A reflective view on our trip to Manchester United last Sunday

A look back at West Ham’s defeat at Old Trafford now that the dust has settled.

Having let the dust settle for a few days I thought I would review what happened on Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford after a little reflection, rather than all the knee-jerk reactions that I read immediately after the game. It is always amusing (in a perverse way) to read the views of West Ham fans on social media at the end of a match, especially one where we have been heavily beaten.

The two widely diverse reactions mainly consisted on one hand of those who resorted to numerous expletives about the performance of the team and various individuals, and as an alternative view, those who suggested that such opinions are way over the top, and everyone should calm down. Of course we are all entitled to our views, but it does seem to me that many of our supporters only believe that their own view is valid, and anyone who disagrees with it is wrong, or even worse, they are just f****** c***s! But to some extent, that is the way social media operates.

Some are critical of the performance and various individual players, but try to be constructive, and suggest what we need to do to improve. But they are often lambasted with comments such as “the Bilic haters are out in force” (for Bilic you can read the names of some individual players), or “you should get behind the team”, or “West Ham till I die”, or other such comments.

I was on holiday last week in one of my favourite resorts, Camp de Mar on the island of Majorca, and a couple of days before the game I watched a comedian from Liverpool. He began his act by trying to ascertain where most of the audience came from. He asked if there were any Manchester United supporters and there was quite a cheer from parts of the crowd. His next question was to ask what part of London they came from! As I sat down to watch the game in the hotel bar I picked up on quite a few London accents around me, as well as a number of individuals from other parts of the country. When the first goal went in what we already knew was confirmed, and the comedian was proved right. Manchester United do have many fans in the south.

My opinion of the game as a whole is that we were completely over-run by a team that will undoubtedly be challenging for the title this season. They are full of skilful players with power and pace, and many teams are likely to be well beaten by them this season, especially at Old Trafford. The gulf in class between the top six teams in the country (perhaps Everton hope to make it seven) and the rest is vast. Some will point to the Chelsea game and the way they were beaten by Burnley, but Chelsea were in self-destruct mode (a bit like they were the season after Mourinho last won the title), so perhaps they will not be the same force as last season. Nevertheless they still fought back against Burnley despite being outnumbered.

The chances were we were always likely to lose the game, but to stand a chance, we had to be at our best, and preferably have our best team fit and raring to go. Our opponents were able to select their team from a fully fit squad, but we went into the game (as is so often the case) with injuries to key players. Lanzini, Antonio and Kouyate (and perhaps Carroll) are all first choice players, but were all unavailable. I despair at the number of key players that always seem to be missing through injury. Perhaps if they had been without Lukaku, Pogba, Rashford and Matic the result would have been different? But with the depth of their squad perhaps not?

But from my viewpoint the sad fact is that we appeared to go into the game lacking belief that we could win, and were just there to try to hold on for a draw. But I would have hoped for more resistance. Once again though, I’m not sure I understood what our game plan was, and I’m not sure that the players were aware of it either.

When you watch sport on TV these days you are bombarded with a plethora of statistics. This has always been a feature of American sport but it has now translated to these isles. If you watch tennis they show the number of unforced errors made by each player. This statistic is not yet a feature in football, but if it was then our figures would have been alarmingly high in this game. Time and again we gave the ball away to our opponents when not really under pressure.

According to our manager the players spent three days in training in how to deal with our opponent’s set pieces. Whose idea then was it that Masuaku should be the one to mark Lukaku? And talking of free kicks, how do we manage so often to waste them in the opposition half by taking them quickly and backwards, with the ball ending up back with our keeper? And why did it take so long to realise that Hernandez is not effective a lone striker? That’s just not his game, is it? We have four experienced international central defenders at the club. Am I alone in thinking that we need more pace in this area? And do Reid and Ogbonna make an ideal combination?

The Hart knockers (Adrian fan club?) were out in force on social media after the game. I thought Hart did OK. Yes, perhaps he might have saved one of the goals, but not at least three of them as some Adrian fans were suggesting. I like Adrian; he is a decent keeper; but I cannot go overboard about his passion purely in the light of throwing his gloves on the ground to take a penalty against Everton. I thought Zabaleta did OK too. I read some criticism of his pace, but most Premier League defenders would have struggled against Rashford and (later) Martial on the day.

