Man United v West Ham preview

‘Twas The Night Before Old Trafford

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Before last week’s visit to White Hart Lane, I wrote a poem based on the famous ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. It almost, although not quite, brought us a famous victory, so this week I am inspired to try once again.

I included similar poems in my book, Goodbye Upton Park, Hello Stratford, which incidentally is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon. So if you are looking for a Christmas present for a West Ham fan, and don’t want to spend big money for a piece of the Upton Park turf in a glass case, or a plastic seat from the stands, then look no further. I have been a regular at Upton Park for almost sixty years, and the book chronicles the last famous season there.

‘Twas the night before Old Trafford when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse;

In our last game, we went to the Lane;
It was going so well, damn Harry Kane;
Still seventeenth place, we visit Man U;
In need of three points, though one might just do;

We need to improve, be faster and bolder;
Another defeat, we’ll look over our shoulder;
‘Cos Hull are at home, with West Brom in town,
If they win their game, we’ll fall further down;

But remember last May, our last Boleyn game;
They turned up late, by coach they came;
They let us in late to take up our seating;
Man U lost the game, a hell of a beating;

We drew up there twice, Van Gaal was in charge;
And now it’s Mourinho, giving it large;
They’re not really that good, they’re run of the mill;
I reckon today we’ll beat them to nil;

Our season to date, there’s no valid reason;
To think we can win to kick start our season;
Optimistic as ever, we’ll get out of the jam;
‘Cos we are the mighty, the mighty West Ham.

One of my first memories in life was the day after my fourth birthday when the Manchester United plane crashed during take-off in Munich, and so many of their players were killed. Quite rightly there was a lot of sympathy for the club at this time, and they were a popular club throughout the country. In the years that followed, players like Charlton, Law and Best were revered as great footballers, and admired by many.

But the world has changed since those days. Fans no longer have any appreciation for the opposition, and with many it is a dislike or even hatred. United seem to be one of the teams that are most hated in English football. Perhaps it is their success which breeds jealousy, or is it those glory fans which latch themselves on to the club because of that success which so riles opposition supporters?

Are they a lucky team? Have more refereeing decisions gone their way than you would have expected? Have they attracted players that opposition fans just seem to hate so much? Keane, Cantona, Rooney, are just three examples. And for all his success over many years, and managerial achievements second to none, there was little warmth for Ferguson, among other clubs’ fans. And I suspect the same is true for Mourinho today.

But despite all the hatred they have been the most successful club in English football, and they have won more considerably more trophies, especially in the last twenty-five years, than any other team. We have been on the end of some heavy defeats by them in my lifetime, but we have also had many famous victories. The FA Cup semi-final in 1964 at Hillsborough, the FA Cup victory at Old Trafford when Di Canio was not put off by Barthez, the Tevez goal in the final game that staved off relegation, a 4-2 victory in 1977 which also kept us up, the great performance from Miklosko which denied them a league title, and of course, perhaps the greatest of all, and certainly the most emotional, the last game at Upton Park, are all examples of superb memories of matches against them.

We could really do with something from this game. The optimist in me is hoping for a victory. I’m certainly hoping that if we are leading in the 89th minute then we can hang on this week!

The Lawro Challenge – Week 13

In some cases out-predicting the BBC predictor is not as easy as it seemed.

Lawro Crystal BallTwelve rounds of games in the Premier League have now been completed. That means we have now predicted the results of 120 matches. In the couple of weeks prior to week 12 Lawro had narrowed the gap at the top, but Rich found his prediction touch again this week to pull further ahead.

In Week 12, Rich scored 13 points, Geoff 5 points, and Lawro 8 points. In this challenge we award one point for a correct result, and a further two points (making three in total) if the score prediction is spot on.

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

Total after 11 weeks

85

61

82

Score in week 12

13

5

8

Total after 12 weeks

98

66

90

 

 

 

 

Predictions – Week 13

 

 

 

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

SATURDAY

 

 

 

Burnley v Man City

0-3

1-3

0-2

Hull v West Brom

1-1

1-0

1-1

Leicester v Middlesbrough

2-1

3-1

2-0

Liverpool v Sunderland

3-0

4-0

2-0

Swansea v Palace

2-1

0-0

1-1

Chelsea v Tottenham

2-1

1-2

2-0

SUNDAY

 

 

 

Watford v Stoke

1-1

2-1

2-1

Arsenal v Bournemouth

3-1

3-0

2-0

Man Utd v West Ham

0-1

1-1

2-1

Southampton v Everton

1-1

2-0

1-1

Counting Sheep – 11 – The Letters R & T

Do You Remember A Keeper With A Surname Beginning With T?

