Five Things From The Weekend

Some take-aways from West Ham’s win at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

5 Things WHUA Much Improved All-Round Performance

Finally a performance to be proud of on Saturday. Played at a much higher tempo with good movement and penetrative passing. Playing three at the back worked very well and it also uncluttered the midfield of the Kouyate-Noble partnership allowing the ball to move much more freely and with real purpose. The returning Cresswell meant there were options on both flanks and his understanding and interplay with Payet can be devastating at times. Excellent performances (in no particular order) from Cresswell, Reid, Obiang, Kouyate and Lanzini.  On the other hand, Noble still looks a little lost and well off the pace and must be coming under pressure from Fernandes who from his various cameo appearances looks assured and full of energy.

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever

The Manuel Lanzini goal was a rare thing of beauty. This is the type of goal I love to see. I know they all count the same but, as far as goals to admire go ,the beautifully worked team goal trumps the 25 yard torpedo every time in my opinion. A flick by Payet, the wonderful pass from Obiang to Cresswell, the patient exchange between Cresswell and Payet, the teasing Cresswell cross and Lanzini’s perfect run and clinical finish. I have yet to tire of watching it. Elsewhere at the weekend I also came across fine well worked team goals by ex-Hammer Junior Stanislas for Bournemouth in their annihilation of Hull City and from last season loan reject Victor Moses netting the third for Chelsea against Leicester.  The type of action that makes the game great to watch.

The Consistency of Inconsistent Refreeing

I have to admit that I have lost the plot as to what does and doesn’t constitute a penalty these days. If there is a foul tackle then it should be a foul regardless of how anyone reacts. Whether a player goes down (too) easily or not is besides the point. Clive Allen, the pundit on the commentary I had, thought Cresswell had ‘gone down too easily’ although it didn’t look theatrically in any way to me or, in fact, most other observers. The mistake was compounded by a booking for simulation and then exacerbated a minute later by the second yellow card from a marginal tussle with Zaha.

I wrote before the game that Atkinson had yet to issue a red card this season so maybe he was behind on his targets. There really is no consistency. In the Middlesbrough – Watford match referee Roger East yellow carded Boro’s Barragan for a foul (not too dissimilar to the Creeswell one) on Isaac Success but then when the defender committed almost a carbon copy on the same player a little later it went unpunished.

Sometimes decisions can be seen as harsh but Cresswell’s dismissal was simply wrong and it’s a travesty that the decision cannot be corrected and a suspension must be served.

– Graham Poll writing in the Daily Mail

Knowing Me, Knowing You, Zaza!

I would agree that Zaza probably had his best game in a West Ham shirt although to be honest the bar was set fairly low. Possibly he has worked on his fitness and he is getting closer to the levels required to operate in the Premier League. However, with the appearances clock ticking on the apparent ‘obligation to buy’ clause he still looks a long, long way away from being a £20 million striker (even at devalued prices). An off form striker is one getting into positions but being unable to finish whereas I can’t recall a serious Zaza goal attempt yet this season. I have heard people talking about him playing upfront with Carroll which seems laughable to me not only for the combined lack of mobility but also for the way it would by necessity weaken the midfield. If you are going to play with a lone striker I believe you need someone who is fast, brave, mobile and strong. It is puzzling how Bilic sees this as his striker targets don’t seem to follow any template.  I was concerned by his comments that he had been interested in Benteke who is just another one dimensional player. As well as we defended on Saturday, Palace with Benteke were very predictable (as Pardew sides often are) and I hope that we can eventually find a striker to support a more fluid style of play; the type of job that Callum Wilson performed for Bournemouth in their game.

Loanee Watch

The purpose of sending young players out on loan is to aid their development by giving them game time and experience playing in the lower divisons. So, how are our loanees shaping up. Fresh from his first international goal for Norway, Martin Samuelsen was given a rare start for Blackburn but lasted for just over the hour in their goalless draw against Ipswich; Stephen Hendrie did not make the squad. Reece Burke (and I believe Kyle Knoyle) are both injured and so missed Wigan’s draw with Burton Albion. Josh Cullen played a full 90 minutes but couldn’t prevent Bradford surrendering their unbeaten record at Oxford while Lewis Page lasted 24 minutes for Coventry in their defeat at Charlton before injury required him to be substituted; at least it was all square at the time. George Dobson was an unused substitute in Walsall’s home victory against Shrewsbury. Doneil Henry was a second half substitute for AC Horsens in the 1-1 Danish Super League draw with AGF.  Verdict: nothing to get excited about.

