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Julian Dicks’ exclusive column League progress proves FA Cup sacrifice was worth it The only way is up for Downing Will our ‘march’ up the table continue next month? Can any manager tame Ravel? & much more The Number One West Ham United eFanzine! Print • Mobile • Online


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

(c) Blowing Bubbles

One thing that has always fascinated me about the beautiful game is how people, including myself, can be seriously annoyed by teams who you never thought would give you cause to complain. Take this weekend’s opponents Southampton. Before the 2012/13 season, I had no problem with the Saints whatsoever. Then, we found ourselves both pushing for promotion out of the Championship and we had that date with them on Valentine’s Day. They behaved so badly I’m not talking to them again until they call to apologise. Yes, Matt Taylor was stupid to get involved after we were awarded the penalty and he shouldn’t have raised his hands to Billy Sharp. But the Southampton man went down like he’d been lamped by Lennox Lewis in what was clearly a cynical and deliberate attempt to get a fellow professional sent off. Sound familiar? I know is sounds like I’m someone who bears a grudge but as friends and family will testify, nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, it is that I have a strong sense of justice. I only hope this yearning for justice is fulfilled this weekend and we give Southampton the sort of spanking that would make even a Pompey fan smile. Enjoy the game. I’m going for a 3-1 win with Cole, Nolan, Downing and Lambert scoring.

David Blackmore Editor


Julian Dicks

It has been a very, very good month for West Ham but the test for the players now is to keep the momentum going and kick on to get results against sides like this weekend’s opponents. With only six or seven points separating the bottom half of the table, it’s imperative the performance levels remain the same and we are still picking up points because otherwise we will be dragged back into the relegation battle again. Don’t get me wrong, I know we aren’t going to win every game but we’ve got brilliant

momentum at the moment which is something we’ve not had all season. I honestly think that if we keep playing like we are, we will be safe by the time we play Tottenham and our final two games won’t matter as much as people may have thought they would at the beginning of January. Having said that, the next four or five games are key and we need to pick up as many points as we can, even from the tough games, because the teams around us will be picking up points. The Chelsea game was the

turning point for us in my opinion. Every player was putting their body on the line and jumping in front of the ball when the Chelsea players were about to shoot. I’ve been in a similar situations to what West Ham are in when I was at West Ham and before that when I was at Birmingham and you need players to do that and against Chelsea, everyone did that. Regardless of what Jose Mourinho said, it was a brilliant performance and a fantastic point. Swansea and Norwich are both sides we should be

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


beating at home so I wasn’t too surprised to see us beat them and to be honest, I had a feeling that we would come away with something from Villa Park because we’ve had some great results there in the past. Having said that, I was pleased to see the performance levels carried over from the Chelsea game and thought we were good for the three points in each game. The big talking point after the Swansea game - and for most of this month - has been Andy Carroll’s sending off. I personally think Andy meant to do what he did but my argument to others has been if the FA were asked to look at this sending off, then they surely had to look at Chico Flores’ behaviour? What he did was disgraceful and he was cheating end of. Yes, Andy Carroll caught him on the top of the head but not the face like Flores lead everyone to believe. I find it really hard to take that the FA can look at this incident and do nothing about Flores. He cheated Andy Carroll, West Ham and the fans and it’s not the first time he has done this. This whole saga proved to me that the FA just haven’t got the balls to take tougher action against players like

Flores and it’s getting worse in the modern game. I was talking about this to Billy Bonds and Alvin Martin recently and I was saying how I’ve noticed this play acting is tried by the kids I coach. They go down and just stay down. There are times, of course, when they are injured but when I can see they are faking and I tell them they will have to go off, you wouldn’t believe how quickly they get up and run around again like nothing is wrong. Kids watch players like Flores and they idolise them so of course they are going to copy what they do. The FA needs to start clamping down on this now before it’s too late and it’s rife in the Premier League. There has also been a lot of coverage this month on Ravel Morrison’s loan move to QPR but I believe Sam Allardyce knows what he is doing with this and West Ham have done well without Ravel in the team. When he first came into the side, people were saying he was going to be the next Alan Devonshire but that was never going to happen; there is too much hype and pressure on young players. I have also spoken to a few people recently who have branded Matty Taylor as a bit of an unsung hero but I just

