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Exclusive interview with David Sullivan Will Cardiff victory prove to be the turning point? John Barnes: West Ham will stay up You’re invited to have a semi final party Where will we pick up the points we need? & 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: Alan Axton, David Bowden, Daniel Ford, Toby Fry, Geoff Hillyer, Tim Holland, Andrew Hosie, Marcus Johns, James Jones, Danny Rust, 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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On our last visit to Cardiff in May 2012, a 2-0 win in the play-offs proved crucial in getting us back into the Premier League. Last weekend, another victory by the same margin may turn out to be the start of our bid to stay in it. At last, after weeks of under-performance and drooping heads, finally they put the pieces together and produced the kind of display we were crying out for and the mixture of cheers and sighs of relief at the final whistle could probably be heard back in East London. Psychologically and points-wise, it was as big a win as we’ve had all season and one which put Cardiff in the bottom three. It came at a cost - another injury and suspension - but the important thing was it came at all. With Newcastle and Chelsea up next in the league, points dropped by relegation rivals will prove as important as any they pick up themselves, but at last, we can cheer. Turning to this week’s issue and it is another cracker. James Jones from West Ham World managed to chat to co-chairman after the mauling at Man City while News Editor Alex Shilling got chatting to ex Liverpool and England star John Barnes while watching the same game in a pub in Shoreditch. They are both brilliant reads. As is Lucy Woolford’s piece looking ahead to the Capital One Cup semi final second leg and her invitation for everyone at Upton Park to have a party. Enjoy the game here’s hoping for two wins on the bounce.

David Blackmore Editor

West Ham World

David Sullivan: Sacking Sam won’t help The 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City at the Etihad earlier this month wasn’t particularly surprising, yet it still left a bitter taste in the mouths of all West Ham fans. Having been turned over by Nottingham Forest the weekend before, all we really wanted to see against City was a bit of fight and passion from the players. We wanted to see some commitment from them and we wanted to see them try at least. Instead it was yet another gutless performance that resulted in yet another thrashing, and now the patience seems to have completely run out amongst many of us who pay good money to watch our beloved football club week in, week

out, only to be disappointed and upset with the way things are currently going. I was fortunate enough to have watched the Capital One Cup semi final first leg from the comfort of the Chairman’s Lounge at the Etihad – a very generous gift from and Capital One. As a result, I was presented with a golden opportunity to confront cochairman David Sullivan directly after the final whistle to ask him questions that we are all craving the answers for. We could only get a couple of minutes with him before he walked off, but he did answer our questions, which deserves a lot of respect. He could have easily told us to go

away and not to bother him, particularly after another devastating performance. David, doesn’t that result prove to you that the time has come to sack Sam? I really don’t know the answer. It’s £4million to sack him now, nothing if we get relegated. No compensation at all if we go down. This isn’t about money any more. We need some stability. It is because we haven’t got it. We just haven’t got it. We need our centre-halves back and then I think we’ll be ok….Who would you have as the manager then?

I’d get Malkay [Mackay] in straight away. But Cardiff have only got three points more than us and have spent about £30million. But Cardiff’s squad isn’t as good as ours. We’re better than Cardiff. All we’re saying to you is that we trust you to put things right. We’re getting bored of losing every week. It’s hard. We pay our hard-earned money to go and watch us here, there and every where and it’s just getting boring.

How do you think we feel? If we go down we cannot afford to subsidise the club any longer. Well get rid of Sam then if that’s the case. Believe you me, getting rid of Sam does not guarantee we will stay up. In my honest opinion it gives us a better chance. We will have more of a chance staying up if we don’t have Sam Allardyce in charge. It’s just not working anymore.

Possibly, I just don’t know. I just don’t think Malky Mackay is necessarily the answer. So Sullivan openly admitted that he doesn’t particularly know the answer, but refused to admit that sacking Allardyce would improve our chances of Premier League survival. What we do know is that, if we are relegated, the club will be in huge trouble financially. What do you think about Sullivan’s comments? For more articles like this visit

Alex Shilling

More Hammers embarrassment John Barnes: West Ham will stay up Hasn't been a great season so far, has it? Being a West Ham fan can be immensely emotionally rewarding, but most of the time it's not. As such, it's all too easy to get wrapped up in one's own claret and blue fading-anddying bubble of misery. But how do we look from the outside? Does this season look the catastrophe to everyone else that it does to us? I caught up with former Liverpool and England midfielder John Barnes at Football FanCast's Capital One Cup party in Bar Kick, Shoreditch, to find out. What do you make of West Ham so far this season? I ask the 79-times capped Barnes, while on the screens in the

bar show the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi final against Manchester City, it's not so much men against boys as US Marines against a particularly weedy boy scout patrol. 4-0. He's surprisingly laid back in his criticism. “You've had horrific injury problems. With fit, motivated players you'll be fine, but you need to start winning matches as confidence is low.” he said. Motivation is a problem for the Hammers, but it's also just been a case of playing talented, in-form teams at the wrong time, he adds. “The players aren't motivated enough and they don't have the right attitude, but West Ham haven't had a

