First Page Of Teletext
Supporters of a certain age will remember Teletext (or CEEFAX) as their primary source of up to the minute football information. Page 324 of CEEFAX showed the Barclays Premiership league table over two pages and I can still recall one fan’s excitement in the aftermath an away win at Southampton in 1993/94 that West Ham had finally made it on to page one for first time that season. History repeated itself last night and no matter how temporary the position the Hammers have at last assumed the top ten position that their financial muscle should routinely guarantee. Two teams can theoretically leapfrog us tonight in the increasingly congested lower reaches of the table but it is good to carry the momentum into the upcoming fixtures against Brighton and Watford.
Patched Up Squads – plus ça change!
In the circumstances it was more a case of a point gained than two points dropped as the Hammers extended their unbeaten (league) sequence in 2018 to five matches. As mentioned in our Palace match preview this is the longest unbeaten start to a calendar year since 1974 when the Hammers embarked on a ten match spree, before finally finishing one point above the relegation places – a season where Billy Bonds finished as West Ham’s leading scorer. My memory of that time is also of patched up teams filled with played out of position defenders as the lineup from one of those games illustrates (a 3-0 win over Chelsea courtesy of a Bonds hat-trick): Day, Coleman, Lampard, Bonds, Taylor, McGiven, Holland, Paddon, McDowell, Brooking, Best. I’m sure every team has its bad luck with runs of injuries but does any other top flight club so regularly get into such a mess? Flashbacks to Ian Perace at centre-forward and Les Sealey as an outfield substitute spring to mind.
A point apiece was a fair reflection of the game. Defensively we should have done better with the Palace goal as Aaron Cresswell had strayed too far upfield in a situation where we did not have good possession and Declan Rice was slow to close down the advancing Townshend. Benteke is another of those players who is generally woeful but too often experiences a productive ninety minutes against the Hammers. It was great to see Tomka getting an assist with the equaliser; a definite penalty, calmly dispatched by a cool Mark Noble. There was also excellent work in the build-up also from Joao Mario who had a more than encouraging league debut. It will be fascinating to see how Mario and Lanzini will be paired together in the same side.
Too Late, Baby
Given the shortage of numbers it was a brave (and correct) decision by David Moyes to drop Michail Antonio from the match-day squad for failing to turn up on time. It is another indication that Moyes is bringing greater professionalism and discipline to the club after the happy go lucky days of Slaven Bilic. It has been reported that Antonio apologised and that the incident was now closed but it is difficult to understand what is going on with the player. He can play a crucial role over the next few weeks in the continued absence of Arnautovic and Lanzini as West Ham face important winnable games against fellow stragglers and strugglers. Let’s hope he can get his body and mind together and make a useful contribution in picking up the points that are required to continue the climb away from trouble.
Slam Shut Day Is With Us
The final day of the transfer window has arrived with everyone at West Ham allegedly working hard to bring in new players. Even as the day breaks new names (such as Islam Slimani and Ibrahim Amadou) are added to the list of targets (already including the likes of Pelle, Smolov, Cairney, Schneiderlin and Dendoncker) which continues to grow at a time when you would hope it is being narrowed down to known players and realistic proportions. Those involved agree that a transfer is a complex business with issues related to valuations, wages, fees, loans versus purchases, buy-out clauses, sell-on clauses, payment terms, medicals and lucky squad numbers to be resolved. Past performance does not instil a tremendous level of confidence that our crack negotiating team will manage to get more than one (if any) deal over the line in time. As usual I will disregard common sense and the lessons of history in the improbable hope that a rabbit or two can be pulled out of the hat at the last minute. Don’t go to bed!