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

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The H List - End Of Year Ramblings (Part 4)

I forgot Freddie Sears! Which is easily done.

Freddie Sears : Appearances - 7 (15)


Rating : 4/10

Best Performance : Middlesbrough (a)

The Manager

In our brave, new, post Curbishley world it is fair to say that most were fairly underwhelmed by the prospect of an untried, untested Italian at the helm. I never personally cared that he was ex-Chelsea, as the policy of employing former West Ham men had yielded nothing worth shouting about for some time, but that was also widely held against Gianfranco Zola as he began his tenure at Upton Park.

After an early spark, however, the fears seemed to be well founded. The team were looking good, admittedly, but the results were seemingly based on those of the Labour Party. We mustered just 1 win in 12 between October 5th and Boxing Day, and sat forlornly in the bottom 4 with only tottenham's enduring shittiness for comfort.

The thing that most sticks out in my memory from this period is of Zola consistently hailing the players for playing in the right manner, with the right approach and with the necessary desire. At the time I questioned this, thinking that if the players were doing all of these things and still not winning then that might be telling you something about the quality of the players. As it transpired, Zola agreed - out went Mullins and Faubert and in came Collison and Noble. A tremendous draw at Chelsea was the turning point as we went on a run of just 1 loss in 10 games with the newer set up.

As the season stuttered to a halt, we were beset by injuries. This culminated in Zola deploying Lucas Neill in a central midfield role, which is an idea never before conceived of in either Heaven or Earth. And yet still we continued to pick up points.

By year end we had stumbled out of the Europa League, which is no great hardship, but crucially had the opportunity to further blood the likes of Stanislas and Tomkins whilst perhaps confirming that the likes of di Michele and Tristan are not going to be workable medium term solutions for us.

In summary, I cannot praise Zola enough for the work he has done this season. There has been a visible transformation in the way we play, whereby I am no longer stultifyingly bored after an hour of our games. He has injected confidence into the likes of Cole, Collison and Parker and established a sensible, well thought out framework for the way we wish to play. Certainly he has benefited from having Steve Clarke alongside him, but given that he was being solely blamed for our dismal October form, then so he should be feted at the end of a (relatively) triumphant season.

I still query the nature of our transfer policy, and worry greatly about the apparent disinterest in buying British players but those are issues for another time. For the moment, let us pay tribute to a manager who has reinvigorated the club in his first Premiership season. Let's hope he doesn't go the same way as the last bloke to do that...

Rating : 8/10

Best Performance : Chelsea (a)

The H List End of Year Awards

A slightly different format this year in so much as I'll just put my winners and losers up here and you can "all" vote in the comments section if you feel motivated to do so.

Player of the Year

Winner : Herita Ilunga

Also considered: Carlton Cole, Matthew Upson

This one wasn't even particularly close to my mind, and marks the third straight year of me giving it to the incumbent left back, which is, well...weird.

Ilunga was consistent, strong in attack and defence and managed a nice line in getting away with rather obvious handballs. Does look to have the potential to do a Sebastien Schemmel on us, but this award is about the season just gone and not the future. I am slightly mystified as to why Scott Parker won the official award given his rather hefty stints on the sidelines, but either way he doesn't get a look in here. He'll be devastated.

Performance of the Year (Team)

Winner: Chelsea (a)
Also considered: Portsmouth (a), Liverpool (a), Hull (h)

Perhaps not the most glamorous result, but a fine one none the less. We took the lead through Bellamy, coughed it up to Salomon Kalou of all people, and should have won it when Cole was clean through in the last minute.

This game also signalled the arrival of Collison and the death knell for the Faubert/Mullins/Bowyer types who had been trundling along at the bottom of the league.

Performance of the Year (Individual)

: Matthew Upson (Liverpool, a)
Also considered : Carlton Cole (Newcastle, h), Craig Bellamy (Portsmouth, a), Lucas Neill (Stoke, a)

A slightly left field choice perhaps, as it came in the midst of a splendid team performance but Upson was imperious at Anfield and found the sub Torresian Liverpool attack to be fairly inept. It was this rich vein of form that coincided with his elevation to the full England team and indeed may yet see him move on. I'm not actually sure it was better than Bellamy at Portsmouth, but I don't know if I can find it within myself to give awards to Bellamy, especially one this prestigious.