chance against top four teams with motivated players. “Taking this game as an example, a defence of Demel, Johnson, McCartney and O'Brien is always going struggle against a frontline of Dzeko and Negredo, as is the midfield against the likes of Toure and Silva.” He's right, really. City are at total ease and it's amazing that Manuel Pellegrini has fielded what is essentially his strongest XI in the League Cup against a side whose City's U21 side could comfortably turn over. This is also our strongest side but we really don't seem to be giving it a go. This is the big debate for teams like West Ham: Premier League survival versus the glory of

winning a trophy. Wigan and Birmingham have both counted the cost of glory in recent seasons. Does the Capital One Cup matter even less to struggling sides like West Ham than it does to a top four side like City? He's concise and sure in his response. “Not in a semi final, no. Sam Allardyce played a very weak team against Nottingham Forest on Sunday and he's played a strong team tonight.” The example of the horror show being played out on the screen behind the ex England star's head can also be extended to the Hammers' performance against his old club Liverpool, I suggest. Could the 4-1 defeat at Anfield, where own goals from Guy Demel and Joey O'Brien contributed to our downfall, be said to sum up our season? “That's been happening all season,” he said. “It's always going to be hard for West Ham against Liverpool - it's the nature of the Premier League now.” John told me he thinks Allardyce is the right man for the Boleyn Ground hotseat but I put it to him that Big Sam made an error in signing Andy Carroll this summer. He's not convinced by my assertion. “Andy Carroll can be a good signing and a huge asset if he's fit. He was unfortunate with his injury, and West Ham's attacking influence is dependent on Andy Carroll's

fitness; he brings the best out of Stewart Downing and Matt Jarvis when he's fit and on form.” So what do we need to do to stay up? The 50 year old is placid and measured to the last. “You need to get your players fit and keep them fit. The teams around you are side likes Fulham and Palace as long as you stay within touching distance of safety, I expect you to move clear of the bottom three.” Where does he think we'll finish? The hovering Football FanCast PR chuckles. “I don't think you'll finish in the bottom three,” he said. It was great to meet John. Bar Kick is swarming with

journalists and bloggers eager to hear his thoughts on all things West Ham, City, Liverpool and Capital One Cup and everything in between, so I appreciated his time and he's given thoughtful, balanced, on point answers to all of my questions. After the match, the Football FanCast guys and girls want to do a 'team photo'. I head for the front of the picture, the Liverpool legend clocks me and quips: “West Ham fans up the back! Nah, I'm only joking - get down the front, I feel sorry for you.” A fitting end to what was an enjoyable evening if you forget the whole West Ham being rubbish thing.

Marcus Johns They say that 90 minutes is a long time in football. Certainly for anyone who was at the City of Cardiff Stadium on Saturday, the last 20 minutes seemed to last a lifetime. But a game that began with the usual gallows humour of fans deciding anything other than a 3rd successive crushing defeat being a success, the day ended with joyous scenes and a newfound sense of excitement. So what has made the difference? Amidst accusations of players not pulling their weight, and rumours of dressing room divisions, the much maligned Sam Allardyce has long assured us that things would turn around eventually, that the fans needed to understand that the issues were not personal, more personnel. And so he may be proved to be right but how much of our victory was actually down to his apparent tactical nous, and how much of it was purely down to the returning players and their positions? Let’s take the defence as a key example. Against Man City, Adrian was outstanding. But exposed time and time again by the lack of defensive cohesion in front of him, he conceded six. An opportunity to play behind two recognised centre half’s against Cardiff and he flourished.

What a difference a day makes

It appeared as though every shot Cardiff took was straight at him – but this is due to his footwork and positioning. Similarly he was dominant under the high ball, and commanded his area excellently with the confidence of a man who knew those in front of him were doing what they should be. Partly, because instead of having full backs filling in, James Tomkins returned and looked an assured presence in front of him. Well, for the first 70 minutes until his needless red card anyway. But a defence of Tomkins and the soon to return Reid will certainly provide the stability in front of him, and

give the team a platform to build on. If rumours of Lescott joining turn out to be true, then we have a defensive pairing that would grace most sides in the top six. When talking about notable absentees this season, there have been none more notable – or indeed more absent – than club record signing Andy Carroll. His presence on the subs bench clearly gave a lift not only to the fans, but the players around him. They, as much as we, must realise that there is a far higher chance of goal scoring opportunities being converted with him on the pitch. He offers a far more physical presence up front

than anyone else we have – evident against Cardiff. Whilst Carlton Cole took his goal well, he was being outmuscled throughout the game by Steven Caulker. As soon as Carroll came on, Caulker knew he had a battle on his hands, and sure enough lost out on the majority of contests between the two. When down to 10 men within 60 seconds of his arrival, he also played the lone front man to perfection – chasing down their back four when they had the ball, holding it up and taking it into the corners – all of which showed an appreciation and intelligence of his role and the situation. Sure, there were a few times his lack of match fitness was evident – a couple of miscontrolled passes which rolled into touch – but there were massively encouraging signs of the way we will play off of him when he’s back fit and fully functioning. His deft pass to Noble for our second demonstrated the old adage of having good feet for a big man. An Upton Park return against first club Newcastle will surely have him straining at the leash. So players are starting to return. Vaz Te is not a million miles away from a return having played 30 mins for the development side. James Collins was close to making it

