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Julian Dicks’ exclusive column Noble, Ravel & Carroll for England? Tomkins V Collins: Who gets your vote? Time for senior players to step up Will the ‘false nine’ work again? & much more The Number One West Ham United eFanzine! Print • Mobile • Online

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WELCOME EDITOR: David Blackmore NEWS EDITOR: Alex Shilling CONTRIBUTORS: Katherine Alder, Julian Dicks, Lily Fenton, Andrew Hosie, Thomas Johnson, Tim Lovett, David Meagher, Danny Rust, Bill West, Brian Williams, Lucy Woolford EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES: EMAIL: ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES: EMAIL: WHERE YOU CAN READ IT: Blowing Bubbles is available to buy prior to each home game and is also available to read on your PC, Mac, Tablet or Mobile. For more information visit TO CONTACT BLOWING BUBBLES: Email: Blowing Bubbles is published by Barking Dog Media. Blowing Bubbles is a completely independent publication. The views expressed within Blowing Bubbles are not necessarily those of the publishers. Opinions expressed by companies and individuals appearing within the magazine are not that of Blowing Bubbles or the publisher. The publisher accepts no liability from any action raised in response to any such opinions. Readers are strongly advised that although we take every care to ensure prices and content, etc, are up to date. It is the responsibility to check with the advertiser before purchasing or travelling to view products. No reproduction, either in part or whole of the magazine is allowed unless written consent is obtained from the publisher. The publisher accepts no responsibility for any actions arising from articles or features or advertisements within this magazine. Readers are advised to pay by credit card when ordering goods as these are regulated under the Consumer Act 1974. Debit and charge cards are not.

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After the highs of White Hart Lane, we truly came crashing back down with the defeat against Man City. I was really disappointed with the way we played in the City game after the performance we put in at Spurs but we made up for that game with a solid performance against Swansea last weekend. The visit of Aston Villa this weekend presents us with a perfect opportunity to put some more points on the board. That’s not to say it will be an easy game - it won’t. The likes of Benteke, Delph and Agbonlahor, will keep our defenders on their toes all afternoon but having only just avoided relegation last season and sitting just above us, we should be coming away with maximum points if we want to stay in the league this season. Looking at this week’s issue and I’m delighted to say Julian Dicks is back with another column covering our thrashing against Man City, the rise of Ravel Morrison, playing without a striker and Diame’s consistency. Lucy Woolford and Thomas Johnson also look at the West Ham players who might don an England shirt at next summer’s World Cup while new writer Lily Fenton explains why she would choose Collins over Tomkins at the moment. Brian Williams is also back with another priceless Dear Sam - don’t take it too seriously, it is supposed to make you laugh! Enjoy the game. Here’s to three much-needed points. I’m going for a 2-1 win with Nolan getting both goals.

David Blackmore Editor

Julian Dicks

I really don’t want to be too negative or critical of the players and the club because the supporters are so great but there is no getting away from the fact that it hasn’t been an indifferent start to the season. We’ve gone from beating Cardiff to losing to Stoke and Hull to beating Spurs at White Hart Lane and then being thrashed by Man City who could have easily put seven or eight past us if they have their shooting boots on. They were quality, their movement was excellent and I thought Aguero was excellent. We just couldn’t

cope with them. Reid, Collins and Tomkins - they all struggled with Aguero in my opinion. I know they are a great side but I was left disappointed with our work rate and I felt we didn’t do the simple things right. Apart from Mark Noble, our work rate was second rate but the players should be putting in the same work rate every game. With sides like Man City and the players they have, you’ve got to be on them and you’ve got to bully them. There was a ten minute spell when we didn’t even get a touch of the ball.

Where I was standing just above the Bobby Moore Lower, there were people questioning our passion during the game and I couldn’t disagree with them. It’s tough to see your side go away and beat Spurs 3-0 who are a good side and their performances and results before our game were good. You don’t expect to beat them 3-0 and come back to Upton Park and get thrashed by Man City. On a final note about the City game, I look at the Premier League now and there aren’t the players or teams that excite me except

Julian is available to give your team [adults and kids] a professional coaching session on an hourly, weekly or monthly basis

for players like Aguero and Silva. You watch players like that and their movement and touch is world class. In fact, everything about them is class and I will always pay to watch players like that because you just can’t coach players to play like that – it’s natural. I would encourage every youngster to go to watch them play. Following on from the Spurs game, there has been a lot of talk about Ravel Morrison. He is a young lad who has played half a dozen games for us and a couple of England under-21 games and now some people are saying he is the best thing since sliced bread. I really don’t want us to put too much pressure on his young shoulders. Let him enjoy his football because there is no denying he is a fantastic talent. You don’t get the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson telling you he is a great player if he isn’t. I know he had a few problems but it does seem like he has settled down. What we do have to remember, however, is that he is only a few games into his West Ham career and to see what kind of player he will become, we need to give him a few seasons here and I hope he stays at West Ham for the rest of is career.

I have been asked recently about player loyalty in the game and my honest answer is that I can understand that players want to play for the biggest clubs in the Premier League. For some it is for the money and for others it is the chance to win trophies and you can’t really blame them for that. There is only so much money you can give a player because if they’ve got anything about them then they will want to be winning trophies. In my opinion, we’ve always been a selling club and players want to move on. Just look at Rio, he was a fantastic talent and I couldn’t blame him for going on and wanting to win trophies and play in Europe. Another player who keeps popping up in conversation recently has been Diame. I can remember the first time I watched him live which was when we beat Sunderland at home at the start of last season and he was immense and was just ghosting past players. But then I saw him a few weeks later and it was like he hadn’t played football before in his life. He seemed to repeat this throughout last season and I really find it hard to understand how a Premiership footballer can be at the top of his game one minute and unable to play a five-yard pass the next.

