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, January 29, 2010

West Ham United vs Blackburn Rovers: Match Preview - 30/01/2010

1. Opposition

Once Premier League Champions, reduced to unsightly loiterers.

Under Kenny Dalglish, Blackburn Rovers acquired a fine team to win the championship in 1995 courtesy of the millions invested by Jack Walker in the likes of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton

This endeavour proved short-lived as the winning side was quickly dismantled and Blackburn were relegated a few years later.

They are a team much like ourselves in that they hover passively around the lower reaches of the table, occasionally flirting with the top ten, but equally capable of relegation.

The Blackburn squad is an unremarkable eccles cake, garnished with a few granules of sugary competence. Ryan Nelson is a solid, no-nonsense defender and David Dunn capable of hitting influential form.

But for every Dunn, they have a Michel Salgado past his best, a Pascal Chimbonda touching himself over his bank statements and an El Hadji Diouf tossing flaming kittens at disabled people with a lovingly restored Roman ballista.

What must be a greater source of despair for Blackburn fans is that their motley crew are currently presided over by cultural recidivist, Sam Allardyce – a man who still regularly campaigns against universal suffrage.

Mock them as I may, they’re still seven points above us.

2. History

Blackburn Rovers have the shameful distinction of being our whipping boys.

They have beaten us just once since our shambolic 7-1 defeat at Ewood Park back in 2001 – a game which remains a damning indictment of the Roederian era, as both Gary Flitcroft and Craig Hignett were permitted to score against us.

Since then it has been largely plain sailing, a 3-2 away defeat all that obscures a run of nine wins and three draws from thirteen games.

Last season’s 4-1 victory paints a rosier picture than the beige reality, with two of our goals coming in injury time, Jason Roberts missing a penalty and Matt Derbyshire being dubiously ruled offside having scored with Rovers 2-1 down.

All this serendipity was pure gravy, however, ladled thickly upon the fetid top-flight managerial career of Paul Ince.

Ince would last another three and a half months, whereas Curbishley resigned four days later.

3. Picture Book

Sam Allardyce spots Emmeline Pankhurst in the Chicken Run

4. Transfer News.... Whenever You're Ready

In light of the time of year, the majority of this article will address our worryingly late activity (or lack thereof) in this transfer window.

Firstly, the scurrilous behaviour of Harry ‘My Moral Compass Is Down To The Bare Bones’ Redknapp.

It is now common knowledge that tottenham have beaten us to the coveted signature of Eidur Gudjohnsen, conducting negotiations with the former Chelsea and Barcelona man after he had completed a medical at Upton Park.

It wasn’t so much the fact we had been gazumped, as unsigned transfer deals are never steadfast, more the slimy way in which Redknapp went about it. On Wednesday he said:

"I spoke to his agent, he said he was going to West Ham, so I left it with the agent. He's a good footballer and an interesting player on a loan, but I think he's gone to West Ham."

I found this little disclosure to the national media infuriating. Redknapp was wholly aware of the ripples this would cause and it was nothing less than a direct attempt to scupper what up ‘til then had been a bona-fide deal, all portrayed as ‘Arry innocuously keeping his chums in the gutter press updated.

‘Shrewd’, you might think. ‘Scum’, I’d retort.

As convinced as I have been for some time that Gudjohnsen would be a great signing for us, I’m trying to recoup as much solace as I can in our recent record with Icelanders.

Gudjohnsen was supposed to be signed in tandem with Blackburn’s Benni McCarthy, an ageing yet efficient striker with Premier League experience and a Champions League winners medal to his name.

This also appears to have hit the skids, however, with the imminent expiry of McCarthy’s work permit causing problems.

As a result of a focus on Gudjohnsen, another target, Man City’s Benjani, has since entered into negotiations with Blackburn as a replacement for McCarthy. Able egotist, David Bentley, has been mentioned on loan, but we’re up to our ears in midfielders.

It all sounds like a familiar case of the wheels coming off and what worries me is that the transfer window closes at midnight on Sunday. One of our main targets has absconded, the other stalled and Ruud Van Nistlerooy was only ever a pipe dream.

Reinforcements are sorely needed, but desperate deals hurried through more for show than anything else will get us nowhere.

