Will The Transfer Predators Be Circling West Ham?

Keeping the predators at bay, pesky buy-back clauses and goalkeepers have grabbed the attention in recent days.

Somewhere on a Facebook status you might well read that there are only 73 sleeps to the start of the Premier League programme. With the dust barely settled on the domestic season all attention is now firmly focused on player transfers.  TV revenue smoulders in the pockets of owners, club managers organise their recruitment wish lists and agents rub their hands in glee. Meanwhile supporters are assailed with a relentless stream of transfer speculation that stretches form the spectacular to the absurd.

In the space of just a few days, a pack of reliable journalists and unnamed sources have seen West Ham linked with a selection of talent that, if consummated, would leave little change out of a £100 million; a figure that while implausible pales into insignificance alongside the reported £300 million apiece sprees planned by each of the two Manchester clubs.

If past performance is repeated then the early days represent the phoney bidding war where we publicly announce unlikely bids for unrealistic targets; players who are already overwhelmed with alternative options from clubs who can offer European competition and are equipped with Five Star rather than B&B style training and recreation facilities.

One of the criticisms regularly thrown at the West Ham board is that they are closer to the ‘Two Bobs’ rather than the ‘Two (multi-millionaire) Daves’ who are only prpepared to invest the minimum for survival as the value of their investment escalates. Personally I feel this is a little unfair and an examination of net versus gross transfer spend is revealing. West Ham are close to the top of net spenders but become also-rans when gross spending is taken into account; a reflection that our squad is more Steptoe’s than Sotheby’s and has lacked, fro many years, any real saleable assets.  No-one wants to be thought of as a selling-club but it is a sign of success when others covet your star players.

If I was the Chairman I would be taking time-out from the arduous task of putting together bids in order to issue  Hands-Off Notices to potential predators that may have designs on the few players capable of operating at a higher level; the likes of Lanzini. Obiang, Reid and Antonio. There are others such as Cresswell and Ogbonna that I am in two minds about but listening to offers on anyone else would be quite acceptable and any joy in moving on Valencia, Ayew, Snodgrass and Feghouli could generate a little extra loose change for re-investment.

There has been limited speculation (as far as I have seen) regarding players leaving the London Stadium apart from a couple of clubs interested in the services of Fletcher (no surprise if he leaves) and a story that Brighton are preparing to test West Ham’s resolve (a phrase that is never heard outside football transfers) with an approach for Snodgrass. This would be one situation where my resolve would be about as strong as a butterfly with a broken heart.

The Buy Back Clause seems to have joined the Buy Out Clause as the must-have in modern day football contracts. It is allegedly a stumbling block in West Ham’s pursuit of Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho. It has the whiff of something worse than Third Party Influence if you ask me but is deemed to be perfectly above board as far as the authorities are concerned. Now if we were able to include a Full Refund, Money Back Guarantee If Not Completely Satisfied Clause in our summer dealings then we might be getting somewhere.

Part of West Ham’s summer planning will allegedly include the recruitment of a new goalkeeper if reports are to be believed. Spending money on a keeper is always a tricky one. It is like having some extra cash to spend on your car and upgrading the safety equipment in preference to buying a sexy paint-job, monster sound system or alloy wheels. The last time we spent big money on a keeper, to sign Phil Parkes for a world record fee, it turned out to be something of a masterstroke that served the club magnificently for many years.  It could be money well spent.

A welcome return to the top flight of English football to Huddersfield Town, after a break of 55 years or so, to take on the mantle of representing Yorkshire following Hull City’s departure. To have gained promotion with a negative goal difference is quite a feat and it will be fascinating to see how manager David Wagner’s organisation and tactics fare in the Premier League.   They will almost certainly join Brighton as favourites for relegation.

Great Wembley Memories as a West Ham Fan

Never to be forgotten West Ham magic moments from that most iconic stadium of them all.

I watched the FA Cup Final on Saturday with my six-year old grandson, a mad keen Arsenal fan like his dad, my son-in-law. The joy on his face when Arsenal took an early lead, the look of despair when Chelsea equalised, and then the sheer jubilation when Ramsey headed the winner shortly afterwards, and the excitement at full time, brought back memories of my own childhood, when the FA Cup Final was a really special event. It still is to some extent, but doesn’t have quite the glamour of yesteryear.

