If this was a movie it would be binned at submission for being too far fetched.
We have the return of the once great one to save the day again. We also have hero returning to the site of his recent exploits to see if he can repeat the formula from the dark side. And we have the introduction of a former hero, now into his dotage, to see if he can just one more time recreate the magic that made him famous throughout the land.
West Ham have never won their first three games in the Premier League but with 2 down and a 0 point Palace rolling into town, things were looking good for another small piece of history this weekend. Not to mention the chance to remain top of the league through the International break.
Getting into the ground was considerably easier this time around, but getting there 90 minutes before kick off helps !
Welcome home. well I don’t know about home but definitely welcome back. 18 odd months since my last attendance at a live football match, Monday evening was a time to see if it was all worth it. It also means these missives should be more regular. Hard to report on something that you watched on the TV.
I’ll be honest, after nearly 35 years of continuous attendance, a season off actually worked well for me, and it was good to do other things at the weekends. Like watch West Ham on the telly !
So last season was beyond all expectation and with little or no change to the team we started this year beating a team that beat us twice last year, and winning away, and winning our first game of the season for a few years.
However, our opponents today had beaten Man City in the FA Cup final, and the Charity Shield and just missed out on top four (as did we, grrrr) . But in our favour was the fact that last time we played them we, destroyed them at their own ground.
Getting in was an absolute shambles, one it appears shared by a few other clubs this season. We have moved to digital tickets. Taking away the accessibility issue of this, that should not be too difficult a transition, with options to print, etc. But also asking people who are not qualified to verify COVID staus was always going to be ridiculous. What if I show them someone else’s status, or show them mine in my digital wallet, but the date validation data has past. Are they really going to spend all that time with each supporter, while queues were getting somewhat silly . I queued nearly 30 minutes to get in. Due to it being the first game, most people were OK with this. I imagine in December with some rain flying about, this will not be sustainable in any way. I understand Spurs have already announced “random” checks to speed this up. Not to mention that this was to “keep us safe”. I can honestly say that since March 2020, that was the tightest crowd of non masked individuals I had spent my time with . Sort of defeats the point.
Also there is a safety issue. The queues were out to the edge of the concourse all round the ground , meaning you had to push through other queues to get to your own. With people waiting up to 40 minutes to get in they were getting concerned about other people pushing in and there we have the issue. Tempers can flare easily in these situations, and I think being the first game, probably kept a lid on this. Once again, a league cup game in late October may have a different outcome.
The game itself was different entirely. We dominated from start to finish, and the score reflected that. Yes they had someone sent off (VAR actually being used properly, eg for catching a clear and obvious refereeing error), but in reality we were by far the better team.
The atmosphere was almost Upton Park ish, but maybe that’s what happens when you haven’t been to a game for 18 months ! Even the stadium announcer got in on the act singing the Antonio song, when he broke Di Canio’s record for most Premier League goals. That said, I would still prefer a real striker, who can complement our fantastic attacking force. One injury blows that all up, and backup is essential.
If we manage to secure a striker, Lingard and Zouma before the 1st Sept, I will be a happy boy, but we know how that goes over here. The board over promise and deliver nothing. We are still crowing about signing Dawson as a new signing, despite him being on loan all last season.
Palace up next and we should remain top of the pile going into the break. No complaints with that.
MOTM: Fornals. The fella just holds everything together and has been rewarded by getting called up for Spain in the upcoming break. Well played Senor.
Match reports have been few and far between this season as to be fair there hasn’t been a lot to report. Injuries , poor placement of players into positions, and non form of key individuals meant things have not been too great.
This report will not really add to this. We played a sub par Southampton team, but we had all our players in the right places, and Bowen got his long awaiting start, and we just tore them apart.
Haller proved the doubters wrong. Completely different player with others around him.
Today was mainly around the other big WHU event of the day. The supporters “stroll”. Basically this was a marched protest from about 1.5 miles outside the stadium ,picking up more and more people as we traveled in. Alone it proved nothing, but maybe it does give cause for concern with the owners that its not 200 “Old men”. There were women and kids and a few old men, who united in the cause that the lies are enough and we need to move forward.
