West Ham 0-1 West Brom

Fuck off Gold and Sully
Where’s the fucking money?
It’s all lies, lies, lies

West Ham fans to the tune of Slade’s Cum on Feel the Noize
Baggies celebrate

Where we are:

The chickens are coming home to roost for West Ham owners. And how. The deadly duo of David Sullivan and David Gold, plus henchman Karren Brady, have spent 10 years telling us how they “saved the club” and “all” the money they’ve pumped in despite neither claim having any basis in fact. They now have just a few days to finally make good on their promises as all their poor decision making has led to the very real threat of not “A world class stadium for a world class team” but relegation to the Championship.

Poor decision-making, a lack of a coherence in scouting and buying players and a dearth of team identity mean the side need Premier League quality buys at right-back, centre midfield and striker just to stay afloat. Worse, the signs are not encouraging anybody wants to come and the club’s single scout might feel themself a little overwhelmed.

A spidergram of West Ham’s scouting “network”

Sullivan’s populist insistence the club aim for a cup run, has proved to be the folly some predicted. For a team with such a small and lopsided squad to put out a near first team at the busiest time of the season is all but suicidal. Ryan Fredericks and Lukasz Fabianski have already succumbed to injury as a result – and judging by the way he kept feeling his hamstring against West Brom, Michail Antonio might not be far behind. Five players started the game playing their fourth game in 15 days. As it was the side couldn’t even make it past the Championship’ West Brom reserves, never mind the better sides.

The counter argument that “winning breeds confidence” carries little weight. One of the prime drivers of our 2011 relegation, apart from the ineptitude of Sullivan appointed manager Avram Grant, were cup runs to the semi-final of the League Cup and sixth round of the FA Cup. Those extra 10 games left the squad completely drained physically and mentally and they managed just two draws and no wins from their final nine league games.

The game:

Perhaps the best comment came as the result of a father noisily remonstrating with a steward about the language his six-year-old son was having to endure. A more grizzled head quietly and laconically observed: “It was your choice to bring him to an X-rated show”.

Chief among the obscenities was midfielder Carlos “Dirty” Sanchez. Picked only to allow Mark Noble to rest his weary 32-year-old legs the Colombian put in surely one of the worst individual performances ever seen in claret and blue. The first goal in a game is crucial – and especially for away sides at the London Stadium who know how brittle the Hammers confidence is. Predictably Sanchez took centre stage.

Carlos Sanchez attempts survival of the fattest with his moobs like Jagger

Issa Diop contrived to loop a routine clearing header sidewise to Albion midfielder Filip Krovinovic, who set off with the ball more in hope than expectation. Pitifully overweight Sanchez, who would be nicking a living at 70 grand a year never mind a week, bore down on him with all the malicious intent of an extra from The Day of the Dead. Just not the pace.

The ball broke from Charlie Austin and the Colombian (it would be crass to suggest he may have been imbibing his country’s most famous export. especially as he appeared off his not inconsiderable tits on some super cray cray bud) contrived to take a shot. At his own goal. Fortunately his initial effort rebounded once again off Diop for Conor Townsend to complete the job.

Thereafter, the first half was a tale of Fabian Balbuena attempting lose possession each occasion he was rashly presented with the ball by team-mates. At half-time manager David Moyes gave a pretty strong message to his Chairman and took off three players. Most notably, despite being largely anonymous Manuel Lanzini was quite accurately perceived at least the fourth worst performer on the pitch. The woeful Sanchez and Balbuena were hooked along with an ineffective Pablo Fornals.

Oops, Nobes has passioned one again

On came Michael Antonio, Mark Noble and Angelo Ogbonna as the game turned on its head with an attacking 4-3-1-2 formation. Instead of giving the ball away, the home side concentrated on blazing wide of goal from advanced positions and not putting the ball behind the Baggies defence for Antonio to run in on.

It is said patience is its own reward and so it proved with Sebastien Haller finally managing a first effort on target for the home side in the 84th minute. Off his shoulder. Noble managed to absolutely passion a sitter over the bar as Albian Ajeti stood watching – same as he had all game as West Ham’s “best squad ever” slumped to defeat.

Had it not been for the massive “once a season” presence in the crowd – the day was surely every half-and-half scarf seller’s Christmas – things could easily have become as nasty as the infamous Burnley game a couple of seasons ago. As it is there may be a substantial proportion of parents not bringing their children again.

The manager:

Moyes has taken a lot of stick on social media over the past two games, all of it pointless and much unfair. Yes he’s the man in the hotseat and of course he’s earning decent money – although nowhere near the scale of his useless predecessor – so he cannot be completely immune to criticism. The first thing to say is to those who didn’t want him “Fair enough”. Followed rapidly by “tough shit” – as he was essentially the only person to put himself up for the job.

Furthermore, there is plenty of mitigation. He has picked up a terrible squad, been ordered to play strong teams in cup games and suffered injuries as a result. He has no back-room team, nor likelihood of signings as only he and Alan Irvine are brave/stupid enough to want to come to Sullivan and Gold’s “Shit show at the fuck factory” (Many thanks @dirtyepic7).

