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A day in the life

I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade

Lennon/McCartney
A message to you Sully

EVENTS off the pitch took at least as much precedence as the game against Everton. Instead of a match report I’ll present a diary of West Ham-related events throughout the day.

Foodbank collection:

After the short ride in on the Central Line and a stroll through Westfield watching happy dads and sons playing table tennis, I headed for the food banks collection point to say hello. Possibly the only thing our monarch and myself have in common is these days I don’t carry cash (the only time I ever need it is when I get the car washed) and was unable to contribute.

Between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019, the Trussell Trust’s foodbank network distributed 1.6 million three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, a 19 per cent increase on the previous year. More than half a million of these went to children. This is a disgraceful statistic. In the fifth largest economy in the world that figure should surely be zero – and I loathe the idea of foodbanks. However, my moral objection doesn’t mean I won’t contribute and every Christmas the missus and I do a shop for our local centre. Yes, I know it’s a paltry effort – but it’s something.

The protest:

Following a short walk along the river with a mate we arrived at the site for the Hammers United protest around half an hour before events were due to commence. As with many others, I suspect, we were less about protesting ourselves and more about seeing what the fuss was about. Hellos were said, introductions made, and we spent an enjoyable few minutes reminiscing, joking and taking the piss with friends old and new. My favourite line came from a girl replying to my observation about a nameless person associated with the club whom I described as “incredibly fucking thick”. “Yes”, she said, “It’s the only part of his personality that’s authentic”. Boom!

Take it to the bridge

Estimates vary between one and two thousand as to how many people turned up – but either way it was a good turnout. As well as many familiar faces, there were also a good proportion of familiar “faces”. Disappointingly, I didn’t hear a word of any of the speeches due to a poor PA system, even if I am told all contributors spoke well. In all honesty I’ve been dubious about the aims of any protest and have expressed that opinion on social media. But it seems to me Sullivan, Gold and Brady’s PR output over the previous week – it’s always offensive – was enough of a goal in itself – even if it was of the “own” variety.

In her emetic Sun column Vice Chair Karren Brady described her highlights of a decade at the club as “naming the Billy Bonds Stand” and “the first game at the London Stadium”. Highlights indeed. Following her promise of a “World class stadium for a world class team” she has rowed some way back to “First and foremost West Ham are now financially stable” and compared us against failing Bury FC. The only “world class” aspect of her tenure is the phenomenal effort at managing her own expectations.

The takeout from all this is that under the pressure of the forthcoming protest the club press “machine” revved up with all the efficiency of departing Hammers keeper Roberto defending a corner. For as long as the board are embarrassed in this fashion they will continue to blunder.

West Ham bring a new meaning to Public Relations

Stewarding:

Off we tootled to the search areas prior to going into the ground and it became apparent my mate was not well. Almost doubled up with pain, he was struggling to even walk and sweating like Harold Shipman on a Saga holiday. By the time we moved through the gates it was clear he needed more assistance than even I, as a trained first aider, could offer. Left curled up against a pillar I went in search of help.

The first steward I spoke to had clearly never been trained for such emergencies and didn’t know what to do. As did the second. Controlling my anger and pointing out my mate could well be having a heart attack I asked to speak to their supervisor. He just shook his head.

Eventually, I managed to get hold of somebody who knew what he was doing. Steward Henry was brilliant and took charge of the situation as we got the patient sorted, seated and on the way to recovery. For all the claims of how our stewards are trained, they clearly are not. Although a bad situation could have been a lot worse it is nonetheless hugely concerning three separate stewards didn’t know what to do. For all the good it will do I shall be writing an appropriate letter.

The game:

By this point the Hammers side to face Everton had been released. Five starters over 30-years-old. A bench comprising of a keeper, a striker, four centre-backs including two with no first-team experience and a wide player. This is not as has been claimed “our best ever squad”. Part of my friend’s brief rehab included a rest in the club café – a place I’ve never before entered. On the wall were paraded the shirts of the 1980 FA Cup winning team to provide a useful and stark contrast with our current side.

