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Exclusive interview: David Gold Big Sam’s negativity is preventing progression Three reasons to believe we can beat Arsenal Have we been unlucky or has Big Sam been poor? West Ham Ladies ‘keeper quits & 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: David Bowden, Geoff Hillyer, Tim Holland, Andrew Hosie, Andrew Jenkin, Thomas Johnson, Joell Mayoh, Lucy Woolford EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES: EMAIL: editor@blowingbubbles.co.uk ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES: EMAIL: advertising@blowingbubbles.co.uk 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 www.blowing-bubbles.co.uk. TO CONTACT BLOWING BUBBLES: Email: editor@blowingbubbles.co.uk 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.

(c) Blowing Bubbles

I think it’s fair to say we’re still enduring a winter of discontent at the Boleyn Ground. Having played Tottenham and Manchester United before Christmas, it’s only going to get worse with an Arsenal side who are real title contenders this season coming to Upton Park on Boxing Day. City, United and Chelsea have all shown their brilliance at times this season but Arsenal have been far more consistent and with all three clubs having new managers at the helm, this might be Arsene Wenger’s best chance yet to claim more silverware for Arsenal. I will go to the game against the Gunners hoping we get a good result but I won’t be crying into my beer if we lose. I must admit, however, that I’m still trying to get over the Sunderland game. They arrived at the Boleyn having not won away since April and hadn’t even managed to score in their previous six games but they comfortably outplayed and outshot us and I honestly felt we were lucky to get a point. Obviously I was pleased with our eighth clean sheet of the season but our inability to create or take chances is painful and this needs to change sooner rather than later. Turning to our latest issue and I’m delighted to say we have another exclusive interview with David Gold. Despite our situation, he was very optimistic about our club’s chances of staying in the Premier League and I’d like to echo what he has to say about really getting behind the players. I hope you had a very merry Christmas with loved ones and I hope you enjoy the game.

David Blackmore Editor


Exclusive Interview: David Gold

West Ham co-chairman David Gold believes the club has the players, manager and determination to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle. Speaking exclusively to Blowing Bubbles, he has also urged the club’s “fantastic” supporters to continue to rally behind the players and manager Sam Allardyce to help the Hammers stay clear of danger. “Everyone bemoans their luck every now and again but we’ve been really unlucky this season,” Mr Gold said. “In the game against Crystal Palace we had a legitimate goal

disallowed and against Hull we had a penalty given against us which I didn’t think was a penalty and we had a penalty claim which wasn’t given. “We could have got at least a point from both of those games had those decisions gone our way and then it’s a different league. These are the decisions I vividly remember but there have been others as well this season. “But rest assured we are trying everything we can to get ourselves out of this situation. We are trying to

get Andy Carroll back as quickly as we can too. “We know it’s quite clear that if he gets injured again it really does leave a big hole and that we do need to bring someone in to cover him because he is going to get the odd knock. We also know that we cannot continue for the rest of the season in the situation we are currently in. “That is not to say Maiga can’t turn things around because he has unfortunate not to score and he is getting in the positions to score. If he had taken a few of the chances he has had then we would probably have a few


more points on the board and wouldn’t be so stressed with where we are the moment.” Mr Gold said he felt Stewart Downing had been West Ham’s best player so far this season, describing as some of his performances as “exceptional”. He continued: “We have got arguably our top four players out injured or suspended at the moment which is tough for us. “That is, of course, taking nothing away from Diame or Ravel Morrison who have played really well this season. Morrison in particular has been a revelation for us and has been like a new signing. “Once we start putting out our best side every week, surely that will make the difference? We will continue to work hard but we really need to the fans to stay on board because we have all got to pull in the same direction. We’ve also got Vaz Te who is also not far away from returning so this situation we found ourselves in can all change. “We must, however, bring in a striker. We will try to buy someone or get someone on loan if necessary. “We spent a huge amount of money on two top players in the summer in Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing and we can’t keep spending that sort of money, we have got to be realistic. In an ideal world we

need a free transfer or a loan with the view of signing the striker in the summer. If we have to, we will have to do a deal in such a way that’s affordable to us. We will not leave any stone unturned.” He added: “When you are in the bottom three and have low morale, then it is tough to drag yourself out of the relegation zone but this is not our club. We have got plenty of things going for us. “The fans are still with us, the management has a great relationship with the players and the manager has a great relationship with the chairmen. “We are suffering at the moment but we are all still optimistic because we have the players, we have the manager and we have the determination to play ourselves out of trouble.” There has been quite a bit of hostility towards Mr Gold on Twitter following some of West Ham’s poor showings recently, which the cochairman admitted comes with his role at the club even though some of the messages were quite hurtful. “At the moment I am still reading most of them,” he said. “I don’t manage to read them all because there are so many but whenever I can I will spend an hour reading them and sending replies. There are some people who I

hold in high regard and respond to their questions and tweets but there are others who are just spiteful. “I’m also not responding to as many as I normally would at the moment because it’s a time of reflection for us and I don’t want to get into confrontation with fans or people who are just looking for a fight.” Asked what plans, if any, there are for a closing ceremony at the Boleyn Ground and an opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, Mr Gold continued: “There are no plans for any ceremonies at the Boleyn Ground or at the Olympic Stadium at the moment. “All our efforts at the moment are dealing with the situation we find ourselves in. All I can say about this is it will be emotional to say goodbye to the Boleyn Ground because I’ve got brilliant memories of games I’ve seen there. Leaving Upton Park and playing our first game at the Olympic Stadium will also represent a new era at our great club.” He added: “I hope all our fans and your readers have had a happy and healthy Christmas. “I know it’s difficult and tough at the moment for all of us but I would urge everyone to remain resolute and stick behind the team and the manager.”


