Tuesday, November 21

In defence of Andy Carroll

I'm not sure the away fans at Watford should have had a go at Andy Carroll, with chants of "Andy Carroll we left 'cos you'e shit!" and "You'e not fit to wear the shirt!" (though this was more against the team as a whole). Big Andy has wound up some fans after the Liverpool match by suggesting that the empty seats at the end of games don't help the players. It's never wise to pick a fight with your own fans, and yes, you can understand why fans left at 4-1 down against Liverpool, but generally he has a point. Banks of white seats add to the air of pessimism and personally I stay to the end of the match whatever happens. 

The other point is that unlike some players, when Carroll plays he always puts in a shift. If anything he tries too hard and gets booked and sent off for silly offences, as at Burnley, when did deserve criticism. His injury record hasn't been helped by his tendency to throw himself at everything in the box, but he's certainly up for it. At Watford he was completely isolated up front and up against three big centre backs in Mariappa, Britos and Kabasale, but always kept battling for scraps. It's easy to come out with statements that might sound bad after a game, but what he said was only words and fans can be over-sensitive. Carroll is an easy target because he's injury-prone and married to a Towie star, but he tries and on his day he can also be unplayable. We're going to need him if we're to get out of trouble.

Monday, November 20

Emergency! Emergency!

So who was it who phoned 999? West Ham fans have been urged not to dial 999 by the police because losing to Watford is not a genuine emergency. Though presumably the police will accept Tony Pulis being on the market as a valid reason for calling them up…

Sunday, November 19

Hammers miss chances as Watford make it a miserable start for Moyes

Watford 2 West Ham 0

It’s off to Watford Junction with Matt, where we trek across a sleepy Watford and home fans offer us directions rather than trying to attack us. Well, they say it;s a family club. We enjoy a cup of Rosie Lee in Domenic’s Café, before meeting my old school pal Mark at the stadium and taking our place among the Hornets’ nest in the Graham Taylor Stand.

The isolated Andy Carroll gets booked early on for using his elbow, much to the displeasure of the home fans. Arnautovic is playing wide right, which is mystifying when he’s left-footed, though Moyes is presumably stating that system comes before individuals. “Sack the board!” comes from the away end even when it’s 0-0.

Watford score with their first real attack after 11 minutes after Richarlison charges down the left, as Hughes lashes home a rebound after Gray’s blocked effort falls rather luckily in his path. We have a great view of mascot Harry The Hornet banging his bloody drum. Watford almost make it two when Hart parries the ball out only for the chance to be sliced wide. "You're nothing special we lose every week!" chant the Irons fans.

BRILLIANT GOMES
Generally Doucoure out-powers the disappointing trio of Kouyate, Noble and Obiang in central midfield. Though the Hammers do almost come back into it before half-time. Noble finds Kouyate who has an effort pushed wide by Gomis. Then Zabaleta gets in a great cross and Gomis makes a fantastic save from first Arnautovic's header and then a brilliant block with his foot. A key moment in the game.

Arnautovic is working much harder and pulls back a cross for Kouyate to blast over when he should score at the start of the second half. The Austrian later leaves the pitch after being inadvertently stamped on, writhing in agony in the turf and suffering what is suspected to be a broken thumb.

It’s over when Hughes controls with his hand and then finds Richarlison in lots of space, who bursts into the box to power a shot through Joe Hart, who seems to have developed “soft hands”. Though to be fair he has made a brilliant stop a few minutes earlier, but Hart is too much of a mixed bag at present. Watford frequently look like making it three and impress on the break against a slow West Ham side.

At least sub Arthur Masuaku has a go with some late runs and crosses. His low cross finds Lanzini, whose effort is cleared off the line with the aid of a hand.

WEST HAM DISUNITED
The atmosphere turns pretty toxic in the away section towards the end with chants of “Sack the board!”, “Karren Brady you’ve f**ked up our club!”, “You’re not fit to wear the shirt!” and “Andy Carroll, we left ‘cos you’re s**t!” Followed by a ditty about Gold and Sullivan to the tune of Slade’s Cum On Feel The Noize. So at least something positive has come out of the game — a mini glam rock revival.