Both of our left backs are perhaps better going forward than defending, as is the case with many full backs these days. I do have a slight preference for Cresswell defensively though, but it’s all a matter of opinion. I am a big fan of Obiang, and the potential of Fernandes, but both seemed well off the pace on Sunday. But the cameo from Rice was excellent with statistics to back it up. The pleasing thing from my point of view was his desire for the ball, and how he looked confident and assured when he had it. I believe a run in the team would be well deserved.

Our attacking play was slow and predictable, as it was for much of last season, and many believe that part of the reason for this is our captain. He has been a great servant for the club, and hopefully will continue to be. He has never been blessed with great pace, but increasingly these days he seems to be running on sand (or in treacle!).

But as many have said; let’s not be too hasty. It was one game against a top class side. Hopefully our injury list will disappear soon and we will have a full squad to pick from. Perhaps there is more to come from this transfer window? The Carvalho saga drags on, and some reports suggest we are after other Sporting Lisbon and Benfica players. I don’t know how effective they would be in the Premier League if any of them arrive? Personally I’d love to see us spend the kind of money that is being talked about (for Carvalho) on Oxlade-Chamberlain, but doubt if it will happen (or that he would necessarily want to come!). I’d take a chance on Wilshere too if he was available at a decent price, despite his injury record. We need more creativity than relying on Lanzini.

It will be important to put in better performances against the other 12 teams who are fighting for an eighth place finish in the Premier League. The gulf between the top seven and the rest is unfortunately too wide (I believe) for us to believe we can finish any higher. I’d love to be proved wrong though.

Five Takeaways from West Ham’s thrashing by Manchester United

After all the build up a depressingly disappointing start to the new league season. What went wrong?

Overawed by Potential Champions

There is no doubt that Manchester United are one of the favourites for this season’s Premier League title.  Mourinho has assembled a side that has a pragmatism alongside power and pace that will enable them to grind out results whenever opponents go to Old Trafford to frustrate.  They won’t have many easier days than yesterday’s canter against a feeble and unadventurous West Ham side.  The gulf in class was so great it could have been Premier League versus League 1 in an early round FA Cup tie, although in those circumstances you would have expected the opposition to put up more resistance.  Slaven Bilic may well have selected the best eleven players available to him, as a result of injuries to key players, but it felt that he sent them out with no discernible game plan or belief that they could get anything out of the game.  As has so often been the case in recent seasons it is not the fact that we have lost to a much better side that exasperates and causes concern but the manner in which we have apparently accepted defeat as inevitable .

Repeating Last Season’s Mistakes

It is only one game into the season and so rash judgements should be avoided at least until the transfer window has closed and we have welcomed the respective returns of Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio.  However, the underlying worry is that we have simply picked up where we left off last season.  Persistent concerns from last term surrounding levels of fitness, tactics, selection, organisation and motivation continued to surface in pre-season and were apparent once again yesterday.  Better players may have been signed but that is only one part of the equation in creating a team that will perform week in, week out.  The impression given is of a disjointed side with players who are strangers to each other and any sign of cohesion and collective desire is difficult to spot.  Bilic claimed after the match that they had spent three days on the training ground working on defending set pieces and yet the best that they came up with was to have Arthur Masuaku marking Lukaku at a free kick.  Repeating last season’s mistakes gives no cause for optimism that it will be anything other than another disappointing campaign.  The only way to turn things around is by doing things differently; not doing the same things over and over again.

The Problem of Ball Retention and Unforced Errors

A recurring theme in West Ham’s play for some time is how cheaply the ball is given away.  If you game plan is to sit and back and soak up pressure then one assumes there should be some ambition once you get the ball.  If the only tactic is give it back to the opposition straight away and invite them to try again, then sooner or later something will give.  Accepting that Manchester United have better players does not mean that our players should be unable to execute the most basic of football skills; control, pass, move.  In the opening exchanges yesterday the ball was given away repeatedly even when under little pressure and it was one such unforced error by Pedro Obiang that led directly to the first of Lukaku’s goals.  Equally there is not enough movement off the ball to create space or provide options for the player in possession.  Do West Ham have a patent on the 180 degree turn?  It used to be said that West Ham played ‘on their toes’ in anticipation of pass and to occupy opposition defenders; now it is mostly a case of players remaining flat footed until the ball arrives at their feet losing momentum and allowing opponents to re-group.  Our players seem to want to play in little triangles as if it is a training ground practice drill with the result that the opposition is not stretched and attacks are slow and predictable.