don’t agree with this. I don’t think we’ve had any unsung heroes in the side this season. It’s not just about the last three games but about the whole season. Apart from our recent run of four games, we’ve been rubbish this season. Sure, we are 11th now but we need to look back at the games we were rubbish to see which players really were giving it their all. As I said earlier, the good run we are on started with that result at Chelsea and it really showed what can be done with hard work. I don’t think there has been one player responsible for this run – it has just been everyone in the team working hard for each other. That’s what it is all about, everyone working together and pulling in the same direction. We are going to lose games between now and the end of the season but the test is going to be how we react when we lose. The aim for the rest of this season, in my opinion, should now be to make sure we survive because then hopefully before next season we can bring in a few new players in the summer and look to progress and kick on next season.

Contact Julian by emailing him on juliandicks3@icloud.com or following him on Twitter @Julian3Dicks


Julian Shea

Premier League progress proves cup sacrifice was worth it What were you doing last Saturday? Shopping? Bit of DIY? Or looking at the FA Cup fifth round schedule, noticing West Ham’s absence, and grinding your teeth in frustration? Early FA Cup exits are always depressing (squashing new year optimism], invariably embarrassing (as they’re often against lower league sides) and annoying because they ensure football-free weekends in the coming months. West Ham’s early bail at Nottingham Forest certainly ticked all three boxes, particularly the second, as it was a) against a Championship side b)

televised and c) an absolute humiliation. Sam Allardyce’s comments ahead of the City Ground catastrophe made it clear that even if he was not quite as blunt, he was certainly a kindred spirit of Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert in regarding the Cup as something he could do without, as his hugely inexperienced team selection proved. With suspension and injury ravaging the first team, and vital league games ahead, he was damned if he did, damned if he didn’t – and after the team were slaughtered 5-0, so was he. But in hindsight, was this a good thing? One month later,

sitting in 11th and looking down on the opposition with a bit more optimism, West Ham are a different club. The looks on players’ faces after the last game of 2013, a 3-3 draw with West Brom where West Ham led twice, told their own story: ‘we gave it all we’ve got – and it wasn’t enough’. But if they thought 2013 ended badly, that was nothing compared to the new year, as in a week they lost at Fulham in the league and were ripped to shreds in both Cups by Forest and Manchester City. For many fans, the sting of that double humiliation will take ages to heal, but for once the phrase ‘free to concentrate on the league’


has been borne out. Of course injuries clearing up have helped, but without Wembley on their minds, the team have focused on the league – and look what’s happened. The Capital One Cup exit was different – City’s squad are so good that their mascots and ballboys could probably beat most teams, so there was no shame in that loss, just its size. And whilst it would be great to see the team lift a cup, that is the considerably less valuable one, with the ‘reward’ of the Europa League entry often proving a whole lot of pain for not much gain. I love cup football – the life-changing experience that was my first ever game was an FA Cup final, and I really fancied our Capital One Cup chances this season. But much as I dream of seeing claret and blue ribbons on a trophy other than a play-off one (which needs relegation first), with Stratford coming, remaining a top flight club must be the priority, and a couple of Saturdays off are a small price to pay for making that more secure. Besides, there’s always next year – and this time I really think our name could be on it. Follow me on Twitter @JulianSheaSport

For more articles like this, read Julian’s column for Club Metro at Metro.co.uk/author/julianshea


Lucy Woolford

Team spirit will keep us up At times during Sam Allardyce’s reign as manager, fans have questioned the morale of the players and the togetherness of the squad. Last season we heard stories about Alou Diarra that maybe made us question how much we promise players on their entrance to the squad and how they are let down along the way. We’ve also questioned Kevin Nolan’s commitment to the team following his successive red cards. This prompted many to believe that Sam had simply lost the dressing room.

