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

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Swansea 1 - 4 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. I'm A Man You Don't Meet Every Day

I know it's not entirely relevant but as this is a Pogues based H List, this seemed topical. Also, you should follow @nickmotown as he's a Hammer.

2. Sit Down By The Fire

INT. - Typical Nazareth homestead, 10 AD. Ten year old JESUS CHRIST is sitting watching the football results arriving on the BBC vidiprinter. His father JOSEPH and mother MARY are sitting behind him. Jesus is wearing a West Ham shirt with "5 - Hilton" on the back. We see on their TV screen the result WEST HAM 1 - 2 EAST BETHLEHEM scroll by.


Dad, why are West Ham so shit?


I'm not your dad.


Oh Christ, not this again. 


I wish you wouldn't say that. 


So why does Steve from Aldi's keep popping by Mary?


He's bringing water!


Nobody needs that much water, Mary.


We do with the amount of wine you go through.
(pointing to Jesus)
He's knackered changing it all you know.


That's true.


Would it kill you to do a Beaujolais from time to time?


I think you're abusing my powers, I'm only ten for fucks sake. 


His language is terrible. 


It's a bit late for morality now, Mary. 

Suddenly, there is a flash of lightning and the room is filled with smoke. 


I told you to change that bloody fuse. You're a waste of space. 

From the smoke the ANGEL GABRIEL emerges and stands hands on hips in front of them. 


God is most disturbed by the goings on here. He is concerned for the welfare of his son here on earth. 

Well he's not concerned enough to pay child support is he?


I heard that - he's got cashflow issues. Anyway, what would make this Christmas brilliant?

The three family members speak simultaneously. 




An Aldi delivery!


Could West Ham ever just fucking batter someone away from home on Boxing Day?

(points to Jesus)
He's the boss. 


This is bullshit. 


OK kid, just as soon as we can figure out how to do it, West Ham will play away from home on Boxing Day and they will win very comfortably. Please note that games played in Portsmouth don't count. It says so in Genesis. 


Does it? OK, whatever. Do you think it will take long?

(mumbling under his breath)
About two thousand years and six years, to be precise.

What was that? I want it now. It's Christmas!


I knew they shouldn't have named the fucking holiday after him. 

Brilliant. And now I have to go to Swansea.

3. The Sunny Side Of The Street

And so it was that after the fixture list declared we had to play four of the best teams in the division through November, it brought balance to the Force by getting us to play three of the worst in the run up to Christmas. Burnley, Hull and Swansea were thus gift wrapped and offered up like the socks that my family seem to think me incapable of buying for myself. 

After two dismal games at home, however, it was time for us to step up and actually win a game deservedly. With Manuel Lanzini ruled out through injury, Bilic used the opportunity to push Cheikhou Kouyate back into midfield, and for the first time we saw Andre Ayew playing in the "Number 10" role that seems the best way to guarantee his presence on our plane of existence. 

With Antonio and Payet either side we looked to carry a threat all over the place, although Havard Nordtveit was brought in on the right side of a back four, as it's just not a West Ham Christmas unless someone is playing out of position at right back. 

Swansea started relatively brightly, and could have taken the lead when Borja Baston skewed an effort wide, with quite possibly the first shot he'd ever taken with his left foot. It was, however, rather symptomatic of the general overall shittiness of the home team on the day. 

Shortly thereafter, Andy Carroll rose to head a Noble cross goalward, a Swansea defender was unable to intercept it as he was wearing large clown shoes, keeper Lukasz Fabianksi failed to gather the ball as his oven gloves were still smeared in cooking oil after Christmas dinner and none other than Ayew was on hand to tap home from 2 yards. 

After becoming the first team to concede a goal to Ayew this season, the Swans understandably fell apart with shame and we never looked back. A long period of pressure before half time didn't yield the goal it should have done, but Winston Reid popped up just after half time to nod in a Payet corner and that was all she wrote. 

Antonio subsequently stuck a leg out and redirected an errant Nordtveit shot in for the third, and Carroll volleyed home a Feghouli cross for the fourth, just moments after we conceded our contractually obliged crappy late consolation goal. Thus, with that, we had taken nine points from nine and off we go to a Vardyless Leicester on New Years Eve, dreaming of four wins in a row. 

As an aside, Ayew became the 41st player to score both for and against West Ham in the Premiership, which is a record, and seems to confirm our longstanding belief that any ex Hammer will always score against us. How nice for Ayew to repay the favour here. 

3. The Body Of An American

It is entirely possible that this result might be the nail in the coffin for Bob Bradley. The American arrived in Wales to much derision, largely because of his nationality, which bemused me slightly as Tim Sherwood has managed two Premier League teams and nobody batted an eyelid. Bradley has taken a team into the knock out stages of a World Cup (finishing above England in the group stages), as well as teams in Egypt, Norway and France, and yet is dismissed because he has a weird syntax. 

I'm not advocating that Bradley is doing a good job at Swansea, but decrying his ability on the grounds that he is American is bizarre, especially as he hasn't had the opportunity to recruit a single player.

And it's not like unknown foreign managers can't do a good job over here. Arsene Wenger and Mauricio Pochettino have been remarkably successful in England, even if they are more the exception than the rule. It's just sorting Pepe Mel from Claude Puel that remains the problem for most teams. 

Returning to Bradley's woes for a moment though - since arriving at Swansea, his team have conceded 3-0-3-3-1-4-5-0-3-3-4. Yeah, wow. See ya Bob.

Working at Swindon is like being at the World Cup. If you like. 

EDIT: Swansea did it. While I was writing this. I'd have looked prescient if I wasn't so lazy.

4. Fiesta

In the absence of the injured Lanzini, Andre Ayew started just behind Andy Carroll and finally seemed to have an actual purpose to his play. Scoring a tap in after just 13 minutes surely helped, but his general link play was excellent and his ability to retain possession under pressure was invaluable at allowing us to retain the ball. 

With Carroll totally dominant in the air, Ayew and Antonio were able to run beyond him and receive the ball in the final third. This in turn allowed us to generally play higher up the pitch, and it showed in our shot locations. Once again I'm using Paul Riley's great public plateau to generate this shot map:

Hallelujah! It's a Christmas miracle!

This game is actually an object lesson in the benefit of shot locations. We had the same number of shots at goal (14) as Swansea, and the same on target (7). The difference was that ours were so much more dangerous given where we were taking them from. 

It's easy to dismiss a game like this given the incredibly low quality of the opposition, but this was a big step forward in our attacking play. The reality is that we benefitted hugely from Swansea having the defensive solidity of a sandcastle, but it's also true that we created substantially more in the second half here than we did in the previous three games combined. We can begin every sentence describing this game with "We played well but...", solely due to the quality of the opposition but I'm not going to do that today. We were supposed to batter this team and we did it. Nice one lads.

5. If I Should Fall From Grace With God

I recall going to a game once years ago when the half time entertainment consisted of a penalty shootout in front of the Bobby Moore stand. As a few kids lined up to take shots, I suddenly paid attention to who was in goal and saw that it was none other than (then) youth team star player, Jermain Defoe. Can you imagine any other professional sports team that would risk injury to a hugely valuable asset in the name of half time entertainment?

