I didn’t blog after our killer win against the might of Accrington Stanley (exactly !) on Wednesday because basically it was shit. But Slaven did put out all the new boys, and I thought had worked out that Antonio goes back on the right, Tore goes home and Zaza needs to knuckle down.
So we start today with no Tore or Feghouli, Antonio on the right, and Zaza up top with Payet and Lanzini for company. So far so good. But Arbeloa starts on the left and Nordveit on the right. Excuse me ? Arbeloa has won world cups playing right back, sure if we are going to play a midfielder as a full back, lets make sure the real right back is on the right side.
Anyway, Southampton played everything down their left to get inside of Nordveit, but we seemed to be weathering the attacks and were actually playing well, from a defending standpoint. Attacking was different though, Lanzini was shocking and both Payet and Kouyate looked like they had never met anyone on the team before.
Southampton kept plowing a furrow down their left and got their rewards when Austin broke the deadlock , just before half time.
Slaven tried to ring the changes at half time, swapping Lanzini for Feghouli, but it didn’t work, and in what is now becoming a rather worrying trait we shipped a further 2 goals in the second half to cement our position in the bottom 3.
Now, I’m not pushing the relegation button just yet, but we cannot ship 16 goals in 6 games (more than anyone else) and not be concerned. Reid, believe it or not played well. Slaven has to pick his best back four and get it done. For me, its Reid, Ogbonna, Arbeloa (RB) and for now with Masuaku injured, why not Sam Westley? He’s a defender, plays either side and has a squad number. He’s 22. If he is not good enough bin him.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and I hope the board stick with Slaven, but we don’t have many more games to lose before we lose touch with the rest of the league.
The one thing no one wants to talk about is Mark Noble. He has gone over one summer from someone who should be in the England squad no question, to someone who’s looking lost on the pitch. This needs sorting quickly, either drop him out, or let him play his game further up the pitch, because he slows our game down so much currently, the defending team get to reshape.
The 80’s are fashionable currently so I hear. Jordan 1’s are back in stores, as is garish gym gear. Women’s fashion seems to be very 80’s based currently and last week I swear I saw someone playing with a Rubik Cube on the train.
West Ham join in the revival and we get castigated ! I remember a time when smashing the opposition bus, having several thousand fans locked out the ground, starting the game an hour late, throwing bottles at their keeper (plus the obligatory, should be old enough to know better, pitch invader) , running a bar dry, and leaving the ground to make your way through riot police was a staple of most Saturdays. But now people just get hot about it.
OK I jest, but anyone who wasn’t there and has just read the websites and papers, and listened to Adrian Durham drone on (who wasn’t there either) will think (once again) WW3 broke out in Upton Park last night. I’m not condoning any of the above (except the bar bit) but lets be real. Yes the streets were packed, yes loads of people without tickets were there, but a few idiots throw some bottles at a bus and it’s the ICF comeback. Nonsense. Absolute nonsense.
I spent about 5 hours there, and never heard a raised (angry) voice. But I heard many voices, all raised. The atmosphere was just something to behold. This fixture is always an occasion, but last night was off the chart. I was there for the last game of the South Bank, the North Bank and the West Stand, but this was something that will live with me forever.
All the stuff afterwards with the fireworks and all that, although I see some people liking it, isn’t for me and I scooted prior to the Rejects playing, which is a little annoying but like I say, that stuff isn’t for me
There was a video played on the screens, listing many of the players that had passed away but would technically been “young enough” to be there, and although John Lyall, and Graham Paddon were up there, obviously the big one was Sir Bobby Moore. The Man U fans spontaneously burst into a chant of his name. Class Act all round. It was that kind of night.
