WHUFC (1)vs Eintracht Frankfurt(2). Europa League Semi Final, First Leg 28/04/2022


Obviously I write this with a bit of disappointment, but I’ll try and give it a go.

First up, we probably put out our best side, with a patched up Zuma back in defence. No Coufal, which probably doesn’t bode well for him in the summer if Johnson is ahead of him.

Anyway, our biggest game for 46 years, home in a European semi. Exciting as it gets. Accompanied by my wife. We are playing a team mid table in an arguably worse league. Easy win for the Hammers right ? Yeah, Barcelona aren’t the team they once were……… We are massive…………… Light show, Fireworks, Tifo’s from both side pregame. This is what it all about……………”record scratch noise

One nil down in under a minute. This is not the script we were looking for. A really simple cross and finish in under 60 seconds could take away our whole season.

And then we huffed and puff and were probably the better team in first half, and Antonio’s long overdue goal after the longest 20 minutes in football history put us back on an even keel.

Bowen had a chance earlier having been put straight through but popped it onto the post. Painful.

Anyway one one at half time and everyone is talking about 3-1’s and all sorts.

Not to be , within 10 minutes our German visitors strolled though our back line again to score the decisive goal in this leg. Kamada was excellent throughout the game and just found himself in the right place from an Areola parry.And after that they controlled the game and exhibited excellent game management to get the game over the line.

Bowen had a chance with an overhead kick going off the bar in the dying seconds. That may have been harsh on the visitors, but I would have taken it.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the away support. Despite the horror stories flying around about the visiting fans on social media, I thought they were fantastic, and they made the atmosphere ramp up another few percent ! Might be a few fines coming their way for flares, etc but fair play to them.

So we now have to condense our whole season down to 90 minutes away from home with a one goal deficit. Some players need to step up. Fornals was quiet, Souchek and Antonio were wasteful and Declan was frustrated and maybe seeing the gulf between his team mates and the opposition (and his team mates and himself?). Quick shout out to the much maligned Said Benrahma. He looked amazing when he came on and just clipped the post with a long range effort. More of this please.

Put the kids out against Arsenal this weekend, and rest up for next week. It may mean no European football at all next year but when will we get this chance again? We seem to play better under pressure so lets ramp it up !

MOTM (Kamada – Frankfurt)

WHUFC (1) vs Olympique Lyonnais (1) Europa League Q/F 07/04/2022


Ever been on a roller coaster and half way through you start to question its safety but you cannot get off ? Welcome to last night at the OS, for our game against Lyonnais.

On the way to the ground, the atmosphere was a little flat compared to Sevilla. But still stupidly busy. Over an hour before kick off, the main outside concourse was squeezing room only.

Declan led us out as the 3rd West Ham captain ever to lead a team out at this stage of a Euro Tournament, and we should have fancied ourselves against a team 9th in their league. The warning signs were there however against Everton, a game which we got over the line but had to work.

With Lanzini out suspended (concussed ?) Benrahma made up the usual 11. As did Fredericks at right back, presumably because Johnson was still feeling the knock he took for England ? Or is Ryan being preferred again ? I suppose we will find out at Brentford this Sunday.

The game was pretty flat as well to begin with, and once again , same as Seville, the lower tier standing in 132 caused all sorts of problems with us (232) in the front of the upper tier. People were complaining to no avail, and tempers raised, but the stewards were not remotely interested. Personally I only get annoyed if someone stands in front of me at the cinema, and my view wasn’t that obstructed. But I understand some (including the 6 year old lad in the row in front of me) , can’t see and it’s not right. But if you are in the back row of the lower tier and everyone is standing, what do you do ? And if the employees of the stadium aren’t interested, why should the daytrippers be bothered.

However the stewards did get interested when what I can only call (judging by the amount of people who were “asked to leave” ) a massive fight broke out in 131 half way through the half. And we go into the break 0-0. Oh no we don’t. Just before half time, Cresswell was sent off for no reason at all. He put a hand on NDombele which wouldn’t have knocked over the aforementioned 6 year old. The ref has a checkered history regarding bent behavior, has already been called out for seemingly dodgy behavior this season and decided a straight red was the order of the day. Now, stopping a goal scoring opportunity is a red. Running away from the goal is not a goal scoring opportunity.

Second half was real backs to the wall stuff. Lyon to their credit can move the ball around and their right winger was having a field day. Johnson replaced Benrahma for Cresswell, and did his best. We had 3 attacks of note. One of which led to some scruffy defending, which saw Bowen open the scoring. We have missed this lad, and once again he does the business. We then had another chance about 3 minutes later when Bowen put a ball in on the break to a rampaging Antonio, who then made a complete mess of it, and I’m ashamed to say, the 6 year old may have learned some new vocabulary.