The first FA Cup final that I remember clearly was when I was six (Wolves v Blackburn in 1960), but I had to wait until I was ten to see West Ham there. I watched the game with my dad on our black and white TV. We played Preston, who were then a second division side, and were expected to beat them easily, at least I thought so. But we had to come from behind twice, first when John Sissons at 18 became the youngest player to score in a final, then a Geoff Hurst header which hit the underside of the bar and barely crossed the line (shades of things to come!) made it 2-2, and finally Ronnie Boyce popped up to head home the winner right at the end.

For my next Wembley memory I only had to wait a further year. I was in the crowd of 100,000 high up behind the goal where Alan Sealey scored twice in the second half to enable us to win the European Cup Winners Cup. What a fantastic never to be forgotten night for an 11 year old. It was my first experience of actually being at Wembley, and the noise was unbelievable.

In September of 1965 I was back at Wembley for the second time to see the World Speedway final. Bjorn Knuttsson was captain of West Ham speedway team, another of my passions as a boy, and duly won the title, winning four of his five rides.

Then just a year later it was back to the TV to watch England win the World Cup. Many will say that wasn’t strictly West Ham, but to us fans, we know better. The legendary Bobby Moore was captain, and provided the assists for two of the goals, Martin Peters scored one goal (Geoff Hurst provided the assist), and everybody of course knows that Sir Geoff bagged a hat-trick. Yes of course there were 8 other players doing their bit, but West Ham players scored all four goals and provided three of the assists in the final.

Move on one year and in 1967 the League Cup Final was to be played at Wembley for the first time; previously it was a two-legged affair. I was hopeful for West Ham involvement yet again, but we were knocked out in the semi-final by West Brom.

I had to wait until 1975 for my next West Ham visit to the national football stadium, although by then I had seen several England international games. It was first v second division again; this time we faced Fulham, with the added bonus of seeing Bobby Moore, our old hero nearing the end of his career, lining up against us. The game was an unremarkable one for the neutral, but we won 2-0 with Alan Taylor scoring twice, as he did in the quarter-final and semi-final.

In 1980 we were back again, and this time I had a seat, although I don’t think I used it to sit on. It was first v second division for the third time, but this time we were the lower ranked team, and not expected to beat Arsenal, who were in the final for the third year running. But Trevor Brooking’s famous diving header won the game, and once again my return journey up Wembley Way was a happy one.

In March 1981 we were back yet again, this time to contest the League Cup final. We were still in the second division, but had probably the best second tier side of all time that season, and were runaway winners of the division to get back to the top flight. We faced the mighty Liverpool, and looked like we were going to lose the game when Liverpool scored a very late (blatantly offside) goal. But within a minute we were awarded a penalty and Ray Stewart stepped up to calmly equalise to take the game to a replay (no penalty shoot-outs in those days). We lost the replay 2-1 at Villa Park.

We were involved in two further Play-Off finals and another FA Cup final in the early years of the 21st century, but these were all in Cardiff whilst Wembley Stadium was being redeveloped. We only won one of the three (against Preston in 2005), but should have beaten Liverpool in the classic 2006 FA Cup Final, only to be denied by that late Gerrard strike.

My first visit to the redeveloped Wembley was to see the Play-Off final against Blackpool. It was a tense affair, after Tom Ince had equalised Carlton Cole’s early goal. But Ricardo Vaz Te became an instant hero when he netted the late winner, sparking great scenes behind that goal.

I have great memories of West Ham playing at Wembley. We may not have been there as much as some of the top sides, but as fans we have the enviable record of never seeing our team beaten there in six games. Unless of course you were there in 1923 when we lost the very first Wembley FA Cup final to Bolton! No defeats and some great memories.

Top 10 West Ham Has-Been Signings

Been there, done that, taken the open-top bus parade. How has signing experienced pros in the autumn of their careers worked out in the past for West Ham?

It can be tempting for club and manager to sign the occasional free transfer experienced professional when their time at the very top of the game is coming to end.  The signing of Pablo Zabaleta has been received very positively over the weekend but it is not the first time that West Ham have followed this route.  We take the opportunity to look back at some of the illustrious names who had been there, done that, taken the open-top bus parade and recall how they measured up during their time in East London.

10      Alvaro Arbeloa

Boasting a hatful of honours including one World Cup, two Euros, two Champion’s League and one La Liga, Arbeloa joined West Ham on a one year deal, aged 33, in August 2016; his signing seen as a temporary solution to long running right back problem.  Arbeloa made his debut against Accrington Stanley in the EFL Cup followed by his solitary Premier League start, against Southampton, where he played the whole game at left back in a 3-0 defeat.  He made two more substitute appearances as early replacements for the injured Byram and Collins respectively before permanently entering the twilight zone along with Gokhan Tore.  He was booked in each of his Premier League appearances.  There has been much unconfirmed speculation of a rift with manager Slaven Bilic over training methods and Arbeloa’s release was recently announced by the club; his pockets stuffed with reported £65k per week takings (close to a cool £3 million in total).

