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Julian Dicks’ exclusive column Five quick fixes to solve our striker problem Five managers who could replace Big Sam Middle East blackout: Is your pub to blame? Why we must keep hold on Noble & 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: Tommy Desborough, Julian Dicks, Lily Fenton, Daniel Ford, Geoff Hillyer, Tim Holland, Andrew Hosie, Marcus Johns, Thomas Johnson, Joell Mayoh, 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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There is an old adage that my friends always preach which is if your club has a new manager or has an attacker who hasn’t scored since 1782 then West Ham are the side you want to play next. Season after season, this happens to West Ham and it’s happened this season already at Crystal Palace. Pulis had just taken over the reins and was looking for his first win while Chamakh was looking for his first goal since August (not quite 1782!). We all know what happened that night. Lampard was also on a bit of a barren run before Chelsea took on West Ham in November and look who scored twice? Our next two games are against sides [WBA and Fulham] who have sacked their managers this month and I hope that for once we don’t suffer the same fate we always seem to against sides with a new man at the helm. Surely not? Turning to our latest issue and we’ve got the latest exclusive column from Julian Dicks which is another fantastic read. Thomas Johnson argues the case for making sure we keep Noble for the rest of his career while Tommy Desborough suggests five strikers we should look to sign to fire us up the Premier League. Tales from the Sandpit writer Andrew Hosie explains why your local boozer might be to blame for the Premier League blackout in the Middle East and Joell Mayoh looks at five possible replacements should Sam Allardyce get the sack. You don’t need me to tell you how important this game is but try to enjoy it. Sing loud, sing proud and sing us to victory.

David Blackmore Editor

Julian Dicks

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and are looking forward to welcoming in the New Year in style - let’s just hope we will be three points better off by the time the bells of Big Ben chime on Tuesday evening. I think Christmas can be ruined for both players and fans if your side doesn’t get a good result on Boxing Day. I can remember when I was playing, going into training on Christmas Day and then playing on Boxing Day and when you won, it really made your Christmas but when you lost, you just

felt awful. I’m sure there were plenty of fans who asked Santa for West Ham to pick up six points from Arsenal and West Brom as their present and I think it would be the perfect Christmas present if we get more than three points from these two games. There have been a few people asking me recently what West Ham need to do to turn things around and it just comes down to scoring goals. It doesn’t matter how many clean sheets you get, if you’re not scoring at the other end then you are

always heading for trouble. For me, the players are also not working hard enough and I’m not seeing enough players chasing back to get the ball when we’ve lost it. Both of these need to change because when you are in trouble, as West Ham are now, you need every player to run their socks off and put in a good shift. Everyone has bad games every now and again but when you are having a nightmare of a game, you need to work harder and that’s not happening at West Ham at the moment. Big

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

Sam has to tackle these issues otherwise he won’t be able to turn it around. It is tough when you are in a rut and losing games but we really should have beaten Norwich, Palace and Sunderland. We should have taken the game to them and dominated but we didn’t and we ended up coming away with only one point from those three games. For me, it comes down to us not playing with or having a decent striker who can score goals. We played really well at Spurs but then we stuck with that formation and didn’t kick on. Then when Big Sam played with a striker, we beat Fulham 3-0. I’ve also felt some of Sam’s substitutions have been a bit strange lately. I know managers and coaches see things differently to people in the stands but there have been players coming off who have been doing well while others who are having an off day staying on. There have also been a few people ask me if I think Sam Allardyce is the man to keep West Ham up and being completely honest, I would have to say no. If we had another manager and he was sacked and Big Sam was coming in, I would have said yes but at the moment I don’t think he can.

Things have to change quickly either with Big Sam at the helm or not because without something drastic happening, I really feel we will be relegated. We can’t have another season like we had with Avram Grant because with the move into the new stadium looming, we have to stay in the Premier League. But at the end of the day the only people who know if Big Sam is the right man for the job are Gold and Sullivan. I also think it’s not just down to the manager but down to the players as well. Whoever the manager picks, they have to put in a good shift and players have to start taking more responsibility. They are the ones on the pitch and they are the only ones who can make things happen. There has been a lot of talk about Andy Carroll returning soon but we can’t keep waiting for him to get back. I think he is a decent player who does bring another dimension to West Ham but he is not a prolific goalscorer. He is not going to score 10 goals in 10 games. Sure he will create chances for others but these are the same players missing chances at the moment. I don’t see where the goals are going to be coming from. On other note, I’m looking forward to our FA Cup game

against Forest. I’ve got great memories of playing against them and it is a game we should win although we all know what the FA Cup is like. I just hope we go into the game with a bit of confidence and get a big win because that will really boost our confidence ahead of a our games against Cardiff and Newcastle which are both very winnable games. We’ve also got Fulham on New Year’s Day and we need to be getting maximum points from these three games in January to really kick on. If it doesn’t happen, we will be in the bottom three before we play Chelsea at the end of the month. We really don’t want to get dragged into a relegation battle because it’s so hard to pull yourself out especially when the teams you’re battling against are picking up points against teams at the top and we’re not. When we’ve got everyone back, we have got better players on paper compared to the likes of Palace and Hull but it’s not about having better players, it’s about getting the most points. You could have the best players in the world but if they are not working hard enough and not working as a team then you aren’t going to win anything.