Anyway, it's therefore not like we don't have a history of using our players wildly inappropriately, and thus Havard Nordtveit played this game at right back, and did just fine. After a start shakier than the camerawork on Saving Private Ryan, he has flourished in his last few appearances and finally seems to be coming to terms with the demands of the Premier League. It's ludicrous that he is playing at right back, of course, but we've covered that before.

Up against the tricky Wayne Routledge he had a couple of hairy moments but generally did pretty well, and did enough to suggest that his versatility could be useful. With Obiang, Noble and Kouyate all ahead of him, it's hard to see him starting regularly but given we're West Ham you can always bank on some injuries, and when that happens there have been enough positives recently to suggest that Nordtveit can step up and step in.

6. Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah

Can we please take a moment to appreciate the undervalued magnificence of Michail Antonio? I have been more than a little critical of our recent transfer dealings, but the £7m purchase of Antonio must rank as one of the best signings by anyone anywhere in the last couple of seasons.

He is currently the joint highest English scorer in the league this season, and has scored 15 goals thus far in the 2016 calendar year. For comparison Harry Kane has scored 17, and hasn't had to spend any of that time playing at right back. It's interesting that Spurs have been so hugely lauded for signing Dele Alli from MK Dons - and quite rightly so, given his excellence at such a young age - but Antonio is a signing of comparable impact.

It's been a typical pastime for us this season to bemoan the lack of a striker, but Antonio has been quietly filling his boots as we tread water until January. His 8 goals are good for joint 5th in the league, and he's produced that while playing in more positions than you'd find in the Karma Sutra. I'd imagine.

Dele Alli is better than me is he?

7. Billy's Bones

I never got to see Billy Bonds in his prime, and indeed my only childhood memories of him are as a manager. Watching grainy video of him as a 41 year old doesn't seem to be the best way to savour his brilliance, any more than it would be to learn about Keith Richards by watching him in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Also a better manager than Avram Grant

I couldn't help but see something of the spirit of Bonzo in the swashbuckling performance of Winston Reid here though. Reid always looks a bit pissed off, as though it's only just occurred to him that if he'd simply been good at rugby like every other New Zealander he could have bought himself a beach house in Auckland instead of having to live in East London, but he seemed to have a particular bee in his bonnet here.

There was a distinct "thou-shall-not-pass" feel to his performance as he repelled Swansea almost single handedly, and it was actually something of a surprise that the Swans scored at all. His form took a distinct upturn around the time of the Spurs game, and has remained steady ever since. He may be the only defender to have ever had his reputation enhanced by a 5-1 defeat, as he did after the Arsenal game, and just generally he's looked like he's regained the form that made him such a key player for us a couple of years ago.

He had no right to win the header for his goal, surrounded as he was by two defenders, and if he carries on with this kind of form we can expect to see a general improvement in our defensive performances. Of course, if Angelo Ogbonna could remember he's Italian that would also be just capital.

8. The Auld Triangle

There was something lovely about watching our attacking play here. Dimitri Payet had a Red Hot Chili Pepper of an afternoon ("give it away, give it away, give it away now") but he can generally be relied upon for artistry when we need it, and his pass to Fernandes in the build up for the third goal was a beauty.

The interchanging front three of Payet, Antonio and Ayew were miles too good for Swansea and with Carroll ahead of them to provide muscular refuge whenever they needed it, we ended up carving the home team open at will.

The problem is that few teams will be as accommodating as Swansea. There was still a noticeable lack of running into the channels, although that was offset today by the excellence of Carroll's ball retention when the ball was hit to him. Against better teams that won't work, and without Sakho we still lack the ability to stretch opposition defences between the centre halves and full backs.

All of which is to say that there might be a temptation to stand pat in the January window. As much as I am terrified about what we might do in the transfer window, I'd also argue that with Calleri and Zaza not going to play for us again, we have to get someone. Carroll is never more than ten minutes from an injury and Sakho is already ruled out for another ten weeks, so it would be gross negligence of the highest order to fail to pick up another striker next month.

9. Modern World

My last piece caused slight stir in the sense that it was eventually retweeted by none other than David Gold on Christmas Eve.

My friends found this most amusing, and in particular took great delight at the use of the phrase "a touch of humour", but I must say that I appreciated his words and the fact that he was prepared to read something that was not solely a piece in praise of the Club.

I must confess that I found it startling that anyone at West Ham would read anything I'd ever written, much less retweet it to a wider audience. My pieces generally number a readership in the hundreds, and I'm from an Irish family so you have to write off half of those as being from blood relations, but after David's intervention that number doubled.

What was even more interesting was that at the same time we were being linked to a takeover by Red Bull.  This was carried in The Sun, so naturally none of the numbers make any sense - I've never valued a company but Sullivan and Gold paid around £80m for the Club and receive around £90m per year in TV money alone so they'd quite rightly never consider selling for "just" £200m.

Naturally, having highlighted Jack Sullivan's Twitter presence as a source of embarrassment to the Club in my article, young Jack gave me a huge metaphorical "fuck you" by then revealing on Twitter that they had previously turned down a £650m bid for the Club in the summer. And good for him I suppose. He gets far more abuse online than any teenager should have to put up with, and although I am incredulous that his family allow him the profile he has, I suppose we can't deny that he clearly loves the Club.

That said, I think we're only learning about the takeover now because Jack was at Adventure Scouts that week and they don't let them have any social media apparatus while they're away.

Quite apart from the complete lack of professionalism that it shows, to reveal significant financial developments on Twitter, it baffles me that the Club continue to operate like this. I don't have an issue with Sullivan and Gold declining an offer for the Club - it's their investment after all - but how can they not see that it is totally inappropriate to have the public face of the Club be a teenager?

As for the Red Bull offer, I'm all for better management, better decision making, better on and off field performances and the other improvements that would come with their ownership. I'm also fine with playing at the Red Bull arena and being sponsored by them.

I draw the line, however, at being called RB West Ham, or a nickname of the Red Bulls. And therein lies the problem I suppose. For each of us that line will be moveable, and for those who couldn't stomach a new badge I strongly suspect that Red Bull would be a step too far.

I'll say this though - they will buy someone in England and make a success of it, just as they have done in Germany. I suspect at this point that the biggest impediment to it being us is the cost.

10. Sitting On Top Of The World

Before I sign off, I'm guessing that this will be the last H List of the year, so please allow me this moment of self indulgence. To all of you who have read, retweeted, liked, shared, commented, recommended or simply tolerated my writing this year please know that I am eternally grateful.

I probably won't need any of you anymore now that I am being retweeted by David Gold, but it is truly gratifying to hear nice comments from those of you who read my inane rantings, and I'm especially grateful to those who pass it on and recommend The H List to others.

Lastly, thanks also to Graeme Howlett at KUMB for carrying the columns over there, and to Dan Silver, Terry Land, Emily Pulham and Jacob Steinberg for their contributions here this year.

Happy New Year to you all. We're going to beat the champions before the year is over.

Friday, December 23, 2016

West Ham And The Mysterious World Of The Past

"I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past" - Thomas Jefferson, 1816

I know what you're thinking - Thomas Jefferson probably wouldn't have been quite so certain about this if he'd ever had to queue for 35 minutes to get a £4 pie - and you're probably right.