Those were the days

The match itself was of Shakespearean drama – unfortunately the play was Much Ado About Nothing. A game of low quality, both goals came from first half set pieces. The home side had the better of that initial period but faded following the equaliser. Those around me agreed former manager Manuel Pellegrini would have most likely lost. Also clear was current boss David Moyes desperately needs quality reinforcements. I don’t imagine anybody thinks he will get them.

Let the protests continue.

Eight reasons you might wish to protest

Three and sleazy – Sullivan, Gold and Brady

ON Saturday West Ham supporters will be gathering outside the London Stadium before the game against Everton to protest against the board. (For more details go to KUMB). Here are our top eight reasons why we feel the trio of David Sullivan, David Gold and Karren Brady have failed the club.

Without supporters a club is nothing
The unholy trinity don’t appear to understand their money doesn’t buy ownership of West Ham United FC. They merely rent it for future generations. The owners of any football club are always the fans – memories, friendship, community, hopes, fears and dreams are not to be sold to the nearest bidder. The club tone is relentlessly hostile and the only people with whom they have anything like dialogue are the hated OSB – who are best seen as a focus group of unpleasantry and of use only for Brady to extort more money from fans.

Sullivan and Gold did not “save“ the club
For all the narrative about the money “put in” to the club, the reality is they have not spent a penny of their own cash. All finance wrongly attributed to them has been high-interest bearing loans. Sullivan and Gold have earned £16.8million over the last two years alone in above-industry standard interest from the club. Even if the club was in a rocky situation 10 years ago, that free pass they award themselves is not indefinite. Promises are seldom realistic, never mind kept – Brady’s “A world class stadium for a word class team” a classic of the genre.

The reputation of the club has been dismembered
Whether it is Sullivan’s behaviour towards other clubs in the transfer market, Brady’s loathed column in The Sun newspaper or the leaking of news via favoured websites the club are seen in the industry as a bad joke. Many other sides have a policy of refusing to deal with us. The tone in communication with supporters is most often condescending and lacking empathy.

The sale of Upton Park was for the benefit of David Sullivan’s bank balance, not the fans or club
Quite apart from the mystery of why the ground was sold to a holding company only to be immediately sold on again at nearly 100 per cent profit, the London Stadium is not fit for purpose as a football ground. There is no Family Enclosure, no singing area and little character – all thrown away because of the desire to sell tickets during a badly botched migration. The gaps between stands remain as a metaphor for the gulf between promise and delivery. The blowing up of a stand in a scene from a Sullivan-produced straight-to-DVD film could not be more symbolic.

The club infrastructure is a mess
As well as a dysfunctional stadium the training ground and Academy are a disgrace to a so-called Premier League club. Most Championship clubs would be embarrassed by the facilities at Rush Green – yet the two Daves barely let up telling us how much “they” spent. Far from the force it once was, the Academy is little more than a retirement home for former players short of a bob or two. Most of the good coaches have left and there is little in the way of basic communication never mind auditing and assessing the progress of individuals.

The appointment of staff is haphazard and without focus
There has never been a bona fide Director of Football nor recruitment manager with Sullivan jumping in and out of those roles according to who is asking the question. There is virtually no scouting system, with agents being employed at great expense instead. Of the five managers appointed during their tenure, only two (Sam Allardyce and David Moyes) have left the club in a better league position than when they started.

Transfer policy is unco-ordinated
Old and injury-prone players are routinely bought and over the top players given unwarranted contract extensions. Certain positions are all but neglected while there is a ridiculous obsession with strikers and attacking midfielders. There is little due diligence on background and no effort to incorporate players into any recognisable playing style or line-up. Players are seldom sold for full value and often as a means to mitigate a long-running cashflow crisis.

Most of all, on-pitch the club have failed
The three amigos have been at the club for almost exactly a decade. The money flooding into the club means they are currently the 18th richest in the world. On arrival the club was languishing near the bottom of the Premier League with a squad full of dead wood. Yet here we are 10 years later in exactly the same position.

Is it any wonder fans have had enough?

Sullivan does it again!

He is the best goalkeeper I’ve worked with and I fully expect him to be equally as good for us this coming season. Joe has gone from strength to strength since his season at Birmingham, when he was voted Player of the Year, and it would not surprise me at all if he is in the running for the Hammer of the Year award come next May.

