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, December 18, 2009

West Ham United vs Chelsea: Match Preview - 19/12/2009

1. Help Us, Obi-Wan Kenobi... You’re Our Only Hope...

I fear that even the unquestionable ability of a learned Jedi Knight, albeit a dead one, can not save us from our current predicament.

Well, Tuesday night was fun, wasn’t it? Another toothless, faltering performance, punctuated with costly errors, firmly embedding us within the relegation morass.

I was tempted to write this preview directly after that game, but I think even the porn-riddled internet would have been offended by some of the language I had lined up.

There’s no point in me raking over the coals in a vain attempt to conjure any warmth, as there is none.

2. Make Mine A Bitter

Having said that, there is one thing I can’t bring myself to overlook.

Bolton’s first goal stemmed precisely from a passage of the directionless midfield/defensive passing that has become our hallmark.

Gabbidon to Parker, to Tomkins, to Parker, to Kovac, to Gabbidon, to Ilunga, to Gabbidon, to Ilunga, to Kovac, to Parker, to Tomkins and on and on and on and on....

...until a pass goes astray, we’re all on the back foot and a footballing team with the panache of Bolton Wanderers slices us open.

Possession, you might say.

Possession is, of course, fundamental and all well and good if ultimately fruitful, but during this sorry episode, we didn’t even get out of our own half.

3. Opposition

Not that I can see us beating any team in the league this weekend, but the arrival of Chelsea to Upton Park on Sunday afternoon provokes a particularly uneasy wince.

Top of the League, blessed with an outrageous squad, money to burn, west London – they are literally the mirror opposite to ourselves and I fully expect them to batter us.

If he plays, just imagine what the ruthless Didier Drogba will do to wet-behind-the-ears James Tomkins...

Even cheap Lampard gags are futile and reek of a pathetic desperation, a churlish bid to embolden ourselves by slagging off an ex-player who would improve our own midfield no end.

4. Then Again...

'Come 'ere, you..... You're beautiful.'

5. History

If you look through the history books at our overall record against Chelsea since 1915, we fare well having registered 24 more goals and four more wins.

This record has of course been eroded significantly since Chelsea became a clandestine beneficiary of the suspect Russian oil and aluminium industries.

Salomon Kalou’s volley was enough to earn Chelsea a 1-0 win in this fixture last season, and while a weakened Chelsea were the better side, we had good chances.

Kieron I’m about to die-Er (a snip at £400,000 per game) shot tamely at Petr Cech from a great position and Diego Tristan’s flicked header was cleared off the line.

Our best chance, however, fell to Mark Noble after Ilunga was felled in the penalty area and awarded a spot-kick. Noble didn’t so much mess up as produce a fine save from Cech, and the game was lost.

6. Showing The Strain

As I’m sure you understand, I’ve lost all enthusiasm for writing about our prospects and so will cut this short.

Steve Clarke’s affected stance that Sunday represents “a great game for us”, does nothing for me, and I can only presume that the long-absent, arch-pessimist Headhammer Shark has hung himself.

7. Rage Against The Dying Of The Light

And now to an unrelated rant, I'm afraid.

For a little over three years now, at least four of the eight of you have grudgingly weathered this blog, its cheap gags, naive optimism and/or arduous cynicism – and all at no cost!

With that in mind and in the season of giving, there is currently a campaign in the UK to oust Simon Cowell and his cabal of saccharine, Satan-worshipping evil-doers from their mainstream media perch.

A commendable effort has been made to deny Cowell and his latest pre-pubescent, characterless mannequin of bland, parasitic, undistinguished, pox-ridden mediocrity the Christmas Number 1 single for the fifth year running.

The proposed alternative is Rage Against The Machine’s classic angst-ridden, expletive strewn, early-90’s ditty, ‘Killing In The Name’. A veritable panacea for X-Factor, Britain's Full Of Talentless Freaks and Cowell's omnipresent parade of the deluded.

Cowell has declared the emergence of valid competition as little more than a puerile witch-hunt, the collateral damage of which may tarnish the porcelain complexion of his latest doe-eyed paramour, to which I say, 'Fuck off'.

