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

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fulham 0 - 1 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. An Admission - This Article Is Brought To You Via The Magic Of Football First

Before I begin this column, there is a truth that must come out. I did not go to this game, and instead followed events via TalkSPORT, an experience which is not dissimilar to listening to a pair of schizophrenics on acid.

I digress. You see, if I have to pay £45 to watch Clint Dempsey try and play football, then I'm expecting a few sweeteners in the deal, like maybe some lapdances, or a new Toyota Hilux or free private education for both my daughters.

2. Three Chords And The Truth

Let's be up front about this. No summary of this game can begin anywhere other than in the 87th minute, primarily as this was the first time that anyone did anything interesting. The incident in question saw Nolberto Solano burst through on to a "through ball" from Luis Boa Morte (more on that later), clatter Antti Niemi in the neck and elbow the loose ball in to the net, albeit accidentally.

Now, no sensible observer could claim that it was a fair goal, so naturally the Match of the Day analysts saw no problem with it. This is utter nonsense. If that goal had been given against West Ham I'd have been lobbying my MP for an Early Day Motion. There have been lots of ridiculous statements in the press along the lines of "These things happen when you're down the bottom" as though that is somehow justification for obscenely bad officiating.

Of course, I wouldn't want anyone thinking that I actually give a monkey's about Fulham but it would be farcical to try and claim that this was anything other than a robbery.

3. The Statistics

There are a curious set of numbers for this game. Fulham had no less than 14 (!) shots on target, despite the fact that they did not muster a worthwhile chance until the 85th minute. It must be pointed out that there is something to be said for ignoring statistics occasionally, on account of how they only reveal the uselessness of statistics.

We had the ball for a hefty 57% of the time, which we translated into 6 shots on target, half of which were from Carlton Cole and thus went straight at Niemi. These seem like odd figures to me, because a superficial evaluation would lead you to think that the home side were the better team, when in fact they were almost seminally appalling.

All of the above doesn't discount the fact that there can't be any argument that this game was 100% tedious.

4. The Opposition

Ah, Fulham. Mohammed Al Fayed's marvellous marriage of affluence and effluent. Never has so much been spent on so little. It's not Roy Hodgson's fault of course, given that Lawrie Sanchez took £20m in the summer and blew it (and boy did he blow it) on the entire Northern Ireland team.

Apart from the inestimable Jimmy Bullard it's hard to pick a player from this team who is anything other than an average Premier Leaguer at best. It is fairly telling that Brian McBride remains their only potent attacking threat, despite being as mobile as Ayers Rock, whilst Diomansy Kamara is the best non goalscoring, non passing, no vision Senegalese striker in the League this side of El Hadji Diouf.

They will grace the Championship. And soon.

5. The Referee

Quite apart from missing Nolberto Solano's neck high tackle on Niemi, Howard Webb had a questionable game. He did well enough in patches until eventually succumbing and awarding Fulham some fairly ludicrous free kicks, purely because the home fans were feeling somewhat displeased with life at the time. If you are being intimidated into making incorrect decisions by Fulham fans then I'm thinking "career change" should be high on your list of priorities.

He also sent off Leon Adreason for some late dissent which was probably fair enough on both sides, and he didn't send off Paul Stalteri despite him scoring that winner for tottenham last year, which would have been spectacularly unfair but would have made me very happy.

The strange decision to allow Solano's goal was a mistake and a bad one, but somewhat understandable considering the participants. Niemi is hardly the second coming of Bert Trautmann, whilst our bruising Peruvian winger isn't exactly Tommy Lawton reincarnated. Truth be told, Solano showed greater desire and Niemi should have been tougher. These things happen and if Fulham feel that aggrieved about it they could always score a goal or two themselves.

6. Alright, Then

Apparently as a child, Clint Dempsey based his game on that of Diego Maradona.

{I am speechless. You'll have to insert your own joke here}

7. Cole Patrol

Our erstwhile frontman continues to have an oximoronic season for the ages. His approach play remains excellent, or at least better than anyone else we currently have, but his composure in front of goal tends to rival that of a Daily Mail reader at an Immigration conference. Three times he had great chances on Saturday and each occasion saw Niemi barely tested.

I am not as down on Cole as the rest of the Universe. I think he is a willing trier, unlike Ashton who is several spare tyres, and I actually think is more skilful than he is given credit for. Of course, he is not given any credit at all by most Hammers fans so that isn't hard.

I could certainly live with him scoring a few more goals, or indeed not pausing when clean through on goal to complete a devilishly tricky Sudoku puzzle, thus allowing Paul Konchesky to run 70 metres and block his eventual shot. But then I am a hard taskmaster.

8. It Goes Ashton And On And On

As Cole's star rises, so does Dean Ashton's wane. He is now a clear second choice to Cole, and no amount of blonde hair dye can disguise that balding pate either. Inside of Dean Ashton lurks a splendid centre forward, along with several plates of biscuits judging from the size of him, and it is the most frustrating element of our season that we have yet to see him emerge.

I retain hope that he can recapture the lost magic, but there is a feeling that persists that he cannot work with Curbishley. The latters infatuation with 4-5-1 will never suit the immobile Ashton, and a pairing with Cole doesn't seem like the answer. Truthfully his progression probably relies upon the safe return of Craig Bellamy, which doesn't augur well considering the Welshman was last seen hobbling off to hospital yelling "The knee bone is not connected to the scapula, you fool!" at our physio.

9. The Luis Boa Morte Experiment

Boa Morte returned to the lineup again, proving that Matthew Etherington must be clinically dead, and quite possibly that the Portugese is holding Alan Curbishley's family somewhere.

To be fair to him, no one could ever question Boa Morte's effort. He spends most of the game chasing after lost causes, usually as a direct result of his concrete boots and abysmal first touch. One such instance occurred in the build up to our goal, when he chested down Lucas Neill's cross so deftly that it bounced a full 15 yards away, equidistant between Solano and Niemi and extremely distant from Boa Morte.

Of course, I could write an entire article making smart remarks about Luis Boa Morte but I shall not. He does his best, and given the Big Time Charlies who derailed our season last year, it is perhaps not the worst thing in the world to have some more limited but committed types.

10. Highlights

I am not sure if I have been clear enough about the truly dismal fare that was served up on Saturday. It was somewhat unfortunate that with this being the anniversary of Bobby Moore's death, two of his former teams produced a game so awful that it would have kept him rapidly revolving in his grave for the whole 90 minutes.

Doubtless you are therefore eager to get the highlights. Here they are - just ignore the Japanese analysis for the first few seconds - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aj7f3B1VCYM. Enjoy... (thanks to my friend Daryn for the link)....

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