5 Points From The Recent Weekend

Sorting through the garbage from the Premier League weekend and wondering how our on-loan players are faring.

Five Things EPLCity Slickers 2: The Sequel

At this stage last season Manchester City sat at the top of the Premier League with a 100% record from the first 5 games before successive defeats to West Ham and Tottenham took the spring out of their step and resulted in an indifferent (by their expectation) 4th place finish, and snatching the final Champion’s League spot. This year they are again top of the pile with a flawless record and even though it is “early doors” (©Big Ron) it is difficult to see who is going to stop them this time around. In Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero they have probably the best player and best striker in the league backed up by a very deep and talented squad and a manager who really does look like he is making a difference. Their city neighbours, on the other hand, resemble a cross between the Harlem Globetrotters and a circus freak show without any real tactical plan; a little like Chelsea last year you might say. Chelsea themselves require a lot more rebuilding before they can mount a serious title challenge while Liverpool and Arsenal will veer from the sublime to the unconvincing. Tottenham will act all mouth and no trousers again and along with Everton, as the new Southampton, will be tussling for Europa League qualification.

Light Blue Touch-Paper and Retire

On Guy Fawkes night, the 5th of November, the fixtures computer has paired West Ham with Stoke City and on the evidence of recent defensive performances we could well see some fireworks that day. There has been much debate on West Ham forums as to whether our own poor defending is down to individual blunders or collective incompetence. I tend to believe that the two are related and that haphazard organisation is often (but not always Arthur) the catalyst for mistakes. One imagines that having already conceded 4 goals twice this season Mark Hughes would have spent much of the week preparing his side to stand firm against the expected Crystal Palace aerial threat from set pieces and yet they surrendered two routine goals in the first eleven minutes. Unless both the Stoke and West Ham defenders get a rocket before the two teams meet the game might yield a whole youtube bloopers compilation by itself.

Goals with a Lustrous Finish

Speaking of rockets that is how a shot from outside the box that whistled into the back of the net was once described. Or else it might have been a screamer, unstoppable or a piledriver. These were all good masculine sounding words that conjured up the image of a glove free warrior with no shinpads, crepe bandage barely concealing a gash on the head, ploughing through the mud and letting one rip with his Gola Speedster boots. Now a commentator feels that they are allowed to describe a goal as ‘sumptuous’ as with the Jordan Henderson strike at Stamford Bridge; what next – gorgeous, luscious, lavish, opulent, orgasmic, splendiferous….? The long range shot is more often than not top contender in the goal of the week/ month/ season compilations but give me a slick passing, quick movement team goal any day. It was good to witness a few of these over the weekend. Also good to see converted Right Back, Michail Antonio still leading the goal scoring charts which in the absence of the illusory 20 10 goals a season striker is most welcome. For teams that do have functioning strikers there were further goals for Costa, Lukaku, Deeny, Kane, Rashford and Iheanacho while Leicester look to have done shrewd business in recruiting Slimani from Sporting Clube de Portugal.

The Not-So Special One

I was among many who believed that Manchester United under Jose Mourinho would be a force to be reckoned with this season. Instead they appear to be a ramshackle assortment of spare parts that have been assembled without access to the necessary instructions. If you scan through the list of names of the teamsheet it might look impressive at first glance but it is not a team rather a collection of individuals, some of whom are well past their best. The manager gives the impression of being perplexed about the whole business. There was a perfect description of Jose’s demeanour in a recent Guardian article which I repeat below:

“More recently José Mourinho seems to have decided the best approach at Manchester United is to spend his first few weeks standing on the touchline looking crumpled and sad and heroically betrayed, like a man on the hard shoulder of the M6 staring balefully across the nearside lines above his raised bonnet, rain gluing his shirt to his back, phone dead, credit card maxed out, kids living in Bicester, golf clubs repossessed, 800 units of polyester carpet samples scattered across the back seat.”

