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Pandemic pandemonium

Going viral – but not in a good way

Don’t just stand there
Let’s get to it
Strike a pose
There’s nothing to it
VAGUE

@dirtyepic7 after Madonna

FIRST the good news – without any live football now or in the foreseeable future to indulge our passion, here’s a link to a substantial library of past games. Enjoy!

From now on this blog will become darker. As a fan of the zombie film genre our immediate outlook appears bleak – especially as we can’t “Go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for this all to blow over.” The cold reality is people and businesses will struggle, friends and loved ones will die. For most of us under the age of 80 it will be our nearest experience of the privations of war.

Football’s response whether at club, FA, Premier league, UEAFA or FIFA level echoes that of the governments either side of the Atlantic. Requiring honesty and leadership we instead get tribal responses as various factions indulge their favourite pastimes of jockeying for advantage. Given the very real likelihood no football will be played before August a domestic three-week delay to buy some time and kick the can (ball?) down the road is pusillanimous.

This situation is exactly what executives pay themselves huge wages for but they’re sitting on their hands. Don’t hold your breath and expect much in the way of enlightenment from this week’s UEFA summit either – the blindingly obvious decision to postpone this summer’s appallingly constructed Euros will be the most on offer.

The season is surely over and in the vacuum of leadership the usual rentagob suspects step forward. Which brings us nicely to the West Ham Vice Chair “Lady” Karren Brady. Her column in Saturday’s The Sun was offensive and deliberately so. By claiming the season should be void and highlighting it would mean Liverpool forfeiting a League title that surely not even the most one-eyed Manchester United fan would deny them was crass and once again brought West Ham the wrong sort of publicity. Never mind it was being published in a paper with a history of offending Scousers.

Send in the clowns

As with football, so our nation. Giving up on leaking bits and pieces behind the paywall of the Telegraph and “unnamed government sources” Prime Minister Boris Johnson was put up in interview yesterday (Monday) to answer questions. A feat he applied himself to with a customary lack of rigour. The country is in desperate need of a war leader – but never mind Churchill we didn’t even get Chamberlain. Just who was it again first coined the phrase “an inverted pyramid of piffle”? By suggesting people don’t gather together but not banning public events he’s effectively denied businesses an insurance payout and thrown them under a bus. Everywhere he moves a trail of debris follows.

For both Brady and Johnson a lack of trust and divisive stance negates the option for them to ask us to pull together after doing their very best to render apart. (Note to those who think they may detect a party-political bias here: There is little to no reason to have expected any better had the result of the most recent election been any different). There is a psychology study of panic buying but equally supermarket raids speak as much to a dearth of calm or authoritative leadership from our executive.

Options seem limited – especially as we won’t be going down the pub (did Johnson say whether we could or not – I can’t remember?) never mind playing football for some considerable time. The best suggestion – it will not happen – would be for the Premier League to collect up all the TV money owing for this season and divvy it out equally among all 92 clubs to stave off the chance of extinction for League One and Two clubs. An Italian idea to split the current season of two years appears more realistic, even if wouldn’t help smaller clubs it at least has the benefit of keeping the lawyers at bay.

The common theme is people revelling in their power without accepting even a scintilla of responsibility. We must fill the vacuum. Sport can bring people together – let’s find other ways of building communities? Be kind to each other! Perhaps stick a note through the old boy’s door down the road offering to do some shopping, give your mum a ring etc. Perhaps take the best piece of advice I’ve heard: Act not as though you’re scared of catching the virus – but as though you already have.
Most of all take care.

xxx

PS Here’s a public information film from Vietnam on the virus. It could take up three minutes of your self-isolation. It’s also a fucking banger. You’re welcome.

Better than any UK Eurovision entry

Arsenal 1-0 West Ham

Moyes reacts after Antonio made a mess of another chance

SUCH was the ludicrous manner in which the Hammers contrived to lose at the Emirates, teams of Wiccan specialists are waving crystals, reciting spells and wafting smoke to reverse the curse that has quite clearly been placed on West Ham United Football Club. They needn’t bother – the cause of our malaise is much more prosaic – the collective failure of David Sullivan, Mario Husillos and Manuel Pellegrini to buy attacking players that can function in the Premier League.

The decision to get rid of strikers Javier Hernandez, Andy Carroll, Marko Arnautovic, Jordan Hugill and Lucas Perez last season can’t really in isolation be faulted. To replace them with only the moody Sebastien Haller and woeful Albian Ajeti is close to criminal. Michail Antonio strove manfully as a stand-in forward but as soon as presented with a goal scoring opportunity for himself or a colleague made the sort of enthusiastic mess of things you might expect when inviting your young kids to “help in the kitchen” at half-term. A brilliant off the cuff player, his lack of a football brain was cruelly exposed.

