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

Friday, November 27, 2009

West Ham United vs Burnley FC: Match Preview - 28/11/2009

1. Who Has The Key To Devon’s Loch?

Like the aforementioned steed, in recent outings we have been comfortably ahead, a decent buffer between ourselves and our rivals, only to flounder of our own accord, our limbs splayed to each point of the compass like an all too willing harlot.

Last week’s draw against Hull marked the fifth time this season that we have taken the lead in a game only to fail to go on and win it, the other examples being tottenham, Bolton in the League Cup, Fulham and Sunderland.

Perhaps more galling was that after taking a 2-0 lead with barely ten minutes on the clock, we found ourselves 3-2 down by halftime. To Hull.

Having equalised, to then fail to claim a winner against the 10-men of Hull City (Hull City, by Jehovah!) did nothing to inspire confidence in anything other than another drab tale of survival to add to our catalogue of underperformance.

We even had two gilt-edged chances to win it at the death – a gift of a header from Junior Stanislas, preceded by a weak effort by what appeared to be the spectral embodiment of the fabled Inter Milan midfielder, Luis Jiminez.

However, these gilded opportunities will merely serve as sour footnotes to what constitutes a distasteful hors d’oeuvre to the 2009-’10 campaign.

2. Opposition

As legions of St. Bernard’s scour Mount Krispy Kreme looking for HeadHammer Shark, their kegs brimming with hot fudge, it falls to me to shed light upon the next stage in our lacklustre slog towards 15th place.

Burnley pay us a visit this weekend, on the back of some significant results and three months into a solid start to their inaugural Premier League campaign.

The Lancastrians have done an admirable job of picking up a steady stream of points this season. Whilst being on the wrong end of a few thumpings early on, these have been punctuated by notable wins against the likes of Manchester United, Everton and Sunderland.

Burnley have also succeeded in picking up points versus those teams against whom they may well be competing for Premiership survival come May, defeating as they have Hull City and Birmingham.

Last season’s Championship players have largely made the transition to the Premier League, with defenders Stephen Caldwell and Andre Bikey particularly impressive. Our own Tyrone Mears less so.

Not being the pushover we perhaps expected pre-season, The Clarets arrive at Upton Park on the back of two solid results, a 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa and a 3-3 thriller away to Manchester City.

Although, the latter was largely due to some defending from Wayne Bridge that Rigobert Song would have been ashamed of. Or proud of – I can’t quite figure that one out.

Anyway, retribution was swift as this performance saw Bridge jettisoned from my fantasy football team quicker than you can say ‘Jordan’s kids should be taken into care’.

3. History

On the four occasions that we’ve played Burnley since 1980, we have recorded two wins and two draws, one of each home and away.

Our last encounter at the Boleyn Ground was back in August 2004 and ended in a 1-0 win courtesy of an edge-of-the-box belter from midfield cannon fodder, Adam Nowland - now plying his trade at Northern Premier League Division One North side, AFC Fylde.

4. General Franco

One positive taken from last week was the performance of this season’s elder statesman, Guillermo Franco.

Despite sharing the name of a 20th-century European dictator (something which endears him greatly to The H List) and resembling Justine Henin on more steroids than she is generally accustomed to, Franco succeeded in scoring our first and setting up our second.

In the absence of Alessandro Diamanti, the Mexican international took on more creative responsibility, as well as providing support for the returning Carlton Cole.

He provides a different threat from either the colossus Cole or the fleet-footed Hines and if he can go on to do what DiMichele or Tristan summarily failed in, and claim ten or more goals this season, combined with a fit and firing Cole, he could prove the difference this year and make a telling contribution.

5. Picture Book

Guillermo Franco celebrates taking Stefan Edberg to a second set tie-break

6. Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent?

In a marked contrast to last year, we have been scoring freely recently, but have suffered from the multitude of holes in our permeable defence remaining unplugged.

Last season’s bedrock has become this year’s brittle undercarriage, the quantity of goals leaked in just three months rendering the custom of defending as futile a gesture as ‘Celebrity Mum of the Year’.

The concession of four penalties this term and the twenty four goals conceded in our last ten games showcases a defensive rigidity akin to the French Army, and all of this approaching what will be a significant portion of our season.

Along with last week’s trip to Hull, our schedule between now and the New Year constitutes a crucial run of fixtures which will go a long way to shaping our campaign.

Important ties against the likes of Burnley, Birmingham, Bolton and Portsmouth are interspersed with visits to Old Trafford and White Hart Lane, as well as the courteous East End welcome always extended to Chelsea.

Another batch of favourable fixtures awaits us in the first two months of 2010, but should we emerge from that period with little to show for it, a place in the bottom half of the bottom half is the best we can hope for.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hull City vs West Ham United: Match Preview - 21/11/2009

1. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

This article marks something of an epoch for The H List, being published as it is from the southern hemisphere.

In a frankly ridiculous bid for increased market share, Headhammer Shark and I have taken the bewilderingly radical approach of posting one author to Australia and it was I who took one for the team, typing as I am in shorts, t-shirt and 30-degree heat.

I have an equally baffling theory that the resultant time difference gives me a better chance of uploading articles in a quasi-punctual fashion. Not difficult when we currently publish once every Mayan dynasty.

