Chelsea 2:1 West Ham

Pouring through the debris of the season opener. A blunt attack, lack of ambition and more weak refereeing.

Costa ThuggeryWhen we elect a government to run the country we have accept that they will make decisions on our behalf. We can of course voice our disapproval but we have to wait until the next election before we can influence any changes (unless of course there is a referendum on a particular matter!). Football managers are not elected by supporters but I have a feeling that when Big Sam’s contract was not renewed, if there had been an election at the time then Slaven Bilic would have had a large majority. And in his first term of office he guided us to a very respectable seventh place in the Premier League, narrowly missing out on (some would say we were robbed of) a place in the Champions League, with a style of football that the majority approved of.

So we move into the second season and get through comfortably into the play-off round of the Europa League and then have to visit Stamford Bridge for the opening league game. I looked at Twitter about an hour before the kick off to see the players that had been selected, and was horrified to read the meltdown taking place by various individuals and West Ham groups before a ball had been kicked. The language was about as bad as it can get, the main attacks being on the manager’s team selection. Apart from all the words used to describe Bilic personally, the emphasis was on Antonio being picked at right back, Ogbonna being left out, the selection of Reid, Valencia (another subjected to vicious personal attacks), and Payet being left on the bench. Almost unanimously there was a call for Byram, Ogbonna and Payet to start and Antonio to play instead of Valencia in attack.

“It was therefore a complete surprise against the run of play when Collins scored with a superb shot, only his ninth career goal, but his fourth against Chelsea!”

Our supporters at the game were singing the Super Slaven Bilic song after about a quarter of an hour so were they taking an alternative view to the tweeters? We started promisingly for about ten minutes and then Chelsea gradually began to take over. Ayew had not really got into the game when he was injured on the half hour and Tore came on to replace him. Our defence were quite comfortable in the first half but we were unable to achieve anything in an attacking sense.

It all changed 50 seconds into the second half when Antonio got caught out of position and gave away a penalty. He was substituted, and the tweeters were happy that the point they had been making about Bilic’s insistence to play him at right back had been proved. Byram provided better cover from a defensive viewpoint. Although I am not a fan of most statistics in games, the Sky caption on 70 minutes that revealed shots on goal to be 14-1 in Chelsea’s favour was very telling.

It was therefore a complete surprise against the run of play when Collins scored with a superb shot, only his ninth career goal, but his fourth against Chelsea! Ah, that’s why he was picked! It was our first shot on target and came after 77 minutes. It would have been a most undeserved draw, and West Ham managed to do what they often do, conceding an 89 th minute goal. But Costa should not have been on the pitch when he netted the winner. He had already been booked when he raked his studs down Adrian’s leg, and should have perhaps had a straight red for that alone.

I take no pleasure in predicting a 2-1 defeat prior to the game. In truth I was expecting both sides to be better than they were. From a defensive viewpoint, when Byram was introduced we looked sound, although the distribution when we had the ball at the back was often poor.

“Let’s hope we learn some lessons from this match and put on a decent performance in Romania on Thursday.”

Only Kouyate of the midfield trio had a decent game in my opinion, but up front we were totally lacking in ideas. Carroll and Valencia didn’t have particularly good games although they were poorly served, and Tore looked like he was a complete stranger to the game.

What a disappointing opening! I had a quick look at Twitter before retiring to bed. It was once more in meltdown. The “told you so” brigade were once again in full force using the foulest language imaginable, hiding behind the anonymity provided by the internet. Yes, it was a poor performance. Yes, even the manager, with the benefit of hindsight, might have selected a different team.

This is my 59th season of supporting the team. This is what West Ham are all about. You never know what you are going to get from one game to the next. Let’s hope we learn some lessons from this match and put on a decent performance in Romania on Thursday.

I Wouldn’t Bet On It (3)

The final weekend flutter with a cheeky bet on tonight’s match.

BookmakerI stick to a number of personal rules when I am betting.

  1. Only do it for fun; don’t get too serious.
  2. Bet with small stakes only, never more than you can afford to lose – it doesn’t then matter if you do lose.
  3. If you are on a losing run don’t chase your losses and try to get them back too quickly. Just like Mo Farah being tripped and going to ground in the Olympic 10,000 metres final. He didn’t rush to get back on terms quickly, he came back gradually.

On Sunday (14 Aug) there was one successful bet:

1 point on Manchester United to beat Bournemouth at 5/6 (1.8)

But I had good fun with the draw bet on the Arsenal v Liverpool game and was interested right to the end as Arsenal came back into the game after being 4-1 down.

