1. Hammer In High Court Victory Shocker
After a week’s absence, I return fresh from my High Court libel triumph, vindicated. It is now perfectly legal for us all to refer to Lucas Neill as a “tubby oaf”, but only in print. You couldn’t say it to his face, but you could text him.
2. Gud Time To Sell?
Obviously we’re all over the papers again with news of our calamitous financial situation. It has been reported that, after much denial over recent weeks, Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson is finally prepared to consider the prospect of selling West Ham.
Vice-Chairman Asgeir Fridgeirsson admitted yesterday: "He is evaluating all of his business interests, including West Ham. West Ham is a well-run club with no debt and is one of Mr Gudmundsson's most important investments."
This turnaround comes on the back of news that Gudmundsson’s main Icelandic company, Samson Holdings, is in big trouble and has filed for bankruptcy. Combined with the nationalisation of Landsbanki and the collapse of XL, this has forced Gudmundsson to consider all his options.
The fact that the news has been released to the media suggests that it is more than a last resort. It is unlikely however that a potential buyer will come forward prior to next week’s High Court ruling, which will determine whether West Ham can continue with their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport over Tevezgate and any ruling not in our favour will obviously have an affect on the club’s value.
In other cheery news, it has also emerged that the club were intending to have The Bobby Moore Fund as our shirt sponsor for the remainder of this season, but were denied permission by the FA - those guardians of the national game and scrupulous protectors from the corrupting effect of corporate influence on football.
In that spirit, our new sponsor for the next 18-months is likely to be Far East betting company SBO Bet. Why have a deserving cancer charity on your shirt when you can have kids running around unwittingly promoting the benefits of gambling?
3. Young Blood
It’s obvious to most of us that Jack Collison’s recent performances have done enough to warrant his outright inclusion in the starting XI, and not as a makeweight for so-called better players.
Regardless of the question mark over Scott Parker’s fitness and with Lee Bowyer looking increasingly like a fringe player, Collison should rightly make his Upton Park debut against The Toffees.
Impressive when he came on against Man United and our best midfielder against Boro, Collison has an energy and vigour about him, a desire to pick up the ball and consistently surge forward which is rarely present in the rest of our neat-and-tidy-turning-ten-yard-pass midfield.
Freddie Sears can also expect more match time what with Carlton Cole’s enforced absence and Custard Cream Dean’s experimentation with biscuit crumb pizzas bases.
Sears will bring all of his youthful exuberance and tireless running, but he’s more than a little lightweight when it comes to shoulder-to-shoulder tussles with 6ft-plus defenders like Joseph Yobo.
4. The Opposition
Everton have found some form of late with two victories in a week following their 1-1 draw with Man United, but they did struggle for creativity against Fulham, claiming a 1-0 win via an 87th minute Louis Saha header against his former club.
After a shaky start to this campaign, Everton don’t seem the coherent, well-drilled unit of last season but will be hoping that recent results and the confidence they bring will provide a catalyst for improvement. With largely the same squad as last year plus a couple of additions, the potential to turn things around is certainly there.
Manager David Moyes came in for criticism during the summer for his failure to strengthen the squad and build upon their consistency. He was himself critical of the club’s inability to get their business done sooner so that the entire squad could enjoy a full pre-season.
Moyes eventually moved for Saha and broke Everton’s transfer record by forking out 15million for midfielder Marouane Fellaini from Standard Liege – a lot of money for a largely unproven 20-year old, but one touted as one of Europe’s brightest prospects.
Fellaini has slowly begun to adapt to the Premiership and could prove Everton’s most creative outlet on Saturday. He has the added benefit of the gallons of Soul Glo dripping from his afro, causing anyone in hot pursuit to slide around like a giraffe on rollerblades.
Despite this eventual transfer activity, Everton will have slipped down the pecking order for the ‘best of the rest’ title in light of Man City’s new financial clout and Aston Villa’s substantial spending – although in fairness, despite Everton’s recent clinging to the coattails of The Big Four, this position is always in flux.
