West Ham down @ the Riverside

Can the long trip north to face the ‘smoggies’ end with another breath of fresh air for the Irons?

Boro West HamOwners, managers and players may come and go but there are certain characteristics of following West Ham that appear eternal; excursions ‘oop’ north being rarely fruitful, complacency rather confidence flowing from an encouraging performance and any team or player on a long run of misfortune seeing it come to an end it against the Hammers. So a long trek to the frozen and inhospitable north-east, off the back of a solid win against Palace to play a team that has only scored once in their last four league games ticks all the boxes marked disappointment.

 [Andy Carroll]’s got a whiplash injury. He then trained Tuesday very hard, he was brilliant in training, but then reported some neck pain. But as I say, hopefully he will be okay. We have a few with knocks – Winston Reid has a painful one and Sam Byram has a knock on his knee, it was swollen and he missed training on Wednesday. Also Sofiane Feghouli missed training on Wednesday because of a minor problem with his Achilles. But I’m very optimistic that all of them are going to be fit for the game on Saturday.

– Slaven Bilic on injuries

Middlesbrough have been a member of the football league since 1899 and their haul of one League Cup and one Anglo-Scottish Cup makes our own trophy cabinet look cluttered by comparison. The most notable things that I can recall about Boro are: that they paid the first £1,000 transfer fee, to buy Alf Common, in 1905 (£110,000 in today’s money); that Brian Clough scored an incredible 197 goals in 213 appearances for them; that they were once relegated after having a points deduction for failing to fulfil a fixture against Blackburn Rovers; and that the most interesting game on their home soil was when North Korea beat Italy at Ayresome Park in a 1966 world cup group match. Despite their lack of success I believe most football supporters will acknowledge the excellent job done by Steve Gibson during his time as board member and chairman of the club; an associated that commenced in 1986.

The challenge for West Ham today is to show that the togetherness shown last weekend was not just a one-off reaction to the Payet palaver and can be harnessed once more against the parsimonious Teesiders.

Head to Head

West Ham’s record against Middlesbrough is one of those that reflects a mirror home versus away image. Overall we have had a few more wins while they have scored more goals; but on the whole it is very even. Our last visit to the Riverside Stadium in November 2011 ended in a 2-0 victory with a goal apiece from lethal strikers Piquionne and Cole. Mark Noble is the sole survivor from the 13 players that featured for West Ham that day.

In the last 12 league encounters there have been 5 West Ham wins, 4 draws and 3 defeats.

 

P

W

D

L

F

A

Sequence

Home

30

17

6

7

47

30

DDWDWW

Away

31

8

7

16

30

53

WLDWLL

 

61

25

13

23

77

83

 

Team News

No new long term injuries are reported for the Hammers and the three players with knocks (Reid, Byram and Feghouli) should all be available as should Andy Carroll who had suffered an unusual whiplash injury either in scoring his memorable bicycle kick goal or celebrating it afterwards. We can but hope that common sense prevails today and that we start with Byram at right back and with Antonio just behind Carroll in a sort of 4-4-1-1 formation.  It is possible to get too hung up about formations and a good team needs to be adaptable and retain a degree of fluidity; we were close to showing that in the second half performance against Palace.

“He [Andy Carroll] is a player you always have to be careful of – but if we are just looking at him, [Michail] Antonio can score or [Sofiane] Feghouli can score or [Manuel] Lanzini can score… or anyone,”

– Aitor Karanka talking up our chances

Typically our first transfer signing of the latest window came too late to feature this afternoon. Jose Fonte had not played for Saints since the game against Everton on 2 January (in his last two games they conceded 7 goals).  In West Ham terms this means a minimum of four weeks to get match fit before picking up a serious injury in training. The Fonte signing is rather underwhelming to me for although Fonte is a decent player he is the wrong age profile for a club that is, at the same time, ambitious and prone to counting the pennies.  A possible mitigation to the transfer is the rumour that one of our centre-backs is carrying an injury that requires immediate surgery.  If that is the case then we should hope it is Ogbonna rather than Reid.

For Middlesbrough, Gaston Ramirez and Antonio Barragan are injured and Daniel Ayala is suspended but new signing Patrick Bamford is available to play.