The last decent chance we had was interrupted by our second pitch invader of the evening, a life ban is not enough for him . Chances of being West Ham…..0. Twitter rumor mill puts him at Chelsea but who really knows ?

In between all of this Lyon got their equaliser from Areola palming a ball well wide but it got picked up by their other winger who put it in square to make an easy tap in for Lyon via their Spurs loanee (grrr) . We could have thrown it away with some nice judo throws in and around the box from Zuma and Fredericks in the time added on (8 minutes !) , but managed to keep it out.

So we take a draw across the Channel and hopefully we can keep 11 on the pitch, and put this tie to bed. The other tie is also open with Barca and Frankfurt also drawing.

One other football observation. Our midfield to a man (Rice, Benrahma, Soucek and Fornals) looked very out of sorts. Was it the formation of the opposition or just tiredness? Rice was quite sloppy in places, but he had to not get a yellow to be available next week, so that may have contributed.

Late entry to MOTM. Him and Zuma were excellent all night, but Dawson taking names in the last 2 minutes was a sight to behold, so well done Big Daws !

WHUFC vs Sevilla -Europa League, Round of 16, 17/03/2022


What to say? easily the greatest game played at the OS. And the best atmosphere since Super Saturday, but with the long jump substituted for the high jump as Soucek opened for scoring for us in this historic game.

Our first home knockout European game for 41 years. Against a team who have won this tournament more times than anyone else. And we are one nil down from the first leg. Antonio and Cresswell were injured in the last game. And Benrahma was starting. What could go wrong ?

Well not a lot as it turned out. To a man everyone played their part. Areola made an amazing point blank save when it was still 0-0. Cresswell seemed to have no knock on effects from Sunday. Johnson was composed. Zouma and Dawson were just themselves.

Fornals and Lanzini were busy, Benrahma made some decent runs, but that last ball needs to get better. Rice and Soucek were imperious. See how much better they play when they play in their natural positions ? And Antonio ran for everything, which was a surprise after seeing get carted off against Villa.

Antonio supplied a lovely ball for Soucek at the back post to open the scoring. My concern (and there always is one) was that Sevilla seemed to be playing within themselves, and I thought if we scored they may go up a gear or two. But we held out till half time. The second half however was more of the same, and we stayed on top, and even started to get comfortable that we would see this through.

Full time came and went and Extra time started. We were still on top. As we went into second period of ET, penalties all but looked like a certainty. Sevilla played for it, but we kept having a go. Noble came on for what I assume was pen duty.

And then the relentless Fornals got an opportunity , and took at decent shot. It spilled from the keeper and Yarma was there to follow up . Absolute scenes.

Support was amazing, but I still get amazed at how many ST holders don’t go to these games. So many daytrippers, getting lost and in the way, but they do make up for it in atmosphere. Small gripe of a fantastic evening

I got home whenever, and hardly slept.

Barcelona, we’re coming for you !

MOTM Yarma. What that fella has gone through recently, cannot be comprehended by most of us, and there he is, clearing his mind and raising his game on the pitch.

PS. Hopefully we can carry this euphoria into the Spuds game. But there will be some tired legs out there.

WHUFC 1 Watford 0 EPL 2021/22 09/02/2022


I came into this game not expecting a lot , after catching the game on Saturday. As usual breaks don’t really suit us and our poor showing in the transfer market didn’t exactly inspire confidence either. And then we had CatGate. I’m not going there. It’s been done to death everywhere and the club need to make a stand and ensure the correct disciplinary procedures are undertaken.

I was surprised how busy it was outside the ground so skipped in early, and caught the now customary light show. Despite the empty seats shown in the photo, it was pretty much a full house come kick off.

Fire !!

The game itself was very reminiscent of the Palace games last year (no surprises with Mr Hodgson taking up the reins at Watford recently) . Watford were compact and disciplined , and broke well. We were stifled somewhat, but just needed to break a line or 2 to get the upper hand.

Watford fans were enjoying themselves booing Zouma at every opportunity, and at one point chanting RSPCA ! He actually played well, but maybe against a home crowd this weekend coming at Leicester it may be more of an issue. Easy to ignore when you are miles from the support.

We were very poor. Rice was out of sorts, and everyone else seemed between 5 and 6 /10. Watford were on top , no doubt, but didn’t have that clinical last touch, or bit of magic.