for the Cardiff game, and will be vital filling in for Tomkins against Newcastle. Nolan will return after sitting out the final game of his ban, and Ravel Morrison will hopefully start to shake off his hampering groin injury and show himself to be the exciting young talent he showed us he could be with his early season form. So whilst Saturday’s win at Cardiff was aided by the returnees, it wasn’t all about them. After a week of criticism aimed at the playing squad, there can be very few who would have been more affected by it than Mark Noble. Very much “one of us”, he is not one who can be faulted for playing without passion. Wearing the captains armband in what was an obvious must win game for us, he was simply outstanding and lead by example. Time and time again he put his body on the line to break up Cardiff attacks, he almost single handedly shackled their creative threats and when in possession of the ball used it wisely and to great effect. It was certainly the sort of performance that leaves fans wondering exactly what it is he has to do to get a call up to the England squad, and quite what Tom Cleverly brings to a game that Noble doesn’t.

But England’s problems are England problems. Not West Ham’s. And whilst we’ve certainly had our fair share of problems this season – none more so than in the last few weeks – it certainly seems as if our win in the Welsh capital could just turn the tide. Our talismanic record signing is back. Our previously solid defensive partnerships are close to being formed again. Players are also starting to show more heart, passion and endeavour. We are close to being able to put out the side that most neutral observers had pegged as a mid-table team. Out of the bottom three, with injuries healing and reinforcements imminent. We’ve not seen it at Upton Park for a while, but is that a sense of optimism hanging in the air? Many fans will find it difficult to forgive the way he appeared to be so disinterested in the game against Forest. His refusal to acknowledge that as fans we deserved an apology for the team’s performances will also sit uneasily for some. However, he has long said that when his players are back and available, we will pull clear of the bottom three. Either way, we’re in for one hell of a ride. Follow me on Twitter @Johnsie31

Lucy Woolford

Semi-final second leg? Bring it on I won’t lie, after the embarrassing 6-0 defeat at the Etihad in the League Cup, I was distraught and I felt like the whole footballing world was collapsing around me. The main reason? I’d already bought my ticket for the second leg the Monday before. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, my Dad and I can’t make any more games this season. We always make at least one trip to Upton Park every season, me travelling from near Dublin, him from Manchester. Knowing that from February we will be out of

action, we were excited that there was a home leg of a semi-final we could go to. So being eager and passionate fans, we purchased our tickets as soon as we could. We wanted to pick the exact seats we wished to sit in regardless of cost, so I bought two tickets in the East Stand Upper, right beside the away fans. I think if I hadn’t already have purchased these tickets, I would have shrugged off the defeat as kind of funny and typical. But watching the game, I was so full of child-like hope, I forgot it was West Ham I was watching. I would have

taken a 2-0 defeat - even if we wouldn’t have turned that around, it would have been a bit more interesting to watch. At the first goal, I was ok. Second goal, I held my nerve. Third goal, I poured more wine. By the time the fifth went in, I lost control of my emotions and felt the bottom lip beginning to wobble. I just felt like I’d put so much time, money and energy into looking forward to my only visit to the Boleyn Ground this season, I felt like I’d been personally let down. After the game, I needed to calm down, needed to reason with what had just happened. I questioned whether I should still go, but realistically

there’s no way I was going to not go to the second leg. I’m never one of those people who complains about spending the money only to watch “that rubbish”, because that’s my choice. I don’t expect footballers to be concerned about how much money we spend on tickets, because that’s not their problem. It’s our choice as fans to part with that cash, and we know to expect the unexpected. Thinking about it, the second leg is going to possibly be one of the oddest games in the world. 6-0 down at what is effectively half time, maybe only a few thousand West Ham fans, maybe hardly any Man City fans. I can’t even predict what the atmosphere will be like. After about half an hour, I had turned this around. We have to do that, we have to take the positives out of a really awful footballing situation. As disappointed as I was, I thought about what my Dad always says to me: “It’ll be a memory”. That is exactly what I started to think; as weird as this experience may be, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the time I went to a League Cup semi-final when we were 6-0 down on a cold Tuesday night. I really hope that it’ll be a game like Sunderland at home, last day of the season in 2011.

We were already relegated and lost 3-0 on the day, but the atmosphere was the best. You knew that the only people who had bought tickets to this fixture were the fans who just wanted to get behind the team, no matter what. The circumstances going into that game were pretty grim, but sitting in the Trevor Brooking lower, we had an absolute whale of a time. I’m not suggesting that the Man City game will be as fun as that, but I hope it’s a similar attitude and those attending are the fans that stick with the team through the good and really bad. I am expecting good humour and some top banter

with the away fans. I suggest we have seven rounds of “let’s pretend we scored a goal”. I could be really let down on the night after flying from Dublin to Manchester, then taking a four-plus hour drive to East London. It might be freezing cold, and we might be the only two people at it. But it doesn’t matter, I’m a West Ham fan, I’ve bought the ticket, of course I’ll be there. I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish my Dad a speedy recovery from leg surgery after the League Cup fixture. Follow me on Twitter @lucy_whufc

Danny Rust

Will another heavy defeat force Gold & Sullivan to sack Sam Allardyce? For quite some time, many Hammers fans have been calling for Sam Allardyce to be axed, but co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold have continuously showed their support for the man they appointed in 2011. Sullivan and Gold even wrote an open letter which was published on the club’s website, which demonstrated their trust and support for Allardyce. I originally thought that he should have been sacked after the 2-1 defeat at Fulham on New Year’s Day. The sending off of Kevin Nolan just before half time may have cost West Ham the game, but that was a big opportunity to claim three points at one of our relegation rivals.