As often happens I will allow hope to triumph over expectation and will go for a narrow West Ham win.

Man in the Middle

Martin Atkinson from West Yorkshire is the referee today. Previously this season he was in charge when we lost at home to Watford and when we won away at Palace, famously sending off Aaron Cresswell for two harsh/ incorrect yellow card offences in one minute. In 20 games this season (all competitions) he has administered 83 Yellow cards plus that single, solitary, spurious Red.

I Wouldn’t Bet On It 28

Expecting to win, but with the security of a draw .

Fancy A Bet

We were successful with the following bet last weekend:

20 points on a West Ham victory v Palace @6/5 (44)

We had four losing fun bets, although we were very close with a couple of them.
Our balance was 75 points, so winning 44 points takes our total to 119 points.

Despite being away from home, I am confident of a follow up victory at Middlesbrough on Saturday, although I will build in the safety net of a draw. Let us hope that last week’s second half performance wasn’t a false dawn.

With 8 draws already, Middlesbrough are the draw specialists of the Premier League this season. The game earlier in the season ended in a 1-1 draw, courtesy of a rather good goal by an un-named Frenchman who most fans hope will soon become a “Payexit”.

This weeks bets:

9 points on West Ham to beat Middlesbrough @2/1 (27)
5 points on a draw @11/5 (16)
1 point on Andy Carroll to score the first goal and West Ham to win 2-1 @50/1 (51)
1 point on West Ham to win 2-1 @19/1 (20)

Total stake 16 points. New balance 103 points. Potential returns if correct in brackets.

What are the chances?

Middlesbrough Preview

Can we continue where we left off in the second half against Palace?

Embed from Getty Images

After the euphoria of our magnificent second half performance against Palace last week, we head to the North-East to face what I believe to be one of the most uninteresting teams in the Premier League, Middlesbrough. They certainly do not seem to play in games where there are many goals, and they are the only team in the League where the average goals per game (for both sides playing) is less than 2. With just 39 goals scored by them and their opponents combined in 21 games, I guess (although I haven’t checked), that they usually feature later on Match of the Day than we do.

They have scored a paltry 17 goals in 21 games, the least in the league, with only one goal in their last four games. Southampton are the next lowest on 19. Defensively, though, they are one of the top teams in the division, having conceded only 22 goals, a figure bettered by only Tottenham, Chelsea, and Manchester United. So on past performance this season we shouldn’t expect a lot of goals in the game.

They currently sit in 16th place in the table, just four points above the relegation zone, and will no doubt be hoping that their excellent defensive record will keep them out of the bottom three. They will certainly hope that they are clear of the drop zone as the season nears the end, as in four of their final six matches they face Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.

In the season to date they are the draw specialists of the Premier League, having drawn eight of the 21 games (they have won four and lost nine). Their draws included a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture at the London Stadium at the beginning of October, when a wonderful individual effort from a French international player who doesn’t want to play for us anymore rescued a point. The four teams they have beaten are their North-East neighbours, Sunderland, plus Bournemouth, Hull and Swansea. Of course we have beaten the same four teams plus Burnley and Palace (twice).

One player we need to watch out for is Middlesbrough’s leading scorer, Negredo, who is on a season-long loan from Valencia, having previously been at Manchester City in recent times. Negredo has only scored (I believe) 14 goals in all the time he has spent in England, but five of them have come against West Ham! Another one of the opposition who we know well is Stewart Downing, although he appears to have fallen out of favour in recent times. They paid a lot of money to buy Jordan Rhodes from Blackburn on transfer deadline day a year ago (the fee was undisclosed, although Blackburn had previously rejected an offer of £10 million for him), but he barely gets a look in and hasn’t scored in his rare appearances this season. On 18 January they completed the transfer of Patrick Bamford from Chelsea for £6million. When he was on loan there previously in 2014-15 he scored 19 goals in 44 appearances, so he has been bought to improve their poor scoring record. I wonder if he will be in the team?

Changing the subject, I have another statistic for those people who are interested in the effect on our results of our move to the London Stadium. So far this season we have played 11 games at home in the league and have accrued 17 points. Last season we had one of our best ever seasons in recent years, and our highest points total ever achieved in the Premier League era. So how many points do you think that we picked up at “fortress” Upton Park in the first 11 games there in that last record breaking season? Yes, you are right – 17!