9       John Radford

The first of a former Arsenal quintet in our top ten list, Radford, a 1971 double winner, signed for West Ham in December 1976 as a relatively youthful 29 year old.  Radford had enjoyed a profitable career at Highbury and at the time of his departure was their second most prolific goal scorer of all time with 149 goals; since surpassed by both Ian Wright and Thierry Henry.  He joined a struggling West Ham side which had spent most of the season stuck in the relegation zone before finally pulling clear at the very last moment.  In his first season he played 19 games with no goals and drew a further blank from 11 games during the first half of the subsequent season.  He was transferred to second division Blackburn Rovers in late 1977 where he partially rediscovered his shooting boots to net 10 times from 38 starts.

8       Lee Chapman

A League Cup winner with Nottingham Forest and League Title winner with Leeds United, Chapman became a Hammer, aged 33, in September 1993 as West Ham competed in the Premier League for the first time.  Chapman made his debut in an away fixture against Blackburn Rovers alongside fellow new signings Mike Marsh and David Burrows who had arrived as part of the deal that took Julian Dicks to Anfield.  Goals form Chapman himself and Trevor Morley earned the Hammers a surprise win that lifted them out of the relegation places and set them on course for an eventual thirteenth place finish.  Chapman contributed 7 league goals from 30 appearances to the campaign. The following season he opened the season with no goals from 10 games before losing his place to the returning Tony Cottee and being transferred to Ipswich.  It was Chapman who Harry Redknapp famously substituted for a fan in a pre-season friendly at Oxford City.

7        Freddie Ljungberg

With a sackful of league and cup medals earned during his time at Arsenal, Ljungberg moved to West Ham on a four year contract, aged 30, as part of the Icelandic cash splashing revolution in the summer of 2007; a period that also heralded the arrival of Craig Bellamy, Kieron Dier, Scott Parker and Nobby Solano to Upton Park.  Ljungberg made his debut, as captain, in the season opener against Manchester City but a series of niggling injuries limited his contribution and it was not until February 2008 that he scored the first of his two West Ham goals.  Broken ribs in a game at Newcastle prematurely ended his season in April 2008 and he was not seen in a West Ham shirt again; the club paying off the remaining years of his contract in the summer (for a reported £6 million) while Ljungberg declared that he “had given his all for West Ham”.  Equally well known for his Calvin Klein modelling work, Ljungberg became something of a footballing nomad turning out in the US, Scotland, Japan and India before finally retiring in 2014.

6       Jimmy Greaves

Greaves was 30 years old when he signed for West Ham in March 1970 as a makeweight in Martin Peter’s transfer to Tottenham.  The previous season (1968/69) he had finished as the First Division’s leading scorer with 27 goals but had already lost his place in the Tottenham team before his move to Upton Park at the tail end of the 1969/70 season.  Greaves marked his West Ham debut with two goals in a 5-1 win at Manchester City and then scored on the opening day of the following season against his old club in a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane.  His did not continue such a rich vein of form, however, and in a largely disappointing season he scored just 9 goals in 30 appearances.  His time at West Ham is perhaps best remembered for the Blackpool nightclub incident and his increasing dependence on alcohol; as he became disillusioned with both his own game and the abilities of the majority of his West Ham teammates.   He left the club at the end of the 1970/71 season and did not play professionally again.

I Wouldn’t Bet On It 44: Success at the Last

Success in our final week of the season for both West Ham and our betting fund.

We had a lot of fun bets in the final week of the season, and one of them was successful:

2 points on West Ham to win and both teams to score @9/2 (11)

We came very close in some of the others, but nevertheless we ended the season at +12 points to carry forward to next year. It has been a lot of fun, and to come out at the end in profit is no mean feat, especially when the vast majority of our bets have been variations on West Ham to win games.

At one stage we were quite a bit up, although a run of bad results plunged us into deficit. We were saved by the magnificent win over Tottenham in our penultimate home game of the season. It is enjoyable providing that you don’t bet more than you can afford to lose, and that is especially the case when betting on West Ham, where you never really know what is going to happen.

