The lowest ranked club, Kidderminster Harriers, face one of the highest ranked teams, West Ham in a televised Round Four FA Cup tie

In my article previewing the FA Cup Third Round tie against Leeds last month I wrote a brief history of West Ham in the FA Cup covering the last 60 years. It didn’t make for particularly good reading apart from the three occasions when we lifted the trophy or reached the final and the odd season when we went some distance before falling to a top-flight opponent. There have been far too many occasions when we have been eliminated from the competition by teams from a lower division or even by sides from our own division who were performing poorly in the league and about to be relegated that season. And that is exactly why we were prime candidates for a TV slot this weekend.

We breezed past Leeds into the fourth round relatively comfortably but were unable to repeat the feat in the Premier League game at the London Stadium seven days later. The draw for Round Four has paired us with the lowest ranked club still left in the competition, Kidderminster Harriers, and a trip to the West Midlands where the average crowd of under 2000 will be increased four-fold for a visit from a team challenging at the top of the Premier League.

Our opponents are currently in the sixth tier of the English football pyramid and play at the Aggborough Stadium in the (Vanarama) National League North. They are currently enjoying an excellent season and sit in third place in their table just four points off the top and well placed to challenge for promotion into the (Vanarama) National League, which is the level immediately below the Football League. They attracted over 5000 spectators to their third round tie where they disposed of Championship side Reading.

They haven’t always been a non-league side; they won the Conference (as the National League was called previously) in 1999/2000 with Jan Molby (remember him from Liverpool?) as their manager and were promoted into the Football League where they remained for five seasons. Their highest finishing position was tenth in 2001/02, but they were relegated from the League three seasons later and have never returned, falling still further in the pyramid following relegation in 2015/16. They have reached the play-offs twice since then but didn’t manage to achieve promotion either time.

If you are old enough you’ll remember that we have faced them before in the FA Cup when they had their best ever run in the competition. It was Round Five in 1993/4 when we travelled to Worcestershire and came away with a 1-0 win. We then went out to (lower league side) Luton after a replay in the Quarter Final!

Kidderminster were a formidable non-league side at the time and were crowned the Conference champions that season. However they were denied a place in the Football League due to the Aggborough Stadium facilities being deemed not up to the standard required. After being champions again six years later they did successfully go up.

In that Round Five tie 28 years ago we scraped through thanks to a Lee Chapman header around 20 minutes from the end of the game. The West Ham line-up that day was Miklosko; Breacker, Potts, Martin, Rowland; (Martin) Allen, Bishop, Holmes, Marsh; Chapman, (Clive) Allen (sub Morley). After a poor start to that season our fortunes improved after Julian Dicks joined Liverpool in September in a swap deal that involved full back David Burrows and midfielder Mike Marsh coming to West Ham. To add more forward power Lee Chapman was bought from Portsmouth. It was a very different Premier League at the time with Blackburn, Newcastle, Leeds, Wimbledon, Sheffield Wednesday, QPR, Coventry and Norwich all finishing higher in the table than our 13th, with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City all below us.

Of course none of our new recruits from this transfer window will be appearing because we didn’t sign anybody! My colleague Geoff covered our failure to improve the squad very clearly in his recent article. The FA Cup competition is almost certainly our best chance of winning a trophy this season so I hope that the manager puts out a strong side and takes it more than seriously. A lot of negative things have been written about West Ham in this transfer window and failure to beat Kidderminster will increase the levels of disappointment amongst the fans for a season that was going so well. But I’m sure we’ll be fine. We are not the West Ham of old and I’m confident that we’ll overcome our National League opponents comfortably and our ball will be in the cloth bag when the draw is made for Round Five.     

From Botched Transfer Slip Ups To Tricky FA Cup Banana Skin: West Ham Visit Kidderminster Harriers

With the fan furore following a disastrous transfer window fresh in the memory, West Ham will want to avoid further mishap as they visit non-league Kidderminster in the FA Cup

The extraordinary failure by West Ham to complete any business in the January transfer window has continued to reverberate among Hammers supporters since Monday’s deadline. Even allowing for years of bitter disappointment and the slippery nature of our owners, many of us were left incredulous that no much needed reinforcements to the threadbare London Stadium squad would be arriving.

Without any official explanation of what happened during those 31 days of January it was left to guesswork and supposition to fill the information vacuum. A litany of claims, theories, and hard-luck stories about time running out. I was very disappointed in David Moyes puff PR video on the official site where the manager trotted out the perennial ‘we tried our best, it’s a difficult window, everybody worked very hard’ mantra. I have always considered Moyes to be a decent, straightforward and honest chap who is above such corporate whitewash. While I hadn’t expected him to rage against the owners (as a Mourinho or Conte might have done) – he is far too diplomatic for that – he shouldn’t be the one making excuses on their behalf. His praise for the support received from the Board felt way over the top.