Yet, why am I drawing a not entirely obvious line between a former US president and West Ham? Because there is a video doing the rounds that seems to be stirring up a lot of opinions currently, and I must confess that most of them are baffling me. It is described as an open video to the Board but doesn't actually ask them to do anything, hence much of my confusion.

Firstly, have a look at the clip in question. It is publicly available from YouTube so I don't imagine the authors will be upset with me linking to it here.

Now I should say that none of what I'm about to write is intended as personal criticism of the creators, or indeed anybody else who feels similarly to them. I recognise a lot of things from that video; I have sat singing the Payet song on the sofa with my daughters too, I uttered an inveterate "Oh for fucks sake" when Zaza took his famous shot at Old Trafford and somehow managed to get the ball to end up behind him, I simultaneously treasure and despise the memory of Cardiff 2006, and in my mind the football I watched in my childhood has been been lent a veneer of quality by the passing of time that was not there when the games actually took place, so I get the nostalgia.

Furthermore, we all support the team in different ways and have different things that symbolise our love for our Club. If the newly revamped badge is complete anathema to you, then I'm not about to tell you to get over it. Each very much to their own. There is no wrong or right, merely differing shades of grey. Or green, if you look at the large quantities of Costco felt running round the edge of the pitch.

But as I watched that video I found my brow increasingly furrowed as I watched and listened. And as the plaudits came rolling in from the various quarters of my particular echo chamber I found myself asking the same thing repeatedly - "Why?"

"The past is a decaying memory and I do not have to relive it and empower it unless I choose to do so" - James Lee Burke, "The Tin Roof Blowdown"

I have watched the video several times now to ensure I understand it properly, and I have failed miserably as I'm pretty sure I don't understand it even remotely. It seems to be mythologising a past that never happened, or celebrating the worst parts of it.

For a start, it contains the following quotes:

"It's about...playing good football the right way, but it definitely isn't about winning"

Insert joke here - it'll be the first one ever associated with this show

Objectively I suppose this is true. Supporting West Ham hasn't very often been about winning. Watching us solely in the hope of supporting a winning team is like watching Mrs Brown's Boys and waiting for a joke to come along. But this also seems to suggest that winning is a bad thing. Like we are morally superior to other fans and that there is a purity to our support because we don't go along in the expectation of victory.

What a load of bollocks.

The years of ineptitude don't make us better fans - they make us stupid. We allowed the Cearns family and Terry Brown to feed us that line for years. "The West Ham Way" - a concept recently resurrected to very dubious purpose - was apparently all about entertainment above winning. And what a handy get out that was for the various boards of the time. Finish third, eulogise the team forever but sell the best players off immediately. Develop Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard? Sure, but we have to sell them to improve the ground, don't get upset though, and hey! Look at that goal Di Canio just scored.

Rinse, wash, repeat for my entire childhood. But West Ham fans are wedded to this. We are in love with a past that has constantly lacked competent leadership, ambition and success because we have become completely consumed with the idea that just being a fan is enough. Become a West Ham fan, it's a higher way of life - you get screwed over by the Premier League who are happy to take your money but do everything possible to prevent you from ever seeing your side win, and do so with the tacit support of successive boards who never had the ambition to look past that.

Sullivan, Gold and Brady seem to want to change this, and yet somehow that's a bad thing? I have no issue quibbling with their methods but criticising a board for wanting to win things is mental. And I hate to break it to you, but West Ham fans are no better or worse than any other. We love our team, and for us here, now, inside that bubble, it's a magical feeling but it's no different than it is for Manchester United fans inside theirs. We might want to believe that there is something intrinsically superior about our own support but there is not.

I have previously likened supporting Manchester United or Chelsea to going into a casino and cheering for the house, and I stand by that. The advantages those teams enjoy are so huge that I simply do not believe that there can be as much inherent satisfaction in them winning anything as there was for, say, Leicester. But that doesn't make their supporters somehow worse than us, and the sooner we get past that myth the sooner we can start demanding a bit more from our Club.

"Failure is part of our identity"

Is that true? Well, if it is then our identity is shit and the sooner we lose it the better. Why are we happy about failure? Until this season West Ham ticket prices were amongst the highest in the country, which tells me that in no way at all is acceptable for the Club to embrace failure.

I'm all for glory and playing with verve and brio but I also don't accept it as a basic tenet of our existence that Manchester United or Arsenal fans "deserve" success and we don't, just because their clubs are bigger. What bizarre crap is that? Can anyone truly say there is anything different at their very core between Manchester City and West Ham other than Emirati billions?

There's no need for this strange self flagellation - we pay good money to West Ham, to the Premier League, to Sky and everybody else in the game and our money is just as good as our neighbours. If we're not going to try and win, then what are we here for?

"The West Ham United Coffee Company"

Jesus Christ, who gives a shit? So the Club put a coffee shop in their store - like pretty much any other business of a comparable size in the Western world. Of all the things wrong with the new stadium and our new identity this is about 4 millionth on my list.

This is evil and must be stopped

I don't even know what people want - a Starbucks? A Costa? No coffee? Why are these better options than the Club making a few quid out of refreshments? Again I am forced to hark back to my childhood memories of the Club selling memorabilia out of a Portakabin and never having enough money to keep any players, and wondering what exactly it is about our past that people are eulogising over?

"You're turning your fans into consumers"

I get it, I really do. For us, going to games is not the same thing as a trip to John Lewis, or renting a car from Hertz. It is a social experience with an emotional core that transcends pretty much any relationship that we will ever have with something that can't talk back to us.

But this again is hinting at something else - that we weren't consumers already. I hate to break it to you guys but that huge stand they're currently pulling down at Upton Park was called the Dr Martens Stand. The Club had already thrown their lot in with the great corporate takeover of the post Euro 1996 years, and we were already little more than consumers anyway.

I have also seen a lot of commentary suggesting that 'real' fans are unhappy about the presence of so many day tripping tourists in the stadium. These fans presumably representing the new consumers as opposed to the old supporters.

The problem with this world view is that I just don't see much evidence of it. Having been to pretty much every game this season, despite not being a season ticket holder myself, I haven't seen these huge numbers of tourists. Instead I've seen lots of West Ham fans who can't or don't want to go to every game but still consider themselves loyal supporters.

There are plenty of reasons why fans might not be able to go to games - maybe they can't afford it, maybe they have to work, maybe they're too sick, maybe they're serving in the Armed Forces somewhere or maybe they're in jail. We could only envy them during the second half of that Hull game.

The list is long and exhaustive and the reality is that I suspect the ground is full of our core 30k support and then a rotating 20k cast of other fans from that 50k waiting list who can't go all the time.

All of which is to say that I agree that we're being treated like consumers, but I don't really see how that's a new thing.

"West Ham is about things you can't buy....identity, togetherness, love"

OK, well this is an entirely subjective area so if that's what it means to the creators of this video then I'm not about to tell them they're wrong.

It means different things to all of us, and that's perfectly fine but the bit I'm confused about is the notion that the owners of the Club don't understand these things. It's always bemused me that there are those who constantly state that Gold and Sullivan are in this for the money only. Where is the evidence of this?