Selections and Substitutions

I had expected West Ham to go into the game with three at the back and so was somewhat surprised when the team was announced.  Our full backs are generally better at going forward (and relatively suspect defensively) while the wide midfield players are not known for paying attention to defensive duties.  Having said that, I am not sure that a back three would have led to a different outcome as we are equally vulnerable to attacks at pace through the middle as we are down the flanks. I would not be too critical of Bilic about the substitutions although arguably it resulted in a heavier defeat than might have been the case.  At 2-0 down it was a gamble to bring on an additional forward but at least Diafra Sakho looked lively and the change was an attempt to give some support to Javier Hernandez, who toiled manfully but was largely isolated.

Declan Rice The Only Positive

The only real positive from the game was the thirty minute contribution by Declan Rice.  I had questioned using him in midfield previously but was very impressed with both his maturity and how comfortable he looked on the ball and in the Premier League.  If you are good enough you are old enough.  Of the new signings, Pablo Zabaleta did OK and at least showed commitment, Hernandez ran willingly and demonstrated good touch, Marko Arnautovic blew hot and cold and Joe Hart should maybe have done better for the last goal.  I wonder if they are starting to wonder what they have let themselves in for at West Ham.  Of the others Edmilson Fernandes and Masuaku were particularly disappointing, Obiang had a bad day, Mark Noble tried hard but is well off the pace and I am still left scratching me head at what Andre Ayew is meant to contribute.  I will leave the summing up of our performance to whoscored.com:

Strengths                  Team has no significant strengths

Styles                         Team showed no specific style of play

West Ham: Friendly Mis-Fire and the Debt Smokescreen

West Ham fail to impress in what turns out to be an attack versus defence friendly in Iceland.

Is the gulf in class between West Ham and Manchester City greater or less than that between ourselves and FC Altona 93?  This thought occurred to me while watching the Hammer’s struggle in their final pre-season friendly yesterday.  Whereas the German fourth division side had been able to produce a spirited display to make a game of it in Hamburg our attempts to compete against City in Reykjavik were disturbingly feeble in comparison.

While I can understand the argument that results do not matter in these friendly matches surely there is some expectation or benefit required from them; or else what is the point?  In what turned out to be an exhibition of attack versus defence what did we learn other than confirmation that there is a tower block of next levels between West Ham and the Premier League elite clubs?   Was the game an essential step in building fitness?  Did we witness tactical experimentation or fine tuning in readiness for next week’s main event?  From what I saw I don’t believe so!

To me our performance had all the hallmarks of so many of last season’s disappointments.  An inability to keep possession for more than two or three passes, minimal movement off the ball, a first instinct to go sideways or backwards, a side that neither attacks nor defends as a unit and players prone to individual errors.

I may be paraphrasing manager Slaven Bilic but I got the impression from his comments that were it not for individual errors then everything would have been alright.  If nothing else changes I think we are in for a mostly unremarkable season, not necessarily a struggle, but where scraping into the top ten would be a reasonable achievement.  There may be an upgrade on personnel in the squad but in terms of the basics of formation, fitness and tactics there continues to be cause for concern.

In mitigation the team was without such influential players as Manuel Lanzini, Michail Antonio and Winston Reid and we were up against a side that traditionally has a storming start to the season.  There was even a harshly disallowed goal from Andre Ayew and, at the final whistle, we had fared no worse than Real Madrid or Tottenham against the same opposition.

If there were positives to be taken it was in the second half performances of Javier Hernandez and Declan Rice.  Hernandez gave an enthusiastic display and looks to have energy, pace and mobility.  We can only hope that Little Pea doesn’t eventually get a little pee’d off by a lack of service and support from his team-mates.  Rice looks a very assured player for one so young but I’m not convinced of the wisdom of using him in midfield; better to see how he would have acquitted himself in his preferred central defensive position.  It could be construed as typical Bilic thinking that centre back and defensive midfield are inter-changeable activities.

An honourable mention also to Joe Hart, not only for some smart saves but also for not shutting up during the whole game in an attempt to organise the wayward defenders in front of him.