This is where the issue is for me. The cause seems to be to get them out, fair enough. But we need the alternative, and that doesn’t appear to be forthcoming. There are rumours of American Billionaires and Red Bull, but that’s all they are. Best we can get is a climb down and engagement as we continue the relationship.
But lets keep the pressure on. They have already shut down their undemocratic “Supporters Board”. They have suggested holding elections for supporter positions. They will bend over backwards for this to go away, and we need to be constructive with how we use that leverage. First up for me , is let’s test the mettle of the stadium operators and put in a bid. They are losing money hand over fist, and I imagine will take a lowball bid. Once we have control of the stadium, move all athletics duties to Birmingham post 2022. The anniversary games is not a sell out anymore and must cost money to put on.
Once that’s out of the way, we can dig down and reseat the lower tiers into being next to the pitch, a la the Etihad. Yes we may be out of the ground for a year or 2, but it’s not such a big deal ,when we don’t feel we have played at home since 2015 !
So that’s it , the march was good start and hopefully the numbers will get bigger, but we have to have an objective that is achievable else we will be accused of pedaling pipedreams , just like GSB.
Here we are again, nearly 2 years to the day since i wrote this . And we find ourselves back in the same boat, calling the same batphone. But we also find ourselves in a better cabin on that boat.
Slaven went as he tried to work with players Sullivan bought, who were clearly not good enough. Pelle went as he made good signings , based on recommendations from his team, but couldn’t get them into a formation suited to their skillsets. Which for someone with his experience, is odd and backs up the Man City fan opinion regarding stubborness and unwillingness to change.
So once again, in comes David Moyes, And once again the team he has inherited is way better than he maybe expected. Subtle tweaks here and there are already producing results.
I have been saying for ever we need to get two up top (since Allardyce) and DM has moved Anderson into the space behind Haller to great effect. We seem to to have changed to a back 3 with pushing full backs, which definitely plays to the strengths of Fred and Arthur. However this may be curtailed with the injury to Fred during the Gillingham game. I cannot see Zaba charging up and down against Sheffield United this Friday.
Despite me doubting him massively when he signed , DM needs to find a space for Fornals. His recent performances, cannot be dismissed, and he could be Pelle’s last present to the faithful. Either Snodgrass or Lanzini needs to make way. Snods would be the easiest, however Lanzini doesn’t appear to be at it at all. His Instagram shows him in London very rarely and maybe January would be a good time to move him on for a few quid for someone who needs a playmaker.
Which brings us to the one remaining puzzle. Defensive midfield. Pushing Noble further up the pitch is always good for him (this has also been discussed by me ad infinitum). But 5 at the back and 3 towards the front (Anderson, Haller, Lanzini) leaves 2 . With Noble pushing towards Lanzini, leaves Rice in that hole. Are we good enough for one holding midfielder ? 3 center backs suggests we are . What we cannot do however is this insane substitution of subbing Noble for Sanchez. Sanchez is not equipped to play up the pitch, so invariably plays further back, which when we are chasing is counter productive and brings teams on.
DM will (and has already) upped the tempo of play. He has also dealt with the Haller issue (for now. Against better opposition we may see a switch back). He seems to have brought Diop back in from the cold, and put Noble in his natural position. So far so good.
The real test will be Friday against Sheff Utd. A team on the up, and a team that will fancy their chances against us (home or away). Another clean sheet will be a result for us. Draw or win , I’ll be happy with.
Personally I thought Moyes should have had the job longer term than he was last time. He has enough experience and is young enough to still be hungry. Lets get behind him and see this season out, and hope this time he sticks around !
Before we finish, can we just take some time to digest that Mark Noble is currently the Premier Leagues highest scoring player this decade !
The NFL International Series (do they still call it that ?) is upon us, and once again my team the Oakland Raiders is hosting a game in London. Anything to save the rent on the Coliseum. Anyway, suits me. When they move to Vegas, I might get to see them there as well. I’ve been over there once or twice…. This was my third time watching the Raiders. All in London.
The opposition were the Chicago Bears, who were on a 3 game win streak, and on paper looked better than the Raiders. The Bears have one of the best linebackers in the game, in Khalil Mack (ex Raider) and Oakland have a leaky guard and tackle set up. The only thing in our favour was Mack and Derek Carr are best buds so maybe he’ll take it easy on him !
