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)

3 Lions and a Hammer

Will Michail Antonio be flying down the wing for England today or will he be right back on the bench?

England TeamIf Michail Antonio picks up an England Cap today he will become the 40th player to represent England as a West Ham player. I don’t know about you but my interest in the England team is always heightened if there is a chance of seeing a Hammer in action. There has to be some incentive to watch the national team these days when there are so many alternative entertainment options such as sorting your CDs into alphabetical order.

The 39 previous England Hammers, the last being Stewart Downing in 2014, have pulled on the 3 Lions shirt a total of 415 times. Of these over 25% of the caps belong to Bobby Moore (108 ) followed by Hurst (49), Brooking (47), Peters (33) and Martin & James (17 each). Peters earned a further 34 caps following his transfer to the North London retirement home.

In fact, Tottenham top the list for supplying the most England players with 75 followed by Villa (73), Liverpool (70), Everton (66), Manchester United (65) and Arsenal (60). West Ham occupy 12th place in the rankings surprisingly below teams such as Blackburn Rovers, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield Wednesday.

Congratulations on the call up, Michail and hope you get a look in on what is largely an uninspiring squad. It is again a weak Qualifying Group that England fortunately find themselves in with the opening game, away to Slovakia, possibly being the toughest that they will face. It is not a shock that the new Manager is already talking about “respecting the point”.

The Language of Football – Number 1

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover (and even more ways to Score a Goal)

GoalFor any readers who are old enough to remember, Paul Simon sang in 1975 about 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. I think he short-changed us though as I can only remember five ways. There may have been more?

He suggested to Jack to “slip out the back”, Stan was advised to “make a new plan”, Roy was told “you don’t need to be coy, just set yourself free”, the suggestion to Gus was to “hop on the bus”, and Lee was urged to “drop off the key”.

As I listened to the song on the radio recently it got me thinking of how many different ways there are to describe different types of goal being scored, and or the way a goal was scored, or phrases that described goals generally. A bit of poetic licence here but I tried to come up with 50 Ways to Score a Goal and came up with the following list:

always going in from the moment it left his boot, arrowed home, assured finish, back-heeled,banged in, blistering finish, blockbuster, bounced off his shin, breakaway goal,broke the deadlock, bullet header, bullet shot,

calm finish, capitalised, cheeky finish, chested, chipped the keeper, clever finish, clinical finish, connected, consolation goal, cross-cum shot, curled in, deadly finish, deflected goal, deft touch, devastating finish, diving header, doubled the advantage, drove the ball home,

emphatic finish, equalised, finished with aplomb, finished, finished from close range, fired home, flung himself at the cross, forced the ball home, found his shooting boots, found the net, found the top / bottom corner, gambled, gave the keeper no chance, glanced, goal that deserves to win any game, goalkeeping gaffe, good time to score, got off the mark,

headed home, hit home, hit on the half-volley, hit the target, hit the winner, hooked, in the back of the net, kicked, laced, lashed, last gasp equaliser, latched on to a suicidal backpass, late strike, leathered, levelled, lofted, long range effort, made no mistake, met a pinpoint cross, met the cross, met the rebound, mishit, miskicked,

nodded home, notched, netbuster, off the post, off the underside of the bar, on target, opened the floodgates, opener, opportunist strike, overhead kick, own goal, piledriver, poached, poked home, powered home, pulled the trigger, punished the defence, punted, put his laces through the ball, put the ball in the net,

rammed home, rebounded into the net, reduced the deficit, replied, rescued a point, rifled in, rising shot, sailed into the net, salvaged a point, scrappy goal, screamer, scuffed the ball, secured all three points, shinned the ball, side-footed, slid the ball home, slipped the ball under the keeper, slotted home, smashed home, squirmed under the keeper, stooped to score, stunning finish, sweet strike, swept the ball home, swooped to score,

tapped in, the net bulged, toe-ended, toe-poked, took the lead, trickled into the net, turned the loose ball into the net, unstoppable shot, volleyed, whipped into the bottom corner.

There are more than 100 there. The list is not exhaustive. How many others can you come up with?

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)
Cantwell
Collins
Cresswell
Carrick
Cole (J)
Curbishley
Cole (C)
Carroll (A)
Cottee
Cross

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!