Naturally, the 3 defeats in a week for Manchester United are not the fault of Jose himself but are down to poor refereeing and Luke Shaw. In the game against Watford (good team!) they were second best in the first half and it looked ominous when Watford surrendered the initiative during the second period yet the Hornets showed great spirit and resilience to claim all 3 points from their largely uninspiring opponents.

Loans and Miscellany

Most Premier League teams have players out on loan at other clubs. This can be to give younger players experience or simply to remove some cost from the wage bill. It is well known that at any time Chelsea have something like 30 players loaned to other teams. As far as I know West Ham have 10 players out on loan so let’s take a look at what they were up to at the weekend. Enner Valencia had his first run out for Everton as a 66th minute replacement for Lukaku and was caught offside just the once, so encouraging signs so far. Neither Reece Burke nor Kyle Knoyle took part in Wigan’s goalless draw with Fulham (my assumption is that Burke was injured); Martin Samuelsen was a 90+3 rd minute time-wasting substitute for Blackburn in their 4-2 win against Rotherham but there was no place in the squad for Stephen Hendrie. Josh Cullen played 90 minutes for Bradford as did Lewis Page for Coventry in their respective drawn games but there was no game time for George Dobson (Walsall), Luca Belic (Motherwell) or Doneil Henry (AC Horsens in Denmark). The most notable action from any of these games being a hovering drone stopping play for several minutes in the Bradford – Bristol City game.

This Week in Hammer’s History

Picking the cherries from the week 19 – 26 September in Hammer’s history.

This Week Hammers HistoryAt the weekend a TV commentator was holding forth about a certain player’s return from injury which was another 4 weeks away “or so I’m told” he added pretending to be well connected. What he really meant was that he had read it on it the internet, or perhaps it was a researcher who had read it and then told him so. Anyway, here is what I’m told happened this week in Hammer’s history.

Despite having embarked on the occasional continental tour in the past, the 23 September 1964 saw West Ham’s first ever competitive European match with a visit to Ghent in Belgium to play a European Cup Winner’s Cup first round first leg tie with La Gantoise. The match ended in a slim 1-0 victory for the Hammers with Ron Boyce heading the winner in the 52nd minute from an Alan Sealey corner. The goal made all the difference in the Hammer’s march across Europe as a result of a stuttering 1-1 draw in the return leg at Upton Park two weeks later. As a side-note, La Gantoise subsequently changed their name in 1971 to KAA Gent and in 2015 won their first ever Belgian League title; making it through to the knockout stages of the Champion’s League the following year before being beaten by Wolfsburg.

in 1981 (22 September) a Paul Goddard hat-trick in a 4-2 win against Southampton saw West Ham retain top spot in the (old) First Division. A 1-1 home draw against eventual champions Liverpool, just four days later, saw us slip down to second place never to return to such dizzy heights again that season.

The week naturally has had its setbacks including a routine League Cup defeat against lower league opposition in 1994 with a 2-1 defeat to 3rd Division Walsall (although we did rescue this one in the second leg) and in 1997 we were on the wrong end of a 4-0 drubbing at Highbury against a Denis Bergkamp inspired Arsenal.

Notable successes were a 6-2 home victory over Leicester in 1974 where we had started the day at the very bottom of the table and a 3-1 win against Brendan Rodger’s Lverpool in 2014. You can see the goals from this game below (avec un commentaire formidable francais).

 

Today’s featured game, however, is one of few bright spots from the 2010/11 Avram Grant season when on 25 September 2010 West Ham recorded their first Premier League victory of the season at home to Tottenham. I can remember listening to this game on the radio as I was taking my son to University in Exeter for the first time on that day. A gritty and determined West Ham managed to inflict a 1-0 defeat on visiting manager Harry Redknapp. It was an unusually exuberant West Ham performance who scorned many chances to score before Frederic Piquionne headed the only goal of the game from a Mark Noble corner.

