West Ham 1 v 0 Sunderland

Reporting by postcard from the beach in Gran Canaria.

Holiday ReportAt the end of a day of sunbathing, swimming, reading, eating and drinking, I reflect on following the fortunes of our team from further away than usual.

Although this is my 59th season watching West Ham, and I have seen far more games than I have missed in that time, I have yet to go through a whole season attending every home game, despite being a season ticket holder for some time.

Booking holidays well in advance of the fixture list being revealed is an unfortunate necessity of life if you have a specific destination in mind, and have a wife who works in a school, and you wish to take a break in the half-term holiday. But even if you arrange the break such that only one weekend is involved, it is Murphy’s (or sod’s) law that the computer will ensure that you miss a home game. Of course it is a double Murphy when we progress in the League (EFL) cup and we are drawn at home to Chelsea in the following midweek.

As a result I was forced to follow the Sunderland game from a distance of around 2000 miles on the beach in Taurito in the south of Gran Canaria.

There weren’t many people on this particular stretch of black sand, typical of Canary Island shorelines. We paid our fifteen euros for two sun beds and a parasol, I took a dip in the warm, but fairly rough sea, and then settled down to follow the game via a variety of websites and social media. Just before half time, despite there being many sun beds free on the beach, a German family decided to invade our personal space unnecessarily by choosing the beds next to ours and then moving them closer.

So at half time we retreated to the hotel pool and I followed the game from there on my phone. It appeared that we were well on top but unable to make a deserved breakthrough.

The hotel had a number of bars, including a sports bar with a giant screen. Due to the wonders of modern technology, especially satellites, despite being seventy miles off the west coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, it was possible to view almost any sporting event taking place anywhere in the world as it happened. In fact the giant screen could split into nine smaller screens to satisfy a whole range of tastes simultaneously. I would have been happy to watch the West Ham game on one-ninth of the screen, but despite there not being too many people in there wanting to watch on a sunny afternoon, almost all of them were selfish gooners who wanted to view the full size screen. So I sat outside in the sun, but as the game entered injury time I was resigned to a goalless draw and popped into the Sports Bar to see how many goals that Arsenal had put into the Middlesbrough net. They were in the 93rd minute, and just like their North London neighbours earlier in the day, they had failed to score. I couldn’t be too smug as we too had not scored against lowly Sunderland. Then almost simultaneously there was a goal in both games. The Arsenal fans were jubilant until they realised it had been disallowed as Ozil was yards offside. But our goal had stood and we had picked up a very welcome, although not entirely convincing three points.

Just a few minutes later I was able to view our goal on my phone. The way we approached a corner in the 94th minute took everyone, including our manager, but not Noble, Payet and Reid by surprise. Instead of the usual last minute hoof into the danger area, a cleverly worked short corner ended with Reid firing a low shot through almost everyone on the pitch. How it evaded everyone is hard to fathom. To me it appeared that three or four of our players were offside, especially Calleri who must have been unsighting the keeper. But incredibly the goal stood, and after all the dodgy refereeing decisions that went against us last season it made a big change for one to go in our favour.

This Week in Hammer’s History

The League Cup dominates the week 24 – 30 October in Hammer’s History.

This Week Hammers HistoryAppropriately in a week where we have a League Cup fourth round tie scheduled this week in Hammer’s history is dominated by various encounters across the years in the Cinderella  competition. Arguably, the easiest competition to win but one in which we remain complete virgins.

True to form there have been the expected disasters where the dreaded banana skins have fulfilled their slippery potential and sent us skidding towards the exit door. Notable among these were a 3-2 defeat to 4th division Darlington in the inaugural 1960/61 competition and 2-1 reverse to Chesterfield in 2006.

For the Darlington game a crowd of 17,057 (paying record gate receipts of £2,179 16s 9d) packed into the Feethams Ground and witnessed the hosts take the lead after just 20 seconds despite West Ham having kicked off. Dave Dunmore grabbed an equaliser to make it all square at half time before Darlington scored two midway through the second half to race into a 3-1 lead; the second of these goals following a poor backpass by full-back John Lyall. John Dick did manage to reduce the arrears with 20 minutes to play but that was as good as it got before the long trip back from the North-East.  Rhodes, Bond, Lyall, Malcolm, Brown, Moore, Grice, Woosnam, Dunmore, Dick, Musgrove.