Our failing this season has really come away from home. Last season we collected 16 points in our first 10 away games of the season, whereas this time around we have only picked up 8 from the same number of games. The difference in points accrued for the season to date can be accounted for solely by our away form; our home form (in terms of points picked up, if not level of performance) is identical.

The transfer window continues to let in a draught, if not any players, at the time of writing. Are we waiting on Payet’s potential exit to free up money to buy players and pay salaries within the Financial Fair Play limits? I’m afraid that the Profitability and Sustainability rules within Financial Fair Play leave me cold, and I fail to understand how they work. At first glance they appear to be totally in favour of helping big clubs get bigger, and making it virtually impossible for other clubs to close the gap. But what do I know?

I keep reading about Hogan, Snodgrass, Defoe and others but I guess we’ll have to keep on waiting until the window is about to slam shut to see if anything happens. Our position in the table is looking more comfortable now, and I hope we don’t just throw good money after short-term fixes to appease the fans who are desperate to see new players. Of course we need a right back and a goalscorer, but let’s hope that any incoming players are ones that can actually improve the team as opposed to the squad. Geoff summed up the situation well in his article Sliding Through The Transfer Window on January 18, so I’ll add no more here.

Back to the game, I would guess that there won’t be too many goals, but I am hoping for us to continue where we left off against Palace and record our third away win of the season. I’ll go for 2-1.

As I write this at 9pm on the eve of the game I note that Fonte has finally put pen to paper. No news yet re Hogan, or any other signings, and conflicting reports regarding the exit of Payet. Fonte is a surprise signing in some respects, although having seen some Southampton games, I am convinced that he is a signing that will add to the quality of the actual team, as opposed to just the squad. He is obviously not a long term acquisition, but I guess fewer and fewer players are these days. Is it me, or are our transfer dealings more protracted than those of other clubs?

The Lawro Challenge – Week 22

What predictions are in store for the last weekend of the Year of the Monkey and before the Lawro challenge enters the Year of the Rooster?

Lawro Crystal BallTwenty-one rounds of games in the Premier League have now been completed. That means we have now predicted the results of 210 matches. In Week 21, Rich scored 6 points, Geoff 9 points, and Lawro 6 points.

It is still relatively close at the top with Rich maintaining his six point advantage over Lawro, with Geoff 39 points off the lead. But if you break it down into small chunks, then if Geoff can win by three points each week (as he did with last week’s predictions), then with 17 weeks to go, and over 500 points that can be won, he can still finish on top. What are the chances?

It is interesting to note that Lawro makes his predictions on the BBC Sport website, and goes up against a guest personality each week. The guest personalities can be anyone from sportsmen / sportswomen, actors, comedians, musicians, politicians etc., but never anyone from the football world, either past or present. In the 21 weeks that have elapsed to date, he has been beaten seven times by his guests, some of whom profess to know little about football, or the Premier League. So one in three guests beat him, although he is no doubt paid to be an “expert pundit”. Obviously there is an element of luck in predicting the correct scores, but less so in predicting the correct results.

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.

We now proceed to week 22.

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

Total after 20 weeks

167

125

161

Score in week 21

6

9

6

Total after 21 weeks

173

134

167

 

 

 

 

Predictions – Week 22

 

 

 

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

Saturday

 

 

 

Liverpool v Swansea

3-0

4-0

3-0

Bournemouth v Watford

3-1

2-0

2-1

Palace v Everton

1-1

2-2

1-1

Middlesbrough v West Ham

1-2

0-1

1-1

Stoke v Man Utd

1-2

1-1

1-1

West Brom v Sunderland

2-0

3-1

2-0

Man City v Tottenham

1-2

2-3

2-2

Sunday

 

 

 

Southampton v Leicester

2-1

0-1

1-1

Arsenal v Burnley

3-0

3-0

2-0

Chelsea v Hull

3-0

5-1

3-0

The Football Money League – Part 2

Digging deeper into those figures that show West Ham as 18th in world football money league.