Robert Green had a fine game in goal including a spectacular save to keep out a goal bound Luka Modric strike. Green was fresh from his embarrassment at the 2010 World Cup and this match went some way to rebuilding his confidence.

No surprise that Keiron Dyer left the field injured during the course of the game but it was an impressive and sweet victory that had us all (momentarily) confident that good times were just around the corner.

Green, Jacobsen, da Costa, Upson, Gabbidon, Dyer (Barrera), Parker, Noble, Boa Morte, Obinna (Kovac), Piquionne (Cole)

This week’s West Ham birthdays:

20 September John Charles (d 2002)
20 September Frank Lampard Snr (68)
22 September John Moncur (50)
23 September Jonathan Calleri (23)
26 September Alan Stephenson (72)
26 September Tommy Taylor (65)

5 Things Learned From West Brom

Picking over the pieces of the roadkill that was West Ham’s visit to the Hawthorns.

5 Things WHUA drama or a crisis?

Yesterday I mentioned that media had painted West Ham as though the club were teetering on the brink of a precipice at the edge of an abyss. There has been little good news surrounding what should be a milestone in the club’s history either on or off the pitch. Personally, I believe it is far too early for hysterics and we are not the first team to get a new season off to a slow start; you only have to look at Chelsea last year and Everton and Tottenham in years gone by. That is not to say a slow start cannot become a crisis if the issues are not addressed and there do seem to be some serious concerns regarding the professionalism of the club at the moment.

What doesn’t kill you may not make you stronger!

None of our new signings have killed us but there is little evidence so far to suggest that they have made us stronger. There were a lot of new arrivals during the summer and although none of the names made me excited I was prepared to be surprised by some astute recruitment on the basis that I didn’t know much about Dimitri Payet before last season either. Until yesterday I had been quietly impressed with Arthur Masuaku and I think that Sofiane Feghouli could become a useful and regular starter. I don’t want to write players off so early but I have yet to see what either Zaza or Calleri have to offer. Zaza looks to lack the mobility required by an effective lone striker need and Calleri looks just as lost as Enner Valencia at the moment. There is going to be an issue with Zaza if he doesn’t show his worth quite quickly with the apparent clause that makes his transfer permanent after a specified number of games.

Defend from the front; attack from the back.

We give every impression of being a team made of separate components rather than being a single unit. Sure there have been individual mistakes but there is also a collective weakness, whether physical or mental, running through the team. We were promised a reaction after the Watford defeat but didn’t get it. I do not understand why we do not play with a proper defensive midfielder but continue to rely on the Noble-Kouyate partnership to muddle through even though they have been proved wanting in this role before; when full backs push up the central defenders become stretched and a huge gap appears between them without any cover dropping in. This league is meant to be the pinnacle of world football featuring the most expensive and highly paid players available. Yes good players can adapt to play slightly different tactical roles (or it may be necessary in an emergency) but otherwise the modern game has become very specialist and a top level club shouldn’t be playing players out of position as often as West Ham do.

A lack of focus and style.

It is very difficult to pinpoint what our style of play is meant to be. Possibly Slave Bilic is looking to adopt the Croatian style of play which has been the mainstay of their national for some years; get it forward quickly for wide men (wingers or full-backs) to spray in the crosses to a big central striker. If that is the case it is not working. For a start we do not move the ball quickly at all (at least not forwards) which limits the ability for the wide players to get into good crossing positions before the defence shuts down the space. The tactic also has the danger of being as one-dimensional as a Big Sam team and unless you find a big man who is also quick and mobile it limits options. There have been some great goals in the Premier League this year as a result of quick passing, movement and interplay; often on the counter attack. Difficult to see West Ham repeating this with the current set up. We have some flair players but have shown little penetration.

We bossed the stats though!

We absolutely smashed the Baggies on the stats yesterday. More possession, shots, successful passes, aerial duels and tackles won and dribbles made. Just a shame about that one inconvenient statistic of goals scored.