I am a firm believer that as a group of fans we are the kings (and queens) of kneejerk reactions, and it looks as though this may have happened again this season. That’s not to say that there aren’t many other clubs whose fans want Moyes out, Wenger out, Tan out, it’s just that I’m not as interested in them! In the situation that we found ourselves in before February, it was understandable that spirits weren’t particularly high. I think that’s understandable in any workplace if things aren’t

going anyone’s way and the gods are against you. It’s how you pick yourself up after the fall that counts. We do seem to have hit a bit of an upwards curve both in results and team spirit. I wrote in the last issue about Adrián and his contribution to positivity in the dressing room and following the victory at Villa Park, the players were certainly singing from the same hymn sheet in terms of post match celebrations. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but the official West Ham United social media pages posted out a ‘Tunnel Cam’


video that was taken after the match against Villa and it was a joy to watch. Some may think that we shouldn’t be quite so pumped up about a league win that isn’t over the so called big four (pick whatever four you like), but I loved to see the positive vibes coming from the away dressing room. Players seemed to be congratulated as they entered the dressing room and all of those on film shouted their joy, some in the aggressive way that shows how much it means to them. This was a win without Andy Carroll, something that we’d thought might not be that simple following his red card and subsequent three match ban. Perhaps the return of Andy Carroll from injury is what has sparked this positivity? It’s there for all to see that Kevin Nolan is on top of his game since his on and off-field mate is back. Even though Carroll is banned for February, perhaps the overhanging shadow of his injury woes have lifted for the whole squad and they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, or March as it’s also known. I’d love to be a fly on the wall of our dressing room when Carroll is in it, because maybe there’s something in this. His larger than life character is pretty obvious on

the pitch and we’ve read plenty in the papers over the years that tells us about his “joie de vivre”. Is he the life and soul of the dressing room too, and is his spirit and talent lifting the whole club? I think in any club, in any country, there is an adjustment period for players. With the variety of nationalities, cultures, opinions and abilities within a team, there has to be time to become comfortable with one another the same as with any job and team. It seems as though the elements are coming

together at the right time, and the vital February games are being played by a happy, relaxed and together squad of players. Goal celebrations should be passionate, and I think those that we have seen in the last few games have proved that this does matter to our players - they want Premier League football and they’re going to make sure they play with a smile on their face to get it. We’re leaving it late, you say? Makes a change. Follow me on Twitter @lucy_whufc


Andrew Hosie: Tales from the Sandpit

Fun in the sun for the Dubai Hammers

What was that famous old quote attributed to Harold Wilson? 'A week is a long time in politics' is a somewhat tired clichĂŠ bandied around a lot when a political crisis generally affects one party or another at some point. The same phrase can oft be used in football and generally pertaining to a series of difficulties facing a club over a seven day period, usually meaning an unexpected defeat, knockout in cup, a sense of being wronged, a player in the papers for the wrong reasons, a whole multitude of

factors could have a club feeling that 'a week is a long time in football'. You'd have to say that it could have been applied to West Ham quite often this season and it looked like we were precariously on the brink of another testing period following Carroll's sending off, so it's been a magnificent run of results that has taken us out of the relegation zone with 10 points in 12 matches. So much has been the turnaround that the phrase can now be applied to describe the frustration of having an FA Cup week get in

the way and leaving an 11 day gap between matches. For us living in Dubai though, this FA Cup week gave a chance to meet the team as the Dubai Hammers Supporters Club were invited to attend the club's training session by Alpari, who also have an office here. You may have seen the article in the Daily Mail last Friday and you may have seen the news about James Collins that turned out to be a spoof, thank goodness. With regards to that story, I suppose, it wouldn't be out of the bounds of possibility that he could have got


sunburnt. From some of the photos from the training day, you can see Mark Noble has clearly caught the sun and that was only day two of their four day break so it could have happened. Thankfully it didn't though. What did happen though was a terrific afternoon where an upbeat squad, obviously buoyed by the recent change in fortunes, were enjoying training in the Dubai sun and were very accommodating to us lot who watched intently throughout and we were rewarded with players and manager mingling afterwards chatting, signing autographs and posing for photos. Also the organisers of Dubai Supporters Club were presented with a trophy of recognition by Alpari and by manager Sam Allardyce and Kevin Nolan for all the great work they do in promoting West Ham United in the city and in the United Arab Emirates as a whole. If ever you find yourself in Dubai, then make sure you head for a drink at the home of the Dubai Hammers, Nelson's at the Media Rotana in the Tecom area. You'll be made to feel very welcome, indeed, especially if you are able to time your visit for when a Hammers match is being shown live (sadly not as frequently as before with

the ongoing encryption dispute with the FA). For more info on the Club, feel free to visit their Facebook page. So it's the third straight year the Hammers have headed to Dubai for warm weather training. I don't know it that is indicative of our rather poor FA Cup form in recent seasonings but it is clear the squad do enjoy taking the break in Dubai and were more than happy to give back

by mingling with us after the training session. Hopefully the team have returned to the UK refreshed and relaxed ahead of this weekend's game and the renaissance of the last few weeks can continue. Given the way Southampton are playing it will be tough but we go into the match with every reason to feel confident. Follow me on twitter @hosiemon