The 5-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest was simply not good enough. Allardyce said that the owners had been told in advance that the majority of the side would be youngsters. Big Sam said that he did not want to risk any of the first team squad, as he did not want more injuries to occur. He also said that the semifinal first leg of the Capital One Cup at Manchester City was of more importance than the FA Cup third round tie. Surely the Hammers should have played their first team at the City Ground rather than at the Etihad Stadium? Manchester City have humiliated most teams that have travelled to the blue half of Manchester, and so it was

likely that Manuel Pellegrini’s side were going to take a first leg victory into the second leg. At least at the Championship club, West Ham would have had a good chance of advancing to the fourth round of the FA Cup. The likes of Joey O’Brien, Guy Demel, George McCartney, Matt Taylor, Mo Diame, Joe Cole and Carlton Cole were all not included in the squad despite being injury-free. Instead, Allardyce decided to include them in the side against Manchester City and they simply didn’t turn up. Only Adrian, who also started between the sticks at Nottingham Forest, had a decent game in the 6-0 drubbing at the Etihad Stadium. The stopper, who

joined from Real Betis in the summer, made four top class saves during the match, with the first half tip around the post from a Samir Nasri effort being the pick of the bunch. Conceding eleven goals in two games is a terrible record, and Allardyce should, ultimately, have been sacked after such humiliating defeats. Although the loss at Forest was expected due to the starting line-up Allardyce selected, no-one felt the Hammers would lose by such a large margin. The Daily Telegraph sports correspondent Matt Law said that the match could have put the youngsters’ confidence and progress back a year and he may be right. Such changes for that game weren’t particularly necessary and he could have at least played some of the fit first-team players, even if he decided to bring them off at some stage in the game if West Ham went behind. His comments after the game, where he said that ‘they were just kids that weren’t ready’ will hardly have done their confidence any good. After the City mauling, Allardyce once again used the injuries excuse. Considering he is the 13th highest paid manager in the world and it would cost between £4m and £5m to sack him, you would be forgiven to expect more from the man in charge. On Football Focus, Martin Keown made a good point. If

Allardyce is supposedly ten years ahead of everyone else in terms of psychology and sports science, then why are so many players getting injured? The all-important win at Cardiff City may have bought Allardyce some time, but

another significant defeat like those at Forest and City could finally push the co-owners to relieve the former Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers manager of his duties. Follow me on Twitter @Danny_Rust10

Opposition View: Newcastle United

Tim Holland speaks to Trevor Wright about having Joe Kinnear mispronouncing players’ names, signing all the French players and Andy Carroll’s dodgy beard How do you assess Newcastle’s season so far? After the loss to Man City on the opening day of the season and the drab draw against you in our second match of the season, I thought we were going to be in for another season like the last but fortunately that hasn’t been the case. Tactically I think Pardew has improved a lot from last season and quite rightly earned his manager of the month award earlier this season.

After last season what do you think has gone right this season? We’ve got more of a settled team and I think that shows on match days. After the mass comings and goings of last season it was always going to be difficult to get consistency due to the lack of continuity we had especially with the sale of Ba. Fortunately Remy has come in and scored goals and so has Gouffran. Tim Krul has had a better season as well.

Joe Kinnear came back to St James in the summer as Director of Football. Was he well received and how has he done? Most fans were confused and not just because of Joe’s rambling nonsense but because we weren’t sure where he would fit in and why he was appointed. I’m still not sure what he’s been up to apart from mispronouncing people’s names but we’re doing well so why rock the boat?

Newcastle went all French in January last year with their signings but apart from the loan of Loic Remy he only made one signing (who was incidentally French) in the summer. Why the lack of signings in the summer? One reason – there were no more French players to buy! Seriously though I think the real reason was that we have a large squad especially after the last couple of transfer windows and the only area we really needed to improve was up front so we got in Remy on loan. Cabaye stayed in the summer after an alleged bid from Arsenal. How big was that for the club? At the start of the season I wasn’t best pleased with his attitude at the start of the season but I think his performances have improved and so has his attitude. Rumours of another bid from Arsenal are worrying though. What’s your opinion of West Ham this season? The 6-0 and 5-0 games were embarrassing for the club but I think most teams in the league would’ve struggled with losing three central

defenders and a couple of strikers. Perhaps now Andy Carroll’s back ,it might reinvigorate the team and lead you to turn your season around. Who should West Ham be worried about in the upcoming match? You should probably be worried about your own team first especially with Roger Johnson playing! In terms of us, Cabaye and Gouffran have been recently and Cisse is definitely due a goal.