Matchday: West Brom v West Ham

An unexpected Saturday fixture sees the Hammers entertained (!) by Albion at the Hawthorns.

Away at West BromThe consensus in the media, social and otherwise, on the current West Ham predicament and the evidence of 4 Premier League games (and an ignominious Europa League exit) is that we are teetering on the brink of the precipice at the edge of the abyss.  The vultures are circling and the fat lady is already practising her closing number.  The capitulation against Watford was indeed shameful where we not only took our foot off the gas but parked up on the hard shoulder (is that what they call the area around the outside of our pitch?) for a picnic and a refreshing glass of blackcurrant Rabona (I mean Ribena!).  The tendency of West Ham to become all passionate against the big boys but fake arousal against the smaller fry is not a new one (remember the final two home games from Upton Park) but it really should not be tolerated from a very highly paid professional team.  Nonetheless, a few good performances and wins can easily put the season back on track and there is no better opportunity to start than away to the beleaguered, low-scoring Baggies.

“Okay, we have done it for some of the time this season but you have to do it all the time. That is what serious football at this level is all about; to do it minute after minute, day after day, week after week. That is the key. I’m expecting a big-time response at West Brom. We have to dig in and, if we do that, I fear no-one.”

– Slaven Bilic

All of the noise coming out of the Hawthorns this week has been about the take-over of West Brom by the Chinese businessman, Guochuan Lai, and speculation over the future of manager Tony Pulis (or Nok So Long as he is referred to in the boardroom).  I am not a fan of the Pulis brand of football but he seems a decent enough chap and I am sure realistically he knows that his days are numbered whatever happens on the pitch.  The new owners will want to introduce their own style and culture into the club and can foresee the scenario where the Assistant Referee holds up Number 5 to denote added time and someone runs on with a portion of Chicken Chow Mein.  All in all I think it is a good time to be playing them.

Head to Head

The all-time head to head record between the two clubs is a very even one.  West Ham have won the last two Premier League meetings at the Hawthorns including a commanding 3-0 victory last time out.  If West Ham were to win today it would be only the second time in the Premier League where they have recorded three successive away victories against the same team (Fulham was the first).  These last two victories over Albion, however, were separated by the 4-0 drubbing received in the FA Cup 5th round tie in February 2015; whatever happened to (Tuesday and so slow) Brown Ideye?  The more regular outcome in recent fixtures between the two clubs has been the draw and that must be the minimum requirement from this afternoon. An emphatic win would be the ideal way to celebrate Billy Bonds 70th birthday though.

P W D L F A Sequence
Home 50 25 11 14 102 72 DDWDDD
Away 50 14 11 25 57 91 DDLWLW
Neutral 1 1 0 0 3 0
Total 101 40 22 39 162 163

A former Hammer who has fond memories of West Brom is Brian Dear who scored 5 goals in 20 minutes against them in 1965.  Brian celebrates his birthday tomorrow when he will be 73 years old.

“I think the players are more affected by not getting a new iPhone than they are about whether there is a change of ownership!”

– Tony Pulis

Team News

The long term injuries remain the same and so Ayew, Carroll, Sakho and Cresswell are all continued absentees.  Mark Noble has recovered from a hand injury and is available for selection.  I would be very surprised if James Collins kept his place (Ogbonna to start) and imagine Sam Byram’s place would be under threat if Alvaro Arbeloa was considered ready for first team action.  I think Bilic will stick with Adrian in goal and that Zaza will start again up front.

That leaves the midfield and the enigma of how to combine the available assortment into an effective unit.  Personally, I would start with a proper defensive midfielder (which means one from Oxford, Obiang or Nordtveit) to provide extra protection to the back four.  Antonio and Payet should be certain starters and that leaves another two from Kouyate, Lanzini, Noble, Tore and Feghouli; none of whom qualify on current form as automatic picks.