Best Goal

Winner: Carlton Cole (Wigan, a)
Also considered : Mark Noble (Blackburn, a), Jack Collison (Everton, h), Radoslav Kovac (Everton, a)

A fairly easy decision this, as Cole scored not only the best West Ham goal, but the best Premier League goal of the season. A deft one touch passing move involving 5 players saw him free just inside the box and his instinctive finish was one of a man in supreme form. He duly got himself sent off 8 minutes later, just to remind us all that we do still support West Ham after all.

Worst Player

Winner : David di Michele
Also considered : Freddie Sears, Luis Boa Morte, Julien Faubert

I am slightly torn about even having this category as my review of Boa Morte's season in Part 3 earned me some t'internet opprobrium. However, persist I have, and di Michele just snatches it away from Faubert by virtue of the fact that he played in many more games and therefore impacted upon our (mis)fortunes to a greater degree.

I will say this though. Compared to previous seasons, this category was not especially hotly contested.

Worst Team Performance

Winner : tottenham (h)
Also considered : Man City (a), West Brom (h), Hull (a)

Another category that has really cooled off in recent years. Under Redknapp and Roeder you were absolutely guaranteed a 5 goal whupping somewhere on the road, whereas nowadays we have to make do with the annual abject shitfest that is our home game with tottenham.

This year we managed to concede a goal to Ledley King, which is ridiculous, and one to Jamie O'Hara, which is impossible, whilst simultaneously making Huerelho Gomes look Not Appalling. I am very much ready for us to beat them now, Gianfranco.

Worst Individual Performance

Winner : Robert Green (Bolton, h)
Also considered : David di Michele (Liverpool, h), Julien Faubert (Liverpool, a)

It happens. A "3" on the Robinson-Gomes scale of appalling goalkeeping, crowned off by allowing Matthew Taylor to score from somewhere in Plaistow. Arguably no worse than either of the other two mentioned, but it was exacerbated by the fact that it cost us the game.

Best Opposition (Team)

Winner : Liverpool (h)

Also considered: Man Utd (a), Watford (a)

I was slightly perturbed to see that over the course of the season, and just judging performances against us, that this was not an easy award to make. In the end, Liverpool's uber comfortable 3-0 win at Upton Park was the best 90 minutes I saw this year, which may say more about our own improvement than anything else.

In theory Everton deserved greater consideration for their results, but if it's possible to unluckily lose 3-1 twice, then that's exactly what we did.

Best Opposition (Player)

Winner : Kevin Davies (Bolton, h)
Also considered: Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd, a), Vincent Kompany (Man City, a), Brad Friedel (Aston Villa, h)

Laugh, sure. Who wouldn't. But in terms of influencing games against us it's hard to ignore Davies and his magic elbows. I can't think of a player in the League who gets more out of less than Kevin Cyril Davies. I still strongly advocate buying him purely so he can never play against us.

Best Opposition Goal

Winner : Paul Konchesky (Fulham, h)
Also considered : Matthew Taylor (Bolton, h), Matthew Taylor (Bolton, a), Ryan Giggs (Man Utd, h)

Wallop. Never did it for us. Except once. Accidentally. In a Cup Final.

Worst Opposition Team (sponsored by Middlesbrough FC)

Winner : Stoke City
Also considered : Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Newcastle United

A real shame for the Boro as not only do they get relegated, but they summarily fail to cling on to their H List title. Despite a valiant effort on the last day of the season they simply could not top the whining, snarling, hoofing, abject dross that was Stoke City. So bad they started to beat each other up in the centre circle after we equalised.

A terrible, terrible football team.

The Michael Dawson Award for Worst Opposing Player

Winner : Michael Dawson (tottenham)
Also considered : Craig Gordon (Sunderland), Steven Taylor (Newcastle), Caicedo (Man City)

A truly sterling victory for Mike as he didn't even manage a game against us and still held on to his title, the useless lanky twat.

Elsewhere we have been linked with two of my other potential nominees. Marvellous.

Don't forget to leave your own votes below. I'll tally them up and post them at a later date when you will have no recollection of the events in question...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The H List - End Of Year Ramblings (Part 3)

Kyel Reid : Appearances - 0 (2), Goals - 1

I am sure that Kyel Reid is a tremendously nice human being who doesn't staple vagrants to horses, but as far as his football career goes, he is essentially a mollusc.

Perhaps his biggest defect is his inability to cross the ball, which despite afflicting every England left winger since John Barnes, is invariably not a positive attribute.

I can't believe he'll be with us next year, and thus I wish him all the best with his career in the lower leagues, and the countless occasions on which he is going to have to spell his first name out for others.

