The Hammer’s Week in History 1

How has the week 5 – 11 September shaped up in Hammer’s history?

This Week Hammers HistoryThe doldrums of the International Break is the perfect time to look elsewhere for entertainment rather than seeking it from that collection of expensive labourers masquerading as craftsmen in the national team.

The mission that I chose to accept was to travel back in time and forage through the annals of this week in Hammer’s history; here is what I discovered for the period 5-11 September.

The first weeks of September over the years have been characterised by an abundance of goals; before early season exuberance on flat, grassy pitches in late summer sunshine gives way to a cold, muddy mid-winter’s slog with floodlights switched on before half-time.

This week in history has witnessed some heavy home defeats which includes 1-5 and 2-5 reverses to the ‘scallies’ of Liverpool in both 1965 and 1968; had there been Twitter in 1965 it would have been awash with abuse, as less than a week after the 1965 Liverpool game, came a further 2-5 defeat at home to Leicester. Not a great start to the season for a team that would provide 3 world cup winners the following summer.

There have been a fair share of big wins as well though including two which featured rare Bobby Moore goals; home to Wolves in 1964 (5-0) and away to Sunderland in 1967. Other big wins were 6-1 away at Manchester City (1962), a Dave Swindlehurst hat-trick in the 5-2 home hammering of Coventry (1983) and a Frankie Van Der Elst goal in a 5-0 mauling of Birmingham (1982).

Goals galore also in two 7 goal thrillers; one being Sam Allardyce’s first home win against Portsmouth in 2011; and the other the 1998 encounter with Wimbledon, which is this week’s featured match.

The fourth game of the season saw both teams undefeated going in to the midweek encounter at Upton Park. West Ham had beaten Wimbledon twice the previous season and a repeat performance was anticipated by the expectant home support.

The Hammers raced into a 3-0 lead midway through the first half, with goals from John Hartson (7 mins) and Ian Wright (14 and 27 mins) and all seemed to be going to plan despite Marcus Gayle pulling one back for Wimbledon in the 30th minute to make it 3-1 at half time.

The second period was a very different affair. After 64 minutes, a defensive miscue from home debutant Javier Margas (he of the claret and blue hair-do) allowed Jason Euell to reduce the arrears to 3-2 and then Gayle struck again in the 77th minute to bring the scores level. Rather than sit back and admire their handywork Wimbledon kept pushing forward for substitute Efan Ekoku to score the winner in one of the most remarkable come-backs seen in the Premier League.

Hislop, Pearce, Ruddock, Lampard, Margas, Moncur, Sinclair, Berkovic (Impey), Hartson, Wright, Lazaridis

Notable West Ham players born this week (a very defensive week) include:

5 September Malcolm Allison (d. 2010)
7 September John McDowell (65)
7 September Ray Stewart (57)
11 September Slaven Bilic (48)
11 September George Parris (52)

Minnows and Banana Skins

A look back as West Ham battle it out with non-league opposition.

FA CupNever mind the largely predictable World Cup qualifiers, today also sees the arrival of the First Qualification Round of The (Emirates) Football Association Challenge Cup. Still packed with romance for the clubs at the lower end of the football pyramid, dreams of Wembley, or at least a Third Round meeting with a Premier League team, will be at the back of many a non-league player’s mind as they rub in the pre-match White Horse Oil this afternoon. The big question up and down the country is can the ‘minnows’ from Ashby Ivanhoe, Brimscombe & Thrupp or Sporting Bengal United find their way into the bag along with the big boys next January?

Littered in West Ham’s FA Cup history have been numerous ‘potential banana skins’ with sadly far too many of them turning out to be real. The litany of tame surrender to lower league teams includes defeats by Tranmere, Torquay, Newport. Plymouth, Hereford, Wrexham, Grimsby and Mansfield (if you were to include League Cup defeats then you have a list longer than a James Collins clearance!).

To date, however, we have yet to suffer the embarrassment of defeat to a non-league side and here we look back at our unconvincing yet ultimately successful encounters with clubs from outside the top 4 divisions.