The furious activity of inaction has lead to reports of Celtic’s Australian striker, Scott McDonald, being linked with our front line – a man who failed to make an impact at Southampton, Huddersfield Town, Bournemouth or Wimbledon.

McDonald is currently being kept out of the Celtic team by Giorgios Samaras and Marc Antoine Fortune, pedestrian ex-Premier League strikers both, so how can he be expected to fire us clear of relegation?

It looks as though we’ve missed our booking for a pleasant Harvester Earlybird luncheon, stopping at Happy Shopper on the way home to scoff a dozen Cadbury’s Chomps. Just having something in our bellies may provide a short-lived satisfaction, but it will be swiftly negated once we’re sick in our own laps.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Portsmouth vs West Ham UNITED: Match Preview - 26/10/2010

1. Mourning Has Broken?

With the business side of ownership concluded, the proper business of survival gets underway as we enter the pivotal stage of our season.

Over the next eighteen days we will face most all of our likely relegation
contenders, with Bolton following a couple of weeks later.

The fixture congestion created by the adverse weather wil
l largely be resolved in the coming weeks, as crucial games arrive thick and fast – six in all between now and 20th February.

2. Opposition

First up is bottom of the table Portsmouth, on the face of it the one club in the league who make our financial predicament positively glow with rosy-cheeked wellbeing.

Pompey are in trouble whichever way you look at it. Not the first club to experience near-meltdown soon after the departure of Harry ‘My Cayman Islands Account Is Down To The Bare Bones’

The transfer window will prove more vital to Portsmouth’s fortunes than to those of any other club, their future dependent upon the shape of the squad come 1st February and whether they can clone ten Hayden Mullins’s to form a functional if unspectacular 'utility' of 'Mullae'.

While it may feel as though they were cast adrift some time ago, Portsmouth are just five points from safety and with at least one game in hand over their immediate rivals. Depending how much transfer damage they can sustain, they will feel they still have a chance of getting out of it.

Pompey have enjoyed some decent results of late and will be de
sperate to build momentum with a good Tuesday night performance at home. Our plight is equally perilous, on the pitch at least, and I will be sorely disappointed were we to emerge from the game with anything less than a draw.

However, this is a great chance to claim just our second away win of the season and kick-start our own climb up the table.

3. There’s Always Someone Worse Off Than Yourself

Under the stewardship of our one-time Managing Director, Peter Storrie, Portsmouth have lurched from one crisis to the next.

They currently sit under the swinging axe of administration, face a wind-up petition from the Inland Revenue, are in the midst of a transfer embargo, have been reported to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, have had their latest £7million share of TV money redistributed to debtors, have been unable to pay player wages punctually more than once this season, have their CEO on a tax evasion charge, and were recently issued with a writ from Sol Campbell for unpaid bonuses and image-rights payments.

Such is their parlous state, they will listen to offers for any player in January, and fears that they may tumble down the divisions on the back of the erratic mustang of mismanagement bare more credibility with every passing farce.

4. Like Looking In A Mirror

I’ve been racking my brains trying to decide whom Karren Brady reminds me of, and then it hit me: Gary Mason, former British Heavyweight Champion.

5. History

Last season’s 4-1 demolition of Portsmouth at Fratton Park was the defining point of our season and the catalyst for a haul of twenty points claimed from an available twenty-four. We could do with the same again.

Craig Bellamy had his best game in a West Ham shirt, scoring two and setting up another. The team performance was all the more impressive as we came from a goal down to win, and topped off nicely by a missed penalty from Defoe.

This victory also represented the first time we had beaten Pompey in the Premier League and it was no coincidence that Redknapp had since left, taking his abiding hoodoo over us to White Hart Lane.

6. Heart For The Fight

There is one particular thing (among many) which needs urgent address: o
ur stark inability to win a game having gone a goal down.

We have managed this feat just three times in the past thirteen months: last year’s corresponding fixture, Stoke City at home the following week and Millwall in the League Cup back in August of last year.

Hopefully the positivity around the new ownership will go some way to adding a mite of resolve to a team who are criminally adept at throwing in the towel when facing a deficit.