Rating : 5/10

Best Performance : Macclesfield (h)

Junior Stanislas : Appearances - 7 (2), Goals - 2, Bookings - 1

In the history of Jamaican-Lithuanian footballers I'd say Junior Stanislas is the best we've seen at the Boleyn. Of all the newly blooded youngsters this year it would definitely be young Junior who has made the biggest impact, even in spite of the weird decision to play him wide on the left.

Whether he'll be able to sustain that impact over a full season is debatable, but he's done enough to earn a decent shot at it. I'd still like to see him show a bit more composure in possession, and display the odd trick or two to enable him to get past a defender every now and again, but by Jove he inspires less lactic acid than Etherington or Boa Morte.

Rating : 6/10

Best Performance : Sunderland (h)


Dean Ashton : Appearances - 5, Goals - 2

Once upon a time Dean Ashton was really pretty good. He played in a Cup Final and terrorised Jamie Carragher, despite being (shockingly) half fit. He was then called into the England squad, where he managed to come off second best in a challenge with Shaun Wright Phillips which is impossible unless you are required to live in a plastic bubble or are 9 years old.

He was then operated on by Dr Nick Riviera who accidentally removed all bone from his ankle and replaced it with blancmange. Two years later we are still waiting to see if he's ever going to recover the form that once made him a feared proposition up and down the land.

Dean Ashton's surgeon is confident that he'll be back in action soon.

If Ashton returns then you would have to imagine that Zola would be a good manager for him, given his propensity for ball playing centre forwards, but I'm not going to be holding my breath waiting for it.

Scored more goals than Sears, Boa Morte, Dyer, Parker and Faubert combined, despite playing in only 5 games. Make of that what you will.

Rating : 6/10

Best Performance : Wigan (h)

Craig Bellamy : Appearances - 14 (3), Goals - 5, Bookings - 5

It really does seem like an awfully long time ago, but once upon a time we had Craig Bellamy playing for us. It was a typically brief affair, and ended as acrimoniously as is conceivably possible, but for a while there he was flourishing under Zola.

By the time we got to Portsmouth on Boxing Day, the Welshman was in flying form and duly ripped apart a home team who could scarcely believe their eyes as a West Ham side scored 4 away from home without the appearance of Biblical storms. In fairness to Bellamy his effort on the field can never be questioned, but it was an incredibly artless exit, even by his standards, the feckless idiot.

He'll spend a season at Man City until they buy a fitter, younger, better less Goblinish replacement, at which point he might well look back with a tinge of regret at this move. Unlikely, I'd agree, given the £100k a week wage packet but you never know.

Rating : 6/10

Best Performance : Portsmouth (a)

Carlton Cole : Appearances - 32 (2), Goals - 11, Bookings - 3, Sent Off - 2

If Bellamy's season was totally predictable then Cole's was the very antithesis as he bloomed from bacterial spore to a fully fledged red blood cell, integral to the health of the side.

Cole's resurgence actually began under Curbishley as he flourished in the lone frontman role, but the Zola/Clarke axis have added several new strings to the bow, culminating in Cole being called up for the England squad and generally looking a million miles removed from the player who arrived from Chelsea.

He scored the best goal of the Premier League season at Wigan, although it owed much to the pass from di Michele and therefore some sort of Faustian pact, but it was still ace none the less.

I still wonder if he can actually play with Ashton, but then I also wonder what would happen if you cross bred a raccoon with a shark, and each question has as much validity as the other.

Rating : 8/10

Best Performance : Newcastle (h)

David di Michele : Appearances - 25 (9), Goals - 4, Bookings - 5

Last year I asked a good friend of mine what it was he actually did for a living. His answer involved the International Maritime Organisation, boats, measuring stuff and ballast. I am still no closer to understanding what he does to earn a crust but that's ok, because we're friends and he explained enough about it for me to understand that there is a requirement for someone to do the job, even if I don't actually understand why.

I do not understand what David di Michele's job description is, nor do I understand why he has to do it.

He started brightly enough, with a double at home to Newcastle, although the lustre soon faded from that achievement as the Geordies proceeded to allow half the adult males in the nation to score against them during the rest of the season. Di Michele also turned in one virtuoso performance at home to Hull, but otherwise he was basically Paulo Wanchope without the goals.