He really needs to work on his consistency - just look at the likes of Gerrard and Lampard. Sure they have off days but even on these days they are doing the simple things right and putting in a shift for their team. Consistency makes good players but unfortunately at the moment he just isn’t consistent enough for me. Moving on to Andy Carroll and there have been a few stories in the media suggesting he is nearing full fitness. For him to have been injured for so long has been a massive blow for us and I think it goes some way in explaining our indifferent start to this campaign. What I still cannot understand is that every team must have a striker and it has been ridiculous we haven’t really got any back up for Andy Carroll. What happens if he comes back and gets injured again? We should have three or four strikers in our squad who are all capable of playing in the Premier League, causing defenders problems and scoring but we don’t. If Carroll is also our only real option, where is his motivation to be the best he can be when he has no competition? If you look at most of our positions like full back and

Contact Julian by emailing him on or following him on Twitter @Julian3Dicks

centre back, there is competition there but up front there is not. I think we’ve got to give our youngsters more of a chance. We need to be bedding them in because otherwise they will get to 21 and we are never going to know what they can offer us. Just look at Freddie Sears, he come on the scene and he looked sharp but then he only had one or two more games and a few substitute appearances and now he is at Colchester. We really have got to give our youngsters a chance and I don’t see why we didn’t give a young striker the chance against Man City. Looking ahead to our upcoming games and our run up to Christmas is going to be tough. Being in the Premier League, there are no easy games, but what is really important is what we bring to each game. They have got to get themselves up to play against the likes of Chelsea and Fulham. If you sit back, you are going to get smashed, especially against teams like Chelsea and Man City who have got players to carve you open like Mata and Aguero. We need to attack more. Away from home it’s not too bad to play counter attack football but when you are playing at home in front of your own fans, you need to be attacking teams. If you don’t attack teams you are encouraging pressure all the time and there is only so long you can

withstand the pressure but if you are attacking them you put them on the back foot. When I played we also had arguments and rows. We used to point fingers at each other because we were all there to do a job and if teammates were not going their job then we had to tell them. Against Man City, after the first two goals nobody

shouted at anyone, they just all got on with it like they were 11 individuals. Football really is about helping teammates be the best they can be and making it easy for them to achieve their best. That’s how I remember bonding with players. You don’t see the same bonds as you used to these days.

Thomas Johnson

Should England look towards Upton Park? Club captain Kevin Nolan recently commented on the British spine to West Ham’s side and whether England manager Roy Hodgson is overlooking some quality home-grown talents because they play for the claret and blue of East London rather than the top four elites. It is not hard to see his point in the matter, with the first team squad boasting some very good English players. Mark Noble, the captain himself Nolan, skilful youngster Ravel Morrison, wide-men Matt Jarvis and Stewart Downing and central defender James Tomkins, not forgetting the injured Andy Carroll. But are these players good enough for the international

stage? Not all but some should definitely be in with a shout. Our current longest serving player Noble has always put blood, sweat and tears into the Hammers cause and has found himself as one of the first names on the team sheet, combining last ditch tackles and spraying passes in the defensive midfielder role. Central midfield is an area where England have a plethora of options but with the old guard surely moving away from the international scene after Brazil 2014, it could be a chance for Noble to stake a claim. If he keeps plugging away for West Ham United then surely Hodgson can’t keep

denying him at least a place in the squad? Meanwhile, young Ravel Morrison has filled hundreds of column inches in recent weeks with his performances catching the eye and setting alight the claret and blue hearts of many Hammers fans. It is the number 15 who is the most likely out of the England contingent at the Boleyn Ground to be called up, with many writers tipping Ravel and Everton’s Ross Barkley as the wildcards for England’s trip to South America next summer. The future is bright for Morrison but he must keep his feet on the ground, his early season form has been brilliant since he broke into the first team but consistency is the key and if he keeps the same level of performance throughout the season then he should deserve a place in the national squad. Whilst the likes of Jarvis, Downing, Joe Cole, Nolan and Tomkins may not receive an England cap in the near future, Andy Carroll is still in Roy Hodgson’s plans in my opinion. With the striker nearing a return, it will be between Carroll and Southampton’s Rickie Lambert for a place in the England side as the target man option so it is vital for the big man to get back to full fitness for his World Cup chances. Follow me on Twitter @SoundOfVinyl

Lucy Woolford

Any Hammers in Hodgson’s World Cup plans?

“England have won the World Cup”, is something that we’ll be hoping will be ringing out come next July. I’ve never heard that line live on television and I suspect many of you reading haven’t. A lot of us next summer will be hoping that Motty can scream those amazing words as a Hammer knocks in the winning goal of the World Cup in Brazil. England have now confirmed their place in the competition, which has been met with the usual mixture of ‘this is our year’ and ‘why bother?’. From a patriotic point of view, it’s great to watch a country come together and all hope for the same outcome (unless Lamps steps up for a penalty, then I’m not that bothered!).

Between now and June there will be plenty of speculation both in the press and on the stands about who Roy Hodgson will pick to represent England in what will be dubbed the carnival World Cup. But the biggest question on my lips is will there be any West Ham players in his final squad? It’s obviously a difficult question to answer and even predict. Between now and then we have a transfer window to compete with, and with a World Cup looming there will be Premier League players looking to impress left, right and centre. Expect January price-tags to rise for English players as every club looks for the glory of having a

World Cup representative on its hands. West Ham undoubtedly have candidates. Here’s a quick run through our current hopefuls. This is, of course, all my own opinion but I’d love to know your views on their actual chances. Mark Noble: Let’s face it, it’s not going to happen is it? I know even mentioning Mark’s name is pointless at this stage, but he really will be the one that England let slip. Noble’s dip in form in recent history seems to be coming to an end, and he is relishing his role in the new 4-6-0 formation. Too late for Mark? Probably, and there’s not a lot of room left for him in the England midfield. But we can always hope.

