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, April 14, 2008

Bolton Wanderers 1 - 0 West Ham (And Other Wakes I Have Attended Recently)

1. It's Like A Funeral (*)

I should have realised that this was going to be an ill fated trip, when I somehow managed to confuse our 12 year old mascot with Freddie Sears during the warm up. This lead to a brief outburst of optimism amongst my row which would not be repeated for the rest of the day.

This was easily the worst game of football I have seen since, oh I don't know, Tuesday.

(*) Today's H List headers are brought to you by the Upton Park Community Choir - Travelling Section

2. Are We Charlton In Disguise?

To describe this performance as listless and insipid would simply not do it justice. This was the footballing equivalent of being slapped around the head with a large bag of apples.

Of course, being Curbishley-era West Ham it was caked in that extra layer of shit to really make the whole thing utterly unpalatable. I'm not sure how many more times I can object to performances like this before you all switch your allegiance to another West Ham blog in protest at my constant negativity.

My biggest complaint about this day is that the players weren't outside the ground handing out money back to the 3,000 fans who wasted a day going to watch this crap when we could have been doing something more rewarding like shoving cement up our noses.

3. You Don't Know What You're Doing

There was a wonderful testament to the current regime after a mere 60 seconds of the match. Anton Ferdinand warmed up for this game so thoroughly that he managed to pull a hamstring the first time that he was actually required to move.

The fact that Curbishley then had the gall to list this injury as one of the reasons for our lethargy simply shows how out of touch he appears to be with the feelings of the supporters.

I for one, couldn't care less about our injury list when it gets bolstered in this sort of fashion - because either the player or the coaching staff are simply not professional enough.

Perhaps even more telling was Curbishley's response to the injury. With John Paintsil and James Tomkins on the bench and a central defender injured, he chose to send on Paintsil and shift Spector in to the middle. Objectively, I can understand this ploy given that the replacement would have been up against Kevin Davies who is never more than 30 seconds away from kicking his opponent, and Tomkins is a willowy 19 year old.

But, and it's a large one, we already know what we have in Spector (tries hard, also tries my patience) and Paintsil (cult hero, mostly due to his ineptitude). This is an unprecedented chance to trial youngsters in the heat of the Premiership without regard for the results. Certainly, I don't want to see us lose to Bolton, but I can suffer it if there is any sort of investment in the future of the team.

Sadly, Tomkins was left on the bench, Spector made the mistake that allowed Davies to score, and Paintsil helped to improve Lucas Neill's reputation. And we are no closer to knowing what the future might hold.

4. We're Shit But We're Staying Up

It's hard to know which is a more damning indictment of modern football. That this appalling Bolton side had a decent UEFA Cup run earlier this season, or that this appalling West Ham team has comfortably stayed in the top half of the Premier League all year.

I have little sympathy for Bolton's plight. The type of football that they play is about as aesthetically pleasing as a Heather Mills press interview, and I will certainly not mourn the absence of the Reebok stadium from our away trips. That said, they were significantly better than us today. Sure, it was all long balls and elbows but they're Bolton fer Chrissakes, not the re-incarnation of Brazil '84.

Our distaste for any kind of physical battle was obvious as early as the first Bolton attack which required Spector to make a nifty clearance from under his own bar as the rest of his colleagues stood around comparing their mudless knees.

I'd tell you more, but truthfully, what would be the point? The players have been on holiday since we reached 40 points, as evidenced by the fact that we have scored just 5 goals in our last 9 games, of which one was deflected and another required Nolberto Solano to boot Antti Niemi in the head. At this point I think I'd have more respect for Curbishley if he simply came out and admitted that he can't be bothered, and he's booked a trip to the Seychelles that he is really quite looking forward to.

5. We Want A Second Striker

Trying to determine what on earth was happening with our tactics in this game would take a far more intelligent being than I, like say Stephen Hawking or Deep Blue.