Geoff Hillyer

Reasons for festive cheer? Arsenal will be rolling up to the Boleyn Ground this Boxing Day and it promises to be quite a game judging by previous encounters, even if we are struggling towards the wrong end of the league and they’re ahead of the pack! At this festive time, I thought it might be quite nostalgic to look back at a couple of famous West Ham wins against our old foes. Fireworks on Bonfire Night. November 5, 2006. West Ham 1 Arsenal 0 West Ham were in a very similar position to where we are now, and not expected to take anything from the game, with Arsenal flying high. A full-bloodied and pulsating match, played in an electric atmosphere, which seemed to be moving towards a 0-0 conclusion, was sent stratospheric in the 89th minute when Matthew Etherington and Teddy Sheringham exchanged passes before slotting across to Marlon Harewood, who poked home the winner.

The match is just as memorable for Arsene Wenger’s touchline strop where he appeared to shove Alan Pardew and then refuse to shake his hand at the end. Sour grapes. The last team to win at Highbury. February 1, 2006. Arsenal 2 West Ham 3 A match that would normally have us leaving with our tails between our legs became scarcely believable just half an hour in. After a period of Arsenal pressure, Nigel Reo-Coker and Bobby Zamora had put us two-up. Two minutes before halftime, Thierry Henry halved the deficit and all West Ham fans tuning in for the second half would have expected the team to roll over, watching the game through the fingers of their hands. But in the 80th minute, Matthew Etherington put the game beyond Arsenal, despite a late Robert Pires effort. Great memories of Arsenal’s 2,000th match at Highbury

and we’ll forever be the last team to win there too. The first team to win at The Emirates. April 7, 2007. Arsenal 0 West Ham 1 West Ham found ourselves once again struggling in the relegation zone, but this was to set the foundation for the great escape that year. We’d won the last two matches, but in this one, after half an hour, frankly, it looked like Arsenal might get into double figures, for all their shots and goal and complete domination. But then, somewhat staggeringly, Bobby Zamora scored and we found ourselves a goal up at half time. The second half was much the same pattern as the first, but with a combination of some brilliant saves from Rob Green, a bit of luck and a committed team performance, we secured a third straight win, which ultimately kept us up that year. So for those who are thinking that we’re going to get a pasting this Boxing Day, miracles can happen, and even if we do lose, there’s some nice memories! Hope you have a great holiday season, and here’s to some good results for the Hammers! Follow me on Twitter @geoffhillyer


Matt Santer

Closing the door but failing to score

A rag-bag of results has meant we are languishing somewhat precariously above the zone of terror. Injuries and suspensions haven’t helped but a distinct lack of goals has been the main offender. The diamond in the rough for the month of November was a vital win over fellow strugglers Fulham; a victory which has kept us marginally more comfortable in our league position and protected Big Sam’s job. The saving grace for us has been the fact that we have managed to keep so

many clean sheets (eight in total matched only by Everton). This would be all the more enjoyable, however, had we managed to score a few more. Even if we had threatened a little bit more in front of goal would be of some consolation. That aside – and there really is no point in reiterating the obvious – I think it is clear that we have the potential to make a push towards the better end of the table. After all, we have coped far better than most against the likes of Manchester City et al

this season and have shown signs of taking advantage of momentary weaknesses in our opponents. A stalemate against Sunderland wasn’t a disaster as such, but a game we certainly could have done with winning. It was, of course, to be expected from two sides reluctant to take gambles going forward, and with our side crippled by injuries and suspensions it was just nice not to have relinquished maximum points to a club that is currently propping us up.


Our game against titlechasers Arsenal will hopefully mark a turning point for us. They are on the back of a mauling by Man City and a never-easy contest with tailchasers Chelsea. All factors which could go in our favour. One of the questions will be then be whether we can close the door on relatively freescoring and quick-passing table toppers? The other will be whether we can actually squeeze past their shellshocked back four. With Andy Carroll still not fit at time of writing, we will be solely reliant on firepower from elsewhere in the squad. It also means that we’ll need to be on top of our game at the back and through the middle. Returning players will hopefully bolster the chances of that, particularly with Downing, Morrison and Nolan hopefully due back in the squad. It’s such a familiar and frustrating state of affairs when our treatment room is busier than Lakeside Shopping Centre on December 24th, but it’s one we need to deal with all the same. Co-chairman David Sullivan has once again come out and barked his support of Allardyce, which I think was the right thing to do. His usual irritating statements of “regret” and altogether

unnecessary damnation of the £15m the club shelled out for the crocked Carroll were not, however. We all know how important the Christmas period is to teams at the wrong end of the table and we have clearly not been given the most favourable run of fixtures with a resurgent United in the mix. We have also not done ourselves any favours, ironically, by getting so far in the League Cup. In conclusion, we must keep the faith. Criticism and naysaying is thoroughly counter-productive for the cause, no matter how much we all want to.