Counting SheepFor the eleventh article in my feature selecting West Ham footballers that I have seen whose surnames begin with the same letter or combined letters I now move on to R & T. I have to admit that trying to remember players whose surname begins with T has been harder than I thought and despite thinking for some time I have been unable to come up with a goalkeeper. It is for this reason that I have combined R & T for my penultimate team.

So far I’ve picked ten teams, “B”, “C”, “D”, “F”, “S”, 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 “R” plus “T” team:

Randolph
Tompkins
Taylor (T)
Reid
Ruddock
Reo Coker
Redknapp
Robson (K)
Robson (B)
Taylor (A)
Tevez

Players left out include Rhodes, Reiper, Repka, Rat, Robson (M), Robson (S), Rowland, Rush, Radford, Rosenior, Raducioiu, Thomas (M), Tihinen, Taylor (M), Tyler, Tore, Todorov, Tristan

I’ve probably missed someone who I should have remembered. Would you have selected any of the players that I left out of my final XI?

And who would manage the R & T team? My only choices would be Redknapp or Roeder.

Tottenham 3 v 2 West Ham

Too good to go down? Haven’t we heard that somewhere before?

Embed from Getty Images

So we have an experienced Premier League manager in charge. He has kept us in the top flight when many thought we might struggle. Many are happy that he has done his job, but some believe that a change is needed. So at the end of the season the experienced manager departs, and the board bring in someone who has not managed at the top level in English football. Some think it is a risk. He probably wasn’t the first choice of the board but he gets the job. All new managers have a honeymoon period where the fans will allow some dodgy early results. And we do have some unexpected defeats at the beginning of the season.

But the performance of the club improves, and as the season progresses we have some great results. We do much better than most would have expected.

On October 24th we beat Chelsea 2-1 at Upton Park. We have some unexpected victories away from home. A seventh placed finish at the end of the season exceeds West Ham’s usual position in the Premier League.

So hopes are high for the season to follow. We have a talented squad, and a star player idolised by the supporters. But the season doesn’t quite go to plan. Early on we are playing a game at home and hold a two goal lead, but we don’t hold on to it, and fail to win the game. How the season might have been different if we had we won that game.

The early season results continue to fail to meet the high expectations held by the fans, and everyone associated with the club is disappointed with the start we have made. We visit White Hart Lane to play our arch enemies from North London. It’s a typically competitive derby and we lose the game 3-2 to a last minute goal. And one of our centre backs is sent off.

We are in the month of November, and after twelve games of the season have been played we have just eleven points. Not in the bottom three, but only just outside of it. That is less than a point a game. Relegation form many believe. Many will argue differently. Our team is a good one. Too good to go down. It will all come good soon.

Now most of you will think that I am writing about our current predicament. But I am not. Going back to the start of this article, the experienced manager is Harry Redknapp. The new manager is Glenn Roeder. In Roeder’s first season in charge in 2001-2002 we did beat Chelsea 2-1 on 24th October. We did have some unexpected victories away from home. We did finish seventh in the Premier League. Hopes were high for the season to come. In 2002-2003 we did have a talented squad. Di Canio was our star player and was idolised by the fans. We were leading Arsenal 2-0 but failed to win the game. How the season might have been different if we had held on to that lead and picked up three points. We did lose 3-2 at Tottenham to a last minute goal, and Ian Pearce was sent off. After twelve games we had eleven points. But most weren’t worried. Most believed we were too good to go down.

For Harry Redknapp read Sam Allardyce. For Glenn Roeder read Slaven Bilic. In Bilic’s first season we did have some unexpected defeats at the start (Leicester, Bournemouth) and we did beat Chelsea 2-1 at Upton Park on 24th October. We did have some unexpected victories away from home. We did finish in seventh place in the Premier League. We went in to the new season (this one) with high hopes. We did hold a two goal lead in an early game (Watford) but failed to win the game. How might this season have been different if we had picked up three points then? We did just lose 3-2 to a last minute goal at Tottenham, and for centre back Ian Pearce being sent off, read Winston Reid. And we have got just eleven points after twelve games of the season. And we are not in the bottom three, but just above it.

The parallels when comparing 2001-2, and 2002-3, are uncannily like 2015-16 and 2016-17. But of course 2016-17 isn’t over yet. We are just twelve games in. But for those who believe that history might continue to repeat itself, shall we look back to what happened at the end of 2002-3?