Football MoneyOur earlier article summarised the league table of the top 20 football clubs in the world in respect of revenue generation. It showed West Ham in eighteenth place, and in seventh place of the eight Premier League teams. The English teams in the table were led by Manchester United, followed by Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, West Ham, and Leicester. Emphasising the correlation between revenue generation and league positions, it is interesting to note that the top six English teams are the same in terms of both revenue and current league position, albeit in a different order. And their gap ahead of the rest is equally substantial in both revenue terms and points in the league.

Previously we showed the total revenue figures, followed by the percentages of that revenue produced as matchday income, TV income, and commercial income. The total revenue figures show the wide gulf between the other English clubs and ourselves, but if you analyse the actual figures in £M for each individual category, you can see just how far behind we are, and how it may be impossible to bridge the gap. When compared to previous years of the Deloitte table, the clubs at the top are getting exponentially richer, especially in terms of matchday revenue and commercial income in particular.

Looking at the matchday revenue figures, both Manchester United and Arsenal have figures of around four times of our own, Chelsea approaching three times, and we would need to double matchday income to be on a par with Liverpool and Manchester City, and raise it by 50% to match Tottenham. But that would be if their figures stood still, which they won’t. The move to the London Stadium was vital in revenue terms just to try to keep pace with the top clubs. It is unlikely to bring us any closer, especially in view of their own plans to increase capacities with larger stadiums.

Matchday Revenue (£M)

1

Manchester United

103.1

2

Arsenal

101.6

3

Real Madrid

97.4

4

Barcelona

88.1

5

Bayern Munich

75.3

6

Chelsea

70.3

7

PSG

70.1

8

Liverpool

57.4

9

Manchester City

51.0

10

Borussia Dortmund

46.7

11

Tottenham

39.7

12

Schalke 04

38.6

13

Juventus

33.2

14

Atletico Madrid

27.4

15

West Ham United

27.3

16

AS Roma

21.2

17

AC Milan

19.3

18

Internazionale

18.8

19

Leicester City

11.6

20

FC Zenith

7.4

In view of the way TV income is allocated, in percentage terms we are a lot closer to the other English clubs in the table, although our income is only half that of Manchester City, and considerably less than the others.

TV Revenue £M

1

Real Madrid

171.6

2

Manchester City

161.0

3

Barcelona

153.1

4

Juventus

145.4

5

Chelsea

143.9

6

Arsenal

143.7

7

Manchester United

139.1

8

Liverpool

126.8

9

AS Roma

115.9

10

Tottenham

110.9

11

Bayern Munich

110.7

12

Atletico Madrid

104.3

13

Leicester City

95.2

14

PSG

93.5

15

West Ham United

86.3

16

Internazionale

73.7

17

AC Milan

65.8

18

Borussia Dortmund

61.6

19

Schalke 04

55.4

20

FC Zenith

30.9

But it is the income generated commercially that is a real eye-opener. Tottenham’s figure is almost double of our own, Arsenal more than three times, Chelsea and Liverpool around four times, Manchester City six times, and Manchester United nine times! The figures show that, if the TV money were to dry up, or diminish to any great extent, the revenue differential between clubs would be even greater in percentage terms.

Commercial Revenue £M

1

Manchester United

273.1

2

Bayern Munich

256.8

3

PSG

226.0

4

Barcelona

222.6

5

Real Madrid

194.8

6

Manchester City

180.6

7

Chelsea

120.5

8

Liverpool

117.8

9

FC Zenith

108.8

10

Arsenal

105.1

11

Borussia Dortmund

104.0

12

Juventus

76.5

13

AC Milan

75.4

14

Schalke 04

73.9

15

Tottenham

58.6

16

Internazionale

41.5

17

Atletico Madrid

39.3

18

West Ham United

30.2

19

AS Roma

26.1

20

Leicester City

21.9

Favourite Games No.1 -West Ham 3:1 Eintracht Frankfurt, April 14 1976

A series of occasional articles recalling my favourite West Ham games, and songs that topped the charts when these games were played

There have been so many great games in the last 58 years and I’ve covered many of them throughout my book, Goodbye Upton Park, Hello Stratford. So many of them are remembered because of the importance of the game, the goals scored, and the spine-tingling atmosphere generated by our fans. Hopefully my memories of these great games will evoke fond memories of fans, (especially older ones like me!), and the music in the charts at the time.