It is a difficult league to stay in and this season has spewed up a few surprises already. It’s all about the long game for West Ham and with 20 games left of the season, it is far from over. A returning Carroll in 2014 will give us the boost we need, as well as a couple of January loan signings. It’s clear that we have defensive quality in droves – we just need the career-peak forward to poke away some Jarvis/Downing crosses. Follow me on Twitter @MattSanter


David Bowden

More Hammers embarrassment Has Allardyce endured rotten luck or is he to blame for West Ham’s plight? In the wake of the news that Stewart Downing is set to be missing for several weeks with an achilles injury, it got me thinking has Sam Allardyce had rotten luck this season, or has his third season in charge of the East end club been poorly thought out? From day one it was fairly obvious the plan for the season, and it seemed a pretty good one. Sign Andy Carroll, sign a decent winger, and watch Carroll head and kick the Hammers to glory. Alas it wasn’t to be. Andy Carroll has yet to pull on the

claret and blue shirt since signing on a permanent deal from Liverpool and the Hammers failed to think that maybe, just maybe they needed to sign a back-up. It was obvious for everyone to see, especially with the news that Carroll was carrying a knock on arrival. Allardyce and the board are desperately trying to cover themselves with the stories coming out that they tried to sign a number of players but it wasn’t to be. What annoyed me about the whole summer fiasco was the way Sam and the

board handled the back-up striker situation. Whoever was to come in knew they would be second fiddle to Carroll and should Andy return they would rot on the bench. Salomon Kalou reportedly was happy to join should the Irons allow him to play through the centre rather than the wing. Allardyce said no and he declined any move. Now let me ask you this, who would you rather see leading your line, Kalou or Modibo Maiga? I know who I’d rather have and it isn’t dear old Modibo.


So, from that perspective, the Dudley born man Allardyce is 100 per cent at fault. To make it that abundantly obvious that any other striker that was interested in joining would be back-up, he immediately alienated the move. However, you could also argue that he has also been a tad unlucky, Carroll was due back in September, but as we all know he suffered a setback with his injury. He then brought in a replacement on a free in Mladen Petric who impressed in his brief stint, before he picked up a knock, never to be seen or mentioned again. Then of course the equally impressive

Ricardo Vaz Te, the only other recognisable striker who was scoring goals, tried to tackle a post and lost. The Hammers are now left with the returning Carlton Cole, who to me still looks woefully unfit, and Modibo Maiga, who hasn’t scored for a year. It is easy to see why the goals have dried up. Allardyce must have been grateful to see AC return to training, surely now his plan will come together. With Carroll just weeks away from a return, the Jarvis, Downing and Carroll partnership would lift the Hammers away from danger. Cue two minutes into the contest at Anfield, West Ham’s best player by a mile

in recent weeks collects the ball, only to be cynically hacked down by Jon Flanagan. The former Villa man makes it to half time, only to see the true extent of the injury; he required 12 stitches to his achilles and is now set to miss several key weeks for the Hammers. The footballing gods really aren’t with Sam Allardyce and West Ham at the minute, and with rumours circulating we might soon see the end of Big Sam. Will Allardyce ever get to see his dream trio in action? Only time will tell. Follow me on Twitter @Bowdenwhu


Tales from the Sandpit

Stop the season We want to get off I stole the title of this piece from a headline I remember on the back of a tabloid newspaper quite a few years ago. It read 'Stop The World We Want to Get off'. It was 1990 and I'd returned home for the summer after my first year of University. The World Cup was in full flow and it was the day after Scotland had been beaten 1-0 by minnows, as they were considered then, Costa Rica. June 12, I believe it was. It was a humbling experience for Scotland who beforehand had thought that with Sweden as their last fixture in a group that also

contained Brazil there was a great chance for them to progress to the knockout stages for the first time. Alas it was not to be, but that headline has stuck in my mind since, up there with SuperCaleygoballisticCelticar eatrocious, the famous headline in The Sun. Anyway, I digress. The reason I brought it up was because that headline summed up the hopes and dreams of Scottish football fans across the world that had been crushed (once again) by a disastrous performance. And that leads me to the present day to West Ham and a similar

feeling that's developed after the first half of the season. Looking back to August and optimism was high. We'd had a good solid first season back in the top flight, appeared to have made some decent summer signings and seemed in good shape to build on the achievements of the previous year while casting an eye towards the move towards the Olympic Stadium. Fast forward four months and the reality is very much different. Poor performance follows poor performance, the seasonal injury crisis has struck again, the excuses


from Sam are wearing very thin and the prospect of relegation looms larger with every match we fail to take maximum points from. How many of us believed we'd be candidates for relegation this season when we were looking ahead to kick off back in midAugust? There may have been a fleeting thought here and there when the usual West Ham doubt set in but overall, I think most of us considered a similar achievement level to last season was a definite, with a challenge for the Europa League a possibility. The worry, as we take on Arsenal on Boxing Day and West Brom on Saturday, is looking back to our performance against Sunderland where we were, quite frankly, outplayed at home by the team that is bottom of the league, without an away win and only two points all season. And what did Sam harp on about? His delight at keeping a clean sheet. It is terrific, yes, and Jussi has played very well, but I don't think our goalkeeper should be star man when we're playing Sunderland at home for goodness sake. So can we hold out any hope against Arsenal? Well there is always hope but reality suggests we should let this one go and concentrate

all our resources on ensuring a vital three points against WBA on Saturday in the early kick off. Obviously one cannot advocate playing a weakened or under-strength side but I'm sure a little shuffling of the pack might suit - give some of our younger members of the squad the Christmas present of a day out in the first team while ensuring those that are fit remain fit for Saturday. So rather than be pessimistic about our chances, let's create a party. If you're heading to the match, keep going with the

festive cheer, make it a fun atmosphere on Green Street. If you're not stick on the Christmas jumper, open another packet of mince pies, uncork a bottle of wine, stick the turkey leftovers on a plate for later and have a terrific Boxing Day. And predictions on the result? I guess there's no chance a tube strike could help us? No, only last year, then? OK. Follow me on Twitter @hosiemon