Possibly the most frustrating player ever to turn out for us, and the list of people whom I would rather see bearing down on goal for a late one on one includes Dean Ashton, Carlton Cole, Freddie Sears, Dora the Explorer, Queen Elizabeth II and my 18 month old daughter. He is a shockingly, shockingly bad finisher.

So long, farewell, don't sign this guy again.

Rating : 4/10

Best Performance : Hull (h)

Zavon Hines : Appearances - 0 (1), Goals - 1

Came on against Macclesfield and scored. I have literally no other knowledge of Zavon Hines, although I'm willing to bet that if he ever scored a winning Premier League goal for us, it would inspire The Sun to use "He's Zavon A Laugh!" as their headline.

He is touted as a good striking prospect, and he did score a fair few goals this year for the reserves, but then again so did Freddie Sears at that level, and he went on to become an arachnid.

Weird name alright.

Rating : 6/10

Best Performance : Macclesfield (h)

Savio : Appearances - 1 (10), Bookings - 2

It is not every day that West Ham spend £9m so when we do it bears a bit of scrutiny. In actual fact, we probably didn't spend anywhere near that much up front on Savio, but it was certainly a good headline for the club, as the Board was busy trousering a quite substantial sum from the January fire sale.

It's hard to tell much about the German-Ugandan at this point, other than that he is fairly small and will need to bulk up a bit to survive any further trips to Bolton, but in general I am fairly well disposed towards a policy of buying young talent and developing them, rather than splurging millions on middle of the road ageing types a la Curbishley.

As such, I don't intend to expect too much from Savio until a couple of years down the road by which time I will expect him to be the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Rating : 5/10

Best Performance : Manchester City (h)

Diego Tristan : Appearances - 8 (9), Goals - 3

Once upon a time, in 2002, David Beckham broke his metatarsal in a match against Deportivo la Coruna, placing his participation at the World Cup in doubt. You may remember this because English people were expecting us to win that World Cup even though our team for the first game included Emile Heskey and (seriously) Darius Vassell.

Anyway, during the aforementioned match, Deportivo featured the most feared striker in Europe at the time. His name was (seriously) Diego Tristan.

Now of course, we were all a bit different in 2002. For instance I had a flat stomach, a functioning pair of knees and savings at that time. However, I look a model of success compared to Diego who has declined so far that he is now considered as a lesser force than (seriously) David di Michele.

I make no judgement on Tristan. We paid nothing for him and in the end he was good for 6 points against Stoke so we could argue that he fulfilled a purpose. I prefer him to di Michele. Mind you, I prefer Diego from Dora the Explorer to di Michele.

Shoot David di Michele.

Rating : 5/10

Best Performance : Stoke (a)

No Easily Discernible Position

Luis Boa Morte : Appearances - 17 (15), Bookings - 8

When I was 5 years old my father decided that the time was right for me to be exposed to the nonsensically over competitive world of Sunday morning football. He took me along to a training session at local club Gidea Park Rangers, and a football career was started. It transpired that playing for GPR was incredibly fortuitous as we went on to become one of the best youth sides in London and Essex, which was and remains the premier source of footballing talent in England(*). Indeed, with time GPR would produce an England captain in Tony Adams, but nobody realised this when I was playing there because Adams was just a drunk in the Arsenal reserves at that point.

Anyway, this is not to say that I was especially talented myself, but I played with a lot of guys who were. By the time we reached the under 14 age group the team had to be disbanded because every one of us had been signed up by a professional team, and consequently were being restricted in the amount we could play. Even the much vaunted Senrab were no match for our side at that time, although my GPR team produced only two professionals and one reality TV star so didn't achieve the same notoriety.

I was signed by Charlton where I played with Lee Bowyer and once marked future Everton "star" Michael Branch out of a game - an achievement that diminished quite a lot once Michael Branch began to be marked out of games by every other centre back in England. Although I was enjoying myself at Charlton, mainly because they gave us a Mars bar and a can of Coke after each session, they eventually dropped me. I signed on with Queens Park Rangers, where there was less Coke before eventually leaving the youth team ranks at the age of 15. I didn't cry - I wasn't good enough nor did I care enough.

I drifted around a bit then, playing a good standard of youth football until I reached 18, at which point I just played for mates teams. I enjoyed the camaraderie of the dressing room, and the opportunity to still convince myself that I could have made it if I only had a slightly different genetic make up, and weighed less. Sadly at 25, I ruptured my right cruciate ligament whilst performing a typically balletic Cruyff turn and missed 2 years of football. I would later return but the knee couldn't hold up, and by this time I had more daughters than a man could rightfully expect to father in a 3 year period. At 29 I retired, and somewhere a bugler played a mournful lament for the end of a heroically moderate career.