OK then

They haven't cashed in on our better players and refused to invest the money, they haven't as yet encouraged any external bidders for the Club and they have done little else but put their own money into the coffers so far. It's curious that fans who pay a £1,000 a year to the Club feel that this entitles them to all sorts of leeway in what they want back, but refuse to extend the same logic to the owners and their £80m. To my mind, their failure hasn't been a lack of investment in the team, it's been in not investing properly.

Think about it - if they truly want to dispose of their holdings then it would be in their interests to drive that price as high as possible. That means higher league finishes, a better squad and, yes, a better stadium. I'm not sure why anyone would think these were bad things to be aiming at.

"Put the football first, listen to the fans"

Yeah, I don't know what this means. Here are a load of slightly impenetrable complaints about off field issues but please just concentrate on the football? What? Or alternatively, start asking fans about footballing issues? Er, no thanks.

Is Karren Brady supposed to stop trying to generate income for the Club because David Sullivan and Slaven Bilic didn't sign a right back in the summer, and couldn't recognise that Jonathan Calleri had feet comprised solely of cement?

Brady is driving the Club forward because that's her job. It's not her fault that Sullivan doesn't have the self awareness to realise he is not actually very good at identifying players, and as a result is pissing off the supporters that she is charged with keeping happy. I don't think Karren Brady looked at Michail Antonio and thought that the best use of one of our premium attacking players was to play him at right back.

So, let's ask ourselves a question - would this video have been made if we were sitting fifth in the table? I can't really answer that, but I strongly suspect not. The points raised are so nebulous that I don't actually know what it is that the makers want from the board. In fairness they have expanded more here in conversation with KUMB, but I'm still not really much the wiser.

I'm sorry chaps, but this video doesn't speak for me. I appreciate the care and attention, I respect the devotion and I understand the frustrations that led to it's creation but it isn't asking anything tangible or meaningful of the Board. All it's done is stir up a lot of anti-Board feeling around nothing. I can't see how that is helpful.

And for those commenting all over the place online about this, I'm going to keep returning to these points as well - most of the current criticism of the Club could be solved by a five game winning streak, and 95% of the criticism of Karren Brady is rendered invalid by the misogynist bullshit that accompanies it. If you can't make your point with referring to her gender then you have no point worth making.

"Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space" - Johnny Cash

He seems sensible - let's take his advice

Now before anyone labels me as a stooge for the board or an apologist for the stadium fuck ups, let me say this; there is a metric tonne of stuff the Board could do to help themselves and try to reduce some of the current enmity that surrounds the place. In no particular order:

1. Appoint an experienced Director of Football to oversee all elements of the footballing side of the Club. 

Ralf Rangnick - the man behind RB Leipzig's meteoric rise in Germany - would do nicely but here on planet Earth we might have to set our sights a little lower.

We desperately need to move away from the agent led recruitment of Sullivan, and put in place someone with an understanding of analytics and how to mix old and new school scouting. Let's stop signing players due to them having good YouTube highlight packages, basically. At the same time we could invest properly into the youth system and establish an Academy that delivers first team ready players to the manager, already accustomed to playing in the style of the first team.

Giving up this role to someone who actually knows what they're doing would also allow David Sullivan to return to the normal duties of a Premier League chairman such as producing films about the Krays.

2. Swallow the bitter taste of hubris and accept that parts of the stadium move have been a disaster. 

Whilst chatting about this with fellow Hammers @LeBigHouse and @AMoCS we agreed that there is an incredible problem with the tone that the Club take over the Stadium move. They are increasingly resembling The Day Today's pool supervisor and his lament that people choose only to focus on the deaths that have occurred under his watch and nothing else.

The move has had lots of issues and if we were treated like grown ups and the Club just admitted this I think they might find that this single gesture of ordinary human behaviour might generate some actual bona fide goodwill. And boy do they need it, especially with Spurs building a stadium that their fans will actually want to go to, just up the road.

It's hard to know how much of the stadium fit out is the responsibility of the Club and how much is the stadium owners, but either way it's a little bit like a film set. It looks great but don't stare too long or you'll see that it's really just a good looking approximation of the real thing.

So, yes if you want us to be customers then you can't just ignore the concept of customer service. You can't really have one without the other. Like Palace and terrible managers.

Just try it Karren - "Hey guys, I'm really sorry about this but yeah, the concessions are a bit of a nightmare aren't they? It probably shouldn't take 30 minutes to get a pie. We'll sort that out. Give us some time". 

You might be surprised what that gets you.

3. Take away young Jack's Twitter password. 

It's embarrassing to the Club that he is a quasi official mouthpiece who is confirming major signings in one Tweet and then supporting Donald Trump as President in the next.

We've now reached a point where we have to wait for young Jack to finish double chemistry in the afternoon before we get confirmation that our new signing has passed his medical. Gosh, it's just like Real Madrid.

If that's not possible then how about reassigning him to do something useful. He could tweet about the West Ham Ladies team, who could really do with the publicity, or alternatively about the Club's various charitable endeavours to try and highlight the community work being done.

There is something glorious about the fact that the Clubs public response to this video has been for Jack to send them an email. After all, when we make a complaint who among us isn't delighted to have our concerns addressed by a teenager on work experience?

4. Get some proper dialogue with fans to address the day to day experience of being a supporter. 

Bear in mind that this is a borderline impossible task as no one fan can accurately reflect the views of thousands. I'm pretty sure that the Supporters Advisory Board was supposed to do this, but I have no idea what they do so I suppose there is room for improvement in their communication if nothing else.

There is a thread here on KUMB that asks fans to contribute to a new ten point plan. There are some things there that I agree with and plenty that I don't, but it's a start and there are some tangible things that the Board can actually address. As an example, if it is truly this difficult for our disabled fans to get to games that is a really easy win.

5. Lose the running track

Best of luck with that. It would solve an enormous number of the problems though.

6. Sort out the Clubs public image. It's horrendous. 

You know what we need? A slick PR professional, who is a West Ham fan, understands the sensibilities of the ordinary fan and has the time on his hands to commit fully to the job.

You guys, I think I know the answer:

Out of Europe in June? I know the fucking feeling lads

Monday, December 19, 2016

West Ham 1 - 0 Hull City (And Other Ramblings)

1. Held Up Without A Gun 

Whenever I get in the car after my wife has driven it, it is always left in the same state. The wheels are turned inwards, the indicator is on, windscreen wipers will be going and the radio will be tuned to Capital and blaring out some unlistenable shit at a ludicrous volume. That's not to say she's a bad driver - far from it - but just that once she's completed a task she doesn't spend any further time thinking about it. Even if she's killed two cats in the process.

I would encourage you to take the same approach to this game of football.

Why? Well, we were awful for a start, but worse was that Hull absolutely played us off the park. Our goalpost was chosen as Man of the Match in the Club's online poll, winning 57% of the vote, and my only question is who on earth the other 43% voted for.

Is it possible for a win to be bad? Maybe not, given that West Ham are a professional football team, so obtaining three points is their ultimate objective when they turn up to work, but this felt like a bad win.

