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 travel to the North-West to face Burnley in the Claret & Blue Derby

With the midpoint of the season reached, West Ham are favourites to overcome Burnley this afternoon in the battle to claim the best of the rest title.

When the referee Craig (I didn’t see it) Pawson blew the final whistle shortly before 10 pm on Thursday evening, the curtain was brought down on the first half of the Premier League season. 190 matches played and 190 to go. The midpoint is almost always reached at some time between when we sit down for our turkey and pudding on Christmas Day, and when the decorations come down on Twelfth Night at the beginning of the next calendar year.

And didn’t we bring the first half of our season to an end in some style. Hands up if you thought after four games had elapsed and we were pointless, that we would be sitting in ninth place in the table at this stage, with a points tally that was closer to a Champions League qualification place than the bottom three. Add to that a (typical West Ham?) squad ravaged by injuries, then our position is all the more remarkable.

Even when we lost at home to Watford last week, I didn’t hear anyone blaming the board or the manager or the stadium. Most shrugged their shoulders. Never mind, we’ll just have to win at Southampton on Thursday evening. And so we did with two splendid goals from the “ever coming to terms with the Premier League” record signing Felipe Anderson. The first was a splendid shot from outside the area, despite the distraction of poor positioning by the referee. The second was a goal that we scored after breaking from a corner at Boult-like breakneck speed to score within about ten seconds of Southampton’s corner being taken, expertly finished off by our new Brazilian. It was reminiscent of goals that I’ve seen us concede in recent seasons from the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City, which made it even more pleasing to note that we now have players with pace ourselves.

I thought that the team played well in all positions and heads didn’t go down when the Saints put up a contender for the season’s scrappiest goal. As it went in it didn’t look right and I felt sure that it should be disallowed but I didn’t really know why. Fabianski had performed miracles to keep it out (as he does consistently in every game), and we were unlucky that the referee was unable to see the ball punched into our net. Never mind now, all’s well that ends well, and we justifiably won the game against an in-form Southampton team.

After the six games played yesterday we have fallen to eleventh but a win today would lift us up to the dizzy heights of seventh. That’s right, top of Premier League 2 if you discount the elite top six who occupy those places regularly. And that is exactly where our initial aim should be. To finish the best of the rest. Our competitors for that spot are likely to be Wolves, Everton, Watford and Leicester, and it was good that only the first named of that quartet won yesterday, surprisingly beating our unpopular North London neighbours. Many of our fans relished that result on social media, but I took another view, and looking at the bigger picture I would have preferred a draw in that game to help our own position in the league table.

Burnley are in big trouble, unlike last season, and even in the unlikely event of them beating us today, they would still be in the bottom three. Bookmakers make us even money favourites to win today, which is almost unheard of when we are the away team. Burnley are approaching 3/1 with 23/10 for the draw.

Correct score odds for the most popular scores are:

1-1: 11/2; 0-1: 13/2; 1-2: 15/2; 0-2: 17/2; 0-0: 9/1; 1-0: 10/1; 2-1: 10/1; 2-2: 11/1.

First goalscorer odds show Chicarito and Arnautavic as favourites but are they fit enough to play? At the time of writing this piece I don’t know. Based upon recent form which shows that Burnley have lost six of their last seven games, and we have won five of our last six, then this should be easy. But having watched our team for sixty years now I know that no game is easy, as I’ve seen us slip up so many times in this position. But providing the legs aren’t too weary, with this game coming not much more than sixty hours after the last one ended, then I’m looking for us to make it six wins from seven. We’ve already smashed our record for points gained in a calendar month with 15, so let us hope that figure has risen to 18 by shortly after 4 o’clock this afternoon.

What are the odds on a West Ham win on the South Coast today?

A win big enough to move up to eighth in the table is priced at 200/1 upwards.

At the conclusion of the Southampton v West Ham game this evening we will have reached the halfway point in the 2018-19 Premier League season. A season that began so disastrously with four defeats in the first four games has turned around significantly, and we find ourselves in twelfth place in the table prior to this game. A defeat or a draw will see us remain in that position, but a win by any score will lift us into the top half of the table. We will be joint ninth with a 1-0 win, and ninth on our own by any other score. I think that even the most optimistic amongst us cannot see us winning by five goals to overtake Everton in eighth position.