You can purchase a copy for a paltry 65p by clicking here, which I have done despite owning the album. I’m just that wealthy.

I urge you all to contribute, not least because a percentage of the proceeds will go to a variety of charities, but that it’s little victories such as these that we must cling to, to sustain us through the bleak, joyless months ahead to which all Hammers fans are surely condemned.

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bolton Wanderers vs West Ham United: Match Preview - 15/12/2009

1. As I Walk Through The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death...

This is going to be horrific. A Tuesday night visit to Bolton in the cold and rain, to see two purveyors of dross thrashing it out in what is clearly already a relegation encounter.

It’s likely to be as pretty as Andrew Lloyd Webber and you’re liable to need a shot of adrenaline directly into the heart to keep you awake, but for all its foul stench, the importance of this game is beyond dispute.

2. Opposition

Bolton Wanderers are the Antichrist. They are rivalled only by Rasputin, Machiavelli and ex-player El-Hadj Diouf as to how low they will stoop to gain an advantage.

Be that as it may, they will be on something of a high having held moneybags Man City to a 3-3 draw at the weekend. Thrice leading, it was only Pope Tevez who restored the aesthetic equilibrium by twice drawing Man City level.

This was an important result, coming as it did on the back of defeats to relegation rivals Wolves and Blackburn, as well as losses to Villa and Chelsea, punctuated only by a draw against Fulham.

Bolton’s sometimes effective, yet never attractive style is embodied by the giant elbow that is Kevin ‘The Giant Elbow’ Davies. For all his elbows, or more accurately because of them, Davies often causes problems for the more delicate defenders, and equally often scores against us.

His lumbering approach belies his scoring record and he must always look forward to playing West Ham as he invariably cites this fixture whenever his contract is up for renewal.

Goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen and midfielder Matthew Taylor are the only other players of note. The fact that nonentity Gavin McCann misses this game through injury is neither of significance nor of interest to anyone outside Gavin McCann, Mrs McCann and their drab, inoffensive, negligible brood of nothingness.

3. Hubble Bubble Toil And Trouble

Bolton’s deficiencies are often negated by their willingness to chase, harry and elbow, and that is bound to be their strategy tonight.

Classy opposition are often able to bide their time, patiently retain possession and probe away until an opportunity presents itself. We are not classy opposition and will therefore need to match Bolton for both physicality and work-rate.

Rob Green has called for ‘grit’ in a bid to turn things around, and part of me would rather see a 2-1 win and a couple of Bolton players in hospital than a graceful 3-0 waltz to victory.

This is one of few chances to accrue any points before the New Year, with Chelsea and tottenham in prospect (Portsmouth the meat in that unsavoury sandwich), so by any means must we claim an unmemorable triumph.

4. History

Not since that bloke left Indiana Jones hanging by a vine in the opening sequence of ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark’, has the pallor of shame hung so visibly across a noble endeavour.

Our record against Bolton is so revolting, so filthy, so immoral that I am forced to type this section on the other side of a Perspex screen, to protect the laptop from the torrent of puke bursting from my mouth.

Make sure you’re near a sink:

We have beaten Bolton just three times in our last fifteen attempts.

Worse still, away from home we have taken a solitary point from a possible thirty.

That’s one draw and nine losses in ten visits.


Our last encounter at the Reebok Stadium was in the Carling Cup earlier this season, where Herita Ilunga’s opener was but a precursor to an extra-time 3-1 defeat. I’m not sure what’s more shameful, the final score or the fact that the home support mustered an attendance of just 8,050.

Yes, the prospect of playing West Ham may not be the biggest crowd-puller, but I’ve seen more people queuing for the checkouts in Lidl.

And yes, there may be little nobility in stealing a precious memento from the home of an indigenous, unsophisticated people in order to satisfy the whims of a more enlightened race, but that is just one of the many parallels between Indiana Jones and tonight’s game.

5. I Want A Good, Clean Fight

Over the last eighteen months transfer windows have been something to avoid as a West Ham fan. Rather than an opportunity to strengthen, they have more closely resembled the grisly final moments of a one-sided boxing match.