With all this going on there was a football game on as well, and although late, it was probably one of the best Premier League games of the season. Both teams still have their eye on 5th, and both put out very strong teams. Our nemesis, Mr Rooney, started for United which is usually ominous. But we seemed to contain him ,and he seemed a little off form, which doesn’t bode well for the Euros. Misplaced passes out wide were common place and we started to get the upper hand. For the first time in a long time we played two real strikers up top, I assume to keep the Utd centre backs busy, and it seemed to be paying off. Then Sakho bent one round De Gea from distance, and it was game on after 10 minutes. We had another chance when Carroll went clear from a great through ball from Payet but hit it straight at the keeper. Anyway, we held onto our lead to half time, and it looked like the dream night would happen. In the 2nd half Man U came out firing, and the wingers seem to be on their A game. In fact one of them, Mr Martial strolled though our defence to pick up a straight pass/cross and draw the visitors level. Did I expect it it ? Yes. Did I expect a re run of the first 2 Swansea goals? No. Slaven needs to get the CB’s to work on position when there is an overlap, its just too easy for the opposition.
Soon after Martial got another one by getting into a stoppable position again, and the wheels were coming off. But the team fed off the incredible crowd, and in only 4 minutes, Antonio had equalised with a great header. Once again he had a set celebration ready, but Andy Carroll dragged him up the pitch. He knew it, we knew it, this was our night, and ours only, even if you are the most decorated team ever in the English game. Another 4 minutes, another goal, this time from the unlikely source of Winston Reid, whose other goal was pretty famous on the terraces as well, but will always now be the scorer of the last ever goal at The Boleyn.
We played out the last 10 minutes on the edge but for a change in control. So who won the game? The players played for the fans, the fans went berserk for the players, and Slaven was the architect. Did it mean as much to him as everyone else? Considering he was in tears at the final whistle, I think the answer was yes.
5th place is in the hands of others now, and I think the game at Stoke is a bit after the Lord Mayors show, so we have to see the shake out of FA Cups and UEFA cups to see if we get another shot in Europe in our new shed in season 1, but I for one will never forget this evening. Leaving earlier than most gave me a bit of time on my own taking one last look at the old girl and I left with a heavy heart, but hoping we can build this club on the potential that is now in place. Whether I will be along for the full ride will depend on how the new “experience” plays out, but I have my ticket, and we shall see.
Thanks for the memories, old girl..
MOTM: The Stadium and the Fans
Jamie wishing he was playing
Quick, I can see a beer
Believe it or not, there were nearly 36000 people in the stadium when this was taken
Not a massive fan of late kick offs so I dragged myself down to Upton Park for this game which had been moved for our friends on the telly. Having a chat with Angry pre game, and some random turns up and gives us free beer as his mates had disappeared, so the day was looking up. Anyway the bottom line of this chat, was that for us to get anything out of this, Liverpool needed to be having an off day. But at least we have a chance after it appears that Sam’s attacking football ™ is starting to gel, following the Hull game last Monday.
So the game starts in front of a vocal full house and the atmosphere is electric. After 90 seconds it goes to 11 once Winston Reid scores from a Tomkins knock down, the put the hammers into the lead. As everyone was settling into the pattern, of Liverpool attack and WHU counter, when Sakho lofted over Mignolet from the right hand side to double the lead, within 6 minutes. Now, whether it was really a cross or not, I’ll leave for him to answer, but from the Bobby Moore Upper it looked fantastic.
Being a West Ham fan, you know this isn’t enough, so the more Liverpool got the ball, the more concerned for the final result you were. And they got the ball a lot, but Balotelli and Sterling didn’t really offer the threat of a Sturridge and Suarez. One other highlight in the first half was everyones favourite pantomime villain Balotelli, going straight through Adrian, and nearly get a hiding for his trouble, but in the end they both settled for yellow cards. Liverpool got one back just before half time, when a Balotelli shot rebounded off Cresswell onto an onrushing Sterling to fire into the bottom left corner, with a well taken strike. The half time conversation was not as comfortable as you would expect being 2-1 up, and we started the second half waiting for inevitable. Which never came. The scousers battled on and had way more ball. but there was no plan B outside of give it to Sterling. Gerrard wasn’t driving on and Henderson looked like he had regressed two years.