Which West Ham players would you have in your squad? I’d love to Andy Carroll back in the black and white and that hasn’t changed even with his ridiculous beard! The rumours of Ravel Morrison and Mo Diame leaving would be interesting and I wouldn’t mind either coming to us. What’s your prediction for the match and for both clubs this season? I’ve got a feeling that it’ll be a draw so 2-2. I think we’ll finish 9th with you 17th.

Geoff Hillyer Big Sam swears by his statistics so let’s have a look at some of West Ham’s, starting at the beginning of December running through to the recent League Cup debacle against Manchester City. We’ve played 10, won once, drawn twice and lost seven times. In those games we have scored nine, which equates to 0.9 per game, and conceded 28, which works out at 2.8 per game. It’s pretty shocking, with some horrendous results thrown in – and life doesn’t get much easier with this weekend’s visit of Newcastle, and then the away trip to Chelsea at the end of the month. So where do we go from here? Well, firstly, there is time to sort this mess out. We’re still only just over halfway through the season, injured players will return and there’s no doubt that the return of Andy Carroll will be a massive boost as we finally have some kind of goalscoring threat. Provided he doesn’t get injured again and we can give him some decent service, of course. We’ve also had obvious defensive problems of late but these should also ease over the coming weeks with the return of key players such as Winston Reid. The theory is that some of these injured players might return against Newcastle United. If so, we might find

There is plenty of time left to sort this mess that we’re a bit stronger and perhaps a touch more confident. We should also bear in mind that Newcastle themselves have suffered a bit of a blip in form recently, with defeats to Arsenal, West Brom and Cardiff City in succession. I do think that we are capable of getting some kind of result out of this game but I have seen too often this season matches that we are capable of winning, only to see the team go down, sometimes without a fight. I am predicting a draw, which probably isn’t enough to abate our supporters. And of our chances away to Chelsea? Well, with confidence low, everything points to another defeat. The only thing I can throw into the mix in terms of positivity is that a few seasons ago, a certain Paolo Di Canio scored a sensational goal in a 3-2 win and we were really struggling that season too. Sadly, we ended up getting

relegated that season, so perhaps, that’s best forgotten about too. I am determined to be positive about our game against Newcastle so here are a couple of things to remember if you’re going to the game. Firstly, the crowd will be incredibly important. It’s so tempting to boo when things are going against us but the players really need the support of the crowd. We’re the best fans in the world and we will need to show that. Secondly, things have been extremely difficult of late but the best way of looking at our current predicament is that our season starts here. We have 17 games to save our season starting this weekend. There’s plenty of time to go and a lot can change. It’s not all over yet. Follow me on Twitter @GeoffHillyer

Toby Fry

Focusing on Premier League survival is paramount

Since 1871/72 the FA Cup has existed, making the competition considerably older than West Ham United. The odds for any team winning are lengthened if compared to the League Cup because of the vast amount of clubs that enter the competition and we’ve only managed to win the FA Cup three times in our 119 year history. So we come to the City Ground where an inexperienced West Ham side were thrashed by Nottingham Forest in the third-round. What Sam Allardyce discussed with the board prior to the Nottingham Forest match was making sure that West Ham were not going to risk losing twice in an attempt to win. What I mean by that is West Ham

could quite possibly have been beaten by an in-form Nottingham Forest side. If that were to be the case, West Ham would lose the match and lose the fitness of the senior players, therefore meaning a double negative for the club. Prior to the Forest match, we had already achieved more in cup competitions this season, by reaching the Capital One Cup semi-final, since achieving the same feat back in 2010/11. Adrian Durham from talkSPORT claimed that no West Ham fan would back what Sam did against Forest. He’s wrong – I do. I feel that if there’s a West Ham fan who would be happy to be relegated with the FA Cup (like Wigan), they are wrong. The priority is to stay

in the Premier League, and already that task has been evidently difficult. Sticking with a manager, and with a little more fortune in the way of fewer injuries combined with injured players returning is a way to get out of this rut. Putting all remaining focus – come April/May – into Premier League survival is paramount. West Ham fans should relish in a cup semi-final for this season, and support for Premier League survival. With the Olympic Stadium on the horizon, West Ham need Premier League status come 2016/17. Wigan fans may have had a memorable day but they also have an uncertain future, something which West Ham cannot afford.

Tales from the Sandpit

Predicting the unpredictable - A West Ham win!

As the weekend ritual comes round and we look at the schedule of matches coming up I’m sure most of you get involved in someway or another to make the football fixtures that little bit more exciting, create more of an edge than simply hoping and praying for a victory. I have my two fantasy football teams to start with. One is currently in mid-table mediocrity in The Sun and the other fighting it out for Europa League places in the ‘official’ everything sanctioned one. If I get round the blocked websites here in the UAE I might chuck a bet on to spice up the weekend a little although this is very much a rarity. Just before the start

of the season I did put a tenner on West Ham to win the Capital One Cup at 40-1 I am thinking I might not win that one anytime soon. The other I have on the go is Liverpool to win the FA Cup and I’m glad I didn’t punt for the Hammers in that competition too. The other ritual which I have done for many years now is Premiership predictions, taking part in a league with a thousand other people who diligently send in their score forecast week in, week out and pit their wits against sports writers, commentators, ex football pros, some TV celebs and other nobodies like me. I used to be quite good at it. One year I even came third