We’ll be back with more betting next season.

Lawro Challenge: The Final Countdown

It’s hats off to Lawro as he sneaks over the line in the conclusion to our season long challenge.

Lawro Crystal BallSo it seems that Lawro is not the hopeless tipster that we believed him to be.  At least he was good enough to see off both Rich and Geoff in our season long Lawro Challenge.  If it were not for his obsession with Liverpool he would almost look insightful.

In the final week of the challenge, Rich scored 11 points, Geoff 7 points, and Lawro 9 points. At one point, around mid-way through the second half of all the games, if no further goals had been scored then Rich would have made up the 8 point deficit on Lawro and the challenge would have ended as a tie. But as West Ham know to their cost, games are played for 90 minutes, and as further goals went in Lawro fought back to end up the winner by six points.

In this challenge we awarded one point for a correct result, and a further two points (making three in total) if the score prediction was spot on. Although Rich predicted more correct results than Lawro, he didn’t do as well in forecasting the correct scores.

Final Table





Total after 37 weeks




Score in week 38




Total after 38 weeks




Season Report Card: Kouyate to Snodgrass

Handing out the second and final instalment of annual report cards means that packing can now start for the summer holidays.

Report CardWe continue to hand out the end of season report cards in the second and final part of our rear-view mirror assessment of the workers and the shirkers from the recently concluded 2016/17 campaign.

Part one of the Season Report Card: Adrian to Fonte can be found here.




Cheikhou Kouyate

Having now completed three seasons at the club, Cheikhou continues to bring power and athleticism to the midfield, attributes that are largely lacking elsewhere.  If he possessed a greater ability with the final ball he would undoubtedly be plying his trade on a bigger stage than the London Stadium by now.  One of the players that the manager has parcelled into the versatile category he has also been asked to play as part of a back three and as right back.  Whenever removed from the midfield his strong and forceful running is sorely missed.


Manuel Lanzini

Starting the season as the sorcerer’s apprentice, Manuel has stepped firmly out of the shadows to blossom as the team’s principal play-maker, especially since his release from exile on the wing to a more central role.  Full of energy and always alert he takes up great positions and is excellent when running with the ball.  Some concerns on his decision making; when to shoot or pass but may be more of a reflection of the movement and options around him than a flaw in his own game.  Finished the season with eight league goals and recognition by his national side will likely see him on the radar of predator clubs.


Arthur Masuaku

Initially signed as emergency cover for Cresswell’s early season injury, Arthur has just about thrown off the stigma of the unfathomable double handball incident at The Hawthorns.  Another player who has been blighted by a succession of injuries his mellow playing style has made him something of a burgeoning cult hero despite the limited number of games that he has played.  Looks excellent going forward but potentially vulnerable defensively.  His long term future at the club is likely to rest more on his fitness levels than his playing ability.


Mark Noble

Affectionately known as ‘Mr West Ham’, Mark has experienced an indifferent season at the London Stadium.  Impossible to fault him for effort and is personally known to each and every blade of grass on the pitch. His downfall is that he struggles for pace and is frequently bypassed in hurly-burly of the midfield frenzy particularly when opponents have the ball.  Also has a tendency to slow the game down too much when in possession through a reliance on sideways and backwards passes.  Will obviously remain an important member of the squad but looks to have gone beyond his best before date as far as being a first team regular is concerned.


Havard Nordtveit

Havard has found it difficult to settle in his new environment. Seen as a potential answer to the long running defensive midfield deficiency he failed to make an impact either in that role or when he has been asked to cover elsewhere.  Came with a strong reputation from his time in the Bundesliga but was unable to replicate that form in the Premier League, despite some improved performances at the tail end of the season.  Difficult to know whether he can yet adapt but an absence of pace suggests that it is unlikely.


The Post

An ever present during the season, The Post came to prominence with a match winning performance against Hull City at the London Stadium in December.  Had the result of that match gone the other way it could have resulted in some very squeaky bum moments during the final run-in to the season.


Pedro Obiang

Overlooked and apparently out of favour for most of his first season at the club, Pedro was a revelation this term until injury sidelined him in the middle of March.  My personal pick for Hammer of the Year, he displays excellent work rate, outstanding ball-winning ability and a shrewd eye for picking out smart and telling passes.  Showed a lot of patience and made the most of his chance once it came along.  It would be no surprise if he was another on the radar of bigger clubs although injury may have thwarted that concern for the time being.  



