1. Factoid Famine
As is often the case, the night before I am due to publish a preview, Headhammer Shark nabs many of the topics I had broached, uncouthly barging ahead to gobble up all the week's tasty talking points. It puts me in mind of queuing outside the school tuck shop.
2. Face The Strange
I experienced a peculiar feeling this week. A strange sensation hitherto unknown, like the first time I saw Jet on Gladiators.
The Board of West Ham actually conducted a piece of transfer business which I consider both shrewd and satisfying. No less remarkable as this came in the form of a sale.
Craig Bellamy’s £14million transfer to Manchester City gathered pace last weekend after the unprincipled goblin stormed out of training on Friday having been refused permission to enter into negotiations with tottenham.
Having spoken of his debt to West Ham just prior to Christmas for supporting him through a year of injury, the monkey-faced mercenary wasted no time in angling for a move come the first opportunity.
So far as I can see, the Board made every right move: letting it be known in the preceding weeks that we had no need to sell, offering Bellamy a new contract in an effort to keep him, wasting no time in offloading the little troll when it became clear he wanted away, holding out for a good price and most importantly, steadfastly refusing to do business with Spurs.
A good piece of business all round as we have more or less doubled our money, scratched the club’s highest earner from the wage bill and renewed our moral opposition to poisonous elves, gnomes and sprites.
Scott Duxbury raised himself in my expectations with this transfer (not hard to do, as were he any lower he’d resemble a Peter Kenyon/Pol Pot amalgam) and this action, coupled with the recently disclosed Football Project have bolstered my flagging confidence in the aspirations of The Board.
It appears as if this transfer went through in accordance with the policies outlined in The Football Project, a document to be commended for its outlook and one that, if adhered to, should help us fulfil our potential in the most prudent way, as opposed to Eggy’s ‘buy now, pay later’ approach.
Hartlepool United currently sit comfortably in the midtable regions of League One. They have already dispatched one “Premiership” team in this year’s FA Cup, having beaten Stoke 2-0 at home in the 3rd round. In the previous two rounds they also accounted for Fleetwood Town and Brighton, via a replay.
Hartlepool also knocked another “top-flight” side out of cup competition this season when they beat West Brom 3-1 at home back in August of last year, in the Carling Cup.
Despite these upsets, you’d hope that we will provide Hartlepool with a sterner test and a taste of genuine Premiership opposition when compared to the two sides currently propping up the Premier League.
Regardless, this tie is a banana skin and no mistake.
All recent form can be discounted as this could be the biggest game that many of Hartlepool’s players ever experience. They will fight tooth and nail for the full 90 minutes and any Premiership playboys in attendance will receive a rude awakening.
5. January Sale
Bellamy’s departure has lead to a recession of the speculative tempest that has swirled around Upton Park leading up to and during this transfer window.
Unlike the doom-mongers in the press would have us believe, January has come as something of a respite for West Ham, enabling us to dispel many of the rumours about our impending financial collapse by resisting the vast majority of offers for key players.
Reports of a firesale have proven wholly unfounded and on the contrary, Zola has been given the income from the Bellamy sale to reinvest back into the squad, the little Italian’s first opportunity to augment the playing staff to his liking.
The early frontrunner appears to be Savio Nsereko, the Ugandan-born 19-year old attacking midfielder/forward eligible for Germany. Nsereko raised eyebrows in last year’s U-19 European Championship, winning ‘player of the tournament’ and currently plays for Brescia, Gianluca Nani’s former club.
Links with Nani have facilitated our early interest, although it is believed that Nsereko’s agent is keen for him to cement his place in the Serie B side, where he has impressed after a slow start, postponing any potential move until the summer.
More recently, Nsereko has 'done a Bellamy' and missed training, fuelling speculation that he is on the verge of a move away from Italy.
An attacking midfielder is the order of the day and has been for some time. Goal-machine Cole, DiMichele, Sears, Tristan and the Rich Tea-ravaged Dean Ashton should be able to provide sufficient cover upfront, whereas goal-scoring midfielders are in short supply, with Kieron Dyer’s leg scheduled to explode any day now.
Across the land there has been little activity outside of Manchester. Jermaine Pennant has gone on loan to Portsmouth, while Liverpool continue to stall on adding Emile Heskey to their flagging frontline, riskily depending on the defective Torres-Keane axis to bring them the title.
Despite tottenham pissing off most every club (Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Portsmouth, West Ham, Aston Villa) with their unscrupulous transfer tactics, William Palacios looks set to leave one manager with an unfathomable nose for another with an equally warped moral compass, by moving from Wigan to Spurs.
Makes my job easier as this will be the first time we have ever faced Hartlepool United.
7. Monkey Magic
Hartlepool United FC. The most comically gifted team in the League.
Unlike The Da Vinci Code, all of what follows is 100% true.
Firstly, their nickname is ‘The Monkey Hangers’. Brilliant. This is of course in reference to the famous story of how the good townsfolk of Hartlepool executed not only sound judgement but also a monkey, when a French galley ship was wrecked of the North East coast during the Napoleonic wars.
Local fisherman inspected the wreckage and found the ship’s pet monkey dressed in military attire. Prudently suspicious, the fisherman actually questioned the monkey before holding a beachside trial and finally decided that the monkey was a French spy, consequently hanging it on an improvised gallows.
Secondly, and perhaps even better, is the fact that Hartlepool’s mascot (the beautifully named ‘H’Angus The Monkey’) was elected Mayor of Hartlepool as an independent under the campaign slogan “free bananas for schoolchildren”.
Zola will surely be looking over his shoulder on Saturday for any Hartlepudlians with lengths of rope.
8. Our Cup Runneth Over?
The early stages of the FA Cup traditionally throw up a mixture of heavyweight clashes (Liverpool vs Everton) and David & Goliath encounters (Hartlepool vs West Ham).
Broadcasters ITV have obviously smelled blood where we’re concerned and so Saturday’s match is scheduled for live broadcast.
Its near impossible to deduce how these ties will pan out. Obviously on paper this should prove a stroll, but home advantage, a dodgy pitch and the home team’s avid desire to claim a ‘giant-killing’ are all influential factors, as Barnsley and Cardiff City proved last season.
A tidy Cup run would give us all a lift and combined with a continued run of League form, could help to turn this into a memorable season for reasons other than court cases and a Hammers fan’s rightful ascension to The White House.