Wednesday’s match with Chelsea will be the third League Cup meeting during this week in history with the spoils standing at one a piece to date as 1-0 advantages have favoured the home side on each occasion. We can eagerly look forward to history repeating itself in the coming days.

A particularly memorable match for me was the fourth round tie against Liverpool in 1971. With a crowd of over 40,000 and one of those electric nights under the Boleyn lights there was the elation of a late Pop Robson winner to seal an exciting 2-1 victory. I was convinced our name was on the trophy that season but the campaign was ultimately thwarted at the end of the epic semi-final series against Stoke City. Victory over Stoke would have interestingly set up a final tie at Wembly with Chelsea.

To finish on a high we will remember a second round second leg tie from 1983. Already leading 2-1 from the first leg West Ham welcomed 4th Division Bury to Upton Park on a cold Tuesday night. The crowd of just under 11,000 were rewarded for their tenacity and endurance with a 10-0 victory (a joint competition record) including a 4 goal haul for the 18 year old Tony Cottee. So impressed were West Ham by Bury’s defending that they signed the Shaker’s centre half Paul Hilton shortly after.

Take a look at the video (the date incorrectly states the 25 August) to re-live the evening along with a laconic Irish commentator and his unusual references to Bill Bonds.

There are no birthdays of note this week.

5 Things We Learned From Saturday

Other than a chicken kebab here are the takeaways from Saturday’s West Ham game.

5 Things WHUTaking Points over Performance.

After a faltering start to the season there is obvious satisfaction in getting two consecutive wins under the belt. In the opening quarter of the match we looked to have carried through the momentum from the previous week and played with rare freedom and confidence. Once Sunderland had weathered the storm, however, the game became more even and the tempo of our game fell away. Not for the first time this season we started well and then fizzled out and it is worrying if we cannot get a sustained 90 minute performance out of the players. Ultimately we took the three points and in the circumstances, as with any club floundering in the lower reaches of the table, we must prioritise points over performance for the time being. That is not going to keep the London Stadium filled in the longer term though.

A Late, Late Winner

It is not too often that West Ham grab a late winner deep into added time. Sunderland had settled for the respected point by then and it is to our credit that we get plugging away despite an overall disappointing second half. I have to admit that I didn’t see the goal coming as the short corner was taken and it was unexpected to see that Winston Reid had taken up a position on the edge of the box. Still a nice piece of skill from the Kiwi and a decent shot past an unsighted keeper. Possibly a suspicion of offside but not conclusive except to Mr Dour, the Sunderland manager.

No Penalty. Mr Madely?

There were penalties awarded in the Premier League yesterday. Prior to this week’s matches there had been 31 given in 80 matches. Yesterday’s referee, Robert ‘Bobby’ Madely, who last season had deemed that Loftus-Cheek tripping over his own feet outside the area was worthy of a spot kick seemed not to be aware of the new interpretations on grappling and holding as first Ogbonna and then Reid were both grabbed by Sunderland defenders. In the light of penalties that have been awarded elsewhere this season this again showed shocking inconsistency.

Swiss in a New Role

Slav had decided to stick with three at the back after the success at Crystal Palace and it was a surprise to see Edmilson Fernandes fill the gap left by the criminally suspended Aaron Cresswell. The formation suits the currently available players and so it is likley to the how West Ham set up for the foreseeable future; probably until it goes badly wrong. I do like what I have seen of young Fernandes despite not playing in his normal position. He looks very assured and comfortable on the ball as well as being full of energy. When Cresswell returns it would be disappointing to see him dropped to the bench and he would get my vote over Mark Noble in midfield on current showing.

No Striker, No Goals

It is now 9 games gone and a striker has yet to score a goal for West Ham; a sorry state of affairs that will continue to hold us back. Surely it is obvious to anyone who has been watching that there is no way that Simone Zaza looks cut out for the Premier League. This is not a player off form or simply low on confidence but one whose talents, whatever they may have been it Italy, do not translate into the English game. It is a waste of everyone’s time to keep playing him. We have seen enough to know that he is not a £20+ million striker. With continuing doubts over the fitness of Carrol and Sakho our hopes rest with the return Andre Ayew but in the meantime we may as well give Ashley Fletcher more game time; what use is the occasional 5 or 10 minutes? Sorry Simone here is your air ticket back to Turin.