Benrahma had one chance saved when Bowen made a great run and pass to leave him in the box unattended. And that’s that.

0-0 half time and my pre-match prediction of that very score was coming to fruition.

Second half was better for West Ham, but Watford were no way out of it. Both teams had chances but they were mainly of the lash it goalward variety.

About the hour mark, the game took a subtle change and West ham were getting that ball into the box to a player more often, . We kept prodding and were getting better chances but still nothing clear cut. Rice was head and shoulders above his first half performance. Lanzini and Fornals were very busy, and Antonio was still a little lost.

And then the stars aligned with Jarrod Bowen receiving the ball from the sub Lanzini, and getting a lucky deflection to break the deadlock.

And then it went back to stalemate again for the remaining 20 minutes.

So not the most exciting game and we rode our luck, but that’s 2 games on the spin where we have ground out a result despite being the worse team. Are we lucky, or are we trying harder ?

MOTM Dawson. Big Daws does it again, got his head in where it was needed (probably with some extra motivation, bearing in mind the opposition), and at one point in the first half went on a unheralded mazy run past 2 opposition players to hold possession, when Zouma was down injured.

West Ham United 0 Dinamo Zagreb 1 Europa League 2021-2022 09/12/2021


With us through to the last 16 of this tournament already and a mounting injury list it was quite pertinent last night to make sure that we protect the first team squad for our trip to Burnley at the weekend. To that end we had a back four of Longelo, Ashby, Baptiste and Alese. Perkins started up front and the usual European stalwarts of Yarma, Noble, Kral, Areola, etc filled out the team. I was not too happy with both Noble and Kral starting. I understand the need to protect an inexperienced back four, but 2 deep holding midfielders at home seemed a little too negative.

For what ever reason, the away support was somewhat small (about 100 ?) so they looked a little odd in the vast away section.

Wheres Wally ?

They were in good voice, and that only got better when after 3 minutes Zagreb took the league when Orsic fired in a worldie from way out on the left, which left our keeper flat footed.

And literally the game ended there and then. Both teams huffed and puffed without any end product. We were lacking a push forward due to the defensive nature of the midfield. Benrahma came on for the second half and again was unproductive, which is getting a little worrying. Yarmalenko was poor even by his own standards. I was proved correct with the holding midfield experiment. Both Noble and Kral wanted to almost play sweeper, and the gap between front and back was stretched leaving Fornals and Benrahma covering quite large areas.

But all the youngsters, bar one, played well. Alesi and Baptiste looked very comfortable at the back and seemed to be able to deal with the longer balls coming in, and were good passing out. Maybe they could improve on actually bringing the ball out just 10 or so yards before passing, which would help to push the midfield on. Ashby and Longelo looked like modern fullbacks, full of running forward and not scared to take on the opposition. I thought Perkins was pushed off the ball easily, and will need to toughen up. He was partnered was Yarma for most of the second half but still seemed to give the ball up.

So we round off with a group round loss (and half a million worse off) but happy to qualify. Who’s next? Barcelona ? Dortmond ? Rangers ?

MOTM for me was the Zargreb no 7, Ivanusec. Ran the game at both ends from start to finish.

Just before we entered the stadium I thought I lost my keys. This meant I had to go back through security. Due to the cold I actually had a light jacket under a winter coat. Keys were found in the lighter jacket. Good news ! I re-entered the stadium and met back up with Aussie John. Turns out he had been in the club shop while waiting for me to return and in the process , had lost a glove. The irony was not lost on me, and I did have a chuckle. We are at that age. What happened this morning on my way to work ? Left my gloves on the DLR. Irony indeed.

Ronaldo confirmed to not be coming to East London
Must be night time !

West Ham Utd 3 Chelsea 2 EPL 2021-2022 04/12/2021


Nice and bright, but cold

Early kick off on a freezing Saturday morning against the reigning European champions (as they may have mentioned, once or twice, zzzz)

Not a great set up, after our recent run of no wins in 3, but I had a feeling that if we got at them we had a chance.

As most people expected Lanzini came in for Benrahma. We also changed to 3 at the back with Coufal and Johnson as wingbacks, to allow Diop back in to the defence, to partner Zouma and Dawson

Empty Seats for the Champions of Europe

The game itself early doors was what you would expect. Chelsea were on top possession wise, and we defended resolutely and got the odd breakaway. One issue at this point but it persisted throughout was Antonio. Constantly giving the ball away and falling over for no reason. Embarrassing. How about use the skills that got you to where you were , not start relying on faking fouls.