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

Thomas Johnson Julian Dicks The club’s longest serving player is appearing on the wanted list of some Premier League rivals, but to lose the central midfielder would seriously dent the Hammers cause, especially as we find ourselves in a relegation battle. Noble may not be the most gifted player on the pitch and he doesn’t contribute enough goals, despite a brilliant record from the penalty spot, but the one thing the 26 year old gives is 100 per cent. In every tackle and every pass, Noble puts blood, sweat and tears. There have been rumours linking Noble with Newcastle and Everton and at this current point it would be hard to argue that those teams aren’t an upgrade from the Irons. Everton more so than Newcastle. But with the Olympic Stadium in the pipeline and the captaincy to follow once Nolan moves on or starts to relinquish first team status over the next couple of seasons, it would be hard to see why the home-grown Hammer would jump ship. The hardworking midfield general has always been in the shadow of a Parker or a Nolan, especially when it comes to the pundits and press, whilst he has been ignored by all England managers since making his first team debut in claret and blue aged just 17 in 2004. Those in the stands of the Boleyn Ground have come to

Noble is vital to our fight for survival appreciate Noble and increasingly in the last couple of seasons, he has become a fan’s favourite. Signing a new three year contract in September 2012, gives the Hammers a lot of leeway to reject offers, whilst the contract also has an option for a further two years giving Noble the chance to become a modern day West Ham United icon. Sticking with the club through thick and thin, Noble deserves to captain the side in future years, his performances are very consistent and he felt the fall of relegation the hardest taking it into his own hands. Dragging the club up by the scruff of its neck in the 2011-12 season back to the Premier League is credited mainly to Big Sam but if one player proved vital it was Mark Noble, whose performances that season saw Irons fans vote him Hammer of the Year, after

previously coming second place in the two years before. Having nailed down his spot in the starting line-up the Hammer has made over 250 appearances for the club after establishing himself in the first team during the ‘Great Escape’ season. Netting just 31 goals and grabbing 39 assists in his career has probably been disappointing but Noble’s priorities in the team is to cut off the threats from opposition sides. Noble is the key to the club pulling itself away from a relegation battle as he dictates play and effortlessly strokes the ball around the pitch covering every blade of grass as he goes. Mark will know the club can’t afford to go down and will give everything to get the team back up the league table. Follow me on Twitter @SoundOfVinyl

Tommy Desborough

Five quick fixes to our striker problem

It is a well-known problem that West Ham are lacking goals this season. We are definitely missing the services of big Andy Carroll but our lack of ability to sign a second quality striker has cost us dearly this season. So, here I propose five quick fixes to our striker problem when the window re-opens in January, whether Carroll is fit or not. Jermain Defoe: This first option is quite an obvious one. He has been linked with West Ham quite a lot in the past month or so. Defoe, who left the Hammer on sour terms, is a transfer that many fans would not like to see. However how

could you turn him down at a time like this? Especially as he does exactly what we need, scores goals. He has also been labelled the best substitute in the Premier League, now that’s not a bad label to have. I think that Defoe would welcome a return to West Ham, especially with a World Cup coming up, meaning he would like to have regular playing time to prove he is worth a place on the plane to Rio. Demba Ba: This is a player I was surprised didn’t come back to us in the summer. This is because he was also going to be behind Torres in the pecking order at Chelsea, as he still tries to justify his £50 million price tag. With the transfer of Eto’o this was

only going to push him down further. I think that Ba would actually come back to the club that welcomed him to English football, mainly for the lure of regular football. However I hope he may feel as if he owes us, after he was part of the side that got relegated a few seasons back. Anyway, he would be a welcome addition and is still only young, and he definitely knows where the goal is. Miroslav Klose: Perhaps a name that has not been mentioned regularly but nevertheless he would be a quality addition. Although he is 35 years old, he scored 16 goals in 29 games last season for Lazio, which is not bad. His contract is up in

June, so it could be that a cut price deal could be struck in January. Especially with Klose claiming he would like to leave Lazio, and German newspaper Bild stating “Ciao Italia! Klose wants to go to England”. Klose is also strong in the air so would fit into the side. Again with a place on the plane to Rio at stake, Klose may feel he wants to prove he can still play at the top level.

earn a place in the Argentina side for the World Cup. The striker is 34 years old now, but would still do a job in front of goal. He has a wealth of experience and could prove to be a useful player to our current side, he must be better than Maiga. It is also believed that Inter Milan are willing to let the striker go for a reduced fee, instead of letting him go in the summer for free.

Diego Milito: Another ‘golden oldie’ if you like. The same really goes with Milito, his contract is also up in the summer and would like to

Andre-Pierre Gignac: Gignac is another player that has barely been mentioned as a target for West Ham. However I believe he would

be a very good signing for us, even if it is likely to be on a loan deal. Playing in Ligue 1 for Marseille and still only 27 years old, Gignac has been capped 17 times by his national team of France. He is strong in the air and is also technically adept, he would slot straight into our current team, and could also challenge for a place alongside Andy Carroll. Follow me on Twitter @MooreThanAClub For more articles like this visit

Lucy Woolford

Always believe in your soul Open letters are all the rage at the moment If it’s good enough for Sinead O’Connor and Miley Cyrus then we might as well all be writing to each other via open media. I’ve always wanted to write a letter to our dear friend Carlton Cole but after considering the open letter route, I’ve decided against it. It would be a completely pointless letter, because if Carlton ever got hold of it, he’d scratch his head and just be thinking “what was that all about?”. One minute it would be an open love letter and the next it would be a written warning. Love him or hate him, Carlton Cole is

undoubtedly one of the nicest men in football. His television interviews portray him as a gentle, humorous character, whilst his off-field persona cements his reputation as an all round good egg. So is this what enchants us to have such a love/hate relationship with our striker? His most recent recorded interview ahead of the fixture against Fulham was as honest and humble as you can hope for in football. He spoke of his options after leaving Upton Park but revealed what we all knew, that he only had eyes for one club. He was also very gracious about being left on

the bench since his return. Although obviously eager to get on and play football, he noted that his head needed to be down in order to impress and not complain. Before his departure at the end of the 12/13 season, Cole had made 210 league appearances for the Hammers. To put that into perspective, Mark Noble as a Hammer throughout his career has notched up 224 at the time of writing. So really, Cole is as much part of the club as the man who has dedicated his whole career to the team. It goes without saying that if you spend so much time

watching someone, you’re going to grow fond of them, especially someone with the heart of Carlton. It seems to work both ways - Carlton just can’t help but be captivated by the club and the fans, which left him wanting more once his contract ended in summer 2013. Now, he’s back until at least January 2014, and after returning to the score sheet against Fulham, he’s on his way to proving why he should keep his place in the squad for another term. But he’ll have to improve on his woeful two goals from last season. I understand that he was played in a system in which he struggled, but for me, there were more goals in him despite his discomfort in playing alone or, on occasions, alongside Andy Carroll. I guess when you put the two together the big target man is going to eclipse the slightly clumsy, misfiring man. To throw a few stats into the mix, Cole had a goal to game success rate of 7 per cent last season. Across his entire West Ham career in the leagues, his return is a better at 22 per cent. Andy Carroll’s success since linking up with the Hammers? 29 per cent. But what about the frustrations that come with