This Week in Hammer’s History

Shaking down the week 17-23 October in West Ham history.

This Week Hammers HistoryIn the new spirit of optimism that has swept into West Ham since the victory at Palace on Saturday I have decided to ignore any defeats in this week’s review of the week in Hammer’s history. The latest win completed a hat-trick of away victories at Selhurst Park and came almost a year after the previous success where goals from Jenkinson, Payet and Lanzini saw West Ham climb to 4th in the table.

Saturday also brought a welcome clean sheet courtesy of solid defending, some fine Adrian saves and Christian Benteke. The passing years have witnessed several high scoring, clean sheet performances which includes two thrashings of our next opponents, Sunderland. Most know of the 8 goal rout in 1968, famous for Geoff Hurst’s six-goal haul, but there was also a 5-0 victory in a second division clash in 1989 (two from Eamon Dolan). Ironically, Sunderland were promoted through the Play-offs that season despite losing the final when their victors, Swindon Town, were denied promotion due to irregular payments to players. West Ham meanwhile had finished in 7th place.

Other notable wins were a 4-0 European Cup Winner’s Cup second round tie against Poli Timisoara in 1980 and a 3-0 win in a bad tempered affair against Bolton Wanderers in 1997.

Dipping into the 1985/86 season it was during October that the season really started to pick up steam. We went into the month in 13th position with 13 points from 10 games (which is what winning our next two games would give us) and by the end had climbed to 7th following three wins and a draw.

On 19 October 1985 West Ham entertained Aston Villa in front of just 15,034 spectators at the Boleyn Ground. With no football on TV in the early part of the season I am relying on memory and I believe that we went 1-0 down to a Simon Stainrod goal before a brace each from McAvennie and Cottee secured a 4-1 victory. The two prolific front-men had by then scored 19 or the Hammer’s 23 league goals between them and went on to contribute 46 by the end of the campaign.

During the season a total of 9 players went on to start in 38 or more of the 42 league games played. One of these, Alan Dickens, was missing from the lineup against Villa: Parkes, Stewart, Walford, Gale, Martin, Devonshire, Ward, McAvennie, Parris, Cottee, Orr

One game to mention from this week that West Ham didn’t win was the 2-2 draw against Tottenham in 1970; a game that will always hold the record for the highest (official) attendance at the Boleyn Ground of 42,322. (As a teenager back then we would often go two people through the same turnstile click so I was always a little sceptical of the official attendances.)

The 1970 season was not one of the most memorable as we finished one place off of relegation. The match saw the debut of Tommy Taylor who I remembered as playing some nice football while being a little suspect defensively. Hurst and Eustace scored the West Ham goals: Grotier, Bonds, Lampard, Eustace, Taylor, Moore, Ayris, Lindsay, Hurst, Greaves, Dear

Birthdays this week:

18 October   Peter Grotier (66)
21 October   Paul Ince (49)
23 October   Christian Dailly (43)

Palace Review – Shocking Decision

The Match of The Day pundit has a very different view of the sending off to the commentator.


Having just watched a re-run of yesterday’s Match of the Day, and still angry over the performance of the officials, I was equally appalled by the match commentary from Jonathan Pearce. In my opinion he had a very poor grasp of the “mad minute”.

Firstly he reckoned that Cresswell was barely touched and went down too easily. Wrong I reckon. Next he was virtually suggesting that you could tell how easily he went down by Cabaye’s reaction. Surely with all his years of commentating he might have realised that the clever players react in this way to try to get away with it when they know they have done wrong. And then if he was of the opinion that Cresswell went down too easily, how comes he believed that the slight brush on Zaha was worthy of a second booking.

 I like to think I can remain unbiased when watching football. Yes I am a West Ham fan and that must influence me, but I can clearly recall instances where I have been disappointed by poor officiating when opposing players have been sent off in the past too.