It’s disappointing, but West Ham have made four clear chances they should have scored, even if Watford have looked the better side. "At least we won't have to come here next season," I tell Mark as we leave. "And playing Millwall should be fun in Westfield," he adds.

As for the chants, we’re all frustrated, but the old stadium isn’t coming back. For all their faults the board backed Bilic with signings (though maybe the wrong ones). Whatever most fans think of Moyes, it’s time to get behind the manager and the team. Leicester becomes yet another must win game and things have to improve, but let’s go into it as a united club.


PLAYER RATINGS: Hart 5; Zabaleta 6, Reid 5, Ogbonna 5, Cresswell 5; Arnautovic 6 (Masuaku 6), Noble 5, Obiang 5, Kouyate 4, Lanzini 5; Carroll 5 (Sakho 5).

Friday, November 17

Hungry like the Wolf

Congratulations to Andy Carroll and Billi Mucklow on the birth of their second child, who has been given the entirely sensible name of Wolf Nine Carroll. Is the lad's first name a tribute to Wolfie from Citizen Smith? Or a hint that he might go on to play for Wolves? His second name of Nine is thought to be a nod to the Beckhams, who named their daughter Harper Seven after David's shirt number. Which is all very well as a principle, but it does mean that if Declan Rice has a child he'll have to give it a middle name of Forty One.

Thursday, November 16

Hammers Home From Home at East Ham

Thanks to all the 40-odd punters who came to see Brian Wiliams and myself talk about our Goodybye To Boleyn and Home From Home and Nearly Reach The Sky books at East Ham Library on Tuesday night as part of the Newham Word Festival

Great to have readers arriving from as far afield as Southend and Benfleet. Enjoyed hearing Brian Williams' description of the fan behind him who divided the 1990s sides into two classifications of "has-beens" and "wankers." 

The audience seemed to appreciate our reminiscences about the Boleyn and there was still a palpable sense of anger about the stadium move. So good to have Cecilia from the Save Our Statue campaign there too. Let's keep the World Cup Statue at Upton Park. And enjoyed a post-gig drink in the Miller's Well with Brian, Di and Jackie, where we somehow got on to Peter Grotier's moustache, Johnny Ayris and Harry Redknpp's thighs. Here's a picture of the Newham Bookshop's display of our tomes and thanks to all who bought copies.

Wednesday, November 15

Psycho returns: plenty of experience in Moyes' back-up team

David Moyes has announced his back-up team and although it's the usual suspects, the positive is that there's a lot of managerial experience in there. Stuart Pearce is a good appointment because he was a popular figure at West Ham when he arrived in his late thirties and was utterly committed. He should improve motivation and has managerial experience with Nottingham Forest, Man City and the England Under-21 side. Maybe not a top-class manager but a good assistant to have. 

Alan Irvine has managed Preston, Sheffield Wednesday, West Brom (very briefly) and been assistant manager at Norwich. While Billy McKinlay has coached extensively and has managed at Watford, Stabaek in Norway and Sunderland (as caretaker).

We never heard much from Slaven Bilic's assistant Nikola Jurcevic or the rest of his back-up team and he was reluctant to change them when it was suggested by the board. At least the new assistants should have enough managerial experience to be more than yes men. If Moyes is making mistakes they will hopefully tell him.

Sunday, November 12

Literary Irons at East Ham Library

It's the literary event of the year on Tuesday, Nov 14 at the East Ham Library where Brian Williams and myself take West Ham to the next level (possibly) while talking about our books Goodbye to Boleyn and Home From Home. As double acts go it should be somewhere between McAvennie and Cottee and Bonds and Brooking (or on a bad night Saint and Greavesie). Tickets — it's free! – from Newham Bookshop or Newham Word Festival websites. 