Cole? There’s enough of them. I’ve had countless conversations with other West Ham fans who just cannot comprehend how he makes such schoolboy errors in what is widely known as the best league in the world. There are chances that Carlton really should put away with ease, but he has this way of going about things that just makes it look like the most awkward thing in the world. And then there’s his occasional inability to run or jump or even see it seems. When rumours surfaced of his imminent departure last year, I wrote an article declaring my love for him, but I felt it was really time for him to go. He’d had his day and probably had nothing more to offer. In fact, at times, I felt his inclusion in the team rather hindered rather than helped. Take the play-off final in 2012 for example. The fans are having a great time at Wembley, Cole had gone to the trouble of putting us 1-0 up despite us probably being on the back foot for most of the first half. Then what happens? Carlton Cole all but gifts Blackpool an equaliser. His mistake to give the ball away cost us dearly at the time.

That is something that over time I have started to forgive, but only because Vaz Te did us a favour and sealed promotion in the dying minutes. I don’t think I will ever forget the anger I felt for Carlton when he did that. Up in the heavens of Wembley we were raging. Despite Cole’s downfalls, I don’t ever like to see our own player being booed off, which is something that he has been unfortunately subjected to in his time in claret and blue. That is unacceptable. I hope that will never happen again to him, because as clueless as he sometimes is, he gives 100 per cent to this club and I think he always will. We can’t ask more than that really. Singing “always believe in your soul…” to him started off as a bit of a joke, but I’ll never forget seeing his eyes light up when we first started singing it to him. He appreciates hearing his name sung by the fans he loves, and most of the time we love him back. I’d hate for Cole to leave in January not knowing that we appreciate everything; the goals, the pay cut, the effort. He might be a dodgy Premier League striker...but he’s our dodgy Premier League striker. Follow me on Twitter @lucy_whufc

Tales from the Sandpit

Is your boozer to blame for Middle East blackout?

It appears the English Premier League are not at all pleased with the odd local in the UK screening some Saturday 3pm kick offs due to a dispute with Al Jazeera Sports regarding, it would seem, illegal broadcasting of matches in the UK licensed for broadcast in the Middle East and North Africa only. Unfair to the lower leagues, you see. Show a football match from the top flight and football fans across the UK will, apparently, abandon supporting their local team which their family’s probably supported for a number of generations in order to watch Norwich and Cardiff play out a 0-0 in the comfort of their local boozer or at

home with their illicit Al Jazeera Smart Card. It’s an interesting argument and whilst I vaguely understand the EPL’s motherly nurturing instincts to its lower league cousins, I do wonder whether their actions in pulling the plug on Al Jazeera’s ability to show all 380 matches live in the Middle East and North Africa is causing far greater damage to their reputation in this part of the world than the complaints of ‘random lower league side’ who may or may not have lost a fan or two at their last home match because the Red Lion down the road was showing Stoke v Fulham. How could it be proven that was the reason for the lower attendance?

Surely there’s a whole melting pot of different variables from one week to the next that could influence attendance figures at a lower league ground. Like the team being rubbish, for example. Also, it could be argued, the EPL is showing a great deal of arrogance in suggesting a fan would turn his back on his beloved team in a nano-second in order to view a match from the highest tier in English football. In fact I’d suggest it’s quite possible that it’s indeed the other way round - a lot of people returning to the lower leagues to nourish their love of football disgusted by the way Premier clubs, as they see it, abuse their fans as nothing more than cashcows. So that’s why the local boozer is only partly to blame that I haven’t been able to watch West Ham so much over the last few weeks and a miniscule part at that. Why is this important? Well let me put it in to some sort of context. Since I arrived on these shores 10 years ago I have always enjoyed the ability to watch the Premier League. Be that in a pub on a Saturday evening with friends or at home if I chose to subscribe to the packages on offer. Over these 10 years the rights have changed hands amongst various broadcasters, some offering

it as an included package in monthly subscriptions, and some offering it as an additional charge per month. This year, after much delay, Al Jazeera won the rights but we were charged the highest subscription rates if we wanted to watch at home, double the cost compared to last season’s rights holder’s charges. Weighing up the pros and cons, though, with AJ also carrying the Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, English Championship, Spanish, French and Italian Leagues and thinking ahead to the World Cup next summer, it was worth getting. And for the first few weeks of the season things were great. All matches were beamed in to my home in HD, coverage was far better than previous offerings and everyone was happy. Including, it seems, in the UK too as it transpired Al Jazeera has allegedly failed to incorporate proper security measures to ensure their smartcards could only work in licensed regions and many were finding their way to the UK - thus the problem of illegal broadcasts. The plug was then pulled on AJ showing all but one of the Saturday 3pm kick offs. All but one? Surely allowing one match to be shown at that time means that pubs in UK still have access to show an illegal match? Some

would argue that sticking on any EPL match at that time would help boost custom to some degree, so does that eradicate the problem the EPL is keen to fix? Not really. What it does do however, is continue to punish the football fan in the Middle East. It also punishes bars here who gear a lot of their marketing, their budgets and their energy to promoting their venue on a Saturday night. Many alcohol brands design special offers, two for one deals and the like, competitions to win trips to matches in the EPL to entice people in to bars on a Saturday evening. Remember, in this part of the world Saturday evening is a school night – the equivalent of sitting in your local on a Sunday evening wishing it was the start of the weekend and not the end so getting people out and about is more of a challenge than catering for a normal Saturday night crowd. Footie fans who’ve paid double last year to keep watching their beloved clubs are up in arms. The fact the matches were pulled one Saturday a few weeks ago just added to their ire. Will they resume their monthly payments when and if this dispute gets sorted out? At the moment it’s quite frankly a mess and needs to be sorted quickly.