West Ham had the odd counter, but to be fair this period wasn’t as eventful as the first half, unless you count Lovren chasing after Valencia, because Valencia won the ball in the air, but Lovren was convinced he had been butted (he wasn’t, but he had taken a massive bang in the head in first half, so maybe can be forgiven for his reaction). With 2 minutes to go, WHU broke and an improving Downing threaded through a great ball for new boy Amalfitano to slot home the final goal of the game, and end any hope Liverpool had of points today.
I don’t say this very often, but Sam got it right today, keeping Sakho and Valencia up top, and putting in Alex Song with Noble. Alex Song. Now this guy is some player. He doesn’t do any more than anyone else, but everything he does is completed correctly, and without fuss. He makes every pass and sees balls that our other midfielders don’t. And he knows when to put himself out there to pick up a card, just to stop the game. Lets hope he stays. Also something else i don’t say a lot, Downing played well, and seems to be happier in his distribution now we have a quicker frontline. Lets hope Sam allows this midfield to continue to flourish, once Nolan is fit.
Sam also made the right call, by throwing on Collins as soon as Rodgers put in Lambert, to make sure the existing players on the pitch didn’t have to change their style to combat a new offence.
So well played Sam, well played West Ham, and well played Alex Song (MOTM). Going back to my pre game chat, I don’t think Liverpool had an off day, I think they are just at that level without Sturridge. They better enjoy the CL this year, because I don’t think they will be in it next year. Also, If Sterling and Borini would like to stop the diving, that would be nice as well.
First up get well soon Aussie John who didn’t make yesterday’s game, but I will see him later as we are nipping up to the hospital today.
Post our semi dramatic (although not as dramatic as others, LOL) exit from the League Cup, it was back to the Premier League for West Ham, and the visit of Southampton FC.
Southampton had spent most of the summer selling their best assets to Liverpool and Man Utd, and West Ham had been strengthening their squad and continued to do so, with the addition of Alex Song on a season loan from Barcelona being announced just before kick off. So it all looked like a West Ham win.
As well as managing football teams, it appears Mr Allardyce has added time travel to his skillset. Yesterday we moved from the 19th Century Football (TM J.Mourinho) to 21st Century defending according to Sam. Not that the defending should of been having to be used, but more of that later.
I arrived more in hope of a win rather than expecting one. Last years game, here was more what I expected, with Swansea on the attack and plucky old WHU getting away with it.
What i got was markedly different, with a positive WHU, attacking Swansea from the off and in reality, Swansea couldn’t cope. Our defence was containing the admittedly under par Swansea attack and Noble seemed to be everywhere. Carroll was dominating their defence in very impressive style, and you just felt it would be his day. More of that later as well.
The breakthrough came on the 27th minute with Noble picking up the ball in our box and spotting the run of McCartney on the left flank. George continued the run up the line and popped in a superb cross for Andy Carroll to rise high into the air and nod it down for Nolan, to get his first in a while, and his first of the game. Like the 58 outside on Green Street, we didn’t have to wait long for the next one (19 mins to be precise), when a Downing corner found Carroll on the far post, to nod it back in for his mate to double his tally for the day, and send the Hammers in 2-0 up at half time. That really doesn’t do justice to Carroll, as the height he got and the body twist to make the nod down accurate really has to be appreciated. However I cannot find any photos on line, so you will have to catch MOTD or sky or just believe me.
The second half seem to be going the same way, with WHU happy to let the The Jacks crack on in their own half and then use Carroll to involve everybody else in the play. Then with half an hour to go everything changed. Carroll challenged Flores for the ball, and having seen that, my eyes has gone elsewhere (the incident was that much of nothing), only to catch Flores out of the corner of my eye, rolling around like a cheese in Gloucester. Game stops, Howard Webb comes over, straight red card to AC. What! Really ? I have tried to find content this morning to put up, but i’m struggling currently (edit, now have some). This was not a red card, yellow at a push. Mr Webb made a grave mistake, that (and lets be serious for a minute), could relegate us. I’m not too sure the FA will want their poster boy overturned on appeal, but it’s all in their hands now.
