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.

Counting Sheep – 2 – The Letter C

Difficulty Sleeping These Warm Nights?

Counting SheepPreviously I advised ditching counting sheep theories if you can’t get to sleep, and selecting a West Ham team of players that you have seen whose surnames all start with the same letter.

My first team was the “B”s. Today I’ll pick my “C” team. To fit in all of the players I wanted to select I ended up with a 3-3- 4 formation, hence an attacking team with lots of goalscoring options.

So here is my all-time West Ham “C” Team:

Carroll (R)
Cole (J)
Cole (C)
Carroll (A)

And what other players did I consider but leave out? I couldn’t think of any other keepers, but in defence I omitted three different “Charles”, John, Clive, and Gary, Cushley and Coleman. Midfielders I left out included Cohen, Cullen, Courtois and Collison, and strikers were Roger Cross, Chadwick, Chapman, Carew, Connolly and Coker.

Have I overlooked someone I should have obviously included? Can you pick a team of “C”s to rival mine? Do you like my team or would you change it?

And who would manage the “C”s? We’ve only had one that I can recall – Curbishley (and he made my team, too).

Clean Sheets and Favourite Keepers!

Recalling some of the men who have kept goal for the Hammers over the years.

West Ham KeepersWhen West Ham play Accrington Stanley in the next round of the League Cup (or whatever it’s called these days) it will be the first encounter between the two clubs. Someone who did once play against Stanley though was legendary goalkeeper Willie ‘Fatty’ Foulke; at the time plying his trade with Bradford City. When Accrington visited Bradford for an FA Cup tie in February 1907 it was discovered that Foulke, who stood 6ft 3in and weighed in at circa 22 stone, was wearing a jersey that clashed with the red shirts of the visitors. After a fruitless search for a suitably large replacement Foulke was wrapped in a sheet borrowed from a neighbouring house. The game ended in a Bradford victory by the only goal and with Foulke barely called into action his makeshift attire was as pristine as it had been at the outset.  Thus, the origin of “keeping a clean sheet”. [Incidentally, it is also claimed that the chant “Who ate all the pies?” was originally directed at Foulke.]

Our own erstwhile manager, and fellow ‘Fatty’, was a great proponent of the clean sheet as a tool in ‘respecting the point’.  Until recently it was unusual to hear people talking about number of clean sheets but with dawning of the age of soccer statistics anything that can be counted will be counted.  Now you will see the clean sheet cited as one of the measures in comparing the relative merits of Premier League goalkeepers.

Given that this article is meant to be about West Ham keepers I took a look at the record of all our keepers that I could think of who had played more than 50 games and this is how they ranked in terms of clean sheets:

Player Appearances Clean sheets %
Ludek Miklosko 373 125 33.51
Jussi Jaaskelainen 60 20 33.33
Phil Parkes 440 146 33.18
George Kitchen 205 67 32.68
Stephen Bywater 68 22 32.35
Shaka Hislop 157 50 31.85
Edward Hufton 402 113 28.11
Robert Green 241 62 25.73
Bobby Ferguson 277 70 25.27
Mervyn Day 237 59 24.89
Peter Grotier 54 12 22.22
Ernie Gregory 422 89 21.09
Lawrie Leslie 61 12 19.67
Jim Standen 236 45 19.07
Tom McAlister 100 18 18.00
Brian Rhodes 71 7 9.86

The obvious conclusion from the clean sheet stats is that, and we probably knew this already, the game has become more defensive in the later years.  It is certainly not an absolute measure that can realistically be used to compare keepers over the years.  The records of both George Kitchen and Edward (Ted) Hufton, however, look most commendable since they belong to a more adventurous bygone age;  or perhaps West Ham had better defenders back then.  It was Hufton who appeared in the 1923 White Horse Cup Final and was the first West Ham keeper to represent England.  George Kitchen who played for West Ham from 1905 to 1912 is our only keeper ever to score a goal.  As a regular penalty taker he notched 6 in total including the only goal of the game on his debut against Swindon Town.  The other point of interest being that at the time a goalkeeper was allowed to handle the ball anywhere in his own half; this rule was abolished in 1912.