Andy Carroll: Carroll and Rooney would be a force to be reckoned with. Andy is dreaming of a World Cup call up and he would give another dimension to Hodgson’s current set up. Sam Allardyce is already calling for Carroll to get the nod, and if he continues to put in the effort on his return from injury, he will be in with a good chance. We would assume that his return to form will come soon after recovery, but mentally and physically it might be a big ask for the big man, so we can only cross our fingers in the meantime. Ravel Morrison: This young talent continues to impress. He scored two goals on his England U21 debut (an early strike and a stunning second) and fans and media alike are prepared to give Morrison the credit for his footballing skills. His on-pitch row with Wilfried Zaha probably didn’t do him too many favours, but generally that was glossed over to speak of his raw talent. He might just be Hodgson’s wildcard. Stewart Downing: Downing has an England career on the go, albeit it’s taken a little siesta. In 34 appearances he’s notched up seven assists. He made no secret of the fact that he hoped a move to the East End would reignite his international chances and

he might link up well with Carroll to show off a proactive partnership. Carlton Cole: Only joking. That’s just our current squad. We've starting to build up a good platform for English footballers again. We all hold on to the fact that we “won” the World Cup in 1966 and the era of Carrick, Ferdinand, Lampard, Defoe and co. We need something to look forward to, and Tony Carr and Sam Allardyce are working well to get our

international hopes back to the way they were. This is also forgetting that we might buy in January. As fans, we do tend to look at our half empty glass and assume that we’ll sell anyone who shows any potential without replacing with an equally promising player. Let’s have some faith. But don’t ask me to write my opinions again in February, because I might be a little more downbeat! Follow me on Twitter @lucy_whufc


@bl0wingbubbles Mark Noble believes he is good enough to earn an England call up for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. The 26-year-old has been in fine form this season, putting in a number of impressive performances including the win over Spurs. But what do West Ham fans think? James Jones from asked the question and got these responses: Kid Charlemagne @Sibbo_ITF I hope Noble stays well away from England. Sorry Marky, love you and all that, but what happened to Dean Ashton still haunts us. Adrian Smith @adiesmith64 @WestHamWorld if Cleverly can play for England Noble certainly could but then again he's playing for West Ham not ManU! #COYI #WHTID Angus Jellis @TheAngusJellis @WestHamWorld He's been playing very well recently, didn't look out of place against Citeh's 'superstars'. It’ll be interesting to see what happens

Andy @abarber485 Mark noble for England? I’ll go for that. Better than Milner, the Man City reserve team player

Jake Rowe @JakeRowe1 Mark Noble is a great player. If he played for one of the bigger clubs he would be in the England team

Lee Salter @LeeSalter Why is Mark Noble never considered for England? Works hard, great tackler, creates chances.

Harris @___JoshHarris #OverratedFootballers Cleverly and Henderson. Both only in the England squad because they play for United and Liverpool. Where's Mark Noble?

Michael Trodd @Troddy22 How does James Milner get into the England squad #overrated When Mark Noble #underrated pisses all over him week in week out! Lee Bennett @Sidd3rz92 Mark Noble is different gear! It baffles me why he's never been in the England squad 100 % week in week out! Sam @SW54321 One thing that can't be ignored is that Mark Noble is class and for me should be in an England squad miles ahead of the likes of Cleverley!

Clancy @Clancywhu Mark Noble captained the England U21's to European runners up, and still he's overlooked because of Huddlestone and Osman Katie Sorenson @KatieSorenson_x Really don't understand how Tom Huddlestone is playing and Noble hasn't even been considered for the England team. Noble is #worldclass Lewis @lewisquinn Mark Noble should be in the England midfield. There's nothing else to say about the matter #NobleForEngland

David Meagher I’m sure many remember watching Italian football in the 1990s feeling they were being treated to something high brow and exotic where only the very best from this part of Europe were invited to participate. However, for those youngsters who are too young to recall, most fans soon switched off and reverted to the ‘unsophisticated’ rough and tumble of our own league. English football may be less graceful, but it’s decidedly more interesting than the overcautious hyperdefensive chess-like tedium of 1990s Italian football where score lines of 0-0 and 1-0 were standard fare and managers lauded for their negativity. This was the kind of nonsense that forced FIFA to introduce a range of new rules aimed at saving the beautiful game including three points for a win and no passing back to the goalie. But now, the latest from the ‘never give an inch’ Italian stable is Luigi Allardichi with his ‘innovative’ false number nine system that has been widely applauded as a stroke of genius. However, for others, this is simply football at its most negative – playing without a striker! We knew that with Big Sam we would trade some beauty for efficiency, but this latest development is an atrocity too far! So, let’s start with the positives: Barcelona and the Spanish national side have in recent times employed this