There’s no valid reason or excuse for this and it will prove a fatal flaw if perpetuated long(er)-term. Our Vice Chairman once went toe-to-toe with Lennox Lewis, so s
he should be able to instill the same fight into her charges.

7. Picture Book

You’ll never see these two in the same room

8. Capital Gains Pacts

If the new incumbent of our official pulpit was attempting to endear herself to the fans with a clarion call to arms, she is off to a poor start:

“The Boleyn does no more than serve a purpose... To disqualify the (Olympic) stadium's only viable future is to make a bonfire of the dreams of thousands and thousands of people in our under-privileged area... I love the idea of calling the club West Ham Olympic.”

Another media-friendly soundbite associated with our club this week came from Tony Fernandes, who said, “I see West Ham as the unpolished diamond of the Premier League”. Perhaps, but only if you consider our utter dependence on Cole.

Firstly, we know better than any that The Boleyn Ground is not The Emirates Stadium, but to say that it does no more than ‘serve a purpose’ is to dilute the history of the place.

Only an outsider would so coldly deride the venue that has fostered our shattered dreams for so long, played host to a galling litany of frustration punctuated by occasional genius, and proved such an efficient conduit for our gallons of bitter tears.

Does Ms. Brady not remember seeing John Moncur continually rotating on a six-pence? Stuart Slater’s twining splendour against Everton in the Cup? Or Iain Dowie's magnificent 13-month goal drought?

It may not be a monument to success, or indeed happiness, and the halftime toilet stop is a fast-track to lung cancer, but to disparage it in such callous terms two days into the job is a misjudgement.

‘West Ham Olympic’? Fuck right off.

Thankfully, the IOC’s fierce defence of its intellectual property should put pay to such cynically commercial proposals. It was touted as nonchalantly as a housewife saying, “I love the idea of combining all my Nectar points onto one easy-to-use card.”

Please, don’t write in saying that’s sexist. It’s not.

As Brady is so early in the job, this is hopefully just a miscalculation, and even if the ultimate move is a sound long-term proposal, Brady will have to tailor her polished mercantile instincts into more palatable, candid reasoning for spit and sawdust scum like ourselves.

I just hope she’s not the Fergie to our Black Eyed Peas, for while the Black Eyed Peas have undoubtedly gone onto great success after the inclusion of their strangely masculine songstress, they are now a meagre imitation of their prior selves.

Hopefully we will not follow the same route, since they cynically traded what it was that made them entertaining for the glitz and glamour of hollow celebrity, leaving once diehard fans as satisfied as Mark Lawrenson’s wife.
Redknapp, the south coast club could prove to be the new Leeds and slide inexorably to resume their rivalry with struggling neighbours Southampton in League One.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gold, Frank Talking And No Mirth

It was EM Forster who once described God as "the Friend who never comes but yet is not entirely disproved", and for some time now I think I have been subconsciously agreeing with this whilst pondering the mythical new owner of West Ham. He who will swoop in with a golden chequebook and rescue us from the roiling sea of incompetence and mismanagement upon which we currently sail.

The sad thing, of course, is that every football fan in England has at some point uttered the immortal phrase "...{insert club} just needs some investment and we will really go places..", oblivious to the fact that the best way to make a small fortune in this country is to start with a large one and then buy a football club.

So it was with some trepidation that I awaited the announcement of the new ownership group to follow on from the nightmarish Straumar stewardship, that has seen the life sucked out of the Club. Contenders were David Sullivan and David Gold, Tony Fernandes, Massimo Cellino and the mysterious Intermarket Group. Whilst Straumar maintained there was no need to sell, it was clear that the future of the Club was going to be largely dependent upon a sale in this window. I say that, because no change of ownership would certainly have seen player departures and with the squad already smaller than Victoria Beckham's IQ, this would undeniably have led to relegation.

As you know by now, Sullivan and Gold were the victors, taking on a 50% share, and most crucially the day to day running of the Club. Their immediate strategy was to lay bare the full horror of the Club's parlous financial position, which is no doubt a chance to immediately temper expectations in the face of a fanbase desperate to believe that someone will mimic Abramovich in the East End. Which isn't going to happen here.

Some of their maths seems a little wonky to me, and I don't doubt that they are overegging the pudding somewhat, but in fairness they probably deserve some leeway in light of their commitment to the Club.

