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

Sunday, March 09, 2008

tottenham 4 - 0 West Ham (And Other Things That Will Cost Alan Curbishley His Job)

1. What A Wonderful Life

Let me tell you of a few things that I like about my existence. I enjoy the music of Neil Young, I like Yorkshire Puddings, I am amused by the way that my two year old daughter yells "Bye guys!" when she leaves a room, I derive great pleasure from seeing a good adaptation from page to screen and I absolutely love a big sporting weekend.

Imagine, therefore, my delight at the prospect of watching England playing rugby against Scotland, seeing us play Test cricket against New Zealand - the country of my in-laws - and lastly, watching West Ham play our biggest local derby of the season, all in the space of two days.

Even better for me is if the rugby team then play insipidly and cluelessly, if the cricket team are negative and without ambition, and if West Ham perform with all the heart and desire of a piece of cheese.

Man, did I ever have a fantastic weekend.

2. To Vent Or Not To Vent?

I am wary of writing this report so soon after the event. Emotions are running high, frustrations are boiling over and the holes are still fresh in my Luis Boa Morte shaped dartboard. However, it would seem to me that if you are reading this site then you are not necessarily looking for reasoned, considered opinion. So I figured, why not? Except for the obvious emotional trauma of writing the bloody thing.

Blogs should, I suppose, reflect the visceral, ever changing emotional landscape of being a football fan. At times it is fairly hard to reflect the pain of actually paying genuine legal tender to watch this crap, but then there are only so many ways the English language will allow you to say - "lack of ambition is not an endearing trait".

I guess what I am trying to suggest here is that I might look back on this particular review as being somewhat more reactionary than usual. I can live with that of course given that I don't actually have to answer to anyone except the good Lord and the various law courts that The Boleyn Beluga is trying to gt us in front of.

3. The Statistics

As ever these days the only numbers that really matter are that we shipped 4 goals, and this time against a team 8 points below in the league. We somehow also failed to score against a defence brazenly including Michael Dawson and Paul Robinson without even a hint of irony.

We managed only 40% possession, which can't be entirely blamed upon the sending off of Boa Morte given that he had turned up for this game wearing a pair of skis and a suit of armour.

We mustered just 4 shots on target all game, with most of our chances actually arriving in the first 5 minutes. Typically, our one good chance came courtesy of some Robinson blundering, and was wasted with even more typical aplomb by a combination of our players. Thereafter, we capitulated like the proverbial house of cards and quicker than you could say "Oh my God - Curbishley has finally turned us into Charlton" we had served up a 2 goal lead and laid down the crucial early work required for an embarrassing capitulation.

Even more impressively our +8 goal difference of one week ago is now -4. I am P.R.O.U.D of my boys.

4. The Opposition

Losing 4-0 t0 anyone is shameful, but doing so against tottenham is what we in the trade like to call "a killer". Now most Hammers are struggling with this one due to the pure fact that it is tottenham, and all the personal abuse that is going to come with it. I, on the other hand, severed all contact with tottenham fans years ago, so I just feel embarrassed because, well, they are not really a very good team these days.

Their last league result was losing 4-1 to Birmingham. Ye Gods, this is the very definition of mid table mediocrity, very nicely backed up by a shockingly leaky defence. I accept that they have progressed substantially under Juande Ramos, and that their league position is a direct result of some appalling early season form, but they are not the second coming of Brazil 1970 either.

The fact that Dimitar Berbatov is an superb player does not make his team world beaters, because his excellence is counter balanced by the stunning ineptness of the likes of Dawson, Robinson and Bent. Sadly, with our lot playing like they had all taken Mogadon with their pre match electrolytes that point was totally and utterly moot.

Although 4-0 was flattering to the home team, there is no question that we were deservedly and shamefully beaten, by a better side.

5. The Referee

As I was writing my review of our delightfully irrepressible away performance at Liverpool, I had the overwhelming urge to suggest that our record of not having a player (correctly) sent off this year would end at White Hart Lane. In recent years we have routinely had a player dismissed in this fixture, including Samassi Abou, Steve Lomas, Ian Pearce and John Moncur if memory serves me rightly. But I didn't so I can't even gloat about that.

Therefore, it always seemed likely that Chris Foy would be brandishing a red card today, and so it proved when Boa Morte rightly got his marching orders for a beautifully timed chest high tackle on Aaron Lennon. I think we might explore that little passage of play elsewhere.

Elsewhere, there wasn't much wrong with Foy's performance. The free kick for Berbatov's first goal was soft, but that doesn't excuse Anton Ferdinand's sudden reversion to amoebic levels of defending from the resultant cross, and in general we were so abysmal that I could have refereed this game and we still would have lost.

6. The Inexplicable World Of Luis Boa Morte

Imagine for a moment that you are Luis Boa Morte. No one has yet discovered that you have kidnapped Alan Curbishley's first born child , and as a result you are "playing" on the wing for West Ham against tottenham.

Your usually reliable defensive colleagues have suffered a severe case of Roederian Disease and are currently riding round on unicycles in bright red wigs throwing custard pies at each other. As a result you are 2-0 down after ten minutes.

You are beginning to feel a tad frustrated and make several reckless challenges resulting in a booking, although it should be pointed that things aren't being helped by the fact you forgot to bring your boots again, and are being forced to play the whole game with two wooden tennis rackets sellotaped to your feet instead.

With half time approaching, the ball bounces out to Aaron Lennon on the edge of our box and Luis thinks -

- actually I have no idea what Luis Boa Morte was thinking at that precise moment. Maybe he was thinking that it's a long way to Tipperary, or possibly that he'd left the iron on at home, but he certainly wasn't thinking as he should have been, which was "Aaron Lennon is approximately 112 times faster than me but has no crossing ability. LET HIM HAVE THE BALL".

