead is running towards you in an attacking fashion. This is not an insurmountable problem. Indeed it barely qualifies as a problem at all. You see, Jon Stead is essentially two lemon sorbets held together by a football shirt.
When Jon Stead has the ball in an advanced position, you should not be thinking about how to prevent him scoring a goal (the answer to this is 'breathe') but instead you should be considering how you are going to counter attack when he gives you the ball back.
I'm sure he's a nice man, he's doubtless very pleasant to his grandmother, renews his road tax on time and for all I know he could be the Sheffield Under-23 canasta champion, but as a professional footballer Jon Stead makes an outstanding pizza delivery boy.
And by the way, did I mention it was Jon Fucking Stead?
5. The Statistics
For a 3-0 thumping this was a fairly even game. We had 49% possession that we duly converted into one shot on target. And when your right back has your only effort on goal then someone, somewhere hasn't done their job properly.
Essentially, we were outbattled and didn't have the requisite composure or, more worryingly, the ambition to win this game. For all the euphoria of the last 3 games it's hard to ignore that the win at Blackburn was nonsense, Middlesborough were woeful, and the 1-0 win at Arsenal was a 5-1 defeat minus the Arsenal goals.
6. The Opposition
Well, credit where it's due, they were better than us. This has long since ceased to be a compliment to any Premier League team but it's still true. Conceding a goal to any Sheffield United player is painful but Tonge, Jagielka and Stead can now be added to the Great Wall of China sized list of average players who've scored against us.
It's a damning indictment of Curbishley and his staff that he could be so comprehensively outmanaged by Neil Warnock, a man who considers off the ball headbutts as a valid defensive tactic.
7. The Referee
Steve Bennett. He didn't ratify any nuclear treaties whilst he was out there but he did do his job I suppose. I can't really comprehend how Sheffield United could ever get less bookings than the opposition but it happened this time. Given that there are so many other areas of frustration I shall not labour the point.
8. Statistics (Extra)
Just how hard is it to let Sheffield United score 3 times against you? Well, no one else in the Premier League has managed it this year. Another proud first for us.
Just how hard is it not to score at Brammall Lane? Well, only three other teams have managed that all year. And one of them was Fulham.
9. Just Like The Injun Said
How could we be so poor? How could Curbishley send out a team with so little motivation? How did Carlos Tevez miss that chance? How could Lee Bowyer attempt to kick the ball with his right foot and accidentally kick it with his left instead? How did Paddy Kenny save that shot from Neill?
Did I mention it was Jon Fucking Stead?
Colour me perplexed .
10. Auf Weidersen, Goodbye
So farewell then Ms Premiership. You have been a cruel mistress. We were once so close but suddenly you've grown cold and distant and apparently determined to rid yourself of us. And who could blame you.
What a shambles this team has been for most of the year. I was happily accepting of the inevitability of our demise as long ago as Christmas but the last three weeks had sown some seeds of doubt.
And that's what makes it so hard to emotionally invest anything in a football team.
11. The Case For The Defence
Or not. Anton Ferdinand got a severe attack of Michael Dawson syndrome and didn't so much "defend" as "wander around gormlessly". The irony of relegation is that a player like Ferdinand will not be sold in the summer - no club is going to risk £8m on a potential jailbird who can't mark Jon Fucking Stead.
And by the way, who the hell decided that it would be a good idea for Bobby Zamora (a man who believes Jumping is a Chinese dish) to mark Phil Jagielka (a poor footballer but he does have the ability to lift himself more than an inch off the floor) at corners? It's one thing to lose to Sheffield United, it's quite another to do it whilst letting them score twice from set pieces, which is essentially the only way they can score.
(I'm aware that Stead's goal wasn't a set piece but it was a miracle so I'll let it pass).
Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering
I swear that all the Premier League's worst players got together this weekend and made a pact that they would all score a goal.
Step forward Benjani, Emile Heskey, Fabio Rochemback, Luke Moore and of course, Jon Fucking Stead. Interesting that even in a line up that crap, Big Ol Useless Mike still couldn't crack it.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Ah, Sheffield United - God's little joke on football purists everywhere.
This is not going to be a beautiful game. It's not even going to be mildly attractive or have a bubbly personality. We are facing a team whose brand of 'football' could only be less aesthetically pleasing if they played naked and clubbed some baby seals to death at half time.
Paddy Kenny naked? God, I hope you weren't eating.