We get clubbed with a ferocious right-cross in the closing stages of every bout, the legs go, the eyes glaze over and all those in the corner of the vanquished pray, ‘keep your guard up, grab him, hold on, stay out of trouble ‘til the bell...’

As ever, the best we can hope for is the most corrupt of split decisions, just the one detached retina and no lasting cerebral damage.

6. Transfer Rumours

Our potential losses are of far greater concern than any token recruits.

Remember the time not too long ago when we were being linked with players, instead of resembling a one-stop-shop for any team in trouble?

A rumour that emerged this week has been particularly troubling. The potential loss of Scott Parker (some say to Liverpool in anticipation of ex-Hammer, Javier Mascherano, heading for Barcelona), would surely be the coup de grâce.

7. Tipping Point

If we go down this year and fail to gain promotion within 12-months, we may not see the top tier of English football for some time, a’ la Southampton, Leeds or Leicester.

Even a 12-month resurrection may be fanciful, as relegation is likely to herald the much-prophesised ‘fire-sale’, which has mercifully yet to materialise.

I get the feeling that a variety of factors are combining to forge a perfect storm of conditions, which could see our club founder upon the twin rocks of financial mismanagement and over extension.

I do hope I’m wrong. The next two months will shed significant light on our future.

But, hey, what do I know? Last week I said how I can’t see Parker sharing a midfield with either Kovac or Noble, and on Saturday Zola played all three.

8. Farewell Dean Ashton

Everyone now knows that Dean Ashton has been forced to retire through injury at the age of just 26.

The most effective English centre-forward to play for West Ham since Tony Cottee will now sadly be crammed into the exhaustive Upton Park file, entitled ‘What Might Have Been’.

I’m sure we’ve all put ourselves through the anguish of hypothesising where we could be now with a front line of Cole and Ashton.

Not that he’ll ever read it, but this blog would like to put on public record its gratitude for the fine service of Dean Ashton, and how in his retirement, we wish him all the Custard Creams in Christendom.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Birmingham City vs West Ham United: Match Preview - 12/12/2009

1. Love Is Blind, Contempt Lucid

Should I ever consider staying up ‘til 4am to watch such a wretched display as tendered by West Ham at the weekend, I’ll do well to remember that I’m likely to derive as much pleasure from hammering cuff-links into my foot.

With my other foot, having just severed it with a plastic fork.

Has there ever been a better time to beat Man United? A team which began the match in the absence of Ferdinand, Vidic, Van Der Saar, Jonny Evans, John O’Shea and the Da Silva twins, ended with a back-four of Evra, Carrick, Fletcher and Giggs.

Both Jack Collison and Junior Stanislas were poor, the latter consistently making flawed choices despite the efforts of Guillermo Franco to provide decent opportunities. Franco should have been more selfish, and along with Scott Parker, was the only player to emerge with any credit.

Displays like that lead me to conclude that our best chance of survival this year lies solely in the hope there may just be three teams more inept than ourselves.

2. Opposition

On current form, Birmingham City are not one of them.

The Blues have enjoyed a sustained purple patch, putting eight points between themselves and the relegation zone and securing a top half spot under the commendable tutelage of manager, Alex McLeish.

Unbeaten in six, with four wins and draws against Liverpool and Man City, McLeish has got Birmingham working for one-another

Ex-Hammer, Lee Bowyer, grasped the opportunity of regular football and flourished as a result, doing more for Birmingham this year than he ever did during his two spells at West Ham.

Unhampered by intellect, Bowyer has put in a few man-of-the-match performances, scored five goals in the process and was duly rewarded with a cemented berth in the midfield of my fantasy team – no mean feat, as I tinker more than Claudio Ranieri on soiled barbiturates.

Sebastian Larsson and James McFadden combine with Bowyer to form a competent midfield, accomplished in the fundamentals. They also comprise the club’s three top-scorers this season, picking up the slack from the under-firing front two of Cameron Jerome and Christian Benitez.