Friday, November 10

Moyes makes a decent start by emphasising fitness and player responsibility

The majority of West Ham fans might remain underwhelmed at the appointment of David Moyes, but he's made the right noises at his first press conference. He's declared West Ham a big club with a good squad and addressed the rumours about lack of intensity in training by organising double sessions — though you'd think injury-prone Andy Carroll might require a separate training regime. 

Moyes was careful not to criticise Bilic and his back room staff but he is is clearly worried by the fitness stats declaring: "Once they know they are running and sprinting the least, they need to take a bit of responsibility and stand up."

Will the players respect Moyes after his last three jobs ended in dismissal? We don't know yet, but a less lenient approach is needed after Slaven's friendly manner. Moyes wants the players to take responsibility and show they're good enough to play for West Ham. They have needed to hear words like this for a long time: "If you step out of line you won't play. if you don't run you won't play. if you're not fit enough you won't play… They will either do the work and get on with it, if they don't do the work then they are not playing. I am in a hurry and they need to be as well."

David Moyes has said the right things and looked to have some of his old Everton fire back. We have to hope he and the players will now deliver. 

Thursday, November 9

Six mistakes that cost Bilic his West Ham job

Slaven Bilic was a decent man let down by a lack of planning at boardroom level and most managers would have struggled after the stadium move. But he made a number of crucial mistakes too…

PLAYING ANTONIO AT RIGHT BACK
Antonio did a decent job of playing as an emergency right back at the end of the 2015-16 season. But it was always clear that he was one of WHU’s best players as an attacking right winger or striker. It started to go wrong from the first game of the season at Chelsea where Michail conceded a penalty. Yet Bilic seemed obsessed with converting him to right back. He then stockpiled the side with right-wingers he didn’t need like Feghouli and Tore and let Jenkinson return to Arsenal and Moses to Chelsea, leaving us with just the raw Sam Byram at right-back for a season.

SELLING JAMES TOMKINS
The sale of James Tomkins to Crystal Palace in the summer of 2016 was baffling. The fans responded to having a local lad in the team and players like Mark Noble enjoyed having him around too. Bilic said he couldn’t guarantee Tonks first team football, but he would have had been almost permanently in the side as West Ham struggled to find a right back, Ogbonna got injured and lost form and the squad suffered its obligatory injuries. Tomkins wasn’t the best player in the world, but he could play across the back line and always put in a shift. Ultimately Bilic signed the much older Jose Fonte, who for much of his time has looked less impressive than Tomkins.

REPLACING PAYET WITH SNODGRASS
Bilic was badly let-down by Payet, but he replaced him with Robert Snodgrass, a right-sided player who didn’t play in the same position. Snoddy was only given 14 games and then loaned to Aston Villa. The January window is always difficult, so it might have been better to save £10 million and sign a new left-sided midfielder in the summer. Did Bilic even want Snodgrass?

THE SUMMER SIGNINGS OF 2016
Nordtveit, Feghouli, Calleri, Fletcher, Tore, Arbeloa… West Ham needed a couple of world-class players to consolidate after finishing seventh. Instead the summer signings were of quantity rather than quality and it went down as one of the worst windows in West Ham’s history. Maybe some of the signings were Sullivan’s, but Bilic clearly wanted the likes of Tore and Feghouli and he has to take much of the blame.

THAT LOAN DEAL FOR ZAZA
Ironically Simone Zaza is now scoring for fun at Valencia and looks one of the best strikers in Europe have scored nine goals this season in La Liga. The loan deal with a 14-game clause placed too much pressure on Zaza and the club — though this was probably more the board's doing than Slaven's. Had Zaza been successful early on it might even have persuaded Payet to stay all season. Zaza should have either been signed outright or on a season’s loan. And if Bilic really was sure Zaza is world class perhaps West Ham should have gone ahead and signed him at the end of the 14-game spell anyway?