The balance in points is now 92.1.

For the Chelsea v West Ham game I’ll do a different fun bet:

1 point on there to be exactly 3 goals in the match at 3/1 (4.0)

By placing this bet the balance is now reduced to 91.1.

The figure in brackets is the potential return from a 1 point stake.

I Wouldn’t Bet On It (2)

A few more punts on today’s football…….

Want a bet?There are three results in every football match. Home, away or draw. It should be easy based on form to know exactly what is going to happen, shouldn’t it? Unfortunately it is not.

Yesterday I said that I don’t normally bet on football matches at the start of the season, as I prefer to see how the form is panning out. However, I decided on a cautious approach spending 10 of my mythical 100 points by betting on nine “favourite” results and an accumulator. So how did I get on?

Well it was a poor start. I would have expected more of the favourites to win, but that’s the unpredictability of football matches. Only two were successful:

1 point on Wigan to beat Blackburn – 11/10 (2.1)

1 point on Port Vale to beat Southend – 6/5 (2.2)

So my points tally became 94.3.

Today I will make the following bets:

2 points on Arsenal v Liverpool to be a draw at 12/5 (6.8)

1 points on Manchester United to beat Bournemouth at 5/6 (1.8)

1 point on the double of the above two results being correct (6.2)

Once again, the figures in brackets are the potential returns from a 1 point stake. So today I have spent 4 points reducing my balance to 90.3.

I Wouldn’t Bet On It

Fancy a flutter? Here’s where I would put my money this weekend.

Fancy A BetWhat do they say? Gambling is a mugs game? This may be the case but you can have a bit of fun especially if you don’t stake more than you can afford to lose. I’ve always enjoyed it but I’m only a small stakes gambler, and if I do lose then it doesn’t really matter. I love horse racing and from two visits to Chelmsford City this year I’ve been extraordinarily lucky and come away with a fair bit more in my pocket than I went with. But I’ve also had bad runs including a 27 race losing streak.

It’s the same with football bets. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I don’t normally bet on football matches at the start of the season, as I prefer to see how the form is panning out. However, I am going to start tentatively today and see how I get on. I’ll begin with a mythical 100 points and keep a running total as the season progresses.

So for today, I’ll bet on nine teams to win, and add a nine-game accumulator just in case by sheer fluke all nine are correct.

1 point on Palace to beat WBA – Evens (2.0)

1 point on Leicester to beat Hull – 10/11 (1.9)

1 point on Southampton to beat Watford – 4/5 (1.8)

1 point on Norwich to beat Sheffield Wednesday – Evens (2.0)

1 point on Wigan to beat Blackburn – 11/10 (2.1)

1 point on Charlton to beat Northampton – 6/5 (2.2)

1 point on Port Vale to beat Southend – 6/5 (2.2)

1 point on Orient to beat Newport – 4/6 (1.7)

1 point on Luton to beat Yeovil – 3/4 (1.8)

1 point on a Nine wins accumulator – 407.5-1 (407.5)

The figures in brackets are the potential returns from a 1 point stake. So today I have spent 10 points leaving a balance of 90.

West Ham v Chelsea – Monday 15 August

A look forward to Monday night’s opener against Chelsea.

Last season the fixtures computer gave us one of the hardest possible opening fixtures, away at Arsenal. We rose to the challenge with a 2-0 victory, so the computer decided that we could comfortably cope with a tough away game, and gave us another one this year at Chelsea. Despite their poor showing last season they should not be underestimated – the bookmakers make them third favourites to regain the title (remember they were champions the season before last) behind the two Manchester clubs.

andy carroll versus chelseaOf course we beat them last season at Upton Park with a goal from Zarate and a superb winning header from Carroll. But perhaps the game is best remembered for Mourinho being sent off, and the pictures in the following morning papers as he cut a sad figure watching the game from the back of the directors’ box. We were also mightily unlucky in the return fixture at Stamford Bridge when we were robbed, as so frequently happened in the latter stages of the season, by the incompetence of the officials (in this case Mr. Madley). Chelsea’s two goals which earned them a draw were dubious to say the least. For the first the referee made our wall retreat twelve yards allowing Fabregas to score more easily from a free kick, and for the second he gave a penalty when Loftus-Cheek tripped himself up just outside our penalty area. Two scandalous decisions but it is all water under the Bridge now.

