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

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

West Ham United vs Hull City: Match Preview - 28/01/2009

1. History

Our last meeting was the pallid 1-0 defeat at the KC Stadium back in October, coming as the Zola reign was still stuttering into life. Any professional worth his salt would be keen to set the record straight after such an embarrassment.

Hull’s last visit to Upton Park came in the old Division 2 back in 1990, a game notable for it’s 7-1 scoreline (a Hammers victory, if you were wondering), but moreso for it being the occasion of Steve Potts’ only goal for West Ham in his 463 appearances – a 30-yard screamer which gave the ‘keeper no chance.

2. January Sale

Hull City have been one of the more active teams in this transfer window, bidding to cement their Premiership status with an emboldened squad for the second half of the season.

Their most eye-catching acquisition is that of Jimmy Bullard from Fulham for £5million. Approaching 31, this will likely be Bullard’s last big money move and final chance to earn a big contract.

Woy Hodgson has said that Fulham were unable to match either Bullard’s wage demands (something the player himself has denied) or length of contract given his age, but Hull were only too keen to do so.

That they can appease Bullard’s wage demands but baulked at Boa Morte’s, gives another taste of Eggy Magnusson’s bizarre compulsion to throw money at the mediocre in the hope that added finance will proportionally increase average ability.

You can throw as much money as you like at the ‘Hollyoaks’ or 'My Family' scriptwriters, but that won’t make them produce an episode of ‘The Sopranos’ or ‘The Wire’ (which by the way, I have recently discovered is fantastic).

Other Hull appointments this month include on-loan Manchester United striker Manucho and the permanent signing of the remarkably average Kevin ‘Zinedine’ Kilbane from Wigan.

tottenham continue to pilfer the transfer market with all the charm of a drunken Aussie, having made another bid for Sunderland’s Kenwyne Jones this week despite being told in no uncertain terms that he is not for sale.

They have in the meantime nabbed goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini from Chelsea and made their second about-turn of the window by re-signing Pascal Chimbonda – a man so mercenary he makes B.A Baracus look like a community-minded Womble.

Villa nabbed Emile Heskey from under the noses of Liverpool and the big, placid lump duly scored on his debut last night, while Arsenal continue to be stymied in their efforts to bring Russian striker Andrei Arshavin to The Emirates.

Arshavin is of course destined to make his goal-scoring debut against us on Saturday.

3. Make Hayden While The Sun Shines

Monday came with the rather surprising news that we had accepted an offer from Portsmouth for Hayden Mullins. The offer did not come in until Sunday morning and the deal was confirmed just over 24 hours later.

I was a little taken aback by this as, while Hayden has not been a first team regular, I always considered him a valuable squad player and much of an unsung hero during his 5-years at the club.

There is sense in off-loading the likes of Davenport (our wealth of centrebacks), Etherington (crippling arrears with Paddy Power.com) and Boa Morte (reluctance to share his big bag of hallucinogens), but Mullins could always provide competent cover across the midfield.

Scott Parker is not going to play every game and his chances of picking up a niggling injury are as slim as Frank Lampard’s genetically-impaired offspring, so the decision to sell so readily our only specialised substitute central midfielder is a little perplexing.

Mullins has been a loyal servant in his time at West Ham and you can’t blame him for moving on for regular football, but we are left weaker without him. An effort to push through want-away Julien Faubert’s proposed move to Lyon would have been a better way to cut costs.

Freddie Sears couldn't understand why Hayden had to leave.

4. Opposition

Hull City have done remarkably well in the first half of this season, managing to maintain their top-half status right through to the latter half of January.

Despite any grand designs, their priority must still be survival, as a bad run and the congested bottom half sees them only six points from relegation.

Hull have been going through a substantial blip over the last few months, losing their previous points buffer, but not at the expense of League positioning. Since beating ourselves and West Brom in October, they have won just once, drawn four and lost eight.

They would hope to have done enough to stay up this year, but will need to stop the rot before too long – and what better team to do that against than West Ham United, the traditional Samaritans of the Premier League.

Bullard looks to be the centrepiece around whom Phil Brown will base his line-up. He will look for goals from the midfielder as well as assists, particularly as Wigan’s Marlon King has curiously cut short his season-long loan move to Hull in favour of a near identical loan move to Middlesbrough.

One untimely omission from their team this evening will be experienced midfielder George Boateng, who remains a long-term absentee.

5. CEO Dux The Trend

Scott Duxbury has again spoken in public about his personal crusade never to do business with Spurs again:

“…We need to be aware of our fans' expectations, we need to be aware of who our local rivals are… It's nothing about Tottenham but why on earth should we sell any player that would strengthen their team?… I won't sell any of our players to our local rivals.”

We all obviously welcome the rhetoric, but I wonder whether the same sentiment would be extended to Chelsea, who may be further across town but are certainly considered local rivals. Duxbury may have dug himself a hole here.

There remains something about our CEO that causes me to view him and anything he says with an air of suspicion. Maybe its because we have been scalded before by Executive-types at our club, or perhaps it’s that he looks like evil incarnate.

Either way, and against my better judgement, he is slowly beginning to charm his way into my affections and better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

Scott Duxbury witnesses a horrific road traffic accident.

6. No Cupset

As it turned out, plucky battlers Hartlepool United posed little real threat in Saturday’s FA Cup 4th round tie. While they were never really put to the sword, our victory was composed and satisfyingly comfortable given our recent history of poor Cup performances away to lesser sides.

Hartlepool chose the admirable if misguided tactic of trying to outplay a Premiership team rather than the conventional approach of attempting to follow Olivia Newton-John’s advice and ‘get physical’, ruffling a few feathers.

In the recent draw for the next round, it was actually Hull City who landed the plum tie we all wanted – away to Sheffield United - and a visit to Bramall Lane should give them time to get their own house in order after those intellectual giants from Millwall smashed it up at the weekend.

By saying this I am obviously jinxing any and all progress beyond the 5th round, but I think we may have the makings of a good Cup side this season. Two comfortable victories against lower League opposition is a sound base to build upon and I would fancy us to have a decent shout against any Premier League side in a one-off match, particularly Middlesbrough.

When we now inevitably go out to Boro at home in the next round, can you all please address your anthrax-filled hate mail and letter bombs to:

Mr. H. Redknapp
Bungs Department
White Hart Lane
London, N17.

7. Balance Of Payments

After much paper-talk, 19-year old Ugandan-born German Savio Nsereko has signed for the club on a four-and-a-half year deal. Current trends demand that the fee be ‘undisclosed’, but rumours circulate from between £9million straight up to an initial £5million potentially rising to twice that amount.

Our new Number 10 could even make his debut tonight, so long as he receives international clearance in time. You would hope that Gianluca Nani’s links with Brescia have enabled us to acquire a rough diamond and that Nani’s eye for talent has come good again. The next Andrea Pirlo would suit me fine.

It has also been confirmed that new deals are to be offered to Scott Parker, Matthew Upson and Rob Green once this transfer window has closed. These should (if accepted) help stave off any unwelcome attention for at least a half hour or so before tottenham come in with a straight swap deal involving Darren Bent and the powdered remains of Danny Blanchflower.

While it’s good to see efforts being made to keep hold of the spine of the team, a few more solid squad performers through the door prior to February at the expense of more peripheral figures would help ease any apprehension going into the remaining three and a bit months of the season.

We're sailing a little close to the wind and are only a few unfortunate injuries away from another relegation scrap.