Geoff Hillyer

Will we march on next month? It's amazing, being a West Ham supporter isn't it? In January, shortly after the 5-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest and the 6-0 reverse against Manchester City, things could not have looked bleaker. A poor run of form in the league, combined with repeated calls for Big Sam to step down, meant that in the minds of many, relegation was a near-on certainty. Now, whilst Big Sam still doesn't unite all West Ham fans, and we're still involved in one massive relegation scrap, things are definitely looking up.

Three successive wins, the highest number of clean sheets in the league, and players returning from injury have all helped boost the confidence in the team at just the right time. Can we maintain it? Southampton will definitely pose a tough test. They've had a great season, but having just hit the 39 point mark, they may well consider themselves safe and perhaps mentally switch off Certainly, this fixture represents a great chance to stay on this unbeaten run, provided the team plays to

their potential without Andy Carroll, who is serving the final match of his 3-game ban. Looking further ahead, every month seems to be crucial now, but March has a number of fixtures which make it doubly so. Even if we lose this weekend, we're still only around 12 points from safety so if we can pick up the majority of those points over the next five games and we'll give ourselves a fantastic chance of survival come the end of the season. It's a tough start to the month, with an away trip to


Everton. They've been playing consistently well over the season, so it might be here that we come unstuck but a point would be very welcome, and three points would make me ecstatic. Much more winnable games follow, at home to Hull City, and away to Stoke the following weekend. I'm looking for a minimum of four points from those. Then, it's the big one – at home to Manchester United, who are in some malaise. If there was ever an opportunity for three points against our old foes, this would be it. There's enough in our side for a point minimum from this game – the Red Devils are still a good side, but since the departure of Sir Alex, they're simply not the force they once were, as some of their other results have showed. An away trip to Sunderland ends the month, another of our rivals for one of the three relegation places. This is “must-not lose” territory, not only because of our proximity to the relegation places ourselves, but also because defeat to them pulls them much closer to us. So, where could we stand at the end of the month? Assuming that we avoid some catastrophic performances, in my

continuing positive frame of mind I can see a minimum of six points from these fixtures – a win against Hull City and at a win either at Sunderland or Stoke. If we can go into April on at least 35 points, we're well placed to survive this season. For what it's worth, even if we failed to achieve this, on the assumption we don't

completely implode we should still survive. For me, Fulham, despite their second change of manager, and Cardiff look in serious trouble, with a number of teams in the mix for the third spot – hopefully not including us. Follow me on Twitter @geoffhillyer


West Ham Ladies Picture by Mickey Cartwright

Captain targets cup to salvage season Midfielder Stacey Little has spoken of her delight at being made the new West Ham Ladies captain and her desire to life silverware this season. The 26-year-old was given the armband following Becky Merritt’s departure earlier this month and was the star player as the Hammers beat C&K Basildon on penalties in the FA Cup second round. Speaking exclusively to Blowing Bubbles, she said: “I was so delighted to get the armband because it shows that the manager [Mark Saunderson] trusts me and thinks that I can do a job as captain. Everyone at the club

knows how passionate and dedicated I am so it’s a massive honour for me to not only be able to wear the badge every week but to also now lead the team out.” Following her stand-out performance against Basildon in the FA Cup, the Ladies are gearing up to take on Watford in the next round. “At the moment we are taking things week by week but I hope we can start pushing ourselves up the league to where we should be,” Stacey continued. “I hope I will be able to lift some silverware this season and the Essex Cup is one that I

have my sights set firmly on. We missed out on the final last year and lost in the final the year before so it's time for us to be reunited with that trophy. “It has been a tough season with quite a few players coming and going and us not doing as well in the league as what we would have wanted to so to win silverware would give something back to the club and the girls who have stuck with it and worked hard this season. “I'm feeling positive about the upcoming games and the second half of the season. “There has been a good vibe around training with all the