Hull weathered a brief storm (*) in the opening exchanges, when Payet was frequently on the ball and we had enough movement around the box to cause them all sorts of problems. But they blocked our shots - yet again our shot location was unbelievably poor - and gradually hauled themselves back into the game, and then eventually into a point of total dominance. I repeat again that we were playing HULL today, as I appreciate none of the above sounds plausible.

Let me tell you, however, if I was a Hull fan I would have been reporting this game to the Police as a heist.

The West Ham team plan todays victory

(*) Light rainfall

2. Darkness On The Edge Of Town

There were signs that today was going to be a struggle from the moment a mist settled over East London like something from a Bronte novel. For the entirety of my journey to the station I was looking around in case a Mr Rochester type ran me over with a horse and let's be honest, given the quality of the service into Stratford lately, a horse is about as likely to appear as a train these days.

As this is my birthday weekend, my dad and daughter came with me so we slipped into Westfield for a bite to eat prior to the game. Sadly, it's easier to get a seat in the Houses of Parliament than in the Westfield Food Court so that took an age, and so we were generally a bit flustered by the time we got to the Stadium.  

As our tickets were purchased via the Hogwarts Triwizard Ballot system, we had no choice over the seat location and so were magically allocated a row next to the away fans yet again. I mean that literally by the way, as we had the entire row to ourselves and no one sat behind us either. This did at least mean my daughter could stand up freely without the risk of starting a twenty man brawl, which was a pleasing new development.

3. Real World

Hull are shit. They are going to be relegated and it won't be terribly close. If there are any Hull fans reading this I am not saying this to be a dickhead (although I wouldn't blame you for thinking so), but more in the spirit of providing some context to today's omnishambles. 

The visitors were clearly better than us after they got through the first twenty minutes and I honestly can't recall a team dominating us this much and losing for years. For all our nice approach work in the opening quarter we were completely unable to fashion a proper opportunity, and the nearest we came was a Payet wriggling run that seemed destined to end in a goal, but simply finished up as one of a multitude of blocked shots. 

The decline began when Aaron Cresswell managed to misplace both a pass and his cerebrum in the same movement, and gave the ball straight to Dieumerci Mbokani who ran through and hit the frame of Darren Randolph's goal. In the second half, as the pressure ramped up, an Andrew Robertson cross was deflected by Mark Noble against the base of the post, before Robertson himself hit the other post a few moments later. 

At this point most of us were wishing that the mist would roll back in, as Harry Maguire had a header cleared off the line and it became clear that we had somehow, incredibly, turned in a worse performance than the Burnley game. 

Even as Hull were schooling us it was fairly obvious that they're not much better than an top half Championship team, which isn't to denigrate their players who showed a conviction and belief that we are sorely lacking. It was interesting too that their 3-5-2 system actually works, presumably because it's the best way of playing for their squad, as opposed to the least worst option available, as it is for us. 

4. Brilliant Disguise

I wish I had the tactical and linguistic knowledge to accurately describe our second half formation to you. We started with our customary 3-4-2-1 and this had it's customary limited effect. Neither wing back could do much as Hull matched up to us exactly, and as on Wednesday we were unable to engineer any situations for them to get high up the pitch in space. 

At half time Bilic replaced Obiang with Fernandes (the former was on a booking), and Lanzini with Luis Ayew Morte. The Argentine looked like he was carrying an injury, but it could also have been that he was simply spending too much time on this particular plane of existence, and Bilic wanted someone who could run the channels between the various existential fields of consciousness, at the same time as getting the wrong side of Michael Dawson. So on came Schrodingers Ayew to simultaneously be present and absent at the same time. I'm pretty sure he played the whole second half, but fuck knows. 

What was particularly bonkers was the change in our formation. I think we began with a 4-4-2 whereby Kouyate moved to right back, Ayew went to right midfield and Antonio went up front. So for those keeping track at home that's a central midfielder at full back, a forward on the wing and a winger up front. Somewhere Alan Curbishley was purring in admiration for so many players being misused at once. Had Spurs and Burnley suddenly emerged and kicked off their game playing from East Stand to West this would have been entirely in keeping with the playground football style of play.

Rush goalie, yeah?

Thereafter we went full mental as Antonio and Carroll dropped deeper until the latter was basically playing as a screening midfielder, and heading away balls into the box like a pissed Geordie rhinoceros. What was especially disturbing about this was that at no point was it obvious what Bilic's plan was to rescue the unfurling farce in front of him. Against the worst team in the division he had his players operate under about six different tactical systems and not one of them gave us a foothold in the game. We can talk all we want about this being a results business, but performances are important too as they act as indicators of what we might have to look forward to in future, and this was absolutely dismal fare.

If we continue to play like this we will go down. We have scraped past Burnley and Hull on the back of two dubious penalties, luck like 2015 Leicester and some heroic defending from Winston Reid. That is not a recipe for continued success. 

5. This Depression

Where exactly do we go from here? On the face of it, this past week couldn't have gone much better. A point at Liverpool, two clean sheets and six points from relegation rivals has seen us pop up to the dizzy heights of 13th. 

You could, however, take the alternative view that we scraped a fortunate point at Anfield and then stumbled past two of the worst teams around by ludicrous good fortune. We barely survived Hull's left side yesterday as Robertson, who is excellent, and Sam Clucas, who is 12 years old, tore us apart.

The distressing tactical shenanigans aside, we seemed generally bereft of confidence, and played with an uncertainty that suggested the players had no idea what they were supposed to be doing. Even if that wasn't the case, it sure looked like it, and Bilic has to carry the can for such an insipid pair of performances.

To go one step further and describe this as an Allardyce type display, as some have, is actually to give it too much credit. Even when his teams were fumbling going forward, Sam's teams were generally well organised in defence and the lack of offensive ambition was usually because there was an underlying plan to ensure we didn't concede.

We have none of that now. The defence is a shambles, with nothing on the right side and only Reid looking himself in terms of decision making. Cresswell was poor today, a rarity, but he is prone to lapses of concentration and Ogbonna seems to have regressed all the way back to the womb as he sits on the edge of the 18 yard box and sucks his thumb while opposition strikers run past him like London commuters ignoring Christmas carollers.

I hate to say it, but I saw this load of shit today and wondered if Bilic can truly be the man for the job. I've not considered this previously, as I still remember that with three games left of last season we were still technically in with a shout of getting into the Champions League. However, what has become painfully evident is that last year wasn't the new normal - it was the outlier. The first 17 games of this season have been one long regression to the mean, as it has hit home just how aimless much of play has become.

But where do we go? There is no chance of a remarriage with Allardyce as that divorce was messier than was let on, so I have heard, and does someone like Mancini really inspire confidence that he is up for a relegation battle? I think Bilic will survive, because Sullivan and Gold are patient to a fault, but once the crowd turns it could be a different story. For now he's probably safe as long as the boos keep dissipating up into the sky with the rest of our atmosphere, and there continue to be peculiar scapegoats around like Brady and Nordtveit to take some of the flak.

6. Point Blank

Let's get down to it. We create nothing. We're like Mark Ronson - things are being produced, but nothing is original or creative or in any way useful to society. (Huh - it turns out I do have an opinion on that talentless prick after all).