A total of 73 goalkeepers have played in league matches for West Ham since 1898.  The keeper in the first game I saw live at Upton Park was Brian Rhodes but I couldn’t tell you anything about his custodian prowess.  A further 34 keepers have appeared between the sticks since Rhodes although 13 of these only made a handful of appearances.  The first keeper I do remember with any certainty is Lawrie Leslie; a fearless competitor his trademark was rushing out to throw himself at the feet of onrushing forwards with the inevitable resulting injuries.  In pre-substitute days I can recall him finishing the match on the wing after injuring his arm and it was a subsequent broken leg, sustained at home to Bolton, that led to Jim Standen joining the club as an emergency replacement.

Continue reading for my list of Top 5 Hammer’s keepers.

Transfer Deadline Day

Oh What A Circus! (with apologies to Andrew Lloyd Webber)

Oh what a circus, oh what a show
Sky Sports has gone to town
Over the transfer of footballer David Luiz
They’ve all gone crazy
Reporting all day and rumours all night
Falling over themselves to get helicopters in sight

Transfer WindowOh What A Circus is a song from the 1976 musical Evita, written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. David Essex (a West Ham fan, but more famous as a pop idol of the 1970’s, and very recently an actor on Eastenders) later recorded the song, which uses the same tune as the more well-known Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. It was a commercial success for him going close to the top of the UK singles chart in 1978 at a time when his career and teenybopper appeal appeared to be on the wane. The song compares the life of Eva Peron to a circus. I make the same comparison with Sky Sports coverage of transfer deadline day to a circus. Some might call it a pantomime.

The circus comes to town twice a year when Sky Sports cancels leave for all reporters and sends them to stand outside training grounds, hiding behind bins, to be attacked by sex toys, to be drowned out by excitable teenagers keen to show themselves up on TV, whilst trying to grab interviews through car windows with players and managers or indeed anyone driving past them.

Jim White, rumoured to be soon taking over the prestigious 10am morning slot on Talk Sport from Colin Murray, wearing his bright yellow transfer day tie, anchors the infamous evening shift in the Sky Sports studio as the clock in the corner of the screen ticks down second by second. You’d think a rocket would be taking off for the moon, but no, it’s just the countdown to the window slamming shut at 11 pm. The window is open for the whole of the summer, but come the last day of August it has to be slammed shut as the cooler nights of Autumn approach. And even though they’ve had three months or so to conduct their business, the clubs have to go mad in the last few hours, panic buying and frequently paying over the odds for any player they can lay their hands on, hoping they’ve got a bargain, but unable to return any goods that turn out to be faulty or unfit for purpose.

To be quite frank just watching for a few minutes can drive you mad, as reporters in front of cameras confirm what “Sky Sources” ticker-tape says running across the bottom of the screen, and then breaking news highlights what everybody has just been going on about for the last couple of hours. And then a sidebar on the screen tells you exactly the same thing. So much repetition and for what? You can look on the internet later in the evening or in tomorrow’s newspapers and see all the transfers listed there.

But apart from the window slamming shut we get all the final day drama with all the usual jargon, last minute dramatic swoops, pictures of helicopters that may or may not contain David Luiz, phones buzzing, alleged sightings at motorway service stations or petrol stations anywhere, Ronaldo or Messi shopping at the Westfield shopping centre, Valencia in the back of a cab in Swansea or Liverpool (or putting his feet up in Ecuador), everyone with their sources, players spotted at training grounds, Jack Wilshere driving his car to Bournemouth, last minute intervention by Daniel Levy who suddenly decides he wants Sissoko, and descriptions of transfers or done deals or rumours using words like amazing, dramatic, sensational, shocking, exciting, impressive or incredible. How Sky Sports and the media in general can make so much out of nothing is amazing / sensational / incredible! And of course we have the usual social media where people in their millions are reacting (mostly in the most negative way you could imagine with expletives galore about transfers that may, or more likely may not, happen)

Poyet is going but Payet is staying (was there ever really any doubt?). World Cup winning, 33 year old, ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid right back Arbeloa has apparently signed. I started to follow him on Twitter and noticed he has 4.5 million followers! Wow that must more than the rest of the West Ham squad combined! It was reported that the move was instigated by David Sullivan who wanted to buy anyone who has ever worn a number 2 shirt to be absolutely certain that Michail Antonio never has to play in this position ever again.

And what’s this? 10.45pm – it is being reported that Valencia has signed for Everton on loan with a view to a permanent deal. £14.5 million? Have they watched him lately? Plenty of new blind alleys for him to find in Liverpool.

Oh what a circus, oh what a show!

Counting Sheep – 1 – The Letter B

Difficulty Sleeping These Warm Nights?