One ludicrously mistimed tackle later and we are down to ten men, and well on our way to a 3rd consecutive performance so bad that it split the very fabric of the Universe and caused unseasonal storms all over the country.

I remain utterly perplexed by Boa Morte. At this juncture I would describe him as the worst pound for pound player I have ever seen at West Ham. Now, I have to place that in context because this is heavily influenced by the fact that we paid £5m for him. I would not suggest that he is as bad a player as, say, Andrew Melville, but the latter only cost us a few blank DVD's so I don't feel so aggrieved about him.

The Portuguese has an atrocious technique, no pace, no goalscoring acumen and a poor temperament. So in short, he should never play for us again. Now, be still my jerking knee.

7. The Case For The Defence

After a season of hitherto unheard of defence solidity, we have returned to form with quite the bang in the last few days. With Matthew Upson finally succumbing to our injury bug, things always looked fairly bleak going into this game. Jonathan Spector seems like a nice chap, and I'm willing to bet that he gives plenty of money to charity every year, but a Premier League centre back he most certainly is not.

The fact that Anton Ferdinand suddenly decided to do a 90 minute impression of a depressed sea lion alongside him was another slight spanner in the works. You know things are bad when Darren Bent scores against you, particularly as this is illegal in 33 of the 46 counties of England.

I have been fairly silent on the subject of Lucas Neill for a while now but even he cannot be exempt from criticism. He looks overweight, overpaid and over here to be brutally honest. In fact, since his FA Cup dissection at the hands of Martin Petrov it would be fair to say that he has been doing a very reasonable impression of a water skier (Lucas Neill) being pulled along by an especially out of control speedboat (opposition winger).

George McCartney escapes my wrath as he is our only decent left footed player and I don't want to upset him.

8. Kudos

Blimey, it's hard to write this section this week. Scott Parker should be commended for getting through 90 minutes without his thorax exploding or throwing up his own ankles. I felt that Dean Ashton showed more life in this game than in the rest of the year put together, but I appreciate it's a delicate subject on here and I think we all acknowledge that a H List divided against itself cannot survive.

I suppose I might also congratulate Luis Boa Morte on removing himself from selection for our next game.

You can have your barrel back now, I think I am done scraping it.

9. Alan Attack

I suppose I saved this part for last, purely because it's the most difficult to write. Mocking Luis Boa Morte, Michael Dawson or Darren Bent is fairly passe these days but the thorny subject of Alan Curbishley is a far more sensitive issue.

Let me first preface all of this by stating the following: I would rather finish 14th playing attacking football, than 10th playing in our current style.

I do not claim to speak for all West Ham fans, nor do I suggest that my thought process is even logical but I say it none the less. I pay good money to watch West Ham and the sad fact is that I have yet to truly enjoy a single home game this year. I certainly loved the last few minutes of the home games against Man Utd and Liverpool but the dross served up beforehand was about as tedious as it gets.

I am well aware of the fact that we are significantly better placed than this time last year, and for that Curbishley must be congratulated. Our season of consolidation has been successfully navigated and we will surely be playing Premier League football again next year. But the problem is that I can never see us progressing further than mid table mediocrity under Curbishley.

Of course, there are many people who would point out that finishing 12th every year is no disgrace, and that we have delusions of grandeur if we are expecting anything else. After all, who are we to expect European football over similarly sized clubs such as tottenham, Everton, Villa or Newcastle?

For me, however, it is not so much the destination but the journey that matters most. I accepted long ago that we will never break into the Members Only club that is the upper echelons of English football, and that even an FA Cup run is likely to be a once in a lifetime experience. Therefore, I judge our success in terms of how entertained I feel at the end of the season. And on that front Curbishley's West Ham are little short of a disgrace.

These last three performances have actually been atypical of our form this year. We are a team designed to cling on to a lead, and have not yet lost a League game where we scored first all season. However, if we concede early as in this past week, then we are clueless. With our Plan A removed then we are reduced to defending grimly and hoping to keep it tight, whilst praying for the late set piece that might save the day. Well, if that is the future then count me out.

Supporters will point to a crippling injury list that has severely curtailed whatever plan it is that Curbishley has been working to this season, but I would say that if you buy the likes of Dyer, Bellamy and Parker then you are simply reaping what you sow.

He has been handed the largest transfer budget ever given to a West Ham manager and as far as I can tell, there is very little to show for it other than a significant increase in our medical insurance premiums. Tellingly, our most consistent players this season - Green, McCartney and Mullins - are all Pardew signings.

So my suggestion is this. Let's get to the summer, give Alan a nice send off, pay up his contract and wave him goodbye with our heartfelt thanks for saving us last year. It's harsh, of course, but then this is a harsh business. We are not here to be nice, nor to give people a chance at the expense of all else. The pattern we are seeing now was repeated ad nauseum at Charlton as his teams there faded away as soon as relegation was averted.

If we continue in this vein for the rest of the season it is quite possible that his position will be untenable in any case, as the Upton Park crowd is far less likely to accept a descent into oblivion than their counterparts at Charlton.

So there you go - my tuppence worth. I'd be interested to know just how out of touch I am with the rest of my fellow Hammers. You see, I think Freddie Ljungberg has been excellent for us this year - so how much can I really know?


  1. ironsmith11:26 AM

    Thank you headhammershark for a most enjoyable article and one which most reasonable west ham fans can identify with. Having been a solid supporter of Curbishley to date I have after the spurs match lost all faith in him on the LBM issue alone and would fully support the dismissal time table suggested in your third paragraph fom the end. After all, in just over one year in charge he has done a remarkable job to get us to where we are and under the most difficult circumstances!

  2. Great article and spot on as far as i'm concerned! LBM is a waste of space. when was the last time he had a good game? He is a disaster zone!