The certain thing about Gold and Sullivan is that they are clearly astute businessmen. They ran Birmingham adroitly enough to pocket a substantial profit when they sold to Carson Yeung, and their immediate aim will no doubt be to wrest control from Scott Duxbury and start to run the club along more thrifty lines. They appear a less sexy, but ultimately more stable option than Fernandes who never really seemed to be a serious enough bidder, and who didn't have the funds anyway. I also didn't appreciate finding out about his thoughts via the medium of Twitter ("Just seen the accounts - LMFAO").

In truth, I don't really care what they do in the short term. The threat of insolvency as a result of relegation appears to have been staved off, and if we go down now it will be due to incompetence on the pitch which at least puts us level with all the other shit teams in the League.

Investment in the team is less important at this point than the fact that we no longer have to sell, as David Gold pointed out yesterday. If today's rumours are true that we have offered £1.5m for Benni McCarthy, then I think we are pitching our transfer policy at the right level, by looking to pick up solid Premier League players who won't break the bank and have the required experience of this level. Very few significant players change clubs in January and it would be foolish to think otherwise. We need this years equivalent of Les Ferdinand from 2002/03, and McCarthy is a good start in that direction.

In the longer term Gold and Sullivan are likely to be dull, safe owners. They don't have the huge funds available to invest heavily into the squad but they will run the Club prudently, pay down the debts and presumably leave it in a better state than they found it. Since the experience with the Icelandic owners I am hugely wary of anyone who comes into a football club and promises investment,as most appear to saddle the Club with their debt (see United, Manchester). It seems to me that there are very few philanthropic types who are prepared to write of their millions in the pursuit of happiness, as evidenced by the fact that we are still paying off the debts incurred by Eggert Magnusson in his crazy tenure at the helm.

A Club like us can probably afford to spend £6m on a player every once in a while, as shown by the fact that we had only ever done this once before Magnusson arrived at the Club (Dean Ashton). We then did it four times in the space of 6 months (Upson, Bellamy, Parker, Dyer) although it turned out these were financed by loans, which later contributed greatly to the current shitfest with the accounts.

As for Karren Brady - well firstly, that's not how you spell Karen, but she proved herself a thoroughly competent executive at Birmingham, and given the utter fuck up that Duxbury has made of the last few years, I don't think anyone should have any qualms about her ability to run the business. She has had some cutting words for the Club over recent years regarding Tevez, the Millwall affair and various other incidents, but in truth I doubt she was saying anything that didn't contain at least a grain of truth.

So what next for the Club? I pray it is stability, and of course, survival. I don't hold out a great deal of hope that the Club will really spend significantly in the future, but anything that lifts us away from the awful incompetence and fuckwittery of the last few years is alright by me. Remember that our youth system has been good for one new player a year at least in recent seasons.

So embrace tedium and stability folks. It ain't so bad. Off the pitch, at least...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An H List Special: A New Dawn..... Again

1. The Shambles

As responsive as a coked-up Lewis Hamilton, The H List is here to ramble on a bit about yesterday's announcement that the battle to own what has been revealed to be a near insolvent football club, has been won by Messrs Gold and Sullivan.

I was initially underwhelmed upon hearing the news, somewhat deflated that my preferred option of AirAsia boss, Tony Fernandes (preferred for no real reason on reflection), had not won the day.

As this blog has a sound reputation for fair-mindedness and considered opinion, I sought to hear what our new owners had to say before rushing to condemn their appointment.

Sifting through the coverage, what obviously stood out was the crass incompetence of the previous administration and how close to the precipice we teetered. Some startling figures include:

£50million owed to banks
£40million owed to other clubs
A total debt of £110million
We have borrowed against 70% of next year’s season ticket income, and of 60% the following year's
SBOBet have paid 70% of their sponsorship money three years upfront
We would’ve had to find £8million this month and £12million in the summer to stay afloat
The club borrowed against the income due from player sales (Bellamy etc) before it arrived, and so nothing is due.

I don't think any of us thought it was quite that bad.

It appears as if nearly all club assets bar a few players have been sold or pre-sold in order to keep the wolf from the door.

