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

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sunderland 2 - 1 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. A Preview To A Kill

If I had known that Sunderland had not won back to back Premier League matches during a run stretching over their last 126 games, then I would not even have bothered worrying about this game. West Ham exist almost solely to break records like this.

If only there was a website somewhere that provided previews of our matches where I could find out interesting titbits such as this, that would be a genius idea.

In any event, we duly obliged with some suitably porous defending in the last minute and here we are, me writing about, and you reading about a game so lamentably pointless that it's a wonder it wasn't shown on Channel 5.

And on the subject of previews - is John Paintsil really Nigerian?

2. In Case You're Wondering

I'm sure some of you are thinking - "Hmm, 126 games. Where have I heard that figure before?". To put you out of your misery, this is exactly the number of matches missed by Craig Bellamy as a result of his ongoing "minor" stomach problem.

Apparently the decision by our crack medical team to resolve this problem using an industrial saw, a jar of aniseed and a shot of whiskey appears to have backfired spectacularly.

3. The Statistics

For a game that was settled in it's dying moments, the statistics show a markedly different set of circumstances. We mustered just ten shots on goal all day, whilst human fungus Daryl Murphy managed EIGHT on his own for Sunderland. Daryl Murphy! My appendix is more useful than this man fer cryin' out loud.

In all, the home side managed 22 shots at goal, with 12 on target in addition to forcing 13 corners. All of this despite having the ball for 49% of the time. This isn't all that surprising given that when Sunderland get the ball they don't waste any time with fancy dan nonsense like passing and moving and instead launch it as far into the stratosphere as they can.

Weirdly, the game itself was more even than these figures might reflect, essentially because Daryl Murphy was doing a lot of the shooting. There you go, they had a lot of pressure and in the end it told. I'm not going to pretend that losing to Sunderland is especially palatable but I've spent more than enough time watching West Ham to realise that things like this happen. A lot.

4. The Opposition

I have no respect for Sunderland. I'm not going to lie, for I don't imagine that they have a great deal of love for me either. But here's the thing. I will grudgingly admit that they have extracted a lot from very little. It seems inconceivable to me that a team with Nyron Nosworthy in their back four could ever possibly stay in the division but hey, the Swiss won the Americas Cup I guess.

Anyway, their rickety defence aside, the Black Cats did enough to win this game, largely through random acts of violence and aerial superiority. A sort of North East "Operation Desert Storm" if you will.

I am convinced they will remain in the division and contribute absolutely nothing to English football once again next year. Which is a shame as Derby at the very least are good for comedy defending and managerial sex scandals.

5. The Referee

Given that Sunderland employ a "kick first/operate later" policy it would be fair to say that this game should have been fairly bloody. As it turned out that wasn't especially true, despite the odd industrial tackle from the home side.

True, we did finish the game with ten men due to injuries, but that can be attributed as much to our own policy of employing men with no hamstrings, as to anything done by the home side. Just in case any one from the club is reading this - I am just about ready for our players to stop re-enacting Ypres every Saturday, and equally ready for the club's medical staff to use some 21st century medical techniques.

6. In Defence Of The Defence

We don't seem to be doing clean sheets any more. I can't say for certain why that is exactly, but the absence of Matthew Upson's beard would have to be a factor. So too would Not Marking Kenwyne Jones when he was standing approximately 2 feet from our goal line. I am not quite sure why our centre halves pursued this course of action, but they did and it was soon 1-1.

On the subject of Jones, he looks a splendid player. Against us.

He has now scored 6 goals this season, which is positively Kuytian for a Premier League striker. Sadly he has now scored one third of those goals against us, and frankly could have had loads more based on our clearly defined policy of not venturing anywhere near him.

If I appear to be blaming our defence for this defeat then let me quash that notion now. Any side that cannot score more than twice against a defence like this (See: Nosworthy, Nyron - paragraph 4) should be ashamed, but it would certainly help our cause if we did a bit of professional defending occasionally.

7. And On That Subject

Imagine you are Anton Ferdinand. This is tough for most humans, who may as well imagine they are a wildebeest for all the frame of reference they would have. But try anyway.

You are drawing 1-1 in an inconsequential away game at Sunderland with nary 30 seconds to go. The ball is lofted in to the box, which doesn't surprise you, and you have two choices.

a) Head the ball in to the vast expanse of grass outside your area
b) Head the ball straight to a small, chubby man standing 5 feet away

Now I'm not disputing that Andy Reid is a semi talented footballer but he resembles an athlete in the same way that I look like a lingerie model. He could stand to lose a few pounds is all.

Anyway, Anton chose option b) for some reason, and Reid chose not to eat the ball and instead volleyed it home rather neatly.

In the grand scheme of life, losing to a late goal is galling but simply one of those things. It was unfortunate that the ball landed at the feet of a man, who despite being so tubby he appears to be permanently in the midst of falling of a horse, does possess a sweet left foot.

I would not, however, have objected if Anton had wanted to use his neck muscles there.

8. Attack Atack Attack. And Then Stop.

I suppose I shouldn't paint too negative a picture of this game, given that we dominated all of the early play, culminating in Ljungberg's deflected but deserved opening goal. Dean Ashton then followed up with a splendid effort that crashed back off the post, before Carlton Cole was denied by a stunning save from Craig Gordon(*).

(*) Stunning in the sense that I had no idea Carlton Cole could hit a curling shot into the top corner from twenty yards, and I sure as hell had no idea that Craig Gordon had the ability to stop anything.

Thereafter, we simply reverted to pure tedium and waited for injuries to take their toll. Sure enough with ten minutes to go and all the substitutes on, Freddie Ljungberg's hamstring decided to break for freedom and detach itself from the rest of his body, and suddenly we were down to ten men.

Injuries of course are a necessary evil, but my point here is that when we are playing meaningless games away from home with no pressure on us I would rather lose the game through over committing ourselves to attacking, than lose the game through trying to cling on to a fairly worthless point.

9. Freddie Sears - West Ham Legend

Want proof that Freddie Sears has what it takes to become part of West Ham folklore? He's played 55 minutes, and missed this game through injury.

I can see Craig Bellamy nodding in approval.

10. Luis Boa Morte Footwear Update

I'm afraid that I cannot say for certain what Luis was sporting on his feet this week given that he was restricted to the bench, after Alan Curbishley surprisingly left him out. Perhaps Boa Morte has given his kids back.

Anyway, rumours are that he was wearing a pair of wellington boots.

11. Get Real!

I mulled over whether to include this last item or not, but I thought "Why not, it's my blog and you're not paying anything to read it you ungrateful bastards".

Reality TV, as we all know, is garbage, with the honourable exception of America's Next Top Model which is not so much Reality TV as a biting socio-economic commentary on Bush era America. However, I wanted to direct you to another show currently on the air.

This is only a West Ham story by default really, but I wanted to mention BBC1's brilliant new series of The Apprentice, which is currently on our screens. Aside from being the best television show ever made there is an added bonus this year in the shape of West Ham fan, Simon Smith, who is competing.

If, like me, you waste substantial parts of your life on the various West Ham forums then you will doubtless know of Simon. I do not claim to be a friend, or even an acquaintance, but from everything I know he is a genuine Hammer and deserves our support (Not that we can give him any as it's a bloody television show that was filmed last year, but I thought I'd mention it anyway).

He deserves your affection, if only for not being a certified loon like most of them - witness him not trying to charge someone £5,000 to do some laundry this week.

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