I Wouldn’t Bet On It 14

Just like printing money as we go big on a West Ham victory.

Fancy A Bet

Middlesbrough let us down last weekend, so our balance is now down to 100.1.

Today we’ll have some fun bets on West Ham v Sunderland:

22 points on West Ham to win @8/11 (38)
1 point on West Ham to win both halves @4/1 (5)
1 point on West Ham to win 3-1 @13/1 (14)
1 point on HT 1-0 FT 3-1 to West Ham @50-1 (51)
1 point on Antonio to score the first goal @13/2 (7.5)
1 point on Antonio first goal & score 3-1 @66-1 (67)
1 point on West Ham to score 3 or more goals @5/2 (3.5)
1 point on West Ham to win by exactly 2 goals @4/1 (5)
1 point on Obiang to score anytime & West Ham to win @10/1 (11)

Total stake 30 points.

If West Ham win the game then we are definitely up on the day.

But, if Antonio scores the first goal of the game, West Ham lead 1-0 at half time, West Ham win the game 3-1, and Obiang scores one of the second half goals, then our stake will win us over 200 points. Unlikely I know. But a bit of fun nonetheless.

What are the chances?

Matchday: Hammers v Black Cats

Looking forward with renewed enthusiasm as the Hammers take on the bedraggled Black Cats.

West Ham SunderlandFresh from the encouraging win against Crystal Palace last weekend Hammer’s supporters will be looking for the same professionalism and panache as West Ham entertain lowly Sunderland at the London Stadium today.  Without a win all season and just two draws in their account the visitors look almost as miserable as the look on their manager’s face.  If ever a team reflected the manager’s personality on the pitch then it is the Black Cats.

David Moyes is Sunderland’s 13th manager (plus a couple of caretakers) this century and is the epitome of the dour Scotsman; like the one who has won the lottery and then admonishes himself for buying a second ticket.  History would suggest that he won’t be at the Stadium of Light this time next year when in reality Sunderland need to stick with someone for a few years to sort themselves out.  A biggish stadium does not make a big club and there seems to be a lot wrong at the club as their perennial struggles and unlikely great escapes implies.

“It was good in the camp two or three weeks ago. We didn’t stop training but of course it’s a better mood because the confidence is back, in a positive way.”

– Slaven Bilic

Anything other than a convincing West Ham win today will be a huge disappointment.  We took four points off the Black Cats last season but were quite fortunate to do so; with the drawn away game hinging on a sending off after limply going 2-0 down and the home game a narrow and scrappy 1-0 victory.  We need to see more of the high tempo, quick passing and movement from last week and avoid a return to the ponderous build up that has characterised the majority of the season.

Head to Head

Our Head to Head record with Sunderland was another which I believed would be firmly to our advantage when in fact it is almost level pegging.  My instinct was that it this is a fixture where we routinely rattle in the goals but I guess that is merely the claret and blue spectacles playing havoc with my rear-view perception.

P W D L F A Sequence
Home 42 18 14 10 79 50 WWDDLW
Away 44 13 11 20 54 71 DDWLLW
86 31 25 30 133 121

West Ham have won three of the last six home fixture while the last Sunderland away success came in a 3-0 victory in the very final game of the woeful Avram Grant season.

Team News

By rights we should have been expecting an unchanged team from the previous match but, sadly, incompetent refereeing means that Aaron Cresswell sits this one out.  Andre Ayew is back in training but remains some way away from a recall while the recuperation of Carroll and Sakho is following a ‘tomorrow never comes’ regime; it seems that we have devised a new position of the ‘False Substitute’ which will be making Pep very jealous.

Gaun yersel’, haud yer wheesht.  Shut yer geggy, whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye.  Away an bile yer heid.

– David Moyes

I expect the starting line-up will be as last week, retaining three at the back, with Arbeloa coming in for Cresswell.  It will not be as effective without Cresswell’s exceptional forward and link up play but is the best fit to build on the momentum of last week.  I wonder what the odds are on Zaza to emulate Geoff Hurst and score 6 goals?

Sunderland will include pantomime villain Jermaine Defoe in their line-up.  Still one of the best finishers in the Premier League I assume the defence are well aware that whatever else happens he mustn’t score.