FA Cup 1971/ 72 4th Round (Southern League Premier Division v First Division)
9 February 1972 Hereford United 0 v 0 West Ham United
14 February 1972 West Ham United 3 v 1 Hereford United

Hereford were fresh from dispatching First Division Newcastle United in the Third Round. Following a creditable 2-2 draw at St. James Park they won the replay 2-1 in the Herefordshire mud with a spectacular Ronnie Radford goal that still gets shown on FA Cup specials now. I can’t tell you much about the first game at Hereford’s Edgar Street ground other than it ended goalless. Jeff Powell in the Daily Mail wrote: “‘Hereford blew a rich, ripe, agricultural raspberry at West Ham and all the football they represent. Colin Addison’s part-timers reduced West Ham to a rabble, scrambling to prevent Hereford’s historic FA Cup run escalating into the sensation of our time.”

Five days later the teams met again at Upton Park. Due to an industrial dispute involving power workers (or it may have miners) the game kicked off at 2:15 on a Monday afternoon – Hereford’s players having to take a day off work to play. I can remember bunking off school to watch and many others had a similar idea with over 42,000 crammed into the Boleyn Ground that day. The opening exchanges were evenly contested with both sides going close but a Geoff Hurst goal just before half time served to settle the nerves. After the break, Hurst notched two more before Hereford scored a late consolation goal through Billy Meadows. Hereford winger Dudley Tyler later joined West Ham for a then non-league transfer record of £25,000.

West Ham who had played the same eleven in both 1972 games against Hereford went on to lose 4-2 away to Huddersfield Town in the 5th round.

Ferguson, McDowell, Lampard, Bonds, Taylor, Moore, Redknapp, Best, Hurst, Brooking, Robson

Hereford exacted their revenge two seasons later beating us 2-1 at their ground after a 1-1 draw at Upton Park; but by then had been elected to the Football League.

FA Cup 1991/ 92 3rd Round (Football Conference v First Division)
4 January 1992 Farnborough Town 1 v 1 West Ham United
14 January 1992 West Ham United 1 v 0 Farnborough Town

Farnborough Town beat Torquay United in a 2nd Round replay to set up a home tie against West Ham. As Farnborough’s stadium had a capacity of less than 2,500 they agreed to switch the game to Upton Park. West Ham were struggling at the bottom of the First Division (and would ultimately be relegated in last place) and so this was as slippery as banana skin’s came. Farnborough were able to match West Ham in an evenly contested affair with few chances at either end. Just after the hour though Mike Small laid the ball back to Julian Dicks who rifled home right footed from just inside the area. Cue the customary defensive panic as Farnborough strived for an equaliser which eventually came when a goal bound shot was handled on the line by Dicks. Miklosko almost saved the resultant penalty from Dean Coney but the ball squirmed across the line to force a replay.

Miklosko, Breacker, Dicks, Gale, Potts (Morley), Thomas, Bishop, McAvennie, Small, Keen, Slater

With home advantage (!) for the replay and Kenny Brown drafted into the midfield West Ham were far more dominant in the second game. Apart from some early Farnborough chances it was mainly West Ham pressure with corner after corner but with few clear cut goalscoring opportunities. With the game looking to drift into extra time the Farnborough keeper flapped at yet another cross only for the ball to cannon of a defender and set up a simple chance for Trevor Morley to net the winner; to the palpable relief of the Upton Park crowd.

Miklosko, Breacker, Dicks, Gale, Foster, Thomas, Bishop, McAvennie, Brown, Morley, Slater

After seeing off 4th Division Wrexham, following a replay in the next round, the Hammers went out as 5th round losers to 2nd Division Sunderland – the eventual losing finalists.

Report: Manchester City 3 V 1 West Ham

Disappointment in the Taxpayer Funded Stadium Derby

mcfc v whufcWe all think we are experts at selecting the West Ham team that should play in any particular match. A quick look at social media would tell you why selection by committee doesn’t work. It has been tried for various sports teams and has rarely been successful. We have to trust the appointed person, in our case Slaven Bilic, to make his selections based upon a much more intimate knowledge of the personnel under consideration than we will ever have. We also have to trust that he and his staff have worked upon formations and systems and styles of play appropriate to the game about to be played. I would always trust Super Slav ahead of the current England manager, for example.

However, prior to today’s game, upon seeing our team and formation, and in anticipation of writing this article, I made the following notes.

