This Week in Hammer’s History

Picking through the scraps of the week 10 – 16 October in West Ham history.

This Week Hammers HistoryContinuing from last week’s theme there was an unprecedented run of League Cup successes during this week in history with victories, sometimes convincing ones, over Stoke, Sunderland, Mansfield, Bournemouth and Villa (twice). It seems that if we avoid the first round ‘banana skin’ then we are on a roll in this competition; so set your expectations for the impending Chelsea clash in a few week’s time. The one League Cup defeat though was a poor one in the shape of a 1962 away defeat by 3 goals to 1 against Rotherham.

Looking through the results I am generally attracted by the high scoring games and there have been a number of these which we will look at in a little more detail.

At the start of the 1986/87 season expectations were high following the record third place place finish last time out. The season started encouragingly, stuttered a little with successive home defeats to Forest and Liverpool but then picked up again to put us on the fringes of the top 6. On 11 October 1986 Chelsea were the visitors at Upton Park; a side that represented the highs and lows from the 85/86 season including their final day defeat to Liverpool. With Devonshire and Martin absent, the Hammers had Paul Hilton in defence, a young Kevin Keen in the midfield and Billy Bonds back on the bench. It was a game of 3 penalties (including 2 that were quite debatable) and it was one of these that gave Chelsea a 1-0 lead. However, a McAvennie header and a Tonka Stewart special penalty put the home side back in front at half time. In the second half Chelsea grabbed two more goals to reclaim the lead before another Stewart penalty and two from Cottee earned a thrilling 5-3 victory.

Parkes, Stewart, Parris, Gale, Hilton, Keen, Ward, McAvennie (Bonds), Dickens, Cottee, Orr

By 1992 were sitting out the inaugural season of the Premier League following relegation from the First Division to the First Division. After a sluggish start we had started to build some momentum when we met Sunderland at home on 11 October. The game was something of a romp as goals from Keen, Morley, Martin Allen, Martin and Mark Robson (2) gave the watching 10,326 supporters an afternoon to remember with an imperious 6-0 victory. The win put West Ham back in the top 6 where they stayed for the rest of the season. By the middle of January we commenced a long run in second spot behind Newcastle until surrendering it to Portsmouth during the run-in only to nick it back at the death and secure automatic promotion on the final day of the season.

Miklosko, Breacker, Dicks, Potts, Martin, M Allen, Robson, Butler, Morely, C Allen, Keen

On 14 October 2001 new manager Glen Roeder took his floundering side to Ewood Park to take on Blackburn Rovers. In the previous match West Ham had conceded 5 without reply at Everton and so started the game looking to keep things tight at the back. The tactic worked for 18 minutes until 3 goals in 10 minutes ruined Roeder’s game plan although Michael Carrick managed to pull one back before half time. The introduction of Hayden Foxe and Grant McCann at the break gave the Hammers some added impetus and might easily have reduced the deficit further (including one shocking miss by Trevor Sinclair) until Tomas Repka was sent off (his second dismissal in 3 games) after picking up a second yellow card. Four more Blackburn goals ensued (including a Grant McCann own goal) to make it 7-1 and a humiliating afternoon for the Hammers; leaving them second from bottom in the Premier League. Despite this a post Christmas surge saw West Ham finish in a respectable 7th place.

Hislop, Schemmel, Soma, Dailly (Foxe), Repka, Hutchison, Sinclair, Carrick, Kanoute, Di Canio, Moncur (McCann)

For anyone into self-flagellation there are extended highlights of this match below:

Notable West Ham birthdays this week:

10 October        Mark Ward 54
12 October         Paul Goddard 57
13 October          Scott Parker 36

Where Does It Go From Here?

The devil sent his advocate to keep me awake last night and this is what he told me.