At least Alan Shearer, an excellent pundit in my view with a good understanding of the game, got it spot on. It was a penalty and the second booking wasn’t even a foul. But I was very unimpressed with Mr. Pearce.

I Wouldn’t Bet On It 13

Unlucky for some we laugh in the face of misfortune with an extra Sunday flutter.

Fancy A BetIf you thought that Cresswell was unlucky to be sent off, we were equally unfortunate with our two accumulator bets, both of which failed by just one match. Because of the guarantee, with just one incorrect result in each, we get our stake returned.

For the first we staked 1 point on the following 5 teams to win at accumulated odds of 9.69/1: Chelsea, Arsenal, Bournemouth, Manchester City, Stoke. Manchester City were the only team to let us down by drawing 1-1 with Everton, but the unlucky aspect is that they missed two penalties in the game.

But if you think we were unfortunate there, we were even more unlucky with our more adventurous bet which staked 1 point on the following 10 teams to win at accumulated odds of 55.54/1: Brighton, Newcastle, Norwich, Bolton, Charlton, Carlisle, Doncaster, Aberdeen, Celtic, Hearts. Nine of the ten teams won. The only game that let us down was where Brighton were 2-1 up against 10-man Preston in the 92nd minute when they conceded an equaliser. I had £5 on that bet, and it would have returned over £280 if Brighton had hung on. But that’s the way it goes. I got my stake back!

So our balance is 102.1 points, including the two points of free bets which we will use immediately on today’s Premier League games. We’ll put one point on Middlesbrough to beat Watford at 13/10 (potential return 2.3), and the other point on Middlesbrough and Southampton to both win their games at a double of 2.22/1 (3.22).

What are the chances?

Victory At Palace

Well Deserved Win Takes Us Out Of the Relegation Zone

Embed from Getty Images

It is only one win, so I am not going to get too carried away. But how refreshing it was to see a West Ham side start a game on the front foot. For the first half of the first half we totally ran the game playing with high intensity, slick passing, moving the ball quickly, players finding space to receive it, and attacking at greater pace than we have seen previously this season.

The goal when it came was well deserved, with great passing between the impressive Payet, and the equally impressive Cresswell. The way Lanzini opened his body out to place the ball into the corner of the net showed great technique. And then with seconds remaining of the first half we conceded a penalty (so West Ham!). It was probably a just decision but it would have been so unfair on the balance of play to have gone in at half time with the scores level. The fact that we didn’t was due to Bentecke, who continued what he started for Liverpool in the cup against us last season, by missing chances. It is criminal to miss the target when you are taking a penalty, but he was perhaps influenced by the way Lanzini had opened his body up to score our goal. It seemed that he tried to do the same, but blazed high and wide.

I suppose being a West Ham fan I am used to great penalty takers. In my time I remember watching John Bond, Johnny Byrne, Geoff Hurst, Ray Stewart, Julian Dicks, Paolo Di Canio and Mark Noble take most of the penalties I remember us being awarded, and despite the occasional miss (none of them had 100% records), usually as a result of an excellent save (e.g. Gordon Banks), I can rarely recall one of them missing the target.

In the second half, we controlled the game well, contained the pacy Palace attack, and were looking good value for a win when Cresswell was fouled by Cabaye in the penalty area. As I leapt from my seat expecting the award of a penalty, I was appalled to see Martin Atkinson book Cresswell for simulation. A shocking decision. Less than a minute later, Cresswell barely touched Zaha close to the touchline as they both ran for the ball, the linesman signalled a foul, and Atkinson sent Cresswell off. That minute was as inept a display of poor refereeing as you could ever wish to see. I don’t think he really understands the game.

I was angry. It was so wrong. For the second game running against Palace we had a player sent off. Remember Kouyate was dismissed in April, but that red card was rescinded. I took to Twitter to read some reactions believing that it just couldn’t be my interpretation surely! And sure enough 100% of the reactions thought that the referee had got it so wrong. Now the West Ham fans you could understand to an extent, but every unbiased ex-player reaction, and even Howard Webb, who nearly always backs up the officials, read it the same as me. I didn’t see one person who thought it was the correct decision.