in the whole thing although it has to be noted that I do tend to do better when West Ham are not in the Premier League and the heart does not rule the head so much but overall I used to be quite good. Until this year. This year I am, quite frankly, rubbish. Much like West Ham I have been flirting with the relegation places for most of the season. Unlike West Ham, however, I did have a relatively good December rising to the dizzy heights of 552nd place before plunging back down the league with a poor start to 2014. I could also point out that the real league is much more competitive this season and roll out the old ‘well on their day anyone can beat anyone’ phrase to justify my incompetence at guessing a list of matches each week. But I won’t. I just don’t think I’m particularly ‘on the ball’ this season. I could blame Al Jazeera Sports, sorry beIN sports as they are now known, for taking away my Saturday evening football fix. But I won’t. What I will blame is the ability to change guesses to the matches you’re predicting right up to kick off. This is a relatively new feature and has lead to some disasterous outcomes where I have successfully managed to change a guessed result from a correct one to a

ludicrously wide of the mark wrong one. With this happening more than I care to mention I decided to ban myself from making changes once I written the score in the box. Once it’s down that was that, no changes to be made. I have been vigilant with this rule one hundred percent but wish so much that I had gone with the nagging feeling that was eating away at me last Saturday morning which got me as far as loading up the predictions website and looking at the scores two hours before the first 12.45 kick off. You see, earlier in the week after we’d lost the midweek cup match against someone (I can’t remember the score now to be honest, what was it again?) I went for a Cardiff victory by two goals to nil. As the week wore on though and the more I read in the papers, online, etc the more I wondered whether this was going to be one of those matches. The green shoots of revival were starting to filter through – players returning from injury, even Carroll might make an appearance. But surely it was still one step too far. Cardiff will be up front it with their new manager and fresh from an away win in the FA Cup against Newcastle and us possibly emerging from the wreckage of what could be arguably said was one of the worst weeks in our history.

So as I gazed at the list of fixtures last Saturday morning, dallying with changing a Cardiff home win to a West Ham away win (which gets you more points) I decided to stick to my guns, do not pass go, do not collect two hunderd pounds. Which of course meant we’d win. And win we did. Now I’d like to be able to write here that it was a match where we dominated, where we created chance after chance with free flowing, skilful one touch football, destroying the opposition with strength, flair and determination. It was not, of course. On another day the result could have been very different but thankfully that’s football.

Whilst Cardiff were the better team for much of the match we got the two goals that mattered, we got a massively important three points. The injury to Guy Demel and the sending off of James Tomkins has not helped our cause in any way but at least we can go in to this match with the hope that fortune is not hiding anymore, it is swinging back in our favour and we can hold our heads a little bit higher after a truly horrendous last six weeks. Another three points against Newcastle and the whole outlook changes even more. Follow me on Twitter @hosiemon

David Bowden

The importance of our lion-hearted core to our form

It had been seven games since the Hammers last won in the Premier League, but a heroic performance in Wales lifted the doom and gloom in the East End. From one to 11 every player stood up to be counted, putting an end to the myth that Sam Allardyce had lost the dressing room. They showed heart, desire and that little bit of class when it mattered as the Hammers collected three points for the first time since their home win over Fulham in November. I have criticised Allardyce umpteenth times this season in this very magazine, but on Saturday he was spot on,

tactically sound and he clearly motivated the team. Mark Noble showed why he has all the correct credentials to become a top captain; he wore his heart on his sleeve and covered every blade of grass on that pitch. He deservedly picked up the decisive second goal to secure victory as he once again put “captain” Kevin Nolan to shame. The team showed great character and it was the West Ham that we know and love on the pitch, hardworking, dedicated and fearless. Even when they were presented with the potential problematic situation of being

reduced to ten men following Tomkins’ dismissal, the Irons showed a lion-hearted attitude as they repelled everything Cardiff threw at them. So I guess the real question is why can’t we play like this every week? Why can’t we produce the same desire and level of commitment showed in Cardiff last week? It is the most frustrating thing about being a Hammer. I am not asking us to win every week, though it would be nice of course, but the way we rolled over and died at Forest and City respectively left a very bitter taste in the mouth.

It isn’t hard to become a likeable West Ham player, as a player if you play with heart and with fight you instantly get put into the “one of us” categories. Mark Noble epitomises everything good about West Ham. His work rate is exceptional and it isn’t a surprise that he is banded about as a “legend” already. If only he could be more consistent with those free kicks and corners and we would have a real top player on our hands. It is for those same reasons that Adrian is starting to make a name for himself at the Boleyn. His attitude since his arrival has been second to none. Despite being treated very poorly by Sam Allardyce by being dropped and then recalled again, he is passionate and it seems like he has settled in very quickly in the East End. His save from Campbell in the second half shows he is quite a keeper as well. On to the lion heart at the core of our defence, and his injury woe, which has been a large reason behind the blip in defensive form at the club. Winston Reid is, of course, the man I am alluding to. He is a future captain of the club in my eyes and comfortably my favourite player at the club. He again like Noble wears his heart on his sleeve