Angelo Ogbonna

A strong left sided centre back who earned a place in West Ham folklore with a last minute headed winner against Liverpool in last season’s FA Cup.  Angelo’s second campaign at the club, however, was disrupted by surgery on a long standing injury.  For the most part a very competent defender although he has occasionally been prone to a loss of concentration or causal play that has had costly consequences.  We will need to wait and see the extent to which injury was impacting performance.


Darren Randolph

A long time understudy for the keeper spot, Darren was called into centre stage following a string of eccentric displays by El Adrian.  Early performances were creditable even though his presence failed to prevent the goals against column clicking up with monotonous regularity.   A very good shot stopper but has never convinced in the air, a failing that instilled a sense of panic throughout the defence.  Had outstayed his welcome by some weeks before the gloves were eventually and rightly handed back to Adrian.


Winston Reid

Winston continues to be a stalwart at the heart of the Hammer’s defence even if, as a unit, this was far from impregnable this year.  Demonstrates excellent commitment to the cause, has solid defensive qualities and is never afraid to put himself on the line for the team.  His unremarkable distribution is possibly the one feature of his play that leaves him just outside the cadre of top central defenders in the league; we are very lucky to have him.  Rarely makes critical gaffes and has shown passion and leadership ability during his time as stand-in skipper.


Diafra Sakho

In theory the most complete striker at the club, Diafra unfortunately spent the majority of the season as a regular in the treatment room, clocking up just 2 starts all term.  Together with Andy Carroll it is now impossible to rely on either of this pair for the long term with another breakdown always just around the corner.  Difficult to know with Sakho whether the problems are purely physical and the often reported relationship problems with the management do not auger well.  For one reason or another we may well have seen the last of him in a West Ham shirt.  


Robert Snodrass

For a player who has spent most of his career as a journeyman footballer in the limbo land between Premier League and Championship, Robert earned a surprise move to West Ham on the back of an impressive half of a season at Hull.  It should come as no surprise that his performances owed more to his humble past than to that most recent purple patch.  To be fair in his first few appearances he looked full of energy but quickly settled into a state of lethargy that wouldn’t be out of place in a moody teenager.  What anyone was thinking when sanctioning a fee in excess of £10 million for his services is one of the mysteries of the universe.



Season Report Card: Adrian to Fonte

It’s that time of year to collect the yearly report before breaking up for the summer holidays.

Report CardNow that the season is finally over we hand out report cards before the players head off to the Med for a well earned rest break from the rigours of the Premier League.  As they sit around the pool sipping Pina Coladas we hope that they can take a little time to think long and hard about their respective performances.





Starting the season as the team’s obvious Number 1 and on the fringes of his national side, Adrian has experienced a turbulent year.  Competent in the air and as a shot stopper his weakness has been in trying to develop flamboyance in the style of Claudio Bravo.  Not as good at ball control or dribbling as he thinks, despite his Mark Noble testimonial goal, he was understandably dropped after conceding a number of poor goals due to a lack of concentration or a rush of blood.  His exile was longer than necessary before eventually reclaiming the gloves and helping stabilise the defence towards the end of the season.  Longer term tenure will depend on competing transfer priorities.


Michail Antonio

Michail continued to develop as an important member of the team this season and was a worthy Hammer of the Year winner.  An early flurry of goals looked like it might threaten the current West Ham Premier League record of sixteen set by Paolo Di Canio in 1999/2000.  However, a dip in form, being asked to play in almost every outfield position – sometimes in the same match – and finally a season ending injury put paid to that dream.  Demonstrates energy, pace, power, commitment and adaptability.  Looks most effective playing out wide on the right but the manager appear to have other ideas.


Andre Ayew

It is still difficult to pinpoint exactly where Andre’s best position is or how to accommodate him into a team formation.  The club record signing tag is something of a millstone around his neck and may explain his lack of pace.  Still to convince from a value for money standpoint although his early season was badly disrupted by injury.  Has a knack of being in the right place to score the simple tap-in and also to scorn them as witnessed with the stunning double miss against Liverpool.   A panic arrival last summer could he be a panic departure this one?


Sam Byram

Youthful looks and a ‘Beaker’ hairstyle belie Sam’s age and experience and he needs to convert potential to performance some time soon.  With the exception of Alvaro Arbeloa (who spent the majority of his time with the club on the naughty step) Sam was the only specialist right back in the squad and yet was unable to command a regular spot.  A number of factors may have contributed to this lack of game time including injuries, suspensions and managerial stubbornness in addition to his on-field contribution.  With the probable arrival of Zabaleta in the summer options for next season could be limited unless the West Ham injury curse strikes once again.