Allardichi’s new formation: Headless, mindless and brainless formation to good effect. You are unlikely to ever get overrun in midfield. The system dispenses with the need to employ overpriced and moody strikers. The English game is so stuck in the dead-empire tradition of 4-4-2, it will undoubtedly leave most teams totally befuddled and wandering aimlessly and confused around the pitch wondering who to mark or where to position themselves. And it worked against Spurs. However, the negatives are pretty abundant: The formation provides zero penetration of the opposition’s defence and serves mainly to clutter midfield and reduce the game to a series of set pieces with virtually no free-flowing football in between. We are conceding humongous quantities of possession which can only hurt in the end. The only proven goal scorer in our midfield is Kevin Nolan who lacks the pace to create his own chances but rather uses

his experience to feed off knock downs and other scraps but these require a target man who can create these opportunities. Strikers score more goals than players from any other position and goals win games. So let’s call it what it is – the ‘headless mindless brainless 3-8-0 mega midfield’ formation. Apart from Tottenham, we have underperformed and have no design to our attack. We are reduced to set pieces and opposition errors for scoring opportunities and even then defenders and midfielders don’t have the precision needed to score the volume of goals that is required to thrive at this level. Sure, our defence has been really solid, but it says something that our best performer this season has been Jussi Jaaskelainen. Read more by David at

Lily Fenton I wasn’t too disheartened at losing to a Man City team which has been tipped to win the league and a squad that cost hundreds of millions but for the first time this season people have been asking questions about our defence for many reasons including no James Collins and Winston Reid’s shocker. Our defence is normally first class so it’s down to one question: Tomkins or Collins? Yes Collins was injured this week from an international game which is a massive blow but Tomkins has been our regular starter in recent games. James Collins is a first class defender without a shadow of a doubt but at times can be a bit hit and miss. He missed our best chance against Southampton and you can tell he was extremely frustrated with that as were most West Ham fans, but I don’t think in that position we could get any better. He is now so experienced and strong and in many games I can’t fault him. He really holds our team up and I for one always feel a bit more comfortable when I see him in the starting lineup. I remember his two goals against Man United in the cup game last season and it’s games and goals like that which makes him such a strong member of the team,

Tomkins V Collins: Who gets your vote? I just wish we could see him play like that a bit more. A final thought on Collins, I also think it makes Reid a better player when they are together. They have built up a good partnership and push each other. James is also a much more defensive-minded player then Tonks at this time as well. James Tomkins has no doubt earned his place in the recent starting line up from performances in the Capital Cup games and is a super defender on his day. But I do question whether he needs a bit more experience before gaining a regular place. Of course I know he needs games to get experience but he’s still very young and

could be a future captain of the club. I think if he watches Collins for a little while longer and gets that bit stronger he could be the club’s best defender. I also think it was important for him to start getting some games otherwise some other clubs might come looking for him due to the potential and that would be a disaster. So who at this stage of the season who would you start? I’d still go for Collins, for now at least. Follow me on Twitter @lily_fenton For more articles like this visit or follow the blog on Twitter @MooreThanAClub

West Ham Ladies West Ham Ladies defender Hayley West has called on her teammates to have more self-belief and confidence to help drive a push up the table. The centre half was the standout performer for the Hammers during a 1-1 draw with league leaders Gillingham last month - a game the centre back believes could prove to be the catalyst for an unbeaten run in the FA Women’s Premier League South. Reflecting on the result, she said: “We didn’t know if the Gillingham game was going to be on or not when we travelled there because of the weather but once we got the all clear after the pitch inspection, we were just all up for it. “They are at the top of the league and we wanted to give them a good game. We hadn’t really hit our best form and it hadn’t really happened for us this season even though we had been playing well so it was great to get the result we did. “They had put a lot of pressure on us in the first half and Toni [Anne Wayne] had to make some really good saves to keep us at 0-0 at at half time. “Our talk at half time was how well we were doing and how we just needed to keep going and put a bit more pressure on them and we could hear their manager ripping into his players and it gave us a boost. “And even though we came out in the second half

Picture by Mickey Cartwright

Defender hoping for charge up league table and went a goal down, we didn’t give up and kept pressing and then Cherelle came on and scored pretty quickly. “From that moment on we started to win everything, first and second balls, and even though it poured down in the last 10 minutes, we didn’t give up. “The morale at the end of the game was amazing. To have come from 1-0 down

against the league leaders and not give up was great. “We were all buzzing after the game and Mark was really pleased with us – it was such a great feeling.” She continued: “This season our aim was – and still is – to win the league. “With our bid to join the women’s super league rejected, we want to try and promote ourselves and get more recognised this season. There is no better

way of doing this then winning games, leagues and trophies. We all have that goal in mind. “We have got brilliant players who are starting to really combine with each other. We know how we want to play and I think we will kick on from here. “If winning the league is not on, then getting as close as we can at the end of the season must be our aim.” Hayley joined the Hammers in the summer and admits she is enjoying her football again after falling out of love with the game at Colchester United. “It’s a whole new team this season with Mark bringing in new players like me but the team dynamic is so much better,” she continued. “It’s just the whole set-up and everything that’s going on behind the scenes which has really impressed me. The team has also bonded really well and we have a lot of banter. “Before this season, I hadn’t played centre back before but I’ve learnt quickly and I’ve learnt a lot. “What has also helped me is that the back four is more settled now. We lost a few players through injuries and leaving the club altogether but the last few games we’ve had the same back four and we have got a much better understanding. Sophie and I at the back work well together and both Jade and Lindsey are great full backs.”

The centre back also picked out centre forward Natalie Crinean, winger Kelley Blanchflower and ‘keeper Toni-Anne Wayne for their impressive performances recently. “Natalie has been one of our standout players this season,” the former Colchester United player said. “I’ve got no idea how she can hold the ball up for so long. The ball gets up to her and she just holds off other players until laying it off. Also if we have to go more direct, she wins nine out of ten headers in the air.”