  1. Disappointed to see us trying a 3-5-2 formation today with three centre backs. I think Slav has got this horribly wrong – I just hope he proves it to be a tactical masterstroke, but I fear not.
  2. The formation and selection mean that Antonio will once again be wasted at right wing back, which against a team of the attacking calibre of City will effectively mean he is playing at right back again!
  3. If Lanzini is fit enough to be on the bench then why not start him? We desperately need his creative flair, and even if he doesn’t last a full game, better to have a go from the start rather than waiting until we have potentially fallen behind.
  4. Disappointed to see Byram only on the bench. This lad could be our right back for years to come. OK, he made a mistake in the Astra game. He looks the type to learn from it. I would have liked to have seen a back four of Byram, Masuaku (who looks to have fitted in well), and two of our centre backs, either Collins and Reid or Collins and Ogbonna. I am always concerned by the Reid / Ogbonna partnership. I don’t think it works.
  5. With Nordveidt out, I would have loved to see Obiang in the side (who I prefer anyway) or Oxford as a defensive midfielder. Has Slav ever played Oxford again as a defensive midfielder since the opening game of last season when he kept the Arsenal midfield in his pocket?
  6. Valencia = blind alleys = total waste of time. Has he scored since we drew with City at Upton Park in January?
  7. Tore = I’m not convinced yet.
  8. My back four has been selected in number 4 above. In front of them I would have Obiang or Oxford as defensive midfield, Noble and Kouyate, Lanzini and Antonio, with Fletcher leading the line.

Matchday: Man City v West Ham

Pre-match tension as West Ham look to pull off another shock at the Etihad Stadium.

Man City AwayThey used to say that lightning never strikes the same place twice.  Although our friends from Giurgiu have already dispelled that particular myth there is little confidence that the same repeat performance will apply to our game against Manchester City this afternoon.

When we visited the Etihad last September, City had won all 5 league games that season without conceding a single goal.  Against all odds and expectations goals from Moses and Sakho saw the Hammers take a splendid 2 goal lead and despite City pulling one back in first half added time, through debutant Kevin De Bruyne, we were able to hang on doggedly adding one more away-day scalp to those already collected at Arsenal and Liverpool.  I didn’t expect victory then and I don’t expect it again today.  Hope, on the other hand, is always a constant companion.

Head to Head

We have won 11 times in 50 away fixtures to Manchester City and just once since their move to the Etihad.  The overall record between the two clubs was fairly equal until the injection of Abu Dhabi money tilted the balance firmly in City’s favour.  We have won just 2 of the last 12 encounters as the one time working man’s club from Manchester became a Middle Eastern money pit.  Having invested a further £100 million + during the current transfer window to mould the team in Pep’s image, the total spending since the  takeover is now nudging towards £1 billion.  City could most likely field a complete team who individually cost more than our new record signing.

The full head to head record is as follows:

P W D L F A Sequence
Home 48 24 12 12 81 52 LDLLWD
Away 50 11 7 32 64 102 LLLLLW
98 35 19 44 145 154

Team News

Definitely sitting this one out are Sakho, Cresswell, Carroll, Ayew, Feghouli and Nordtvelt who are all injured.  Mark Noble is expected to return while it is reported that the fitness of Payet and Lanzini are yet to be assessed.  With an extra week for an international break on the horizon I doubt either will start with only one on the bench.  There are unconfirmed rumours that Payet has not travelled which is likely to raise speculation once more about his future.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t do it this season. We know it’s a big challenge, not only regarding our injury situation, but we are hoping and our whole plan is to have a good game and to get something out of it.”

– Super Slav

The signing of Simone Zaza was too late for today’s match but it will be interesting to see whether Edimilson Fernandes features or is regarded merely as one for the future.  Fortunately Zaza has been omitted from the Italy squad and so will not be able to pick up an injury while on international duty.

With no proven striker available and the creative players still missing it is difficult to see how we could possibly surprise City again today.  My own suggested would include starts for both Oxford and Fletcher:

Team Man City

The Man in the Middle

Today’s referee is Andre Mariner from Birmingham.  Mariner officiated in two of our home games last season; the goalless draw with Stoke in December and the derailing of Spurs title aspirations in March.  We should hope that he has a quiet game and does not feel he has to get in on the dubious penalty award at a corner bandwagon.

Preview: West Ham v Manchester City

I Have a Dream! West Ham make the trip north to face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

West Ham at Man CityI had a strange dream last night. No, not that kind of dream! I was appearing on a quiz show and was just being asked the £1 million question. The quiz show itself was a mixture of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, A Question of Sport, Mastermind and Deal or No Deal. One minute I was facing Chris Tarrant, then Sue Barker, then Magnus Magnusson and then Noel Edmonds. I was sitting on a chair in front of an audience, then I was part of a team with Phil Tufnell, then I was on a black chair in darkness, and finally Noel Edmonds was asking me the question, Deal or No Deal, only to be interrupted by a telephone call from the banker, who then wanted to make me another offer.