West Ham Ladies Picture by Mickey Cartwright

‘Keeper quits Hammers to join Brighton & Hove West Ham Ladies shot stopper Toni-Anne Wayne has quit the club to join Women’s Super League hopefuls Brighton and Hove Albion. The 30-year-old had been in fine form for the Hammers this season, bagging two player of the match awards in 13 games. But she admitted the move to the south coast side - currently on standby to join the Women’s Super League was one she couldn’t turn down. “I had a few approaches come in for me this season including one from Millwall but I know there are quite a few players going there so I turned them down,” the goalkeeper said. “Then Brighton came along and my

initial reaction was that I would say no because it was too far for me to travel but their manager wanted to meet me and speak to me so I went down there to look around their set up. “During my journey down there, I was thinking there was no way I would join Brighton but I was really impressed with their set up and the support from the men’s team which is second to none. “I’m at an age now where I’m starting to get a few injuries and as great as the physios are at West Ham, I think at Brighton I’ll be able to sort them out rather than maintain them. That was my thinking behind the move but the chance to play in the Women’s Super League,

which Brighton are on standby for, was another big reason for moving to them.” The former Charlton Athletic and Gillingham ‘keeper said she thought the current season would be her last but admitted if Brighton get into the Women’s Super League, she doesn’t know what she will do. “I spoke to the manager [Mark Saunderson] and told him about Brighton and them saying they wanted me to go down there and he was great,” Toni-Anne continued. “He told me he didn’t want me to go and would be sad to lose me but that I deserve to be playing at a higher level. “I also spoke in depth to Julia Setford [Director of Football] and she was great too because she looked at it


from a West Ham point of view but also as my friend. “I was told I had to make the decision the Tuesday after the Cardiff game [December 1] but by the time we were travelling to the game, “I still hadn’t made up my mind because even though I knew deep down what the right decision was, I love this club. I was so upset after the game, which we lost 4-1, because I knew it was likely to be my last. On the Monday night, “I sent a group e-mail to everyone explaining my decision to leave and I was asked if I could play one last game, which turned out to be the following week at home to Chesham United, and if I

could be captain for it. They are a great bunch of girls and it was an honour to be captain. They really didn’t have to do that especially given the fact I’m going to be in the same league and playing against them in April.” Toni-Anne, who has played on and off for West Ham for the past five years, still has high hopes for the Hammers in the future. “They are building and working hard to get a better infrastructure in place with things like the Centre of Excellence to help bid for Women’s Super League in 2015,” she added. “I think you can see from the likes of Liverpool, Brighton and Chelsea that the only way women’s football

can progress is with the support from the men’s teams and for me West Ham doesn’t have that at the moment. But they do deserve to be in the Women’s Super League and I don’t think people on the outside appreciate the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. “Everything is done for the players so that all they have to do is turn up and play their game and don’t have to do anything else. I’m really going to miss everyone at the club.” The West Ham Ladies play their home games at Thurrock FC, Ship Lane, Aveley, Essex, EM19 1YN. They play Charlton on January 5 at home with kick off at 2pm.


Lucy Woolford

Boxing Day Football

It’s Boxing Day again, this year we host Arsenal, We don’t ask for much, just maybe a parcel, A package worth three points would go down a treat, And to start the New Year off the edge of our seats. We’ve had Christmas dinner, today is dessert, But who will be leaving with more pain and hurt? “Probably us fans”, I hear you all cry, As we look at the table and just wonder why.

As we file down Green Street, full of Christmas cheer, We can’t help but ponder at this time of year, How big fixtures like this can come so fast, And hope we can find the magic of Christmas past. With players fatigued and strikers lacking, Do we really think we can send Arsenal packing? No Carroll or Nolan, or Downing or Reid, It seems a big ask for the three points we need.

I hope when you pulled that big Christmas cracker, You wished for a win so our dreams won’t shatter, Today we will hope that some Christmas cheer, Can be brought to the Boleyn to round off the year. Sing loud and proud and bring festive spirit, Hope players react and go on to win it, Anything can happen, what will be will be, Come on you Irons, just please mark Ramsey!