Embed from Getty Images

Deep down the football supporter is generally an optimistic creature even if this is concealed under a self preservation fear the worst, hope for the best cloak. Most West Ham fans with any mileage on the clock will have experienced disappointment, false dawns and exasperation on numerous occasions but even allowing for this only the most pessimistic would have predicted such a woeful start to the current season.

Notwithstanding the emotional and operational issues with the move from Upton Park to the new stadium; forgetting that, for the second season running, we were eliminated in Europa League qualification by an obscure Romanian side now anchored to the bottom of Group E; it is the fact that we sit third from bottom of the Premier League that is the primary concern.  All else will soon enough be a part of history whereas (dare we say it) relegation would be a disaster; and the signs are not good so far.  A benign set of opening fixtures having seen us concede more goals than any other team (only Stoke having a worse goal difference) and with no striker yet having found the net.

Men in sharp suits often remind us that “Past Performance is Not Necessarily Indicative of Future Results” and maybe we can take some comfort from that, but it will take some significant changes on the pitch to drag us out of the current rut. You cannot say, with any honesty, that we are playing well but not getting the results. In general we have got what we deserved; possibly even more when you consider the slightly fortunate Bournemouth victory. Leaking goals at one end and no strikers at the other can only end one way with the only crumb that there might be three teams worse than us.

On paper our squad looks reasonably strong. On the pitch it lacks balance and hasn’t been improved by the summer signings. There have been comments made before and after the last game that overseas players may need time to adjust to the Premier League. There may be some truth in this from the point of view of a player delivering maximum performance but it is a forlorn hope to expect a Morris Marina (or a Vauxhall Zaza) to suddenly turn into a Rolls Royce. It may have taken Bergkamp a while to start scoring regularly but he wasn’t playing like a donkey (that was Tony Adams) before it happened.

For some reason fans are often able to make better and quicker judgements about players than coaches. From the assorted duds that have shown up at West Ham each transfer window I don’t recall ever being surprised by an ugly duckling turning into a swan. On that basis I am happy to predict that none of Zaza, Tore and Calleri are potential Premier League players and accordingly see no benefit in playing them in preference to an untried youngster. My assertion is that they could be no worse.

So far in this season’s League games we have used 23 players in total with 20 different players in the starting line-up. Only Sunderland have used more players (25 and 22). Of the 77 starting berths 18 have been filled by new arrivals comprising Masuaku (5), Nordtveit (4), Zaza and Tore (3 each), Fletcher, Arbeloa and Ayew (1 each). With a fully available squad you would imagine only Ayew to be a probable starting candidate; in retrospect the outcome of the summer transfer business was very poor although maybe there was some good potential that was recruited at the same time.

Without new creativity or goal threat and other sides getting wise to how we play (i.e. the reliance on Payet and crosses) we have to find a way to adapt if performances are to be improved. There is some hope from returning players. We have missed Cresswell as an attacking option, Carroll is an upgrade to Zaza even though he is not the complete answer, Sakho is a better all-round option as a lone striker due to mobility and workrate (but has other issues), and Ayew looked good at Swansea. It is rumoured that Cresswell, Carroll and Sakho are all possibles for the next game at Crystal Palace.

Oddly I do not see the defence as a massive problem despite some stupid individual mistakes that we have witnessed this season. Don’t play players out of position all the time and provide better midfield cover, especially if the full-backs are expected to push forward, and it should be competent enough.

The centre of midfield is the bigger conundrum for me at present. On paper there are plenty of options competing for 3 places (assuming Payet and Antonio are the preferred wide players). Hopefully Obiang will now get a chance as the much needed defensive midfielder but after that it becomes difficult. The Noble – Kouyate partnership seems to be a large part of the problem and on current form neither deserves a place. For all his commitment Noble is too slow both in movement and thought and with a tendency to go sideways and backwards rather than forwards.  Kouyate can be great for the occasional surging burst forward but it is not enough and his passing skills are very limited. It is the deficiencies in central midfield that dictate our low tempo, low penetration style and its resultant predictability; Dimitri Payet apart. To mix things up I would like to see Lanzini and Fernandes given the opportunity to show what they can do.