We face a Southampton side lifted by the appointment of their new Austrian manager, and the Saints are favourites to win the game with the bookmakers at around 6/5. West Ham are second favourites at 23/10 slightly ahead of the draw at 12/5.

Correct score odds for the most popular scores are:

1-1: 11/2; 2-1: 7/1; 1-0: 15/2; 1-2: 9/1; 2-0: 10/1; 0-0: 10/1; 0-1: 10/1; 2-2: 10/1; 0-2: 14/1

First goalscorer odds:

Ings 4/1; Austin 11/2: Gabbiadini/Chicarito 13/2; Long/Carroll 7/1; Obafemi/Antonio/Perez 15/2.

If you fancy a West Ham defender to score the first goal then Diop or Ogbonna are priced at 45/1; Masuaku at 50/1 and Zabaleta 70/1.

You can get identical prices on scoring the last goal too.

A couple of scorecasts that I like the look at for fun bets are West Ham to win the game 2-1 with the first goal scored by Diop at 265/1 or Masuaku at 310/1. Once again you can get roughly the same odds (or even longer) by substituting the last goal for the first goal and looking around at the various prices being offered by the wide range of bookmakers all offering hundreds of prices.

A win big enough to move up to eighth in the table is priced at 200/1 upwards. It would be good (although extremely unlikely) to achieve that! I’ll just settle for the three points and a position in the top half of the table.

After eliminating the Watford Gap much quicker than might have been expected, West Ham entertain the Hornets.

We’ve done well in our games against flying creatures in December, can we continue the run and fly to even greater heights, or will we be stung just before Christmas?

I’ll begin my preview of this weekend’s game by repeating parts of my preview to the Newcastle game that I wrote just three weeks ago as we began the last month of 2018 and the run up to Christmas.

“As we reach December 1, the beginning of meteorological winter, we begin a run of eight matches in 33 days, that will possibly define the eventual outcome of our season. A look at the current league table reveals that, on paper at least, the forthcoming 720 minutes (plus time added on of course), will see us facing as easy a group of fixtures that we could hope for. Now this is unpredictable West Ham we are talking about, so although they may look like very winnable fixtures, those of us who have followed the team throughout the years know that this may very well not be the case.

Starting today we face (A) Newcastle (13th), (H) Cardiff (15th), (H) Palace (17th), (A) Fulham (20th), (H) Watford (9th), (A) Southampton (19th), (A) Burnley (18th), (H) Brighton (12th). At the moment we sit in 14th position on 12 points, so 24 points from these games will put us on 36 points, which will be above Manchester City if they lose their next 8 games. OK, so I know that anything like that is not remotely going to happen, (City could well be on 59 points at that time), but wouldn’t it be good to put together some back to back wins to propel us up the league table. When was the last time we won even two games in a row? Will this be the first game of an eight match winning run? I suspect you could get very long odds on that happening!”

Incredibly we are half way there! With four games of this season gone, we trailed today’s opponents by 12 points. As is often repeated, we lost our opening four games, whereas Watford were victorious in all four (admittedly three at home) against Brighton, Burnley, Palace and Tottenham. The gap was 12 points. What odds were on offer at that time, on us going into today’s game with both of us sitting in the top half of the table, with Watford below us? It would have been similar to the long odds mentioned before I suspect. And we’ve done it with a lengthy injury list too!

In fact, both Watford and ourselves have virtually identical records in the 17 games that we have each played to date. We’ve both won 7, drawn 3, lost 7, and have conceded 25 goals. The only difference is that Watford have scored 23, whereas we have 2 more, and as a result do not have a negative goal difference. This game, and the one on 27 December at St Mary’s, will take us up to the half way point of the season, and barring a calamitous run of results, I think we can safely say that we will not have to look over our shoulders any more. The positivity from all quarters is such that European qualification is now a distinct possibility, and that was not the case a few weeks ago.