She added: “Kelley has made quite an impact in recent games and is more attacking and has more confidence. Toni is a quality ‘keeper just from her talking and decisions she makes. It’s great having her behind me especially being new to the centre back role, she has been great at talking me through games.” The Ladies host Coventry on Sunday, November 3. Kick off at 2pm at Thurrock FC, Ship Lane, Aveley, Essex, EM19 1YN


@bl0wingbubbles Following our draw at Swansea earlier this month, West Ham fans took to the wonderful world of Twitter to praise another solid performance away from Upton Park. Here’s a selection of what some of our followers had to say: Gary White @garywhite79 Swansea 0-0 West Ham, Another clean sheet and point for the mighty hammers! #COYI #WHUFC Nick Fenton @N13KKF Four points in three games, I’ll take that Dave @DaveBurton11 I think I’d have taken four points from our last three if I was offered it before the Spurs game Paul Wells @PaulPaulwells Great point away to Swansea & brilliant team performance Joseph Peters @Woodfordjoe Think the game on tuesday against Burnley will be tougher than today #coyi

Genay Pasha @GenayP Not a bad result at all! Rat you played a blinder as did Noble and Demel. Onwards and upwards

who are ya?! @king1416 Our last 3 fixtures Spurs, Man City and Swansea to get 4 points from that is fine by me. #coyi #whufc

West Ham Dan @danwhufcflemin We haven't conceded a goal for two away matches now #COYI

Dean Ward @wardy76 A good point West Ham, Our away form is strong at the moment need take it home to Upton Park #COYI

Cholmondeley @KnoxRover Take a point. Tomkins continues to play well. #COYI Christian Drake @CJDrakey Very pleased with a point and we played well at times, but how long do we have to watch a team with no strikers?! #whufc #coyi Emily Squires @squireswhufc Pleased with a point, honestly grateful for anything at this stage! Simon @Bringmethecod I thought @CarltonCole1 played well with the time he was given. We have missed that big striker presence up front. #COYI

Tony De Lucia @tonyditaly No three points that we deserved on the chances we had in the 1st half, but a clean sheet & a point away from home is still not a bad thing. #COYI Hammertime @barry_usher Know it was a great, wellearned point but still disappointed when we don't win especially when we play well #COYI Andy Dutton @dutts_87 Can any #westham fans enlighten me on today's game? Is that a good away point against a good side, or two points dropped being wasteful? #coyi

Bill West When Avram Grant said in 2010 that West Ham were about to sign a star from that summer's World Cup, all Hammers fans were hoping for a genuine star or a rough diamond that could be moulded into a world-class talent. Then we were told the player in question played for New Zealand. Ah. The ‘star’ we signed turned out to be Winston Reid - not quite the superstar from Spain or Germany that we wanted. Like most fans, I hadn't heard of Reid. But to be fair the All Whites had a decent tournament. They didn't qualify from their group, but they got an incredible 1-1 draw with the reigning champions Italy. They amazingly finished third in the group, rooting Italy to the bottom of Group F. This was a great achievement, considering they were meant to be the whipping boys of the group. Reid's first competitive match was against Aston Villa. The defender, like most of the other players in the team, were very poor in that opening day 3-0 defeat in August 2010. That season was a disaster for Reid and West Ham who eventually finished bottom. It was a tough first season in English football for Reid, he only made seven appearances in the Barclays Premier League and what we did see of him didn’t promise

Avram did one thing right! much. But maybe the Championship would be more suited to him. And so it proved to be. He was excellent throughout the whole season and proved he could cut it in a physical and demanding league. His goal against Millwall will make him a Hammers legend forever. His defensive partnership with James Tomkins was vital in the team only conceding 48 goals, one of the best in the Championship that season. Since our play-off win against Blackpool, Reid has been one of the mainstays for the club. He was one of the main reasons why the Hammers kept 11 cleans sheets in the league in our first season back in the Premier League. It wasn’t surprising that Reid was voted Hammer of the Year by the supporters. The 25-year-old polled a convincing 45 per cent of the vote to fend off strong competition from second

placed Jussi Jaaskelainen and Mohamed Diame in third. His resolute displays against the likes of Manchester City, who left Upton Park without being able to score, and European Champions Chelsea, who were defeated 3-1, counted towards our strong start to last season, eventually leading to a 10th placed finish. He has continued his good form so far in the current campaign. We may not be firing on all cylinders up front, but at the back we have been decent once again, apart from top finishing by Sergio Aguero in the defeat to Manchester City and a couple of free-kicks by Leighton Baines against Everton. Avram Grant was a disaster during his time at West Ham. But he did do one good thing, and that was buying Reid for a knock-down price. What a signing he has turned out to be.

Tim Lovett

Will the ‘false nine’ work for West Ham? In our games against Spurs and Man City, Big Sam adopted a new formation to send out onto the pitch as a result of the failings of Modibo Maiga up front on his own, or at least the failing to make it work.. The formation Sam chose was inventive to say the least. Drawing inspiration for the incredible Spanish national team, he decided the best thing to do once he failed to bring in a decent back-up striker was to not play one at all. And so, the 4-6-0 formation was born. Well, born again, in East London, and its first assignment was on that day at White Hart Lane. Now, when I first saw the team for the Tottenham

game, I just assumed Vaz Te had replaced Maiga up front, and a false nine didn’t really cross my mind at all until later. Unfortunately, I didn’t bother to go this year after the horror show I saw us put on at the same ground last year, and beforehand I could only see an even worse result this time around. But incredibly we got the result, and as I sat down that night to watch possibly the greatest Match of the Day 2 in living memory, it first occurred to me we had actually played a false nine. I’d heard Tottenham fans say Big Sam out-thought Villas-Boas, and tactically got it spot on, but it wasn’t until MOTD claimed Diame was

our closest thing to a striker in the line-up that I twigged. Not having certain ‘TikiTaka’ capabilities in our squad, you wouldn’t have thought it possible. And I must admit, I had mixed emotions about the false nine. The first being just pure delight and appreciation. Allardyce had studied Spurs, brought this formation to try and stop them, and it worked an absolute treat. We didn’t give them many chances at all, went on counter attacks of our own and looked dangerous, and just generally fully deserved the win. Dawson and Vertonghen evidently struggled without a specific man sticking up front for them to mark, and things got more and more difficult for them.