Favourite Games 1

My favourite West Ham game of all time, West Ham 3 Eintracht Frankfurt 1, April 14 1976, was the second leg of the European Cup Winners Cup semi-final where we overcame the 2-1 deficit from the first leg with goals from Keith Robson and two from Sir Trevor Brooking. The Robson goal was a 30 yard screamer following an excellent long pass from Brooking. Most people thought that the chance had gone when at first he appeared to lose control of the ball. But he regained his balance and the South Bank net bulged from a wonderful left-footed strike. Brooking’s goals were a header (yes, he did score goals with his head, especially important ones, contrary to popular myth), and another which showed off his wonderful control and balance in such atrocious conditions.

There was an electric atmosphere in front of around 40,000 rain-sodden fans inside Upton Park. On that night over forty years ago it had rained all day and continued to pour down throughout the game. The pitch was a quagmire and barely a blade of grass was visible in the mud. As I stood on the North Bank terrace (now the Sir Trevor Brooking stand) with friends, the only stand visible that remained in 2016, when the final game was played at the ground, was to our left, the East Stand which had been in use for about eight years. The old West Stand was to our right and the South Bank faced us at the other end of the ground. At least when we were inside we were dry as a roof covered most of us.

Although we had won the FA Cup the previous season we had finished in the bottom half of the table, and at the time of our meeting we sat in sixteenth place in Division One having been at the top of the table in November. Our decline in the league that season was as steep as it gets and we had won only one league game in the whole of 1976 (1-0 at home to QPR in January). From Christmas Day that season we played 21 league games, winning one, drawing six, and losing 14, and eventually finished 18th. It was therefore even more remarkable, given our form and the conditions, that the game was such a magnificent spectacle. The Germans played their part and came close to scoring a second away goal which would have seen them in the final. But we held on, and overturned the deficit from the first away leg to win the tie 4-3 on aggregate, and progress to the final, where we lost 4-2 to Anderlecht in the infamous Heysel Stadium in Brussels.

The number one song in the charts at the time was Save Your Kisses For Me, by the Brotherhood of Man. The Eurovision Song Contest has been running for roughly the same amount of time that I have been following West Ham. The first UK entry was in 1957, the year before my first visit to Upton Park. For younger readers, and anyone who knows anything about the Eurovision Song Contest, the United Kingdom was once a leading player in this event. However in recent years, partly for political reasons, the changes in the make-up of Europe, and the fact that we don’t seem to bother about the contest to the same extent as other European nations, we have not been remotely a contender in the event.

This chart-topper won the 1976 contest, one of five UK winners ever. Can you name the others? Up until 1998, the UK had only finished outside the top ten on two occasions, and as well as the five wins (the last was in 1997), we were runners-up on 15 occasions. Other notable songs in the charts at the time of this famous game were: I Love To Love, by Tina Charles, which had previously been at number 1; Pinball Wizard, by Elton John, his rendition of the classic Who song; Yesterday, by the Beatles; and Fernando (sounds like a footballer!) by Abba.

The Football Money League 2016

West Ham are the 18th highest revenue generating club in world football according to 20th edition of the Deloitte Football Money League.

MoneyThe world football money league for 2016 has recently been published by Deloitte.  The table shows that there are 8 Premier League teams in the Top 20 revenue earners with West Ham coming in at Number 18.

West Ham are still some way behind their closest Premier League rival, Tottenham Hotspur, with revenues that continue to rely heavily on TV money.  The move to the London Stadium is likely to increase Matchday income but early exits from cup competitions and a disappointing (so far) league campaign may offset this.  Commercial income still lags some way behind the majority of other clubs making it into the money league.

West Ham United make only their third appearance in the Money League in 18th, their highest ever position. 2015/16 was their last season at the Boleyn Ground stadium and a strong performance in the FA Cup helped their matchday revenue increase. Both broadcast and commercial revenue also grew as the club benefited from increased Premier League payments after finishing seventh (compared with 12th in 2014/15) and as Betway were announced as the club’s new shirt front sponsor.