Jonathan Calleri

Sadly Jonathan was way out his depth in the Premier League and possibly even for one or two divisions below that.  Sending Enner Valencia out on loan and then bringing him in as a replacement is one of the great mysteries of the season.  From his early miss against Bournemouth he resembled a startled deer caught in the headlights whenever presented with a goal-scoring opportunity.  To his credit he did work hard during the later stages of the season but effort alone does not cut it in the self-proclaimed best league in the world.  A sad indictment of the club’s organisation and planning is that we had to put up with him as the only striking option for so long.


Andy Carroll

Andy’s attendance has once again let him down this season.  Reputed to be unplayable, this is not supposed to be because he is always in the treatment room.  Undoubted aerial strength in both attack and defence is not matched by an equal ability on the deck and his deployment as a lone striker, with service that generally fails to play to his strengths, invariable leads to a one-dimensional style of play.  A brief spell of fullish fitness did, nonetheless, coincide with the team’s most profitable run of games during which time he scored one of the finest goals of this and many other seasons.    


James Collins

The Welsh Braveheart, James can never be accused of not giving his all, apart from when he let Coutinho waltz past to score a few weeks ago.  Will always offer 100% effort, commitment and determination even if he lacks some of the finer technical skills.  Is also prone to what Harry would call the ‘occasional ricket’.  Famous for his brave last ditch blocks and tackles which, ironically, are often in situations of his own making.  With the ball at his feet there is nothing as final and definitive as a James Collins clearance and he can be relied on for the occasional goal.  Has been and can continue to be a useful emergency replacement but there really should be better, younger alternatives available.  


Aaron Cresswell

It has been a topsy-turvy season for Aaron.  Having missed the early weeks due to injury, his welcome return coincided with a brief uptick in form and resulted in an international call-up, which was ultimately far from convincing.  Has operated as a conventional full back and as a wing back with attacking play usually his major strength.  His best performances came when combining with the now departed Payet and he struggled to regain that form in the later stages of the season.  Nevertheless he has recently once again be called into the England squad.



Sofiane Feghouli

The capture of Sofiane against stiff competition was billed as something of a coup by those aiming to sell season tickets.  A lively start to his career in east London was hampered by injury and since then he has adopted a Jekyll and Hyde persona; in that he was shocking all year up until the last two games where he experienced a reawakening.  Overall gave the impression of a winger unable to go past a defender or to deliver a decent cross.  Perhaps there is the prospect of more better to come if only the real Sofiane Feghouli could please stand up.




Edmilson Fernandes

Potentially the diamond in the rough of what wasthe debacle of last summer’s transfer dealings, Edmilson has the air of a very assured, controlled and intelligent footballer with an excellent range of passing.  Was given relatively few opportunities and was asked to play a number of different roles when he did eventually get onto the pitch.  The challenge will be how and where to enjoy the best of his talents as he is not best suited for the more defensive midfield duties.  May need to work on the physical side of his game in order to continue development in the frenzy of the Premier League.


Ashley Fletcher

Ashley has been the ‘nearly man’ of the West Ham squad having spent much of his time on the bench but making only two Premier League starts.  Otherwise it has largely been brief run-outs as an 85th minute substitute. Has shown some very nice touches but there are question-marks over his strength and pace.  Has looked to lack confidence on occasions but then who wouldn’t if overlooked regularly in favour of Jonathan Calleri.


Jose Fonte

January signing Jose came with a big reputation from Southampton but has blown hot and cold during his time in the claret and blue.  Has looked strong and stable (where have I heard that before?) in the air but is exposed by young, pacey forwards.  The rationale for buying a 33 year old was heavily debated and was mitigated to some extent by the news of Angelo Ogbonna’s injury and surgery.  However, alongside James Collins and the imminently arriving Zabaleta the defence has a Dad’s Army feel to it that is more usually associated with Stoke City.  Don’t Panic!


Midweek Miscellany: The Hip Replacement Guy

The close season resembles an episode of Casualty as manager Bilic joins his players in the operating theatre.

Slaven Bilic

One joke that never fails to make me smile is the one about the two coolest dudes in the hospital being the Hip Replacement Guy and the Ultra-Sound Man.  Now that his team’s limp season has come to an end, our very own cool manager will be joining a host of players by going under the knife with Slaven opting for a hip replacement that is likely to keep him out of action for up to 6 weeks. We wish him a speedy and full recovery and hope that he will emerge far more flexible in every sense of the word at the end of his recuperation.