Man in the Middle

Today’s referee is Robert ‘Bobby’ Madely from West Yorkshire.  Madely was in charge of West Ham on three occasions last season including the fine wins away at Manchester City and at home to Liverpool.  The other game, the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, was less auspicious as his various blunders cost the Hammers another memorable away success.  Madely is in fine yellow card form this season with 30 bookings from 6 games.

The Lawro Challenge – Week 9

A suspicion of foul play as the predictor battle with Lawro hots up.

Lawro Crystal BallThere is something very humbling in trying to come to terms with the fact that you are a worse forecaster of Premier League results than Lawro.  In fact I am becoming quite suspicious of the current standings to the extent that I believe that my predictions may have been compromised by Russian hackers.  There is still a long way to go but I need to consider whether or not I will accept the results once the counting has finished.

In Week 8, Rich scored seven points, Geoff four points, and Lawro narrowed the gap at the top slightly with eight points.  This week’s predictions are below and show unanimous certainty that the Hammers will be three points better off at the final whistle on Saturday..





Total after 7 weeks




Score in week 8




Total after 8 weeks








Predictions – Week 9












Bournemouth v Tottenham




Arsenal v Middlesbrough




Burnley v Everton




Hull v Stoke




Leicester v Crystal Palace




Swansea v Watford




West Ham v Sunderland




Liverpool v WBA








Man.City v Southampton




Chelsea v Man.Utd.




Sunderland Preview: Another Eight Goals?

Geoff Hurst’s on fire, the Sunderland defence was terrified.

Sunderland HurstWhen we set off for Upton Park on October 19 1968 I am not sure we knew what to expect that afternoon. When we were travelling from home to the game, on those Saturdays when we weren’t playing football for Barking Abbey School in the morning, we caught the British Rail train from Rainham to Barking, then met others for the two-stop trip on the District Line to Upton Park. Last season I made the same trip to a game, visiting memory lane (and Ferry Lane), and have to confess that not much has changed in the intervening forty-eight years. The overground trains now have automatic doors and are quieter, but Rainham Station, Barking Station, the District Line, Upton Park Station and Green Street all looked and smelt just the same as they did when we were young teenagers.

In mid-October 1968, fourteen games of the season had been played and we sat in sixth place in Division One. For younger readers that was the top division, equivalent to the Premier League today. The amazing thing about our league position was that we had not won a league game since August. In August itself we were on fire, although that was not an expression we used in the 1960s. There were seven league games in the first month of the season, and we won five of them, drew one, but lost heavily 4-1 to Everton on a warm Monday evening. In those seven games we had scored sixteen goals and conceded six, so apart from the Everton game we were scoring goals and defending well.

As September began, we had briefly topped the league, and we then thrashed Bolton 7-2 in the League Cup. What we didn’t know was that throughout the rest of September, and the first half of October we would play seven league games without winning a single one (although we did draw five of them), and also get dumped out of the League Cup by Coventry after a replay.

So we weren’t expecting anything particularly special that Saturday afternoon when Sunderland were the visitors, and as Autumn days were getting colder, less than 25,000 turned up, which was to be one of the lowest crowds of the season. As the half hour point of the match approached we still hadn’t seen anything special, although we were on top. Martin Peters crossed the ball and Geoff Hurst punched the ball into the net. From our position on the North Bank (at the other end of the ground) we thought he had handled the ball, but there were no protests from the visitors, the referee didn’t spot it, and we were 1-0 up.

Bobby Moore then smashed home a free kick to double the lead, Brooking crossed for Hurst to head home the third goal, and then a Harry Redknapp corner was turned in by Hurst shortly before half-time to make it 4-0. The hat-trick goal is shown in the photograph. Fifteen minutes before we hadn’t seen it coming, but here we were at half-time, a Hurst hat-trick, and 4-0 up.

We turned on the style in the second half. We were hoping that the first half goals would not be the end of the story, and that we would witness more of the same at our end of the ground. We were not disappointed. Two further goals from Hurst were followed by a netbuster from Brooking, before a Redknapp cross was finished by Hurst to make it 8-0, and a double hat-trick from the best centre-forward I have ever seen wearing a claret and blue shirt. I had never seen anybody score six goals in a game, and I am not sure that it has ever been done in the top division of English football since that day. Three years earlier I had witnessed Brian Dear scoring five goals in a game for us, but Geoff Hurst had gone one better.

