Prior to the FA Cup debacle on Saturday I headed my preview of the game “FA Cup embarrassment for West Ham?” Somehow you could just see it coming given our appalling record against lower league opposition and I could easily have left off the question mark when writing the piece. Once again social media went into overdrive, both during the game and afterwards, with opinion on what happened. For me it was a case of not really wanting to be in Wimbledon on a Saturday night facing a team prepared to give everything, and totally make a nonsense of their position at the foot of League One. At the same time we made a nonsense of our position in the top half of the Premier League.
As a supporter of over 60 years I felt that our performance in the first half was right up there with the most appalling I have ever seen. Who was to blame? Well firstly the players on the pitch, and secondly the manager who has previous in underestimating the opposition going back to his Manchester City days.
For this game he thought he could win the game by resting Fabianski, Zabaleta, Cresswell, Rice, Nasri and Anderson. And that ignores the soap opera going on with our “talisman” Arnautavic. What is the reasoning behind this? We are nowhere near getting involved in the relegation scrap, so why is the FA Cup not our top priority? Of course I know the reason behind this; it is all about money.
But this was a competition we could possibly win. Ask our fans whether they would prefer a trip to Wembley for the FA Cup Final or a finishing place of seventh in the Premier League. I think I know the answer that the overwhelming majority would give. We certainly are not able to challenge for the top places in the Premier League, but you don’t have to win many games to lift the FA Cup. Just six actually. And the way that this year’s competition has worked out, and with the luck of the draw, it might have been an easier task for us than usual. How many Premier League teams went into last night’s draw for the fifth round? Not a lot, as Paul Daniels might have said. Interesting that our conquerors face a home tie in Round 5 against another team from South London, a side not exactly popular with our fans. That could have been us!
Shortly after the end of the game our missing Austrian striker appeared in a video uploaded for all to see. He said that he is back, just like his thespian similar namesake told us he would be, in The Terminator. I wasn’t aware he had actually been away! Apparently he loves the London Stadium and West Ham and we should only believe what he is saying. So what was all that nonsense from his brother / agent about going to China to win trophies? Surely if he loved West Ham so much then he would have been available for the last couple of games and in the right frame of mind?
So before we are even in February what is there left for us to win this season? For a start there is the unofficial Premier League Division 2 title. The league has neatly divided into three divisions. There is the top ‘elite’ six (Division 1), who are the same six clubs virtually every year; there is the battle to avoid relegation (Division 3), currently being contested by the bottom 7 teams; and finally there is the middle section (Division 2) of which we are one of the competing teams. Only Brighton do not fit neatly into one of the categories at the moment as they hover in no-mans-land between Divisions 2 and 3.
Another competition that we could win is the unofficial title of champion club beginning with the letter ‘W’. There are only three of us competing in the Premier League this season, namely Watford, Wolves and ourselves. Watford are currently on top with 33 points, closely followed by today’s opponents Wolves on 32, and then we bring up the rear on 31. This could be a very exciting contest in the remainder of the season and gives us something else to play for!
And while I am writing about teams beginning with a certain letter of the alphabet I would like to pay tribute to the English football “L’s”. There are 92 clubs in the Football League and a further 24 in the Vanarama National League, the fifth tier of the game. That is 116 in total. How many can you name who begin with the letter L? Well you have Liverpool, Leeds, Luton, Lincoln, Leyton Orient, and one more that I have forgotten, oh yes, Leicester. The amazing thing for fans of the letter L is that the first five I have named are currently the top teams in the Premier League, Championship, League One, League Two and Vanarama League respectively. How uncanny is that?
Avid readers of the Sun will have noticed on Saturday a column “Top Tips” where they make betting suggestions. I will repeat part of the column here. “The team worth a punt for me (to win the FA Cup) is West Ham. Not wanting it is not an option. Hammers fans are quicker than anyone about reminding their players of their obligations. And in Wimbledon tonight they all but have a ticket to the last 16 already. As Paddy Power says “West Ham have nothing else to play for”. Paddy make the Hammers a generous 16-1 to win it. But the bet I really like is the monster 8-1 Coral offer on them making the semis”. I hope you didn’t invest too heavily here!
In betting terms West Ham are undoubtedly one of the most unreliable teams that you can bet on. They have proved that consistently. I have a small wager on them from time to time (with small being the key word). I wonder if Kevin Dunne will refer back to Saturday’s column when he puts forward his suggestions in his article next week?
So what will happen tonight? Wolves themselves are hardly at the peak of their form, only just scraping a replay at Shrewsbury on Saturday. Our players need to put in a performance to begin to atone for Saturday. With the return of the seven players I mentioned earlier who were left out of the starting line-up against Wimbledon, I fully expect a totally different kind of showing from our team.
But as we all know, this is West Ham, anything can possibly happen. A 4-2 win for the Hammers is on offer at around 100/1. It might be a fun bet, but I wouldn’t put your house on it.