NOT IDENTIFYING A STYLE OF PLAY

Klopp has gegenpressing, Pochettino has pressing and promoting youth, Mourinho has tactical efficiency and a big striker, Wenger has pretty passing patterns, Big Sam plays the percentages and Tony Pulis has a team of massive centre-banks. But we always struggled to know what kind of team Slaven wanted. He wanted to sign pace last summer but ended up with a number of ageing stars and a pedestrian side. With Payet in the side we played flowing football, but since our one world-class player left, the West Ham Way has been unclear.

Tuesday, November 7

Will West Ham be getting the Everton or Sunderland version of Moyes?

Well, it's happened. David Moyes is the new West Ham boss, at least until the end of the season and with the option of an extension. The worry is that the last time West Ham appointed a manager from a team that had just been relegated, it was Avram Grant arriving from Portsmouth. 

We have to hope that six months out of the game has refreshed Moyes and we get the Everton version rather than the Sunderland flop. There's a worrying piece by Louise Tayior in today's Guardian about his time at Sunderland, detailing how he lost the players early on with his negativity and relied on rigid tactics and signing ageing players from his old clubs. 

Moyes has at least given a positive first interview, avoiding the PR mistakes of Big Sam who immediately slammed the West Ham Way. He's also been more positive than he was at Sunderland. Moyes says that West Ham is a big club, it's a good squad and he wants to see attacking, entertaining football but from a sound defensive base. If Stuart 'Psycho' Pearce was added to the coaching staff, as is rumoured, it might help with motivating our underachieving players. 

Apart from flair, the main thing West Ham fans want to see is players running their hearts out. If Moyes can restore some work rate and organisation he'll have taken the first step in winning over the West Ham faithful.

Monday, November 6

Bilic had run out of options; but is David Moyes the answer?

So the inevitable has happened and Slaven Bilic has been sacked. I'd like to thank him for getting the West Ham Way and understanding what the fans wanted – as exemplified by his tears after the final win against Man United at the Boleyn. He gave us a great season in 2015-16 but faced a massive task adapting the side to the London Stadium. 

In truth it's been going wrong ever since the catastrophic signings in the summer of 2016 and then the new signings not gelling quickly enough this season. The side has looked lacking in fitness and pace and disorganised defensively. We didn't get close to competing with Brighton or Liverpool, while letting in a 97th minute equaliser at Palace had all the marks of a relegation side. But Slaven is a decent man and watching his agonies on the touchline wasn't enjoyable. He looked dejected and needs a break. 

Which brings us to the likely appointment of David Moyes for the rest of the season. It's a high-risk strategy for both sides. If Moyes fails he may not work again. If we get the manager who did so well at Everton for a decade he will at least organise the defence and bring some discipline to the club. At his best he spotted the likes of Cahill, Coleman and Fellaini. He can be excused for failing to succeed when following Sir Alex Ferguson and not many British managers do well in Spain. 

But his relegation at Sunderland is much more worrying; he looked tired and made a big error by admitting they were in a relegation struggle after two games. Admittedly he wasn't given money in the transfer window, but his side went down too tamely. Pardew or Koeman might have been a better manager to choose out of those available. Moyes will at least be hungry to prove he is still a top manager. But West Ham are staking an awful lot on him getting his mojo back.

Sunday, November 5

Liverpool's pace men demolish shambolic Hammers to place Bilic on the brink

West Ham 1 Liverpool 4

It’s into the Clyde Best Café to meet Nigel and CQ. Lisa managed to lose Nigel’s season ticket at the Brighton match, but unfortunately for Nigel the club have sent a replacement. Fraser also lost his season ticket for the Brighton game before finding it concealed in plain sight on his desk. Meanwhile Matt and Lisa have seen the under-18s lose 6-0 at home to Stevie Gerrard’s Liverpool and are now at the matinee of the Ian Dury Musical Reasons to be Cheerful, hoping that West Ham don’t play like Blockheads.