I once again went to Paul Riley's marvellous public tableau and had a look at the shot maps from this game. Here is ours, which the BBFC have stated is an 18 certificate so no children should be seeing this.

Look at the state of that. Only once did we force Marshall to save anything from inside the area, and just generally we were fucking useless going forward. Even Payet couldn't summon any magic to help us as he had three free kicks and all were non events. 

By contrast, have a look at this shot map from HULL, the worst team in the division. 

Note how rarely we block shots compared to Hull, and many more of their goal attempts were taken from inside the area. This is the crux of our problem, and it's hardly earth shattering to state it, but this is the reason why we are so shit. We create no good chances inside the box, and our defence allow far too many attempts on our goal from close range. 

It's a good job that we are dangerous from set pieces otherwise we'd be doing a decent impression of Sunderland. So far this season we have scored six times from open play, and it's not hard to see why. No striking threat for much of the time, we can't get into the box, and have no cohesion to our attacking play. This is dire. Make no mistake that these two wins have been anything other than burglaries and it can't continue. If we play like this at Swansea and Leicester, two other dreadful teams, we will drop points we can ill afford to lose. 

7. Local Hero

Mark Noble was awarded the freedom of the London Borough of Newham this week and he repaid the favour by doing the same thing for Tom Huddlestone.

Huddlestone actually gets bigger every time I see him. He's enormous these days and by the time we get to the return fixture he'll probably look like the Stay Puft man from Ghostbusters. That didn't stop him today though as he and Jake Livermore took hold of the midfield and didn't let up until they ran out of steam in the final 15 minutes.

Noble was disconcertingly off the pace for most of this game, which was a disappointing regression after a couple of strong performances. Obiang got booked early and Bilic gave him the hook at half time which probably saved him from a red card as he was simply having to do too much defensive work to survive.

Fernandes came on and was his usual energetic self, but he lacks invention and we really lost all our drive through the middle in the second half. This made it even more distressing to see Cheikhou Kouyate being played at right back when he should have been rampaging all over the place causing havoc like a Russian hacker.

It's seems to me to have escaped a lot of attention but Kouyate's disappearance from our midfield has robbed us of our dynamism, and is thus yet another piece of evidence that our summer recruitment has failed. The lack of a right back is hurting us in multiple ways, and not the least of them is that it's forcing so many players to play out of position.

For all that, Noble notched the winner with another penalty. He slotted it home in basically the same position as his miss on Wednesday against Burnley, and once again it would have been saved had the keeper gone the right way. It continues to appear that his ability to send keepers the wrong way is an actual skill.

Here is the heat map for the latest effort from the amazing penaltykickstat website.

8. The Price You Pay

I know it won't be a surprise to you if you read this, but January is looming like the ghost of Transfer Windows past. God only knows what Sullivan made of this latest adventure in incompetence but there's no doubt he will be diving into action as soon as practicable.

I see two very obvious issues;

a) everybody knows what we need most - a right back and a centre forward - and they are also aware that we are terrible in the transfer market. This will lead to some horrific negotiations as rival clubs look at our offers and then point to Ayew and say "Yeah, but you thought he was worth £20m"

b) a lot of these current problems can probably be attributed to the sheer volume of transfers made in the summer. Sullivan does this all the time, but bringing in six or seven players at once is a nightmare, especially when they're arriving at a team with seemingly no idea what they're doing on the pitch. It's not like there is a seamless tactical framework for them to slide into. We're playing everyone out of position and praying to every conceivable deity because at this point we have no ideas left to try out. Keep an eye out for this. Bilic couldn't assimilate seven new players in the summer, with an actual pre season in which to do it. He's got no chance of doing it on the fly in January.

9. Land Of Hope And Dreams

I went to see Rogue One today and it was brilliant. I am currently sitting with a wonderful warm, contented, nostalgic feeling inside me - probably like Nigel Farage got the first time he saw American History X.

With that in mind I thought to myself that I should find something positive to say about this game.

As I had my daughter with me, she wanted a drink at half time, so we ran out to the kiosk as the fourth official held up his added on time sign. We jumped in the queue, and then moved about as much as Andre Ayew. In fact, we stayed there for the entirety of the half time break, emerging only after the second half has started.

"Wait a minute" you're thinking "that's not positive". Well, firstly you're presupposing that missing any of this game was a bad thing, but secondly I asked for, and paid for a Mars Bar. The guy went off to get that for me and then returned to tell me they'd sold out. He instead presented me with a pack of Maltesers, which have a higher RRP than Mars Bars.

I suppose it's possible that something on the pitch was positive but this would require me to watch the game again, and the only way that's happening is if the Americans capture me and take me to Guantanamo Bay and play it to me as torture. So my confectionary adventures remain the brightest spot of the afternoon.

10. Better Days

Let's not part like this, on such a sour note.

Do you remember Alessandro Diamanti? Of course you do, he was a lunatic.

Anyway, click on this link to see a frankly orgiastic set of tweets from Nikos Overheul about a performance he once put in for Bologna. It is uh-may-zing. It features this screenshot, which captures him actually taking a shot at goal from here:

This is my Christmas present to you. Please enjoy, and have a very Happy Christmas. I love you all. Except for Mark Ronson. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

West Ham 1 - 0 Burnley (And Other Ramblings)

1.  D'You Know What I Mean?

I thought you booed this kind of thing?

This was one of those nights. 

Nothing really worked, from the trains to the ticket office to the deployment of Manuel Lanzini in support of Andy Carroll. It all stumbled along, barely functioning, until the referees whistle put us out of our misery and sent us off into the chilly embrace of Karren's world class transport links. 

If nothing else, this was a return to the Allardycian splendour of two years ago. Had Big Sam produced this disjointed, disconnected performance we'd have whipped out the traditional East London  vuvuzelas and booed him until he thought he was George Osborne.

The curious thing about that of course, is that we've wanted this for a while. A dreamy 4-0 win would have been just fine, but let's not run before we're on solid foods. This was a professional but drab, functional but dreary 1-0 home win. We scored when the usually faultless Mark Noble missed a penalty for the first time in years, but tucked away the rebound, and then rode out a mild Burnley fightback to secure the win. 

We have now won four league games this season, all by a 1-0 scoreline, and we have yet to win a game in which the opposition have scored. So yes, this was a tedious Muse album of a game, but a win is a win is a win.

2. I Hope, I Think, I Know

The game hinged on the aforementioned penalty, and it was a curious turn of events from start to finish. Things began with a Payet corner that the returning Carroll thumped goalwards with all the vigour of a pissed Geordie giraffe scrumping an apple. As it dropped towards Tom Heaton, both Antonio and Kouyate converged upon the keeper and seemed to foul him. Referee Bobby Madley chose to ignore this and instead played on, before blowing up when Winston Reid was sent tumbling by Ben Mee. 

I thought Reid was fouled, but felt Heaton was too, but I also don't care about the perceived injustice largely because we should have had a penalty earlier when Will Keane fairly obviously handled in the box. I don't quite know how Madley missed that one as he had a good view, and it was the clearest misuse of a hand since Friends devoted an entire episode to Joey having an identical hand twin.