We finished in eighteenth place and were relegated despite some improved performances towards the end of the season. But how could it have happened? We were too good to go down they said. After those first twelve games in 2002-3 we then didn’t win a single game in our next nine league matches. It won’t happen this time will it? We are too good to go down. Aren’t we?

This Week in Hammer’s History

The week 21 – 27 November in Hammer’s History features defeats at Spurs and Millwall and victory at Old Trafford.

This Week Hammers HistoryIt is not often that you score 4 goals away from home but still end up losing but that was the case in the Second Division game against Blackburn Rover on 25 November 1989 where goals from Dicks, Brady, Slater and Ward could not prevent the Hammers suffering a 5-4 defeat.  In the Hammer’s lineup that day was Justin Fashanu making one of just two of his starts in the claret and blue as he attempted to resurrect his career.

From a long list of games played in the week 21 – 27 November there were not too many stand out games and so it is the high scoring ones that catch the eye.

Starting with the most painful memory first it is a year ago tomorrow that Harry Kane scored two as West Ham slid to a humbling 4-1 defeat at White Hart Lane (at least the manner and margin of defeat were different this time even if the pain is the same).  It was the same score when Glenn Roeder took his doomed eleven to Villa Park in November 2002 to reclaim bottom spot in the league.

High scoring successes include 5-2 against Coventry in 1981 (Stewart, Martin (2), Neighbour and Brooking); 5-3 against Oxford in 1992 (Breacker, Dicks (2), Morley and C Allen); and 4-3 against Sheffield Wednesday in 1999 (Foe, Wanchope, Di Canio and Lampard).   Extended highlights of the last of these matches, an incident filled encounter in what was Wednesday’s last season in the top flight to date, can be seen below and includes Marc-Vivien Foe’s solitary league goal for the Hammers.

In European competition, West Ham opened their defence of the ECWC on 24 November 1965 with a routine 4-0 first leg victory over Olympiakos of Greece with goals from Brabrook, Byrne and Hurst (2).    The return leg the following week ended all square at 2-2 as the Hammers progressed to a third round tie with FC Magdeburg.

A rare, although not high scoring, phenomenon was victory at Old Trafford on 27 November 1976; the match which had a West Ham debut for Anton Otulakowski saw the Hammers win by 2 goals to nil (Jennings and Brooking).  What chance a repeat exactly 40 years later?

Finally a return to a painful derby defeat this time against arch-villains Millwall in 2004 when Danny Dichio grabbed the only goal of the game against 10 man West Ham.  In a typical fiery encounter at the New Den Marlon Harewood was sent off for a second bookable offence just after the hour with the score at 0-0.  It was a largely uninspiring Hammer’s team at the time and this game featured the one and only Mauricio Taricco appearance; a career which lasted just 27 minutes before a torn hamstring led to his retirement from professional football.  Strange to think now that the season eventually ended with promotion through the Play-Offs; it was a classic scraping through the back door in a campaign where we were never a threat for automatic promotion.

Manager Alan Pardew comments on the Millwall match make interesting reading “I am not so stupid not to realise that (the fans) were unhappy with my substitution (taking Luke Chadwick off when Harewood was sent off).  But I will always be strong enough to make the decision that I think is right.  Our fans want promotion at all costs. There is not much room for sympathy: we are desperately trying to get up, we have had a tough week and we are still missing some key players.”

So missing players and poor substitutions are nothing new.  Bywater, Taricco (A Ferdinand ), Chris Powell, Darren Powell, Repka, Reo-Coker, Lomas, Fletcher, Etherington, Chadwick (Zamora), Harewood 

Notable birthdays during this week:

22 November  Frank McAvennie (57)
24 November  Dean Ashton (33)
25 November  Ted Hufton (d. 1967)
26 November  Junior Stanislas (27)
27 November  Freddie Sears (27)

5 Things We Learned From Broken Heart Lane

Where do I begin, to tell the story………..?

5 Things WHUFrom the Jaws of Victory

There is never a good way to lose to Tottenham but if you were to write a script to illustrate the totally worst case scenario it might be one where your team is desperate for points, are playing away to your fiercest rival (the league’s only unbeaten team), are leading with just two minutes of normal time remaining only to end up conceding two late goals and having your captain sent off.  Disappointed, deflated and dejected.  A neutral may well have enjoyed the game which in the first half had the hallmarks of one of last season’s famous away victories at unlikely venues.   West Ham had taken the lead and Tottenham looked short on ideas.  Early in the second half, however, sloppy play allowed the hosts back level and for a while it looked like the floodgates might open; but the ship was steadied and a penalty saw the Hammers restore their lead and recover their composure.  It stayed that way until the the frantic finale and a West Ham implosion in the final act that turned a potential thriller into a tragedy.