It is only 7 games in and not yet a crisis but swift and decisive action is required to stop the rot. Carrying on regardless with more of the same and hoping it will be better is a foolish and short-sighted strategy.

This Week in Hammer’s History

A trawl through the week 3 – 9 October in Hammer’s history.

This Week Hammers HistoryThe week 3 – 9 October in West Ham history is another that has seen many Football League Cup matches since its inception in the 1960/ 61 season. My perception is that this is a competition that West Ham usually fare badly in and one where we are invariably eliminated on a proverbial damp Tuesday night somewhere up north by a lower league side. It was a surprise, therefore, to see that the week has witnessed far more League Cup successes than failures including a creditable 3-1 away victory over Arsenal in 1966 (Hurst 2, Peters) as well as comfortable wins against the likes of Darlington (1975), Southend (1979), Bristol City (1984), Swansea (1985), Preston (1986), Bradford City (1991), Chesterfield (1993) and Walsall (1994).

That is not to say that there have not been embarrassing exits and these include a straight 2-1 defeat away to Stockport County in 1972 and two legged defeats to Barnsley (1987) and Crewe (1992). Against Barnsley a goalless draw in the away leg was followed by a 2-5 home hammering at home while the Crewe tie saw a goalless home draw followed by an emphatic 2-0 away defeat.

Notable League fixtures have included a 4 goal haul for Vic Keeble in an exciting 6-3 victory over Blackburn Rovers in our first season back in the First Division in 1958 as well as the one and only Steve Potts goal in the 7-1 demolition of Hull in 1990. A victory over Liverpool is always welcome and in 1982 goals from Alvin Martin, Geoff Pike and Sandy Clarke (remember him?) helped the Hammers run out 3-1 winners and climb into second spot in the league.

The 6 October 2013 was the date of the famous Ravel Morrison goal in the surprise 3-0 win at White Hart Lane; what a player we thought we had on that day. Many of us believed going into the game that we would be on the wrong end of a hammering; a team who had yet to score an away goal against a buoyant Tottenham side. A chance to re-live the 3 goals in 13 second half minutes below:

This week’s featured game is from 3 October 1999 where two goals from Paolo Di Canio gave West Ham victory over high flying Arsenal at Upton Park. It was Arsenal who bossed the early stages of the match and went close to opening the scoring on several occasions with Bergkamp, Henry and Suker causing problems for the West Ham defence. On 29 minutes, however, PDC set off on a mazy run from inside his own half. It was not the most elegant of dribbles and there was a touch on pinballing before the ball broke wide to Trevor Sinclair. Sinclair’s initially shot was blocked but his cross broke to Paolo who slotted home to make it 1-0. On 72 minutes Di Canio got on the end of a Paulo Wanchope header, flicked the ball over the head of a confused Martin Keown and fired past Seaman for 2-0.

The two goal advantage didn’t last long, however, as Arsenal pulled one back when Steve Lomas set up Davor Suker (one of the many duds that we subsequently took off Arsenal’s hands) to make it 2-1. The remaining minutes was mostly Arsenal pressure and desperate West Ham defending and, although there was still time for Patrick Viera and Marc-Vivien Foe (RIP) to get sent off for second bookable offences, there were no further goals. Viera’s sending off sparked a mini melee which ended with him pushing and then spitting in the face of Neil Ruddock. A win for the Hammers in front of just over 26,000 supporters saw them end the day in 9th place.

Hislop, Potts, Ruddock, Stimac, Sinclair, Lomas, Lampard, Foe, Moncur (Margas), Di Canio, Wanchope (Kitson).

This time it is not much of a week for Hammer’s birthdays:

3 October Clive Charles (d 2003)
7 October Jermaine Defoe (34)
8 October Paul Hilton (57)
9 October Frank O’Farrell (89)

5 Things From West Ham v Boro

What are we to deduce from the latest West Ham travails against Boro?