Once we got the first, it seemed to me Tottenham fell apart completely, as shown in Morrison’s goal. Take nothing away from Ravel, it was an unbelievable goal, but you don’t often see a player just seamlessly run through the Spurs midfield and then past the two centre backs and finish, without even a suggestion of a tackle. Once again, we deserved the win, the formation worked beautifully, and at the end of the day, any formation that gets us a 3-0 win at Tottenham would go down well wouldn’t it! However, as good as that result was, I had my doubts. After all, the first time I actually saw a false nine was Spain in Euro 2012 against Italy. This was the game in the group stages, where they drew 1-1, not the final where they ran away with it. I wasn’t impressed by it at all during that game. I just found it boring to watch, and I thought Spain were lacking that striker, as all their short passing just took place on the edge of the box, which Italy were happy to defend until one of the Spanish players made a mistake and they could launch a counter attack, which they did for their goal. This made me think, the false nine was used for completely different purposes by us and Spain. Spain are full of incredibly technically gifted players who will have the lion’s share of possession every game they play, so the false nine allows

them more players in midfield to keep the ball, leaving the opposition defence confused with no specific player to mark. The midfield have the ability to keep knocking about, patiently keeping possession until one of them decides to make a forward run, without being tracked. They then have the ability to spot the pass and slip him through. We used it, however, when we knew we would have little possession. We knew, for example, Spurs would keep the ball and put us under pressure. So by us employing the false nine we got an extra body in midfield with the intent to soak up pressure, keep the ball when we needed to, and counter attack quickly, with the Spurs defence not having their specific player to mark up front. In that way, it worked for us but that was what worries me. Better teams than Tottenham were on that day will still be able to break us down. This was shown against Man City. Forgetting the second goal, the other two stemmed from one pass down the middle. The first set Aguero free and he wasn’t going to miss a one-on-one, and the third set Aguero free again who teed up David Silva Furthermore, as we were at home, we needed more of an attacking threat than the false nine gave us. We didn’t really look like scoring during the game.

The balls coming into the box from Downing and Jarvis had nobody to meet them, whereas with a striker playing you’d think they’d get on the end of a couple? So not only did it not work there, but in games against beatable teams, especially at home, we would have the same problem as Spain in that Italy game, just more drastic. We would possibly have more possession, and just be camped on the edge of the box, with our players not as good at keeping the ball. The opposition defence would become wise to it after a while, the forward runs would get less frequent, without the same ability to slip the ball on a plate for them when the runs were made, and on top of it all, we would be vulnerable to the counter attack. So all in all, I’m delighted the false nine worked at White Hart Lane but I can’t help but feel that was a one off. If we have games like Spurs away in the near future we might want to use it again, but once Andy Carroll returns I’d much prefer to see a similar formation to last season with Carroll leading the line. In my opinion, that would be much more effective for a team like us and we’d turn Upton Park into a bit of a fortress again like last year. Follow me on Twitter @timlovett96

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Dear Sam

Dear Sam. Blimey mate – what sort of tactical prat are you? No strikers – how do you expect to score goals like that? That bunch of two-bob ho-hopers from Man City murdered us. I still can't Adam and Eve it! No wonder we’re up to our ears in the brown stuff. Have you got any idea what you’re doing? Take a tip and try to be a bit more like Avram Grant – that bloke was a genius. False Number Nines and tippy-tappy football on the edge of our own area! What do think your name is: Sam Allardichi? I shudder to contemplate what you’re going to try this

week. Don’t tell me: if we can play without strikers, it stands to reason we can get rid of the defenders as well. Get a grip man! You can’t just pack the team with midfield players. Next thing you’ll be trying to get shot of old Juicy in goal and have a False Number One as well. Nobody will be expecting that. Of course they won’t – it’s sheer bloody lunacy. Has somebody been in your ear about the great days of West Ham when we put the World Cup winners in goal? It didn’t work, mate. Martin Peters only found himself between the sticks because the regular fella got injured. The same thing

happened with Moore in a League Cup semi-final, and he was useless too. Look, I may not have all my coaching badges, but what you need to do is play a big bloke up front and try to get the ball to him a bit sharpish. Someone like that big lump with the ponytail who played a couple of games for us last season. You should have signed him while the transfer window was open: he looked quite useful. If you're going to play a system like that, it generally helps if you've got a couple of wide men to put the crosses in. We used to have a really wide geezer here once - bloke by the name of Redknapp. A brilliant player and a really

nice guy as well, from what I've heard. Couldn't tell a porky if his life depended on it – his word was his bond (or is it bonds? I was never really sure what that phrase meant). Let’s be frank, it's time you got your finger out. I'm not going to keep hauling up to East London from King's Lynn every week just to watch us get stuffed. There's a glovepuppet workshop at the arts centre I’m interested in, and I’ve heard the Majestic does a deal for pensioners at the weekend which I can get into if I lie about my age. There's more to life than West Ham, mate – especially when we're losing. And if our brave lads are going to boycott the World Cup in Russia, I can certainly boycott the Bobby Moore Lower for a week or two. It might help if you got yourself a decent assistant. Tell your mate Ronald MacDonald to stop fiddling around with his laptop all day and get him out there on the training pitch where he can kick some of those overpaid layabouts you’ve bought into shape. I don't care if he is trying to fix the email system; who cares about emails when we're staring relegation in the face! The two of you could find yourselves down the Job Centre if things go on like this, especially as there are