Noble then took the penalty and presented Heaton with a weakly struck, seemingly poorly placed effort that the Burnley keeper saved easily, although he then got lucky with the rebound. In general it was in keeping with the all round not-quite-good-enough nature of the evening.

Noble is actually a fascinating penalty taker, as I was discussing on Twitter recently with the excellent blogger @penaltykickstat (blog found here). He has a relatively low xPG (0.73) when he takes penalties, meaning that based on the location of his shots he wouldn't expect to score as frequently as he does (actual PG 0.93). In short he should only score 73% of the time, but does score 93% of the time, prior to tonight. The below heat map shows this clearly:

What's really noticeable about this, is how often the keeper dives the wrong way, with only 13% guessing correctly on his previous attempts. If you believe that this is an actual skill, rather than luck, then you can see why his xPG would be low, because he is constantly striking his penalties into the empty half of the net and therefore he doesn't need to be so precise with his placement. I hadn't really considered this until @penaltykickstat pointed this out to me but I quite like it as a theory.

It also seems to fit with something I've thought for a very long time, which is that if the keeper would have saved a penalty had he dived the right way, then it actually isn't that great of a penalty to begin with. What's also clear is that the higher the penalty, the better the chance of scoring, and yet most of Noble's are hit low. I never thought I'd say it, but Mark Noble needs to channel his inner Keith Richards and get high a bit more often. 

Noble's only miss during the period covered was against Spurs on the opening day of the 14/15 season because of course it fucking was. 

You can see the Spurs one on here, so far left that it makes Jeremy Corbyn look like Oswald Moseley. For completeness, I should say that I do recall one other miss for Noble which came against Chelsea in 2009 because of course it fucking did.

As for tonight's effort, it actually had an xPG of 0.83 which is higher than his average penalty. So maybe we should just credit Tom Heaton with being a good keeper, accept that Noble is still one of the better penalty takers around and keep an eye on whether he can keep sending keepers the wrong way. 

I should also point out that of our three penalties this year, Winston Reid has won two of them, and he continues to display a lovely ability to fall over with great conviction. 

3. Where Did It All Go Wrong?

This game was actually very hard to write about. I watched it live, then went home, thawed out and watched the highlights back and I still struggled to hit upon anything illuminating to say. It just...happened...and now it sits in the section of my memory where I put things that I have absolutely no opinion on, such as anybody's Facebook Year in Review slideshow, golf, Mark Ronson or the Fast and the Furious films. I acknowledge these things are part of human history but they have never registered in my consciousness with enough force to get me to care about them one way or another.

Put another way, if you told me Mark Ronson fell down a ravine looking at your Facebook 2016 slideshow whilst playing golf on the set of Fast and Furious 43, I wouldn't give even a hint of a shit. Which is pretty much how I feel about the events of last night.

Mark Ronson. Apparently.

What I do care about, however, is the outcome of this game. How could I not? These are three of the most important points we will get all year. Having struggled in painful fashion to smuggle two points out of the North West it would have been a disaster to have stumbled here.

We were actually pretty decent in the first half, with lots of nice looking interplay between Payet, Lanzini and Carroll, who were at last being supplemented by a worthwhile Noble performance. Pedro Obiang was dominant once again, and it really seemed inevitable that we would score at some point in the first half. Both defensive midfielders hit the post with raking long range efforts, but by and large Burnley showed their defensive prowess by restricting us to shots from outside the box and blocking anything progressive in the manner of a Republican congress. All of this highlighted again that our shot locations are not good enough, with far too many from outside the box and far too many from Andy Carroll who was apparently wearing his winklepickers again.

Carroll was integral to much of the nice build up though, dropping short to join in with the midfield play and only looking isolated when we went long and failed to get anybody close to him for the inevitable knock downs. This game was actually an interesting insight into the problem that Bilic faces with Carroll. He offers an amazing aerial outlet, but in order for that to be effective we need players around him to pick up the second balls. If he wasn’t merely an existential theory, Andre Ayew might be a good fit for that role by the way.

But we seem to look much more threatening when we get the ball down and play, breaking quickly from midfield and engineering situations that allow our wing backs to raid high up the pitch. This isn’t surprising as it means that Payet and Lanzini are on the ball, and generally that means we are going to be more progressive. Once we go long to Carroll, Lanzini is generally too deep to help him and we cede possession back. Carroll’s link up play was good here tonight, but generally it’s not his strength and the worry is that against better teams we will be forced to go long again, and risk taking our best players out of the game.

4. Don’t Look Back In Anger

At half time I was purring about how this was the best 45 minutes we’d seen at home all year in the league. This probably said more about the season in general than it did about this performance, but it did at least mark the first time we had led in a home league game at the interval. The Watford home game probably had a better level of play, but we did also manage to concede twice, so - yeah, welcome to 2016 West Ham. 

But if this particular game was a “Hopkins” then the first half was Sir Anthony and the second was Katie. Some of this was down to Burnley, who abandoned their plan to bore us all to death, and suddenly started crossing the halfway line with all the authority of new born foals leaving the barn for the first time. By the time the half was done, however, the visitors had created three decent chances and could easily have been level. I’m not sure it was deserved, as such, given their largely timid approach to much of the game but we can’t deny there was plenty of nervous moments towards the end.

That said, we dropped off horribly in the second period with no attacking intent being shown and a worrying failure to pick Burnley off on the break. This was our raison d’etre last season, but with Carroll tiring and keen to get in the queue at Faces, we lost much of our attacking thrust.

I don’t really mind about all of this. This was a match that focused entirely around the three points and we won. We came, we bored, we conquered. Hull await - a phrase never yet used by a human being with any enthusiasm, but there we go. Win on Saturday and a whole multitude of sins will have been papered over. 

5. Whatever

“It’s very frustrating. Every other keeper goes on his back, flails around on the floor and it’s given. Because ours do it the proper way … now we’re called naive. You know, it used to be applauded when you played the game properly" - Sean Dyche 

I take everything Sean Dyche says with a pinch of salt, largely because I always think he sounds like a club bouncer who has been sent on a management training course, and now speaks in nothing but meaningless platitudes. If you're ever unsure whether a manager is spouting crap, search for the telltale use of the phrase "this football club", as though anyone was ever in doubt which club the manager of the fucking team was actually talking about.

Anyway, the above proclamation is a lovely example of the genre. What on earth is he on about? What does he mean by "the proper way"? Is he now saying there is a proper way to get fouled?

This holier than thou bullshit, so often the default setting of English managers, is tiresome and boring. Foreign players dive, foreign keepers are no good on crosses, foreign managers don't understand the magic of the FA Cup, African players don't like the cold, those players who don't have a "football brain" are, without fail, always black, and so on....these are the glorious stereotypes of English football.

The granddaddy of them all of course, is that English players never dive. They stay on their feet at all times unless fouled, giving managers the lovely little get out whenever there is a contentious decision to let us know that of course it was a foul - "he's English", as though the careers of Michael Owen, Andy Johnson, Ashley Young and Harry Kane et al never happened. Good honest pros. Proper football men. Shoot me now.