Al Jazeera has not done itself proud with its PR handling of the issue – silence generally. The EPL comes out of this badly as it seems their desire to bring ‘the best league in the world’ to as much of the world as possible goes out of the window when it comes to Saturday afternoons. It is, of course, the fan that loses out and although the continued wrangle might be temporary what price can you put on the potential damage that’s been created? With so many other options available to us both locally out and about and at the touch of a button at home will the appetite for the EPL still be as high when normal service has resumed? The big question is what price can you put on damaged reputation, will bars be quick to sign on for next season? Will the pubic be happy to fork our for a subscription at home? Maybe the EPL thinks it’s not such a big deal that a few of us miss out on a few matches in order for them to make their point but they’re playing a game that’s angering the football fan the most. For me, I’ve taken the silver lining approach to the issue, if I can’t watch us play I can’t get so depressed about how badly we’ve played! Follow me on Twitter @hosiemon

Marcus Johns

As January window opens, let’s hope no doors close

If there is one thing that recent performances have shown us, it is that our squad is in desperate need of strengthening. While I think it’s fair to say that we have a fairly strong first starting eleven – on the rare occasion that they’re all fit at the same time – it has become apparent that beyond the obvious starting line up, there is a serious imbalance in the squad. Sure, £20 million was spent on Carroll and Downing, but Financial Fair Play does seem to be something of a convenient excuse. So splashing the cash is clearly out of the question but so too would not adding more players. As such, we must be looking at loans. The utterly pointless knee jerk contract offered to Petric will surely not be extended, and nor is it

likely that Carlton Cole will still be here by the end of the month. So that will free up some funds, but the chairmen will still need to dig deep. But where should we look to strengthen first? The obvious answer is up front, but it’s also apparent that we lack a general creativity without Downing and a weakness at the back when Reid is unavailable. So who should we be looking to target? Centre Forwards: It’s clear that our current crop just aren’t up to the job. Cole’s return was nothing more than sentiment and Petric was a complete waste of time. Whilst Maiga clearly possesses some abilities, goal scoring is sadly not one of them. Without Carroll, we

have been ridiculously toothless. A lot will depend on whether Sam looks to stick rigidly to his preference to playing a big man up front or if he’s prepared to flex a little, and look more at an ability to score goals than to provide a target. Much will equally depend on other clubs transfer business. Should either Chelsea or Tottenham make additions to their forward lines, loans are a distinct possibility for their existing players. While Jermain Defoe would be an ideal option, albeit controversially, it seems he is disappointingly heading to the MLS with Toronto. His team mate Emmanuel Adebayor would offer us a genuine threat and an ability to play as a figurehead and while he has spent much time

on the sidelines at both Spurs and Man City, it cannot be ignored that he made an excellent initial impression at those clubs. A loan signing for him is a much stronger possibility than the likes of Demba Ba, who would undoubtedly be welcomed back with open arms, but looks to have his heart set on a move abroad. Man City’s John Guidetti looks a raw young talent who did well in the Dutch Leagues, but has found his path to the first team blocked, though there is a huge difference between the Dutch League and the Premier League. A look into the Championship would bring about approving glances at the likes of Jordan Rhodes, Danny Ings or Sam Vokes – but all are unproven at a higher level, and we currently need someone to hit the ground running. Not only that but a young striker with great potential is unlikely to be available on the cheap. It will certainly far more than we are likely to be able to sell Maiga back to France for so while a summer move for one of these players would be more likely, in the interim, I suspect Adebayor is the best option. Midfield: Not much we need to do here. At the centre of our midfield, we look fairly strong. Diame, Noble and Morrison are the current fans’ choices in the centre, with a strong case for Nolan to come back

in when Carroll returns, and Diarra a strong and experienced option when fit again. Jack Collison is probably our best ball playing midfielder, but question marks around his future must surely arise given his perceived lack of long-term fitness, and Allardyce’s willingness to send him out on loan. Out wide, Downing has proven to be the most creative player we currently have, and his absence will be sorely missed, all the more so given Jarvis and Joe Cole being inconsistent bit part performers so far. If we are to get more chances into Carroll, we must look at another wide option and few are better on their day that Wilfred Zaha. Currently overlooked by David Moyes and clearly out of favour at Manchester United, he will clearly feel he has a point to prove to those who doubt he is cut out for the Premier League. What better platform for a winger than to team up with a side that base their play on getting balls into the box? Questions will be raised over the disagreement for England Under 21s between Zaha and Morrison but I don’t see this being a major issue. Defence: The greatest defensive achievement we can accomplish in January would be to keep Winston Reid from the clutches of Arsenal.