The question I was being asked was “What Happened Next?” Four football matches were being described to me and I had to select the correct answer to win the money. In the first game West Ham were playing Manchester City and were winning the game 4-1, then in the second game West Ham were again playing City and once again were leading 4-1. In the third game I had the same situation, West Ham were beating Manchester City 4-1 close to the end of the game. And yes you’ve guessed it, the fourth game was exactly the same, we were beating them 4-1.

I was confused. I kept telling them there were four different answers. Chris Tarrant wanted to know if I wanted to phone a friend, Magnus said he’d started so he’d finish, Matt Dawson was in fits of laughter, Jeremy Paxman was telling me I’d have to hurry (how did University Challenge get in?), Noel Edmonds wanted to know if I wanted to swap my box, and the phone was ringing. I told them there were different occasions when we were beating City 4-1, how could I know what one they were referring to? Thankfully, at that point I woke up in a sweat. Yes, it has been very warm at night lately.

I can only blame myself. I was thinking about this week’s game at the Etihad and before going to bed I was looking back on previous memorable encounters with City that I remember well. There was the game at Maine Road in 1970 at Maine Road when Jimmy Greaves made his debut for us and scored twice, Ronnie Boyce scored from the half way line and we won the game 5-1, to gain our revenge on a 4-0 home defeat to them just three months earlier.

Then there was a game at Upton Park about twelve years later when Sandy Clark scored a brace (don’t you just love that phrase) in a 4-1 win. Then in 1996 Iain Dowie scored a couple of goals as we thrashed them 4-2, again at Upton Park, with Niall Quinn scoring City’s second as the referee blew the final whistle. Lastly in November 2000, we recovered from a half-time 1-0 deficit, with goals from Steve Lomas, Stuart Pearce, Trevor Sinclair (all three of whom ironically have a City connection) and finally a penalty from Paolo in the last minute to record another 4-1 victory.

So what will happen on Sunday? We have a mounting injury crisis which shows little sign of ending. Last September when we surprisingly won the away game 2-1 we had the following starting line-up: Adrian, Jenkinson, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell, Noble, Obiang, Lanzini, Payet, Moses and Sakho. The goals were scored by Moses and Sakho. Antonio, Jelavic and Collins were second half substitutes. It was one of our famous away victories in the last campaign. How times change. How many of that starting line-up will begin Sunday’s game?

When the return fixture was played at Upton Park in January, Valencia scored twice in a 2-2 draw, making it four goals that he scored in under a fortnight. How many goals has he scored since that game?

In my lifetime I can only ever recall one goalless draw in an away league game at City (in 1994) and I don’t expect another this weekend. I have a feeling that the score may be 4-1, and that we will be on the losing end. I hope not, but our performances to date have not been encouraging. But even if we do lose the game we will still be on three points, exactly the same tally as we had after three games last season. And this time, two of the season’s toughest away games will have been played, whereas last season two of our first three games were at home.

Despite Thursday’s poor show, it’s not all doom and gloom. We can dream that it will get better. And congratulations to Adrian on his first call up to the Spanish squad. Perhaps he can keep a clean sheet to celebrate?

West Ham 0 v 1 Astra Giurgiu

Just Not Good Enough! When you set out for a walk in the park and end up flat on your face.

Angry Slaven BilicAs Super Slav sat down to select his team and squad to face Romanian champions Astra Giurgiu, he was fully aware of the delicate balancing act needed to win the game and hence qualify for the Europa League group stage, whilst at the same time not compromising his team selection for the difficult away Premier League game at Manchester City on Sunday. He was unable to do this last season but now had a much stronger squad to pick from despite the injuries and unavailable players. Or so we thought. He stated this was his strongest possible team. Captain Mark Noble had a slight knock and was not risked. It was disappointing to see Randolf displayed on the scoreboard instead of Randolph. It was even more disappointing to see Bilic start with just one forward in a home game against a team as poor as this.

On eight minutes Calleri, following a superb through ball from Burke, found himself one on one with the keeper and should have scored, but just like the last minute of the Bournemouth game, failed to do so. Full backs Byram and Burke caught the eye early on, and a superb strike from Obiang on 14 minutes came close to breaking the deadlock. But we weren’t showing enough urgency. We were moving the ball too slowly. Surely we weren’t playing for a 0-0 draw?