Why do I tell you this? Today, right now, with my knackered knee and spare tyre, and the fitness level of asthmatic sloth - I am a better footballer than Luis Boa Morte.

Rating : 4/10

Best Performance : Sunderland (h)

(*) Contrary to the nonsense spouted by Geordies there are very few footballers produced in the North East. The only notable one in recent times is Michael Carrick who came through the West Ham academy and therefore doesn't count anyway.

P.S: Part 4 will focus on the Manager and give you the chance to vote in the never popular H List End of Year Awards. Bet you can't wait ...

Friday, June 05, 2009

The H List - End Of Year Ramblings (Part 2)


Valon Behrami : Appearances - 27, Goals - 2, Bookings - 5

When I heard that we had signed Valon Behrami I just shrugged in that uber cool, but still quite attractive, way that I do. "So what?" I wondered. And for the first few games my insouciance seemed reasonable as Behrami ran around a lot but failed to have any tangible impression on anything.

Then, one winning goal at Sunderland later, he was off and by the time he got injured in our 1-0 win over Man City in March he had established himself as our indisputable Player of the Season Except for Injury.

One hopes that he is able to return in the same condition as he left - although with our elite medical staff it is entirely possible that he could return minus a limb - as we will depend on him greatly again next year.

Lovely highlights too. One for the lay-deez.

Rating : 7/10

Best Performance : Chelsea (a)

Lee Bowyer : Appearances - 5 (2), Goals - 1, Bookings - 1

It takes some doing to be a total fucking waste of space not once but twice in your career. This is Bowyer's second spell with us, and the second time that I have decided he is simply not worth the hassle and the bad press.

In some ways he actually seems like a Zola player, as his game revolved around passing and (increasingly slow) movement. However, after a series of decreasingly effective performances before Christmas he was thanked for his hard work and banished to Birmingham where the fans really didn't like him.

Now out of contract I suspect he will drop down the divisions and score 3 goals in 26 appearances for Cardiff. But I can't be sure.

Rating : 5/10

Best Performance : Sunderland (a)

Jack Collison : Appearances - 19 (4), Goals - 3, Bookings - 2

In a season where several players took great strides forward, it is hard to think of anyone who progressed further than Welshman Collison. Hailing from the heartland of the Principality (Watford), he first appeared as a half time sub at Old Trafford and thereafter became an integral part of the team quicker than you could say "Bye Bye Matty".

Playing out of position on the left, he is often compared to Michael Carrick, although I think he's probably closer to Lampard, sans the spare tyre, at the same age, in the eyes of this untrained observer. Either way, he has blossomed under Zola like no other, and with a pre season behind him could well be our most important player next season.

Also wins "Most Painful Injury of the Season" award after dislocating his knee at Wigan. Shit, I wince just typing that out.

Rating : 7/10

Best Performance : Portsmouth (a)

Kieron Dyer : Appearances - 1 (7)

He lives! On one hand it's hard to imagine exactly how one solitary man can get so very many injuries without being a cage fighter. On the other hand this is the medical staff that failed to diagnose that Freddie Ljungberg had a broken hip when he played for us, so perhaps he should be congratulated for still having all his toes.

I am still enamoured about the idea of Kieron Dyer. Once upon a time he was really quite good, but I rather suspect those days are long behind. Whether he can ever recapture some of that form or fitness is debatable, but any attempt would be greatly appreciated.

I actually rather like the idea of Dyer as a late impact substitute when his pace could stretch tiring defences. Mind you - £6m for a supersub is a bit bloody pricey.

Rating : 5/10

Best Performance : Aston Villa (a)

Matthew Etherington : Appearances - 9 (6), Goals - 2

Here's a weird fact - Matthew Etherington didn't pick up a booking whilst with us, primarily because he does not tackle or run backwards. After moving to Mordor and playing 14 times for Stoke he has now managed 3 yellows and a red card.

In some ways, I was sad to see Etherington go, possibly because he was the last real link to that famous first season in the Premiership under Pardew. Truthfully however he had been coasting here for a while and did not appear to have the requisite technical ability to play in Zola's new fangled fashion.

I wonder if we ever got those gambling debts back. Turns out we could have used the money.

