Hammers v Blues Clashes in the FA Cup

We look back on previous meetings between the two sides in England’s premier domestic cup competition.

1932-33 was a turbulent season in the history of West Ham United FC. Ten years after appearing in our first FA Cup Final, and the very first Wembley (White Horse) final we found ourselves back down in Division Two after spending the previous decade in the top flight. The season began poorly and we did not win a game until beating bitter rivals Millwall in mid-September. Early attendances that season at Upton Park were around the 10,000 mark but 25,000 were there to see our South London opponents comprehensively beaten 3-0.

The season continued with good form at home but we were abysmal on our travels. We hovered around the bottom of the league despite some impressive home wins, 5-2 against both Oldham and Grimsby, 7-3 against Charlton, 3-1 over Manchester United, Swansea and Southampton, and 5-0 against Port Vale. With just five league games to go we sat at the foot of the table, and with a difficult run-in looked destined to fall into the third tier of English football. However four successive wins over Nottingham Forest, Chesterfield, Manchester United and Tottenham (three of whom were to finish in the top six) saved us.

Off the field, our manager Syd King, who had been at the club as both player and manager for over 30 years back to the Thames Ironwork days, was warned on a number of occasions regarding his drink-related conduct, and in November 1932, he was suspended for three months. In early January his contract was terminated, and just a few days later he drank a mixture of alcohol and disinfectant and died. He was succeeded as boss by the club trainer, Charlie Paynter.

Our FA Cup fortunes were an improvement on our league form. After disposing of Corinthians (2-0) in Round 3, and West Brom by the same score in Round 4, we met Brighton and Hove Albion in the fifth round. The game was a 2-2 draw before we won the replay 1-0 to set up a quarter final tie against today’s opponents Birmingham City (then a mid-table Division One team). A reported 44,000 were at Upton Park on that day, although the figure is disputed and some sources reckon it was around 40,000. Nevertheless the stadium was packed to see us easily win the game 4-0 to progress to the semi-final.

Despite the poor league form, our journey in the FA Cup was an exciting one, and we faced Everton of Division One in Wolverhampton for a place at Wembley. With just a few minutes remaining the match was tied at 1-1 but we conceded a late goal and went out of the competition. Everton won the final at Wembley easily beating Manchester City 3-0. A co-incidence that we drew 2-2 with Brighton shortly before facing Birmingam in the FA Cup? Let us hope that the co-incidence extends further and that we record a 4-0 victory in this game today.

We didn’t meet Birmingham again in the FA Cup until they visited Upton Park for a third round tie in January 1965. This was our first FA Cup match since lifting the cup the previous May (winning our first ever major trophy). We were both top flight sides, although our visitors were struggling at the foot of the table (and were eventually relegated finishing bottom). The Blues (not the most exciting of nicknames I reckon) unexpectedly raced into a two goal lead, but we fought back with two goals from Geoff Hurst, and one apiece from Johnny Byrne and John Sissons to win 4-2. However we were unable to extend our hold on the cup any longer when we were knocked out by Chelsea (1-0) at Upton Park in the next round. Of course we did have a magnificent cup run that season in the European Cup Winners Cup where we progressed all the way to the final where we beat TSV Munich 1860 to win our first (and only) European trophy.

Our only other FA Cup meeting with the Blues was in the fifth round of the 1983-84 competition. After disposing of Wigan in Round 3 and Crystal Palace in Round 4 we travelled to the Midlands to face a Birmingham side once again hovering near the foot of the table in the fifth round. We played poorly that day and they easily beat us 3-0. It was disappointing in that we were a side that were third in the Division One table when we met them in February whilst they were eventually relegated.

If you are looking for good omens then the last time we won the FA Cup (in 1980) the third round tie was played on January 5th. But conversely the Round 3 game five years ago (in 2014) was also on this date, and Hammers fans will recall an embarrassing 5-0 defeat at the hands of Nottingham Forest. We put out a weakened side that day with five youth team players, who never had the opportunity to play in the first team again.