Our visitors took a lead from a corner, makes a difference for someone to get a set piece against us ! 10 minutes later we were gived a lifeline after Bowen was brought down by Mendy running away from the goal with no one else in the box. Cheers. Up steps Lanzini and comfortably puts it away to level up. Just before half time Ziyech send across an amazing cross form the left straight onto Mounts foot, and Deccers best mate gave the visitors the lead going in to half time.

Everyone I spoke to at half time was doom and gloom . Talk of 4 or 5 -1 hidings abounded. I thought it may stay the same as neither team were on fire.

We started better, and Masuaku was on for the injured Johnson, which gave us a bit more balance going forward. Soon enough we got the equalizer from Bowen which went through the keepers legs with a nice well hit curving shot across the goal. Chelsea at this point were full of uncharacteristic mistakes and a bit blunt in attack despite Lukaku coming on at half time. We knew the keeper had a mistake in him so had to keep the pressure on, and we did. Bowen had a couple of other chances as did Benrahma when he replaced Lanzini. And with 3 minutes to go off normal time it was an odd shot / cross / who knows from Masuaku that beat Mendy on the near post to wrap up the points and streams of Chelsea leaving early.

Whats the takeaway ?Great game and we seem to have got over our habit of parking the bus against top 4 teams. We are still in there on merit, and are going into what would be considered easier games against Burnley, Arsenal and Norwich.

Injuries to Johnson, and Zouma could be massive if longer term. That would 4 first team defenders out. Not a good position. We have a dead rubber European game this week against Zargreb and although not very sporting I would play none of the first team at all , and save them all for Burnley.

It was pointed out to me (by the opposition) thatDeclan was quiet. I will say that Chelsea gave him less space than usual so fair play. He still made some key interceptions on the edge of our box and covered some distance. Soucek is more worrying. Another through the motions game. But we have to remember that his 6/10 is the same as others 8/9.

MOTM Bowen all day long. The goal, the effort, the linkup, using the space left to him by the Chelsea’s midfield trying to contain Rice.

FACTS

West Ham 1 Brighton 1 EPL 2021-2022 01/12/2021


Line Up Line Up

A lot can be done in 3.5 minutes. You could drive 5 miles on a motorway. You could eat a Big Mac. You could go from Upton Park to East Ham on the tube. Or you could add another nail in the national game via the use of VAR.

The game probably had the right result and we go on, but this season I thought we had got rid of this drawn out nonsense happening in Stockley Park. Once again a corner comes in and we get it into the net through some bodies. No massive complaints from the opposition. And then it starts. Checking possible foul. To be fair it looked like (from a still) that Dawson had hands on a defender. Welcome to every corner in professional football. So that gets recinded. Then we take a look at a possible offside, another 2 minutes. I’m sorry but this was brought in for clear and obvious errors and here we go again. The picture that was showed doesn’t even have Antonio offside and further reports have said that it’s unclear who it hit last. Absolute joke and the quicker they use this in an efficient manner the better.

Anyway a point is a point. I was not one of booing contingent at the end. Maybe some of our supporters need some history lessons, to paraphrase the oppositions manger after their recent draw against Leeds. We have no right to win every game and to be fair the way we played in the first half would indicate we could lose more than we win if we carry on like this.

Squad depth has played a part here. Out of our back 4, we played 2 out of position. I know Johnson has played on the left a few times , but now he is used to being on the right, he was getting turned regulary which then invites crosses. Zouma, being the better of the two centre halfs, has stepped into Ogbonna’s place but seems to have issues getting it out from defence at his feet, which is a massive part of his game. Hopefully Cress is fit for Saturday, but if not Masuako will have to start in left midfield to assist young Ben, as he did when he came on last night. Also Dawson has to go in favour of Diop. Although still lopsided we could have some pace to get us out of issues.

The game itself was pretty poor, similar in some ways to Wolves, where we were the better team without punishing the opposition. Antonio still looks tired, and despite his goal (from a corner ) Soucek was just tidy without any explosivity. The second half livened up somewhat, but we couldn’t put away our chances. And what a goal from Maupay for their equalizer.

Benhrama started again after being poor for a couple of games and carriedon in that vain for the first 20 minutes. Consistently giving the ball away, poor passing and zero decision making. He was replaced by Lanzini with 15 to go. Manuel harried, tackled ran past people, and generally upped out game. Surely he starts against Chelsea ?

Interesting to see what happens to Brighton afterwards as lobbing flares near a pitch cost us a one match attendance ban.