As the above suggests, in some ways Birmingham City are currently our antithesis – an average playing staff who constitute a team greater than the sum of their parts.

At present, we look every inch our rusted, malfunctioning, poor man’s Kwik-Fit, bargain bin selves.

3. History

In recent years, St. Andrews has proven a happy hunting ground. Last year saw us claim a 1-0 victory courtesy of a penalty after Craig Bellamy was very obviously brought down.

Fair-minded then manager, Steve Bruce, claimed that because the ball was headed for a goal kick, no penalty was warranted. One can only assume that Bruce was suffering from a particularly turbulent vortex at the end of his Angular Hooter™ that day.

4. Midfield Mire

Last week’s omni-shambles saw us regress into the midfield impotence that plagued us earlier this season.

While Kovac played probably as well as I’ve seen him, I will never condone a midfield which incorporates the regularly excellent Scott Parker alongside Kovac and/or Noble. I just don’t see how either of the other two provide anything that Parker can’t himself surpass.

It’s exactly like having just two filling options in a sandwich, choosing a delectably pungent mature cheddar and following up with a frugal, rubbery flap of ‘American cheese’. Absolute madness.

You could argue that with Behrami and Noble both injured, Kovac was a foregone conclusion, but where did that get us?

If Diamanti is fit, stick him in there for an hour. Yes, he’s erratic, occasionally reckless and half of his ‘incisive’ passes are more likely to incise your face, but he’s the only midfielder with the nerve to try something different.

Failing that, give The Spectral Embodiment of Luis Jiminez© a starting berth. A run of games can do him little harm and he has to be more offensively astute than Kovac/Noble. SURELY.

5. Case For The Defence

I was asked what I wanted for Christmas the other day. My response of ‘a few clean sheets’ raised unwarranted questions about my private life (which is nobody’s business), but the sentiment was sound.

Where to begin?

Danny Gabbidon’s hesitancy was obviously at fault for United’s second, and the inclusion of the emergent yet undeveloped James Tomkins in such a game at the expense of the up ‘til now decent Manuel da Costa, at a time when a succession of games was proving fruitful for the Portuguese, did neither party justice.

Hopefully Matthew Upson will brave the scolding abuse of his erstwhile employers and exert his influence to shore up a leaking back line.

My god, Robert Green was so disgusted with what lay before him on Saturday he had to go off the pitch and puke.

6. Injuries


Add Zavon Hines to the list and what are we left with? The prospect of Kieron Dyer getting a nitrous oxide package on his mobility scooter to spring the offside trap.

With our defence in its current state and our midfield content to run in every direction but forward, poor Guillermo Franco must look back on the dearth of resources available to him in the Mexican slums as a time of wondrous plenty.

What are the most realistic options? Franco upfront alone? Nouble alongside him? Diamanti in the hole in support of Dyer and Franco? Mike Small wandering sufficiently offside to give Trevor Morley space to take the scissors out of his back?

I’m full of theories, but can’t honestly say I have any confidence in a single one of them.

7. Back In Black And Blue

Another week, another tale of a takeover.

Those fine footballing brains at Straumur have reportedly set a deadline of today for any and all takeover offers to be submitted, enlisting Rothschild to oversee any deals.

Our Icelandic overlords are themselves applying for a nine-month extension to the moratorium of their creditors, and while this is expected to be granted, its absence would demand a quick sale.

The only serious (at least, public) contenders are funnily enough, ex-Birmingham City owners David Sullivan and David Gold.

The Davids have promised January investment and the retention of our star-performers (whoever they are), so long as they can acquire the club for a nominal fee in light of our debts.

Straumur have thus far resisted and things will likely chug along with all concerned looking to exact their pound of flesh at the expense of the fans, while I’m left to rake up this muck again in a month or so.

8. You Can’t Beattie A Bit Of A Bully

Should there be any money available in January, in our current plight I think we could do worse than signing want-away Stoke City striker, James Beattie.

Beattie made the news this week after fisticuffs with his manager, Tony Pulis, post-Stoke’s defeat to Arsenal. Pulis had apparently apologised to the whole squad bar Beattie, latterly having a one-on-one with his frontman, and now claims the matter is over.