David Sullivan praised the efforts of Chief Executive, Scott Duxbury, and Chief Financial Officer, Nick Igoe, for their efforts in treading water until a suitable buyer could be found.

You could take this stance and commend their forethought in successfully keeping the club solvent.

Or you could question whether they should be paraded around Plaistow in stocks for having presided over this calamity in the first place, particularly Duxbury.

2. The Conflict

One wonders whether there will be room for Duxbury at the table (despite Sullivan publicly assuring him of his position), with the arrival of Karen Brady as Vice Chairman, although rumours of the £2million cost of sacking Duxbury may tell us all we need to know.

Brady was The David’s CEO at Birmingham for 16-years and is obviously a no nonsense kinda gal. She was CEO of Birmingham City at 23-years of age and has a reputation as a ruthless workaholic, underlined by the fact that she returned to work just three days after the birth of her first child.

The way through a frosty impasse could be if Brady offers Duxbury one of her children as a sacrifice, swathed in pentagram swaddling for his Satanic altar - an option that could well suit all concerned.

3. Duxbury Welcomes Brady To The Boardroom

4. The Deal

The Davids have acquired 50% of the club, commanding “operational and strategic control”. The remaining 50% is owned by Straumur, although Sullivan has an option to buy them out anytime within the next four years.

He has stated that he would rather a few wealthy Hammers fans chip in a few million each for the remaining equity and a seat on the Board. Tony Fernandes has already been approached but has announced that he “will take a breather from football”, in the very same sentence as announcing that ‘AirAsia is a goldmine’.

Sullivan and Gold have assured Zola and his management team of their future, as well as declaring that no-one will have to be sold this month. They have also made limited funds available to strengthen a thin squad and threadbare frontline in the fight against relegation.

The Davids will not receive any payment in their new roles and will themselves pay the wages of Brady.

They have also earmarked an eventual move to Stratford’s Olympic Stadium as a definite priority, despite the need to maintain a running track, which in itself would be awful. They have cited the potential to slash ticket prices in light of the hugely increased capacity.

With the apparent inability to augment The Boleyn Ground and the added income from developing the site, this may make financial sense, but it will be a move made under close scrutiny from West Ham diehards and with a lump in many throats.

Other proposals to potentially sell the naming rights to Upton Park are similarly disconcerting, but unfortunately seem to be the distasteful way of the future. ‘SundaySport@TheBoleynGround’ anyone?

At least now we can now all look forward to Bubbles The Bear getting his baps out at the Blackburn game.

5. The Future?

The above may sound a little negative, but now that our critical state has been laid bare, I think we're all just thankful that we can draw a line under this sorry episode.

While not the golden geese that some of us perhaps wished for, The Davids seem bolstered to invest the money and passion it will doubtless take to get us out of this mess. Hopefully they will prove the considered, inclusive owners we need.

Sullivan and Gold are obviously committed to the cause, either that or totally mental to take on such a financial liability.

While they are not equipped to launch us up the table anytime soon, we’ve all had our fingers burnt in that regard and I for one would rather a bit of stability and the earnest transparency that has thus far been forthcoming, and which looks set to continue.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Aston Villa vs West Ham United: Match Preview - 17/01/2010

1. Opposition

Our travels this weekend take us to Villa Park, home of Aston Villa and hopeful locale of Champions League football next season.

Aston Villa are one of those few sides with the realistic ambition and ability to break into the Top Four. They currently lie 5th, two points ahead of Liverpool, two behind tottenham and three adrift of Man City.

Recent losses to Liverpool and Arsenal will not help their cause, but they have been largely solid this season, notching some notable wins against Chelsea and Man United.

Villa play some attractive football and Martin O’Neill’s side are commendably trying to attain success in the right way. They have pace upfront (Ashley Young, James Milner and Gabriel Agbonlahor), are solid at the back (Brad Friedel, Richard Dunne and Carlos Cuellar), and have the option of a release ball via big target man, John Carew.

Forgotten man Stewart Downing is also on the comeback trail and adds another option to a dynamic midfield, even though he’s rubbish. He does, however, have a worrying habit of scoring against us.

Villa haven’t played in the League this year, as their last two matches have both been postponed. They will be as fresh as Headhammer Shark’s morning donuts, which are about as fresh as it gets – he just drinks the batter.