With no news to the contrary, the assumption has to be that Bilic will be staying in the West Ham hot seat, at least for the time being, to begin the final year of his current contract. It creates both an added incentive and pressure to get next season off to a flying start if he is to avoid dead-man walking status by the time the festive period comes around.

With Slaven temporarily out of action there must be potential implications for the allocation of war-chest funds during the upcoming transfer window. If we are to believe what we read, transfer decisions are collectively agreed by Bilic, transfer supremo Tony Henry and David Sullivan, in his role as de facto Director of Football and as the man signing the cheques from the Bank of Dave. With two shocking transfer windows behind them what could possibly go wrong?

The chatter (or is it the chtwitter) coming out of the club is that sights are set on three of four new signings to launch that leap to the much vaunted next level. The one name cropping up with great regularity in that sense is 32 year old Pablo Zabaleta: better than what we have?, yes; a signing for the future and a statement of ambition?, no! It is my over-riding fear that transfer focus will be on experienced but past-their-best individuals that offer little but to keep the club treading water.

A transfer rumour that cropped up today was a swap with Inter Milan that would see 30 year old Eder heading for London and 23 year old Arthur Masuaku going in the opposite direction. I sincerely hope that this one is from the made-up nonsense basket as neither part of that exchange holds any attraction. Masuaku looks just the sort of prospect that we need to keep despite the suspicion that he has contracted Rush Green syndrome (formerly known as Chadwell Heath syndrome) whereby a player has an irrational fear of leaving the treatment room.

I was relieved to hear that Jermaine Defoe had taken his ageing shooting boots to a more suitable retirement home on the south coast.  He is another that could make a reasonable short term difference but no more.  The motto: “good is the enemy of great” should be prominently displayed on the wall of the transfer control nerve centre as a reminder of our supposed ambition; right next to the one that says “You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps!”

Burnley 1 West Ham 2

A win in the North-West to finish the season.

So we have ended a so-so season with a victory. And for a change, instead of relinquishing a lead and giving up the points we did it the other way round. When we fell behind midway through the first half I feared the worst, but a spirited comeback against a side with an enviable home record, and other results going our way, meant that we finished the season in eleventh place, just one point behind eighth, albeit with an inferior goal difference. Many have commented that with just one more victory we would have been clear in eighth, and it is easy to look back and see where that additional win might have come from, as we lost 22 points from a winning position.

The difficulties in settling in to a new home have been written about extensively, and whilst there is perhaps some merit in the change of stadium being the reason for our indifferent home form, I do not subscribe to it being such a key factor. Quite frankly we played poorly in so many home games, and we cannot blame the stadium for that. We just didn’t turn up at times, and failed to put in the level of commitment that we showed in our better performances. If the stadium was such a key factor, then where did we play the home game against Chelsea in the EFL Cup? And where did we play against Tottenham in the penultimate home game of the season?

The inability to score goals at the London Stadium is something that we will need to rectify next season, as in this one we only managed to score two goals or more on four occasions. On the other hand we scored at least two goals in nine of our away games. Compare this to the previous (successful) season when we scored at least twice in 23 of our games (12 at home, and 11 away).

The season was a balanced one in that we picked up 22 points in the first 19 games, and 23 in the last 19. Some of our 1-0 wins were fortunate, but all sides have those. The aforementioned 22 dropped points would, had we won the games where we were in front, have seen us finish in sixth place in the table. But it was not to be.

Injuries to key players was perhaps another factor in some of our poor results, but again many sides have those. Quite what is the reason for so many injuries is a debatable point, but we either have to improve our training facilities (the reason given by some), or consider our training methods and performance of the people behind the scenes who are responsible for ensuring the fitness of players. Or is it just bad luck? I’m not so sure.

Transfer target speculation is already well under way, and I hope we can secure some quality signings this time. But most of all I’d like to see us adopt a method of playing where we have a definite plan (and back up plans) where we find a successful formula and stick to it. To me, we appear to pick what the manager considers are his best eleven players available for each game, and because of injuries we bring in alternatives who don’t necessarily fit the same style of play. It is no coincidence that the two best teams in the country, Chelsea and Tottenham, have a style of playing where, in the event of injuries, they bring in players who fit into their pattern. They don’t just pick their best eleven players available and change the style to fit them.