Rating : 4/10

Best Performance : Fulham (a)

Julien Faubert : Appearances - 19 (5), Bookings - 3

Of the West Ham players most likely to be loaned to Real Madrid I would have had Julien Faubert behind Vic Watson, who died in 1988, aged 90.

The fact that we paid £6.7m for Faubert rather boggles the mind when you consider that other than Bellamy and Ashton we had never before shelled out that much on a player. In light of this may I strongly suggest that you do not allow Alan Curbishley to have any input into to your future investment decisions.

Apparently smokes 20 a day, which suggests to me that his "TGV" nickname might well have been the first recorded instance of the French being "ironic".

Rating : 3/10

Best Performance : Sunderland (a)

Radoslav Kovac : Appearances - 9 (1), Goals - 1, Bookings - 2

When we first signed Kovac from Spartak Moscow it didn't seem immediately obvious to anyone what exactly he was going to be doing that Hayden Mullins couldn't. Of course, I'm an admitted Mullins fan, but Kovac's 5 yard passing range didn't overly excite me I must confess.

As he was having trouble fitting in with the rest of the lads, Kovac then got himself suspended from the Czech national squad over an incident involving late night drinking and prostitutes. Respect now earned, he began to settle into our midfield and he even slipped in a marvellous 35 yard thunderbolt at Everton that Hayden Mullins could not have scored if he sold his soul to Victoria Beckham.

I would not object to Kovac signing as a squad player for a reasonable fee, although anything over £1.5m would strike me as excessive, particularly given our current bank balance of £12.91.

Rating : 6/10

Best Performance : Wigan (a)

Hayden Mullins : Appearances - 8 (13), Goals - 1, Bookings - 2

I'll admit there was a tear in my eye when I heard we had accepted a bid from Portsmouth for our erstwhile midfield whateverhewas. Mullins was a H List favourite even though it was his presence that initially forced us to give up on the useless Javier Mascherano - although I blame that decision on Alan Pardew's loins and not Hayden Mullins.

In the event of Curbishley going, he was always unlikely to play in a Zola team ahead of Parker and Noble, but was a very handy squad player to have around. In fairness to the club they did not object to him wanting to play more regularly and thus moved him on for the presumably cheaper Kovac.

Scored a tremendous goal at Middlesbrough that unfortunately took a deflection on the way rendering it not quite as good as it could have been. An apt summary of Mullins if ever there was one.

Rating : 6/10

Best Performance : Liverpool (a)

Mark Noble : Appearances - 33 (1), Goals - 5, Bookings - 8, Sent Off - 1

It's hard to think of a player who divides opinion more than Noble, the Marmite of the West Ham midfield. Prevailing opinion seems to be that because he is a local lad he deserves a break when he doesn't perform so well, whilst the alternative view is that because he is a local lad he should be flogged on the steps of East Ham town hall for a misplaced pass.

Of course, the answer lies somewhere in between (he should be flogged in Plaistow), but I would certainly like to see an upturn in his form over the next year, especially under Zola's tutelage.

To give some balance, I should point out that he scored a goal at Blackburn of tremendous quality. Had it been scored by Steven Gerrard we would have seen Alan Hansen smear himself in goose fat live on Match of the Day in sheer pleasure.

Rating : 6/10

Best Performance : Blackburn (a)

Scott Parker : Appearances - 31 (1), Goals - 1, Bookings - 8

Although Parker may have won the mass vote for Hammer of the Year, as Carlos Tevez knows only too well, that doesn't cut any ice with me. I initially thought that Parker must have one leg shorter than the other, given his ridiculous propensity for wheeling around in circles, but over the course of this season he emerged as a major player for us.

It was his energy and drive that really propelled us through our strong January run, and by the end of the season we were noticeably sagging in his absence. Of course, this could have been alleviated if he had a recovery time of less than 8 weeks for absolutely any injury, which seems to currently be the case, but given our medical team let's just be glad he is still alive.

Should probably be in the England squad but I shall not complain about that as we all know that nothing good can ever come of a West Ham player turning out for England.

Rating : 7/10

Best Performance : Bolton (a)

Josh Payne : Appearances - 0 (2)

Josh Payne's total West Ham experience amounts to 11 minutes in total. Curiously this is exactly the number of stepovers he managed in one particular swerving run against Liverpool.

Somewhere Dale Gordon is sitting in his bathrobe, stroking a purring cat.