So WHU has to change formation for the last 30 mins, and did stoically. Special shouts out to Matt Taylor, James Collins and Mark Noble, who just threw everything out there to defend (in a 21st century fashion) our lead. So in the end, 3 points and another clean sheet (our 11th this season, why are we 3rd bottom ?) .
In fact everyone played their part yesterday, including Nocerino (Nosher, anyone), one of our new Italian imports, who came on for the last 5 and looked lively going forward. James Tomkins made a tackle in the first half against Bony, that if it had of been made by Baresi, Beckenbauer, or (dare I say it) Moore, would of been lauded down the decades. If you see it, take into account the lad was on a yellow as well, and it was 0-0. Winston Reid made a welcome return to assist the late rearguard action. This probably signals then end of Tomkins’ run in the team, and is a shame, but we cannot accommodate everyone. It was also nice to see everyone in the correct positions, including Kevin Nolan, who put a shift in for the first time in a long time.
Anyway MOTM goes to big Kev for his contribution, but he was run close by Mark Noble, Andy Carroll and on the outside Matt Taylor.
Overall, our first season back in the prem has been a success, with Big Sam steering the team to a top 10 finish, in allegedly the best league in the world. We have a become a hard team to break down, but we do have a limited attack, unless Andy Carroll is playing. This means our league position is about right. For Sam then, we have to take on board that in the last two seasons he has done exactly what has been asked of him, and delivered in both years. But he needs to liven up play to get more fans on side.
Sam Allardyce 8/10
For the players we shall go in shirt number order.
2. Winston Reid. Bit of a shame to start any article at the top, but this is where we find ourselves. The Kiwi has been outstanding this season, and has won the club’s Player of the Season award, and mine. Which may come as a surprise as I wanted him out when we first took him on. 9/10
3. George McCartney – Only played about 25% of the season, and looked OK, but then injury struck, not OK. Probably should be offloaded this summer. 5/10
4. Kevin Nolan. Big Kev ended the year on a high, with a hatrick against collapsing Reading. Seems to drive the team, but could do with getting in the gym a bit, if you ask me. Double figures from midfield not too shabby though. 7/10.
5. James Tomkins. Really disappointing season for the young defender as Sam obviously doesn’t rate him, which is a shame. Would do best to leave, but i would like him to stay and prove Sam wrong. 6/10
7. Matt Jarvis. Our record signing has been everything we needed this year once he got going. Balls flew in from all angles from the feet of the small winger. More to come I hope. 7/10
8. Andrew Thomas Carroll. Where would we of been without Sam’s inspired loan signing. Not just his goals, but his teamplay and willingness to get on the end of everything has been nothing short of amazing. If he didn’t have a spell out injured, we would of at least been knocking on the door of Europe. If we can hang onto him permanently, colour me a Sam fan ! 9/10
9. Carlton Cole. This season sees Carlton leaving West Ham a cult hero and a West Ham fan. Never gave less than 100%, but just cannot fit into Sam’s system. I’m really sorry to see him go, but wish him luck wherever he ends up. 7/10
10. Jack Collison. Jack has had another injury hit season, but when he has played he still hasn’t lived up to his early potential. I would give him one more season, but there are rumours about an early retirement. 6.5/10
11. Modibo Maiga. Failure, except for a last minute cross for Kevin Nolan to get his hatrick against Reading. Back to France for this recruit. 3/10
12. Richardo Vaz Te. The enigma continues. The guy who scored our last championship goal, gets one in our last game of the season. RVT is just not good enough for Premier League football. He gets shoved off too much and gives the ball away too easily. Another one for the exit door. 4/10
14. Matt Taylor. Seems to give his all, and has the mark of a premier league player. Used sparingly this season, might see more action if RVT leaves. 6/10
15. Yossi Benayoun. Couple of appearances pre christmas and won a Europa League winners medal. Fair play. Don’t come back. 5/10
16. Mark Noble. The local boy had been an ever present until an injury took him out for a few games. Lots of puff, not nearly enough end product. Can do it, and once he gets it in his head he can do it. Needs to realise he is not the best player in WHU and just needs to get his head down and crack on. 6/10.