and puts his body on the line time after time, our very own New Zealand warrior. Watching the game on Saturday and seeing all the maybe not so big names at the club starting was lovely to see. The likes of Matty Taylor and Carlton Cole showed that you don’t have to be the best player to put in a good shift and star on the day. Cole has always and will always have a place in the heart of every Hammers fan. His effort and commitment to West Ham United has never faltered and he is a confidence player and right now he is at an all-time high on the confidence front. With three goals in the last five games he is certainly

pushing for a new contract at the club. It is the likes of Noble, Reid, Adrian and Cole, who keep the soul and traditions of the club going. They are gentle reminders to all the West Ham faithful as to why we support the club. Sprinkle a bit of quality from the likes of Carroll, Downing and Diame and we could be onto a winner in the coming months. Maybe I am getting ahead of myself but it has been a long time since we have felt this feeling of having three points in the bag on a Saturday afternoon. Follow me on Twitter @Bowdenwhu

Big Interview: Ishmael Welsh Tim Holland speaks to ex Hammer Ishmael Welsh about never being caught by Mark Noble and improving mental health through exercise

You came through the West Ham academy, how do you assess your time at West Ham? My time at the West Ham Academy was one I cherish to this day as it was the foundation of my teaching coming into my adult life. Learning to discipline not only your body but also your mind was important as both aspects play a vital role in everyday society. I had some great teachers both coaching and playing staff and I am grateful for each and every one of them especially Tony Carr for giving me that opportunity.

What’s your best memory of your time at the Boleyn Ground?

see or speak to each other much, when we do it’s as if we've never been apart.

My best memory at the Boleyn Ground would have to be playing in the FA Youth cup against Luton Town. It was my first taste of playing in front of a big crowd and I had great fun on that pitch that day.

You’ve gone onto play for Yeovil, Torquay, Grays and Chelmsford. Where have you enjoyed the most?

Do you still keep in touch with any of the lads from your West Ham days? Yes I am still good friends with the likes of Chris Cohen, Kyel Reid, Hogan Ephraim and a few others from my age group. Even if we don’t

I really enjoyed my time at Yeovil Town, being the first club where I was an important player. With this came new responsibilities on and off the pitch. Each club I enjoyed in its own way though, not necessarily at the time but if I look back now and reflect they all served a good purpose.

Who has been the best player you played with and against? The best player I played with would be Mark Noble. He could never catch me in training but as slow as he is, he has fantastic ability and his footballing brain along with his understanding of the game make him an asset to the team. The best player I played against would be Gareth Bale when Yeovil played Southampton in the FA Cup. We were both playing on the left so he was on the other side of the pitch and every time I looked over there he was just gliding past people and hitting sweet left footed shots. He was destined to get to the top and rightly so.

UK where our philosophy is to help ex footballers prepare for life after football by getting them qualified into the fitness world and mentoring them along the way if that’s the path they choose to take.

You were called up for the England C team. How big an honour was that?

Do you think there’s more pressure on youth players nowadays?

It’s great to represent your country at any level so I was honoured to do so and pull on that shirt.

I personally think the pressure isn't so much on the youth players that go on to play in the first team but the ones that get let go. While their peers and age group are studying and acquiring qualifications preparing for adult life there's not enough emphasis on the importance of the young players’ actual wellbeing if they do not make the grade.

You were featured in Clarke Carlisle’s documentary about mental health in football. How did that come about? Clarke had heard about our company Focus Fitness

A footballer’s career is shorter than most. What are doing in your retirement? I run my own business now where my emphasis is to 'help' and reach out to people who suffer from a state of depression to help them overcome that through exercise and confidence building. Do you still keep an eye for the West Ham scores? Any predictions for West Ham this season? Yes I do from time to time. Seeing as how the season has gone so far, a run of good results is in need to steady the ship and avoid an ever present risk of a relegation battle.

Alan Axton

The Iron (Twelfth) Man

So the club has found the child who was crying during the Nottingham Forest FA Cup game and have offered him a free VIP ticket to any upcoming game at the Boleyn Ground along with two boxes of tissues for when it all goes wrong. That’s gallows humour. If you’ve been a West Ham fan over the last couple of months you’ve probably been more exposed to it than a Chernobyl food vendor to poor tourism. As flattering as it is to be given the opportunity to write for my club, on any level, I have to admit I was a little intimidated at the feat of creating “something positive and inspirational” given our recent track record: 11

goals conceded in two games and losing a comfortable London derby to Fulham. Oh dear. Boos ringing out across the Boleyn ground as we battle the Baggies and relegation looms like, well, a massive list of mediocre football teams. But West Ham shouldn’t be considered a mediocre football team. We certainly don’t look like it on paper. Far from it! And yet here we are, in typical West Ham fashion; ever expecting but not delivering. There is, however, one place where the club is doing just that, in the legions of its loyal fans - the claret and blue army. It is West Ham 101, the first sentence in

the book to being an Iron: “If you want to be a West Ham supporter you’ve got to have a sense of humour.” It’s essential. It’s our evolutionary coping mechanism that helps us deal with the heartache of frequent relegation and the ever hiding fortune of promotion to renewing ourselves as a Premiership side. It’s what makes us such a remarkable football club and separates us from local rivals who’d rather resort to throwing coins at players whenever the chips are down. I was floored by the superb performance of our fans at both Nottingham Forest and