Rating : 5/10

Best Performance : Really, really not applicable

P.S: The other day I was woken at 5am by my daughter for her early feed. As I was downstairs making up her bottle I got a TEXT from Mrs Shark asking me to bring her up a glass of water. This is what I am up against, people - so you'll get Part 3 when I'm good and ready. (Maybe tomorrow though, as Holby City is on tonight)...

Monday, June 01, 2009

The H List - End Of Year Ramblings (Part 1)

And so another season disappears into the ether, as we are all left to ponder exactly why David di Michele is paid to pay football. But for your hard working bloggers at The H List, I am afraid that there is little chance for us to put our feet up as our tens of readers demand some sort of year end review, on top of the bi monthly match reports.

And thus, without further ado, we bring you our vaunted player reports for the 2008/09 season:


Robert Green : Appearances - 43

Green began the season with a "life changing" trek up Kilimanjaro and a visit to the slums of Kenya. No longer would he be "chasing the extra fiver" he declared, but instead he would be a tremendous human being and an all round good egg. This lasted all of two weeks before he was splashed across the red tops demanding a raise and pay parity with our top earners. I didn't object to the (valid) point, but the hypocrisy got to me a little. Which I think will wound Robert somewhere deep inside.

In fairness his on pitch form was once again exemplary, and apart from the Bolton debacle he was solid as the proverbial rock all season. Indeed, he should get a chance with England shortly if there is any justice. Which there isn't. So he will instead get to watch one of Paul Robinson, Scott Carson, Ben Foster, Cheryl Baker or Makka Pakka do it instead.

Didn't keep a clean sheet until November 15th, but thereafter managed an impressive 12. Would have benefited from a living breathing back four in the early parts of the season.

Best Performance: Arsenal (a)

Rating: 7/10

Jan Lastuvka : Appearances - 1

Seriously, I don't know what you want me to say. Played once, away at Watford where he made an error for their goal. Thereafter, was never seen again, quite possibly because he was eaten by Lucas Neill, or because he took a wrong turn and wandered up Gareth Southgate's nose, or because Scott Duxbury sold him for scrap during our non fire sale fire sale in January.

Seems unlikely to return as he's on loan and didn't actually do anything whilst here, but what do I know. I thought Calum Davenport was a good buy.

Best Performance: Watford (a) (by default, cos he was quite shit)

Rating: 3/10


Lucas Neill : Appearances - 37, Goals - 1, Bookings -8

As I write this it seems that our captain is unlikely to return next year now that his £150,000 a day (Source: The Daily Mail) contract has expired. I, for one, will miss him if he does depart, as he has been a much undervalued player during his stint here. Began the year at left back, which was Curbishley's last cruel joke before leaving, and had a spell at centre back too when Zola went a bit mad before Christmas.

By season's end, however, he was playing somewhat excellently at right back, and looking rather more like the player who did so much to keep us up in 2007. He also made some cameo appearances in central midfield which was a decision that erred on the adventurous side of mental.

Managed a goal at West Brom, which isn't really remarkable for a professional footballer, but certainly is for a West Ham player.

Best Performance: Stoke City (a)

Rating : 6/10

Jonathan Spector : Appearances - 4 (5), Bookings - 1

Our resident American was injured for most of this year, largely as a result of our crack medical squad attempting to fix his injured hip using only office stationary and post it notes. When he did return he almost immediately got knocked unconscious in an aerial collision, although this did at least have the side effect of shaming Kieron Dyer into returning from his broken haircut injury.

In truth, if the Club persist with the idea of a small playing squad supplemented by various competition winners, squirrels and holograms then Spector is exactly the kind of player that we need given his pseudo versatility. Whether he has the requisite technical ability to play as Zola would like is questionable, but anyone who tries as hard as he does gets my support.

Best Performance: Blackburn (a)

Rating: 5/10

George McCartney : Appearances 1 (1)

It's pretty hard to recall, but the winner of the Not At All Coveted H List Player of the Year for the last two seasons did actually turn out for us this season. Sadly, he was promptly sold to Sunderland against his wishes (is there any other kind of sale to Sunderland?), and Curbishley resigned in furious protest. Or so the story goes.

At the time he was much lamented given his impeccable form of the previous two years, but in the event Ilunga was so good as his replacement that we barely missed a beat.

I shall miss him, if only for the Lennon/McCartney vibe that we used to get in games against tottenham.