2. History

Last season’s trip to Villa Park ended in a 1-1 draw, as a hallowed gust briefly reconstituted the charred remains of Diego Tristan just long enough for what appeared to be a boot to prod home a wayward effort by the revived Kieron Dyer, himself unwittingly jarred into action by the physio’s defibrillator.

Emile Heskey had put Villa one up after ten minutes, but they were left to rue their profligacy after both Heskey and Young hit the post in the first half.

Overall, Villa deserved the points, although we had our chances - Junior Stanislas notably twice going close early on. Indeed, we had a chance to win it at the end as Mark Noble’s deflected goal-bound effort produced a fine save by a lantern-jawed silverback gorilla masquerading as Brad Friedel.

Trips to Villa Park are generally tame affairs, with the game either drawn or settled by the odd goal.

3. You Take The High Road...

It wasn’t so long ago that ourselves and Aston Villa were comparable clubs. From one season to the next we could continually be relied upon to finish anywhere between 7th and 17th, a brief run of results invariably being all that would separate the two sides.

Both teams enjoyed significant investment around the same time, Villa thanks to American billionaire, Randy Lerner, and ourselves courtesy of a bunch of Nordic incompetents with a dishevelled abacus.

Our paths seemed to diverge around the time that both clubs were attempting to lure Ashley Young away from Vicarage Road.

Alan Pardew had cited Young and did his best to prize another gifted young player from the Championship to a club with more prospect of a prolonged stay in the top flight, much as he had done with Hayden Mullins and Nigel Reo-Coker.

Martin O’Neill offered a probable larger salary, a record of greater stability and his own unique enthusiasm. Pardew probably had his eyes on Young’s girlfriend.

Pardew never got the chance to follow through on his interest, although we still bid £10million for Young a month after our erstwhile manager got the chop. Young rejected the move, opting to sign for Villa for just over £9million and in the intervening years they have both gone from strength to strength.

With Curbishley at the helm, we proceeded to pilfer £20million on a host of has-been invalids, and the rest is history.

4. Postponements

Much to the chagrin of fantasy football managers everywhere, the majority of last weekend’s programme was postponed due to the inclement weather, both our match against Wolves and Villa’s trip to Wigan among the victims.

In hindsight, this was probably a good thing, providing a chance for a few players in or loitering outside the treatment rooms the opportunity for another week’s recovery. Alternately, it afforded other players the chance to injure themselves in training, a’ la Guillermo Franco.

Whether the possibility to initiate some momentum with an easy home tie against Villa’s poor relations prior to an altogether more testing match this weekend was an opportunity missed, we’ll never know.

I’m inclined to think that the extra rest will serve us better, and who’s to say that a morale-crushing defeat to Wolves wouldn’t have precipitated an irrevocable decline?

5. Picture Book

'How's that bench-warming working out for you, Nige?'

6. You Couldn't Make It Up

Whether I am being insular in my appraisal, I’m not sure, but West Ham fans must face more obstacles between themselves and even modest trinkets of success than most any others.

Not only have we dominated any and all press coverage about football’s financial mismanagement, but now we must even stare down meddlesome Death itself.

Just as the tireless tale of our prospective ownership seemed to be winding its way to some sort of conclusion, the CEO of one of the prospective buyers goes and dies at the weekend, casting more doubt on proceedings.

Churlish of me, perhaps – a man has died after all - but I know of no other club forced to contend with such morbid, finite concepts.

7. Transfer Targets

As has been the case for about 35-years, a striker is atop our fanciful wish list, should Scott Duxbury manage to get a few hundred quid for Kenny Brown’s clapped out Ford Capri, having buffed out the scratches sustained during Kenny’s ill-advised drag race with Gary Charles.

A few names have been touted, among them Stoke City’s James Beattie (not least by this blog a few weeks ago), Monaco’s Eidur Gudjohnsen (not least by this blog a few years ago), Portuguese veteran, Nuno Gomes, and Fiorentina’s ex-Chelsea coke-head, Adrian Mutu.

Gomes will be looking to boost his chances of an appearance at the World Cup, and while he may look fifteen, he will actually turn thirty-four during this summer’s international showpiece.