Jarrod Bowen has real promise

Behind the forwards Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko, Jack Wilshere and Carlos Sanchez (all Pellegrini signings) have offered next to nothing. The first pair on the list are “almost good” players who like many “flair” players do little out of possession – but not nearly enough with the ball to justify their elevated status. Payet they are not. Best we don’t speak of the other two.

Returning to a favoured theme, under Sullivan there is no strategy for team building and players are bought haphazardly. Pellegrini’s monstrous wages paid in part for complicity in the arrangement as Husillos’ forays into the transfer market were most likely to line his own wallet (why else Roberto?) while Sullivan’s dabbles lack coherence and seem more about keeping fans quiet than future profit on or off the pitch.

This shambles of a policy includes managers -David Moyes’ ability to build a team is legendary and as a long-term appointment could be excellent – even if he would probably make a better Director of Football. So Sullivan twice appoints the former Everton and Manchester United boss to extinguish the fires lit by more favoured appointees. Moyes’ modest buys Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek (in this game Moyes can be criticised for bringing the Czech international on too late for the tiring Noble) appear to offer the side so much more than the glamour signings even if Pelle buy Pablo Fornals has developed a refreshing work ethic under the Scot.

A low press with Bowen and Antonio attacking with pace on the counter seems a decent gameplan given the players available. It’s certainly an improvement on Pellegrini’s lazy “go out and work some magic” tactics and might just pull the club out of the mire for one more season. Surely, however, it’s only a matter of time before the club’s almost annual flirtation with relegation turns into full sex and we er… go down.

The deciding factor in the Arsenal game was VAR, because of course it was. West Ham haven’t had a positive meaningful ruling from the system all season – and once again the most marginal of decisions went against the Hammers. As said before, the system should borrow from cricket on tight offside decisions and go with umpire’s (or in this case referee’s) call. That would make far too much sense – as would a joined-up West Ham recruitment policy.

Going down. Under

West Ham go globetrotting

AT first glance West Ham’s recently announced pre-season tour looks a bad idea. However, on closer examination it immediately becomes apparent it’s actually completely fucking idiotic. With all respect to Aussie Hammers who have never seen their heroes in the flesh, a trip half way across the globe in the middle of pre-season in order to play Crystal Palace of the Premier League and Brisbane Roar – a middling team in a poor league is some way short of optimum preparation.

Previous tours to the US and New Zealand have resulted in a spate of injuries and there is no reason to think this one might be any different. Jack Wilshere can barely make Rush Green without hurting himself, so a bite from Queensland’s lethal brown snake appears all but nailed on.

Preparation for the rigours of 38 games plus season (46 if we are relegated) should be with a technical view to players hitting the ground running and maintaining that level of fitness throughout a demanding season. Instead of which the Irons squad face two 20 hour plus flights and 12 hours of jetlag to play in two meaningless friendlies. Do the club still possess a sports science team – and if so it would be interesting to know how they felt about the trip?

Six years ago, the players made a similar journey to New Zealand. And then-manager Sam Allardyce was less than pleased with the schedule as he remarked: “We only got back from New Zealand on Monday, which was probably a trip too far. The journey … was too far. We got a few injuries, that was the biggest disappointment.”

An all too familiar sight – Ryan Fredericks lies injured

Given the current small, ageing and injury-prone squad a good pre-season would be designed to minimise the risk of further injury. But sod those concerns, sod coronavirus and sod global warming – the first team face a ludicrous journey to a backwater city in a backwater league to flog a few shirts in a market that is small and far from emerging.

As ever with our inept owners a dollar in the bank now is considered worth more than any future investment. A clue to the reasons behind the tour can be found in the announcement on the official site that reads more as advertorial than any guide for fans. However much money the club receive it will be chicken feed compared to the rewards of the Premier League. Whether the club are seeking to re-establish a future at the top level or rejoin the elite all efforts should be directed towards onfield success, not a bung for club officials.

There is of course, an alternative scenario. Maybe our board believe Brisbane, Australia is far enough away for them not to face the sort of protest that has become the norm in our own country?

West Ham 3-1 Southampton

Bowen strikes

THE club narrative that protests harm the team has been thoroughly dismembered. Protests at Liverpool resulted in defeat but a sparkling performance against the Champions-elect. Thousands of protestors before the Southampton game preceded the most complete onfield performance of the season as the away side were brushed aside by the Hammers pace and power.