My preferred eleven for a welcome 2-0 victory would be:

Adrian

Byram  Reid Ogbonna Masuaku

Oxford

Antonio Kouyate Payet Lanzini

Zaza

West Brom are likely to have Solomon Rondon back for this game which is unfortunate as he seems to be their only credible threat; although on our day we can make even a Spurs reject like Chadli look like a world beater.

The Man in the Middle

Today’s referee is the self-important Mark Clattenburg.  Don’t expect at the end of the game to say to your mates “tell you what I didn’t notice the referee today.”

The Boy Never Quite Made It: Johnny Ayris

We had Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny Ayris on the wing…..

Boy Never Quite Made ItIn the first installment of this occasional series, which looks at players who came through from the youth team (or academy) but never quite made it as first team regulars, we featured Roger Cross whose debut was against Burnley in 1968. A year earlier a certain Trevor Brooking had also made a league debut against Burnley and continuing this theme into 1970 Johnny Ayris made his first team introduction against the same opponents.

Burnley ProgrammeWapping born Ayris was just 17 at the time and was seen as the next generation marauding winger to follow the fleeting footsteps of John Sissons and Harry Redknapp into the first team. His debut was a successful one providing the crosses (or assists in today’s terminology) for a Geoff Hurst hat-trick in a 3-1 victory. Ayris was used sparingly during the remainder of the 1970/71 season making a further 7 starts including in the infamous 4-0 FA Cup defeat at Blackpool where Moore, Greaves, Clyde Best and Brian Dear had been spotted partying into the early hours the night before the game.

At the commencement of the 1971/72 season Ayris had become a regular starter as the club recovered from a poor start to climb to a respectable mid-table position prior to a home clash against West London rivals Chelsea. The young Ayris started brightly and was giving the Chelsea full-back a torrid time much to the delight of the Chicken Run crowd as West Ham attacked the North Bank end in the first half. The full back in question was notorious 1970’s footballing hardman Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris who eventually decided it was time to let the young winger ‘know he was there’! The tackle itself became part of Upton Park folklore with some accounts describing Harris attempting to launch Ayris into row six of the terracing but my memory is that it was more of a robust bodycheck. Nevertheless, Ayris went right over the top of Harris and landed with a thump on the turf. He was to play no further part in the game, which West Ham won 2-1, and was hurried to hospital to be treated for a serious lung problem.

Johnny AyrisThe Harris incident may not directly have ended his career but it had a large part to play. At just 5 feet 5 inches and a slender 9 stone he was utilised selectively in subsequent seasons by manager Ron Greenwood who felt the need to protect the young winger from the more agricultural players who inhabited top flight football at the time. Ayris made a further 33 starts over the next 5 seasons before being given a free transfer to non-league Wimbledon in 1977 and drifted out of the game at just 24 years of age.

In total Johnny Ayris made 50 starts for West Ham and scored 2 goals; the only league goal in a 3-4 away defeat at Manchester City. He had announced his arrival in the team with great excitement but ultimately was not able to make the grade. He had been a regular at England Youth level and possibly his career highlight was winning the 1971 UEFA Youth Tournament including a goal scoring appearance in the 3-0 final win against Portugal. The victorious England lineup that day: Tilsed, Dugdale, Dillon, Parker, Shanks, McGuire, Busby, Ayris, Francis, Eastoe, Daley.

5 Things From the Latest Premier League Weekend

Now that the dust has settled a chance to rake over the embers of Matchweek 4.

Five Things EPLMeet The New Boss……

The build up to the weekend games was dominated by the Manchester derby and in particular the clash of the titan managers, Mourinho and Guardiola. One of the changes in the modern TV version of football is that all managers are celebrities; not just those who have something interesting to say or are otherwise entertaining such as a Clough or Shankly. The outcome of the match made it 8-3 to Pep in the head to head with Jose which makes it fairly conclusive that Pep is the main man. We can put this one to bed now I think. As usual Mourinho blamed the match officials for the defeat but they were second best in what was an exciting yet error prone contest; where spirit and determination dominated rather than the quality of the football – not one for the purists you might say. I’ve not yet heard Guardiola interviewed but his impression of Marcel Marceau on fast-forward on the touchline does provide added amusement.