Andrew Jenkin I’ve always been an admirer of Big Sam. The stability and defensive resoluteness his setup has brought the club has been too long absent from previous West Ham sides. However, football is changing and so must he. Whilst the 4-6-0 deployed for the Spurs game was hugely successful, he must acknowledge that one size won’t fit all. And actually, although the result was very positive and he was applauded for it at the time, playing without a recognised striker is an even more negative approach to games than he is often labelled. Although the decision to play the system was probably enforced due to injury problems and lack of fit attackers, that is part of the problem of building an entire team’s attack around one player. Should that player (Carroll) be unavailable, the setup and approach of the side shouldn’t change and Big Sam must accept responsibility for putting all his eggs in one basket. Some of the league’s struggling sides have recently go bold and played two strikers, for which they have been be rewarded with. Again, a lack of options would prevent such a move, but this again should be put down to Big Sam who has largely sold off all other strikers in recent years . Even his pre-match notes bring to question the mindset

Big Sam’s negativity is preventing progression of his setups. His constant reminders of ‘not conceding will mean you can’t lose’ are true and although it is hard to argue with his reason and logic, why not at least try and set up to get all three points rather than not concede? He has built a good side that can defend and in theory attack. The next month is pivotal for the club and will define the rest of the campaign. Southampton benefited at a similar stage of the season last year when they were brave enough to ditch Atkins for Mauricio Pochettino. Southampton’s success in 2013 is there for everyone to see and the quality of their English stars have come to the fore – could West Ham be brave enough to opt for a similar move? It would be risky and at a time when survival in the Premiership is a priority it could be argued stupid, but we’re hardly thriving under

the current system and the football hasn’t been great either. Pochettino has introduced a new positive and attacking outlook which has undoubtedly benefited the entire setup. It could be argued his preference of defending is positive with pressing high up the field and preventing good teams from playing their game. Big Sam could learn a lot from Pochettino's style but his stubbornness to change will prevent West Ham from progressing their game. I sincerely hope I'm wrong and believe the board will stand by their man, but should they? We will see. Follow me on Twitter @andrewjenkin For more articles like this visit moorethanjustaclub.com


Marcus Johns

Stick or Twist - The great managerial gamble As it currently stands, West Ham are the only team in the bottom five of the Premier League who have not made a managerial change. An alarming statistic for those who believe change is a good thing. However, it might also lead to you ask if there is any merit in the wisdom of our fellow relegation battlers decisions. After all, they are still all in the bottom five. Following the bore draw against Sunderland – themselves having made a managerial change earlier in the season – the majority of

the post-match talk was centred on the future of Sam Allardyce. In essence, should we stick or should we twist? There are plausible arguments for each side of the debate. On one hand, right clean sheets are evidence of the fact that Allardyce has turned us into a fairly solid unit – the main issue being our lack of goals. There is a strong feeling that having put together a team consisting of Downing, Jarvis and Carroll he should be given the opportunity to

turn things around once that line up is available again. However, Allardyce brings with him a certain style of play that the purists claim not to be “The West Ham Way” which at times can be difficult to watch. Similarly, he must at least be culpable for putting all his eggs into the Andy Carroll basket. Not only that, but having signed Maiga, that means he must have thought he was good enough for the Premier League. So should he go? Will it perform the turnaround in form everyone expects it to? Who knows? For every Mauricio Pochettino, there’s a Nigel Adkins. Statistically speaking, there is no evidence to suggest whether changing manager is a good thing or a bad thing. However, with the utter shambles of failing to replace Avram Grant still fresh in the memory, it’s understandable that with a record equally as bad as that fateful season, its understandable many fans are getting nervy. While relegation remains a possibility, it is not very likely. If you look at where we are now, and the players we have to return, things do take a slightly positive outlook. After all, we have Reid, Downing and Carroll returning in


January – a trio that if any of the clubs in the bottom six were to sign, they’d surely pull away. So while I remain confident that we will stay up, even with Allardyce in charge, should the board decide to make the change – who is available? And would they be a better fit? Steve Clarke: One of the more surprising recent sackings, and a sign of the often kneejerk decisions made in modern day football. His reward for guiding West Brom to a recent high of eighth in the Premier League last year, winning at Old Trafford and notable performances against Chelsea and Man City was to be dismissed after four straight defeats. A manager who looks to combine attractive football along with playing a target man (Lukaku) he could be the perfect solution for a club who have invested so much in Carroll. The only problem will be that having previously paid a large compensation for him to leave as part of the Zola sacking, the David’s are unlikely to want to lose face and re-hire him. Glenn Hoddle: Dismissed from the England job for infamous non football related reasons, he was undoubtedly

one of the most forwardthinking coaches in recent generations. An advocate of the passing game, his appointment would see a return to the traditional style of football. However, his Spurs connections will be an issue for a few, as will his perceived failures with less talented players at Wolves and Southampton – however, just imagine what he could do with Ravel Morrison. An outside bet, but still a possibility. Pepe Mel: A bit of an unknown on these shores, but the Spanish press has been linking him with the job for several weeks. The 50year-old former striker was until recently manager of Real Betis, having led them to seventh place and Europa League qualification last season. However, after a humiliating 4-0 defeat to rivals Sevilla in December, he was sacked. Known for playing the ball on the floor, and a fan of the tika taka style of play, quite how he would utilise our prized asset is a mystery. Also an advocate of bringing through younger players, any concerns about his knowledge of the Premier League would surely be overlooked when considering the impact the likes of

Laudrup and Pochettino have had in recent years. Paolo Di Canio: A sentimental choice but not much else. Impressed at Swindon, but clearly not suited to the egotistical modern day Premier League footballer. Prone to shooting from the hip, his temper may get the better of him. The only thing that is certain is that he would instantly get the crowd on side with him, though quite how long that or his current legend status – would last for is anyone’s guess! A disaster waiting to happen at the moment and his political views mean current chairmen are unlikely to employ him. It will however be worth seeing how he progresses in his next job. Avram Grant: He is still available. So what do you think? Should we stick with Sam, or take a gamble on a new boss. And if so, who would you like to see take the reigns? Follow me on Twitter @Johnsie31

