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, September 01, 2008

West Ham 4 - 1 Blackburn Rovers (And Many, Many Other Ramblings)

Late Addendum

Those inconsiderate bastards. I had this column written not once, but twice, before the Day of the Long Knives. You've already forgotten about Blackburn, I know, so you're wanting to know about Curbishley and the high class boardroom operatives at the Boleyn. Well ok, but I'm warning you we're coming back to Blackburn - we haven't won 4-1 since the ration book fer cryin' out loud.

1. In Memory

So farewell Alan Curbishley. It would be hypocritical for me to suggest that I'm upset by this, but I can certainly say that I am dismayed at the manner of it.

I have covered the sales of McCartney and Ferdinand later in this article but today's events require a different slant. No longer can we look insouciantly at tottenham and Newcastle and mock as they blunder their way through managers with all the PR flair of Jean Marie Le Pen, because I am afraid we are now amongst their number.

The Club have undermined Curbishley for weeks, and the snide and utterly incomprehensible public statements have done nothing to dissuade anybody from that way of thinking.

I am not going to pretend that I understand the Club's finances, primarily because I don't think there is a human being alive who does, but I can't believe that we are in a better position now than we were one week ago. McCartney and Ferdinand were big players for us, and whilst their loss could be tolerated with adequate replacement, selling them on the eve of the transfer deadline shows either a remarkable lack of forethought or a totally separate agenda.

Rumours abound that the board have been trying to drive Curbishley out by carrying on like a bunch of renegade Enron directors, but I'm not sure I credit them with the intelligence for a plan like that. From everything I can see, we are paying the price for the excesses of Eggert Magnusson which have coincided beautifully with the worst global economy in years.

Once upon a time it seemed too good to be true that we were bought by a billionaire banker, when rather sadly it was simply too true to be good.

1a. The Legacy

The departure of Curbishley is, of course, a potential turning point if properly exploited. Not that we have any precedent in this area but every now and again you catch lightning in a bottle, I suppose.

The prospect of Bilic, or Rijkaard, or any other footballing idealist is pretty enticing but it's also worth bearing in mind that Allardyce, Grant et al are still lurking and presumably much more willing to work with no budget and a crazy bunch of lunatics at the till.

Whoever it is - I say again, as I have done before, that being manager of West Ham is a reasonably straightforward task. We you know you won't win anything, so you sure as hell better entertain us. (So someone shoot Sam Allardyce for me please).

Meanwhile back at the Blackburn review.....

2. Be Still My Jerking Knee

We won! We lost! How can't we beat Macclesfield? We scored 4 times, it's our best start in 9 years! Curbishley ou - my God, this paragraph is obsolete already. I'm telling you, it's hard to be this reactionary.

3. Unleash My Jerking Knee

As you all know, we here at The H List like to deal only in facts and rarely ever indulge in innuendo and pointless name calling unless Michael Dawson is in the vicinty, or The Boleyn Beluga is writing. All of that being true - the time has come to reveal the real reason for our continued and soul destroying ineptness.

Step forward Papa Shark.

Yes folks, for donkeys years my father has been regularly attending West Ham games and clearly casting a shadow of doom over the place. On Saturday he couldn't make it and Mrs Shark made her debut at the Boleyn.

This led to a rather amusing afternoon for me ("Is it Blackburn that have dogs on their badge? Aren't they called the Rovers?" / "My feet don't touch the ground with these seats - what's all that about? / "God, there are a lot of brutes in here aren't there?) and also led to a stellar afternoon on the pitch.

Using the celestial guidance of my lovely wife we played Blackburn off the pitch for a whopping twenty five minutes before hanging on grimly for the rest of the afternoon. In the interests of the masses, I have therefore instructed my father not to return for the Newcastle game.

As far as I can tell he's seeing it as a blessing.

3. Deadline Day

Before I get into the more convoluted stuff from later in the day, I guess there would be some merit in looking at the events of the recent transfer window. It fairly boggles the mind that despite having been taken over by a billionaire we have now lost two of our first choice back four to the footballing powerhouse that is Sunderland.