At 31, Beattie would be cheap and is no more a gamble than DiMichele, Tristan or Franco. Another alleged target, Adriano, is more likely to pile on 10-stone and be the latest in the line of ex-legends happy to collect a tidy West Ham pension.

While he is no goal machine, Beattie would provide some gumption upfront, put himself about and generally be a right pain in the arse for the opposition, thereby freeing up space for anyone who isn’t mincing sideways around the edge of the area like an effeminate crab.

My god, if there were dressing room altercations after every time we lost to Arsenal, we’d all be watching the game atop a stinking pile of corpses.

9. An Open Letter To Gianfranco Zola

Dear cheeky little Franco Zola,

Despite what have admittedly been some testing times, I remain a supporter of yours and still feel your overall service thus far justifies time in the job.

However, the next time your band of rascals put in a performance of galling inadequacy, please, please do not emerge from the dressing room gushing empty platitudes along the lines of:

‘I can’t fault the players, they were fantastic. They gave everything. They did everything I asked of them.’

This approach can only result in three possible outcomes:
(i) You look like you have no idea what you’re doing
(ii) You ruffle the fine winter plumage of your hitherto accommodating support and
(iii) I feel like squeezing your diminutive frame into a blender, which would be horrible for me as you have such an endearing, cheeky smile.

May I suggest that you either keep these fallacies to yourself and maybe watch a tape of the game when you get home, or give your staff the kick up the backside they merit.


Boleyn Beluga and his illusory readers.

10. Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

So, more doom and gloom with not so much as a glimmer of hope on the horizon, but if we didn’t laugh, we’d cry.

In that spirit and in the season of Christmas cheer, Craig Bellamy has swine flu.

And Roy Hodgson made the most unenthusiastic and tempered endorsement for England selection in history from a manager in regard to one of his own players:

"You could make a case for one or two more unusual selections, players who have something a bit extra. If you perpetuated that argument, you might come up with an argument for someone like a Bobby Zamora."

Go on, put a smile on your face.

Friday, December 04, 2009

West Ham United vs Manchester United: Match Preview - 5/12/2009

1. Opposition

Manchester United are this season going for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Premiership title. However, the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo would weaken any team bar Jossy’s Giants, and the general consensus this year is that Chelsea are in the driving seat for the major honours.

Ferguson has the majority of the £80million Ronaldo swag in the bank and could well strengthen in January, Micah Richards having been touted.

Honduran Antonio Valencia and erstwhile England striker, Michael Owen, have been his most notable purchases this year, Valencia contributing the goals you’d expect from a right-winger who isn’t an absolute freak, and Owen reduced to 158th-minute cameos, leaving him just the ten minutes to nab a winner.

After an efficient if not spectacular start to this campaign, United ominously hit form last week, putting four past Portsmouth at Fratton Park. Wayne Rooney’s hat-trick was complimented by a free-kick from the evergreen Ryan Giggs and the champions looked to be approaching their incisive best. Which is great.

With Ronaldo gone, Ferdinand suffering and Scholes, Giggs and Van Der Saar approaching pensionable age, United are certainly not the force they were.

Of their regulars, only Rooney, Vidic and Evra would likely command a place in most top European sides, and were it not for the underachievement of Arsenal and Liverpool, United could find an automatic 2nd place questionable.

They’ll obviously walk all over us, though.

2. World Cup Draw

Today sees the draw for next year’s World Cup groups, with England among the top seeds along with Spain, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Holland and hosts, South Africa.

This leaves Portugal and France (booooooo!*) in the second tier, along with other dangerous sides such as Mexico, Chile and the Ivory Coast.

‘Côte d’Ivoire’ in particular are a team best avoided, blessed as they are with Didier Drogba, Arsenal’s Emmanuel Eboué and the Toure brothers, Kolo and Yaya.

With Nigeria and Ghana also represented, this tournament could be the one where African nations finally emerge from long shadow cast by Cameroon’s Quarter-Final appearance at Italia ’90.