– Deloitte Money League Report

 

 

 

Revenues

% Revenue From

 

 

(£m)

Matchday

TV

Commercial

1

Manchester United

515.3

20%

27%

53%

2

Barcelona

463.8

19%

33%

48%

3

Real Madrid

463.8

21%

37%

42%

4

Bayern Munich

442.7

17%

25%

58%

5

Manchester City

392.6

13%

41%

46%

6

PSG

389.6

18%

24%

58%

7

Arsenal

350.4

29%

41%

30%

8

Chelsea

334.6

21%

43%

36%

9

Liverpool

302.0

19%

42%

39%

10

Juventus

255.1

13%

57%

30%

11

Borussia Dortmund

212.3

22%

29%

49%

12

Tottenham

209.2

19%

53%

28%

13

Atletico Madrid

171.0

16%

61%

23%

14

Schalke 04

167.9

23%

33%

44%

15

AS Roma

163.2

13%

71%

16%

16

AC Milan

160.5

12%

41%

47%

17

FC Zenith

147.0

5%

21%

74%

18

West Ham United

143.8

19%

60%

21%

19

Internazionale

134.0

14%

55%

31%

20

Leicester City

128.7

9%

74%

17%

Sliding Through the Transfer Window

How much is that Froggie in the Window? Transfer strategies and big mouth Garth Crooks.

Transfer WindowIf you are a 7 out of 10 kind of a guy at a party and you channel all your efforts in an attempt to move in on a 9 or 10 out of 10 girl then chances are you will go home disappointed. This pretty much sums up the pitfalls of the West Ham transfer strategy. By the time you realise that you have wasted your energy in pursuit of the unattainable, all of the 7 or 8 out of 10’s are already spoken for. In the very rare circumstance where you actually strike out with that perfect 10 then more than likely they will come with high maintenance ‘issues’ especially when the good time that you promised turns out to be a night at the bingo; this pretty much sums up the Dimitri Payet situation.

The Transfer Window has now creaked forward to Day 18 and there has been little movement to date either at West Ham or elsewhere. This hasn’t impeded the rumour mill industry, though, which moves on apace with teasing click-bait headlines reaching new levels of imagination to tempt the eager reader to stories about Marcus Browne signing a new contract or where next for itinerant South American, Jonathan Calleri.

The ‘maybe there is no smoke without fire’ links continue to focus on such familiar names as Scott Hogan and Robert Snodgrass but with recently added noise of Chris Woods from Leeds, old man Jose Fonte of Southampton and Gylfi Sigurdsson of Swansea. Earlier speculation regarding a return to West Ham for Jermaine Defoe has gone seemingly quiet once it was revealed we were offering a subscription to Sunday Sport online and an Ann Summers voucher in return for his signature . Of the names mentioned I would be happy with Hogan (a gamble but this is the pond that we are fishing in) and Sigurdsson but I doubt the Icelander, excellent player that he is, will leave Swansea until the summer.

With the win over Palace at the weekend putting daylight between the Hammers and the relegation favourites (plus the sense that Feghouli may have something to offer after all) I am hoping that there can be an objective, level-headed reappraisal of transfer window requirements.  The panic mode sensor can be set down several notches. An additional striker and right back remain priorities and any available funds should be invested in quality replacements not simple emergency gap fillers. I am convinced the board would like to bring in someone new to boost their own ratings.  Then, unless something special comes up, I would then leave the squad alone with a view to strengthening under our own terms in the summer. It will be no comfort come July to hear that we borrowed out of the war chest to bring in some 30+ year old backup players when there are a number of youngsters who could do just as good a job.

It will be interesting to see how the Payet situation pans out. If he is truly only interested in a return to France (as his PR now claims) then this would appear to put a severe limitation on available options unless he considers Arsenal as an overseas French protectorate. When the story first broke there was fairly widespread condemnation of Payet’s petulance but in recent days there have been a few in the media coming to his defence; accusing football fans of being deluded by expecting loyalty from players. Now I am aware that modern day journalism is more about attention seeking and generating a reaction but these articles tend to adopt a very black and white perspective of what has happened to suit their purpose. Yes, we know very well that players come and go all the time (after all we had wheeler dealer extraordinaire Harry Redknapp as manager at one point) but there is a world of difference between a player who continues to act in a professional manner while negotiating a move away and one who takes his ball home and refuses to play again. Secretly, I would like to see Payet left in limbo for the rest of the season but, in the end, it will be a commercial decision for the owners to take once someone comes along with a sensible offer.