In isolation, each sale had it's own logic. Ferdinand apparently wanted more money and could get it at the Stadium of Light. I find this notion surprising - wasn't this why we got rid of Ljungberg after all, to free up more money for players we actually did want to keep? - and McCartney was sold as a result of some apparent homesickness on his wife's part.

What a load of crap.

If Middlesbrough is where good footballers go to die, then Sunderland is merely where good footballers go to be told they aren't as good as they think they are by Roy Keane. Certainly I have a lot of respect for Niall Quinn and Keane has done a remarkable job, but they are still, and always will be Sunderland. The day that West Ham players start to move there to further their careers is the day that we should all pack up and go home.

The club is holding a firesale to the tune of a £15m profit this summer. 'Twas ever thus and I can't be bothered to get too worked up about it as it simply turns out that this was my fathers West Ham after all. I just find it a little hard to stomach our sudden penury when all others around us appear to have located their hidden pot of gold.

I mean, honestly, Hull bid £7m for Fraizer Campbell today. Hull! City! Christ on a bike I earn more than Hull.

Oh yeah - and what a splendid idea to get two foreign lads in at the last minute with dodgy paperwork. Because that never worked out badly for us before.

4. Slightly Off The Beaten Track

Apropos of not very much, but if I was Anton I would be slightly worried about the quote from Roy Keane stating that he hopes "we can take him to a different level". Use of this phrase by a Sunderland manager is usually followed by a visit to the Championship, which is certainly a different level alright.

4. The Statistics

This game was pretty bonkers from start to finish. Our biggest attacking threat was Calum Davenport, Jason Roberts took a penalty with a part of his antomy other than his elbow, and we scored 4 goals without creating four good chances all day.

The numbers show a fairly even game with each side mustering just 5 shots on target, which perplexingly translated into a 4-1 scoreline. You might suspect that the respective ratios of shots to goals reflects a huge gulf in class between the two strike forces but this would be untrue. I don't care how drunk you are - there is no way that Carlton Cole is superior to Roque Santa Cruz.

If anything, this game gave an object lesson in the benefits of having a top class International level keeper between the sticks, as oppsosed to say, Paul Robinson.

Elsewhere, we gave away 15 fouls, of which 7 were courtesy of Carlton Cole. I have a suggestion at this juncture.

5. The Opposition

Time was that you needed to play against Blackburn with plenty of bandages, lots of plaster cast, an X-ray machine and an MRI Unit in your changing room. They have undergone an interesting journey from playground bullies to perennial top ten finishers, and have even begun to play some decent football on the way.

Not much of this was in evidence on Saturday as they resorted to their more industrial selves. Australian Vince Grella set the tone with a thigh high introductory assault on Scott Parker - a theme that was lustily endorsed by his team mates, culminating in Jason Roberts whacking Valon Behrami in the face towards the end, to the surprise of no human being alive except Mrs Roberts.

Thuggish though they were, there is little doubt that a 4-1 reversal was as fair a reflection of the facts as a George W. Bush election poll.

6. Lu-cast A Spell On Me

I have no idea what has happened to Nigel Quashie but at this point I am willing to consider that Lucas Neill has eaten him.

Honestly, I look at Neill and wonder exactly what has gone wrong. The positioning is still there, the brain looks as though it's working, and the technical skills haven't disappeared but something is up. Right now, I can only assume that the extra weight he is carrying has scuppered all else around him.

I sincerely wish that Lucas Neill could fix himself. A fit and firing Neill is a key part of this team, and you should think back to the 06/07 run in if you think I'm crazy.

And the less I see of Valon Behrami at right back seems to be in direct correlation to the strength of my aortic wall.

7. Hells Bells

Craig Bellamy is back in case you didn't notice. He scored, got booked, annoyed the Universe and apparently had a row with Matthew Upson in the dressing room.


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