2. Deja Vu
A bit of H List history for you in case you weren't paying attention the first time around. This is a point written in the preview for our home game against Sheffield United in November:
Although I have done a piece on footballing nicknames previously I did leave out the all time greatest. Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock is known widely around the game as "Colin". This is because it's the first part of an anagram of his name. Why don't you see if you can work out the rest?
3. The History
We actually have a 'Not All That Execrable' recent record at Brammall Lane. Our last defeat there was in March 1994 when we went 2-0 up and lost 3-2. Gosh darn it if our loveable heroes haven't always defended with all the backbone of a boa constrictor.
Of course we've only played there 3 times subsequently. A 3-3 draw in 03/04 including a squandered 2 goal lead, a 2-1 victory in 04/05 courtesy of Sheringham and Harewood and a remarkable FA Cup tie later the same season.
This saw us draw 1-1 despite playing against ten men for an hour. We then proceeded to lose the ensuing penalty shoot out 3-1. That's right - in a shoot out against Paddy Kenny we scored just once.
If I recall correctly, that was the day I successfully proved that it's possible to disembowel oneself with the bristles of a toothbrush.
4. Interesting Numbers
Sheffield United's leading scorer is Rob Hulse who has suffered a severe case of Dean Ashtonism and is now in a coma or something similar for the rest of the season. Their second top scorer is centre half Phil Jagielka. These kind of statistics just make me nervous.
It generally screams that someone absurd is going to score against us like Jon Stead or Colin Kazim-Richards or Condoleeza Rice. Kazim-Richards clearly being the most ridiculous of the three.
5. The esreveR Fixture
Way back in November, a period I look back upon fondly as I still had an intact and functioning nervous system at the time, we beat Sheffield United 1-0.
This was notable as they managed the previously impossible task of allowing us to score from a corner.
A recent joint study by Princeton University and Prestatyn Sands Sixth Form college listed the 9 most difficult things for humans to do, as:
1. Rocket science
2. Brain surgery
3. Adjusting the temperature in someone else's shower
4. Learning Mandarin (except for the Chinese)
5. Listening to the music of James Blunt without wishing to kill yourself. Or him
6. Allowing West Ham to score from a corner
7. Understanding the plot of the first Mission:Impossible film
8. Driving anywhere in Italy
9. Assembling IKEA furniture
They were going to do 10 but it proved too hard.
6. Here's A Trend - Buck It Please
You can tell that I'm nervous about this game. When I look in the mirror I don't see the same suave, good looking, modest young fellow that I usually do. Instead I'm faced with a shell of a man sporting the same kind of look that my wife does when I announce I'm about to attempt a spot of parallel parking.
You see, when faced with "must win" games we haven't been all that fantastic recently. Discounting Cup games on the grounds that they are all, by definition, "must win" and focusing only on League and Play Off matches, there is a very mixed history.
In our 6 Play Off games we managed 3 wins, a draw and 2 defeats. Prior to this there was the infamous 2-1 home loss against a truly crap Sunderland side that should have eliminated us from play off contention altogether if it wasn't for the Reading team later deciding en masse that May was no time to behave like professional footballers.
And the grandaddy of them all was the 1-0 away defeat at Bolton that essentially condemned us to the Championship, and Roeder to the sack, by way of a neurosurgeon. Even on the last day of the season when we required a win at Birmingham we were only able to muster a 2-2 draw.
So, not to urinate all over your potato fries but just don't get too excited about tomorrow.
Some of you might point to the 2-0 home victory over Southampton in 2003 that saved Roeder's job as an example of a "must win" that we "did win". I might point out that this is stretching the envelope of "must win" a little too far, given that subsequent events made it a game "I wish we didn't win".
7. There's Hot And Then There's Bobby Zamora
If you look back on his tenure with us, Zamora has had a very happy knack of scoring important goals. Examples include the Play Off run, all manner of 1-0 wins, and indeed 19 of his 28 League goals for us have come in winning causes.
He is a streaky player, scoring in bunches and then going a Gobi Desert style dry run for months. But, right now, when we need him most, he is scoring and for that we should be thankful.
All of which naturally means that he'll be marked out of the game tomorrow by whatever club wielding cavemen Warnock plays at the back, and Lucas Neill will pop up with the winner.
8. Curse You Magic Beans!
Number of goals conceded to Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea in 4 games: 1
Number of goals conceded to Fulham, Charlton and Watford in 6 games : 10
Lesson: It's no good climbing up and slapping the giant around if you promptly chuck yourself off the top of the beanstalk.