The trip to the ground was uneventful , and the wander up Seven Sisters Road bought back memories of old trips over here with West Ham. (Gary Lineker hat-trick on a cold wet evening, anyone ?).
The new Tottenham stadium looks like aliens have landed in an estate in Haringey. It’s seriously impressive.
Outside the stadium there was less to see and do than Wembley, but if I’m honest, the British aren’t really into the whole tailgating scene. Its more a beer, maybe some food and get in for the Anthems. They did have some stuff for the kids and things to get your photo with, but no lines of food trucks, and cheerleaders, etc.
Which is pretty much what we did. Met up with some friends (Bears fans !) pre game in a local, pub and a few libations were had. Met the Raiders Squid in the garden of said pub. Odd outfit.
Inside, the ground is amazing. Space for everyone, and plenty of outlets, and its own brewery. Pretty impressive.
Big shout for Rhys for sorting out tickets at the very last minute. Thanks to all the via-gogo, stub hub, ticket touting robbing tossers for me not getting tickets on launch!
Chicago’s starting QB was injured and therefore not playing which was a bonus, and we kept things tight and ended Q1 with a 0-0 scoreline.
The Raiders lit up the second quarter,taking names and driving in (Josh Jacobs especially) 2 touchdowns and a field goal to go 17-0 up at half time. WHHHAAATTT ! To say I was happy, was an understatement. However, things were tempered by the food and drinks service up on level 5. Complete disaster compared to the more quick food court style of downstairs. 20 mins for a packet of crisps ? No thanks.
As usual for any team I support, you are never safe, and the Bears hit back with 21 in the 3rd quarter. Carr at one point, just chucked the ball to nowhere, overturning to Mack in a bizarre move. We also had one interception ripped out on our 1 yd line. Grrrrrr
So the witching hour arrives and I am in familiar territory. 0-3 for me ? Maybe.
Carr managed to get us up the park ,using the running game that I admit I’m not a fan of. Josh Jacobs finished off his MVP performance jumping over the pile of players on the line to put us back in the lead with 2 to go.
The Bears piled it on and the game looked like going OT, but a long ball from Daniel was intercepted and that was that. 3-2 for the Raiders this year. 1-2 for me alltime !
As usual West Ham fail to capitalise on a good run of form and throw away a lead to a decent enough team, but not quite at our level.
As with most Hodgson’s teams, there was a straight 4-4-2 across the board, where defence and midfield play close together meaning we have to break down. Once or twice we did get through, and as you might have seen in the build up for our goal,once we do, it was plain sailing.
Anderson and Lanzini were nowhere near their best, therefore creativity was at a premium. In fact the whole team seem to have a bout of wooliness, that stifled any smart play. Haller had chances to score that he didn’t take , and they got very lucky with a rebound. The penalty was also slightly contentious but more likely to be given than turned down. So all in all, happy with the draw.
Aha, but we didn’t draw, we lost. TO VAR. I’m OK with VAR, but for clear and obvious errors only. It’s an assist, not a judge. For a player to be adjudged 5 mm onside , there needs to be something else with the same amount accuracy. The ability to match exactly when the ball is kicked/headed/whatever. Unless you can 100% match these two, any of these too close calls cannot be made, and you have to go with the on the pitch decision (which was offside). From where I sat, it looked offside as well, but there you go. Lose 2-1 and move on.
We are seventh in a league that outside the top one, looks pretty open.
Before someone tells me I only write about wins, I have only made one of our two previous home games this season and that was the predictable white wash by City on the opening day, and there was literally nothing to write about.
I arrived at this game quietly confident (and had been for a couple of weeks). We have been not only playing well but seem to be settled in our style and cadence. This hasn’t been seen for some time. Man U on the other hand seem to be struggling with team selection and a (for them) poor transfer window. This also hasn’t been seen for a while.
I watched Man U in their Thursday night European game and thought they huffed and puffed, but in Greenwood they had a player, who could get in amongst our defence.
Talking of which, the preferred line up seems to be Ogbonna and Diop in the centre back berths. I have warmed back to Ogbonna since his most recent run in the team. He has stopped the silly mistakes and seems confident to be the leader over Diop, whereas with Reid or Collins he wouldn’t despite being the better player. There were some interesting words being said about Balbuena by MP, so lets trust the manager on that one. And 5 games unbeaten suggests he is right.