Blue Wednesday

And it was cold. MOTM I’ll give to Maupay for the goal. Out takeaways are we need ot be more at it from the get go. Like we were against Liverpool . Chelsea up next and the crowd will demand a performance. Question is can the team deliver.

One to keep an eye on is the standing up situation. Where we sit the lower tier is just in front and if they stand it is difficult to watch the game. However they only stand when we are attacking and the guys in the back row have no option but to stand as there are 50 rows in front of them on their feet. However the loud bickering started yesterday, and I imagine will continue into the future. Sly digs and offhand statements never work out well so i’ll just be an interested observer in this debate.

WHUFC 0 vs Manchester City 0 (5-3 pens). League cup 4th round 27/10/2021



What a night, what a night.

The cold realisation after beating Tottenham that a few days later we would be back to face City in the League cup was not the most exciting prospect.

Pre game was fun, meeting up with a friend who has finally got his arse into gear to buy a season ticket. This was someone who I hadn’t seen for nearly 10 years and glad to say he is still in fine fettle.

For those that are interested, more change in the seats behind me for this game. Kids for a quid gave me the opportunity to have a family with 3 under 5’s (not them !) sitting behind me. Believe it or not they were better than the Surrey Train Squad of Genk and Rapid fame.

I fully expected lots of changes on both sides with City having a significant upper hand. No fun in that. And to an extent that’s what I got. Wholesale changes on both sides. Unfortunately, City’s second team had 3 players who played in the Euro 2020 final for England, with 2 more in the bench. We had Noble, Dawson, Lanzini, Yarma, Vlasic and Areola coming in, and Moyes saw sense enough to leave Rice and Antonio completely out of it.. Slight gulf in quality !

And it showed. City’s domination of possession (64% according to the BBC, I thought more) was precise, and smooth. Do they ever miss a pass ? But no cutting edge. Sterling had a couple of runs at Johnson, but was getting no change from a lad really making his way in this squad. I sort of get what people have been saying about City not having a striker now. Without that focal point they are relying on mistakes from the opposition. Not that Areola had nothing to do. Out of the 2 keepers he was easily the busiest, but handled everything with ease, and an agility that maybe has made Fab stand up and raise his game as well. One save from a Stone header would have been talked about for weeks if it was Ederson or Alisson. Keep it up Alphonse, the start is only round the corner.

With the odd bit of counter attack from us, the game followed the same pattern all night. City attack, we get the ball, and provide a poor pass back to them after a small amount of possession. But our defending was resolute. Johnson, as already stated played a blinder again. Dawson and Diop were solid and Cresswell was just Cresswell.

The only player who struggled was Yarmalenko, and I think that may have been due to the quick closedown at high quality from Stones and Ake. Also, he was a bit isolated meaning normally his best available pass was backwards, quite a way backwards. Lanzini was getting bounced about in the middle, but held his own just about.

As the second half went on we saw more of the ball and there were chances for Masuaku (who was good all night, for his first game in a while). Yarma had a clear opportunity taken away after some lovely interchange with Johnson.

We continued to apply pressure, post our subs, as Bowen, Fornals, and Benrahma came on and brought up the effort and creativity levels. Towards the end of the 90 Coufal came on for Lanzini and I assumed this was to take a penalty. And like that penalties were upon us.

Up steps Noble. No problem. Then Foden. Big problem as he lashes it wide. Then we go one for one with Bowen, Dawson and Cresswell getting ours . Our last penalty, and the one to win the match, I assumed would be taken by Coufal. And up steps Benrahma. The same fella who was shocking against Spurs and has shown to be very hot and cold. By this time my nerves are shredding. The stadium is silent. Both teams watch on……..

AND HE SCORES

And that’s that, time to get home. What a night !

What a night again. For the first time since the move, I felt like a fan again if that makes sense. Getting sucked into the drama, revelling in the atmosphere. The sheer joy of that last penalty. Having a sore throat in the morning !

MOTM Areola. Top man all night, made some big saves. Big shout out to Noble, who kept everything tidy, and Johnson, who based on the subs, kept a fit Coufal out of the team. Can he do the same away against Villa this Sunday?

Fireworks are not only for Europe people.

WHUFC 1 Tottenham 0 24/10/2021 EPL 2021-2022


First off , all back to normal on the seating front, with my European neighbours not in attendance (see Genk post) made the day a whole more enjoyable. And its always nice to get one over on the Totts, if nothing else just to chip away at the myth that they are a big club, which they held onto despite not beating us last season, and finishing below us in the league, and being part of the failed breakaway league with some real big clubs.

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