At least we receive a free plastic bag to hold up for Remembrance Day — that is unless the club add the cost to our season ticket. The first 20 minutes of the match aren’t too bad and the crowd remains noisy. Lanzini’s deflected pass falls nicely for Ayew who lobs Mignolet and hits the outside of the post. But it all goes wrong when West Ham get a corner. Having learned nothing from our drubbings against Liverpool and Man City last season, the Hammers have only Cresswell back. When Fernandes loss a challenge Mane runs the length of the field as Reid tries to get back and Noble runs in sand, before slipping in Salah to poke home. The lack of pace in the West Ham side is hugely alarming.

Two minutes later it’s worse as Liverpool’s corner is deflected towards his own net by Noble and Hart can only parry it to a grateful Matip. “You’re going down with the Everton!” chant the Liverpool fans.

QUALITY OF MERSEY IS NOT RESTRAINED
The only positive is the half-time revelation that Michael has bought a new Tardis badge. Carroll comes on for Fernandes in the second half and for a few minutes the Irons make a game of it. Ayew’s cross is expertly controlled on the chest by Lanzini who then lobs it into the corner. Game on it seems. Only 30 seconds later Liverpool cut straight through our midfield and the unmarked Salah strokes. It’s very basic; even in my glory days of the Shenfield School First X1 we were told to win the next tackle after scoring to guard against complacency.

Bizarrely, going 3-1 down rouses the crowd and there’s some decent noise to try and inspire the side. Lanzini puts over a chance that is easier than the one he scored and sub Arnautovic gets in a great cross that Hernandez heads over, claiming that he’s been pushed.

It’s all over when Oxlade-Chamberlain, who’s been struggling at Anfield, has his career kick-started by West Ham, poking home after Hart parries his initial effort back to him. Liverpool should get at least two more after that as they break at will. The exodus starts. Even Reid has been poor, while Noble has had a terrible game too.

“That’s ten goals I’ve seen Liverpool score today,” muses a moribund Matt.

I’ve defended Bilic for most of his time at West Ham but for a season and a half it’s been getting worse and the naivety and lack of organisation here is indefensible. It seems kinder to make a break rather than increase poor old Slaven’s suffering in that lonely technical area. The players need to look at themselves. The club needs someone to come in and reorganise and kick backsides. It’s not the fault of the stadium either, defend like this anywhere and you’ll get tonked.

We discuss potential new managers. But who is there who would come? Pardew, Koeman, Big Sam, Clever Trevor Brooking, Alan Curbishley, Glenn Roeder? I suggest Di Canio as the nuclear option to get the training running on time.

ARE WE HOLOGRAMS IN DISGUISE? 
Matt announces that instead of supporting West Ham he could have been the ticket man at Fulham Broadway station. Nigel says that the Arsenal cup game clashes with the Ronnie Dio hologram concert at the Islington Garage and we wonder if the West Ham side is comprised of holograms too. They certainly look realistic, but don’t seem to have got the knack of movement yet.

“At least you saw a West Ham goal!” I tell Steve the Cornish postie as he heads off to his hotel to listen to some Leonard Cohen as he contemplates a 200-mile journey home.

“We’re a club with no identity anymore,” muses a Hammers fan walking towards the Overground as we pass some apt graffiti reading “This Ship Is Sinking”. I head off to Homerton to view more fireworks than we got on the pitch. And in a plot to wind up my pal Fraser even more the latest rumour is that David Moyes might be on his way to West Ham. It’s been a draining day to be a West Ham supporter and on this form we’re going down.


PLAYER RATINGS: Hart 4; Reid 3, Ogbonna 4, Kouyate 4; Fernandes 3 (Carroll 5), Noble 3 (Arnautovic 5), Obiang 4, Lanzini 5, Cresswell 4; Ayew 5, Hernandez 4 (Sakho 4).

Saturday, November 4

Cottee and Parkes in new issue of Blowing Bubbles

The latest issue of Blowing Bubbles Monthly features an exclusive interview with club legend Tony Cottee, giving his take on the team’s current issues in attack. He also tells us why he still has faith in his old team-mate, Slaven Bilic, despite the stick he is currently receiving for the team’s current form.