Let us hope that we put out a team strong enough to progress to the next round. This is a competition that we have a chance of winning. We are safely ensconced in mid-table in the league with no prospect of being involved in a relegation battle. Wouldn’t it be great to be involved in another exciting cup run? Unfortunately, in modern times the cup competitions take second place to obtaining the highest possible league position, and that is a big shame in my opinion. I remember vividly our FA Cup wins of 1964, 1975, and 1980. They are great memories. It’s about time for another!

Can West Ham add the Seagulls to the Magpies, Bluebirds and Eagles?

The hectic Christmas and New Year schedule continues as West Ham look to shoot down the seagulls and welcome in 2019 with a sixth win in eight.

It was a poor performance at Burnley, which means that we have lost two of our last three games. On the other hand, when I previewed the Newcastle game at the beginning of December, I was (admittedly, tongue in cheek) looking for 24 points from the next eight games. Perhaps I could have put it another way. If we could get 15 points from the seven games leading up to the Brighton fixture at the beginning of 2019, how many fans would have taken that? Or even, if in the month of December we could get three more points than Manchester City in the seven games to be played by the end of the year, who would be happy with that, especially with the (usual) lengthy injury list that we have?

Whatever the reasons for what happened at Burnley, and I’m sure that tiredness was a contributory factor, if not as important a part as has been said, then if we can bounce back with a win tonight then all will be forgotten for the time being. Wolves and Watford stand in our way of reclaiming eighth place, and even a point may be enough to take us into the top half of the table, as two of our adversaries in the race to finish seventh (Bournemouth and Watford) meet on the South Coast tonight. I’d like to see that game end in a draw, as well as the Wolves v Palace game. In fact I always like to see teams that we are in direct competition with losing or drawing their games for the benefit of our fortunes in the league.

Ironically, Brighton are not renowned for their performances away from the Amex, especially when they travel to London, where they have lost seven of their last eight games in the capital. Of course the exception to this is the 3-0 drubbing they gave us last season at the London Stadium. This is only their second season back in the top flight, but manager Chris Hughton (much under-rated in my opinion) has done an excellent job.

In the three games played so far since their return, the Seagulls have beaten us on each occasion, but given our recent run against flying creatures (magpies, bluebirds, eagles) let us hope that we can add a fourth bird to the list tonight. Oh, for a repeat of that glorious sunny afternoon in April 2012 when Ricardo Vaz Te scored some wonderful goals, and we trounced Brighton 6-0 in a Championship fixture on our way back to the Premier League.

If fit (and not too tired) I’d like to see a triple A front line tonight of Antonio, Anderson and Arnie. In midfield I’d like to see Snodgrass, Rice and Obiang. And if Zabaleta is fit, then I’d like to see him take his place alongside Diop, Ogbonna, and Cresswell. My player of the season, Fabianski (just shading Rice) will continue in goal, although I assume Adrian will get a run out in the Cup next week.

It won’t be easy against an Albion side that are well organised, and have taken four points from their last two games against Everton and Arsenal, after a run of three successive defeats. It would be good to get off to a quick start and score early on. But I’ve been racking my brains trying to remember the last time we scored a goal at home in the first half of a game, and despite our excellent recent run, I don’t think we’ve scored in the first 45 minutes of a match at the London Stadium for two months now, since the win over Burnley on 3 November.

Perhaps today we can put that right? I’ll go for a 3-1 win.

West Ham Ready To Bounce Back And Bury The Brighton Bogey

There might not be nine ladies dancing on this ninth day of Christmas but it could be league win number nine as West Ham look to return to winning ways in their first game of 2019.

For those still counting, today is the ninth day of Christmas and the notion of nine ladies dancing might bring back nostalgic memories of the Hammerettes strutting their half-time stuff to MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This at Upton Park.  But that is all in the past whereas today is about new beginnings as West Ham welcome Brighton and Hove Albion to the London Stadium for the opening game of 2019.  A new year brings with it renewed feelings of optimism; the opening of the transfer window has us dreaming of exciting new recruits to bolster the squad; and a reset of the yellow card count allows players added scope to hack, lunge, tug and dive knowing that the spectre of suspension no longer hangs over their head.