I feel a bit sorry for Burnley that their goalkeeper was impeded, but they could always have tried attacking in the first half of this game. And maybe the tortured martyrs act might hold a little more water if Burnley players didn't keel over with imaginary head wounds every time we threatened to break, or they didn't deliberately foul Dimitri Payet every single time he got the ball.

6. The Importance Of Being Idle

In the second half, Andre Ayew entered the fray in place of Manuel Lanzini, who looked suitably miffed at being replaced by a theoretical concept.

I actually thought the Argentinian had disappeared himself in the second half, nullified as he was by our failure to keep passing and instead whack it long to Carroll. He seems to lack the speed to play as a second striker, and the reality is that his best performance of the season came at Spurs when he played in a deep lying central midfield role and was thoroughly excellent. In truth, he should probably be playing in Noble's position and dictating the game from deeper but that doesn't seem to be on the agenda

Thus Ayew came on, and was largely peripheral as he continues to be the man without a position. When one thinks of Ayew it is impossible not to think of Descartes ("If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things) leading me to wonder once again if he actually appeared tonight or if he is simply a latent existential memory of Luis Boa Morte - like those Force ghosts you see in Star Wars

"You paid £20m quid for Andre Ayew? Shit a lightsaber"

Ayew did actually skip through in the last few minutes and clearly thought to himself "I can do it!" even as the Universe was saying, "No, Immanuel Kant!" and he skewed it wide and now I can't rid myself of the feeling that he might be Boa Morte Redux. 

Most teams hate the African Cup of Nations as it steals their players, but for us it might be a good chance to get Ayew and Feghouli back on to the pitch and into some form. 

7. Go Let It Out

Imagine booing another person. Standing up (for it seems like a standing activity) and putting your lips together to create the sound “Booooooo”. I have no idea what this is supposed to achieve, when it is done in the context of West Ham fans booing a West Ham player, as happened when Havard Nordtveit came on tonight.

Some fans seem to feel it is their inalienable right to boo players, and I suppose it is, but it doesn't make any sense to me. It is illogical to be unhappy with something and then immediately act in a way that will frequently only make the situation worse. Like standing on a sinking boat, scooping water into the ship and then yelling "Oh my God, things are only getting worse, why does this keep happening!". It's like a Mobius strip of stupidity. 

I vividly recall a Championship game in 2004 against Gillingham when Christian Dailly was booed for much of the first half, which led to a counter faction in the Bobby Moore Lower standing and applauding him in response, and while that was going on Elijah Wood and Charlie Hunnam were in front of me filming their cinematic masterpiece Green Street, just to round out the surreal nature of the day. It was like a battle for the very soul of the Club, but with Andy Hessenthaler instead of God. 

Dailly's crime was to have scored an own goal at Millwall, whilst Nordtveit gave away the last minute penalty at Spurs. Imagine being a new player at a club and conceding a penalty to lose a local derby and then having to sit in a changing room with your new team mates who you barely know, having cost them three points. That's what Nordtveit had to do at Spurs and I suspect it was punishment enough. He then bounced back with an excellent performance at Liverpool, and is showing signs of starting to contribute. 

I have no idea of how anyone thinks booing him is helpful to that cause. 

8. The Shock Of The Lightning

The boos could only really be described as a "smattering", given that most of this game was played out with barely any background noise at all. The Club's official attendance figure of 56,990 can only reflect the tickets sold and not the number of people in the ground, as there were large empty patches everywhere you looked. Let's face it, there will be more atmosphere when I go to see "Rogue One" on Sunday morning with my kids for our family outing that is not-in-any-way-at-the-behest-of-dad. 

The cold doesn't help, nor does the fact this was a midweek game which precludes young children from attending but it's still noticeable that the gaps are opening up. Perhaps it was always likely to be this way, with lots of anecdotal stories that people were abusing the Plus 2 scheme to buy the dirt cheap kid's season tickets for low prices and then upgrading to adult tickets for the big games only, while not bothering to use them at all for games like this. 

I'm not complaining - I attended this game courtesy of this very situation where a friend upgraded his son's seat for me, albeit his son does attend all the weekend games - but as a Claret Member I have certainly noticed that it is getting easier to obtain tickets, even via the impenetrable West Ham Ballot System sponsored by The Da Vinci Code

I wonder if there might come a situation at the end of the year whereby the Club review the usage of the kids tickets and try and revoke them for people who haven't used them for children at all? This would create the most West Ham situation ever, where the Club are taking tickets off people at a time they're apparently struggling to fill the stadium. 

What underpins all of this is whether the famous 50,000 waiting list is a real thing or not. I am on it, and am apparently at about number 22,000 in the queue, so I can say with certainty that I think it's pretty reasonable to challenge those season ticket holders who don't go to games, when there are people like me who would willingly take them. The problem with that is that I'm going to the games anyway, so I'm not sure that this solves the attendance issue. 

I would say we're still drawing at least 45,000 home fans each week, and a five game winning streak would push the attendance back up soon enough, so it's only a problem when the team are struggling, but it's hard to see right now why the Club need to expand to 66,000 as they seemingly want to do. 

Maybe there is a reality here that we have a 30,000 core support, and a floating, rotating 25,000 who will come to varying numbers of games through the year. That's fine when the team is going well but when you're losing 5-1 at home to Arsenal and getting played off the pitch by Watford, it becomes far harder to retain that "floating" element. I don't know, but it feels like Karren Brady has the seed of another problem on her hands there. 

9. Stay Young

Mere weeks after I predicted that Reece Oxford was going to leave he signed a new contract today, which can only lead me to conclude that Spurs definitely won't be wound up and liquidated in 2017.

Our record of producing young players in recent years isn't terribly good, despite the Club's Pravda style protestations to the contrary, and it would be marvellous to see him and the likes of Reece Burke, Marcus Browne or Jamal Hector-Ingram make it through. 

Not only is it exciting for the crowd, who love the mythology of the Academy, but it's economically helpful as the more players we graduate from the ranks, the fewer are recruited by David Sullivan. 

Oxford is a great looking prospect, and one who could end up playing plenty this year given the dross in front of him. Kouyate has been dropped to the back three to make up for the lack of a right back, but in theory Oxford could play there and let the Senegalese advance into midfield where he can charge about like a rogue firework and get back to causing havoc in advanced areas. 

Credit to the Club then, for repelling the advances of others and keeping a good young player at West Ham. God knows we need him. 

Reece Oxford, seen here a mere three miles from the touchline

Let this also serve as a reminder that I talk an awful lot of shit, and whilst I want you to read and retweet and share my work, I would also be grateful if you could not remember any of it. 

10. Stop Crying Your Heart Out

This article has been my Vietnam. How do you write a column on West Ham beating Burnley in a shit, boring game where the most noteworthy thing about it was the opposition pretending to have hurt their heads? I've had a two day hangover, spent staring at a blank screen suffering wild fever dreams where Sean Dyche is in a black bomber jacket with a little photo ID on his arm saying "Sorry lads, you can't come in to the football club unless you've got some girls with you.". 

I am done. Here I am hitting "publish" on the keyboard and then realising that I'm going to have to do this again tomorrow for a game against Hull, who are actually worse than Burnley.

Would it be too much to ask for you to shoot me?