2. Opportunity Knocks

Back in mid-October, had I offered you five points from Arsenal, Sunderland, Villa and Everton would you have taken it?

From the first three games, definitely, despite the frustration of letting a two goal lead slip at The Stadium of Light. A wasteful loss to an under par Everton side, however, contributed to a sense of missed opportunity.

To take eight points from those tricky fixtures would have not only provided us with a tangible buffer to the relegation zone but, more importantly, really given the team what would have been a warranted boost of confidence.

As it is, I feel that any confidence accrued post-Villa took an appreciable knock after the Everton match – the kind of knock which could manifest itself against Hull, when the added momentum from a win against The Toffees would have stood us in fine stead for our trip up North.

3. Opposition

As I am positioned ‘Down Under’ in a land rife with opposites, I can almost persuade myself that Saturday’s visit to Hull City constitutes a top four clash, but of course it doesn’t. It’s a tooth and nail, bare-knuckle fistfight of a fixture.

Occupying two of the bottom four league positions, taking three points from this match is a must for both teams.

Natural Selection and all laws of nature suggest that it is us who should emerge victorious from this squalid affair, but being West Ham we will obviously do everything in our power to subvert the accepted wisdom of Evolution by preaching Creationist dogma from atop the 3-million year old fossilised remnants of Jimmy Bullard’s knees.

Hull City are a bad team. You don’t need me to tell you that, it’s more than apparent each week. Last season’s survival was wholly due to a remarkable early season run, something they have been incapable of this year.

A chronic case of Second Season Syndrome has gripped the KC Stadium and they are ill-equipped to deal with it. The opportunity to bolster in the January transfer window will do them little good if manager Phil Brown is still holding the purse strings, although it may present us with the chance to offload Nigel Quashie for £27million.

A 2-1 home win against Stoke City last time out postponed the Chairman’s axe from slicing into Phil Brown’s bronzed neck. It would be sweet to nudge the self-regarding Brown a step closer to the exit.

4. Picture Book

'Oi, Phil! What's your position on the concept of humility?'

5. History

Last season we managed to escape from Hull with just the 1-0 defeat, coming as it did in the midst of Zola’s early shaky run courtesy of a header from the now £12million-rated defender (UNBELIEVEABLE), Michael Turner.

Cole and Ilunga both missed great chances in the first half and Carlton also rattled the bar at 1-0 down. It was a familiar tale of creating more gilt-edged chances than a lesser team, who inevitably get the winner with their sole attempt.

The match was also notable for the fact that Marlon King took time out from beating women to make an appearance.

This season’s early shaky run may be at an end, although the jury’s still out. Saturday is a crunch test in that regard.

6. Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!

Is your team full of underachieving egomaniacs about to crash out of World Cup qualification? Just use these.

7. Cole-Fired

It came as a surprise to no-one that the absence of Carlton Cole against Everton and for the majority of the Villa game shone a retina-searing light on our dearth of potent attacking options.

Young Zavon Hines did remarkably well against Villa, poaching as he did the injury-time winner. He was however as wasteful as lottery-winning chav in the Everton match, and alongside Guillermo Franco forms a front line with zero physical presence.

Franco looks a more accomplished player than David DiMichele, with a sound touch and composure when in possession. However, at this early stage I may as well have drawn the comparison that Hitler slaughtered slightly less people than Stalin.

Cole’s remarkable early season form has inevitably attracted the attention of some of the big guns, with Liverpool and Manchester United sniffing around our nubian prince. He has emerged as a player that three of the traditional Big Four are craving.

The Club have again insisted that our star performers are not for sale and that our finances are not so precarious that we are unable to resist a £20million+ offer. We all know that to sell Cole constitutes Premiership suicide and any income gained will be swiftly negated by the absence of the TV money guaranteed by survival.

He is a solid incarnation of the shadow of a player he once threatened to be, and while I was always an admirer of his endeavour, the addition of a killer instinct, tenacity, close control and Optimus Prime-esque strength has slowly led me to fall in love with him.

If that assertion doesn’t cause him to move on come January, then we should be able to hang onto him ‘til the summer.

8. Phil Clown

Sometimes people come into our lives at just the right time. Serendipity, kismet, karma... Call it what you will, but very occasionally The Fates conspire to provide us with a tonic when the prognosis looks bleak.

Mercifully, the austere prospect of writing an upbeat preview for a trip to Hull is assuaged by their unequivocal buffoon of a manager.

When he’s not giving halftime teamtalks on the pitch, leading the masses in a televised singsong as if he were Sir Cliff at Wimbledon, or conducting a live TV interview sat in front of a self-portrait big enough to make Chairman Mao blush, Phil Brown is busy taping radio mics to his face.

How can I add anything to make him look anymore stupid?

When invited onto a live Sunday morning chat show, what kind of a man’s thought processes constitute:

‘Right, what to wear.... Blue pinstripes, pink sweater. Risqué? Tell you what, I’ll deflect any abject shame by slinging said jumper casually over the shoulders.’

The most nauseating thing is you know that he was in the mirror for a good hour, bellowing fashion stratagems downstairs to Mrs. Brown as she whisked up the Aunt Bessie’s pudding batter.

Sorry, Phil. You’re not nibbling on a delicate brioche on the Champs Elysees, sipping an espresso and sifting through Le Monde.

You’re in Hull.