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, November 03, 2008

Middlesbrough 1 - 1 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Say It Again Sam

"They say the next big thing is here, that the revolution's near. But to me it seems quite clear that it's all just a little bit of history repeating" -
Shirley Bassey and the Propellerheads from "History Repeating"

"It was a testing match for us and I'm pleased with the way we played. When you play away in the Premier League it's always tough and we were playing against a team with a lot of confidence. We played really, really well" - Gianfranco Zola, repeating history.

2. Actually

Well, that is a bit harsh given that what Zola is saying there is borderline true. I don't know that we deserved the additional "really" in the last sentence, but we were arguably better than the last couple of games.

I see no point in rehashing old ground, but I can reiterate my support for the current style of play we are employing. We knock it around nicely and for this game at least, added a bit of cut to our thrust. We'll finish in a stunningly inevitable lower mid table position, but if the journey has some verve to it, then I suspect that a majority of fans will feel satisfied.

I don't subscribe to the theory that to abandon the current method for "safe" football (i.e: 4-5-1, elbows, 2 defensive midfielders and Allardyce) will automatically see us shoot up the table, nor do I believe that our current slide can be attributed to this more attacking approach.

Put simply, sometimes you play teams who are better than you, and sometimes West Ham fail to mark up at corners and will lose to Hull. 'Twas ever thus and hand wringing angst aside, I don't think it's symptomatic of a major malaise.

All of that being said, I am really, really ready for Zola to show some annoyance, if only to prove to us that he can.

3. The Statistics

Perhaps unsurprisingly the numbers for this game show a fairly even contest, with our share of the possession amounting to 51%, but both teams managing an identical 14 total shots and 5 on target.

The real story here is that Mido, a man with no functioning muscles in the lower half of his body, scored for the third time in four games against us. During four years in England the guy has scored a whopping 20 goals in total, of which 15% have come against us. Taking that to a logical ending, if we didn't exist Mido would be 15% less good, which as best I can tell would make him a single celled organism.

Perhaps the most galling element of that goal was that it came courtesy of an 83rd minute free kick conceded by James Collins, who decided to tackle the Egyptian in mid air using a lasso and some sort of modified choke hold. Mido dusted himself off, whacked it straight through our wall, straight through Robert Green's torso and got himself another goal.

If it wasn't for the fact that Hayden Mullins managed an equally Faustian goal, I think I might have tried to gouge out my eyes with a candlestick.

4. The Opposition

It should be noted that Middlesbrough are the reigning H List "Worst Opposition Team", and indeed if they win again this year we'll just give them the trophy.

That said, there has been some glacial movement towards decency under Gareth Southgate, although I have to caveat that heavily by pointing out that Stewart Downing is still their "best" player.

I have always been slightly fascinated by Middlesbrough, and the way in which they continue to exist without any sort of tangible impact on the Universe. They have a prolific youth academy that has yet to produce a recent player of any note (Stewart Downing? David Wheater? These men are chaff), and they spend significant sums of money on players who were mystifyingly expensive (Alfonso Alves springs to mind).

Their footballing style is perfectly inoffensive, but they really lack any kind of flair or incisiveness in their current squad. And yes, we do have something of a pot/kettle incident on our hands.

5. The Referee

Andre Marriner really didn't have a huge amount to do in this game, which got me thinking that you don't meet people called Andre all that often in everyday life.

He did disallow a Justin Hoyte effort in the second half for offside, which was fairly well received by me and not so much by Justin Hoyte. It was tight but the replay suggested some daylight between the last defender, and given that the referees assistant made the call it's hard to blame Marriner.

Blimey, Lucas Neill likes a booking though.

6. Collison Course

It doesn't get much more galling than conceding a late equaliser to an amoeba, but it gets just a little bit worse when you consider that we had not one but two golden opportunities to win the game even after their equaliser.

The first fell to Lee Bowyer who latched on to a Julien Faubert cross and forced a rather good save from Ross Turnbull. The resulting rebound fell to Jack Collison who was about 8 inches from the goal line and managed to strike the ball at the only conceivable angle which could not have resulted in a goal. I'm sure home fans would say it was a marvellous double save whilst I might say it was some fairly execrable finishing. Either way, it was a shame for Collison who was excellent alongside Mullins and gave another glimpse of a brighter future for the centre of our team.

It would not be fair to finish this paragraph without acknowledging that Ross Turnbull is quite good considering he is 9 years old.

7. I'm Mullin' It Over

How typical of Hayden Mullins and West Ham in general that he could score a goal that was at once both terrible and great.

He received an unusually reasonable pass from Boa Morte and swung a mighty left boot at it which had all the unerring accuracy of a Sarah Palin geography answer. In doing so he inadvertently flicked the ball up with his standing right foot, spun round and sweetly volleyed it in off the underside of the bar to the sound of suddenly silenced Teeside guffaws.

If a million human beings attempted to do this again, I estimate that 2 would be successful in replicating the move.

In other news, Freddie Sears has attempted to claim the goal on the grounds that he was in the vicinity of Hayden Mullins at the time, in a manner best described as "Frank Lampardly".

8. Sears Towers

Talking of our diminutive front man, it was refreshing to see him starting and looking less like the work experience kid and more like a proper Premier League striker. His partnership with Bellamy had much to commend it, although they were greatly assisted by the statuesque nature of Boro's centre backs.

I don't forsee a Bellamy/Sears combination leading us to the promised land of the Champions League, or even the 4th Round of the FA Cup, but it's nice to know that even without the bigger boys we can still muster a reasonable threat going forward.

The sight of Diego Tristan on the bench at least proves he is not dead.

9. Luis Boa Morte Footwear Update

I'm not sure but I think he may actually have been wearing football boots for this game, such was his increased level of decency (i.e: he killed no local wildlife with a wayward shot). Now I doubt very much that these boots were his, or the right size or even on the correct feet, but let us not stand in the way of progress people...

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