I can remember three occasions when we have played Chelsea in the opening league fixture. The first was in our cup winning season of 1963-64 when we drew 0-0 away. I was nine years old at the time and on holiday with my parents and sister in a caravan at the Martello Camp in Walton on the Naze. I didn’t find out the result until the next morning when my dad bought the Sunday paper.

Moore, Hurst and PetersAlmost 50 years ago to the day I was at Upton Park for the first game of the 1966-67 season just three weeks after England had won the World Cup. Moore, Hurst and Peters ran on to the pitch alone before the start of the game to receive the acclaim of the West Ham crowd of over 36,000. Unfortunately, despite a goal from Budgie Byrne, we lost that opening game 2-1.

Recently I have been re-reading Robert Banks’ excellent trilogy of books, An Irrational Hatred of Luton, West Ham Till I Die, and The Legacy of Barry Green. In the third book he recounts the first fixture of the 2000-2001 season when we lost 4-2 at Stamford Bridge, with our goals coming from Di Canio and Kanoute. The part I particularly remember is him describing the hot day, a large number in the crowd removing their shirts to resemble the beach at Blackpool, but saying that the donkeys were on the pitch. I seem to recall he was quite scathing about our performance.

There may well have been other first day games against Chelsea but these are the only three that I remember. So what will happen this time? They have a new manager, one of a dozen or more top flight bosses who were not Premier League managers on the opening day of last season. A former Italian international footballer and manager, he has impeccable club footballing management credentials having led Juventus to three consecutive titles from 2011-2014.

Perhaps 2-2 to match the result at Stamford Bridge last season? That would be a good result, although I have a feeling that we might just lose to the odd goal in three. I hope that I’m wrong.

Most Premier League teams play high profile friendly matches before the start of the league season and Chelsea are no exception. In some ways the results are meaningless as players are getting match fit before the real season gets underway. Nevertheless in the last fortnight or so they have lost narrowly to Real Madrid (as we did against Juventus), but they have also recorded impressive victories over Liverpool, AC Milan, and Werder Bremen.

It is a tough opening. Who knows if it is a good or bad time to be playing such a difficult fixture? I hope for a win of course as I always do, realistically I will be pleased if we draw the game, but I won’t be too disheartened if the result does go against us if we put up a decent performance. Perhaps 2-2 to match the result at Stamford Bridge last season? That would be a good result, although I have a feeling that we might just lose to the odd goal in three. I hope that I’m wrong.

A draw would be a good result there. Remember our “19th Century Football 0-0 draw” there in 2013-4 that annoyed Mr. Mourinho so much. It gave us the impetus to go on and win the next four consecutive games. And what are the chances of us repeating the result at Stamford Bridge of just over 30 years ago in March 1986? For those of you too young to remember Tony Cottee scored twice, Frank McAvennie and Alan Devonshire scored one apiece, as we thrashed them 4-0 on our way to our highest ever (third place) finish in the top division.

Where Will We Finish This Season?

My prediction of what the final league table will look like come May.

Last season, one of the country’s biggest bookmakers, William Hill, offered a prize of £50 million to anybody who could (before the season began) correctly predict the final Premier League table. If nobody was successful then £100,000 was on offer to the closest forecast. It cost £2 to make each entry, so they only needed 50,000 entrants to cover their costs if nobody could correctly list the finishing positions of the 20 clubs.

Bookmakers OddsAnd of course nobody did bag the £50 million. The odds of correctly forecasting 20 different clubs to finish in a particular order is, according to my calculations, somewhere between 2 and 3 million million millions to one. That’s 18 noughts. I’d call it trillions but that’s not strictly correct. Even if you thought that the top six were cast in stone, and the 14 other clubs had no chance of coming out on top, then perming the favoured six in any order followed by the remaining 14 in every combination would still result in around 63 million millions to one.

Yes it’s virtually impossible, especially with surprises such as the final positions of Leicester and Chelsea last season. To make a comparison, the odds of coming up with the Lotto jackpot are around 45 million to one, and the EuroMillions 116 million to one.