Manchester City. Despite the crushing results they stood up, ever sure of their allegiance and with a song and a smile showed these sides what it meant to be a hammer, dancing and celebrating despite the odds this is what we need, come win, lose or draw; the fanatical, cockney charm that makes us a unique club. It must always be present. We shouldn’t be regarded as a club that boos our side when we’re not on form or whose vocal delivery and fan spirit flatlines whenever we are behind. Take one look at the Brit or Selhurst park. This is the quality of the twelfth man that Upton park was once famed for. Everyone has got their opinion on how West Ham can dig ourselves out of this rut but what can any of us really do to help? I’m aware of the counter argument. Yes, we should expect more from our players and board members and yes it is easy to write up the typical fan base call to arms whenever a club is facing relegation. But here’s the truth of it: there’s no clear answers and there’s no easy way out of this predicament. There’s no certainty to a revival of the club if Big Sam gets the sack or if he stays (an argument to which I will remain happily seated on the fence). We’ve got a lot of drama heading our way, plenty of

ups and downs and we really do not want to be a Championship side when we move into the Olympic Stadium. We need our fan base to cut out the self-pity, to stand and be counted. We need to treat the occasion of a Premier League game like we were playing at Wembley, if not for the morale and intimidating force of our club than for the celebration of the twilight of our reign at the Boleyn Ground, one of the most important football grounds in English history. We are the fan base that holds Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, Alfred Hitchcock, Lennox Lewis, Dave Grohl, Ray Winstone, Matt Damon and, of course, that handsome revolutionary comedian – Nick Frost in our numbers.

These oncoming years, regardless of place in any cup or league or result against any team, should be a celebration of who we are; a team that is the academy of football, that stands against the odds as a giantslayer, which stood at the centre of an international team that brought home the World Cup in the golden age of our football history. Have the claret and blue face paint on standby, the tubes of soapy water and bubble machines by the front door. Get ready to make a big noise. If we are truly Moore than a Club and we can stand up and prove it, the future of London is ours. Follow me on Twitter @SmoothJazzDrums

Opposition View: Chelsea

Tim Holland speaks to Craig Mead, lifelong Chelsea fan, about Mourinho maturing, a new signing in Michael Essien and Demba Ba the mercenary.

How do you rate Chelsea’s season so far? After last season and the flurry of transfers, I think it’s gone as well as it can do. I think we’re playing good football and have added some consistency that wasn’t there at the start of the season. My only gripe is that our strikers aren’t being as effective as they should. It’s also annoyed me that Lukaku is scoring at Everton and for me I think he should’ve been given his chance this season.

How have you rated Mourinho’s time back at the club? I’ve been impressed with Jose as not only has the style of football improved but he’s also seemed to quieten down a bit. Perhaps he’s maturing.

strengths. Eto’o needs to be scoring more and being a bit stronger on the pitch. It’s also felt like Essien has been a new signing after having him back from his strange year on loan.

How have your summer signings settled in?

Demba Ba has been linked with a move back to West Ham. Can you see that happening?

I’ve liked Willian and have been surprised just how composed he is. Schurrle has done ok but I don’t think we’re playing to his

I’ve always seen Ba as a mercenary so I can’t see it happening apart from if you offer him a huge deal. In fairness he’s flattered to

deceive this season so I wouldn’t be surprised if Jose did want to get rid. Perhaps he’d come back to you and not help you to avoid relegation again. Do you think Mourinho will be busy this transfer window? I have a feeling that we won’t be that busy in the transfer window but it depends on whether any players exit. If Mata and Ba go then we need to replace them. I would love to see Diego Costa at the club but I’m not sure Athletico Madrid will let him go. Chelsea have a number of young players coming through the ranks and out on loan. Who is your pick of the bunch? I think I mentioned him last time but I have high hopes for Bertrand Traore, the 18 year old Burkino Faso international who played well in some games for us in preseason. I think he might a great player in years to come. Which Chelsea players should West Ham fans be wary of when the club’s meet?

We’ve been scoring goals all over the team this season. Torres, Hazard and Lampard have been scoring goals recently. Willian and Oscar have also popped up with important goals as well. What’s your opinion of West Ham this season? I felt for the fans during the cup games. It’s seems like you’ve turned on Allardyce and quite rightly too but I think when you get back some of your injured players you might be in a better position for the relegation battle.

Which West Ham players would you have in your squad? The more I’ve seen of you this season the less I think I’d want any of your players – perhaps Reid or Tomkins for cover. What’s your prediction for the match and for both clubs this season? I’ll go for 5-0 in keeping with your recent results and I’ll stick with my prediction of 2nd, West Ham 19th.


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Blowing Bubbles #30 (West Ham V Newcastle 18/01/14)  
Blowing Bubbles #30 (West Ham V Newcastle 18/01/14)  

In this issue: *Exclusive interview with David Sullivan *Will Cardiff victory prove to be the turning point? *John Barnes: West Ham will sta...