We also need to consider what is one of the most important facets of the game at the top level, and that is pace. Teams can afford to have the odd player here or there who may be lacking in this if they bring other additional qualities to the team. But to me we seem to be lacking in this aspect in too many areas of the pitch. Some of our build up play is predictable and laborious with not enough movement off the ball. Sometimes when I watch our pre-match routine where the players play five against five retaining possession of the ball in a confined area I marvel at their ability to find space with quick movement, but we often cannot seem to replicate this in the game itself.

And one other thing I’d like to see. How many times have we had a free kick (or even a throw in) in the opponents half of the pitch, and several (mainly sideways and backwards) passes later it ends up with our goalkeeper, who then kicks the ball long and possession is lost? So many times we take a quick free kick (and there is nothing wrong with that in itself), but we don’t appear to give it much thought. Sometimes we need to consider what we are going to do. A quickly taken free kick can be a good attacking option, but only when the players are ready for it. It has the most effect when played in a forward direction.

Having said all that, despite some indifferent displays we finished eleventh, and could have even been higher. But I think that our mid table position was just about right. Some people writing on social media suggest that it was the worst season ever. No it wasn’t. Remember Glenn Roeder and Avram Grant? Our average finishing position in the Premier League era is around 12th / 13th. So it was just about right. Typical West Ham you might say.

Looking ahead I cannot foresee any changes to the top seven places in the table, and reckon that at our best we would be challenging with so many others in the mid-table cluster for eighth place. I hope I am wrong. I hope that we see some quality recruits, a definite style of play, and better luck with injuries. Only time will tell, but the new season is less than three months away, and a lot of work needs to be done behind the scenes to give us a chance of improvement. I hope it happens.

This Week in Hammer’s History

Two Play Off final appearances conclude the Hammer’s History series as we look at the period from 22 to 30 May.

This Week Hammers HistoryIn the final instalment of this week in Hammer’s History we will take the liberty of slightly elongating the week to the nine days, 22 to 30 May, in order to capture the two Championship Play-Off Finals of 2004 and 2005.

The 2003/04 season was Alan Pardew’s first in the managerial hot-seat.  He joined on 18 October 2003 with the Hammers in 4th spot in the Championship and after an initial wobble they remained a top six occupant for the majority of the season without ever threatening the automatic promotion places; eventually finishing back where Pardew’s tenure had begun in 4th position.

The Play-Off final was an all-London affair against Iain Dowie’s Crystal Palace, who owed their play-off spot to a late West Ham equaliser against Wigan in the final match of the regular season.  The match was played at the Millennium Stadium and, despite having secured a ticket, work commitments meant that I ended watching on TV in a Las Vegas bar at 6 in the morning.   After a frenetic opening the game settled into a cagey affair, with West Ham’s dominating possession but with few real chances at either end.  Palace took the lead when Stephen Bywater could only parry a shot from Johnson allowing the overweight Shipperley to nip in and score from close range.  West Ham had ‘goals’ from David Connolly and Bobby Zamora ruled out for offside, and a blatant foul on Michael Carrick in the area was ignored by the referee, in the aftermath but were unable to get back on level terms.  An abiding memory from the day (apart from the hostile atmosphere in the bar and the helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon in the afternoon) were the strange substitutions by Pardew when he hauled off all three of his strikers once we had gone a goal down and were in desperate need of a goal.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

Bywater, Dailly, Melville, Mullins, Repka, Carrick, Etherington, Lomas, Connolly (Hutchison), Harewood (Reo-Coker), Zamora (Deane)

A year later it was back to the same venue for another go, this time against old foes from the 1964 Cup Final, Preston North End.  In the league the Hammers had failed to impress and only confirmed their place in the Play-Offs on the last day when they scrambled into 6th spot; opponents Preston had finished one place higher and had completed a league double over West Ham.

It was Hammers who were quickest out of the blocks in the final with Tomas Repka’s shot against the post after four minutes the first of a handful of first half chances that went begging.  West Ham were also solid in defence and although Preston were able to threaten from set pieces the game remained scoreless at the break.  The multi-million pound breakthrough and winning goal came after 57 minutes as a Matthew Etherington cross was hooked home by Zamora.  There was late drama when Jimmy Walker had to be replaced by Bywater due to injury but the Hammer’s resisted a late Preston push for a leveller to reclaim top flight status amid huge sighs of relief.

Walker (Bywater), Repka, Ferdinand, Ward, Powell, Newton (Noble), Reo-Coker, Mullins, Etherington, Harewood, Zamora (Dailly)