Brighton have become something of a bogey team for West Ham and will be looking to claim their fourth successive Premier League victory against the Hammers.  In fact, West Ham have only won one of the six top flight games against the Seagulls – a 2-1 victory (Cottee, Dickens) back in March 1983.  It was the consequences of the demonstrations at last season’s home fixture with Brighton, however, that prompted the Board to extend their previously short arms deeper into their pockets during the summer, finally employ a decent manager and take a welcome step away from Twitter.

Depending how you want to look at it, West Ham have won an in-form five from the last seven or are on the slide with two defeats in the last three.  The common denominator in those two defeats was an opposition playing with aggression and intensity; it would be no surprise to see the same approach from Brighton tonight.  Manuel Pellegrini suggested that fatigue was the major contributor to the disappointing showing at Burnley but it seemed as much about poor attitude and a lack of desire to me.  Not that the effects of the festive programme with a squad badly hit by injuries didn’t play a part – just that it was not the whole story.

West Ham will hope to welcome back Pablo Zabaleta in defence but, with few other alternatives available, the rest of the back-line will be as you were.   That leaves Angelo Ogbonna once again standing-in for the missing Fabian Balbuena and it will be fingers crossed that he will is more alert than he was at Turf Moor.  I had an old computer that was like Ogbonna.  It was fine when you first started it up but gradually over time its performance became slow and erratic until the only option was to re-boot.  Hopefully, he has been cleared down, reformatted and had a firmware upgrade installed over the last few days to increase power.  Issa Diop’s performances have also suffered in Balbuena’s absence and both will need to be on their toes tonight.

In midfield, Pedro Obiang must surely return as a replacement for the struggling Mark Noble, who is looking well past his best before date right now.  Assuming Robert Snodgrass has recovered from his knock, the rest of the midfield should be unchanged.  The wild card is Samir Nasri who is reported to be available for the game following his signing for the Hammers at the expiration of his doping ban.  It would be a stretch to expect him starting the game (he has only played eight times since the start of the 2017 season) but can see him getting twenty minutes or so from the bench. At least he shouldn’t be tired!

Marko Arnautovic will lead the attack again and his presence is essential to take some of the spotlight (and attention) from opposition defenders away from Felipe Anderson.  If other teams decide to double up on Anderson then it is up to the other players to exploit the extra space made available.  My preferred choice as a partner for Arnie would be Michail Antonio who looks to have regained much of his appetite in recent weeks.  Ideally, it will be Andy Carroll and Xande Silva on the bench with Lucas Perez safely at home watching the new season of Luther.

BURWHU2

Brighton are at completely the other end of the injury league table to West Ham.  Their only reported injury is Colombian bogeyman, Jose Izquierdo, and even then he may be available for selection today.  They will, however, be missing Mat Ryan and Alireza Jahanbakhsh who are both on international duty at the AFC Asian Cup.  In addition to Izquierdo, ageing striker Glenn Murray also revels in his games against the Hammers.

Referee Chris Kavanagh from Lancashire makes his second West Ham appearance of the season – the first was in the drawn game at Huddersfield in November.  He has his fair share of yellow cards this term but just the one red – Maddison of Leicester against Brighton.

I heard West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini’s comments about the scheduling during the festive period – if that’s a problem then he shouldn’t have taken the job.

Lawro on Pellegrini

Despite having a dig at Pellegrini concerning the busy festive schedule, Lawro expects West Ham to return to winning ways with a 2-0 win.  Paul Merson is going for exactly the same result and score.  I am expecting to see a positive reaction following the disappointment at Burnley.  Brighton will be well organised as usual and even though they are not good travellers this will be another stern test.  Apparently, January is West Ham’s worst performing month for Premier League wins but having watched a poor Everton – Leicester game yesterday there is every reason to keep our sights on the ‘best of the rest’ title.  It might ultimately turn out to be unrealistic but there is nothing wrong with setting challenging and ambitious targets.  West Ham to win 2-1.