some good managers out there to take over all of a sudden. Paolo Di Canio is looking for work and so’s Worzel Gummidge now that Palace have given him the tin tack by mutual consent. Admittedly, Di Canio isn’t everybody’s cup of cappuccino but don’t be fooled by Worzel, neither. He may sound like the village idiot, but he doesn’t play with a back ten. So, me old china, you need to wake your ideas up a bit. It’s times like these I believe we need to remember the greatest Prime Minister this country ever had and be inspired by his leadership

through some of the darkest days in our history. You could learn a valuable lesson here. To quote his immortal words: “It’s back to basics!” (Shame he spent his spare time trying to tickle up Edwina Currie with his loofah rather than concentrating on the cones hotline – if he had, the A11 wouldn’t be in the state it is today.) Anyway, good luck (you’re gonna need it) Your mate behind the goal

Tales from the Sandpit

Time to step up! So in typical West Ham style we’ve been knocked off our crest of a wave and come crashing back down to Earth (writing this before the Swansea match). It was all so inevitable really wasn’t it? After the Tottenham dream, it was back to an Upton Park nightmare, with a defence that’s been so rock solid over the season showing worrying lapses for two of Manchester City’s goals. Perhaps we cannot criticise our defenders too much, after all, they have been magnificent over the course of the season and, when I think about it, much of last season as well. Against

City, Winston Reid was singled out for a number of errors in defence but to me he just seemed knackered. No more than that. We cannot expect our players to play at such an intense level week in, week out putting in heroic efforts to keep us in matches or preserve our leads. It’s just not possible and we need to remember that until the City match we’d only conceded one goal from open play. Again it shows, though, that once we scratch away at the surface our resources are somewhat stretched. James Collins has no date set for his return according

to, neither does McCartney and at the time of writing Demel has a knock. Carroll and Diarra we all know about. So what lessons can we learn from the last home match which we can apply on Saturday? Well, after the spectacular success of the formation against Tottenham it was perhaps too much to expect a repeat performance. After the sublime play of Ravel at White Hart Lane he was generally subdued and snuffed out by the opposition. Again, we cannot expect him to dig us out of a hole each time he touches the ball.

We need others to step up to the plate on Saturday; Nolan needs to do more, Noble I thought was poor against City, with a terrible passing accuracy from the off. If he does feel he can force his way into Hodgson’s plans he’ll have to do a lot better than that. What I don’t understand is that once we went 2-0 down we eventually started to play. I have mentioned this many times in the past about our performances at the Boleyn that we often seem to perform at a snail’s pace, only upping performance levels when perhaps our fighting chance has already gone. Against City, though, after Vaz Te’s excellent overhead

kick we were playing some decent football and creating chances which is why I cannot for the life of me understand why the manager did not put Cole on in the hope of getting on the end of some of our myriad of wingers crosses when we did have that decent spell. What was the point of packing the wide areas with players if there is no-one with the ability to get the ball in the back of the net in the box? Then, of course, Cole came on after we went 3-1 down. Again what was the point of that? After the Tottenham match, Allardyce said the only reason he went with that formation was because he

knew the strikers he had at his disposal would not actually score a goal. Fair play to admit that and fair play to do something about it and perhaps by luck more than anything else that formation was the right one to play at that time and a formation that may have suited an away performance against a team like Tottenham. At home, though, against Manchester City the limitations of that formation were cruelly exposed and the 4-6-0 is not the answer to all our questions. Writing this before the Swansea match may mean that what I’m writing has been thrown back in my face but I hope that this Saturday we will attack with pace and vitality from the off, not sit back and allow Aston Villa to play. After all we are already reaching that six-pointer stage despite only being a quarter of the way through the season. Nothing less than a win is vital. The good news for me at least is that this week I’ll be there in person to see it, flying in from Dubai and settling in for my pre-match pint at the Duke of Edinburgh. I look forward to seeing you there. COYI! Follow me on Twitter @hosiemon

Katherine Alder

More Hammers embarrassment So once again West Ham has found itself at the centre of a media storm - this is getting a bit too embarrassing now, David and David! West Ham fans were filmed verbally abusing Muslim supporters who were praying in the stadium at the match against Manchester City and the club and fans have come across very negatively indeed. There are a few points I also want to discuss here. Firstly, did you know that £5

tickets were offered to community groups to get the local community involved with the club? I personally was unaware of this and think that the club should have made it a much clearer that this was happening. I know that players often go and visit groups in the local area, but what I didn’t know was that they actually get offered cheaper tickets to matches. Now, normally I’d be all in favour of this and happy that

the club are reaching out to locals but I don’t think it should have been offered for the Man City game. Of course our fans who had paid full price for the match would be fuming that other people had been let in to this game for a fiver. It’s a Category A match, meaning that tickets would be at their most expensive – £52 in this case. I’m all for letting people who wouldn’t normally go to matches attend at a discount, but surely this would work better

against teams like Norwich City, for example, who wouldn’t necessarily be in as much demand – or as expensive for regular attendees. If anything, I would have hoped the club would recognise that an expensive match being shown on TV would probably fail to sell out, and lower ticket prices accordingly. But that would probably be too much common sense for West Ham! Our ‘spokesperson’ Jack Sullivan has said that tickets were only given out to fill the stadium for Sky, tweeting: ‘The five pound ticket were a one off offer to the local community to fill empty seats for a TV game. Go to KUMB or WHU website for more detail.’ When I look at the official statement from West Ham, I don’t get the impression that this was a one off at all. And if it genuinely was, I don’t understand why the club couldn’t randomly select members who hadn’t yet bought tickets and may have been priced out of going to the game to get the discount. I don’t blame the people that were chosen for going to the match – I personally feel that if I was offered £5 tickets to go and see Premier League football, I’d definitely take advantage of that. However, there were reports of them cheering on Man City which was bound to wind up Hammers fans. And I must admit I’m really not sure