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Thomas Johnson

It’s getting harder and harder to back Big Sam Before the dreadful Palace result, I had a conversation with a fellow West Ham United supporter – the maintenance man who came to fix my radiator – about all things claret and blue. When it came to the talk about Big Sam, he was of the thinking that Allardyce needed to go, an idea that is growing in the Boleyn Ground stands as West Ham drift at the dangerous end of the table. Since the arrival of Sam through the gates at Chadwell Heath, I have seen him as a necessary evil. He was the best man for the job to get promotion back to the Premier League, he was the best man for the job to get rid of the black cloud that was hanging over Upton Park and he was the best man for the job to keep us in the top flight last season.

But is his time at West Ham coming to an end? I have backed him so far but with the way this season has gone I am finding it difficult to stick up for Sam. I have defended his route one style before because as long as the team are getting the results, it is something I can put up with. I can also defend it as long as it is part of a mixture and there are spells where the players are trying to play on the floor. But all too often the ball is launched up front and without Big Andy Carroll at the top, his tactics have largely disappointed. Whilst Sam is being credited with the rise of Ravel Morrison, the real picture is far less clear. I don’t think Allardyce really wanted to put the youngster in the team that early, despite a great pre-

season, but injuries forced his hand. He certainly wouldn’t have chosen Morrison over his top boy Nolan, whose performances this season have not merited a first team place. With Big Sam at the helm, I do not think the club will be relegated but is that enough? After such a good season last year, West Ham should be building on that and ensuring the club’s top flight status for years to come, with the move to the Olympic Stadium not far away. My worry with getting rid of Allardyce is the fact that whether it was soon after or a few seasons later, all of Bolton, Newcastle and Blackburn went on to get relegated, and the club cannot afford another relegation. Co-owners Gold and Sullivan certainly can’t afford another relegation after throwing a lot of their own money into the club to give West Ham the best chance of Premier League survival. I will try and back Sam and the team during his managerial tenure. But if results continue to decline then it can surely one go one way for Big Sam, the owners cannot afford to show the blind faith they gave Avram Grant if we are in a similar position in the coming weeks. Follow me on Twitter @SoundOfVinyl


Opposition View: Arsenal

Tim Holland speaks to Sahil Buta about Arsenal’s excellent start to the season, the important of Flamini and the possibility of winning the league How do you rate Arsenal’s start to the season? It’s been an excellent start to the season - much better than most fans expected. You were critical of Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy last season but his policy of not spending big went out the window with Ozil. How big of an impact has he made? He’s made a massive impact and managed to lift the club and lift everyone’s

game. But it’s still early days. I do think Arsene Wenger could manage his game time better to get the maximum out of him though.

can play that role as can Walcott in a different way. But yes, if we can continue with our current form, why not?

Last season you were unsure of a top four finish. Do you think you can win the league this year?

You called for Flamini to come back last year and got your wish in the summer. How do you rate his time back at the club?

I think that all depends on the rotation of the midfielders to keep everyone fresh and it also depends on our defenders. We need a backup striker although we might be able to cope as Podolski

For me he’s been almost as important as Ozil for the club. He adds a defensive quality which we have lacked since Gilberto Silva.


Ramsey has really come of age this season. How does he rate against your other midfielders? He’s now our best midfielder. Again for me he’s the all-round complete midfielder. His tackling stats are overlooked as he is scoring so freely. How big a blow is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s longterm injury? it’s been a small blow due to the depth we have now. I suppose we’ve missed his and Walcott’s pace more than anything.

Do you think they’ll be comings and goings in the January transfer window? I can’t see any going really, perhaps Vermaelen. I would like another striker coming in but I wouldn’t be surprised if no-one came in January. What’s been your opinion of West Ham this season? West Ham look like a team that is set up for Andy Carroll but he’s not there. When he returns I think you’ll start winning more games plus he brings Kevin Nolan into the game as he’s always at his best playing with the big man.

Who should West Ham fans be wary of in the Arsenal side? One word – Ramsey! What’s your prediction for the match and for both clubs this season? I’ll go with 2-0 to us and us to finish third. West Ham will finish in the top half if Carroll is back soon. Follow Tim Holland on Twitter @timsyouruncle


Joell Mayoh

The Twelve Days of Hammers Merry Christmas to all you happy Hammers out there! To celebrate this wonderful holiday, below you will find a festive list of the best players to have pulled on the claret and blue over recent years. There is a Hammer for every one of the 12 days of Christmas and each one has been selected by their number and from the last 12 years of West Ham’s history. Hopefully this will remind you of recent better days when we inevitably crumble to defeat against Arsenal on Boxing Day.

Hammers and saved our skin all too often during his 219 appearances for the club. Ironically, the outstanding display of Green’s that immediately springs to mind came when West Ham last beat Arsenal, which was just under six years ago in the 1-0 win at the Emirates Stadium. Some of the saves he pulled off that day defied the laws of physics and the ‘keeper was known for frequently putting on such spectacular displays.

1. Robert Green

‘Tomas Repka – football genius’ will always stick with me as one of the best drywitted chants to come from the Hammers fans. The big Czech was, of course, anything but a football genius.