There is little doubt however, the David Sullivan-inspired PR offensive will continue with the latest instalment (more offensive than PR) involving rolling out a former ticket tout and alickadoo named Terry Creasey claiming “Bobby Moore would be turning in his grave” at the protests.

Aside from the fact his quotes in the Mail are so on-message they appear to have been written by Sullivan himself, they open the intriguing prospect of further revelations from “the other side”. As a manager himself Ron Greenwood would assert David Moyes must pick Pablo Fornals. And protest organisers Hammers United will have missed a trick if they don’t employ a medium to prove Vic Watson has always loved #GSBOUT.

Fans protest

There is a serious side to this – Sullivan has long sought to monetise the memory of Moore – to now use his legacy as a propaganda tool sits perfectly with a classless and cynical attitude towards death. This is the man who, let’s not forget, used the suicide of former lover and porn star Mary Millington as an excuse to release a posthumous exploitation film described by IMDB as a “tawdry tribute” that featured a lengthy interview by himself. For the record, Sullivan dumped Millington prior to her untimely death after drug abuse and depression (hers) affected their relationship.

As much as writing about Sullivan’s squalid and seedy past is a chore, Saturday’s game was a delight. Supporters were re-energised by both the pre-match protest and Monday night’s efforts against Liverpool that promised better results against less accomplished sides. Southampton, with the sort of lethargy often exhibited by mid-table sides at the fag-end of the season played their part.

Manager David Moyes played a side to have a go (he won’t play such a side for every game) and striker Sebastien Haller, relishing the space created as Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen regularly got themselves in front of the “Baguette Batistuta” played hell with the Saints defence. At the other end of the pitch it was obvious work had been done on set plays with six men defending the goal area at corners – also striking was a new attitude – perhaps a result of the appointment of motivator Kevin Nolan to the coaching staff. On that point it’s worth saying football whispers suggest Moyes’ struggles to appoint back room staff was due to a widespread feeling that stay up or go down staff would all be released at the end of the season.

Goals from Bowen, Haller and Antonio were more than enough to dispatch the South-coast visitors and leapfrogged the club above Bournemouth on goal difference and out of the relegation zone – a net return of only minus three against Manchester City and Liverpool away now looks a good return. The only negative from the day were the fading legs and lungs of poor Mark Noble. His lack of pace was directly responsible for Southampton’s goal and the days of him being an automatic choice appear numbered.

#GSBOUT

Take your own advice Sullivan

WEST HAM supporters were simply immense at Liverpool despite the decision by the club to reduce allocation from the normal 3,000 to just 1,800. The away contingent outsung the home side and fully got behind the team – but most of all displayed quite clearly via Sky Sports how and why they want David Gold, David Sullivan and Karren Brady to vacate their positions on the board.

The move by Sullivan to enlist the help of so many of his paid staff of ex-players to spread a message that fans should support the team is both bizarre and counterintuitive. Hammers United have been very clear all along fans should protest the board but support the team. The focus of the discontent is the lack of input the toxic three have given our club. Fans go to great expense journeying up and down the country to support the team. Meanwhile, Sullivan and Gold starve the first XI, reserves, Academy and Women’s team of cash at the same time as loading debt onto the club to line their own pockets.

Karren Brady’s “support” involves doing the club reputational harm via her column in The Sun newspaper. This week’s laughathon involved the Lady beseeching us all to “reflect on the importance of kindness” in the wake of the apparent suicide of Caroline Flack. Leaving aside the fact her own colleague David Gold, showing all the sensitivities of the Duke of Edinburgh, liked a Tweet claiming Flack to be “weak” (whispers are the club have now banned him from social media) Brady’s plea equates to Syrian leader Bashar al Assad taking to the press to denounce tinpot dictators carpet bombing their own civilians.

No doubt Robert Snodgrass, Andy Carroll and Daniel Sturridge, among many who have been the subject of Brady’s vitriol in previous columns, will be reaching into their boots to pull out the very hollowest of laughs at her newly-discovered piety. Just as ill-fitting is Sullivan’s Damascene conversion from dumping fans into the London Stadium’s sterile pit for financial gain (has anybody found out who owns the company Boleyn Phoenix yet?) to abruptly flooding the ether with messages about how crucial it is supporters get behind the side.

This fan believes the protest atmosphere at Anfield, which the team appeared to react positively towards, would signal the need for a protest at every game.

No six appeal for Reidy

Winston Reid

WINSTON REID has left West Ham on an extended loan deal to Sporting Kansas City of the USA’s Major Soccer League. This blog wishes the New Zealand international every success in the States after 10 seasons with the Hammers. Apart from that final, historic, match-winning goal at Upton Park, the centre back produced at least five Premier League seasons of top quality, highly physical and committed defending, was awarded Hammer of the Year in 2013 and was in a lot of people’s Team of the Decade.