But unlike Kouyate last season, because this was a sending off via two yellow cards, the rules of appeal do not apply, however unjust the decision. The nonsense of this is, although we hung on to three points by not conceding a goal, Cresswell is banned for the next match. The West Ham fans who tweeted that it would definitely be rescinded were unfortunately as ignorant of the appeals process, as the officials were of what constitutes a penalty, what constitutes a foul, and their understanding of the game of football and how to officiate it.

Bilic had decided on a changed formation for this game and it worked a treat. Full marks to Adrian for the marvellous reaction save in stoppage time. Kouyate, Ogbonna, and man-of-the-match Reid were the three at the back who stood firm, Cresswell and Antonio both had excellent games as wing-backs, Obiang was very impressive once again (he must be retained in this role), Payet and Lanzini looked much sharper than of late, Noble was OK, and Zaza put in a shift (to coin a phrase).

Let us hope that the confidence gained from this win enables us to continue to improve, and move up the table sooner rather than later.

Matchday: Palace v West Ham

Can West Ham pull an unlikely iron out of the fire at Selhurst Park?

Palace West HamToday the stuttering Hammers make the short trip across the river to take on Crystal Palace at the boisterous Selhurst Park. Somewhere in there is an interesting comparison between our perceptions of the Boleyn and London Stadium experience and the type of atmosphere that is currently created by Palace’s self-styled Holmedale Ultras. It has often been dismissed as ‘Happy Clappy’ but has certainly contributed to the team’s performance and helped them preserve top flight status longer than their usual tenure.

I have always pigeonholed Palace with their South London neighbours, Charlton and Millwall, as a lower league club who only occasionally visit the top table before returning to their natural level. However, their current leadership appear to be doing a reasonable job of bringing the yo-yo under control having secured more stable investment.

“I have to make a decision on Zaza over Saturday, that is the only decision I am thinking about: the game against Palace. The only thing I am thinking about Saturday is not about the situation in his contract or around his contract but is he going to be the one I will put at centre-forward? The only objective is can he do it against Palace?”

– Bilic on Zaza

Traditionally Palace were one of the other claret and blue sides and, like us, can trace this back to an association with Aston Villa; although theirs was a more formal relationship rather than being the recipient of some kit that fell of the back of a cart. It was former Hammer, Malcolm Allison, who prompted the change to the current red and blue strip.

My last visit to Selhurst Park was in January 1984 for an FA Cup 4th round tie. This ended 1-1 but all I can remember from the trip into the badlands is that it was the same day that Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire while filming a Pepsi commercial.

Head to Head

Historically we have done well against Palace although more recent encounters have been more even.  We have won on the last two visits to Selhurst Park although the odds will not be be good on an unlikely hat-trick.





































Team News

There have been several stories in the week about West Ham having received double or treble injury boosts. Unfortunately, the only good news is that Aaron Cresswell is available for selection; the others returning from injury being Nordtveit and Calleri who would be better to advised to go shopping on a Saturday afternoon. The only other positive injury news is that Gokhan Tore is unavailable. With no imminent return of long term absentees Carroll, Sakho or Ayew we still have no useful striker to call on and so our best bet for a goal will continue to be from a Payet free kick; so expect a lot of falling over outside the box.

The return of Cresswell is very welcome and his absence has been significant; not so much for his defending but in providing variety and penetration in attacking areas. It will be interesting to see if he gets a start or is only on the bench. Convention is that returning players no longer go straight into the starting XI but this seems a waste to me. If fit enough then make him a starter and replace if and when tiring.

‘But he’s an experienced manager – an experienced international manager – and he’ll know how to deal with it. Better than I will. I have no doubt he’ll get it right sooner rather than later.’

– Pardew on Bilic

Palace are likely to have former Hammer James Tomkins in their lineup together with plenty of other tall men with beards. Hint: they score a lot of goals from set pieces. Hopefully, we will have Obiang starting in midfield and that we compete much better in the central midfield areas (and don’t pair Kouyate and Noble together again). I would leave Noble out on this occasion and go with Kouyate simply because of his height. Up front I see no benefit of enduring with Zaza and how can Ashley Fletcher possibly do any worse. So my team is:

Arbeloa Reid Ogbonna Cresswell
Antonio Lanzini Kouyate Obiang Payet

The Man in the Middle

Today’s referee is Martin Atkinson from West Yorkshire.  This is his second West Ham games this season having previously officiated at the home game against Watford.  He has yet to issue a red card this season – may be worth a bet?