I don’t think that we were at our best against Fulham last weekend but the win was comfortable without us needing to find the higher gears. Even without the talismanic Arnie, the team as a whole has been playing well, and they have reminded me to some extent of the West Ham I witnessed in the 1960s and 1970s. We look good going forward, the chances are being created and taken, but we can still be vulnerable and concede silly goals. And yet generally the defence has been playing well. Balbuena and Diop have formed the best central defensive partnership in many years, Zabaleta continues to defy his age and has played some excellent matches recently, and behind them the safest keeper I can remember since the days of Phil Parkes. Teams that attack the left hand side of our defence know what they are doing and that for me is the weakest part of the team.

I read someone on social media asking who our fans thought would end up as Hammer of the Year at the end of the season. There is still a long way to go, but the most pleasing aspect was the variety of responses from so many people which suggests that many players are doing well. There were numerous shouts for Fabianski, Zabaleta, Diop, Balbuena, Rice, Snodgrass, Noble, and Anderson, with not a single mention of Arnie. That would have been hard to believe a few weeks ago. But if Arnie comes back and adds his name to that list then we will almost certainly have had quite a season. Additionally, Antonio is beginning to look more like the player of a couple of seasons ago, and Hernandez is playing with the confidence that scoring goals brings to a natural goalscorer.

Side-tracking for a moment, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I like my football on a Saturday, roast beef on Sunday, all right (could be the lyrics of a song!). In case you haven’t noticed some fixtures in February have been moved for the benefit of TV. So, if like me your favourite kick off time is 3pm on a Saturday, make the most of this weekend’s fixture, because there won’t be another home league game kicking off at 3pm on a Saturday until at least March next year!

Back to the game, with two teams equally balanced on the basis of the league table, then the odds reflect this. West Ham are around 13/10 to win the game, with Watford at 2/1, and 23/10 for the draw. Our historical record against Watford is one of overwhelming superiority, and in approaching 70 league games in more than a century, we have beaten them more than twice as many times as they have beaten us. I believe that in that time they have only won 3 league matches on our ground.

Of course there was the infamous 4-2 defeat in 2016 when we threw away a two goal lead and were accused of showboating by Mr. Deeney. Although that game was only just over two years ago, only Noble, Masuaku and Antonio of the 14 players on duty that day are likely to be in our starting eleven for this game! Our last league defeat at home to them before then was in 2007, but that game ended a sequence of 19 league games from April 1985, when we were unbeaten against Watford, winning 16 and drawing 3.

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Historically, football matches played on the last Saturday before Christmas were played in front of lower crowds than usual; the theory was that a number of people did their last minute Christmas shopping on that day. The world has changed since those days with extended shopping hours. I can often remember us losing many of those pre-Christmas matches but there were some notable wins, for example a couple over Tottenham in the 1960s. In the mid-1970s I can recall Billy Jennings scoring a hat-trick in a pre-Christmas game, and both Tony Cottee and Paulo Di Canio scoring in those games too in later years.

In our last Saturday game before Christmas in 2011 (the season we were promoted back to the Premier League under Big Sam) we beat Barnsley 1-0 in a Championship game at Upton Park in front of almost 35,000 spectators. Our goalscorer that day had the last name of Diop. Not Issa of course, but Papa Bouba (remember him?). I’ll be continuing with my fun bets on Issa Diop to score the last goal of the game where very long odds are on offer. One of these weeks it will happen!

History counts for nothing and this could be a close, perhaps high scoring encounter. I’ll take us to win 3-2 with Diop heading home a corner for the winning goal. A merry Christmas and a happy New Year to West Ham fans everywhere! A fifth straight win would be a nice Christmas present for us all!

 

West Ham Aiming To Fly High Against The Eagles

Will West Ham be “Glad All Over” against Palace today? Will the Hammers nail the Eagles and soar into the top half of the table?

After a comfortable win (despite Neil Warnock’s disbelieving comments) over the Bluebirds of South Wales on Tuesday night, we now have the opportunity to record a third successive win (in our eight game winning streak – it is still a possibility!) and soar into the top half of the Premier League table. All we need to do is beat a Palace team that were woeful on Tuesday away at Brighton and hope that the Seagulls themselves lose at Burnley on Saturday. The other two teams above us, the other W’s in the top flight (Wolves and Watford) who can stop us moving into the top ten, do not play until Sunday or Monday.