But…

There is so often a ‘but’ following a glowing testimonial – and here it comes now: Why on earth was Reid, a player whose character was writing cheques his body couldn’t cash over the preceding couple of seasons awarded a new six-year contract at the club in August 2017? Aged 29, it was pretty clear the player’s physique was crumbling. Reid has made just 17 Premier League starts since that signature and none in the last two seasons. A shocking knee injury against Swansea was not so much bad lack as sadly, horrifically, inevitable.

Chair David Sullivan would no doubt point to the interest shown in the All White by Tottenham and Arsenal. He said at the time: “We want to keep our best players in Claret and Blue and Winston is undoubtedly one of them so, in line with our normal policy, we review the contracts of players who are doing well for the Club and reward and extend them when the opportunity arises.

He hilariously added: “As a West Ham fan, I am absolutely delighted that he has pledged his future to the Club and I am sure he will play a central role in our challenge to become one of the top teams in this country over the coming seasons.”

At the point Reid signed up, another player on a six-year deal, Andy Carroll, was about to enter his sixth year at West Ham (the first on loan) having made just 74 appearances over the previous four seasons and was out with yet another long-term injury.

Andy Carroll in a typical pose

Sullivan treats player trading not as a speculator doing his best to work in the market and re-invest profit into the club, but a collector loathed to let players go.

Nobody, we are told, works harder than Sulley to get players to join West Ham. Perhaps, in a rare flash of self-recognition the owner realised just how rubbish he is and couldn’t face more of the same. The most ikely scenario however, is he believes big sides and “selling clubs“ are mutually exclusive and thinks giving Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Fucking Masuaku new five-year deals is great business. In which case he is an idiot.

It’s true clubs with huge available funds don’t need to turn a profit to survive. Sides such as Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid will never really struggle so long as they maintain a global image – even if, and this is important, all three are relatively speaking struggling at present (oh how we at West Ham would love such slim pickings!)

However, the current European and World Club Champions – Liverpool in case you haven’t been reminded in at least 10 minutes – are a selling club. For three of the last four seasons they have turned a profit in player trading. Sales of players such as Raheem Sterling, Luis Suarez and Phillippe Coutinho (bought for under £25million, sold for around ten times the amount) keep the club in clover. In contrast to West Ham, Liverpool would have no hesitation letting a fading or injured player leave.

Have we mentioned Andy Carroll?

Lights go out

THE Sullivan and Brady edifice is crumbling. Just as Samson pulled down the Temple of Dagon from within using his innate power, so a teenaged girl with great strength of character has laid bare how Karren Brady controls the club.

Amilah (the name roughly translates as “doer of good deeds”) posts on Twitter under the handle @MemberOfJSB and launched a thread on Sunday detailing how a desire to make becoming a mascot cheaper was first ignored, then turned against her. To summarise, Amilah was appalled at the £700 cost of being a matchday mascot and having been accepted onto the Junior Supporters’ Board (a sub-group of the Official Supporters Board) made it her goal to do something about it. A presentation she made was ignored, club minutes weren’t accurate and despite a request to do so weren’t changed to reflect her comments.

As a good fan representative, she asked for more information from the club. It was denied. Insult was added to injury when despite a four-month blackout from the club three mascot places were announced “following positive and continued discussions with our Junior Supporters Board sub-group.” Further emails were also ignored.

Samson destroys the Temple (anon, from the J Paul Getty Museum)

Leaving aside the issue of how expensive mascots are and how it reflects Brady’s desire to remove West Ham from those without substantial cash reserves, it highlights very nicely what we have long said about the OSB – it isn’t transparent, democratic or independent – and it serves Brady not the fans. Independent Supporters’ Associations Hammers United and WHUISA were absolutely correct when they refused to engage.

With the news that the Vice Chair refuses to give up her Sun column it would appear the Baroness has cemented for herself a role at the club where she is isn’t accountable to anybody, not even the owners.  Her creation, the OSB, invented as a method to shield her from fan opinion shares many of her qualities. Fans have long despaired at the haughty, charmless and spiteful social media proclamations from OSB Chair David Baker, seeing them as reflective of the tone of his boss. They are completely correct to do so.

Brady cannot survive this latest exposé of her methods – the mood music emanating from the club is more Walls Come Tumbling Down than You’re the Best Thing. Chair and owner Sullivan should grow a pair and get rid of her now. Following a period of introspection, (we recommend nothing longer than two minutes) he should reflect how he himself created the monster and then take the long-awaited decision to sell up.

#GSBOUT