5 Things WHUSlav Loves to Try Out New Positions

New father Slaven Bilic can’t resist trying out a new position. This time we had Antonio playing the role of lone striker, Ogbonna moved to left back and Tore……….,well Tore was also on the pitch somewhere although it wasn’t totally clear what he was supposed to be doing. To be fair Antonio made as good a fist at his new role than any of the specialists employed so far this year, and at least brought some energy to the party. Also Ogbonna was good enough defensively at left back although was unable to offer much going forward. The re-shuffle saw Byram return, albeit temporarily, at right back with Abeloa joining Lanzini on the bench.

Tempo and Approach

Of all the Premier League football I have seen this season no other team plays with such a slow tempo as do West Ham. I am never too bothered about possession statistics but if you are conceding possession then the response needs to be pace and movement. We have not demonstrated either of these attributes except maybe in very short bursts. To me it is impossible to deduce what style of play we are actually aiming for. Our two most dangerous players Payet and Antonio are generally out wide leaving no creativity in the central areas with a huge gap behind the lone striker. It improved to some extent when Lanzini came on but even then we failed to exploit the momentum following Payet’s wonderful equaliser.  We clearly didn’t bring the kitchen sink in the move from Upton Park.

You Have Scored One with No Passes

I have not looked to see what the statistics were for pass completion. They might be quite good but all passes are not created equal. My guess is that our most common combinations are Noble back to Collins and Collins to the opposition. For a team who have centre backs with such poor distribution it is ironic that we use them so frequently as the springboard for our attacks. Not that it is entirely their fault as their are few options available by either the central midfield players or static frontmen.  Years ago Ron Greenwood used to say that West Ham play on their toes; this is definitely not the case at the moment. Several times what looked like promising attacking positions ended up with the ball back with Adrian. Even free kicks around the half way line end up going backwards. It is a very strange tactic. I don’t recall from the game any sequence of quick passing that engineered an opening or a half chance; even against one of the weakest sides in the division.  The ability to pick out players in space is well below standard and, as for the kick for touch from the kick-off, that was straight from the Graham Taylor coaching manual..

At Last a Defensive Midfielder

I was pleased to see Pedro Obiang start. Partly because I don’t believe he has been given much of a chance since he was signed and partly because we have desperately needed a dedicated defensive midfield player. I though he acquitted himself pretty well performing better both with and without the ball than anything we have seen fro Nordtveit. Although it was only Boro, the defence looked more solid yesterday apart from the lapse at the corner; whose idea was that goal-line technology? I hope Obiang gets a run in the team with possibly Fernandes coming in to provide some spark in a more attacking central midfield role.

A Chance Would a Fine Thing

If you ever played Sunday morning park football you may remember that a high percentage of goals were the result of the hopeful ball forward where either the defender misjudged it or the striker muscled him out of the way. Like a cruder version of Leicester tactics and the game plan that we now seem to have adopted but without players of the right quality. I still can’t see a future for Zaza but, in mitigation, the way we are playing is never going to suit his style; even Dennis Bergkamp would have struggled. We created no chances from open play and had to rely on a stunning solo goal to salvage something. OK, so Noble was unlucky to hit the bar, Antonio should have done better when he did muscle his way through but other than that there were just a few pointless long range balloon shots. The Boro keeper could have brought a book along to keep himself occupied. Carroll might be an upgrade on Zaza but our best hope is for both Ayew and Sakho to return physically and mentally prepared.

Matchday: Hammers versus Boro

It’s only Boro but still preferable to being dragged around the shops.

