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

Thursday, January 22, 2009

West Ham 3 - 1 Fulham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Chairman Moan

Lifted directly from The Observer "Said and Done" column.

"Man of the week: Dave Whelan - says Man City are "ruining the heart and soul of football" by inflating prices and artificially skewing the market. "Money has gone through the window because some Arabian fellas or oil-rich sheikh has come in and said, 'Pay £90m for that player.' It is totally barmy and we all know that. The game will suffer in the end."

2003: Whelan's JJB Sports fined £6.7m by the OFT over claims they exploited fans by using inflated price-fixing of replica shirts to artificially skew the market. "This ruling," said Whelan, "makes me wonder what's happened to justice in this land."

Not lifted directly from The Observer

"Of course I'm interested in him, you don't get too many chairman prepared to screw over the fans like that. We're in discussions but I don't want to say too much as he's with another club. We do seem to have a mole leaking all our transfer targets to the press though" said Harry Redknapp. Live on Sky Sports News. Probably.

2. Hells Bells

Also lifted directly from The Observer "Said and Done" column

"Craig Bellamy, December 2008: "It's that time of year again - there's always a lot of speculation about people going in the transfer window. But I'm very happy at West Ham - I'm never going to go in and ask for a move."

• 16 January: Goes in, asks for a move. "

"All I know is that someone just told me the boy wants to come and play here" said Harry Redknapp. Live on Sky Sports News. Actually. And most definitely not tapping up our player.

3. The Opposition

I went in to this game with a tangible sense of foreboding. Fulham were unbeaten in 9 games, Bellamy was making Paul Ince look like an amateur, and Upton Park had the feel of a particularly solemn wake.

Mercifully, Fulham have a back 4 featuring full backs who weren't good enough for us, and therefore contributed three egregious errors to help us on our way.

I suspect that this performance was out of character given their recent success, but it would have to be noted that Fulham were woeful in this game. Aside from Konchesky's 30 yard Faustian pact I cannot remember a single effort threatening our goal. Even Andy Johnson, who is never slow to fall over when the opportunity presents, was unable to win a penalty, such was their lack of penetration.

Elsewhere, I was impressed by Brede Hangeland who is big like a Bond villain, and sadly familiar with Bobby Zamora, who worked hard but displayed Kuytian levels of awareness when presented with a couple of half chances.

I have little doubt that they will stay up, and one could cogently argue that Roy Hodgson deserves the Manager of the Year award for the turnaround he has manufactured at Craven Cottage. Unlike Phil Brown at Hull, they seem to be on the up, and he has not spent as hugely or as wastefully as his predecessor, Lawrie Sanchez.

"I'm interested in every single one of their players. Of course I am. This squad I've got here is rubbish, totally inept. They only spent £60m in the summer. You wouldn't even get Kaka's left arm for that. But obviously it's up to Fulham if they sell. It's nothing to do with me" said Harry Redknapp. Live on Sky Sports News. Probably.

4. The Statistics

Perhaps unsurprisingly we were on top in many ways in the ESPN Gamecast. This shows that we had 15 shots at goal to the visitors 11, but crucially Fulham mustered only 2 efforts on target against our 5. This shows an unusually clinical approach from us, and a strangely imperious defensive effort.

Oddly, our most attacking threat was once again Mark Noble, who continued to lead the way with 5 shots on goal. Di Michele also had 5, leaving Carlton Cole to look like a slacker with 3. This may mean nothing or it may be quite the revelation, but Noble has now been our most frequent shooter for two consecutive weeks. The biggest criticism of the Curbishley era was the failure to provide goalscoring midfielders, and it could be said that Zola has now hit upon a tight, narrow midfield system that is allowing Noble to join up with the strikers more often.

I'm not sure I think that Noble is playing brilliantly, but Collison and Behrami certainly are in great form, and my feeling is that it is their contributions as much as anything that are letting Noble advance so freely.

"Of course I'm interested in the ESPN Gamecast. You can't get a good website these days for love nor money. I'm down to the bare bones here" said Harry Redknapp. Live on Sky Sports News. Probably.

5. The Referee

For a fixture between two fairly bland and inoffensive sides, there have been a strangely high number of red cards issued over the years. There should have been another here, when Paul Konchesky hacked down Carlton Cole inside the area with no other Fulham defender within hectares.

For reasons that escape most sentient beings, Phil Dowd chose not to send him off and instead made do with a penalty and a yellow card.

It should be pointed out that Konchesky appeared to have some sort of seizure moments before the foul, when he allowed Cole to run twenty yards to take the ball off him and run in on goal. So the yellow card might simply have been an acknowledgement that life didn't need to get any worse for the former Hammer.