A hubristic David Sullivan on Joe Hart
Darren Randolph

WHENEVER West Ham Chairman David Sullivan briefs his favoured websites (we all know who they are) it’s a pretty fair bet truth will take a backseat while expediency mans the wheel.

So it with the stories going pushed out around former “Director of Football” Mario Husillos and the purchase of goalkeeper Roberto Jimenez. While Sulley is happy to blame the Spanish agent for purchasing a terrible player, the reality is no money was forthcoming from the Board for a key position. Furthermore, both the reasons the club find themselves without neither a suitable back-up keeper nor the money to purchase one can both be laid at Sullivan’s door.

It was the Welsh owner who with a characteristic surfeit of hubris “pushed out the boat” to get on loan the lamentable Joe Hart just two-and-a half seasons ago despite the player being unwanted by Manchester City and having endured a terrible previous season on loan at Torino in Italy – during his single season at the Stadio Olimpico he made more unforced errors than any other keeper in Serie A.

Hart blunders again

Further to his astronomical wages (only Javier Hernandez earned more) Hart had a technical defect in his footwork that meant he was vulnerable to shots low to his left-hand side. The entire Premier League were aware of the weakness – not least West Ham who had themselves exploited it two years earlier during a famous 2-1 win at The Etihad. Either nobody told Sullivan – or perhaps more likely he refused to listen.

Victor Moses’ goal

The Hammers already had two decent, if not brilliant stoppers in Adrian and Darren Randolph. But Sullivan insisted on acquiring the former England man despite appearing a player on the way down. Randolph read the way the wind was blowing and signed a four-year deal at Championship Middlesbrough.

Hart returned to City at the end of the year with any reputation he might have possessed in tatters and West Ham bought the brilliant Lukasz Fabianski. Already upset at the way he had been treated over Hart, previous No1 Adrian waited out his contract before signing as back-up for Liverpool – an infinitely preferable position than sitting on the bench at the London Stadium. This was the situation when Husillos was given five scratchcards, two bottles of Lambrini and a £10 voucher from Matalan with which to bring a goalie to the club.

An unhappy Adrian

So to the finances: Aston Villa appeared to have no problem at all persuading former Liverpool No1 Pepe Reina to sign for their side. Not so for West Ham – poor management in the transfer market, particularly in gaining income from sales, as well as the board’s penchant for trousering the interest on loans made to the club (for comparison – the much-loathed Mike Ashley at Newcastle offers all his club loans at nought per cent interest) means the Hammers are in an almost constant cashflow crisis.

As Randolph hasn’t completed his contract at Boro the Teesside club will still owe West Ham money and would make a perfect signing, even if he is currently injured. A deal to get Randy back offers the opportunity to “backload” the fees for a transfer until such time as the club can budget accordingly.

All very messy, costly and unnecessary. All very David Sullivan.

Sheffield United 1-0 West Ham

Know how you feel Moyesie

THE furore over a late equaliser ruled out by the Video Assistant Referee should not be allowed to detract from the huge shortcomings in the West Ham squad. Robert Snodgrass’ injury time shot that cannoned into the Sheffield United goal off a post was disallowed after consultation with VAR for a “handball” in build-up play by Declan Rice. Even if Hammers fans will be smarting over a point denied, the reality is trouble is brewing that needs to be sorted out within this transfer window.

Manager David Moyes started the game with three youth team players on the bench, a 34-year-old Pablo Zabaleta at right wingback and the 32-year old legs of Mark Noble expected to provide the running in midfield. One win (against an injury-hit Bournemouth) appears to have persuaded Chairman David Sullivan his club weren’t “really” in a relegation scrap. Quite likely he’s already assured himself he isn’t one of the most parsimonious Chairmen in the game.

Furthermore, with all the tactical acumen of Lord Cardigan ordering the Light Brigade to fling themselves on the mercy of the massed guns of the Russian army, Sullivan decided immediately following the busy Christmas period would be a really good time to ignore football reality and convince his head coach to throw all his chips on a cup run. Injuries followed with all the predictability of David Gold appearing on Twitter following a rare win.

