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, August 20, 2010

West Ham United vs Bolton Wanderers: Match Preview - 20/08/2010

1. Here’s One I Made Earlier

Hello everyone. Hope you all avoided the World Cup and enjoyed a few brief months of respite before last week's ruthless wake-up call.

I was all set to begin this new season with the breathless, wide-eyed gusto of a Blue Peter presenter.

Outwardly full of enthusiasm at the prospect of making a kitchen utensil holder from an old shoe-box, or perhaps riding at some speed through big puddles in a tank driven by the Territorial Army, I would inwardly conceal my drug habit and self-harming.

But then West Ham contrived to shame themselves on day one, folding as they did so many times last season, as incisive as Fox News with a defence as frail as an ageing Rocky Balboa.

2. The Opposition

In seasons past, I have lamented how Bolton Wanderers are consistently able to beat us despite our theoretical superiority. Well no more.

There are only so many times one can cling to the illusion of competence in the face of consistent evidence to the contrary. Just ask Dean Gaffney.

There are rumours that Bolton boss, Owen Coyle, will employ a more pleasing brand of football this season in an effort to appease the long-suffering home support and to boost attendances to more than 7.

There was little evidence to suggest this in their stalemate with Fulham last week, but should they mix it up on Saturday and we manage to nick a win, there will be those who would justifiably argue against Wanderers adopting a different style when they so obviously have the measure of their opponents.

Kevin Davies will once again press his claim for the Ballon d’Or by scoring at will against us, while still making time to augment the rate of demolition over in Stratford with his pendulous elbows.

3. Cheap Visual Gag #1

4. History

... something written by the victors, hence the Lancastrian-leaning dominance of recent entries. Although, unlike the old adage suggests, this account is also entirely accurate.

5. Olympic Effort

The Club are putting the finishing touches to a proposal to frequent the Olympic Stadium post-2012, along with some 150 other applicants.

Despite an initial openness to this suggestion, I have become increasingly sceptical the more I hear the nuts and bolts of it.

Under West Ham’s plan, the athletic stadium capacity will be reduced from 80,000 to some 58,000. This invites the prospect of empty seats come matchday seeing as we rarely sell out Upton Park’s 36,000 consistently.

David Gold recently took time out from pawing at the Hammerettes in his criminally short silk kimono to confirm that we have the option of expanding The Boleyn to around 42,000. While I feel the ideal capacity would be more towards the 50-mark, I’d rather a packed 42,000 than 10,000 empty seats.

Vampiric smut baron, David Sullivan, is adamant we will fill the proposed new stadium and has boasted of its ability to enable the cheapest matchday tickets in the Premiership.

Unlike Arsenal or Man United, we do not have the appeal to attract the ‘tourist trade’ element necessary to regularly fill 60,000, and so ticket prices would certainly have to come down if the Club are to entice sufficient supporters in from rural Essex and the coast. But with the chief aim of increased capacity being increased revenue, would slashed ticket prices negate the perceived benefit of moving altogether?

These considerations aside, my main concern is David Gold’s recent U-turn on accommodating a running track around the pitch. This is anathema to me and I suspect to the majority of West Ham fans.

The Two Davids initially cited the inclusion of said track as a deal-breaker, an assertion I was relieved to hear. But now it seems that, having visited the site, Gold has been converted thanks to the “sightlines” afforded by the stadium design.

"Sightlines." Hmmm.

If you stand on Waterloo Bridge and look east, on a clear day you can see Canary Wharf far in the distance. A truly remarkable sightline, but I wouldn’t fancy my chances of being able to make out Julien Faubert in Canada Square missing the entire Citigroup tower from 4-yards. I might get hit by his effort, but pay £45 for the privilege? I don’t think so.

When the Doc Martens Stand was first opened, moving the pitch to accommodate the replacement of the West Stand resulted in a chasm opening up between the Chicken Run and the touchline. Small potatos compared to what a running track would impose, but it had the effect of irrevocably diluting what had once been the most pleasingly claustrophobic and intimidating section of the stadium.

I am far from convinced this will be a beneficial move for us. The ‘once in a lifetime opportunity' for East End rejuvenation will go ahead with or without our tenancy, and our obvious need for the 12th-man effect of the crowd may well be sacrificed for the rose-tinted legacies of a couple of old pervs.

6. Cheap Visual Gag #2

Avram Grant is asked whether he thinks we could nick a point on Saturday

7. Form And Function

It’s anyone’s guess what eleven will line-up on Saturday afternoon, although you would hope some fairly radical changes will have been made.

It seems as if Grant fancies Cole upfront as a lone striker, so long as he is adequately supported from midfield – something which so obviously didn’t happen at Villa Park.

With an abundance of midfielders more adept in our own half than the opposition’s, the introduction of a Kieron Dyer, Pablo Barrera or Alessandro Diamanti is sorely needed.

In squad terms, I would be loathe to see Frank Nouble go out on loan again this season as we are not overly blessed in attack, with an over-reliance on Cole again in prospect. Nouble is worth regular stints on the bench and a chance to prove himself after a few impressively combative cameos last season.

Since taking up Dean Ashton’s challenge to dedicate himself to the ‘nothing but butter-coated margarine’ diet, Benni McCarthy has condemned himself to 10-minute spells of wheezing on the sidelines as he tries to get out of his tracksuit. And Type 2 Diabetes.

8. "..."

I’m so dispassionate about the outcome of what is only our second game of the season that I’m seriously considering not staying up ‘til 2am to watch us lose 2-1.

Perhaps expectations were too high last week, and an assumption that we wouldn’t immediately revert to last season’s wretched type, misguided.

Let’s all hope we’re not so jaded that we can’t retain even a flicker of anticipation come the final whistle on at least a few occasions this season.

To paraphrase a debonair, inter-galactic maverick who played by his own rules: Come on Avram, old buddy – don’t let me down.


  1. Great that you are back - as good a read as ever. And you were so close with the 2-1 prediction ;)

  2. Cheers Ho Jo - I would say it's nice to be back, but West Ham will do their best to ruin that for all of us.

    It is nice to know Headhammer Shark and I are not the only ones reading this blog.