Big Neville Southall, the best goalkeeper I ever saw above 50 stone, has said recently that his appetite of expectancy has been lowered from last year and that he would be happy with the top half of the table. I couldn’t quite make out whether he was talking about football or a wedding buffet.
Tim Cahill remains one of my most hated footballers.
5. Star Spangled Manor
It has been a truly momentous week. We have witnessed historic happenings and the climactic, final triumph over one of modern society’s most grievous injustices.
After generations of struggle, with seemingly insurmountable social obstacles, after the will of the people had been previously overlooked to protect corporate America, finally, finally, a West Ham fan is in The White House.
Anyone who saw Barack Obama’s victory speech cannot dispute his considerable oratory skills. He is eminently watchable and able to stir hope within those he does not even govern. It is therefore a comfort to know that he would be only too happy to walk out of a critical G7 Summit were the boys to be 2-0 down at halftime and in need of a pep talk.
Having the leader of the Free World in our ranks provides near-limitless opportunity - the invite’s already in the post. Man City? We’re now backed by the Federal Bank and have more money than you can sheikh a stick at.
The scenes of trans-continental jubilation throughout the world were stirring, as people shed tears and danced in the street upon hearing the news that there is now a real chance of us perhaps claiming a UEFA Cup spot.
Obama can’t move into the West (Ham) Wing soon enough. I would like to have seen Dimitar Berbatov ghost past James Collins the other week with an Apache Helicopter Gunship up his arse.
It is surely only a matter of weeks before the skies over White Hart Lane turn black with Stealth Bombers. The US should have no trouble getting that proposal past the UN.
6. Onward Tristan Soldiers
Diego Tristan warmed the bench against Middlesbrough and played his first 45-minutes in a West Ham shirt during a midweek reserves defeat against tottenham. He is in contention for this weekend and is likely to figure at some stage.
While Rich Tea sales continue to shore up the global economy with Dean Ashton’s absence, Tristan provides a viable comparative option for Zola: good first touch, strong, good footballing brain, difficult to move without the aid of a crane.
Tristan could prove the burly complement to Bellamy’s fleet of foot should Zola not opt to stick with the twin zephyrs of Bellamy and Sears, who combined threateningly in the first 45-minutes at The Riverside.
Much like Ashton, you would bet on Tristan hitting the target were the ball to fall to him in a dangerous area, but, also like Ashton, the ball would have to fall to him or he would have to be picked out with a pass.
He’s not going to chase down a through ball any quicker than Jamie Redknapp could string together a coherent piece of analytical, insightful punditry on Sky Sports without sounding like a self-important, dim-witted twat.
7. Numbers Game
Our 4-4-2 formation against Boro demonstrated that Zola is not overly precious about instilling his adopted 4-3-3 at any cost. He has said that considering the personnel available to him and the opposition in front, he is happy to change the system accordingly.
It’s obvious that 4-3-3 is the way he likes his team play, but the dominant first half performance against Middlesbrough would have given Frankie some food for thought, as we are yet to play with such command using his preferred system.
8. Congested Confluence
Having taken just a single point from our last five games, we have consigned ourselves to the over-crowded mire.
Where one month ago there was tangible space between ourselves and even mid-table, we now sit 11th, a full seven points off Hull in 6th and just two points from the relegation zone. A mere four points separates 7th from 19th.
All our good/fortuitous work of the early season has been undone in the last four weeks and now we’re right in amongst it. We can scarcely afford to continue with our recent run of results, neither can we be satisfied with attractive performances which yield nothing.
Little Francis Zola seems unshakable in his belief that the performances will turn the tide and that it’s all just a matter of time. There’s no doubt that we have all enjoyed the verve and ambition he has brought to our play.
But, as Jade Goody well knows, a little ugliness can go a long way. No successful team is a one-trick pony and if the personnel aren’t available to bring Zola’s aesthetic dream to life, some steel and a more aggressive, forthright approach from both players and management when required could help to propel us clear of the masses.