A Formation Too Rigid

I have strong reservations about 3 at the back as the default formation.  It can work in some instances and against some oppositions.  From the outset I thought it was high risk against a team like Tottenham who do much of their attacking down the flanks, particularly through their full-backs.   Having said that the set-up worked well enough in the first half and Antonio and Cresswell were able to get forward in support of our uncharacteristically swift counter attacking play.  After the break though Rose and Walker were pushed further up leaving our own wing backs neutralised as an attacking force and ultimately exposing Antonio’s defensive limitations.  If the wing backs effectively become full backs then the 3 centre- backs are surplus to requirements and leave the midfield shorthanded.  It would seems obvious but a formation cannot be so rigid that it is unable to adapt to changing circumstances.  That is a sign of a good team and good coaching.

Oh No, Angelo!

A game of two penalties and you couldn’t really argue about either.  Tottenham could well have been awarded a penalty earlier in the game when Ogbonna was all over a Tottenham player in much the same way that Janssen impeded Reid for our own penalty.  I have lost a lot of patience with Ogbonna and the goodwill from the last minute goal against Liverpool has almost run out.  He mixes sound defending with all too often inexplicable casualness as he did when giving the ball away in the build up to the first Tottenham equalizer.  He can also be seen grappling at almost every defensive corner or set piece.  A shame that Reid was sent off as I though he had an excellent game.  The backchat interpretation has become as inconsistent as the grappling and simulations one.

Bizarre Substitution Watch

The first substitutions after the hour mark were well timed and helped to stem the threatened Tottenham tide.  Ayew has continued to disappoint so far both in effort and contribution and his replacement by Fernandes, who was unfortunate not to start, was the correct move.  It was no surprise to see Sakho replaced after 60 minutes in what was his first start of the season.  He did a lot of good work without the ball but not much with it.  His replacement Zaza did nothing with or without it apart from playing the most delayed pass of all time when Payet was well placed.  Quite why Bilic perseveres with the Italian is a mystery as he serves no purpose as either a short or long term option.  Fletcher would have been a far better choice.  The final substitution was nonsensical in terms of both player coming on and player going off.  Without the presence of Payet there was no threat for Tottenham to worry about and they were free to press forward en masse.  Nordtveit has done nothing to promote any confidence in his abilities and coming on cold at that point contributed significantly to our ultimate undoing.

A Nod’s as good as a Winks

I don’t understand why Tottenham didn’t give Winks the number 40 shirt.

I Wouldn’t Bet On It 17

High rolling it down Tottenham High Road looking for value in a West Ham win.

Fancy A Bet

A fortnight ago I placed some bets on our game at home to Stoke. They were:

20 points on a win @21/20 (41)
10 points on a draw @13/5 (36)
1 point Mark Noble to score the first goal @12/1 (13)
1 point on Noble 1st goal and we win 1-0 @60/1 (61)
1 point on Noble 1st goal and we win 2-1 @60/1 (61)
1 point on a 1-0 West Ham victory @15/2 (8.5)
1 point on a 2-1 West Ham victory @15/2 (8.5)

Total stake 35 points, reducing our balance to 65.

We drew the game so our return of 36 points took our balance up to 101.

This week, we’ll have some fun bets on our game at Tottenham (odds as per Paddy Power):

10 points on West Ham to win or draw the game @7/5 (24)
1 point on West Ham to win the game @11/2 (6.5)
1 point on there being two goals or less in the game @Evens (2)
1 point on West Ham to win 1-0 @16/1 (17)
1 point on West Ham to win 2-0 at 35/1 (36)
1 point on a 1-1 draw @13/2 (7.5)
1 point on West Ham to win 2-1 @18/1 (19)
1 point on West Ham to win 1-0 and Obiang to score the goal @300-1 (301)
1 point on West Ham to win 1-0 and Payet to score the goal @100-1 (101)
1 point on West Ham to win 1-0 and Antonio to score the goal @100-1 (101)
1 point on West Ham to win the game and Obiang to score anytime @70/1 (71)

Total stake = 20 points, reducing our balance to 81.

Very simply, if we win or draw the game then we are up on the day. The best result for us with these bets is a 1-0 victory with Pedro Obiang scoring the goal. That would give us a total return of 421.5 points, with six of our eleven bets winning. Not really likely, but it gives us a bit of fun whilst watching the game, especially if it remains goalless for some time. If we lose the game then we lose our total stake of 20 points.

In any event I am hoping for a win, and at the very least a draw. Optimistic as ever, I know.

What are the chances?