Moyes is the subject of criticism

Having spent a season and a half criticising previous incumbent Manuel Pellegrini for lacking a Plan B it seems a little rich to then slate “Dithering Dave” when he takes the bull by the horns and changes things up – as he did at Leicester and again versus West Brom. Moyes has been mugged off by Sullivan’s promises in exactly the same manner as you and I. Empathy, not scorn should be the order of the day, we all know how he feels, yeah?

Another target is Moyes’s treatment of Pablo Fornals put against that of Lanzini. Frankly, we are half a season on and still yet to see anything beyond “promise” from the £24million Spaniard as he continues to underwhelm. In contrast Moyes has seen strong evidence of how well Lanzini can play. What we and he really require is a talisman to replace the efforts of Marko Arnautovic during the Scotsman’s last stint. Haller has shown little sign of being that man and Ajeti none. The irony would be if turns out Antonio can inspire the side – he and as manager didn’t get on particularly well last time out.

Plus, each and every time you get onto Moyes there is an exhalation of gratitude from the board as he is taking their heat. This blog feels there is a limit to how much he can continue to parrot the party line and it is testament to his professionalism he has yet to offer criticism of his employers. That may come from other quarters – as fan protests grow, unhappy former employees of the club may feel less pressure to remain schtum. Certainly the narrative is changing in the mainstream press. Let’s forget About Talk Sport for a minute even if Ian Abrahams certainly knows which side his bread is buttered… As well as the double sausage, three rashers, two eggs, beans, tomatoes, hash browns and double chips.

Ian “Moose” Abrahams

Up next:

On Wednesday Hammers will peep through collective fingers as we take on the steaming juggernaut of champions-elect Liverpool at Stratford. Only the criminally insane expect us to get anything from the game. Of much more concern is Saturday’s must-win tie against Brighton – the side we never beat. If it means making sure players are fit for that one then surely Moyes should do it?

Of course, by then we will know if Sullivan and Co managed to get those three players. If not, they deserve everything they get.

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.

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.

And they’re off!

PLACE your bets as we assess the runners and riders ahead of the great Manuel Pellegrini sack race.

A pitiful two points from the last 21 are nowhere near good enough for a side claiming top six status. Plus, it has been said no Premier League manager can withstand five consecutive defeats and maintain their job. West Ham’s Chilean boss is currently on three with tricky away trips to Chelsea and Wolves looming. So let’s have a scan at the potential appointees for the claret and blue hot seat. In no particular order:

Sean Dyche

Pros: Seems keen and would sort the lamentable defence out. Has plenty of Premier League experience with Burnley, readily confounds the expected goals metric and is in possession of a strong work ethic.
Cons: Would cost a bit prising him from Lancashire. Certain fans (among them the Chairman) might not appreciate his unremitting honesty.
Hair: Brave nineties industrial.
Odds: 5/1

Chris Wilder

Pros: Brilliant and inventive tactician who encourages signature moves such as the overlapping centre-back. Has done wonders with an average Sheffield United squad. Liked by the West Ham Board.
Cons: Less than six months experience in the Premier League. Sheffield United wouldn’t let go of the former full-back without a fight – and especially not to West Ham!
Hair: Silver fox.
Odds: 6/1

Rafael Benitez

Pros: Has worked at the top level including Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid. Stabilised a similar basket case to West Ham while at Newcastle. Good relationship with David Sullivan.
Cons: £££
Hair: Max-era Peter Kay.
Odds: 8/1

Eddie Howe

Pros: An up and coming manager, he has established Bournemouth as a Premier League side.
Cons: He doesn’t want to come to West Ham and the Board don’t want him.
Hair: Luvverly!
Odds: 50/1

David Moyes

Pros: Knows what it is all about and did a brilliant job of keeping West Ham up last time around.
Cons: Wants the Everton job above all. Was treated shabbily by Hammers fans and employers.
Hair: Well seasoned – salt and pepper.
Odds: 15/1

Chris Hughton

Pros: Out of work. Has top flight experience with Newcastle, Norwich and Brighton. Sullivan can sell him as an ex-West Ham player.
Cons: Out of work. Limited tactically, ultra-defensive.
Hair: No fixed abode.
Odds: 5/4 Lump on!

Scott Parker

Pros: Loved by the fans. Would get Sullivan off the hook. Er… That’s it.
Cons: Lack of experience.
Hair: Who would ever forget that razor sharp parting?
Odds: 50/1

Slaven Bilic

Pros: Inexplicably loved by those of a claret and blue persuasion.
Cons: He’s a rubbish coach with very limited tactical awareness – particularly when Dimi isn’t around to bail him out.
Hair: Ludicrous hair transplant. Just For Men’s the lot, beard included.
Odds: 50/1

Paolo Di Canio

Pros: See Scott Parker.
Cons: More baggage than EasyJet.
Hair: Solar panel.
Odds: 1,000/1