9. Jingle Jangle
With the situation at the foot of the table as fluid as the Iran/Iraq marine border it seems a tad unfair that Charlton get to play after everybody else this weekend. However, let's not kid ourselves, a win on Saturday and we will be level with them and putting some added pressure on their ever so nice heads.
Lose, and I can't see how we can realistically expect to survive with the run in we have.
To quote Homer Simpson - "I've never been much of a praying man, but if you're up there - please save me, Superman".
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Quite what the appeal would be of reliving this particular season in years to come is beyond me but then I am a pessimistic fellow. To that end I would ask you to have a quick vote on the poll to the left.
As The H List is quite a niche readership (we hit double figures last week) I would also ask that any regular readers forward on the link to any other Hammers fans you know. Please do not read that as a request to send it to Michael Dawson, his family or any of his legal representatives.
I have no idea of possible cost so just assume it would be reasonably priced - say £149.99.
Many thanks to those of you who continue to read the increasingly barrel scraping ramblings of a madman.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
There are many of you out there who felt that we were destined to become the first team to win at the Emirates stadium, on account of how we were the last team to win at Highbury. I can't quite say I shared your optimism - we were the last team to win at Upton Park and I'm not sure that means we will be the next team to win there either.
However, sporting statistics do often tend to fly in the face of reason. For instance, having gone 14 successive away games without a win we have now won two in a row. Two less deserved victories it would hard to imagine but I can honestly say that I have stopped shedding tears for the Gooners.
2. From Leonidas To Robert Green
Who knew? There I was thinking that if I wanted to watch the over matched good guys try and stave off repeated attacks by dodgy foreigners commanded by a blinkered tyrant I could just go and watch 300, the cinematic adaptation of the Battle of Thermopylae. Little did I realise that I could just pay thousands and wander up to North London instead.
Obviously, the main difference between and us and the Greeks was that we had Robert Green in goal. In your face Sparta!
Green is quite a literate fellow. I have no doubt that he is well aware that whilst the Battle of Thermopylae was an important feature in deifying the legend of the Spartan warrior, the real power that emerged from Xerxes' ill judged invasion of Greece was Athens. The subsequent creation of the Delian League cemented the Athenian position as the first Greek superpower.
The reason that I know Green is aware of this? When he was asked to pick a book for his team mates to read he chose Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Following on from that, it's probably not the right day for an Irish Catholic lad to be saying it but if there are any of you out there not worshipping at the altar of Robert Green, get on your knees right now.
Of course if he wants to continue starring in front of a nationwide television audience he'll need to sort his barnet out.
4. The Statistics
Arsenal obviously came for a draw and boy, didn't it show? They managed a mere 27 attempts on goal and had the ball for only 64% of the time. On the other hand we managed 4 attempts at goal and forced one whole corner.
Actually, those figures do bely the fact that we had a very decent passage of play in the minutes leading up to the goal but I'm not going to try and argue that our players were anything other than strategically placed cones for most of this game.
If I was going to be churlish I might point out that Arsenal ripped us apart without the late Thierry Henry, the odious Robin van Persie and whilst playing only one striker. But I'm not.
5. The Opposition
Watching Arsenal play is still a treat for a purist. Comparing them to the dull functionality of Chelsea is enough to make a man yearn for the Gilles Grimandi (*) era.
However, if you have 27 shots at goal and don't score from a single one of them then you cannot complain about it. That didn't stop Wenger of course, but that is the Arsenal way.
It's quite saying something, however, when Bobby Zamora looks like a KGB assassin next to your finishers.
* French (v) - meaning "allergic to football" (also used as medical slang for rare condition where a person is born with both knees melded together causing paralysis like symptoms)
6. The Referee
When I saw that Graham Poll was refeereing this game my immediate instinct was to top myself. Thankfully I'm not given to overblown displays of grandiosity so instead I simply knelt down in the middle of Romford shopping centre and yelled "Why God, why?" at the top of my voice (To which God replied "3 for a pahnd mate", curiously).
In the event he didn't do too badly (Poll, not God - although if you ask Poll they're one and the same). He booked only one player, James Collins for time wasting, which was reasonable given that we weren't getting close enough to foul them and Arsenal don't do tackling. He also wasn't intimidated by the 60,000 crowd.... - wait, stop laughing. Actually, don't.