I Wouldn’t Bet On It 12

Looking for a quick return on those devalued pounds?

Fancy A BetLast time we tried out the Betfred “Goals Galore” bonus coupon for the second time. It pays fixed odds based on both teams scoring at least one goal in a match. Depending upon the number of games you choose, fixed odds are paid at varying rates. On their Goals Galore Bonus coupon, which we tried, they pay 9/2 for 3 correct, 9/1 for 4 correct, and 16/1 for 5 correct, going right up to 5000/1 for 15 correct.

We tried two batches of four games, each at 9-1, and then all eight games at 100-1. So we needed both teams to score in the following games:

Group One:
West Ham v Middlesbrough, Leeds v Barnsley, Preston v Villa, Sheffield W v Brighton

Group Two:
Reading v Derby, Rotherham v Newcastle, Bury v Scunthorpe, Chesterfield v Bradford C

We staked one point stake on each group, and one point stake on all eight games. Total = 3 points. Just three teams let us down by not scoring; Villa, Rotherham and Chesterfield.

And to finish we staked five points on West Ham to end their poor run in the game against Middlesbrough, at 11/10 on a win, but despite Payet’s wonder goal we only drew.

So we lost 8 points on the day which brought our balance down to 103.1.

This week we’ll try a couple of accumulators, which have a guarantee that with just one incorrect result we get our stake returned.

Firstly, we’ll stake 1 point on the following 5 teams to win this weekend at accumulated odds of 9.69/1: Chelsea, Arsenal, Bournemouth, Manchester City, Stoke.

Secondly, we’ll try a more adventurous bet by staking 1 point on the following 10 teams to win this weekend at accumulated odds of 55.54/1: Brighton, Newcastle, Norwich, Bolton, Charlton, Carlisle, Doncaster, Aberdeen, Celtic, Hearts.

And finally a fun bet on the Palace v West Ham game. On so many occasions recently there have been 4 goals in the game when we’ve met Palace, so I’ll stake 1 point on a 2-2 draw at 11/1.

Total stake = 3 points. New balance = 100.1 points. Potential return = 76.23 points

What are the chances?

The Lawro Challenge – Week 8

Where we attempt to out-predict the BBC predictor.

Lawro Crystal BallAfter seven weeks Rich has extended his lead at the top to ten points. Both Rich and Geoff scored eight points in week 7, compared to Lawro’s six points. Rich managed 5 correct results plus one correct score, Geoff had 2 correct results plus two correct scores, and Lawro brought up the rear this week with 3 correct results and one correct score. In our competition we award one point for a correct result and three points for a correct score.

On the BBC website Lawro has now lost three of his seven weekly prediction encounters. Firstly he was beaten by WWE star and Hollywood actor, Dave Bautista, who hadn’t heard of some of the Premier League teams, then it was the turn of the world number one darts player, Michael van Gerwen to beat him, and finally in the last round of matches he lost to comedian and actor, Elis James.





Total after 6 weeks




Score in week 7




Total after 7 weeks








Predictions – Week 8












Chelsea v Leicester




Arsenal v Swansea




Bournemouth v Hull




Man City v Everton




Stoke v Sunderland




West Brom v Tottenham




Crystal Palace v West Ham








Middlesbrough v Watford




Southampton v Burnley








Liverpool v Man Utd




Palace Preview: Another Four Goals?

Heading south of the river for the late Saturday kick-off!

Embed from Getty Images

After winning the away game at Palace last October (on exactly the same weekend as this season) by three goals to one, with goals from Jenkinson, Lanzini, and Payet, we looked well set to repeat the feat when we met them at Upton Park in the return fixture in April. In the home fixture, after conceding an early goal following a mistake from Adrian,  Lanzini scored our first, and then Payet scored with one of his sublime free-kicks, this one going to the same side where the Palace keeper was standing. The match changed when Kouyate was sent off in the second half, and then Palace equalised a few minutes later. The decision was harsh and was later rescinded on appeal. But it was too late then for us to win this game!