17 Joey O’Brien. Last years freebie becomes this year’s secret weapon. Plays really well on the right, not so good on the left but capable. A good addition to the team. 7/10.
19 James Collins. Started the season really badly, not sure where he was playing, not linking up with Reid, got mauled by Swansea and kept Tomkins out of the side . Post Xmas was indispensable. Kept Man U quiet on his own. Well played Ginge. 7.5/10
20. Guy Demel. His rampaging down the right seem to be more controlled now and his tackles better. Needs to stay . 7/10
21. Mo Diame. Absolutely fantastic all season. His goal against Man U was sublime. Held us to ransom a bit during Jan, but hopefully with that behind him and a better midfield to come in, he will improve again (before he leaves !). 8.5/10
22. Jussi Jaaskeklainen. Robert Green’s replacement played every PL game this season, and won us about 10 points in my estimation. A couple of mistakes are allowed in a season like this. Well played Sir. 8/10.
26 Joe Cole. If I’m honest I really wanted this to work, and it sort of did, if only from a raising the spirits point of view. Needs more game time, and needs to get his mojo back . You can see why Liverpool moved him on though, as by rights he should sit square in the Brendan Rogers camp. 6.5/10
32. Gary O’Neill. Never let us down as a sub, but really took his chance in the middle when Noble was out. Should get more game time next year. 7/10.
Abou Diarra – nice one.
Dan Potts. Your time will come.
Elliot Lee. Maybe, lets see.
Chamakh. Lol. Lets hope he wasn’t expensive.
Last but not least the Chairmen. Lets not forget, this season we have gained a new ground, as well as bankrolled the signings (re signings) of Carroll, Cole, and secured Diame. Also, for a man in his late 70’s David Gold is fantastic on twitter (dg). The other Dave has kept his self out of the media and left it to Karen, which is probably right. If the 3 of them play this ground business well, we could be up there in a few years.
if this game was a month ago, it would of been a cracker. Both managers had managed their opposition. 2 key players in claret and blue were both once Tyneside legends, and both teams were looking for points and playing well.
This game however saw WHU safe and in the top half and unless there is some major shock results, a draw would suit Newcastle (Wigan beating WBA away, anyone ? :)).
Sam picked his probable best team with the improving O’Neill anchoring the middle instead of Noble, and RVT on the right hand side instead of Joe Cole.
The first half was instantly forgettable, except for on 20 mins, Cisse stripped Collins easily to pass the ball past Jussi, and towards the empty net. Mr Winston Reid arrives on the scene to clear right of the line, but watching it again today on the telly would suggest it might be a good case for goal line technology. The games stumbles towards half time with Gutierrez faking injury and really bonding with the home support.
The game livened up a little in the second half, but no one really troubled either goalkeeper. Carroll, although industrious all game , sent a couple of headers past the post, and Jussi got all caught up coming off his line to leave the goal unattended again but the oncoming shot / cross went past the far post for a goal kick. Matt Jarvis got a few good crosses in late on, and Carroll and Nolan forced a great double save from Elliot to keep the honours even.
Which is how they ended up. A point for West Ham which could be a few quid, but a point for the Geordies leaves them just above the drop zone, and Wigan have a game in hand. Chunky Pardew (dont ask) doesn’t seem phased, but if I was a Newcastle fan , the lack of urgency would bother me.
Nice of Sam to only makes subs where they were needed, and keep Diame and Gary O’Neill on the pitch for 90 minutes.
So for his goal line clearance and general all round good play, todays MOTM goes to Winston Reid.
Another TV game for the Hammers today, as we travel to West Brom for what will be a tough game against a team rejuvenated this season by their new manager, our old number 2, Steve Clarke. Both teams are due a win, and are beset by injury. Sam only has 6 subs because of injury. Diame being out is a massive lost for the visitors. But a back to form Carlton Cole could be a light at the end of the tunnel for WHU. This game has draw all over it, to be honest.