a packed out football stadium was an ideal place for a prayer session. I’m not saying West Ham fans are innocent by any means, and it must be said that some have behaved appallingly. There have been some disgusting tweets from Hammers fans over the last few days. One of the tamer ones to David Gold said: “why are you giving out free tickets to Asians. absolute disgrace.” To me, the anger falls into two categories – the fact that football fans who were not necessarily even West Ham fans were given cut price tickets to an expensive game, and the fact that they were Muslims. The latter is unacceptable and just makes our fans look fickle and racist. I do think

fans have a right to be angry about this match being the one chosen for the community project, as thousands of them had paid 10 times more than the £5 offer to watch it. There should have been a lot more transparency about this and the club should probably have issued a statement as soon as their position was questioned, rather than two days after. Has the lesson been learnt? With our club, who knows?! I think that’s the bigger problem here – there have been a few issues recently that have made West Ham embarrassing, and it needs to get sorted out as soon as possible. Follow me on Twitter @alwaysintune

Danny Rust The opening weeks of the 2013/14 season has already seen two managers lose their job, and it leads to the question as to whether those at the helm are given enough of a chance. It also highlights not only the diffculty of the job for managers, but also for the owners themselves. West Ham United legend Paolo Di Canio was the first top flight head coach to have his services terminated, as a terrible start to the season left the Black Cats bottom of the Premier League table. Indeed the former Swindon Town chief had found the quick step up the ladder a bit of a culture shock, but the Sunderland board should have always known that success under Di Canio would take time. As West Ham owners David Gold and David Sullivan have previously said, the Italian is reasonably inexperienced, and so he was going to need time and backing from the club. Most importantly from Sunderland’s point of view, Di Canio managed to keep the Wearside club in the Premier League last season with the highlight being the 3-0 victory over North East rivals Newcastle United at St. James’ Park. But following that upset, victories evaded the former Lazio striker’s side. In a bid to steer Sunderland away from another relegation dogfight, Sunderland

Managers need more time

chairman Ellis Short allowed Di Canio to splash the cash on new acquisitions. Unsurprisingly, the head coach turned to his homeland to make additions including the highly rated Emanuele Giaccherini. Surely if the chairman was willing to allow his head coach to spend millions of pounds, then you would expect that the man in charge was going to be allowed time? After all, it is highly unlikely that the team is going to gel immediately. But Short did the opposite and gave the outspoken Italian little time to justify his signings. Di Canio was sacked the day after the Black Cats’

defeat at West Bromwich Albion. Now, Uruguayan Gus Poyet has a tough job on his hands and, like Di Canio, takes over with no Premier League managerial experience. The next managerial casualty of the season was Crystal Palace boss Ian Holloway following their defeat against Fulham. The manager lasted less than a year in charge at Selhurst Park. Like Sunderland, Palace have endured a tough start to the season, although this was expected due to their squad’s inexperience in the top flight. In fact, the Eagles’ only points of the season so far have come in a home victory

over Sunderland - a game where Di Canio publicly criticised John O’Shea and Ji Dong-Won, which led to disapproval from many pundits. It is fair to say that the newly-promoted side have struggled to get to grips with the Premier League, and some players such as Dwight Gayle, who started last season at League Two side Dagenham & Redbridge, are finding it difficult to find the back of the net. Holloway has always been honest and entertaining in his post-match interviews, and is highly regarded after almost pulling off the impossible with Blackpool in the Premier League. But this time around, ‘Ollie’ admitted that he had “lost the dressing room” and was not

in the right frame of mind to continue. Like Di Canio, Holloway had been given permission to spend money on improving his Championship play-off winning side, and he did so with the acquisitions of the aforementioned Gayle, former Hammers loanee Marouane Chamakh, Adrian Mariappa and Jimmy Kebe. Unfortunately for Holloway, the team failed to step up to the standard required and left the manager with a tough job on his hands. To his credit, Steve Parish admitted that he took as much blame for the poor use of the summer transfer window as the manager himself, but felt it was the right decision for the club to part with Holloway by mutual consent.

Now the Eagles face a tough battle to remain in the Premier League beyond this season. That surely shows that there are right and wrong times for managers to vacate their post, or for owners to sack the man at the helm. Most would agree that Di Canio should have been given more time to allow his team to gel. If they were given a few more weeks under the head coach, then they could have become a force. In the case of Holloway, it was partly the manager’s decision to leave and so due to him feeling he could do little more to help the team to improve, he has given the club a chance of salvaging their season. Many Crystal Palace supporters have expressed their belief that the former Queens Park Rangers manager was never the right man for the job, and that under him, they were lucky to reach the play-offs. Numerous Palace fans took to BBC Radio 5 Live to vent their opinions and frustrations, and for the most part, they agreed that he has taken the club backwards rather than forwards. This further demonstrates that chairmen have a tough job and must be sure that they appoint the right man for the job, and they discard the current one at the correct time of the season. Follow me on Twitter @Danny_Rust10


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Blowing Bubbles #24 (West Ham V Aston Villa 02/11/13)  
Blowing Bubbles #24 (West Ham V Aston Villa 02/11/13)  

In this issue: *Julian Dicks' exclusive column *Which West Ham stars could make Roy Hodgson's England squad for the World Cup in Brazil? *Al...