He has a decent scoring record at both international and Portuguese domestic level, but failed to shine during his spell at Fiorentina, having been signed after an impressive Euro 2000 tournament.

Gudjohnsen has been linked with us before, but opted to dissipate into the wilderness of Ligue 1, making just seven starts for Monaco this season. Old comrade Franco Zola may be able to tempt him over, but with his waning class and without the World Cup motivation of a Franco or Gomes, do we need a reluctant striker with a grating goal celebration?

Adrian Mutu is obviously just coming over to cosy up to good ol’ Luis Boa Morte and his big bag of barbiturates.

8. Turkish Delight

You may know that I don’t subscribe to HeadHammer Shark’s blind adoration of our departed captain, Lucas Neill.

It therefore comes as little wonder to me that the avaricious tugboat has declared three months on Merseyside to be quite enough and that he is to immediately join Galatasaray on an 18-month deal.

Neill has expressed “surprise” at signing for “a massive European Club”, although his shock can only stem from the personal astonishment that he managed to stick it out at Everton for so long without his FabergĂ© egg and chips being presented to him hourly by King Midas.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

West Ham United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers: Match Preview - 10/01/2010

1. Happy New Year

A New Year is traditionally a time to both take stock of the past and foster hopes for the future.

As I grapple with the borderline racist employment policies of the Australian government, I have been afforded ample opportunity to assess not only my own shortcomings, but also those of West Ham United.

But one suicide among The H List family is enough for the time being, as I ruminate on the wisdom of HeadHammer Shark’s decision to gorge on that cyanide-laced, all-butter croissant.

What else am I supposed to think after eleven (ELEVEN) unanswered previews?

2. Looming Doom?

Dragging our tired, overfed, flabby bodies into the second decade of this millennium, Sunday’s early afternoon encounter heralds a tipping point, as we pant and wheeze our way into the Last Chance Saloon of this season.

Seven of our next nine fixtures comprise Wolves (h), Portsmouth (a), Blackburn (h), Burnley (a), a likely strengthened Birmingham (h), Hull (h) and Bolton (h). Setting aside our trips to Villa Park and Old Trafford, it is clear to all that between now and early March, our season will be largely determined.

Anything less than fifteen points from this spell and our following games against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City and Liverpool are likely to herald the death knell of our Premier League status, and all hope will unravel like a badly packed kebab.

3. Opposition

Wolverhampton Wanderers visit this weekend in the rerun of August’s opening fixture.

After the comfortable nature of our 2-0 win at Molineux back in mid-August, I would have happily predicted that come January we would be a fair way above Wolves in the League.

As with so many things West Ham, that prospect proved rash, a mirage cast by the summer heat, belying our vulnerability to absolutely everything you could imagine.

After a poor start, Wolves have recently picked up important wins against Wigan, tottenham and Burnley, clawing their way out of the relegation zone by a single point. A tenuous position, but a position they would have taken at this stage if offered it pre-season.

They do struggle to score, the vast majority of their limited goals coming from either Kevin Doyle, midfield playmaker, Nenad Milijas, or biological abomination, Jody Craddock – a man with a face like a careless beekeeper.

Doyle aside, and bar the occasional moment from Milijas, Wolves are a poor side. If we can’t beat them at home, and convincingly so as to build momentum in the run up to this crucial period, we can have no complaints in the event of relegation.

Such is the esteem in which we are currently held, Wolverhampton will see this as a game they can win and particularly important in terms of their own survival. They will therefore attack intermittently and can’t be satisfied with a draw, which should aid our own offensive efforts.

I will reserve judgement on whether ‘offensive efforts’ refers to attacking play or just downright insulting football.

4. History

Earlier this season we triumphed 2-0 courtesy of a fine first-half strike from Mark Noble and a second-half header from Matthew Upson, but we’ve only played Wolves at Upton Park three times in the last twenty years.

All three of those games were in English football’s second tier and we took points from all of them, via two wins and a draw.

All of the above is wholly immaterial.

5. Picture Book

'I know my nose should be facing over there, but there's little I can do about that!!'

6. Silly Season

January declares the latest round of rumour and counter-claim as the transfer window opens, admitting an icy chill of misplaced hope, blown in on a gale of ill-gotten gains.