It was strange to see two players brought on as 85th minute substitutes in a friendly game but at least wasting a little time may have contributed to keeping the score almost respectable.


There was a spirited defence of the Board and the debt position in some quarters during the last week.  I do not doubt that the debt exists but the club’s position on it seems to be rather selective depending on what point they are trying make at the time.  It reminds me of  those unfathomable logic problems with two doors (one leading to certain death and one to freedom) that are protected by two guards; one who can only tell the truth and one who always lies.  You are only allowed to ask one question.

So, David is it true that you have done a magnificent job in eliminating external debt by replacing it with loans from yourselves while the underlying value of the club appreciates spectacularly?  Or is the fact that you have been unable to reduce the debt (which there is no incentive to do in any case) a reason why the club cannot invest more into new players?

I’m not particularly a Board basher but there has tended to be a disconnect between words and actions from the Chairmen that has led to a sense of mistrust or disbelief on their ambitions for the club.  In a period of extreme revenue growth there is an understandable sense of frustration that our transfer activity, although widely acclaimed (over hyped even), has been relatively modest.  Clearly there is more to football club finances than headline grabbing transfer fees but supporters have yet to see a level of  investment action that matches the fine words of next level ambitions.

10 Man West Ham und die Bananen-skinnen friendly

If goals equal entertainment then an entertaining yet pointless run out against fourth tier German minnows.

A mandatory clause in the Headline Writer’s Code states that whenever a team has a player sent-off then a reference has to be made ’10 Man’ in the article’s heading; even if that dismissal occurs in the third minute of added time or in a meaningless friendly.

It is, of course, highly unusual for anyone to receive a red card in a friendly game where standard practice is to ask the respective manager to replace the offending player.   It requires a particularly officious and over-sensitive referee mit einem sehr kleinen bratwurst to disrupt a friendly game simply for a spot of perceived dissent.  Mind you, it did seem rather out of character for Winston and hopefully it was not a symptom of any deeper attitude problem as a result of recent transfer speculation.

It would be interesting to know the background to how and why this game was arranged as it all seemed somewhat unnecessary with the attitude and effort of the West Ham players suggesting that they weren’t really very bothered.  It offered no contribution to building fitness and there was no cunning tactical experimentation from what I could tell.

The game saw a typically slow start by the Hammers and all three of the conceded goals were sloppy and would have been easily preventable with better organisation.  There were good strikes by Toni Martinez and Andre Ayew even though both were the result of long balls played hopefully forward.  There was, however, a little late encouragement with a lively cameo from Javier Hernandez who really should have scored at least once.

That Altona 93 are twinned with Dulwich Hamlet FC says a lot about their pedigree and aspirations.  They are a regional fourth tier club in the German league system which presents a much tougher road to the top flight than for an equivalent League 2 side in England.  A friendly game or not, a Premier League side should easily have enough of the basic skills and nous to ease past such opposition.  If there was no intention to try why play the game in the first place?  The club have even erased all evidence of the game from the first team fixtures list on the official website.

It was disappointing to learn that two of the young players who had featured prominently in pre-season had been packed off on loan to Bolton Wanderers.  Reece Burke and Josh Cullen will now embark on their third season of loan spells away from the club.  Both have performed well in previous loans as regular starters which is not a common an occurrence for many of the youngsters that West Ham loan out, most of whom end up with bench warming duties and putting the cones out in training.  At least these are not season long loans which means, I believe, that they can be recalled at any time; or in the extreme would be available to return in the January window.    The pattern of using young players in pre-season games and then farming them out is a repeat from previous seasons and a strategy that I really don’t understand.

The pre-season jamboree now moves on to Iceland and will be interesting to look out for Björgólfur Guðmundsson and Eggy Magnússon in the crowd at the Laugardalsvöllur stadium on Friday; that is if they aren’t in prison and can afford a ticket.  My hope is that Manchester City take it easy on us and that we can avoid a confidence sapping drubbing before the real business gets underway the following weekend.

Burnley 1 West Ham 2

A win in the North-West to finish the season.

So we have ended a so-so season with a victory. And for a change, instead of relinquishing a lead and giving up the points we did it the other way round. When we fell behind midway through the first half I feared the worst, but a spirited comeback against a side with an enviable home record, and other results going our way, meant that we finished the season in eleventh place, just one point behind eighth, albeit with an inferior goal difference. Many have commented that with just one more victory we would have been clear in eighth, and it is easy to look back and see where that additional win might have come from, as we lost 22 points from a winning position.