Moyes Declares Peace In Our Time Following Meeting With Herr Sullivan

The three probable record bids that are being talked about are likely nothing more than a smokescreen. If bids are made too late, are just enquiries, or set well below valuations, they may as well have never happened. I have read ‘reports’ that there was a real bid submitted for Darwin Nunez but too many people were involved to get it completed in time. Really? With the player away in Uruguay and all the agents who are known to be party to any deal, it came as a surprise that it couldn’t be completed in three hours?

I can accept that the nature of the January window means that most deals are completed in the final hours. But that’s not an excuse not to get the groundwork and preparation sorted well in advance.

The worry at the back of my mind is how the ownership conundrum may be impacting the club’s transfer activity. It is widely anticipated that Gold & Sullivan will wave farewell in 2023 once their obligations under the London Stadium deal come to an end. Indeed, it was reported that Daniel Kretinsky already has an agreement in place to buy the remainder of shares at an agreed price once that happens. Does that mean G&S are only going to be interested in essential maintenance between now and then? Is there any incentive for them to invest further or push forward? Although the Kretinsky deal may only be an option, it does cause concern at a time when the club is enjoying its best period on the pitch for several generations.

West Ham return to football action this weekend with a Saturday lunchtime FA Cup kick-off at Kidderminster Harrier’s Aggborough Stadium. On paper, one of the easier ties of the Fourth Round that pits the Hammers against the lowest ranked side left in the competition. In practice it will a difficult test for a club that is no stranger to embarrassing cup upsets.

Kidderminster are enjoying a successful season in the National League North (the sixth tier of English football) where they currently sit in third place. Tomorrow’s tie will be their seventh in this years Cup having already seen off Sporting Khalsa, Ware, Bedfont Sports, Grimsby Town, FC Halifax Town and Reading.

In the 3rd Round the Harriers came from behind to defeat Championship side Reading with an unusual winning goal where a Kidderminster player was sitting on top of the Reading keeper when the ball went in. An old fashioned goalmouth scramble with no VAR available to get Reading out of jail. VAR will again be absent today in a match which must end in a winner, with extra time and penalties if needed.

The only previous meeting between West Ham and Kidderminster was a 5th Round FA Cup tie in February 1994. The match played at a misty, muddy incarnation of Saturday’s venue. The Hammers squeezed through 1-0 thanks to a second half headed goal by Lee Chapman. The line-up that day was: Miklosko, Breacker, Potts, Martin, Rowland, Bishop, M Allen, Marsh, Holmes, Chapman, C Allen (Morley). Imagine having the luxury of three strikers in a Matchday squad of twelve!

Moyes will want to field a strong side for the game. One that will be up for the physical challenge against a highly motivated opponent. However, with Premier League games against Watford on Tuesday and Leicester the following Sunday, some rotation may be necessary.

Michail Antonio is a likely absentee after his international duty in the Americas with Jarrod Bowen taking over striker duties. It was unusual comment from Moyes to suggest that Bowen is the ideal replacement for Antonio as they are very different types of player. The only similarity is that neither is a natural finisher. And Bowen switching to the centre leaves an almighty gap on the right hand side of attacking midfield.

Moyes does have options in midfield where Mark Noble and even Alex Kral (is he considered good enough for this challenge) could allow Declan Rice or Tomas Soucek to be held in reserve. I’m hoping there is a recall for Ben Johnson in defence as it was a mystery why Ryan Fredericks was preferred to him at Old Trafford. I am also hoping that Kurt Zouma plays given that I have lost all confidence in the Craig Dawson/ Issa Diop partnership.

My predicted line-up: Areola, Johnson, Zouma, Dawson, Cresswell, Noble, Rice, Vlasic, Fornals, Benrahma, Bowen     

Despite West Ham’s vulnerability to shock FA Cup exist, they have yet to be eliminated by a non-League side. At least not since they were elected to the League themselves. There have, though, been several squeaky moments. Such as needing two games (both at Upton Park) to get past Farnborough Town in 1992 and the narrowest of victories against Emley in 1998. It is a record that should be extended this weekend. I’m not expecting an easy game but have to believe we have too much quality not to win by at least two goals. Perhaps there might even be an opportunity to see a couple of academy players from the bench rather than the usual tired, predictable substitutions we are usually treated to. COYI!