Finally, away from transfers I ventured onto the BBC website the other day to check out third rate pundit Garth Crook’s team of the week which on this occasion included Andy Carroll (but not Michail Antonio as it would have meant one less Spurs player). Crooks is, of course, entitled in his feature to put forward views on player performance but I felt it entirely inappropriate for him to jump on the London Stadium knocking bandwagon (see quote below). How these guys manage to keep their jobs for life in the BBC Sport is beyond me; it has become a nursing home for dreary incompetents.

“Playing at home in London Stadium can’t be much fun when your fans are so far away they feel as though they are watching the game from the car park. Nevertheless, the Hammers did actually manage to muster some atmosphere in this makeshift football graveyard thanks to an outstanding performance from, unlike Payet, the totally committed Carroll.”

– Garth Crooks in his BBC Team of the Week Feature

This Week in Hammer’s History

Scraping the ice from the windows of history to review how the Hammers have fared in the week 16 – 22 January.

This Week Hammers HistoryAs I peruse the results from the week 16 – 22 January in Hammer’s History (and I am only looking at games played since our promotion to Division 1 in 1958) my impression is that this has been a generally bad week for West Ham.  On further inspection it is not really the case with the 59 games played ending in 19 victories, 25 defeats and 15 draws.  The reality is that it is a week with very few matches that stand-out; particularly those that ended in our favour.

On two occasions this week has witnessed dreams of League Cup glory being dashed in two unsuccessful semi-final appearances.  One being of the contractual obligation variety in 2014 where, already losing 6-0 from the first leg, we went on to gift Manchester City a 9-0 aggregate win.  The other, in 1967, was a repeat of the previous year’s League Cup final with the Hammers up against West Bromwich Albion.  The final of the 1966/67 tournament would be the first to be played in a one-off match at Wembley but it was to be a dreadful night at The Hawthorns with Albion romping to a 4-0 first leg lead.

In FA Cup action West Ham did record a thumping 6-1 victory against 4th Division Aldershot – but only after a replay.  Aldershot had given up home advantage after the draw was made and both games were played at Upton Park.  The initial tie ending in a 0-0 stalemate but the replay was a routine affair with goals from Morley (2), Slater, Parris, Bishop and Quinn doing the damage for West Ham with Aldershot’s reply courtesy of a rare Miklosko blooper.

Miklosko, Breacker, Parris, Gale, Robson (Bishop), Hughton, Keen, Slater, Quinn, Potts, Morley

Not nearly as impressive was FA Cup replay exit at the hands of Wrexham in 1981 as we defended the trophy won the previous May.  This was not really a giant killing act as both teams were competing in Division 2 at the time but it still came as a surprise given our overall performances that season.  Defeat eventually coming in extra time of the second replay at the Racecourse Ground following two earlier drawn games.

A league game that sticks in the memory was one from the 1971/72 season which saw West Ham entertain Brian Clough’s Derby County side.  Derby would finish the season as champions in one of the closest title races that I can recall with four teams separated by a single point.  In the run-in Derby had completed their fixtures while both dirty Leeds (going for the double) and Liverpool could be crowned champions if either won their remaining game.  In the event, Liverpool drew and Leeds lost (at Wolverhampton) amid claims that manager Don Revie had tried to bribe the Wolves players.

When they visited Upton Park in January 1972 Derby were in 4th place and West Ham in 12th and there was plenty of entertainment for the 31,000 crowd.  Derby opened the scoring taking advantage of a Tommy Taylor slip before a Frank Lampard pile-driver evened things up at half-time.  Pop Robson struck to give the Hammers the lead after the break only for Derby to scramble an equalizer of their own with the ball appearing to go in through Bobby Moore’s legs.  A fine Trevor Brooking goal looked like it would be enough to secure all (two) points but Derby were not to be denied and the game ended all square at 3-3.  A nice comedy moment in the game when two teenage girls ran onto the pitch to mob Harry Redknapp instigating a chase by the local plod that ended with one of their number toppling into the crowd.