The difficulties in settling in to a new home have been written about extensively, and whilst there is perhaps some merit in the change of stadium being the reason for our indifferent home form, I do not subscribe to it being such a key factor. Quite frankly we played poorly in so many home games, and we cannot blame the stadium for that. We just didn’t turn up at times, and failed to put in the level of commitment that we showed in our better performances. If the stadium was such a key factor, then where did we play the home game against Chelsea in the EFL Cup? And where did we play against Tottenham in the penultimate home game of the season?

The inability to score goals at the London Stadium is something that we will need to rectify next season, as in this one we only managed to score two goals or more on four occasions. On the other hand we scored at least two goals in nine of our away games. Compare this to the previous (successful) season when we scored at least twice in 23 of our games (12 at home, and 11 away).

The season was a balanced one in that we picked up 22 points in the first 19 games, and 23 in the last 19. Some of our 1-0 wins were fortunate, but all sides have those. The aforementioned 22 dropped points would, had we won the games where we were in front, have seen us finish in sixth place in the table. But it was not to be.

Injuries to key players was perhaps another factor in some of our poor results, but again many sides have those. Quite what is the reason for so many injuries is a debatable point, but we either have to improve our training facilities (the reason given by some), or consider our training methods and performance of the people behind the scenes who are responsible for ensuring the fitness of players. Or is it just bad luck? I’m not so sure.

Transfer target speculation is already well under way, and I hope we can secure some quality signings this time. But most of all I’d like to see us adopt a method of playing where we have a definite plan (and back up plans) where we find a successful formula and stick to it. To me, we appear to pick what the manager considers are his best eleven players available for each game, and because of injuries we bring in alternatives who don’t necessarily fit the same style of play. It is no coincidence that the two best teams in the country, Chelsea and Tottenham, have a style of playing where, in the event of injuries, they bring in players who fit into their pattern. They don’t just pick their best eleven players available and change the style to fit them.

We also need to consider what is one of the most important facets of the game at the top level, and that is pace. Teams can afford to have the odd player here or there who may be lacking in this if they bring other additional qualities to the team. But to me we seem to be lacking in this aspect in too many areas of the pitch. Some of our build up play is predictable and laborious with not enough movement off the ball. Sometimes when I watch our pre-match routine where the players play five against five retaining possession of the ball in a confined area I marvel at their ability to find space with quick movement, but we often cannot seem to replicate this in the game itself.

And one other thing I’d like to see. How many times have we had a free kick (or even a throw in) in the opponents half of the pitch, and several (mainly sideways and backwards) passes later it ends up with our goalkeeper, who then kicks the ball long and possession is lost? So many times we take a quick free kick (and there is nothing wrong with that in itself), but we don’t appear to give it much thought. Sometimes we need to consider what we are going to do. A quickly taken free kick can be a good attacking option, but only when the players are ready for it. It has the most effect when played in a forward direction.

Having said all that, despite some indifferent displays we finished eleventh, and could have even been higher. But I think that our mid table position was just about right. Some people writing on social media suggest that it was the worst season ever. No it wasn’t. Remember Glenn Roeder and Avram Grant? Our average finishing position in the Premier League era is around 12th / 13th. So it was just about right. Typical West Ham you might say.

Looking ahead I cannot foresee any changes to the top seven places in the table, and reckon that at our best we would be challenging with so many others in the mid-table cluster for eighth place. I hope I am wrong. I hope that we see some quality recruits, a definite style of play, and better luck with injuries. Only time will tell, but the new season is less than three months away, and a lot of work needs to be done behind the scenes to give us a chance of improvement. I hope it happens.

West Ham 0 Liverpool 4

“It’s the same old story, it’s as old as the stars above”

After the Tottenham game just over a week before, I was really looking forward to my final visit to the London Stadium for our last game of our inaugural season there. I was full of trepidation when I knew just how many of our first choice players were not available for the match, but nonetheless we had many missing against our old enemy, and everyone stepped up to put in our best performance of the year. And for the first quarter of an hour or so, it looked like we might put in a similar performance again. Byram might have scored, or should at least have hit the target, to finish off an excellent swift passing move early on, and Fernandes hit a shot that had Mignolet scrambling to turn it away.