Terrible decision though. On another day that might have led to firebombings.

"Of course I'd be interested in Phil Dowd. I have to referee my own training sessions here and I just give all the decisions to Parlo anyway otherwise he goes mad. Phil's one we're looking at for sure, but I don't want to say any more about it otherwise it will just be on the telly and in the papers" said Harry Redknapp. Live on Sky Sports News. Probably.

6. Zola Power

Before we move on to the really pressing events of the week (Bellamy, the absence of "Relocation, Relocation" from the schedules) it would seem fair to make an assessment of the current managerial tandem, who have master minded something of a resurgence during a run of fixtures against the soft underbelly of the league.

Let me be clear that I am not being sarcastic when I mention that last point. In fact if anything it's the most important criteria to note. My complaint about our start to the season was that we failed to take advantage of a soft run of fixtures, losing to the likes of West Brom, Hull and Bolton long before we encountered any of the bigger teams. As the season has progressed we have gradually evolved from a side who could only attack, to one who could barely attack, to the current incarnation who seem to be nicely balanced between the two, and are now taking points from those teams who we should be taking points from.

Zola has been unfailingly positive in his public pronouncements, and seems to believe greatly in both what he is doing, and those who are doing it for him. I am sure that there are those out there who could help correct me, but my feeling is that there have been very few poor performances since he took over. Even in defeat we have played reasonably adeptly, but have suffered from our lack of a cutting edge.

With the rebirth of Bellamy and Cole as bona fide Premier League players, we have really been playing very well recently, and both Clarke and Zola deserve much credit for that. We're a long way from home yet, but we're also only 2 points shy of Wigan, who are being lauded up and down the land for their excellent season.

More of the same please.

"Of course I'm interested in Zola. I used to tell Joe Cole to go and play like him. You can't coach players at this level. Except Darren Bent. He could use some help. Anyway, last I heard Zola was interested in coming here but I'm not going to say anymore about it. Our chairman is very interested I'd imagine. Look at how shit I'm doing to be fair." said Harry Redknapp. Live on Sky Sports News. Probably.

7. Farewell

Blimey, that Craig Bellamy's a card isn't he?

I refuse to be disappointed by footballers any more. I am sure that there are decent human beings who play the game and are ashamed by these antics, but they keep it well hidden wherever they are. Indeed, I find myself strangely underwhelmed by Bellamy's antics. Sure, going on strike so you can join tottenham is not any way to be behave, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. The truly curious thing to me is why he felt so strongly about tottenham when they had just signed Defoe, and were bottom of the league.

Manchester City is likely to provide more immediate succour for him, but in the long term he will be squeezed out by the likes of Robinho, Santa Cruz and whomever else arrives in the summer. The Sheiks did not take over at Eastlands to see decent Premiership players, which ultimately is all that Bellamy really is. Once he begins to warm the bench, he'll become disillusioned and move on again, for substantially less than £14m too.

Strangely, West Ham seemed to be something of a perfect match for him. A team built to his strengths, a huge weekly wage and a manager who he seemed to respect and who was seemingly developing him as a player.

The season ticket holder in me was enraged by the decision to sell, given that it's only going to lead to {insert no name Under 21 Italian striker here} joining courtesy of our new "world wide" scouting system. The accountant in me can't help but be impressed by the sale of a 29 year old, injury prone agitator, for twice what we paid for him. Sometimes I just don't know what to think.

As is always the case with West Ham, the test will be how we spend the money. I greatly favour purchasing a midfielder and a striker, which should be possible with £14m, and in fact I can't believe that tottenham wouldn't sell Bent and Huddlestone for a combined fee of about £11m, but sadly Duxbury looks to have burnt all our bridges there. Whoever they get in, I sincerely hope that someone somewhere is pointing out that it takes a while to adjust to the Premier League, and that we are currently a Carlton Cole injury away from a very bad situation up front.

Returning to Bellamy briefly, I do not believe that I will ever understand how a man can give £750,000 of his own money to develop a football academy in Sierra Leone, and at the same time go on strike because he was being forced to honour a contract that paid him £70,000 a week. The inner demons that guy must be fighting with....

8. A Quick Thought

From the sounds of it, we should probably be looking at Sandra Redknapp for a role up front. Based on Harry's many and varied descriptions she is not a scorer of great goals, but certainly a great goal scorer.

"Of course I'm interested in her.." said Redknapp zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

9. Farewell, Again

See you Craig. Thanks for Portsmouth. It seems I can now refer to you a goblin again. Isn't it funny how the world works.

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