This will be a live blog, so probably a little disjointed in part.
O’Neill comes into the middle (as hinted in his twitter, last week), to replace Diame. Odd but probably better than Tomkins at this level, in this position. Liam Ridgewell is out for the Baggies, so no old boys scoring against us this week !
WBA started the game the livelier, with a couple of decent attacks early on. Mark Noble to his credit seemed to be on this wavelength and was stopping attacks and starting counters with aplomb. As long as he keeps his feet to himself, as he will be banned for the home game against Everton if he gets a yellow.
Just when WHU dont need it, Reid goes down after 9 mins, after getting a WBA player land on him during a WHU free kick. He gets up but is hobbling gingerly.
1st shot on target was after 15 when Peter Odemwingie hit a long ranger into the arms of Jussi. Joey O’Brien seems a little uncomfortable in the left back berth, if I’m honest.
On 27, Shane Long had a half chance go just wide of the post. That really is all there is to report on, its was all a bit dull. Matt Taylor tried to put Cole in with a header but hit the keeper instead. Then Joey O’Brien picked up a yellow for a very unnecessary challenge. Like i say uncomfortable.
First corner for WHU on 31. Reid is very unlucky to put the James Collins head back just over the bar.
On 35 CC springs clear and unleashes a thunderous shot , which is stopped, and just goes past the advancing Kevin Nolan.
After a minute of stoppage time, the refs blows for what was a very quiet first half for both teams. 0-0. Tight as. Sky reckon WHU on top, i don’t agree with that, but neither keeper has had to have a stormer. Did I say a draw at the beginning ?
The second half starts much like the first, with the Baggies on top, and getting a 6 yard chance in the first minute, and 4 corners back to back, including one that ended u with WBA hitting the bar. Great news if you have a spread on, not good if you support WHU.
Gary O’Neill goes really close after an edge of the box scramble, with a curling 20 yarder.
After this exciting start, nothing happens until CC wins an unlikely ball on 55, and instead of just passing back, tries some fancy flick up, which goes straight to a WBA player. Shocking. The next minute sees Taylor hit a poor shot across the goal.
On the hour mark, WBA hit an almost identical shot to Cole’s in the first half. Jussi Parries away, much to their dismay. On 65 Reid beats long to the ball, to stop the once WHU target opening his account.
Taylor gets fouled on what looked like a good attack for WHU. From the resulting free kick O’Brien goes close. Even though the game is scrappy, WHU seem to be slightly on top, slightly being the operative word.
Spoke too soon, the Baggies got right back into this game, and are getting all the corners again, including one cross that hits the bar. WHU are leading a charmed life here.
On the 75 minute, like clockwork, on comes Maiga. But not for Cole, for Jarvis. Sam obviously sees a game to be won here. Then another sub with 10 to go. Tomkins comes on for Demel. Semi straight swap. CC seems to get a bang in the mouth from the next corner. Personally i think he’s time wasting. There, i’ve said it.
On 82 Steve Clarke takes the draw as he brings off Shane Long. Meanwhile Kevin Nolan and Malumbu get carded for some handbags as the game heads towards in inevitable conclusion. On 85 Tomkins gets himself a card for a deliberate obstruction.
Today seemed to be a case of 2 teams who don’t really know how to break down organised teams, and don’t have that star quality to change a game. Maybe Diame could of provided that, we will never know. I think both teams are guilty of being able to raise their game against better opposition, but cannot do it when they are playing similar teams. However WHU did earn their point today, but the frailties of the depleted squad were obvious. Hopefully obvious to the board as well !
The draw was a fair result, and pushes WHU back into touching distance of the top half.
MOTM here was not an easy decision, but James Collins edged it for me. Noble played well, as did Reid and Cole, but Collins seemed to be exactly where you needed him every time. Winston for Sky. What do they know !
Did i say a draw ? The 30 points I picked up in my prediction league for a correct score says yes !