Although he let the West Ham fans down when he left for cash-rich QPR in 2012, prior to that Green was a superb servant to the

2. Tomas Repka

A better, less ironic way to describe him would be as ‘fierce’. Fierce in both the way he put himself about the pitch and also in his loyalty to West Ham. Having signed for the Hammers from Fiorentina for the then club record fee of £5.5m in 2001, Repka did not get off to the best of starts. He was sent off in his first game, a 2-0 defeat away to Middlesbrough, and then sent off again in his third appearance, the humiliating 7-1 loss against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. Despite making such a bad first impression, Repka came to win over the West Ham faithful with his uncompromising style of defending and thoroughly deserved the cult hero status eventually given to him at the Boleyn Ground. 3. George McCartney Still a current Hammer having returned to Upton Park in 2012, the left-back is often subjected to complaints from factions of the West Ham support, but the general consensus is that he is a good player, although he is one with injury problems. When he does play, the Northern Irishman is a solid defender and also able to venture forward to create opportunities. McCartney does only really win the number three slot by default though. The only other options from the past 12


old against Everton in March 2008 and, although he slipped to allow Yakubu to score for the Toffees in that game, the young centre-back showed a lot of promise. Having joined West Ham as a schoolboy aged just 7, Tomkins is one of the few academy products knocking 4. Danny Gabbidon around the first team at the moment. The centre-back Similar to the number excelled during West Ham’s three shirt, not many top quality players have worn the 2011/2012 season in the number four for West Ham in Championship and, in doing so, earned himself a place in recent years. Before the Great Britain squad for Gabbidon there was Don the 2012 Olympic Games. Hutchison and, after the Sam Allardyce signed Welsh centre-back was James Collins to reinforce released by the club in June the Hammers defence that 2011, Kevin Nolan arrived summer though and, since and took the number. As the then, ‘Tonka’ has struggled to only one of those three to have been named Hammer of get a regular game. That was until recently, when Winston the Year, Gabbidon wins the Reid’s ankle injury gave number. Tomkins the chance to show At his best for West Ham, what he can do once more. the Crystal Palace defender Although he will probably was a force to be reckoned need to improve even more with. As fast as he was until he is considered as one strong and with an excellent of West Ham’s first choice eye for reading the game, centre-halves, the boy from Gabbidon was tremendously Basildon is still young and has difficult to outfox and fully time to learn. He is both an deserved the best player excellent servant and an accolade he received in exciting prospect for the 2006. Sadly, he suffered a Hammers. string of injuries later that year and was never able to recapture the excellent form 6. Michael Carrick he had shown for the Choosing a number six for Hammers. West Ham is never usually tricky. Even those with no clue 5. James Tomkins about football generally know the name of that guy who Still only 24, Tomkins lifted the World Cup for seems to have been around England. Nevertheless, what forever. He made his debut for West Ham as an 18-year- you are reading is a (tenuously) festive themed years are Nigel Winterburn, Rufus Brevett, Paul Konchesky, and Herita Ilunga, all of whom did not perform as well for as long as McCartney during their spells at Upton Park.

selection, so we cannot have Bobby Moore on this occasion. Instead we have a player who, like the aforementioned legend, came through the West Ham academy and has gone on to represent his country. While he has not done those things with as much distinction as THE number six, Michael Carrick has always been considered as an excellent player. He was a precocious talent when he fully broke into the West Ham team as a 19year-old in 2000, displaying coolness on the ball and awareness of his teammates’ positions that you do not usually see from players so young. Not only did Carrick do West Ham the service of playing intelligent football, he also showed the club remarkable loyalty when the Hammers were relegated to the second tier in 2003. The young Geordie had spent the preceding season sidelined through injury and did the honourable thing by staying with the Hammers for the following campaign as they sought promotion back to the Premier League. As it was, West Ham lost to Crystal Palace in the play-offs and had to spend another year outside of the top flight. Although Carrick left for rivals Tottenham before the next promotion chase began, his decision to stay and work for the Hammers when other teams were sniffing around him was admirable.


7. Christian Dailly This one is a little tongue in cheek. Christian Dailly was undoubtedly a loyal servant to West Ham – he spent six years at the club despite rarely being made a first team regular. The only problem with him was that number on the back of his shirt. The number seven is supposed to be reserved for flair players! You know; speedy wingers, play-makers, tricksters, goalscorers. NOT for curly haired utility men. Dailly wearing the number seven was worse than James Collins wearing white boots every week. And yet, here he is, among the best players to wear the first dozen numbers for the Hammers in the last 12 years. ‘How the hell has that happened?’ I hear you wonder. Well, Dailly had his name on that shirt for six of those years for starters. After that, only Freddie Ljungberg, Kieron Dyer, Sam Baldock and Matt Jarvis have gone near it. Not exactly a list of Hammers legends there. So Dailly emerges as the tallest dwarf (or elf if we’re still being Christmassy) and claims the number seven. Perhaps flair players should just leave it alone. 8. Scott Parker Now we’re getting somewhere. The list of Hammers to have worn the number eight shirt in the past

12 years includes Trevor Sinclair, Teddy Sheringham, Andy Carroll and, of course, Super Scotty Parker. Trev and Teddy were both superb during their time in the claret and blue, Andy Carroll did well last season as well before signing permanently and changing to number nine in the summer, but Scott Parker singlehandedly carried West Ham through countless games when he was a Hammer. He may have left the club in the Championship and gone to Tottenham, but he was the only player who deserved a move. He’d fought so valiantly and played so well as he tried to keep West Ham up that he’d earned the right to do as he pleased.