My 16 month old daughter wouldn't be intimidated by 57,000 Arsenal fans sitting in comfortable seats and eating £5 hot dogs, but you know what I mean. He didn't book anybody three times or take part in a well worked free kick routine with Arsenal, and for Graham Poll that counts as a good performance.
7. He's Better Than Jermain
League goals scored by Bobby Zamora - 10
League goals scored by Jermain Defoe - 8
League goals scored by Dimitar Berbatov - 8
League goals scored by Robbie Keane - 5
I'm just saying.
By the way, on the day that we signed Zamora I received an email from my Arsenal supporting friend -
When you're hit on the head
And your sat in Row Z
Two great finishes later and I'm left to reflect that sometimes, it's nice to be the guy sat stroking the cat and holding James Bond hostage, mulling over the wonderful nature of life.
8. He's Morte Than Enough
Curbishley's team selections have got ever more interesting over recent weeks. And by 'interesting' I mean 'less likely to make me try and pummel myself unconscious with a pair of oven gloves'.
What is truly noteworthy is that Luis Boa Morte appears to have leapfrogged over Harewood, Cole and Sheringham into the coveted position of "player Curbishley likes to bring on 5 minutes from the end to waste time'. Which is arguably the most athletic thing he has done since joining us.
He had one very noticeable impact on the game when he ran on to a fantastic through ball from Noble, briefly channelled the spirit of the recently deceased Thierry Henry and skipped round Lehmann, before reverting to type and inexplicably screwing his shot wide when it would have been easier to have got down on his knees and headed it in.
All of which kept my heart rate at a steady 212 bpm.
9. We're Only Making Plans For Nigel
What a performance by Nigel Reo-Coker and Mark Noble. There are those who would say that it's no surprise to see a less Nigellic, and reduced Haydenian midfield succeed but few could have envisaged a day like this. In what he no doubt viewed as a 90 minute job interview, Reo-Coker covered just about every blade of grass on the Emirates pitch.
Noble's almost psychotic desire to do well for us is endearing him more and more to me. I have come to the conclusion that this is because he plays for West Ham in the fashion that I would like to if I had any footballing talent and I didn't have to wear specially made shorts from China.
10. Well Nice
At my school I hung around with a group of guys who were urbane, good looking, modest sorts. In addition, we were really quite the masters at witty pathos.
With that in mind let me tell you about a little tradition in our school that sprang up any time a player missed a good or great chance. The nearest person was required to shout "Nice finish Dave. Yeah, well nice" (You see - a rich seam of comedy gold).
This reached legendary proportions on the day that Matthew Yallop found himself six yards from an empty net and managed the not inconsiderable feat of volleying the ball directly into his own face. (Yallop apparently later emerged from exile to post a profile on FriendsReunited saying "Living in New York - booting birds out all over the place" so you should feel absolutely no compunction about guffawing loudly at the above).
So anyway, with that in mind - "Nice finish Gilberto. Yeah, well nice".
11. Opening Sentences I Never Thought I'd Type - Vol 203
Should we manage the impossible and finish above Charlton and Sheffield United this match will be a valuable pointer towards the vast gulf that exists between us and the Champions League teams. If Magnusson and Curbishley are serious about getting West Ham into Europe on a regular basis then they might want to take a look at Arsenal.
A feature that is often overlooked about the Gooners is that their players are amazingly athletic. A player like Emmanuel Eboue could not possibly be compared with a willing trier like George McCartney. Despite being a seismic twat, Wenger has got an amazing group of players there and I shudder to think at the cost, both financially and to the Britshness of the club, in bridging that gap.
12. Credit Where It's Due Department
Common belief is that the suicide rate increases at Christmas/New Year because the holiday period exacerbates the feelings of loneliness. I would say that the following sequence of events would challenge that theory slightly -
Dec 26 - lose 2-1 to Portsmouth : Dec 30 - lose 1-0 to Man City : Jan 1 - lose 6-0 to Reading : Jan 2 - spend £5m on Luis Boa Morte.
So, hats off to Alan Curbishley. I have been a critic and I remain a critic, particularly whilst Javier Mascherano continues to shine at Liverpool, but the last month has been little short of miraculous.
If we win at Sheffield United it would be fly in the face of pretty much every big game performance by West Ham in the last ten years. Don't fail me now Alan.
Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering
In the shock of a home victory last week I forgot to slaughter Big 'Ol Useless Mike. I don't know how Mike felt about this. Apparently he doesn't find this part of The H List all that funny. What can I say Mike? If you can't laugh at yourself, we'll all be happy to do it or you.