West Ham BoroWhen the fixtures computer is busily whirring and blinking away today’s fixture is one you would happily see scheduled for the Saturday before Christmas when other duties might take precedence over the football. It might come as a surprise, therefore,  to discover that a match between West Ham and Middlesbrough, played almost 20 years ago, is still featured in the premier book of world records. But it is indeed the case and there for all to see in Guinness style black and white indicating the all-time world record for the most people simultaneously blowing bubbles:

“On May 16, 1999, a total of 23,680 people in the soccer stadium blew glycerine bubbles into the air for 1 minute. The mass bubble-blowing event took place prior to West Ham United F.C.’s home Premier League fixture against Middlesbrough F.C., at the Boleyn Ground, Upton Park, London.”

It is with a sense of pride that I continue to count myself as a world record holder but am equally surprised that the club’s PR department have failed, as yet, to mount a new challenge as another consequence of increased capacity. It seems that in the reported crowd of 25,902 for that 1999 end of season encounter there were 2,222 party poopers unwilling to stake their claim for posterity in the record books.

Today’s opponents Boro were elected to the Football League some 20 years before the Hammers but have pretty much kept their heads down ever since. Their one success was when Steve McLaren’s side triumphed over Sam Allardyce’s Bolton in the 2004 League Cup; what an enticing advertisement for the beautiful game that must have been.

“He (Zaza) is definitely a good player who came from a big club to a new country. New players need time. If we go back and think about Dennis Bergkamp, who needed – I don’t know – a year?”

– Slaven Bilic

Despite the lack of success, Boro have had some notable ex-players include Brian Clough who scored a phenomenal 204 goals in 222 matches for his hometown club, the little Brazilian Juninho and Fabrizio Ravenelli. Ravenelli is, I believe, still the only player ever to score a hat-trick on his Premier League debut (against Liverpool in August 1996) but despite his goals and Juninho’s trickery Boro were relegated in that same season; in part due to having 3 points deducted for failing to turn up for a fixture with Blackburn Rovers.

Head to Head

My initial instinct was that we would hold a healthy advantage over Boro in the head to head battle before remembering that we never travel well that far north. Accordingly it has been a fairly even contest. Our home record against them though is good having lost just once in the last 12 encounters (April 2000).  A particularly depressing match sticks in my memory from April 1989 where Boro were 2-1  victors (a pair of Bernie Slaven goals) in a quintessential six-pointer that ended with the two clubs partners in relegation.

P W D L F A Sequence
Home 30 17 6 7 47 30 DWDWWW
Away 30 7 7 16 29 53 WLDWLL
Neutral 1 1 0 0 1 0
61 25 13 23 77 83

Team News

Still no sign of any of the long term injured with Nordtveit facing a late fitness test following a knock; I can tell you now he is not fit to play at right back and so I am hoping common sense will prevail with Byram making a welcome return. From what has been said it looks like we will be persevering with Zaza up front as Slav sees him morphing into Dennis Bergkamp; although I can only see this being achieved by extensive surgery. It would be interesting to know the details of the loan deal, and the mysterious must-buy clause, as there has to come a point where everyone recognises he is not a Premier League footballer.

It is critical today that we find at least some kind of order and organisation in the midfield; Payet and Antonio and 3 others is the best I can suggest but I do hope for a dedicated defensive midfielder.

The other unknown is how many are still hungover from the midweek outing. As the ‘Gareth Keenan Investigates’ style inquest into the fallout has yet to be commissioned all we have are twitter rumours to go on.

Stewart Downing struggled to make an impact in the Championship last season because he was too good for the division.

– Aitor Karanka

Middlesbrough have no significant injury worries which means a return for the timid one-season-wonder Stewart Downing. Boro also have City flop Alvaro Negredo leading the line and he will be pleased to pitting his wits against the League’s most generous defence.

The Man in the Middle

Today’s headset wearing, card waving, whistle blowing official is Neil Swarbrick from Preston. He was in charge during our visits to Sunderland (where he sent off Lens) and Newcastle last year and so must be seen as something of a North-East specialist. He is best known for the mistaken identity red carding of West Brom’s Gareth McAuley in April 2015.