We are meeting Sunderland this weekend almost 48 years to the day since that memorable game in 1968. We were both in the top half of the table when we met all those years ago, but this time the opposite is the case, and we both desperately need the points. If the game is still goalless as the half hour approaches don’t despair. There is still time for us to rattle in eight goals before the final whistle!

West Ham Heroes – Number 2 – Bobby Moore

An occasional series on Hammer’s Heroes takes a look back at the finest defender of many a generation.

Bobby MooreWhen we are growing up most of us have heroes. As a young boy, my walls were adorned with pictures of my first heroes. Photographs of West Ham footballers and pop stars filled my bedroom from the late 1950’s throughout the 1960’s. Last time I wrote of my first hero, John Dick, whose replica shirt I got for Christmas 1958. The following Christmas my autograph book was signed by the West Ham team, who were all heroes to a five year old fan. Fast forward one year. I am now six, approaching seven, and Christmas is a week or so away.

It’s a Friday night and my dad asks me if I want to go to Upton Park the following day. I’ve been to a few games by now, and of course the answer is yes. On Saturday morning he wakes me early. It’s still dark and very cold. He works on Saturday mornings and I go with him. At noon he finishes and we leave Chadwell Heath heading for Upton Park.

We arrive and go through the front gates as a number of the players are arriving. Young boys like myself surround the players holding out their autograph books for their signatures. My dad points out to me a tall blond teenager who has not been approached. I go up to him and ask him if he would please sign my book. Of course he replies, and asks me my name, where I live, where I go to school, who my favourite players are, and chats to me and my dad for a couple of minutes. The older players are more well-known and surrounded by young boys.

My dad asks him if he is confident of winning today. He replies that he expects a very difficult game. Our opponents, Wolves, have been one of the top teams in the country for the past few years. We thank him and he joins the others. He is the first real footballer I have ever spoken to. He became a hero to me that day and for years to come.

Bobby Moore Autograph 1Within a couple of years he was an England player, he played in the 1962 World Cup tournament in Chile, and he captained England at 22. He collected the FA Cup when we beat Preston in 1964, the European Cup Winners Cup the following year, and the World Cup a year later. Three times he climbed the 39 Wembley steps at the head of his team. He was still only 25 years old.

His footballing career is well documented. He was immaculate in every respect. He was, and still is, the best defender I ever saw. A view shared by so many leading figures in the game. His performances in the 1966 World Cup tournament stood out, and remember, he provided two assists in the final. I watched on TV, perhaps his best ever game when England lost 1-0 to Brazil in a group game at the 1970 tournament. If you’ve never seen it try to see a recording of the game. He was superb.

Bobby Moore Autograph 2I can recall so many games as I watched him hundreds of times. I have so many memories, including some unusual ones. I remember how he wiped his hands before shaking hands with the Queen when collecting the World Cup. I remember him accidentally knocking out a referee with the ball and picking up the whistle to stop the game. I remember him dancing a jig with Jimmy Greaves in a game against Tottenham. I remember him scoring a magnificent goal against QPR, running from inside our half and unleashing an unstoppable shot into the top corner, before turning on his heels and walking back barely celebrating. I remember his anticipation, the way he timed his tackles, his magnificent distribution. I remember watching a great defender. I haven’t seen anyone better since.

But most of all I remember how he took a couple of minutes to speak to an impressionable six year old boy, who never forgot those moments. I met him again a few years later and once again he gave me an autograph as we chatted. Oh, and the game in December 1960 against Wolves? We won 5-0 and unusually he scored one of the goals.

He died at too young an age, and never received the recognition that he deserved. He should have been Sir Bobby Moore for leading his country to World Cup victory and for services to football. His club and country should be ashamed for not using his talents when he stopped playing. Posthumously he now receives the recognition he should have had when he was still alive. He was simply the best defender that most people of my generation ever saw.

Counting Sheep – 10 – The Letter S

The latest alphabetically challenged West Ham lineup. The managerless letter ‘S’.

Counting SheepIt has been good fun trying to come up with West Ham all-time football teams where the players surnames all begin with the same letter. Some letters have proved to be more difficult than others resulting in combined teams, but the letter S is one where I can think of a whole team.

