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.
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.
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
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.
TWO FIRMLY UPFRONT.
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 séance. 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:
(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.