Back up is clearly the key necessity, as question marks have been raised over the likes of Collins and O’Brien. Even Tomkins has at times looked as though he struggles with the pace. With the sole intention of survival, we should be looking to reinforce our defence. The benefit of a World Cup at the end of the season, along with a promise of first team football could be a deciding factor. Jolean Lescott has seen less playing time than either he or Hodgson would have wanted, with Man City at times preferring to play midfielders back in defence than Lescott. Game time would certainly do him good before the summer and he would be first choice alongside Reid if he signed. In a similar position would be QPR’s Julio Ceasar. His position as Brazil’s first choice will be questioned without regular game time at the top level. Whilst Jussi has performed well at times, he is clearly past his best. So what do you think? Who would you like us to sign in January? Where do we need to concentrate our efforts? Let me know what you think. Follow me on Twitter @Johnsie31 For more articles like this visit

Geoff Hillyer

My New Year Resolutions Welcome to 2014. Well, nearly. It’s West Ham’s last home match of the year, and on the surface, a pretty winnable one against West Brom. We hope. There’s no doubting that it’s been a pretty tough second year back in the Premier League so far – as I write this, we are hovering around the relegation zone although by the time you read this, who knows? We might have propelled ourselves up the table. So what does 2014 hold for us? Well, there’s definitely some matches which we could take some points from, that’s for sure. Beating West Brom and taking some confidence into the New Year would be a

good start – especially as we start with an away match on New Year’s Day against Fulham, themselves really struggling. They’ve recently dispensed with Martin Jol’s services, of course, after their 3-0 loss to us at the end of November, so there might be an element of payback in their minds, and we will need to be prepared for this. We look far less solid at the back since Winston Reid’s injury, and it has been hoped that he’ll be back for the New Year. His return is, in truth, probably still a while away, but even so, Fulham are not that great shakes and a win definitely isn’t out of the question. It’s one of those “sit tight and don’t concede” games and so no doubt Big

Sam will take that approach. After Fulham, it’s a trickylooking tie away to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup. They’ve been doing well in the Championship this year, so this does have a potential upset look about it. Of course, we’re more than capable of winning the game, but we have to be prepared to play the game at about a million miles per hour. It is likely to be pretty full-bloodied. Personally, I’d be happy to bring them back to the Boleyn, given some of our recent results away from home. Cardiff City await us on January 11 in another away match. We beat this lot 2-0 in the opening game of the season, and they are not far away from us in the table. Not losing this game is pretty key – and we have plenty of fond memories of this place, having won 2-0 in the first leg of the Championship play-off in the season we went up. With matches against Newcastle United, who’ve been very strong recently, and Chelsea to come, it’s vital that we pick up some points in these games. If we can’t win these sorts of matches, the players have to take a long hard look at themselves, if we want to stay in this division next year. Enjoy the game – and happy New Year! Follow me on Twitter @geoffhillyer

Joell Mayoh The end is nigh for Sam Allardyce. West Ham’s abysmal season can be blamed only on the club’s manager, so now a change is required. So I’ve taken an indepth look at some realistic candidates to fill Big Sam’s shoes at Upton Park. Marcelo Bielsa: Although he remains largely unknown on in England, Marcelo Bielsa is highly regarded as a tactical visionary in Europe and South America. Not convinced? Just ask Pep Guardiola. The Bayern Munich gaffer and Barcelona’s most successful manager of all time made a pilgrimage to Argentina seeking advice from Bielsa when deciding if he should go into coaching back in October 2006. Bielsa, affectionately nicknamed El Loco, has managed his own national team as well as Chile’s. He is credited with laying the foundations for the attacking style of play that enabled Chile to pick apart England when they won 2-0 at Wembley last month. At club level, Bielsa briefly managed Espanyol before being handed the Argentina job in 1998 and most recently oversaw the renaissance at Athletic Bilbao. But Bielsa was let go by Los Leones in the summer despite leading them to both the Europa

Who could replace Big Sam?

League and Copa Del Rey finals last season. The Premier League could do with the arrival of a character like Bielsa – he is nicknamed El Loco for a reason. Not only is he known for possessing an insanely exhaustive collection of football video clips that he uses for coaching, he even attacked a builder last year because he thought he had not done a good job at Bilbao’s training ground, before handing himself into the police. Furthermore, having endured Big Sam’s depressed, hangdog expression for so long, West Ham need someone who will brighten up the place too.

From a footballing point of view, Bielsa would be perfect for the Hammers. He is known for putting faith in youthful talent and mixing them with experienced pros, all of whom he has playing attractive attacking football. Is that not the ‘West Ham way’ everyone keeps raving about? Slaven Bilic: As a former Hammer, Bilic knows all too well how West Ham are supposed to play and would surely pass that onto the squad if he were made manager. And, given how he conducted himself on the pitch, you can also guarantee that every player would be

made to give his all for the cause too. Signed by Harry Redknapp for £1.3m in January 1996, Bilic’s impressive displays for club and country soon attracted interest from other clubs. When Everton offered a club record fee of £4.5m in March 1997, the Hammers accepted. What happened next divides opinion among West Ham fans. Some consider Bilic’s decision to see out the full 1996/1997 season in East London before transferring to Everton to be an act of heroic loyalty no longer apparent in the game. Despite agreeing a move to the Merseysiders with two months to go until the end of the campaign, the defender stayed on at Upton Park apparently so that he could make sure West Ham avoided relegation from the Premier League. The other side to this story says that Bilic stayed for money and then left for even more. Rumours suggest Bilic received a £200k loyalty bonus for staying at West Ham and then left to be paid £30k per week at Everton. Either way, the Croat was excellent for the Hammers. He has made it perfectly clear to the media on several occasions that he wants to manage West Ham at some point as well. Bilic would be a very popular choice for most of the fans. But, sadly for the

claret and blue army, the 45year-old signed a three-year deal reported to be worth over £4m with Turkish side Besiktas in June this year. As such, getting hold of Bilic by buying him out of his contract would come at a huge cost to the Hammers. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: With less than three years’ experience as a manager of a professional team, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been a revelation in Norway at his home town club Molde. In such a short space of time, the former Manchester United goalscorer has led his side to two Norwegian Premier League triumphs in 2011 and 2012 as well as lifting the Norwegian Cup this year. He has been praised for the brand of football his side has played throughout too. It is no surprise, then, that Solskjaer is well sought after. Norway offered Solskjaer the national team post in 2008 but he did not think the time was right for such a big job. Aston Villa then tried their best to capture the 40-yearold when they sacked Alex McLeish in 2012. Solskjaer again rejected the vacancy, this time deciding to stay with Molde because he did not want to unsettle his family in his homeland. Now Norway’s and Villa’s loss could be West Ham’s gain. The only real argument against going for