As has been the case ever since we were supposed to have acquired some financial clout, West Ham are being touted as the one-stop-shop for football’s affluent gentry.

Come to Upton Park and underpay! Ply the drug-addled financiers who ‘run’ our club! Thrust paltry sums into the malfeasant storm drain of their puke spattered crack house!

The usual suspects are rumoured to be attracting the attention of bigger teams, with Green, Upson, Parker and Cole all having been mentioned.

Were we to lose one or two vertebrae of our sturdy spine, then the onset of paralysis seems likely unless the money can be effectively re-invested. Of our own ‘Big Four’, I believe we can least afford to lose Parker and Cole.

Green has his moments, but he also has his moments. Upson is certainly an accomplished defender, but I don’t think his absence would cause as much calamity in defence as that of Parker’s in midfield, or a prolonged scarcity of Big Carlton upfront.

We’re an out of control plane hurtling towards the runway, running on empty. If we can just put her down safely and coast to the end of the month, we’ll all be free to disembark the crumbling fuselage and saunter through duty-free for a week or two. Until the intrusive, full cavity search awaiting us at Old Trafford’s over-zealous security checkpoint.

7. Ghosts Of Christmas Past

The Christmas and New Year period was a mixed bag. A hard-fought, admirable draw against Chelsea was followed by a deserved, if nervy, win at home to Portsmouth, before the predictability of a lacklustre defeat at White Hart Lane.

The tottenham game was another tale of misadventure and the slight nature of our squad being laid bare. Both Ilunga and Scott Parker (who was absolutely immense against Pompey) were lost to injury within the opening 20-minutes, and Spurs were well on top.

Frustratingly, we caused them most problems once we finally decided to attack with purpose, a decision which wasn’t taken until we were 2-0 down.

tottenham undoubtedly have a better-equipped squad than ourselves, but I still think that we should be able to compete with them on the pitch, not run scared attempting to implement a misguided damage limitation plan. I had hoped that those days left with Curbishley.

8. An Open Letter To Gianfranco Zola

Dear cheeky-little-chimpanzee Franco Zola,

Please start with two upfront for the remainder of the season. Not one. Not one in the centre with one floating in behind. Not one in the centre with two midfielders abreast, yet slightly deeper.


One up-front is largely ineffective with a city-smiting colossus like Carlton Cole. With diminutive Franco, it’s wholly pointless.

The result is a hopelessly isolated octogenarian without the pace to worry any defender this side of a sĂ©ance. We also forfeit said elder’s tidy control, as there is never anyone within Newham for him to link up with.

All at The H List.

9. 'How Much Do You Want For It?'
'I’ll Give You A Tenner.'

If anything is going to happen on the whole takeover front, it will be in the next three weeks.

Depending on your viewpoint and priorities, the prospective buyers offer varying promise.

The runners and riders are:

(a) The Davids – Gold and Sullivan. A ‘local boy done good’ and a porn king, who offer a limited transfer budget, but who are likely to provide stability and stave off administration, in the absence of any real progression.

(b) Intermarket – a disconcertingly vague bunch of ‘London financiers’ (read ‘shady loan-shark villains’), who have vocally expressed an interest in acquiring the club and speak of 'a group of investors from institutional level down to high net-worth individuals.'

(c) Tony Fernandes – entrepreneur and owner of AirAsia with a proven record of turning around failing businesses. Principal of the new Lotus Grand Prix team and purveyor of antique horse-brasses and fine Persian rugs (I made that bit up).


(d) A.N.Other – a recently publicised yet anonymous ‘cash-rich’ American businessman whom current pimps, CB Holdings, are rumoured to prefer should a firm bid be forthcoming. (Recent reports suggest this prospective owner could yet be a member of the Intermarket consortium.)

From the above, I am likely to plum for option (c), although I hold out little hope of any contender leading us to the promised land. All options have been on the table for some weeks now with little concrete movement, leaving us all jaded and despondent.

When a frumpy, old harlot has been wined, dined, despoiled and discarded as much as we have, the toothless old crone will find more solace at the bottom of a bottle of Lambrini and a packet of Marlboro than she ever will in the sweet nothings of a charlatan with a Giro.