Counting SheepIt has been a really good summer this year. Despite a slightly late start we’ve had lots of very warm sunny days, followed by lots of warm nights. Do you ever have trouble going off to sleep when the night temperatures are high? If so, ditch those counting sheep theories and try to select a West Ham team of players that you have seen whose surnames all start with the same letter.

Trust me it really works. After a few minutes you’ll be fast asleep and dreaming of great West Ham experiences that you’ve had. I started with the letter “A” but soon gave up and put that one aside temporarily as I couldn’t think of a whole team. I may have to combine some letters together. You’d be hard pushed to come up with a team of players beginning with, for example E or I, or U. So that gave me an idea. I’ll come up with a team whose surnames begin with vowels.

But, to begin with I thought of a team beginning with the letter “B”. I knew that this would be a good starting point. For anyone old enough to remember, the 1964 West Ham FA Cup winning team had 7 “B”s in the line-up. I can still recall them now, Bond, Burkett, Bovington, Brown, Brabrook, Boyce and Byrne. The team was of course made up with Standen, Moore, Hurst and Sissons.

So here is my all-time West Ham “B” Team in a 4-4-2 formation:


And what other players did I consider but decided to leave out? I couldn’t think of any other keepers, but in defence I omitted Burke, Breacker, Brown (the young Ken), Breen and Brush. Midfielders I left out (some contentiously) included Berkovich, Bishop, Benayoun, Boa Morte, Bennett, Bowyer and Bovington, and strikers were Ba, Brabrook and Clyde Best.

Have I forgotten someone really good? Can you pick a team of “B”s to rival mine? Do you agree with my selections?

And who would manage the “B”s? Bilic, Bonds, Boyce and Brooking all had a go at the manager’s job, two permanently and two as caretakers. All have been selected as players in my team. At this moment I’ll go for Bonds, but if Bilic continues as well as he did last season then he might take over.

Shut That Window

The closing of the transfer window sees the culmination of months of speculation. Will anything interesting happen?

Transfer WindowSomewhere in the depths of the FA Headquarters there is a room where every single piece of transfer paperwork is processed. In the room there are two middle- aged men (Kevin and Malcolm) both dressed in sleeveless jumpers and FA ties whose job it is to stamp ‘APPROVED’ on the transfer forms when they are happy that everything is in order. All relevant papers are placed in a buff folder before being passed through a glass partition to a lady called Sonia who enters details into the ‘system’. At 11 pm on 31 August, Sonia will leave her seat for the final time and slide the partition closed representing the metaphorical slamming shut of the window for another summer. Our sources close to the matter understand that this is what actually happens.

With a day to go in the window West Ham have spent a net £43 million on transfers and loan fees made up of 10 incoming players at a cost of £53 million and the departure of James Tomkins for close on £10 million. The players in includes the permanent transfer of Manuel Lanzini at the end of his original loan spell. The complete list of new players is:

Andre Ayew
Manuel Lanzini
Arthur Masuaku
Edimilson Fernandes
Simone Zaza
Jonathan Calleri
Gokhan Tore
Sofiane Feghouli
Ashely Fletcher
Havard Nordtveit

Despite the large number of new arrivals already competing for locker space at Rush Green it has done nothing to dampen the ever increasing number of names to be linked with a move to the East End. It was also revealed today (albeit by The Sun) that at one point during the window we had actually offered £43 million to bring Alexandre Lacazette to the London Stadium. It is difficult to envisage any further big money deals taking place and the latest links are generally of the loan variety and include Wilfred Bony, Calum Chambers and Jack Wilshere; all surplus to requirements at their current clubs or else seen to meet the Hammer’s predilection for injured players.

On the subject on injured Gunners I read at the weekend that forgotten man Carl Jenkinson is still in the process of being rebuilt by the Arsenal surgeons. Not content to just repair the cruciate ligament that he damaged playing for us against Manchester City last January, they have also operated on both of his shoulders – presumably to remove those rather large chips.

No doubt the last hours of the transfer window will bring the usual hysteria as clubs finally realise that time is running out; despite having known the deadline for months beforehand. Sky Sports will have the rolling ticker-tape on hyper speed with reporters roaming the nation for the latest news; managers will drive in and out of training grounds; players will be spotted at airports and service stations; and Chairman’s sons will be tweeting furiously well past their bedtime.