The Boy Never Quite Made It: Adam Newton

Remembering Adam Newton star of the FA Youth Cup winning team of 1999.

Boy Never Quite Made ItThe West Ham Under-19 side of 1998/99 swept all before them in claiming a spectacular league and cup double. The climax to the season was the two legged FA Youth Cup Final against Coventry City. The Hammer’s opened up a healthy 3-0 advantage in the first leg at Highfield Road and yet 21,000 supporters still turned out to watch the return at Upton Park a week later on Friday 14 May 1999. It took only a few minutes for West Ham to extend their lead and they eventually ran out 6-0 winners on the night (9-0 on aggregate).

The West Ham team that night was: Bywater, Newton, Taylor, Forbes, Iriekpen, Ferrante, Cole, Carrick, Angus, Garcia, Brayley

Expectations were high for a new golden generation arising at Upton Park. Apart from the obvious talents of Joe Cole and Michael Carrick there were other promising players including Izzie Iriekpen, Richard Garcia and, in particular, Adam Newton. It is full/ wing back Adam Newton who is the subject of today’s The Boy Never Quite Made It feature; although there are plenty of other candidates from that side.

WHU Youth 1999Newton had scored in both legs of the Coventry final. In the first a delightful chip over the head of the advancing Chris Kirkland and in the second an exciting run topped off with a ‘sumptuous’ strike past the stationary keeper. In many ways Newton was the star of the show even overshadowing the better known Cole and Carrick duo. There were even rumours of a million pound bid from Spurs shortly after the final.

At the start of the 1999/ 2000 season Newton had a brief loan spell with Portsmouth before returning to Upton Park for his West Ham debut in August 1999; a substitute for Marc Keller in an away defeat to Coventry City. A week later he made another substitute appearance (this time for Trevor Sinclair) in the 3-1 UEFA Cup victory over NK Osijek of Croatia. He made his final West Ham appearance in April 2000; again as substitute (for Scott Minto) in the 5-0 home win against (surprise!) Coventry City. Harry obviously regarded Newton as a Coventry specialist.

The following two seasons were spent out on loan at Notts County and Orient before being given a free transfer to join Peterborough United in May 2002. Newton spent six seasons at Peterborough in the Second Division and although they won promotion at the end of the 2007/08 season his contract was terminated. Born in Grays, Newton had represented England at U21 level but became a full international for Saint Kitts and Nevis during his time with the Posh.

The following season Newton signed a one year deal with Brentford and helped them win the Division Two title in 2009. One more, however, his contract was not renewed and he moved on to Luton in the Football Conference. Two years at Luton ended with a Play Off final defeat, no new contract and his final move to Woking in the Conference South.

Adam Newton appeared to have all the attributes to make it to the top at West Ham; skill, speed and athleticism. Sadly, it just didn’t come together for him and he is one more bright hope from the academy that never quite made it in the first team.

Ponchos for Goalposts

English footballers missing in action.

Tevez and MascheranoWhen West Ham took the field in the EFL Cup Tie against Accrington Stanley there were no British players in the starting eleven. By the end of the game a total of 14 players had been used of whom only Michail Antonio was British. I have to admit that I am not sure whether West Ham have started with an all non-British line-up in the past but it seems unlikely. However, as long ago as 1999 Chelsea had become the first English side to field an all foreign starting eleven.

I was also surprised a few weeks ago when I happened to come across the line-ups for the Championship fixture between Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest to discover that only 8 of the 27 players featuring in the game were English. It has become accepted that Premier League squads were dominated by overseas players but it hadn’t occurred to me that the same was the case in the second tier. So I decided to take a closer look.