Both Manchester clubs will likely be in at the death when the Premier League is decided next May. The amount of money spent on player recruitment will determine that, never mind the respective managerial competences. Manager of the season so far, for me, has to be Ronald Koeman at Everton; not only a great start for the Toffees but also for taking Enner Valencia off our hands.

Money’s Too Plentiful to Mention

It was revealed this week that Manchester United became the first UK side to earn more than £500 million in revenues in a single year. As with most Premier League teams an ever increasing proportion of revenue comes from TV and commercial operation rather than from matchday income. If in the future the crowd effect can be virtually added by CGI there may be no need for troublesome supporters in the stadium at all. It was estimated that the transfer fee cost of the starting 22 in the Manchester derby was somewhere in the region of £700 million. Big clubs with big managers tend to sign players with big reputations. It is surprising how little you might end up getting for your money if the performances of Pogba and Bravo are anything to go by. Interesting that despite all the spending City do not have a reliable backup to Aguero; Iheanacho may have potential but the remarkably one-footed Nolito doesn’t look a viable replacement. Kevin de Bruyne is a fine player and probably justifies his fee but I am still to be convinced that either Sterling or Stones are the best use of (getting on for) £50 million each – with almost the same again spent on a taller version of Sterling in Leroy Sane. Value is largely subjective but if there was any purpose in Fair Play Rules they would legislate against the indiscriminate spending of the likes of City and Chelsea.

Going off at even more of a tangent into the Championship, I was surprised to note that of the 27 players featured in the encounter between former European champions Villa and Forest only 9 were English.

Strikers, Goals and Movement

It is most unusual to see a West Ham player at the top of the goalscoring charts but Michail Antonio is currently up there along with Costa and Ibrahimovic. Maybe we will get someone into double figures this season. Off the mark this week were Lukaku and Kane and I would expect both to continue rattling them in during the remainder of the season. Many of the goals at the weekend were the result of quick, incisive passing and movement often on the counter attack. The type of goals we scored in the smash and grab away victories at Anfield and the Etihad but which have been rare ever since. Quite a few teams have adopted the pressing and quick break strategy with the notable exceptions of Arsenal and City who still tend towards the tippy-tappy. Our own current Plan A is something of a hybrid involving ponderous sideways passes (also known as fannying about) with the ball eventually played out to one of many wide-men who then attempt to put in a cross; Plan B is to try to win a free kick in a dangerous position.

There were two flying overhead kicks at the weekend by Koscielny of Arsenal and dirty Diego of Chelsea. Both looked spectacular and helped towards earning points for their respective clubs but both also raise the question of where the line is drawn for dangerous play. Had they happened elsewhere on the pitch I wonder what the decision would have been?

The Case for the Defence

There was a fair share of comedy (or was it schoolboy) defending this weekend. There were individual errors and there was collective incompetence. Top prize for individual error went to Lucas of Liverpool but fortunately for him it did affect the final outcome of the game. There was some complicity from Mingolet who should never have given him the ball in the first place. Players (playing for the more sophisticated coaches) may be under instructions not to welly it upfield but abdicating the responsibility to a teammate is not really any better. Claudio Bravo was not content with his initial flapping at a cross clanger and tried to go one better by embarking on several suicidal dribbles. The award for collective incompetence was hotly contested and in the final analysis Sunderland just pip West Ham for the honour. The West Ham defence at least put up a token resistance to opposition attacks whereas Sunderland just seemed to want to keep out of Lukaku’s way. Honourable mention as well to Stoke who conceded four at home for a second match running. A poor result for them but their defence was more undone by opposition cunning rather than them being absent without leave.

