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

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hartlepool United 0 - 2 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. The Magic Of The Cup

Beautiful. Away to a lower league team, in the North, in the cold, Carlton Cole sticking his foot in all over the place and some of our fans dressed as Smurfs.

Not to mention Hartlepool fielding the ugliest centre half since Steve Bruce was cracking our screens.

2. Kill Your Television

Isn't it marvellous to have ITV back showing live football again? A carefully considered 12.40 kick off allowing our fans the pleasure of a dawn start ("Some of these West Ham fans have been on the road since 5am!" said stunned sounding professional dickhead Peter Drury, as though somehow this fact was not linked to the actions of his employer), a presentation that simply screamed "we're only here for an upset", and the aforementioned Drury/Beglin commentary ("So far the Eastenders are flourishing at the Vic") that made me want to hack off my ears.

The only elements missing were Myleene Klass and some mention of Barcelona '99, and I could have just loaded the shotgun.

3. The Statistics

As one might imagine, we were largely in control of this game despite the valiant efforts of the home team. We enjoyed the lions share of possession at 58%, although interestingly we translated that into only 4 efforts on target compared with 3 for the home side.

This might say more about our unadventurous/professional {delete as applicable} second half display than any specifically poor finishing. Suffice to say I was pretty happy with the way we closed this game off at 2-0. I'd like to say that this has been a weakness of ours previously, but truth be told we don't spend an awful lot of time with two goal leads.

Elsewhere, Carlton Cole managed 5 fouls all on his own, whilst the other ten Hammers mustered a pathetic 5 combined. You can't beat these lower league clubs without kicking their goalkeepers in a bit.

4. The Opposition

As with a lot of lower league clubs these days, Hartlepool probably suffered a little by having too good of a pitch and attempting to play a bit too much football. In conditions that didn't really resemble a swamp or a bog, we were able to get the ball down and pass it a little. To their credit, the home side did the same, and for much of the first half it was just two teams cancelling each other out.

Our first was slightly against the run of play, but very neatly taken by Behrami, who managed to slot it away with a hell of a lot more ease than the 2 yard effort he smacked off the bar at Sunderland earlier this year.

Two minutes later, the aforementioned beauty king Michael Nelson decided that this was time to wave his hands in the air like he just didn't care, and in the process punched a through ball out of the path of di Michele. It was marginally outside the box, but referee Lee Mason didn't get any help from his assistant and awarded a penalty. This was described by Drury as "a travesty of justice" but curiously not as "incredibly brainless" at the same time.

Without wishing to be patronising, Hartlepool gave it a good go, and played a hell of a lot more decent football than Stoke managed against us.

5. The Referee

As mentioned above, Lee Mason hardly ingratiated himself to the home fans, by awarding us a dubious penalty and not sending off Carlton Cole for a number of robust challenges on 'Pool keeper Arran Lee-Barrett.

I thought Cole was a little unlucky to be booked for the first half scuffle over a tackle on Lee-Barrett. He was clearly manoeuvred out of the way at the last second by the rotund Ritchie Humphreys, meaning that he looked like he was lunging at the keeper when in actual fact I thought he was pretty much just falling over.

His second half studs up effort was less aesthetic but I'm not sure he even saw the keeper at that point. By now he was well and truly a pantomime villain for the home fans, who don't have a history of being particularly tolerant. Perhaps it was just as well he hit the post with his second half attempt.

6. The Price Is Right

I must admit to being disappointed at the departure of Hayden Mullins from the club. Reports are mixed on the price, with £1m and £3m being bandied about, so if we split the difference and call it £2m, then I would have concerns about the merit of the sale.

Despite the obvious decency involved in allowing a fringe player to leave to get first team football, it still should be pointed out the Mullins is a frequent contributor for us, even in a greatly reduced capacity these days. The sale of Etherington and the loans of Bowyer, Quashie and Reid didn't register much with me, but we can't ignore the fact that we are now 5 players down with no replacements in. Trimming a squad is fine, but we are beginning to leave ourselves in a strange situation whereby we'll have no replacements for the first team. I cannot possibly see how selling Mullins and having Spector as our replacement central midfielder is a good idea, unless we have a replacement lined up.

We are still 5 days from the close of the window so I shall not jump the gun, but I'd like to see a little action on the "incoming" front.

7. The Boy's Our Savio?

On that point, at long last we've finally tapped into the Ugandan-German via Brescia gravy train of young players, as rumours abound that we have signed up 19 year old wunderkind Savio Nsereko for £9m.

Now this is an impressive commitment in a young player, and I cannot fault the board for finally being on the buying side of a deal involving a promising youngster. My immediate concern is that 19 year old foreigners rarely adapt immediately to the Premiership, and if he follows a timetable similar to someone like Theo Walcott then it might be some time before we see the kid flourish. Again, I can live with that, and it seems to fit with the notion that the club have of following the Arsenal model for developing young players, but I wonder about the sense in not replacing Bellamy with a more experienced player.

Let us not forget that Heskey and Bullard have just moved for a combined £8.5m. Each is the wrong side of 30 and presumably are commanding increased wages, but nonetheless in the tightness of this Premiership survival race, it seems slightly crazy not to be doing more to address our striking situation. And anyone suggesting that we have Dyer and Ashton coming back soon can just go and sit on the naughty step.

Look, I've never seen the kid play, I wish him all the best and I shall do nothing but cheer him on, but the point remains that we are not safe and right now I can't quite believe that a 19 year old who has never played above Serie B is a direct replacement for Craig Bellamy.

I read with interest today that West Ham have raised some £39.3m through player sales since the end of last season with only the purchases of Behrami and Nsereko to dent that fund. I am rather hoping that there is enough in the pot to pick up a couple of helpful squad types out there.

8. Like London Buses

Having waited all season for a penalty we get two in a week. But seriously, how ugly is that centre back?

9. Juventus Deny Interest In Hammer Carlton Cole

This is an actual headline from the london paper tonight. Some headlines are beyond parody.

Tomorrow: "Bayern Munich deny interest in purchasing Libya", "Osasuna deny being stapled to Portugal by Villareal", "Arsenal deny inventing electric trumpet", "tottenham deny Redknapp denied anything whilst denying his interest in all Premiership footballers breathing or otherwise"... and so on.

Jesus Christ, I wish I could make a living out of working for Sky Sports News...

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