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, March 10, 2009

Wigan Athletic 0 - 1 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)

The title of this section really relates to Carlton Cole and the rest of the team.

It could also be about the upper and lower halves of Scott Parker's body after Lee Cattermole kindly attempted to separate them from one another.

2. Not Dark Yet

I'm not going to begin this review anywhere other than with our goal. Because we don't score goals like that very often. In fact not many teams score goals like that too often.

The move began deep in our half with Tomkins and Ilunga combining to find Parker, who was taking a brief break from kicking the shit out of Michael Brown. His resultant pass was beautifully worked by Noble and di Michele to free Cole, who in turn swept it past Kirkland from a tight angle, with all the panache that befits an England centre forward. (Phrases I never thought I'd type - Vol 23)

The goal featured a precision of pass, and fluidity of movement that was so obviously lacking under Curbishley, but has been joyously restored under Zola. Had Arsenal put together a move like this, I'm pretty sure that we'd be forced to watch it endlessly whilst various BBC pundits tripped over themselves to hail it as The Greatest Goal. Ever.

Of course, if Arsenal had put that move together it would have featured two more superfluous passes, and Nicklas Bendtner hitting the post from 3 yards out.

Anyway, enough mocking the defenceless. We haven't passed the ball this well since, ooh, we did this to Chelsea (you should zero in on 5:11 if you want instant gratification).

3. Simple Twist Of Fate

This was another in a curious series of games where the statistics don't quite tell the whole story, or indeed even give you much insight at all into proceedings. At half time we had had 58% of the ball, and were absolutely hammering Wigan. Cole had got himself sent off, but mercifully Cattermole attempted a revolutionary "Shearing" procedure on Parker's abdomen and the game subsequently drifted into a vast void of nothingness.

By the end, we had possession for 48%, and managed just 3 shots on goal. By contrast Wigan mustered 5 but none of any particular note. And no, the game was not more exciting than it sounded. I mean, don't get me wrong, it wasn't as bad as having to sit through an episode of Mistresses on BBC1, but it wasn't exactly enjoyable.

Elsewhere, we committed only 11 fouls all game but somehow managed to pick up 6 yellow cards, which suggests that we were either producing a higher class of foul or that the refereeing was on the questionable side of peculiar. This is a subject we'll be touching on later, so pay attention at the back.

4. Going, Going Gone

If you are playing for a team that is getting beaten, is being outplayed and then gets a chance to get back into the game when the opposition have a man sent off, I'm pretty sure that the one thing you absolutely should not do is get a red card yourself.

I shudder to think of the earful Lee Cattermole got from Steve Bruce after his dismissal, but if I could judge it based on the look he gave him it might very well have consisted of a .22 bullet and a baseball bat. Cattermole, who seems to be a cage fighter trapped in a footballers body, was clearly incensed at having been on the end of a nasty shoeing from Lucas Neill but it doesn't excuse his ludicrous lunge at Parker.

With him went Wigan's numerical advantage and thus their chance of getting back into the game. As far as footballing skills go, Cattermole makes a pretty good bouncer, but he was a warm body and when it reverted back to ten apiece the game drifted to an inevitable conclusion.

5. North Country Blues

On the face of it, there isn't a huge amount to like about Wigan. Their stadium is situated in the seventh circle of Hell, they are owned by a convicted price fixer, their fans have rigor mortis, they pay Michael Brown actual legal tender to play football and once upon a time they sided with Sheffield United on "principle". It's a Mos Eisley for football fans (and a mental high five for anyone who gets that reference - meet me at Bespin for a beer).

All that being said, they have been a pleasant surprise in Premiership terms this year as their random collection of exotic imports and thugs have greatly out performed more celebrated (and more expensively assembled) competitors, to establish themselves as a top ten outfit. They have done so whilst playing a semi reasonable brand of football, even if they descended right along with us into a shit kicking fest during this game.

6. My Back Pages

The focus of the media coverage of this game was referee Stuart Atwell, who is 26 and incompetent according to several sage observers. "He lacks experience" they scream, because the older referees in the Premier League are so stunningly good that this point cannot be argued.
Of course, there is no denying that Atwell was appalling in this game. Cole barely deserved a single booking for his two challenges, whilst Parker and Neill both could have gone for questionable fouls themselves. He was clearly influenced by Michael Brown in sending off Cole, which is ludicrous because everyone knows that Brown was an apprentice at Sheffield United under Colin Wanker and is therefore Evil Incarnate.

But really was Atwell really that much worse than what we usually see? If he was 43 nobody would have batted an eyelid at his performance. Indeed it is ironic that football managers who so readily repeat platitudes like "if he's good enough he is old enough" in respect of their own players, are so keen to lambast a younger referee when he is inept.

Look, I'm not suggesting that a referee who awards a goal when the ball goes out for a corner is the brightest star in the officiating galaxy, but the people who were primarily to blame for the descent into madness during this game were Messrs Parker, Cattermole, Neill and Brown, and not the poor sap in the middle left to try and sort it all out.

7. The Times They Are A Changin'

Jack Collison was the latest addition to the West Ham wing at Queens Hospital as he managed to dislocate his kneecap whilst chesting the ball down. This feat of injury japery was greatly admired by Kieron Dyer and Dean Ashton who are busy working on their own retorts.

He joins Valon Behrami on the longish term injury list, and will be sorely missed over the next few weeks, especially by my fathers cardiac specialist given that his replacement is likely to be Luis Boa Morte.

No need to worry though. Remember that January fire sale when we got rid of loads of players so we had a nice small squad to work with? Well that's paying dividends now as we were able to put a substitutes bench together here with an average age of 20 amongst the outfield players.

Now I'm not against a youth movement, but our squad looks woefully thin for a run in where we are trying to secure a 7th place finish that would likely give us entry into the UEFA Europa Money Spinning But Not Like The Champions League League.

8. Tears Of Rage

Apropos of not very much at all, but Scott Parker got really angry as Cole was being sent off and his shaven head could be seen screaming at Michael Brown immediately after.

The news here is not that Michael Brown is a tosspot, or that Parker gets angry, but more that Parker now has a shaven head rather than the sensible side parting he has been boasting for the last few months.

9. You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

A word then for Zola and Clarke who continue to mastermind our ascent up the league despite a playing squad that has gotten smaller with each passing week. The goal scored in this game was a timely reminder of the different way that we are now playing under the new management team, and the aforementioned boy scout bench was a timely reminder of the different way in which they are now being asked to operate.

I have no idea what will happen at Chelsea this summer or if Guus Hiddink will find a way to double his roubles, but it would seem safe to say that should we continue in the same vein then it won't be long before someone comes calling for Zola and Clarke.

With the prospect of a new owner on the horizon and the Sheffield United case now apparently resolved, these are potentially exciting times ahead. Which usually means only bad things for us...

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