Bad Decisions Make Great Stories

A week in Premier League football would not be complete without referee inconsistency or downright bewilderment. Arsenal’s fortunate last minute penalty was a case in point with the referee making a (Freeman’s sized) catalogue of errors. First he failed to spot a clear foul on a Southampton player which gave Arsenal possession; then he didn’t stop the game despite there being an Arsenal player lying prone with a head injury in the middle of the goal; said prone player then prevented the Southampton keeper getting to the cross; and finally he penalised the Southamton defender in what was as clear a case of ‘six of one and half a dozen of the other’ as I have ever seen. Such events can kick-start a season. Elsewhere it appeared that ‘top whistle-blower’ Mark Clattenburg had decided that the new dissent clampdown didn’t apply to Wayne Rooney – on any of a number of occasions during the course of the match. Chelsea were, for once, on the wrong end of a refereeing blunder with Cahill clearly fouled by Leroy Fer before he scored Swansea’s second; this can, however, be put down as justifiable karma!

This Week in Hammer’s History

A look back at the week 12 – 18 September in Hammer’s History.

This Week Hammers HistoryToday we dust off the covers of the Under The Hammers almanac and take a sneaky look at the week 12 to 18 September in the Hammer’s history.

If in 1964 you were lucky enough to own a 625 line UHF TV then you may have been one of the 20,000 viewers who tuned in to the new BBC2 football highlights programme, Match of the Day. Week 4 of the show on 12 September 1964 featured the game at Upton Park between West Ham and Tottenham which was hailed by presenter Kenneth Wolstenholme and summariser Wally Barnes as the most exciting game shown to date. A Johnny Byrne hat-trick (he also had a penalty saved) saw the Hammers secure a 3-2 victory with Jimmy Greaves netting two for the opposition.

A video of the second half can be seen below. West Ham were leading 1-0 at the break.

Also on 12 September, but over 40 years later in 2005, there was another hat-trick this time for Marlon Harewood as newly promoted West Ham demolished Aston Villa 4-0 in a Yossi Benayoun inspired display in the Monday night match.

Another game that caught my eye was a 3-3 draw with Leicester on 13 September 1975 where, and I hope I am remembering this correctly, we came back from 3-0 down to earn a draw and maintain an unbeaten start to the season. We ended the day in second spot in the old First Division. We were also top of the league in November but ended the season in 18th position.

September also sees the early rounds of the League Cup and a fair share of those potential banana skins. You might think that beating a lower league side over two legs would not be a problem yet we still managed to get knocked out by Northampton Town in 1998 losing the away leg 2-0 on 15 September. A year earlier we had also lost an away leg to Huddersfield but managed to turn that one around in the return game.

This week’s featured game is the European Cup Winner’s Cup First Round First Leg away to Castilla (aka Real Madrid Reserves) at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on 17 September 1980. The match is mainly remembered for the crowd trouble inside the stadium with over 50 travelling supporters being evicted from the ground by Spanish police and one fan dying after being hit by a bus outside the ground. There were also counter claims of extreme provocation.

The aftermath saw the crowd scenes described as a 哲ight of Shame・and led to UEFA investigation and predictions that West Ham would be thrown out of the competition. As it tuned out UEFA originally ruled that the return leg would have to played at least 300 km from Upton Park but on appeal revised the decision to have the game played behind closed doors at the Boleyn.

For the game itself, David Cross headed home a Brooking cross to put West Ham a goal up in a game that they were largely controlling. However, Castilla pulled a goal back in the 64th minute and then scored two more before the end to run out 3-1 victors. Prior to this game West Ham had gone six matches without conceding a goal and so it was very disappointing that the last two goals were both the result of poor back passes.

Parkes, Stewart, Lampard, Bonds, Martin, Devonshire (Brush), Morgan (Barnes), Goddard, Cross, Brooking, Pike

Notable Hammer Birthdays this week:

13 September:   Pat Holland (66)
16 September:   Sam Byram (23)
17 September:   Billy Bonds (70)
18 September:   Brian Dear (73)