Even though Sky make a big deal of it I don’t think that the commercial possibilities of Window Closing Day have yet to be fully exploited. A Friday evening red-nose day type event hosted by James Corden or similar would be a sure fire ratings winner. There could be audience participation phone in polls as 3 players display their free-style ball skills to decide which one signs for Arsenal. Or perhaps David Gold could come on ask us to “Give us your f*ck*ng money!” in an attempt to fund the purchase of a new right back. As a finale an X Factor or Big Brother winner could countdown the slamming of the window to the chiming of Big Ben. Big potential missed in my opinion.

I’m not expecting will be much business done by West Ham so no need to stay up late. It could possibly be farewell Pedro Obiang and some outgoing loans but that’s about all folks!  All said and done it has been a good window.

5 Things Learned From MatchWeek 3

Our collection of random observations from Premier League Matchweek3

Five Things EPLThe Super Sunday Contractual Obligation Match

It is difficult to believe that some high powered TV people actually sat around in a meeting room with white boards, flip charts and Powerpoint presentations and selected WBA versus Middlesbrough to be a live televised match. Ordinarily the only purpose of such clubs on TV is as opposition for one of the big boys to dispatch with ease except, on rare occasions, where they met each other in an end-of-season relegation six pointer.

The Premier League still has a number of these underwhelming contests but they are normally buried among the left over Saturday 3 pm kick-offs. The game certainly delivered what it said on the tin and even the referee seemed reluctant to tag on any added time.

You Don’t Always see them Given

Last year I watched a Development Squad game where Shay Given was between the sticks for Stoke City in front of a few hundred supporters. This week he was back in the big-time of the Premier League where his notable contribution was heading in Leighton Baines penalty after it had come back off the post.

The Baines penalty was one of those awarded under the new Grappling interpretation of Law 12. As usual there is much inconsistency between different referees in how the rule is interpreted causing apparent confusion with players, pundits and supporters alike. In some situations a penalty is awarded straight away while in others players have escaped punishment and let off with a warning. Personally I have always taken a possibly naive view that a foul is a foul no matter where it is committed and that there should be some form of intent, bad timing or negligence involved. It seems nowadays a simple collision, expecting a tackle or tripping over your own feet is sufficient justification.

Last year there were 91 Premier League penalties awarded (equal to an average of 2.4 each week).  The first 3 rounds this season has seen 13 penalties (or 4.3 per week).

Terry and the Pace Setters

With just 3 games gone and we are already into an enforced international break in which the latest new dawn of English football will rise from the mixed metaphor ashes of Roy’s Euro disaster. After the first 3 games what can we deduce about the destination of the Premier League title?

There are 3 teams remaining on maximum points and each will expect to be in the running next Spring. The two Manchester clubs are the most likely champions in my view and it is difficult to choose which is now the lesser evil. Prepare for the over the top build up to their derby meeting immediately after the international break. Chelsea are only level on points due to cheating but with Hazard looking on top of his game and no European distraction they are probable candidates for 3rd or 4th.

Of the other teams Tottenham have been the most encouraging in how flat and uninspiring they look as if they haven’t recovered from last season’s blow-out. Liverpool look very workmanlike which is what you would expect from a midfield that includes Milner, Henderson and Lallana. Koeman’s Everton are undefeated and will be unspectacularly efficient in picking up points. Arsenal are like every other Arsenal team of the last decade only increasingly less-good; they may even miss out on a top 4 finish this time. We need to start getting players back and getting our act together. Losing away at two of the top three is no disgrace in itself but performances need to be far better.

Relegation or The HSmell of Success

History tells us that in all probability 2 of the promoted clubs will be relegated. Despite Hull’s promising start I can’t see them keeping this up given the turmoil that the club is in. I also expect Burnley to struggle massively whereas Boro might do enough to bore the opposition into surrender. The other suspects include Watford, Bournemouth, Sunderland and Swansea. I am relying on Eddie Howe to do enough to keep Bournemouth afloat and, although Watford looked very poor in the first half against Arsenal, they brightened up considerably after introducing new signings Isaac Success & Roberto Pereyra – two players we will need to keep an eye on when we meet them in 2 weeks.

Isaac Success is one of the best footballer names since Danny Invincible

A Substitute for Another Guy

Finally, a very strange occurrence in the Tottenham versus Liverpool game at White Hart Lane where in the very last of 3 added minutes at the end of the second half both teams brought on a substitute for their league debuts. I didn’t spot whether the respective number 2’s had given the players detailed instructions from the notepads as to what to do for the remaining 10 seconds.