The referee in both of the games was Mark Clattenburg. At Selhurst Park he sent off a Palace player, so he evened it up by sending off one of our players in the return. In fact he has quite a record of dismissing players in games when he referees us, although he is not on a par with Jonathan Moss.

Last season was a season of two halves for Palace. At Christmas they sat in fifth place in the Premier League, but in the New Year they came down with the Christmas decorations (a feat we have managed once or twice, though not as often as some people believe). By the time we met them at the beginning of April they had plummeted to fifteenth and were on the verge of getting involved in the relegation dogfight. But they were OK in the end, and also reached the Cup Final where they (unluckily?) lost to a late goal against Manchester United, a game remembered for the Pardew dance when Palace scored.

We’ve only met the Eagles 22 times in league games in the top flight of English football, mainly because they have not often been in the top division until recent times. We have won nine of the games, drawn eight, and lost just five. Only two of those five defeats have been at Selhurst Park, in 1995 and 2013, on both occasions by the only goal in the game. This will be our sixth top flight game against them in the month of October and they have never beaten us in this month of the year; in fact they’ve only drawn once. So that’s a good omen. Or perhaps it is not?

I’ve been to Selhurst Park twice. The first time was in October 1970 when we drew 1-1 thanks to a goal from Bobby Howe. I was back there the following October when Rod Stewart topped the charts with Maggie May. We won the game comfortably 3-0, with goals from Ade Coker, Billy Bonds and Clyde Best. Back in those days the Palace colours were actually claret and blue, but shortly afterwards they changed to the red and blue you see today.

Do you know what the most popular score in West Ham league matches last season? Very unusually it was 2-2. We drew more matches 2-2 than any other team in the Premier League. It happened seven times. Manchester United didn’t manage a single 2-2 draw. In three seasons in the Premier League under Sam Allardyce we only had four 2-2 draws. In total in 2015-16 we drew 14 of our 38 games (37%), which was more than any other team in the Premier League.

Last season against Palace we won 3-1 away and drew 2-2 at home. The season before that we won 3-1 away and lost 3-1 at home to them. Where is all this leading to? Well for a start in recent times we seem to favour 2-2 draws. In addition, the last four games against Palace have all had four goals in them. This is leading me towards believing that we are destined to draw 2-2 at Selhurst Park this weekend. Based on the early games of this season for both sides, then this would seem to be a good result for us, and certainly one that is not anticipated by the pundits. Nevertheless getting my optimistic hat out once again I am hoping for even more. Perhaps there will be four goals in the game, and we will win 3-1?

Counting Sheep – 9 – The Letters P and Q

Another combined team in the alphabeti spaghetti tangle of Hammer’s dream teams.

Counting SheepI’ve really enjoyed putting my thinking cap on and trying to come up with West Ham all-time football teams where the players surnames all begin with the same letter. When I began I thought that I would be able to make teams out of most of the letters of the alphabet, but it has proved to be a little more difficult than I envisaged. The original aim was to help me drop off to sleep instead of the more traditional method of counting sheep, but now it has turned into a brain training exercise (always useful when you reach my age!).

So far I’ve picked eight teams, “B”, “C”, “D”, “F”, a combined “G” and “H”, a combined “J”, “K” and “L”, a combined “M” and “N”, and “Vowels”. P is next and I was able to think of enough names to form a team. But thinking ahead to Q, that was one letter where I knew I would fail. I realised that I would have few options there, so once again I decided on a combined team, this time the P’s and Q’s. So I’ll mind my Ps and Qs, combine my Ps and Qs, and hope you don’t mind!

My all-time West Ham “P” plus “Q” Team in a 4-4-2 formation are:

Pearce (I)
Pearce (S)

I think you’ll agree I have picked a very strong midfield. Players left out include Pantsil, Pike, Powell, Poyet, Parks, Piquionne, Pogatetz, Porfirio and Quashie.

Have I forgotten someone really good who is a must for the P/Q team? And I can only remember one P/Q manager; Alan Pardew.