With tongue in cheek when I previewed our game at Newcastle on Saturday, I ended the article asking if it would be the first game of an eight match winning run, and suggested that the odds on our achieving that would be very long. Well, they would still be long, although they are a bit shorter now after our magnificent win at St James Park.
I also said that of course it wouldn’t happen, but wouldn’t it be nice to record back to back wins for the first time in a while. Surely there can be no better opportunity to do so than in a home meeting against newly promoted Cardiff.
Also in my article I was hoping that we could repeat the 1-0 win at Newcastle from six years ago, but also mentioned the 3-0 win there 20 years ago. I certainly wasn’t expecting a repeat of that scoreline. We should savour the victory, which was well earned and could have been by an even greater margin, as it doesn’t happen all that often. How many times in the last ten years have we won Premier League games away from home by three goals or more? I think I can remember just seven occasions before Newcastle, and will list those at the end of this article. Perhaps there were more, and if there were then I apologise for forgetting them.
I’m sure that today’s opponents will be relatively pleased with their performance in the Premier League this season, as they currently sit in 16th place on 11 points. They were the bookies favourites for relegation at the start of the season (a mantle taken over by Burnley at the moment), but wins over Fulham, Brighton and Wolves have given them every optimism that they can stay up. It will be hard, but if they do so then it will be as good an achievement by their controversial manager, Neil Warnock, as all the various promotions he has achieved over the years.
If everyone is fit then surely our manager will opt for an unchanged starting eleven for this game? However, Cresswell and Balbuena would appear to be potential doubts. The whole team played well at Newcastle (with the possible exception of Masuaku in his substitute role), and it would be good to see a settled team forming. It was good to see a strengthening of the squad with the return from injury of both Wilshere, who I feel will be an important player for us this season, and Carroll. I relish the thought of seeing Wilshere, Anderson and Lanzini all playing together in the same side, although of course this would be potentially an issue from a defensive viewpoint. But perhaps we could adopt the Manchester City theory of outscoring the opposition and not worrying if we concede?
One player I have been pleased to see doing well is Robert Snodgrass. I have always liked him, although I am aware that some fans are not so keen, but I have always loved his wholehearted attitude. I believe he is more skilful than many realise, although this hasn’t always been evident yet in a claret and blue shirt. I remain convinced we will see more good performances from him.
Not surprisingly, we are odds on favourites to win tonight’s game, and it will be a big disappointment after the weekend victory if we fail to do so. I hate statistics such as the one I am about to reveal, but Cardiff have only managed to collect a solitary point away from home (in a goalless draw at Huddersfield), and have only scored a total of two goals in their seven fixtures on their travels. We all know from history how teams boasting records like these can improve them significantly with a game against West Ham. However I am sure it will not happen tonight, and I look forward to a second consecutive win by a three goal margin. That is not something I write very often, if at all, and I hope that Cardiff don’t spoil my hopes of us achieving the second of eight consecutive wins!
As promised earlier, the games that I can recall in the last ten years where we have won by a three goal margin away from home were: at Stoke, Huddersfield, Swansea, West Brom, Liverpool (yes Liverpool!), Tottenham (Morrison wonder goal game), and Portsmouth which I remember was on Boxing Day about ten years ago. There may have been more, but it is something that doesn’t happen often. I am old enough to remember us winning 5-1 at Manchester City when Jimmy Greaves made his debut for us almost fifty years ago (and scored twice). That game was particularly memorable for a Ronnie Boyce volley scored from about fifty yards out! Those were the days.
A West Ham programme from the early 1970’s when we played a League Cup tie at home to Cardiff. We drew the game 1-1 before winning the replay. We had quite an attacking line-up that night. That was the season we went on to reach the semi-final against Stoke where we lost in the fourth game! The 20 page programme cost 5p.
Many people believe that Cardiff’s nickname, the Bluebirds is purely a result of the colour of their shirts. That is only partly true, as it is also connected to a children’s play “The Blue Bird” written by Belgian Nobel Prize for Literature winning playwright Maurice Maeterlinck, which had a production in Cardiff in 1911. The publicity surrounding the play and its famous author led to supporters calling the team the Blue Birds, as they also wore a blue strip, and it emerged as the most popular nickname, surpassing “the Cardiffians” or “the City”. Not a lot of people know that, which is a famous saying of another Maurice, (Micklewhite), better known as Sir Michael Caine. And of course, Vera Lynn famously sang of Bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover, tomorrow just you wait and see. I don’t believe that had anything to do with Cardiff City though.