So far I’ve picked nine teams, “B”, “C”, “D”, “F”, a combined “G” and “H”, a combined “J”, “K” and “L”, a combined “M” and “N”, a combined “P” and “Q”, and “Vowels”. So here is the result of my brain training exercise with West Ham footballers whose surnames begin with “S”.

Song (A)
Sealey (A)

Players left out include keepers Stech, Srnicek, and Les Sealey, and outfield players Rigobert Song, Spence, Solano, Sakho, Small, Speedie, Slater R, Stanislas, Swindlehurst, Strodder and Suker.

It’s funny when you try to think of a team in this way. Before I started I thought that S would have been a letter from which I would pick a very strong team, but I don’t think it matches some of the others I have selected. I’ve probably missed someone obvious. Would you have selected any of the players that I omitted from my final XI?

And who would manage the S team? I may be wrong but I don’t think we’ve had a manager whose surname begins with S. So this team is managerless at the moment.

Where Have All The Strikers Gone?

Missing in Action: The 20 Goals Per Season Striker.

StrikersAfter the encouraging victory on Saturday the emotional swingometer has turned completely on its axis shifting from doom and despair to euphoric optimism. While the positivity is welcome after such a disappointing start to the season a sense of perspective needs to be maintained as we come to the end of our run of ‘easier’ games. The formation and attitude worked well at Palace and now we need to see if that can be followed through at home to Sunderland.

I cannot yet jump on the new found enthusiasm for Simone Zaza bandwagon. I don’t see that after one hard working performance we have a solution to our long running striker dilemma. He may have ‘put in a shift’ but was he really ‘different class’? Slaven Bilic said that we wouldn’t have won without him and I can only go along with that if he meant the alternative was playing with 10 men. Now Slav’s comments may have been designed to give Zaza a boost but I would like to see a greater end product (i.e. goals) rather than good stats on aerial duels won before I become a believer.

Now this is not meant to be a Zaza bashing article but rather to consider why it is that we have failed to secure an even half prolific goal scorer for such a long period of time. If the 20 goals a season striker is elusive at most clubs then he has completely disappeared during West Ham’s Premier League tenure. A regular goalscorer has been a problem for many years.  In our 20 Premier League seasons the best return that we have had was Di Canio’s 16 goals in 1999/2000. In only 7 of those 20 seasons has any West Ham player scored more than 10 league goals. In our last 10 Premier League seasons only Harewood (14 in 2005/6) and Zamora (11 in 2006/7) have exceeded the 10 goal mark. Quite a sorry return I would say.  Sure it is great to get goals from all around the pitch but every successful team tends to have at least one consistent scorer.

Paolo is also our all time Premier League scorer with 47 goals in 118 appearances (an average of 2 goals every 5 games) followed by Carlton Cole with 41 goals in 216 appearances (1 in 5). Only 10 players in total have scored more than 20 Premier League goals for West Ham and these include penalty takers Mark Noble and Julian Dicks. Tony Cottee is the only player to have scored a Premier League goal for West Ham to appear in the list of our Top 10 all-time goalscorers; 23 of his 115 goals coming in the Premier League era.

In the modern game a striker needs to contribute more than just goals but a striker who doesn’t score is not really doing his job. It seems strange that we have not been able to unearth and keep a decent goalscorer in recent history. There have been those that didn’t stick around for long for various reasons (Defoe, Tevez, Bellamy, even Ba) plus the unfortunate Dean Ashton but otherwise there has just been a procession of misfiring lumps; often the result of emergency January transfer window loan deals.

A top striker was stated as the priority in the most recent transfer window and the names of potential targets were appearing in the media almost daily. It is difficult to know how many of these were genuine or realistic but the many players mentioned didn’t fit a profile for a particular style or type of player. In the end it seemed that most were either not interested or not available and we ended up in a last minute panic taking whatever was convenient. It reminded me a little of going shoe shopping with a woman who has nothing to match the dress she will be wearing that evening.

I would be quite happy for Zaza to prove me wrong but neither his goal scoring record nor his performances have raised expectations that he will suddenly start firing them in from all angles . As things stand I don’t see any short term end to our striker famine unless we are able to pin all our hopes on Toni Martinez.