Manchester City did him no harm and his top-rate performance in the final against Liverpool went down a treat. Now 30 years old, Deano should have been leading the Hammers frontline for nearly seven years. Instead, in a cruel twist of fate, he was forced to retire four years ago because of an ankle injury he picked up in training with England before he was set to make his international debut in a friendly against Greece. 10. Paolo Di Canio Nothing really needs to be said about the Italian magician, does it? We all know that he’s a West Ham hero and always will be.

9. Dean Ashton 11. Matthew Etherington Merely thinking of Dean Ashton makes most Hammers as miserable as Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve – they cannot help but wonder: ‘What could have been?’ His inclusion in this list does, therefore, go against the main purpose of the article (to spread Christmas cheer). But he definitely deserves his spot as the best number nine we’ve had in the past 12 years. Signed from Norwich City in January 2006, the big centre-forward did not hang about in showing what he could do and became a fan favourite almost immediately. His crucial goals in the FA Cup quarter-final against

Although he started with the number 12 shirt when he first joined the Hammers as part of the deal taking Frederic Kanoute to White Hart Lane in 2003, Matty Etherington typified what a number 11 should always be about. He was the oldfashioned winger who would run at full-back, drop a shoulder and then whip a cross in to the box. Oddly enough, Etherington is the exact player Sam Allardyce could do with right now. Moreover, he’s the kind of player Matt Jarvis should be, but we’ve already established he’s stuck with that cursed number seven shirt.


12. Carlton Cole Since his return to the club after being released in the summer, Cole wears 24 for West Ham. Prior to leaving he wore the number nine shirt. But Cole enjoyed his best football for the Hammers when he had 12 on his back. Remember the cracker he scored against Newcastle, when he controlled the ball on his thigh in the area, turned and smashed it into the net with his left foot? Remember that breathtaking team goal he finished off with aplomb against Wigan? And remember that screamer he scored against Spurs from outside the area? Yep, you guessed it, they were all in the number 12 shirt. Safe to say, Cole was better in the number 12. Which actually makes perfect sense, because he played his best football for West Ham under Gianfranco Zola and it was the season following the little Italian’s departure that Cole switched to the number nine shirt. The ghost of Christmas past would say that he should have stuck with 12, but he’d probably also say that West Ham should have stuck with Zola. If this list has failed to perk you up, then just remember; no matter how rubbish West Ham play in future, at least we don’t have to tolerate Lionel Scaloni on the second day of Christmas. Follow me on Twitter @JoellBlogs


Opposition View: Fulham Tim Holland speaks to Fulham fan Peter Harris about the knife in Jol’s back, West Ham being busy in the January sales and Ravel controlling his temper

How do you assess Fulham’s season thus far?

Martin Jol. Do you think the sacking was correct?

Embarrassing, excruciating and not very enjoyable. This is some of the worst football we’ve played since we’ve been in the Premier League. Six losses in a row was painful to watch. Fortunately the win against Aston Villa has given us a ray of light that we may have turned it round but knowing us we probably haven’t.

I think it was probably the right move but done in the wrong way. Shahid Khan wanted a new manager but I think fans were worried about who would succeed Jol. He’s managed to kill two birds with one assistant manager.

The last time we met you agreed that the pressure has been mounting on

Rene Meulensteen has succeeded Jol. How much of a surprise was that? Not a surprise at all really. I said in our last interview that

I thought he’d succeed Jol if our performances didn’t improve and then after we lose to you, Jol’s sacked and Rene’s promoted. Jol must’ve seen it coming and is still probably trying to get the knife out of his back. Do you think you’ll be signing anyone in the January transfer window? I think Meulensteen will want to bring in some new faces to come in and freshen things up and make it his team. A defender and midfielder would do it for me.


Something needs to be done to stop the rot. It says something when you’re top scorer is Steve Sidwell.

Who should West Ham fans be wary of in the Fulham first XI when the club’s meet on New Year’s Day?

Berbatov has been linked with a move away from the club in January. Do you see this happening?

On the basis of our last performance against you guys, no one! Steve Sidwell?

You can never keep a player at a club if he doesn’t want to be there. If the reports from his agent are true then I think he will leave possibly moving east to you lot. Saying that he’s playing a bit better in recent matches.

Which West Ham players would you have in your squad? Ravel Morrison - if he learns to control his temper. Tomkins at the back and perhaps Diame as well.

What’s been your opinion of West Ham this season? You played well against us but don’t seem to be able to replicate that form. It looks as though injuries are really hampering your season as well. I think you’ll be busy in the January sales. What’s your prediction for the match and for both clubs this season? 2-2 for the game and I’ll stick with Fulham 16th, West Ham 17th.


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Blowing Bubbles #28 (West Ham V Arsenal 26/12/13)  

In this issue: *Exclusive interview with David Gold *Big Sam's negativity is preventing progression *Three reasons to believe we can beat Ar...

Blowing Bubbles #28 (West Ham V Arsenal 26/12/13)  

In this issue: *Exclusive interview with David Gold *Big Sam's negativity is preventing progression *Three reasons to believe we can beat Ar...

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