From an already unbalanced and paper-thin squad West Ham were already missing Michail Antonio, Ryan Fredericks and Andriy Yarmolenko (all hamstring), Albian Ajeti (note from his mother), Carlos Sanchez (the shits – not his stomach – but playing style) along with long-term absentees; Winston Reid (attempting to grow a leg back following amputation) and Jack Wilshere (green monkey fever).

Know how you feel Lukasz

Add to which Lukasz Fabianski (thigh) and Felipe Anderson (back – reports of a lack of spine are unconfirmed) hurt themselves during the game. The remaining players will no doubt be forced to play on with minor niggles ensuring that what started as a manageable injury list grows exponentially.

Moyes has come into the job without a backroom team. As well as a box-to-box midfielder, a full-back and a striker on the playing staff, he desperately needs to get himself an injury prevention team. In that regard it was interesting to witness before the second half Blades players were warming up with short sprints. It might also be worth looking at why two of his goalkeepers were injured in the same way on three occasions this season.

On the pitch old failings dominated. A Mark Noble-shaped hole in midfield was the only evidence the skipper was playing, while in support of striker Sebastien Haller, Anderson and Manuel Lanzini were frankly dreadful and provided little support. The Argentinean hasn’t looked a patch on his old pre-injury self and was largely anonymous in a creative role. Given a golden chance to equalise he failed to square the ball to unmarked Haller and messed the shot up himself.  

Peak West Ham

Anderson is the most frustrating player. If Arsenal’s Mezut Ozil has been described as “A cat tiptoeing around the game”, so Anderson more closely resembles a fat Tom disturbed from his rest by the clanging of dustbins. Good players buy themselves time, make the game look easy and make good decisions. The Brazilian plays not to the “Samba beat” of repute but chases about with little purpose and less end product. A free-jazz footballer if you will, he is devoid of any on-pitch intelligence.

Finally, it needs to be said loud and clear, VAR is not in itself a problem – but the idiotic implementation is. The whole point of the thing was to clear up obvious errors by match officials – instead of which fans are seeing more.

Oh fuck off!

Who in the name of holy fuck thought it a good idea accidental handball should suddenly transform into a deliberate act only when a goal is conceded? No referee in the country would have adjudged Rice to have handled live – but up step the halfwits at Stockley Park to decide otherwise and reinforce their growing reputation as the kind of jobsworths that don traffic warden apparel or work on security in the Co-op. Who would bet against them wearing hi-viz during game time?

When the powers that be decided a player’s armpit or toe could be offside had they never realised that when the margin of error becomes that tiny, it might be a good idea to follow the lead of cricket and have a football equivalent of umpire’s call? Instead of which the technology, implementation and interpretation are all effectively being trialled in the richest, most watched league in the world.

Worse, us paying fans must endure it.

Five things we learned after Gillingham v West Ham

WEST HAM survived a tricky tie in Kent to go into the hat for the FA Cup Fourth Round draw thanks to a second half strikes from substitute Pablo Zabaleta and a late second from Pablo Fornals. Here are five things we learned.

Either or both of manager David Moyes and Chairman David Sullivan want to “give it a go” in the FA Cup.

The side picked by Moyes was pretty much the best available to the Scot with only Pablo Fornals of recent starters on the bench. Aaron Cresswell and Mark Noble both missed out with injury.

Such ambition can come at a cost however and the Third Round tie was the fourth game for the Irons in just 11 days. Under such circumstances the chance of injury rapidly increases and Ryan Fredericks’ hamstring gave out five minutes before half-time.

A back three might well be Moyes’ favoured formation.

For the game at the the Priestfield Moyes picked all three centre-backs Issa Diop, Fabien Balbuena and Angelo Ogbonna. During his previous spell at the London Stadium the former Everton and Manchester United boss chose a similar structure, figuring the Hammers squad were weak defensively in wide positions.

Ryan Fredericks and Arthur Masuaku started at wingback with Robert Snodgrass and Declan Rice in the middle. Up front was Sebastien Haller supported by Felipe Anderson and Manuel Lanzini for what might best described as a 3-4-2-1 set up.

West Ham should make a central midfielder their priority in the January transfer window.