Nonetheless for a bit of fun I’ll have a go, so here is my forecast for the final Premier League table next May:

  1. Manchester City
  2. Manchester United
  3. Liverpool
  4. Chelsea
  5. Arsenal
  6. Tottenham
  7. West Ham
  8. Everton
  9. Southampton
  10. Leicester
  11. Swansea
  12. Stoke
  13. Crystal Palace
  14. Middlesbrough
  15. Bournemouth
  16. West Brom
  17. Sunderland
  18. Watford
  19. Burnley
  20. Hull

I’ll challenge my fellow writer, Geoff, to make his prediction and we’ll see who is closest next May. I reckon we’ll finish seventh, the same as last season. I hope that we win it of course, but I’m not sure that we are quite ready to challenge the big boys just yet. But I hope I’m wrong! The bookmakers make us eighth favourites to win the Premier League.

The New Stadium Experience

First impressions of settling into the new West Ham stadium in Stratford

I have always been in favour of our move into the new stadium. For me, Upton Park was never the same after the ground redevelopment following the Taylor Report. Now that I have been twice to the London Stadium (Domzale and Juventus) I will relate my personal experience so far. Of course we’ll be able to judge the move better when the season really gets underway with the start of the league games.

New West Ham StadiumFirstly, the journey. As someone who has for many years travelled from Bury St Edmunds (via Epping Station on the Central Line) to watch us play then this is slightly easier for me as I now don’t need to add the District Line journey. But this makes little difference really. The walk to the stadium from Stratford station (via Westfield) is deceptively longer than it would appear, although for me it is more pleasant than the walk I used to take from either Upton Park or Plaistow stations.

Stratford StationI’ve read some complaints regarding the time to reach Stratford station after the game; it took me 40 minutes after each game from my seat to the platform following a leisurely stroll. Again, not an issue for me, but for some who are in a rush then perhaps it is. I’ve noted many leaving both games early (with the mock fire drill chant from our own supporters!) so perhaps they are desperate to get away. I don’t really understand that one myself. In 58 years of regularly watching the team I have only left the ground once before the final whistle was blown.

The bag search outside was carried out by friendly people and entry via the turnstiles was easy both times with no queueing. When I reached my seat I found the view to be excellent. When I visited the Reservation Centre to choose my seat I tried to replicate the view I had at Upton Park and am more than happy to be sitting close to the front of the upper tier. The seat itself is considerably wider than the Boleyn seat with significantly more elbow room and leg room, and a better viewing angle (that is angled towards the centre circle, not square to the pitch).

“As far as the atmosphere is concerned I believe that this is generated by the fans and not by the stadium itself.”

One thing I’m getting a little cheesed off about is the song / chant that appears to be more prevalent in the new stadium (Stand up if you love West Ham / hate Tottenham / Hate Millwall etc.). Most people in the ground are there for those reasons anyway, they don’t need to stand to prove it! In many parts of the ground (mostly behind the goals and in the lower tiers generally) standing areas are emerging where fans are on their feet throughout. That’s absolutely fine with me, and these seem to be the sources of the stand-up chant. I just don’t think we need to be continually implored to stand. You can love West Ham or hate Tottenham in either the standing or sitting position! As the Juventus game wore on fewer were standing each time.

The toilets were clean (as befits a new stadium), and unlike Upton Park provided considerably more facilities, little queueing, hot and cold running water and soap, although how long the plumbing facilities remain at this standard remains to be seen. By the end of the game I was amazed at how many still manage to piss on the floor though!

One thing I won’t repeat is buying a coffee; I have to say it was in my opinion possibly the most foul-tasting coffee I have ever experienced.

As far as the atmosphere is concerned I believe that this is generated by the fans and not by the stadium itself. Last season at Upton Park the atmosphere varied from electric (at the Manchester United (league), Liverpool (cup), and Tottenham games, for example) to very ordinary / quiet at many other games. It wasn’t the ground itself that produced the atmosphere for me, it was the fans reacting to the games.

West Ham Boleyn GroundThe roof at the new stadium lends itself to increased volume when the fans react accordingly, and certainly the singing of Bubbles has been spine-tingling. I reckon decibel levels are much greater here than at Upton Park, although I’m not sure any measurements have been taken. I concede that the Boleyn may have had an added intimidatory factor due to the proximity of the crowd to the pitch, but this too was significantly reduced following the 90’s development into an all seater ground. When we all stood on the North and South Banks and Chicken Run it was a different matter.

Overall, I have to say that my expectations, which were already high, have been significantly exceeded by the London Stadium experience. I believe that it also gives us the potential (just potential mind) to move to the next level. Most people I’ve spoken to hold a similar view, but some disagree. I’ve read comments like sterile and other negative reactions to the move, but it’s all about opinions. You can never please everyone. Me? I love it here.