1. Tanked Up
Firstly, this week we have been linked with a loan move for Chilean striker Sebastian Pinto, a man known as ‘The Tank’ in South America.
Having only recently been bought by Brazilian side Santos, Pinto has joined West Ham on trial with a view to a season-long loan having already managed to annoy his new manager sufficiently to be released after just a few short weeks.
Pinto has made just one international appearance for Chile, which was only a friendly and it remains to be seen whether he can make an impact here.
It seems a curious addition in light of our lack of midfield creativity – an issue regularly underlined on these pages (it’s almost as if Curbishley doesn’t read them).
2. The Opposition
We faced Manchester City a total of four times last season, our customary league fixtures supplemented by two FA Cup ties.
Two wins and two losses were achieved from two poor performances at Upton Park and a couple of better displays at the City Of Manchester Stadium, although we were unlucky not to have come away with more in our away League fixture – Lucas Neill even played well, for goodness sake.
Last weekend Man City were soundly beaten 4-2 by Aston Villa on opening day, a team with whom they hope to compete in vying for that illustrious 5th place. That may have come as a surprise to their fans as hopes have been raised higher still from last season since the arrival of a man who many see as the brightest young manager in English football.
Elano remains their primary playmaker with Petrov a menace on the left wing and Richard Dunne and Micah Richards formed a well-balanced centre back pairing last year. Michael Johnson is a promising young central midfielder, but no more so than Mark Noble and overall the two sides are fairly evenly matched.
Hopefully, coming into the game on the back of a win will give us the edge against a side that have made an anti-climactic and shaky start.
3. Moody Blues
This summer has seen some tumultuous happenings in the blue half of Manchester: continued controversy surrounds their Thai owner Thaksin Sunawatra, Sven Goran Ericsson’s undeserved dismissal paved the way for the arrival of Mark Hughes as manager and shockwaves from the criminal sale of John Pantsil coursed through the city.
More recently Shakhtar Donetsk have filed a complaint with UEFA regarding last years transfer of Elano. Donetsk claim to be owed £475,000 in compensation as a result of Elano’s development since his arrival at Man City, an apparently common clause in football transfers. City have refused to pay and the case is ongoing.
Before Sunawatra’s £800million fortune was frozen as part of a continuing fraud investigation in Thailand, Man City outlaid a not inconsiderate sum on a couple of transfer targets.
The most eye-catching arrival was that of Brazilian striker Jo from CSKA Moscow for £19million who, in the finest West Ham tradition, promptly got himself injured pre-season. Mark Hughes also happened to stumble across Tal Ben Haim staggering around the Kings Road, utterly baffled. He paid Chelsea £5million to take the disorientated Ben Haim off their hands.
Surprisingly, Geovanni was released having failed to make Hughes’ squad despite being a more than decent player, as his fine goal for Hull City on opening day illustrated.
There was also the laughable attempt to sign Ronaldinho from Barcelona. The mercurial Brazilian obviously opted for AC Milan, apparently not tempted by the millions offered by an owner as crooked as his own teeth.
Just as the nation was riding high after a fantastic and committed performance by Team GB at the Beijing Olympics, there were the England team eager to douse our sporting enthusiasm with another irksome display on Wednesday night.
The Czechs did what so many other teams have done so regularly in recent years - made England look ordinary and technically sub-par, the only entertainment on offer to the home fans coming from David James’ new haircut.
The most immediate disappointment was that Steven Gerrard, easily our finest player, was yet again compromised by being stuck out on the left wing in order to accommodate an aircraft-carrier in central midfield.
Wayne Rooney was rarely, if ever forward and central simultaneously and Beckham’s delivery from set-pieces predictably provided our only threat. We are the Bolton Wanderers of international football.
Dean Ashton was unlucky to miss out having picked up an injury on Saturday, albeit thankfully just cramp-related. He had a good chance of international selection having scored twice infront of Fabio Capello against Wigan, including a lovely first goal, but he is available for this weekend.
The new slimline Ashton has already looked a real threat this year and I get the feeling that his fitness and sustained form will have a positive bearing on the fortunes of both club and country.
Oh, and John Terry being made captain over Rio Ferdinand is the funniest thing I’ve seen since he fluffed that penalty in the Champions League Final, and how funny was that?!
5. Away Day
Apart from Sunday being our first away game of the season, it also marks my inaugural visit to the Dublin Hammers Club.
Not only does this grant me the opportunity to further expand the indifferent readership of The H List, but also to meet some likeminded individuals and watch the game with those more accustomed to the moderate highs and demoralising lows of being a West Ham fan.
I shall endeavour to do you all proud with my insightful commentary, littered with every profanity you could imagine. Any current Dubliners already heading down there, I’ll be the one in a startling Ghanaian headdress, worn in fond tribute to our shamelessly dethroned King Pantsil.
6. An Aside
Despite having seen it a thousand times, I’ve just this second noticed that in the latest Pepsi advert (Ronaldinho on the beach, Messi dodging cabs, Henry in a tux), the entrance of Frank Lampard sees him stuffing his face with noodles. Brilliant. And no doubt contractual.
Same old story, I’m afraid: professional footballer pledges allegiance, turns down bumper pay offer and looks for better deal at an average club.
If recent reports are to be believed, Anton Ferdinand is on the verge of leaving West Ham having rejected a ‘double your money’ offer from the Board just weeks after publicly declaring he had no desire to leave.
Speculation linking Ferdinand with tottenham has all but disappeared and it seems that Sunderland are now favourites to land the 23-year old centre back. Why he would choose to join The Black Cats is beyond me, it’s a decision akin to trading £10 and a sniffly cold for £20 and full-blown AIDS.
Sunderland have spent big for the second summer in succession, ‘investing’ their parachute money in a bid to stave off relegation but risking big trouble if they go down. I’d love to see them relegated and watch Keane bolt for the door faster than it takes an Asian immigration department to deny Gary Glitter a Visa.
Ferdinand’s potential departure does not sadden me, though. Anton is the last of the tainted core of players who stomped around in such a strop towards the end of Alan Pardew’s tenure. No-one would say that our club is any poorer for having got rid of Reo-Coker or Marlon Harewood (I readily accept that to bunch Harewood together with Coker does him a great disservice) and Ferdinand’s exit would at the very least allow us to draw a line under that whole MTV Cribs dancing incident from which it was so difficult for us all to raise our heads.
Central defence is one area in which we are not lacking. Matthew Upson is rightly top dog and the not-too-distant return of James Collins (fingers crossed) is a tidy prospect.
Collins is still only 25 and has plenty to offer if only he can stay fit, while former ‘Hammer Of The Year’ Danny Gabbidon is also no mug. Yes, the exit of Anton would leave us with a largely immobile back four, but I’d take that plus some commitment over a spritely, snotty-nosed prima donna who can’t dance.
Besides, have you seen Calum Davenport do the Charleston? Awesome.