Whether it’s three or four at the back the boys in claret and blue are desperately short of quality and legs in the middle of the park. Declan Rice does a great job sitting in front of the back line but alongside him neither Snodgrass, Noble nor the woeful Carlos Sanchez are up to the job.

A replacement needs to have pace and a willingness to run, pass and tackle. This is hardly a new observation but when a League One side are exposing a top level club in that area something is badly amiss. Captain Noble is too old to be indispensable.

Felipe Anderson is not a player for a relegation fight.

The Brazilian’s performance in the cup was frankly, disgraceful. Sulky, lacking in commitment and with awful body language his game went from bad to worse. His defensive contribution has never been what it should but he needs to learn how to provide nuisance value.

He did improve along with the rest of the side for the second half and assists for both goals were very welcome. But the argument will continue to rage as to whether they are enough to justify a lack of the full commitment required over 90 minutes.

West Ham were rattled by Gillingham’s approach and pitch.

Aided and abetted by referee Andrew Madley (Brother of Bobby, wouldn’t you know) who appeared ignorant to what was going on in front of him the home side pulled, pushed, shirt-pulled and generally shithoused their way through the game.

The playing surface was (probably deliberately) really poor. As ever, the Hammers played the part of mugs perfectly. Good teams should find a way to cope with such tactics. Not every pitch is up to the standard of the London Stadium.

2019 annual awards

Listening to Chris Moyles on Radio 1 is the most miserable thing any human being can do, but attending awards ceremonies isn’t far behind.

Arthur Smith

ROLL up for the first ever Oh West Ham We Love You awards listing. Whether you don evening dress and stroll up our cyber red carpet with a glass of Roederer Cristal or sit at home in curry-stained jim-jams nursing an eight-pint hangover is entirely up to you. Either way, enjoy our for the most part not to be taken seriously, list of winners.

The Allen McKnight Services to Goalkeeping Award: Roberto Jimenez

The Matt Taylor “Now You’re A Midfielder You’re Actually Quite Good” Award: Robert Snodgrass

The John Moncur “What Have I Got to Do to Get A Game” Award: Issa Diop

The Steve Potts “You May Not Be the GOAT but We’ll Always Love You” Award: David Martin

The Rio Ferdinand “If I Ever Get Out of This Place I’ll Be Brilliant” Award: Sebastien Haller

The Edinburgh Trams Project Completed On Time Award: The London Stadium Wi-Fi

The Peggy Mitchell “Get Out of My Pub!” Award: Manuel Pellegrini

The Prince Andrew Popularity Award: David Sullivan

The Piazza San Marco Venice Award for Reasonably Priced Catering: The London Stadium

The Piers Morgan “Somebody, Anybody, Please Shut Them the Fuck Up” Award: Karren Brady

The Billy Bonds Don’t Make Me Manager and Ruin My Playing Reputation Award: Mark Noble

The Glen Johnson “Please Come Back We Need You” Award: Grady Diangana

The Mind Your Language Speaking Foreign Award: Arthur Masuaku

The Carlton Cole “He’s Shit, No He Isn’t, Yes He Is, Oh, I Don’t Know” Award: Aaron Cresswell

The Traffic Warden Association Helpfulness Award: The London Stadium Stewards

The Aleksandr Orlov Meerkat “Simples” Award for Only Popping Up on Twitter When West Ham Win: David Gold

The Lucky Jim, “Oh Look I’ve Won the Lottery Again” Award for Tickets to Games Inside the M25: Sean Whetstone. Runners-Up: The rest of the OSB

The Jonathan Calleri I Run About but I’m Really Shit Award: Albian Ajeti

The Pravda Award for Services to Naked Propaganda: Claret and Hugh

The Michael Carrick “Yeah, I Love This Place but I Need to Be Off For the Sake of My Sanity” Award: Declan Rice

The Windows Vista Look What A Brilliant Upgrade Award: The Dildodome

The Hackney Marshes “Do I Change in My Car?” Award: Rush Green Training Ground

The Joey Essex Brains Trust Award: Head of Media Relations Ben Campbell for his work with KUMB