There were 2 enforced changes this week, Cresswell coming in for Masuaku at left back and Fornals getting the nod over Wilshere for the Lanzini position. Fornals, sort of yes. Cresswell however seem to split the support, who were vocal in their support for either Zaba or Johnson, both right backs.
Longer readers will remember my obsession with round pegs in round holes, so I was happy with the selection. I don’t get the stick Cress gets although I admit he was a better player pre injury. We are not enamoured with high quality left backs !
Our visitors decided not to play Greenwood, which suited me and with no Pogba, and the aging Mata and Matic playing, seemed quiet understrength.
The first half was a pretty dull affair up until just before half time, a Noble – Anderson interchange ended up with the ball at Yarmalenko’s feet, and he duly slotted it away.
I did have a lot of words to follow that wordpress dained not to save, so I’ll be brief.
Second half, West Ham were the better team by far, especially after Rashford left the field with an injury. Cresswell topped off a good game on this comeback by raising the spirit of Dimitri Payet to drill in a free kick late on in the half.
Nearly everyone played well, Noble was outstanding. Fornals, not so. He needs to rise to the pace of the game. I was very surprised to see Anderson and not Fornals being replaced by Wilshere. But I suppose MP thought the game was won and he needed the gametime. MOTM was Ogbonna, commanding at the back and looking like a leader.
The press have gone to town on Man Utd with no praise for us, as usual. We are now back to back winners against Man U in the league at home. Yesterday was plainly a good team performance against a not so good one, but this time I dont feel it was a bad day at the office for our visitors. It’s more endemic and could be the new standard unless things change quickly. There is a malaise in Manchester , which I think was displayed by the subplot of Phil Jones and Ed Woodward. Why Greenwood never got a chance I don’t know.
Apparently Sky was full of Roy Keane trapping off. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
On the way I met a group of lost early 20’s Man U fans, and each one shook my hand, so at least real fans got it. These are lads who have only known success, so fair play. Also had my photo taken by a crazy Ukranian who was shouting about Yarmalenko.
Oxford and Bournemouth up next. Both away. Would be nice to get an unbeaten September in.
Very late as is becoming the norm, and I know I’ve missed a couple of games, but Fulham at home was just that. Fulham at home. Despite their early lead, as soon as it went to 1-1 they really didn’t want to know. Since then their manager has been sacked and former hammers favourite Scott Parker has been installed, so good luck to him , he will need it.
Newcastle arrived on a decent run and were likely to be a better test than when we beat them at their place earlier in the season.
Actually, stuff that. The Geordies were also devoid of ideas and even their fans were (for them) a little quiet. Today was all about a real club legend. Billy Bonds. Six foot two, eyes of blue and all that.
The stand I usually sit in was being renamed after him, and he now sits alongside Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking in getting this honour. This led to Gary Lineker winding up twitter suggesting the remaining stand was becoming the Mark Noble Stand. Although a little premature I think that would be better than what it probably will be. The Lycamobile stand ? The Betway ? The Kens Cafe ?
Anyway I say the stand I usually sit in, as for the first time since we moved I sat elsewhere for the game. In the prawn sandwich seats no less. Not quite a box, but very corporate. We (me and @mrsmackay) were kindly hosted by a supplier of hers to enjoy the game in a different atmosphere. This involved getting there considerably early and me seeing the “dark side” of the stadium I have never been around to that side, not even for other events.
Its very much what you would expect if you have been in the Club England section at Wembley. Lots of escalators and people knowing where they are going (except for you). We ended up in a lounge called the Forge for our lunch. Whilst munching, we enjoyed an interview, on a stage about 10ft away, about Mr Bonds, from some ex players. Namely, Alvin Martin, Ray Stewart, Stuart Slater, Pat Holland and Kenny Brown (jnr). Being the game was against Newcastle, Alvin was given the liberty of retelling his historic hatrick against the magpies (again!).
Food was 7/10. Entertainment was 8/10. Half time was interesting , listening to a guy on an acoustic guitar, playing Jump Around by House of Pain. Different, but he just about got away with it. Service was as you would expect, polite.
Anyway we filtered out early , as Bonzo was getting his presentation 20 mins before kick off. We were greeted by a great sight.