There is also the potential for the most lethal ‘Group of Death’ since Genghis Khan, Pol Pot and Hugo A-Go-Go got together in Kabul for H1N1 canapés. Imagine being drawn alongside France, Ivory Coast and Mexico?

Obviously, we’ll draw Australia and I’ll end up in prison.

*A shout out to my Irish brethren, particularly the Dublin Hammers, who must still be wounded by the travesty of their omission from the tournament after such a fine qualifying campaign. The H List and its Irish heritage is firmly in your corner.

May the once likeable Thierry Henry be forced to watch endless ‘Ally McBeal’ boxsets and have his gentleman’s area sautéed and scattered to the winds, banishing his dastardly seed from humanity.

3. History

Our home form against Man Utd since the inception of the Premier League is decent, considering their general dominance: we have won two, lost four and drawn seven.

Only one match has produced a winning margin of more than a single goal, the 5-3 defeat back in 2002 – a game where Paulo DiCanio memorably sank to his knees, pounding the ground in frustration having spurned a chance to level at 4-4, only to see United go straight up the other end and win a penalty.

Last season we made a good fist of it, but lost 1-0. Carlton Cole out-muscled Rio Ferdinand to go through on goal, only to elect an ill-advised chip from twenty yards instead of tonking it for all his worth. Lucas Neill took his eyes off his bank balance long enough to force a decent save from Edwin Van Der Saar and generally we were in contention.

Prior to kick-off, time-bending Glaswegian firebrand, Alex Ferguson, disclosed that this potential banana skin merited experienced heads, and it was Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs who made the difference.

Just after the hour, Scholes swept a cross-field pass to Giggs, who jinked his way into the area before firing right-footed through a forest of limbs and into the bottom corner.

4. Untimely Absenteeism

In games like this, you want your big players fit and firing. We therefore go into Saturday without our best defender and most effective attacking threat.

The loss of Matthew Upson and Carlton Cole all but kills off any glimmer of victory quicker than you can say, ‘The Top Gear presenter’s sickening and transparent attempts at ‘un-scripted’ comedy banter make me want to puke up my own arms’.

Recently, an unusual trend has occurred where the Club refuse to give an even vaguely quantifiable length of time that a player is expected to receive treatment.

Matthew Upson has a ‘hamstring strain’, nothing more. Carlton Cole will be out ‘for a number of weeks’. The abundant fuel supply of the Sun will last for ‘a number of weeks’, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, does it?

Leave it to whufc.com and the promotional literature for The Grand Canyon would read ‘slightly bigger, outdoorsy version of some pebbles and puddles in a skip’.

Cole’s injury is the more worrying, coming as it does just prior to the critical run of fixtures referred to last week (what do you mean you didn’t read it?)

We can expect him to be out until at least the New Year, meaning some serious slack has to be picked up by our remaining frontline and midfield.

Rumours of Luca Toni’s January arrival persist, but I’d rather have Cole upfront, and as they are a similar type of player, I don’t think that one would provide a foil for the other.

5. The Case For The Defence

What you don’t want heading into games like this, is a makeshift and nervy back four.

The absence of Matthew Upson leaves a lack of authority amid a defence who currently seem to be as familiar with each other as Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to the art of tact.

Last week’s bewildering attempt to throw away a 5-0 lead was overseen by Herita Ilunga, Manuel da Costa, Danny Gabbidon and Jonathan Spector, and it is likely that those four will again line up on Saturday.

You’d imagine that it would be Gabbidon who would take the lion’s share of responsibility, and we certainly need someone vocal to marshal the defence in unison. It’s in circumstances like these that we miss Lucas Neill - although generally he is only missed by local full-fat cheesecake vendors.

Our recent tally of 27 goals conceded in eleven games is already worrying, but particularly so in light of Saturday’s opponents.

The few positives this season stem from our attack barely managing to nullify our leaky defence, and while I think we’ll score on Saturday, I also think we’re likely to concede more than a French military defensive outpost.

6. Picture Book

'Against a team like United, you need five in midfield... to rout their Zionist agenda and crush Israel.'