Solskjaer as a replacement for Allardyce is whether or not his experience of Norwegian football would translate to the huge demands of the Premier League. But the former Norway international will have an in-depth knowledge of English football and all it requires having spent 11 years as a Manchester United player and then two and a half years as their reserve team manager. Obviously, were West Ham to sack Big Sam and set their sights on the Baby-faced Assassin, finding a solution to appease Solskjaer’s reservations about moving back to England while his family are happy in Norway may prove to be a stumbling block. However, time has passed since Solskjaer rejected a move to Birmingham and he and his family may now be more inclined to returning to these shores. The Hammers need a drastic change with much of the season already elapsed. Who better to bring in than the Premier League’s most famous super-sub? Glenn Hoddle: Planting a Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea legend in the Hammers hot seat is bound to ruffle a few feathers among the West Ham faithful, but the vast majority still see the former England

manager as a good choice. Like Bielsa, Hoddle is known for being a believer in the beautiful game. But, also like Bielsa, Hoddle has a reputation for being a bit zany. Few fans will ever forget Hoddle’s non-football related beliefs that led to the bizarre comments he made. Nevertheless, the man knows his football. Although currently employed by the FA as a member of the commission looking at ways to improve the national game, Hoddle is available to manage. The bookies are even suggesting that he will be the go-to guy now Spurs have lost patience with Andre Villas-Boas, but maybe West Ham should consider nipping in before their North London rivals get chance. Roberto Di Matteo: Roberto Di Matteo would be the best replacement for Allardyce West Ham could possibly hope to employ. Just tactically speaking, the Italian would suit the task as if he were crafted for it by a Savile Row tailor. He proved during his time as West Bromwich Albion manager that he is yet another person for whom attractive football is of great importance (surely you’ve noticed this pattern by now). Furthermore, while he was in charge at Chelsea, Di Matteo also showed that he is astute enough to have his side play

to their strengths. The manner in which the Blues won the 2012 Champions League while being underdogs throughout the competition was a tactical master class. The direct counter-attacking play deployed by the gaffer was astoundingly effective and would be just what West Ham need as they make the transition from the Big Sam days back to the West Ham way. Similar to Glenn Hoddle, the prospect of employing this Chelsea legend is bound to annoy some Hammers fans. But we all came to accept Gianfranco Zola when he was West Ham manager because he had the team playing the best football seen at the Boleyn for the last 20 years. While Gianfranco Zola was deemed as too flaky to

lead West Ham further by David Gold and David Sullivan, Di Matteo has much more experience of managing at the top level and should, therefore, be robust enough for the job. Whether West Ham could convince a Champions League-winning gaffer to take over and steer the club away from relegation would be interesting to see. Money talks though. And, being as though the owners have previously pulled out all stops to fund Big Sam’s bigmoney signings, most of whom have flopped, surely Gold and Sullivan have enough money left in their coffers to throw at a decent manager too? Follow me on Twitter @JoellBloggs

Opposition View: West Bromwich Albion

Tim Holland speaks to Roger Francis, lifelong West Bromwich Albion fan about not replacing Lukaku, keeping hold of Berahino and the team Christmas party

How do you assess West Brom’s season so far? It’s been an up and down season so far. We struggled for consistency and we’ve not won enough. Three losses in a row have really hurt us especially after a good win against Man United earlier in the season. After last season, do you think Steve Clarke had a lot to live up to? I think there’s always going to be a bit of hangover from the success of last season. Added to that is the fact that we lost arguably our best

player when Lukaku went back to Chelsea. He was always going to be difficult to replace and in fairness I don’t think we have. Last season you mentioned that European football might be on the cards? What are your expectations for this season? I think mid-table security and a decent FA cup run would be good enough for me. Anything else would be a bonus. Saido Berahino has surprised everyone this season. How good is he and

do you think you’ll be able to keep hold of him? I honestly think he’s one of the best young players we’ve ever had at the club. The problem is how we keep him at the club. The league is littered with Rodwell’s and Sinclair’s – players who moved big too young. I think we keep him by playing him simple as that. How have you rated your summer signings? I was pleased with all the signings on paper. Anelka is a quality striker, Sessegnon improves the team, Anichebe

is expensive but again talented, Vydra is young and is highly rated. Unfortunately it hasn’t quite worked out so far for them. Perhaps we signed too many players in the summer? Perhaps there was too much upheaval, I don’t know. After the loss to Norwich the team went on their Christmas party to Dublin to much uproar. Where does it sit with you? I think the press made a lot out of it and Steve Clarke has rightly defended it. In our current run of form I’m not sure the harm it will cause! Do you think you’ll be busy in the January transfer window? I’ve got a feeling that we won’t sign anyone in the hope we’ll avoid a relegation scrap so there’s no need. I suppose we did spend over £12m in the summer and I’m guessing Anelka’s wages has pretty high.

us. What a difference a season makes.

Brom first XI when the club’s meet?

Which West Ham players would you have in your squad?

Berahino has been a revelation plus Shane Long has played well so far.

What’s been your opinion of West Ham this season?

Ravel Morrison has been your Berahino so probably him. Maybe Andy Carroll if he ever gets fit.

What’s your prediction for the match and for both clubs this season?

I’ve not seen much of you to be fair but from your league position it looks as though you’re struggling like

Who should West Ham fans be wary of in the West

2-1 to us for the match and 15th for WBA, 16th for you lot.