Monday, April 02, 2007
The same circumstances that prevented me from writing a preview for this game also stopped me from attending it. These circumstances were unpleasant and not something I wish to repeat. To fully emphasis that fact let me assure you that I would rather have been watching Middlesbrough play than been where I was.
I'll let that gestate for a moment as it's an unusual thing for me to say. Sort of like when someone says "Damn, I wish I was at the dentists now!"
2. Fear Not
Now there might be some of you out there who think this column might thus be less informed than usual (and several of you who are currently thinking "What, it could be less informed?") but don't worry, I listened to the game on the radio and watched it after on Football First.
Of course, trying to follow a game on the radio is like eating 60 cheeseburgers in an hour - pointless and liable to lead to heart failure - but we work with what we're given.
Bizarrely we were the main game on Football First which meant I later got to watch the match. Being a cable subscriber this rarely happens because should I happen to inadvertently press the red button it tends to cause my set top box to start smoking and therefore I never get to choose the game I'm watching. It also means that I am missing out on the ephemeral delights of 24 and Lost, but that at least gives me more time to look up words like "ephemeral".
It was cruel and unusual punishment to have Gordon McQueen summarising the game though.
3. The Statistics
Middlesbrough managed one attempt on target in this game. Now given the general somnambulance of their play I have no doubt their fans view this as high excitement but the rest of us treat it as life stoppingly dull. Rather like Gareth Southgate.
Interestingly Middlesbrough did once win 3-0 at Arsenal whilst only managing one shot on goal so poor Gareth is probably wondering what went wrong.
I'm also going to go way out on a limb and suggest that Mark Viduka enjoys the finer things in life - a lovely bottle of Chardonnay, a roaring fire, the works of William Wordsworth and chocolate sauce on absolutely everything he eats.
4. The Opposition
Middlesborough don't actually appear to have anything resembling tactics. Rather they seem to prefer prodding the ball around in relentlessly mind numbing fashion in the hope that the opposition either lose the will to live or simply fall asleep.
It would not have surprised me in the least to have looked over to the sideline and seen Southgate gently strumming a harp and singing a lullaby.
5. The Referee
Gave us everything!
Hurrah for Mark Halsey then, whose myopia was timely enough, although in the event not really required given Boro's unstoppable uselessness. Where were you, Halsey, when we really needed you? (i.e: Newcastle, when Uriah Rennie killed off our season with a decision that could only have been justified if he had no eyes).
6. Brazil, Nuts
Brazilians must be mad. What kind of lunatics allow Fabio Rochemback to leave the country as a representative of theirs but wouldn't send Ronnie Biggs back?
7. The Kids Aren't Alright
Much was made of the game last year when Boro fielded an entirely home grown team. Verbal garlands were strewn around Steve Maclarens neck and the club were held up as an example to English clubs everywhere.
Unfortunately those same enthusiasts rather overlooked the fact that none of the players were actually any good. The one international graduate, Stewart Downing, has performed so well for England that he is roundly booed every time he touches the ball and the only decent Middlesborough born player in the team is Jonathan Woodgate, a product of the Leeds academy and a Real Madrid player.
This is rather borne out by the fact that of their starting eleven on Saturday only two were products of the club - exactly the same as ours. Except that ours were Mark Noble and Anton Ferdinand who are quite good (if likely to be 50% incarcerated soon enough) - whilst theirs were Stewart Downing and Andrew Taylor who are, well, not.
8. Deflecting Attention
That Tevez is fantastic. In particular, the pass for the first goal was exceptional, casually knocking it off two Boro defenders right into Zamora's path. Bobby was unusually active on Saturday, running everywhere and whacking in his goal with rather more conviction than he managed at Blackburn, in spite of an early knock.
The fact that our two strikers have both scored 3 in 3 games is a hitherto unlikely piece of good form. I can now look forward to Saturday's defeat at Arsenal with a little more confidence.
Marlon Harewood now exists only in a museum where people come and look at this unusual combination of professional footballer, graphic designer and beluga whale.
9. The Foreboding
I can't decide whether to get my hopes up or not. We've actually played quite well in the last three games. Of course the natural pessimism coursing through my veins is being tempered by the onrushing ruling over the Rule U18 infringement and the fact that we never win vital games like Sheffield United away.
My wife tries to pep me up by saying things like - "Come on, you never know". But, of course, I do know. And so do you.