But then Liverpool scored an excellent goal, so well taken by Sturridge who just about managed to stay onside. The way he took the goal was reminiscent of Jimmy Greaves at his best. I am old enough to remember watching Greaves live, but you can look back on old footage of the way, when faced with a one on one with the keeper, he almost always dribbled around him to put the ball into an empty net. So many strikers in modern times when in this position, shoot as the keeper advances. Sometimes it goes in but frequently it hits the legs or body and a goalscoring chance is wasted. Of course players have to have the necessary skill to go around the keeper, and Sturridge demonstrated the confidence and ability to do it with ease.

At that point the heads appeared to go down, and we surrendered the ball tamely on frequent occasions, and never really looked convincing or up for the fight. When the second went in, after another bout of giving the ball away, the game was really all over. A brief resurgence of effort should have resulted in a penalty when Reid was assaulted in the area, and for good measure they really tried to give us a penalty by handling the ball as well, but the referee (and his assistant who was also well placed to see the incident) was oblivious to what everyone else in the stadium could see, and incredibly allowed the play to continue. Liverpool did not put the ball out of play as we had sportingly done on two occasions before in the game, and the incompetent referee also appeared to forget that head injuries can be a serious matter, and failed to stop the play. In a matter of seconds a third goal had gone in, and it was well and truly over at that point.

I am not trying to suggest that we lost the game because of this one incident, but had the penalty been justly awarded, we might have seen an improvement in effort if we were just one goal down. We have really seen some scandalous decisions go against us in the past couple of seasons, and this was another to add to the list. I find it hard to remember the last time we benefitted from a poor decision given against our opponents.

So many of our players gave up at this point, and where I had seen so many of them fighting to demonstrate that they were worthy of a place in the squad for next season in the Tottenham game, they showed equally why they were not in this match. One player I would excuse was Feghouli, who was a free transfer signing in the summer, but who showed great skill and commitment to try to get us back into it in the half-hour or so available to him. Cynics will say he was putting in the effort for personal reasons, but I am one (and I accept there are not many who agree with me) who really believe he is a good footballer, who given a decent injury-free run in the side, will one day prove all the doubters wrong.

Of course another turning point in the game, when we were just one down, was when Ayew somehow contrived to miss an open goal twice! This was amazing for a Premier League striker (whether he cost £20 million or not), and perhaps he will get the publicity given to Rosenthal, and be forever shown when you see clips of incredible misses. I’m sure he was just a panic buy at the end of the summer transfer window to appease fans after the board had talked about a marquee striker. I’m not sure I understand how the term marquee came to be used in a football sense, but assume the derivation relates to tents? If so, then his performances are more closely related to a wigwam.

So we now sit in twelfth place in the table with just the trip to Burnley left. That won’t be an easy game, but even if we somehow do win, our poor goal difference means that we cannot get into the top half of the table whatever happens elsewhere. With the points we’ve dropped from winning positions we could have even emulated or surpassed last season’s seventh place. But have we really progressed from last season? To the contrary, I think we’ve gone backwards. And it’s nothing to do with an un-named Frenchman either.

And on a final note, I’m not sure when the end of season awards dinner was held at the club last season, but if my memory is correct it was in the week prior to the game against Swansea, when we were unexpectedly hammered 4-1. This time, in the game after that event, we once again conceded four goals in a tame performance. As a club we don’t learn from our mistakes easily, but I would suggest that next season it is held at the end of the season when all the games have been played. I know that the players want to get off to the beach quickly once the season is over. In the Liverpool game some looked as though they were already there! But remember last season we bounced back for a terrific finale against Manchester United. Perhaps we can do the same at Turf Moor? I won’t hold my breath.

West Ham 1 Tottenham 0

“The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning.” – Pele

Ecstatic, euphoric, thrilled, over the moon, elated, delighted, on cloud nine, walking on air, in seventh heaven jubilant, rapturous, as pleased as Punch, cock-a-hoop, as happy as a sandboy, as happy as Larry (who was Larry?), like a child with a new toy, overjoyed.