Ferguson, McDowell, Lampard, Bonds, Taylor, Moore, Redknapp, Best, Hurst, Brooking, Robson

This Week’s birthdays:

16 January   Bobby Zamora (36)
18 January   Steve Lomas (43)
19 January   Robert Green (37)

West Ham 3 v 0 Palace

What constitutes a great goal?

Embed from Getty Images

When I wrote my book, Goodbye Upton Park, Hello Stratford, I posed this very question in Chapter 23, where I wrote about my 60 favourite West Ham goals. Goals can be scored in a variety of ways. A spectacular volley, a long range screamer, a team goal scored as a culmination of a number of passes, a deflection, an element of luck, a tap in, a goal which requires superb technique. These are just some of the ways that a goal can be scored. A goal can seem greater, and hence remembered more, if it is a critical goal in a close match, as opposed to say, one of the goals scored in a one-sided game. But however it is scored doesn’t really matter because in the final analysis, every one counts as a goal; you don’t get anything extra based on the degree of difficulty.

I think that my colleague, and co-weblogger, Geoff, is particularly fond of team goals, and I like those too, although my absolute favourites tend to be those that require great technique. My favourite goal of all time was scored by Martin Peters against Leicester in November 1968. This was a team move that went from one end of the pitch to the other, culminating in Peters’ superb technique in hitting a volley from a ball that came over his shoulder, and his thunderous shot that almost decapitated Shilton in the opposition goal as it sped into the roof of the North Bank net.

My second favourite (in 2001) came from a corner taken by Schemmel, who played the ball in the air to Joe Cole who was standing near the corner of the penalty area. With a couple of touches and masterful ball control, without the ball touching the ground, Joe volleyed the ball to the opposite side, where Trevor Sinclair took off, and with an acrobatic scissor kick blasted the ball into the corner of the Derby net.

Number 3 was a volley scored by Harry Redknapp of all people, the winning goal in a 4-3 victory over QPR. Once again this was a great team move ending in a stunning volley from Harry. This goal had almost everything, a superb build up, pin-point cross, brilliant finish, and winning goal, all in one.

On Saturday we were treated to another goal that will live long in the memory from Andy Carroll. A good move was ended when Antonio’s cross, perhaps a couple of yards behind where he was aiming, was met by a stunning overhead scissor kick, with great technique, and unstoppable power. The goal put us two ahead, which was an important time in the match. It reminded me, for both technique and power, of a stunning goal scored by Trevor Sinclair before he joined us, for QPR against Barnsley which was goal of the season in 1997, although I only saw it on TV.

Our first goal wasn’t bad either. Antonio, when put through rounded the keeper, who did a good impression of Adrian (or David James, perhaps) in coming out for a ball when he shouldn’t have, and his ball across the goal (probably an attempt to score) was finished off by Feghouli. The first goal in a game is always important, and this came at a time when our improved second half performance needed a goal.

And our third goal which finally sealed the victory was another counter attack, a length of the pitch move, with a perfectly released ball from Antonio that still left Lanzini which half of the pitch to cover, before once again, excellent technique in dinking the ball over the keeper who left his goal to narrow the angle.

All in all, a very satisfying victory over our old manager who, incredibly seemed to suggest that his team were better than us. After the week of being in the news, thanks to a Frenchman (who has scored some excellent goals himself for us in the past year) who apparently doesn’t want to play for us any more, it was an excellent second half performance (the first half was certainly forgettable). Andy Carroll summed it up nicely when he declared in his post-match interview that no individual is more important than the club, and the support from the stands for the manager was noisy and emotional.

The win took us up to twelfth in the table, nine points clear of the relegation zone, and just one win away from the top half of the table. In my pre-match preview I expressed the hope that the events of the past week would have a galvanising effect on the team, and that was most certainly the case. Some excellent individual performances from Byram, on as a second half substitute, Reid, Obiang (as always), Antonio, and Carroll were important, but the spirit of the team as a whole shone through, even though some of our players have not been at their best this season.

I’m not sure when “assists” started to be recorded, but I wonder when was the last time one of our players contributed with three assists in a game? Great credit to Antonio, who apparently spent all day Friday in bed with the flu, but still insisted that he was fit enough to play the next day. His attitude and commitment put a certain French footballer to shame.