“I’ll always defend Slav as I honestly believe he’s doing his best and trying to do what is best for the club,” says Cottee. “He understands what the fans want but obviously understanding it and delivering it are two different things. If he left tomorrow, I don’t seen an outstanding candidate who would be the person you’d rush to get in. Leicester and Everton have pressed the button very quickly… But I think it’s fair to say when they sacked their managers neither club had any idea of who they would want to get in.”

Plus columns from two more of Boys of '86 team-mates, Phil Parkes and George Parris, with their take on the Cup win over Spurs and the need for unity in adversity – and also a revealing insight into life during the short-lived Lou Macari managerial era. Elsewhere, Brian Williams takes a look at some of the greatest – and worst – keepers ever to play for the Irons, and it’s a tale of three strikers as we look at how life is treating Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho and Simone ‘Remember Me?’ Zaza this season.

Add in an update on Reece Oxford’s learning experience on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach, a look behind the scenes at the London Stadium, and Pub Talk, there's plenty to digest in this month's opinion-packed Blowing Bubbles. Click on the link for subscription details.

Friday, November 3

Did Antonio return too quickly?

So now Byram has been injured in training and the Evening Standard reports that Antonio has had a recurrence of his rib injury, though Slaven Bilic says in his press conference that it is a muscle injury. The only good news is that Reid and Cresswell might be fit. 

Antonio didn't look right after he got a painful whack in the ribs against Brighton and it was a mystery why he was kept on for the rest of the game. If there was any doubt about his recovery then it would surely have been safer to not bring him on against Palace. You suspect he's the sort who is always eager to play and might sometimes need holding back. Antonio was rushed back too quickly last season after a hamstring pull and it seems he needs a decent period to recover or he picks up more injuries. 

Yes it's a results business and he's a match winner, but we're not going to get results unless we have one hundred per cent fit players. 

Thursday, November 2

Sitting on defence: Hammers in new injury crisis

West Ham could go into the Liverpool game with a defence of Byram, Ogbonna, Rice and Masuaku. Slaven Biiic faces a defensive crisis: Winston Reid picked up a calf injury before the game at Palace, while Fonte injured his foot at Selhurst Park and James Collins is also out. Aaron Cresswell also went off injured at Palace and on top of that Zabaleta will be suspended for the Liverpool match. 

Looking at the glass-half full option Ogbonna probably deserves a run after his winner at Spurs, even if he did concede a penalty at Palace. We know from the Payet season that at his best he's a fine left-sided defender and it has to be remembered he's still coming back from a long spell out. Declan Rice looks a real prospect too, even if he does lack experience. I'd stick Byram in at right back after his Carabao Cup performances and also because he is a specialist right-back. The worry is that tinkerman Bilic might play Kouyate as an emergency right-back. Another more reasonable option might be to move Kouyate to centre-back in to a back five, which would suit Byram and Masuaku more.  

The glass half-empty option is that Liverpool have brilliant forward options through the likes of Salah, Sturridge and Firmino, even if Sane is injured and Coutinho doubtful. While Antonio is now out for WHU. Mind you, Liverpool''s back-line still looks dodgy. So with two suspect defences you get the feeling there might be plenty of goals on Saturday night.

Tuesday, October 31

Literary Hammer geezers at East Ham Library

In a double act to rival McAvennie and Cottee — or some might say Mike Small and David Kelly — Brian Williams and myself will be appearing at East Ham Library, 328 Barking Road, on Tuesday Nov 14 as part of the Newham Word Festival. Brian will be discussing his new book Home From Home on his struggles reaching the next level at the London Stadium and his previous tome Nearly Reach The Sky, while I'll be speaking about my book Goodbye To Boleyn on West Ham's final season at Upton Park. Expect plenty of Boleyn reminisces, Ken's Cafe eulogies, West Ham trivia and then questions from the floor. Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm kick-off and it's all free. Details from the Newham Bookshop website.