Encouragingly we began this game with two strikers, but rather less encouragingly still began the game with 5 men playing in midfield. For some brain-warping reason, the very left footed Bobby Zamora was deployed on the very right hand side of our team, which rather awesomely nullified both at once. If you ever attempted to send this particular formation out to play on a PC Football Manager type game the system simply wouldn't let you as it is too ludicrous to even consider.

Things then took a turn for the mental as we made our first substitution - replacing debutant midfielder Jack Collison with striker Carlton Cole. So far, so splendid you might imagine. Except that right footed centre forward Cole was stranded out on the left, Zamora was still bemused on the right, and Luis Boa Morte was inexplicably moved into the middle in ersatz support of the very lonely Dean Ashton.

So, just to recap, that's 5 in midfield, comprised of 2 midfielders (Parker & Mullins), 2 centre forwards playing wide (Zamora & Cole) and Boa Morte who barely qualifies as a homosapien at this point.

Our last change was to replace the tiring Zamora with Freddie Sears. Cole was switched over to the right to ensure that we were still wasting at least one of our strikers, and Sears was employed alongside Ashton. There was an immediate upturn in our fortunes as the youngster appeared to cotton on to the fact that Bolton are a fucking terrible defensive team.

Naturally, we didn't score.

6. Too Fucking Negative

Just in case you missed that last point, please let me re-iterate. We failed to score against a defence containing Andy O'Brien, a man who wasn't a good enough defender.........for Newcastle.

7. Sign Him Up

Kevin Davies has now scored a whopping four goals this year to really enforce the notion that any description of him as a "striker" must always come with inverted comma's. One little addendum to that fact, however, is a real pearler. In his last 37 games against all teams in the Universe other than West Ham, Davies has scored 3 goals. In his last 5 games against us he has scored 5 times.

At this point may I suggest that we buy him, simply so that he will never play against us again.

8. We Are West Hams Claret And Blue Army

It's tough to know exactly where we go from here. Next week we face a Derby team who appear to have been sent from God in order to prevent Premiership teams from having bad runs, and consequently it would seem logical to assume that we will get back to winning ways soon. But that would simply be papering over the cracks. I will re-iterate my call for Curbishley to go in the summer once again, because I love a futile gesture, but there is a deeper malaise here.

I cannot really understand how our owners could look favourably at Curbishley's consistent record of achieving mid table safety, before sliding into the dead mans land of 12th-14th. I'm sure there are psychoanalysts out there who might better be able to explain this pattern, but my uneducated view would be that such a huge emphasis has been placed on achieving safety, that the emotional high of doing so has now led to this hopeless slide into abject crappiness.

Either way, after 15 years of repeating this trend, Curbishley seems no closer to resolving the problem. I'd like to think he is aware of this, but if he is then it's not translating into anything different on the pitch. Except, maybe, for Hayden Mullins taking our set pieces. Which should stop. Now.

9. Boo!

Another deluxe performance from Luis Boa Morte this week. Somewhat controversially he eschewed traditional football gear once more, and this time proceeded with a pair of moon boots. Not the popular fashion accessory, mind, but the actual lead based NASA designed line as worn by Armstrong, Aldrin et al.

Many Hammers fans like to mock Boa Morte and claim that his second touch is always a tackle. To me this isn't true. I dream of the day that his first touch keeps the ball close enough to him that he could make a tackle. Usually it bounces off him into another postal district. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a human being with abilities less suited to being a professional footballer than this man.

Consider this. Just before Dean Ashton rattled the Bolton crossbar in our only decent move of the week, Boa Morte had the ball drop to him, on his favoured left foot, seven yards from goal with only a man on the line to beat.

Unsurprisingly he shot straight at the defender and the chance was lost. This, however, wasn't the worst of it - the shot wasn't blocked off the line, it was kicked off the line. Just consider how bad your technique has to be to strike a ball so lamely from 7 yards out that the opposition player has time to weigh it up, adjust his body and swing at the ball.

There are arachnids out there who are more talented than this man. Enough is enough is enough....

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