Billy was led out though an honour guard of ex players
And then was interviewed by Alvin Martin
And then cut his ribbon, to open the stand. During his lap of honour there was not a dry eye in the house, especially from the man himself. as he made his way around the stadium a tribute played on the screens.
Then there was the little matter of the game. Mark Noble is the closest we have to a Billy these days, and we are all hoping that the mantle will be taken up by Declan Rice in the future. He did himself no harm by netting a header after 7 minutes, much to the consternation of @mrsmackay who wanted a bet on him to score the first goal only to be dissuaded by yours truly! From then on there was only one winner and a mistimed tackle on Hernandez gave us a pen just before half time. Ably converted by Mr Noble. The second half was only notable for me for 2 reasons. One, Longstaff at Newcastle is being touted as better than Rice, and was hooked at half time while Declan was picking up another MOTM and more plaudits. Secondly, and more interesting was Marko entering the fray (mystery illness from Wednesday cleared up). Clearly not happy at being a sub and not the darling of the fans anymore, outside of 2 runs it was Marko pre Moyes of sulking and and waving arms. He needs to sort himself out or the manager has no option but to start him from the bench every game, which actually is doing peak Marko a disservice and could actually cost us points along the way.
So, another good day at a stadium that is slowly (very slowly) becoming home. Not sure if I could do corporate every game but it has its advantages.
My second visit of 2019 to the London Stadium also brought home the harrowing fact the in the Premier League era, Arsenal have beaten West Ham more than any other club. But the early kick off normally upsets the apple cart (and the Acca punters) and this game did its bit to keep up that tradition.
Rumours abounded around Arnie. He’s going, he’s staying, his brother is a shit stirrer, allsorts. My take is this. If he wishes to leave to play in empty stadiums, in a league that will also most likely mean he loses his international place as well, just for cash, then good luck to him. He earns more than he can spend already.
Also lets be realistic, if someone offered you twice your wages to do the same job somewhere else, you would take it. Maybe not in China, but at least your head will be turned. He left Stoke quick enough, and we are no different, such is the way of the modern footballer. They chop and change all the time. Reece Oxford is our 5th longest serving player currently !
So Arsenal, Wengerless and let off the leash. 22 game unbeaten runs, new broom, and no win in 4 away from home in the PL.
We started with probably with as good as team as we could, but this was no plucky little West Ham. All the big guns were there with the exception of Balbuena. Ogbonna has scared me this season, and early on did nothing to shake that feeling, as Rice had to get him out of a hole a couple of times as Lacazette gave him the run around. However , once the early nerves went, everyone did their job. Antonio was making the runs down the wing we got used to a few years ago. Diop seemed to get his confidence back (it took a few games with Balbuena as well, obviously doesn’t mix well with others!)
Rice and Noble dominated. Rice especially. I’m not the only one saying every game he gets better, but he does ! We have started passing instead of lumping. Nasri I thought was quiet after reading the report of the previous week but he did nothing wrong. Arnie was quiet, and I’m sure I saw Anderson make a tackle !
Just after half time (0-0), we get a bit of a ricochet ball in the box, which Nasri calmly tees up for Rice, and its top corner , one nil. Declan’s first goal for the senior team on his birthday weekend, 2 weeks after getting a new contract. Arnie take note.
After that , we looked assured and controlled the game. Arsenal had some longer range shots and did actually get the ball in the net twice, but with comically offside attempts. And that was that, no panic, no last hurrah from the opposition. A relatively painless win, except for Arnie who left early to be replaced by Carroll. He applauded all round the stadium as he left the field. I have commentated above on my opinion around this, so that’s that, or is it? Would you pay a potentially injured player 200k a week ?
Carroll looked sharper again, and closed down well, as did Snodgrass when introduced. We finally have a proper squad.
Obviously a lot of the credit has to go to the manager, who had kept banging on about installing a big team mentality into the team. But this needs to translate across to the fans as well. We can live in the past glories of being there just about in the league but always having a say in the title with a couple of big scalps a year or we can become the team that plays in front of 60k every week ,with big players, and expectations to match.
Gary Firmager used to say the worst thing to let loose at West Ham is expectation and back then he was right. But we have to accept that the fan base and the club has changed dramatically over the past few years, and we should now demand this level of team from our board.