In many ways I don’t like to see us meeting opponents who have just had a poor game, because I’ve seen on so many occasions West Ham lose in these circumstances. The “woeful” description I gave earlier was told to me by an avid Palace fan friend who suggested that we would hammer them today. We shall see. Brighton were a goal up when they had a player sent off in the first half, and you would have thought that Palace had a great opportunity against ten men for such a long period. In fact, Brighton had a further player being tended for an injury and were down to nine on the field when they scored a second goal. Manager Roy Hodgson’s face was like thunder throughout the rest of the game, and it remains to be seen if he can motivate them to improve their performance today. But it was only last weekend that Palace themselves hammered Burnley, and the 2-0 score didn’t reflect their total superiority in the game.

Of course we potentially face ex-Hammers Tomkins and Kouyate in this match, although unlike some who have written on social media this week, I am personally not sorry to have lost either of them. But former players can sometimes come back to hurt you, and we must hope that doesn’t happen. Palace sit 15th in the table with 12 points, six below us, and just three above the three teams in the relegation zone (Southampton, Fulham, and Burnley). Their three victories have come away at Fulham and Huddersfield, and at home to Burnley, and they have shared the spoils with Newcastle and Arsenal at Selhurst Park, and at Old Trafford.

Arnie will be out for around a month it seems, and Perez took his goals well when he came on to replace him shortly before half-time. And of course Carroll has now made a timely return from injury, and if he plays a part in this game we will all be hoping for a repeat of his spectacular goal against Palace in January 2017. Antonio had a good game in his role as a right back but I would expect Zabaleta to return for this match, and in Cresswell’s absence no doubt Masuaku will continue at left back. Ogbonna also did little wrong but I prefer Balbuena to partner Diop.

I would expect to see the following line-up: Fabianski; Zabaleta, Diop, Balbuena, Masuaku; Rice, Noble, Snodgrass; Anderson, Hernandez, Perez. That’s eleven different nationalities if Rice is still Irish! Depending on how the game goes, I would expect Antonio and Carroll to play a part too if they are not in the starting line-up, with other possible involvement from Obiang and Diangana.

Surprisingly, in my opinion, we are not odds-on with the bookies to win the game, and you can get odds of around 5/4 or 6/5 on a West Ham victory. For my fun bets this week I will hope that we continue with our current trend of scoring three goals a game, and will be considering 3-0 (at 18/1) or 3-1 (at 16/1). Cardiff’s late goal on Tuesday ruined my bet on a 3-0 score.

And continuing my belief in Issa Diop to score, I will look at Diop scoring the last goal in a 3-0 win (500/1) or in a 3-1 victory (600/1). For Diop to score a goal at any time in the game you can get 16/1, or to score the first goal of the match (40/1), the last goal of the match (40/1), two or more goals (200/1). I reckon a hat-trick at 2000/1 is unlikely!

Those of us who have supported the team for any length of time will know that we can expect the unexpected. In fact with West Ham we have no idea what to expect. Much has been made in the press about our last two victories being our first back to back wins in the league for almost two years (January 2017). The first of those games was actually against Palace (the second was away at Middlesbrough), but we came back down to earth in our attempt at the hat-trick when we faced Manchester City in the next game.

We had already achieved back to back wins earlier that season with wins at Palace and at home to Sunderland, and we also achieved a hat-trick of league wins in December 2016 (Burnley, Hull and Swansea), so it is not that unusual. We just didn’t manage it last season.

For this week’s trip down memory lane I rummaged through my programme collection to find the game we played at home to Palace on 8 November 1969, almost fifty years ago. This was our first match against these opponents since the 1922-23 season when we met them in Division 2. That was the season we went on to compete in the first Wembley FA Cup Final.

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We went into the 1969 game 7th from the bottom of Division One with Palace three positions and one point below us. Goals from Geoff Hurst and Clyde Best ensured a 2-1 win in front of over 31,000. How many of the players in the first team squad can you recognise from the photo on the front of the programme?

West Ham v Cardiff: Midweek Preview

Will West Ham be all over the Bluebirds? Just you wait and see.

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.

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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.