The German referee tried to keep the game flowing when Romanians were committing fouls, but seemed to be pulling us up regularly. Half time had almost arrived when the 35 year old ex-West Brom player Teixeira finished off a slick move reminiscent of one of the Juventus goals a couple of weeks back. Unfortunately the Astra counter attack was created by Byram and Burke perhaps revealing their inexperience. Oh how we longed for the creativity of a Payet, Lanzini, or Feghouli to come off the bench in the second half, but of course none of them were available.

Astra had only kept one clean sheet in twelve previous away games in Europe and that was in Scotland at Inverness. Surely it was only a matter of time before we equalised? We raised the tempo early in the second half and Calleri missed a header that Sandra Redknapp would have scored. Fletcher, who was one of the only players who could be happy with his performance, could have had a penalty, and should have scored from six yards but aimed straight at the keeper. But he was only the second choice attacking substitute and had barely half an hour to make his mark.

Valencia had come on at half time, but apart from one half decent free kick, just did his usual running down blind alleys. Antonio missed a header, albeit not as easy as you might think, from about four yards out. We continued to press forward, but a long time before the end of the game you just knew we weren’t going to score. And we didn’t. In some ways it was reminiscent of watching England play Poland in 1973. Just as then we thought we only had to turn up to win.

The German referee fell for all the Astra spoiling tactics and had a shocking game. But so did so many of our team who just weren’t good enough. If you could have seen that coming you could have made a lot of money. Astra were 8/1 with the bookies at the start. Some West Ham fans were fighting each other. The stewards let them get on with it. The crowd were getting very hostile. If only we’d seen more fight from the players, especially in the first half. According to reports Simone Zaza is expected to sign for us on Friday. I wonder if he was watching tonight?

Match Scene: West Ham v Astra Giurgiu

Surely a walk in the Olympic Park tonight and guaranteed Europa League group stage qualification.

Home to AstraTonight the nomads of FC Astra Giurgiu are the visitors to the London Stadium for the Europa League Play Off Round second leg match. With the tie finally balanced at a goal apiece from the away leg in Romania it will be an evening high on expectation but no doubt with a drop of typical West Ham nerve-wracking tension thrown in.

Many an old timer will be more than pleased to tell you for the price of half a pint of stout and an arrowroot biscuit that their favourite Upton Park night was the European Cup Winners Cup (ECWC) semi final second leg against Eintract Frankfurt in 1976. (I always maintain that the ECWC was a superior and far more difficult competition to succeed in than the old European Cup; contested as it was by teams proven to be good at winning cups.)

Going in to the game 2-1 down from the first leg it was a night where Sir Trev imperiously glided over the sodden pitch surface; scoring twice as the Hammers raced into a 3-0 lead. Fearing that this lacked the requisite drama, the Germans were gifted a late goal meaning that if they scored again it would be they to go through on the away goals rule. Cue a whistle blowing, nail biting, nervous hopping finale.

“They beat us last year and it is not job done. We have had enough time to recover from Sunday and I am optimistic.”

– Super Slav

I fully expect something similar to happen tonight. Cruise into a two goal lead, take the foot off the pedal, concede a sloppy goal, followed by an exhibition of sloppy slapstick defending before scoring a breakaway third in added time.

Head to Head

This is our fourth encounter against the current Romanian champions and, to date, we have yet to beat them (2 draws and 1 defeat). I have seen many reports stating that we lost to Astra at the same stage last year but this is not the case – we have progressed a whole round further so far this time around. Romainian champions they may be but I fully expect us to get the win that secures group stage qualification – but then I have been disappointed (and wrong) before.

Team News

The usual suspects of Cresswell, Carroll, Ayew, Sakho and Feghouli remain absent injured. Masuaku and Lanzini are not registered to play tonight but Dimitri Payet may now be available. Slaven Bilic has suggested that it will be a strong side and it will be a balance between doing what is necessary and keeping fresh legs for Sunday’s trip to the Etihad.

In the unlikely event that I were asked to pick the team I would start with Payet, to give him some match time and look for an early advantage, but leave Noble and Kouyate on the bench until needed; as both could do with a breather. This is how I would line-up (subject to availability):

My team v Astra

The Man in the Middle

We have a German referee tonight in the shape of Manuel Grafe from Berlin. Grafe was the ref for the goalless Euro 2012 qualifier between England and Montenegro where he was ‘blasted’ by Wayne Rooney for giving England’s players “no protection whatsoever” – and for not awarding any penalties.