In my preview to the Tottenham game last Friday I included a quote from the legendary footballer, perhaps the best player of all time, Pele. The quote is repeated above. I also gave a range of emotions that we would have if we pulled off a most unlikely result, and these too are repeated above. As we walked away on from the stadium on a chilly May evening, all West Ham fans could relate to these. Any victory against our most disliked neighbours is always something to savour, but as we all didn’t realistically expect a victory in this particular game, then the result is even sweeter.

Considering the season we’ve had, and Tottenham’s form coming into the game, then logically there was no way that we should have been able to live with them. But every West Ham player on the pitch, and you have to take into account that we had a number of first choice players unavailable, as well as the management team who constructed a game plan and strategy that hasn’t been seen almost all season, must take huge credit for what we witnessed.

The fans were really up for it, Bubbles was sung with a vigour and volume that reached new heights in the London Stadium, and the atmosphere was electric from the start. And with the players responding to the support from the outset, the noise generated by the supporters never wavered throughout the match. To me it just goes to prove that all the rubbish talked about the pitch size, the stadium, and the plethora of other excuses put forward for our indifferent form this season is absolute garbage. If our players show that level of commitment, and follow the game plan set out for them, then the results will come.

Yes, we do need some additional quality recruits to improve the team and the squad as a whole, but performances like that would have seen us higher in the table, and closer to the top teams, even if we are not yet in a position to make a real impression on them. For me, this game was up there with the final fixture at Upton Park against Manchester United in terms of excitement and tension, and I walked back to Stratford station unable to match the noise of my fellow supporters as I had completely lost my voice, and when I tried to speak nothing came out.

For the third game in a row since his recall Adrian remained unbeaten, and showed a determination not to let the ball enter our goal, especially with some important early saves, and was in the form that forced his international manager bring him into the Spanish squad in the past. But the clean sheet wasn’t entirely down to him, as the whole team defended with a passion that has been missed. Fonte and Collins were magnificent alongside the imperious Reid, and all three had games to remember. Cresswell looked more like his old self and played his best game of the season, and Byram showed all the qualities of a right back in both defence and when overlapping.

Noble, with undoubtedly his best game all season, and Kouyate bossed the midfield against their illustrious opponents in this area of the pitch. Ayew began to live up to his price tag, and the (once again) superb Lanzini, showed why the forgotten Frenchman is consigned to the very depths of our memories. And I finally “got” Calleri, and can understand why the manager rates him so highly. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would see 55,000 fans rise to their feet and applaud so enthusiastically when he was brought off exhausted near to the end. He really deserved a goal with his performance, and almost did score, but for a fine save from Lloris, after he had done everything right to create the chance. Even the brief cameos from Snodgrass, Fletcher and Fernandes were important contributions to ensure that we kept the lead.

All fourteen players made a strong case for their retention in the squad next season, and if you add Ogbonna, Obiang, Antonio and the ever improving Masuaku to these, in addition to the alleged (but unseen) quality of some of our youngsters (such as Oxford, Burke, Rice, Quina, Browne, Cullen, Martinez, and others) then that would form the nucleus of a squad that can improve on this season. But, and it’s a big but, they all need to show the same level of commitment and performance that we saw on Friday night. Even the very top teams don’t perform at the highest level week in and week out, but they do show greater consistency than we have managed this season.

In many ways I like Carroll, but his injury record, and the improved way the team play without him in the side, leaves doubts in my mind. And whilst Sakho is a Premier League quality player, there just seem to be too many questions about him.

So what do we need? Randolph is a good shot stopper but cannot command his area, and a high quality goalkeeper to challenge Adrian wouldn’t come amiss. We are short in the right back department, and have been for a long time, and a quality playmaker such as Sigurdsson would be a great addition. But for me, I would love to see two high quality goalscorers added to the squad, although our recruitment in this area fell well short last summer. A lot of people feel that Defoe would be a retrograde step, but personally I feel he could fulfil the role for a couple of seasons as he is still very fit, knows where the goal is, and is a proven goalscorer. It seems churlish to look at any negatives from the Tottenham game, but I would just love it if we could shoot on target, and at least force the opposition keeper into making saves. All season, far too many shots have been wildly off target, and this game was the same.

I purposely waited for a couple of days before writing my review of the game as I was on such a high on Friday evening. But I must confess that the smile hasn’t left my face yet, and although my voice has returned I am still croaky. I want to come away from a game after more performances of this calibre next season.