Best Performance : Macclesfield (h)

Rating : 5/10

Herita Ilunga : Appearances - 39, Goals - 2, Bookings - 3

My fellow blogger, and sometimes marauding left back was the surprise hit of the season at The Boleyn. Immediately settled in by allowing West Brom score against us 4 minutes into his debut, but bounced back well and by the time we were challenging for the Europa League he was an integral part of our back 4.

Ilunga is slightly curious in that he doesn't appear to have a great deal of pace, but does tend to cover a lot of ground, and gets much further forward than Neill on the opposite flank. At the same time, he rarely gets exposed defensively, and has done a credible job against the best wingers in the division, and Aaron Lennon.

My concern, and it's a big one people, is that he's going to be the new Sebastien Schemmel and now that he is here permanently, will eat and drink his way out of the first team. Proceed with caution.

Best Performance : Bolton (h)

Rating : 8/10

Matthew Upson : Appearances - 41, Bookings - 2

Another remarkably consistent season from Upson, who once more exceeded expectations in terms of his fitness, and was rewarded for his continued excellence with a call up to the England squad. This was before they called up Gary Cahill and therefore still counted as an honour at that point.

Never the flashiest of operators, he was simply a model of professionalism all year, and his positive impact on James Tomkins was an additional boost. At this point my main hope is that he agrees to sign a new contract rather than dashing off to Villa or Man City, although given the likely hike in wages I doubt many would blame him for doing so.

I am still unable to determine if he is left or right footed. I am also unable to determine if this is a good or bad thing.

Best Performance : Liverpool (a)

Rating : 7/10

James Collins : Appearances - 20 (1), Bookings - 4

A frustrating season for the big Welshman, who endured a number of setbacks as he attempted to return from a bad ACL injury. Having had my own glittering career struck down by this particular knock I can sympathise with the amount of effort that will have gone into regaining his place, only to suffer a succession of niggling injuries that hampered his year.

When he did play it was business as usual. Solid and dependable against lower/mid table types, and prone to being slaughtered by elite forwards (Berbatov at Old Trafford springs glaringly to mind). He still distributes the ball with all the accuracy of a government economic forecast, but he does try exceptionally hard.

Put in a contender for individual performance of the season at Sunderland as he single handedly repelled Djibril Cisse and his ridiculous barnet.

Best Performance : Sunderland (a)

Rating : 5/10

James Tomkins : Appearances 14 (1), Goals - 1, Sent Off - 1

Friends, I have seen the future and thy name is Tomkins. The callow, willowy youth of last year is gone, and in his place is a genuine bona fide Premier League centre half. In fact, I would go so far as to say that James Collins may struggle to regain his place next year as Tomkins possesses better technique, pace and hair for the Premier League battles ahead.

Will be on international duty this summer, where I pray that he learns absolutely nothing from Steven Taylor, and spends no time eating with the coagulating fat mass that is Tom Huddlestone.

Somewhat sadly, it is his development that will eventually allow the Club to move on Upson, which is kind of a good business model and kind of a kick in the teeth. C'est la vie.

Best Performance : Stoke (a)

Rating : 7/10

Calum Davenport : Appearances - 8, Goals - 1, Bookings - 1, Major Strops - 1

Ah Calum, we hardly knew ye. Davenport began the year in the side and didn't perform too badly at all. Always a classy enough footballer, his big problem tended to be that he couldn't cope all that well with speedy forwards or strong winds, which often snapped him in half, such is his gangliness.

After a towering display in our 1-1 draw at Chelsea he threw a Mariah Careyian hissy fit when he was dropped for the home match with Stoke, as Zola decided that he needed someone a bit less namby pamby to cope with the visitors marauding Orc hordes.

Subsequently joined the exodus to Sunderland where he once more got to experience the joy of a relegation battle and trying to understand what on earth Anton Ferdinand thinks about. Seems unlikely to return either to the Boleyn or to Wearside but might well have a career as the bottom half of the giant doctor from Scrubs.

Best Performance : Chelsea (a)

Rating : 5/10

Walter Lopez : Appearances -1 (5)

The best Uruguayan we've ever had. Managed one whole game against Watford in the League Cup and 5 substitute appearances that totalled 20 minutes, in the League. I think it's safe to say that Zola does not see him as a game changer.

If I'm totally honest, my biggest query about Lopez is not really football related, but I am intrigued as to exactly why the name "Walter" is so popular in South America.

Could still be with us next year, or he could alternatively devote his life to resolving the issue of how best to slice mushrooms for optimum taste.

Best Performance : Watford (a)

Rating : 4/10