Lily Fenton

Competition on the flanks

Matt Jarvis was a big signing for us last summer but this season he’s been up and down and kind of nowhere. With the signing of Downing and Joe Cole playing well, Jarvis hasn’t even been in the starting line-up that much. We signed him last year from Wolves with so much promise of being amazing and now a lot of games he’s not starting. Even when he has played, he’s not been fantastic and yes it is very hard for our wingers at the moment but for someone we paid so much for we expect better from him. He had a very good success rate at crosses last season but now he’s not. There is, however, no doubt that he is a great player. He has got a couple of assists this season and in

one of our pre-season game, I think he got three assists and that’s what we need so desperate for at the moment. He is now facing quite a bit of competition for a place from Downing and Cole. We needed a striker and got Downing which some fans weren’t happy about but I can see where Big Sam was coming from. No-one expected Carroll to be out nearly as long as this and for all the hard work Downing is putting in and the good games he’s had, I think Andy would have definitely scored a fair few of the chances he’s created. Joey Cole when he’s fit always has a goal in him and is a very creative player that the team love. I think he needs to start more games

though. So we have three very good wingers and no striker but things are difficult at the moment and all three of them need to prove themselves. Based on performances at the moment when Andy Carroll is back, I think I’d start Downing and Cole. No fan is enjoying losing mainly because its silly mistakes like Demel’s against Chelsea and Jussi’s at Norwich that are getting us unstuck but the fans have to be behind the players, negativity won’t help. Follow me on Twitter @lily_fenton For more articles like this visit

Marcus Johns

More Hammers embarrassment Why do we support West Ham? I once likened supporting West Ham to the notion of having a girlfriend who repeatedly cheats on you. You love them dearly, and with all your heart. But despite the fact they treat you like dirt – repeatedly and without consideration for you – you just cannot force them out of your life. Sure, you want to hate them, you might even believe that you do, but at the end of the day, you know you’ll still love them, faults and all. After all – who else is there? So why do we put ourselves through it? And how did we find ourselves in this situation? Well, I’d imagine for most of you, locality is the reason. With a catchment area

covering the whole of east of London and into Essex, my West Country drawl seems to stick out like a sore thumb, especially when it adds several additional r’s to “Come on You Irons” So how did I come to be a West Ham fan? Usually, I’d be a strong advocate of supporting your local team but I’m born and bred in Gloucester – a little Rugby loving outpost in the arse end of the South West. As a kid, Gloucester City and Cheltenham Town were the epitome of non league mediocrity – the latter since progressing to lower league mediocrity, the former pretty much as they ever were. So what else was local to me? Bristol City/Rovers to

the south, or some serious straw clutching with Aston Villa to the North. Alas, it was to be a different set of claret and blue shirts for me. With no team in the realistic locality, I decided upon the only other acceptable choice of supporting a team – I followed in my fathers footsteps. A decision that 6 year old me made without being able to fathom the impact it would have! A year later, after seeing my Liverpool supporting friends celebrate title after title, while West Ham languished in 2nd division mediocrity, I asked my dad why we were West Ham fans.

Surely I’d put my blind faith in following him for a reason. Up until then, I’d assumed it was because we were the best side in the world. That must be why all of our family supported West Ham. Right? Wrong! The reason my dad took up the mantra of West Ham should have given me some insight into the future chaos and cock ups that lay in store for me. As a young child himself, my old man sat and watched the 1966 World Cup final with his own father – a Welsh boxing enthusiast who by his own admission hadn’t the first clue about football. Impressed by the goal scoring feats of Bobby Charlton, he asked my grandfather who he played for. Confused between the goalscorer and the captain, he informed his son it was West Ham, thinking he meant our Bobby. So, thanks to a confused Welshman who’d clearly received too many hits to the head, a dynasty of West Ham supporters were born. There is though, something of a mystique about West Ham. Something strangely alluring. It’s not the team, or the management – certainly not the success – yet the club as a whole just has a lure to them. My father, 57 now, texts me bemoaning the team after every defeat telling me he supports the fans as much as the team. And there, in a nutshell, does it become

clear. We are not just a football club. We are a way of life. We know we are not a great team. A history in which three FA Cups, a Cup Winners Cup and half a Charity shield are the only silverware to adorn our cupboards were all won before my lifetime, none of us are here for the success – the 1999 Intertoto Cup aside of course! But when we hit the heights, boy do we know how to enjoy them. From the genius of Di Canio to the ferocious competitiveness of Julian Dicks. When the lows arrive, we also treat them with humour and self-deprecation that no other team can fathom. At which other club would Tomas Repka have become a cult favourite!? Not only that, but imagine for one scary, horrific, spinechilling moment that my Grandfather had correctly identified Bobby Charlton as a Man United player, and I’d grown up supporting them. I’d have become arrogant. I’d have assumed success was easy to come by, and sulk when it wasn’t. I’d never know that other teams were allowed to be awarded penalties, and above all – I’d never know what it feels like to beat Man United. Look at them now – they’re in a crisis. Have you noticed that when we go to places like Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and The Emirates – we’re the only ones making noise?

It’s because their fans sit there, expecting to win, and expecting to be entertained. Can you ever imagine them starting a chant of “Let’s pretend we scored a goal”? The gallows of humour that transpires from the fans is a part of what makes Upton Park such a fantastic place to watch football. We appreciate who we are, where we are and who we’re up against. Throughout all the disappointment and let downs, we continue to show our support – never more so than this season. Sure, things are bad – but they’ve been worse. The current manager will eventually leave, as will the current crop of players. But the club will remain, and so will we. As I now turn 30, and the wife informs me family planning is around the corner, it makes me think of the West Ham legacy, and what I would want to happen should I ever have a son. Will I acknowledge the almost permanent disappointment supporting West Ham brings, and allow him to follow his friends into a sheep like support of a top four side? Nope. If nothing else – it’s character building. Follow me on Twitter @Johnsie31 For more articles like this visit