There had been the occasional foreign player appearing up in English football ever since Max Seeburg from Germany turned out for Tottenham in 1908.  After a spat with Arsenal over the signing of foreigners and obviously worried by a growing trend the FA introduced a 2 year residency rule in 1931 which served to stem the onrushing tide at the time. Even so, foreign players appeared in each of the FA Cup finals between 1951 and 1956 with one of these, Bert Trautmann becoming Footballer of the Year in 1956.

In 1978 a European Community ruling declared that football associations could not deny access to players based solely on nationality and, as a result, the effective 47 year ban in England was lifted. The arrival of players such as Ardiles and Villa at Tottenham spearheaded the new foreign invasion. At the time various quotas on non-British players applied but these have long since disappeared. When Arsenal won the league in 1989 they were the last team not to use a single foreign player (for the picky, yes the squad did include David O’Leary and Niall Quinn; both from the Republic of Ireland).

As far as I know, the first foreign player to play for West Ham was Clyde Best who I assume qualified to play under the two year residency rule before getting a first start in 1968. An attempt to sign Israel skipper Mordecai Spiegler after the 1970 World Cup was thwarted by the red tape still in play at the time. After the 1978 ruling West Ham were relatively slow on the uptake with the first overseas player, Francois Van der Elst, not clearing customs until January 1982. By then everyone was in on the act and even second division Charlton had signed former European footballer of the year Allan Simonsen from Barcelona.  In 2013, West Ham had become the first English club to have fielded players of 50 nationalities; the majority of whom, it has to be said, barely made an impression.

I spent some time going through squad lists to see how teams in the Premier League and Championship currently shape up with regard to foreign players. For the purposes of the analysis I have used the squads listed on Wikipedia. Players are categorised on their FIFA registration and I have treated players from the Republic of Ireland as foreigners (possibly harsh seeing as any English player who has seen Riverdance more than once is probably eligible to represent the Republic).

In the Premier League, 60% of players are foreign. Watford are top recruiter with 84% of their squad hailing from overseas. At the other end of the spectrum, Hull and West Brom have only 25% foreign representatives. The top 6 clubs for foreign players are Watford (84%), Manchester City (81%), Chelsea (76%), Arsenal (72%), West Ham (70%) and Sunderland (69%). If you were to exclude players fro the other Home nations the percentage of English players overall drops to 35%. The top 6 origins of Premier League players are England, Spain, France, Belgium, Republic of Ireland and Netherlands.

In the Championship, 40% of players are foreign. Newcastle and Reading are joint top with 62% followed by Brighton (54%), Fulham (54%), Brentford (52%) and Nottingham Forest (51%). Two more teams have at least 50% of overseas players.  Rotherham brings up the rear with a mere 16% foreign contingent.

There has been a long running debate about the impact of the foreign invasion on the fortunes of the national side. In that we have just the single 1966 tournament victory to show for a period both before and after the invasion then you could make a case that it is neutral. However, it does raise the question of what happens to all the kids who dream of becoming a professional footballer. Many of us had that dream at one time living out the fantasy over the park, even without the lure of the vast financial rewards of today, but at least for some the dream came true making it into teams that were largely home grown. Sure squads are much larger now but my instinct is that if we looked at game time the proportion for foreign players will be even higher (in the 6 Premier League games to date 78% of West Ham starters have been foreign players) than that for the squad as a whole. I will delve deeper into this at another time.

With all the recent revelations about shady deals between managers and agents let’s hope this is not a contributing factor to the skewed make up of English club squads.  Was there some truth to Ravel Morrison’s claim as to why he was banished to the reserves at West Ham?

The Premier League is a worldwide phenomenon which has been enriched by foreign players; there is no getting away from the fact that the most exciting and flair players are from overseas. The multi-million dollar question is why this is the case? Are the local lads not up to the challenge? Would they rather chase Pokemon than a football? Have we not sorted out grass roots youth development despite Sir Trev’s best efforts? On those occasions that I have seen kids football they all seem to have mastered the Cruyf turn and the Rabana but not the basics.  For now, the mystery of the disappearing English footballer deepens.