The Gary Neville This Is How Modern Football Works Award: Expected Goals

The Fleabag “We Really Love You, Please Come back” Award: The H List

The Donald Trump Rage Tweeter of the Year Award: OSB Chair David Baker

The George Galloway “If You Dare Argue With a Single Word I say, I’ll Block You” Award: Also OSB Chair David Baker

The Emirates Air Line Greenwich Cable Car Award for A Spectacular Waste of Money: Mario Husillos

The Lord Lucan Where In the World Is He Award: Jack Wilshere

The MySpace Useful Technology Award: VAR

The Rowan Atkinson Award for Joyously Smashing Up a High Performance Car: Michail Antonio

All that remains is for us to say a big thank you to Twitter accounts The H List, West Ham Rambles, Mike Cawston and West Ham Geezer in particular, but all of you for your likes, retweets and comments. Massive thanks too to Graeme at KUMB for accepting us as a contributor to his excellent website.

Wishing everybody a happy and healthy New Year!

An admission of failure

The prodigal son returns

WHEN the West Ham Board let David Moyes go at the end of his short contract 18 months ago it was with the promise of a bright new future with superstar manager and serial winner Manuel Pellegrini. The Scot was considered surplus to demands with his “dour” football (in reality nothing of the sort) and dispensed with in order to move forward with an attractive and winning style.

What a climbdown by the board to now return to the tried and tested after the Chilean, despite spending funds Moyes was never given, flopped badly. Buys such as £36million on Sebastien Haller, £28m on Felipe Anderson and £25m on Pablo Fornals among others left the club fighting a relegation battle they are barely equipped to survive. As legendary grifters themselves the Board were suckers for spiv Pellegrini, his Director of Football mate Mario Husillos (in reality a glorified agent) and even Husillos’s son.

Whether you consider Chair David Sullivan’s recognition of how badly he was mugged off to be a long-awaited flash of self-awareness or a monumental climb-down and recognition of failure is moot. The fact is, when it came to replacing Pellegrini the club had nowhere to go. Restricted by a long-term cashflow crisis the club didn’t have the money to pay compensation for a manager already at a club, nor the imagination to scout for a talented youngster.

The reality is, the West Ham Board had no contingency for Pellegrini to fail.

Let that sink in for a minute, Sullivan is so inept, so criminally incapable of running a football club to succeed and has so toxified the brand, his only recourse was to get on the phone to the bloke he himself had briefed against in order to keep the fans onside. Unsurprisingly those same fans are now incandescent even if there was nobody better qualified to take the job who wouldn’t require a fee.

That the Board know they have failed can be recognised in the lack of fanfare that has greeted Moyes’ appointment. A social media video with no words or promise. Near silence from the Board themselves. Essentially their message to fans is ‘Get used to the new reality’.

Pellegrini and Husillos

We can be in little doubt now what the club ambitions are. All talk of “top six” and “next level” was about as reliable as Boris Johnson’s desire to build a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland. In neither case is there any overlap between desire and reality. Expectations well and truly managed, success can now be measured by not getting relegated. Welcome to the brave new world of the Dildodome.

The problem with promises is we the fans lap them up. We are searching for a dream, we want to believe. More even than a soccer mom at a Billy Graham gig we need that belief. Now the reality has been exposed the club must be better judged on their record. Relatively poor investment in players, bare minimum investment in the training ground and Academy plus a lack of structure at both youth level and scouting.

In that respect an article in The Athletic today is well worth a read. For those that don’t want/can’t afford to subscribe here is the key extract.

It would appear a good part of the reason for Moyes’ return is so, with his wealth of experience in football and great scouting knowledge he can attempt to teach those dolts Sullivan, Brady and Gold how to run a football club.

Finally a plea: Moyes is one of only two West Ham managers in the Sullivan era to have improved the club’s standing in the table over the course of his tenure (Sam Allardyce the other). For all you may want a brilliant manager playing scintillating football, the reality is, given the lamentable set up at West Ham only the old guard pragmatic managers succeed.

If nothing else Moyes can be expected to provide a tactical framework absent from Pelle-ball. Sebastien Haller should thrive. We might even defend the ball. So when the boys in claret and blue run out against Bournemouth on Wednesday give them what support you can muster. It is no fault of either players or manager we are a failing club.

This is all on David Sullivan, David Gold and Karren Brady.