Daniel Ford

What West Ham mean to me

As a fan from the United States who did not grow up as a soccer fan this is a question I struggle with regularly, not because I do not know the answer but because it is hard to articulate to my fellow American fans. Even the vocabulary is tough for me, because I find myself referring to the game as football only to have confused looks cast my way. Almost all of the fans I know here who follow the likes of either Arsenal, Chelsea, or Manchester United. It is infuriating to talk to these people who always respond with something

between bewilderment and contempt when they find out I follow West Ham United. I try to explain to them that the history is meaningful and the tradition of the club matters to me and get looked at like my face has sprouted extra ears or eyes. They say things like “who will you root for once they get relegated?” They also laugh and say “you must not like winning.” It is, quite simply, infuriating. Now, I am a live and let live sort of person and I understand the sensibilities of these people. They want to follow a team they think is going somewhere and one that

gets a lot of attention on television and in the news. They aren’t actually particularly tied to any team, they just picked one they had heard of and that is who they are following. I can’t live like that though. So, I thought I would try to sound out, as clearly as possible, what West Ham means to me. Tradition: The tradition of the club is simply astounding. The fans know who they are and know what it means to be a Hammer. Nothing pleased me so much about the Tottenham game as hearing “Forever Blowing Bubbles” come through my

television sung by deliriously happy fans who love the same team I love even though we are separated by an ocean. Whether it is the declaration that West Ham is “Moore than just a football club,” or the homage paid to both past and present members of the team, I have always felt like I would be right at home if I were to ever make the journey to east London to spend a day rooting for the team in person. History: I simply love the history of the club. It is gritty and real. It has its ups and downs. In many ways the greatest moment for West Ham was not for club but for country. It just feels real and right to me. The club’s emblem looks as old as it is and looks like it will stand the test of time and be here long after I am gone. I like that feeling. It isn’t something you can manufacture. It has to occur naturally, over time. Future: I know, I know. One of these things is not like the other. I also know that optimism is not something that most of the fans wear right out on their sleeves. I can’t help it. I feel great about the future for West Ham United. Ravel Morrison is amazing but we also have a lot of other excellent talent on the team at a blend of

ages. Additionally, it sounds like there are some great players coming up through the ranks that will give us a wonderful base to build on as we make the move to Olympic Stadium. The move to Olympic Stadium is another reason I am hopeful about the future. I know it will not be the same as our current ground, but I can’t help but feel it will coincide with more money and efforts to build an even better team.

of my week is when I get to root for West Ham. I spend time each day looking at news about the team and twice as much time scouring twitter. I love watching the team play, reading about the team, and now writing about it. West Ham may not be my first sports love (that is reserved for a baseball team,) but it is my greatest sports love...and for me it doesn’t get any better than that.

So, there it is, perhaps overly simplified and certainly written with the naivete of an American fan. But that is how I feel. The happiest part

Follow me on Twitter @jdanielford For more articles like this visit

Opposition View: Cardiff

Tim Holland speaks to Cardiff City fan Chris Palmer about Bellamy, calling them Bluebirds, and the Wales derby How do you rate Cardiff’s season thus far?

around the middle of the table.

It’s a bit of slog so far but I think we’re getting there. We’ve drawn a lot matches and not scored enough but that’s probably the same for most clubs in the bottom half of the table. Hopefully come the end of the season we’ll be

Following on from last season in the Championship, what were your expectations coming into the season? This is our first season in the Premier League and I

think our first in the top flight for over 50 years. It’s huge step up from the Championship but I think it was the right time for us. We were under achievers in that league for a long time and always fell at the final hurdle. We knew coming into the season that is was going to be tough but I think the right

spent about £8m on him and I wasn’t sure at the time but he’s shown how good a defender and captain he is. Again we spent a lot on Medel but he’s been great so The club changed far. We spent a lot on dramatically last summer. Cornelius but he is young so How have fans adjusted to hopefully time will tell with it? that signing. I must say I like Peter Odemwingie as well – a I’m not going to lie but it’s good footballer on his day been a big change for the and for what we paid a fans. The change angered a lot of fans and I know plenty of bargain. people that either don’t go Ex-Hammers Craig Bellamy anymore or gave up and Nicky Maynard are now supporting the club. Fans plying their trade for you. have got used to it I suppose How are they getting on? but I think as soon as there are changes at an executive Nicky’s only just come back level the colour will revert back to blue. I still refer to us after a season out so he’s only been coming on from the as the Bluebirds though! sub’s bench. I still think the Premier League might be a Do you think Cardiff will be busy in the January transfer step too far for him but we’ll see. Craig was great last window? season but he’s having to be managed a bit more this year I think they are areas that we will have to improve, we’ve but has recently retired from international football which got a lot of strikers and may help. He’s still a great attackers on the books but leader on and off the pitch. we really need one that can score goals. That’s sounds Has the derby match stupid but we really do! against Swansea intensified Another winger with pace now you’re both in the would be good as well. Premier League? How have your summer I don’t think the derby has signings performed thus intensified it gets more far? national press that before but that’s it. Although as I said Steven Caulker has been winning the derby is still a immense for us. I think we decisions were made in the summer in terms of recruitment and that’s really helped us.

great feeling. I think we’re more competitive than previously and nothing would make me happier than either doing the double over them or finishing above them. Who should West Ham fans be wary of in the Cardiff team when the club’s meet? I’ve talked about Medel but I think he’s a good player for us. Fraizer Campbell has also been in decent form recently as well which has surprised me. Kim Bo-Kyung has a lot of attacking flair as well. What’s been your opinion of West Ham this season? I think Allardyce’s one dimensional football may have been found out this season. His bully boy tactics couldn’t work forever especially now Carroll’s out injured. Which West Ham players would you have in your squad? Matt Jarvis is the kind of player we need at the club either him or Downing. What’s your prediction for the match and for both clubs this season? 2-1 to Cardiff and us to finish 14th with West Ham finishing in 17th.


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Blowing Bubbles #29 (West Ham V WBA 28/12/13)  

In this issue: *Julian Dicks' exclusive column *Five quick fixes to solve our striker problem *Five managers who could replace Big Sam *Midd...

Blowing Bubbles #29 (West Ham V WBA 28/12/13)  

In this issue: *Julian Dicks' exclusive column *Five quick fixes to solve our striker problem *Five managers who could replace Big Sam *Midd...