For more information about upcoming games, visit www.clubwebsite.co.uk/westhamunitedladiesfc


girls and without having had many games for so long, the girls were buzzing to get that first game under their belts after so long.” Asked about goalkeeper Toni Anne Wayne and forward Becky Merritt quitting the Hammers to join Brighton, Stacey added: “I was a little disappointed that they had decided to leave when we really needed stability in the team but I understand their reasons behind leaving and I wish them all the best at Brighton.” Apart from the Hammers game against Basildon on February 9, the Ladies hadn’t played since losing 4-2 to KIKK United in the London Capital Cup on December 15 and might not return to FA Women’s Premier League Southern action until midMarch. “It has been massively frustrating for everyone not to have been able to play more games so far this year,” Stacey concluded. “Even more so for me because I had just come back from injury before Christmas and I played a game and a half before the Christmas break. “I am a bit worried about the back log of games. Mid-week games will have to be scheduled and that, along with training and an eight hour working day before playing a game, will be tiring.”

The Ladies play their home games at Thurrock FC, Ship Lane, Grays, Essex, RM19 1YN.


Thomas Johnson

We’re not bad with centre backs There’s no surprise that with our recent form there has been one big difference to the poor results of the preceding months, the return of Collins, Tomkins and Reid to our defensive options. It’s a mightier sight watching the balding head of Collins clear the ball or Tomkins last ditch tackles, than having to throw the likes of McCartney into an unfamiliar position and panicking to the point of Roger Johnson, who is just not up to the level we need at the Boleyn Ground. The partnership of Collins

and Tomkins has been so formidable over recent weeks that last season’s Hammer of the Year, Winston Reid, can barely get a look in since his return from injury. Restricted to just two substitute appearances, not many West Ham fans would have predicted he wouldn’t be able to get a look in after his start to the season. But Collins and Tomkins are reaping rewards of a steady back four and neither deserve to lose their place in a side that has kept four consecutive clean sheets. This recent run in the side has been brilliant

for Tomkins especially, a great prospect who paid the price of representing his country at the London Olympics, the same competition that Reid rejected to play in for New Zealand to focus on West Ham United. It is no blight on Tomkins that he jumped at the chance to play for Team Great Britain, but it meant he missed some pre-season and spent the rest of the season as third-choice to Collins and Reid. To have all three players back fighting fit and putting their bodies on the line to grab the team by the scruff of the neck


and pull our club out of the relegation zone really is a wonderful sight. The defensive solidity of the recent games against Chelsea, Swansea, Villa and Norwich has been a team effort. The likes of Adrian, Noble and Matty Taylor have played their part in the form that has seen us pick up 10 points from the last four matches. But certainly having the ability to play centre-backs in their rightful position has been a large contribution to the defensive side of the team. It is why we have kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League this season. Following our quite lengthy blip in the season, when we were missing key players throughout the spine of the side, we are now seeing the team return to being a Sam Allardyce side, tough to beat and full of effort from everyone on the pitch. February was always pointed at as a key month and a win against Southampton would certainly make it one of the best periods in recent years, and in no small part has the returns of Collins, Reid and Tomkins contributed to West Ham’s climb up the table. Follow me on Twitter @SoundOfVinyl


Danny Rust

Downing on the up

When Stewart Downing joined West Ham United from Liverpool in August, it sparked mixed feelings. The majority of Hammers fans did not understand why Allardyce was bringing in yet another winger as the club already had Matt Jarvis, Ricardo Vaz Te and Matt Taylor. It was clear that West Ham’s priority should have been to bring in a striker as Andy Carroll was injured and the Irons were misfiring with Modibo Maiga leading the line. But Downing has turned out to be a bargain. Admittedly the former

Middlesbrough man failed to show his best during his time on Merseyside, but he was impressive in the early stages of his career with Middlesbrough and Aston Villa. In fact, he was so productive for the latter that Liverpool were willing to pay ÂŁ20m for Downing. In the recent win at Villa Park, Downing looked as confident on the ball as he did when he was with the Villains. His close control took him past Chelsea loanee Ryan Bertrand with ease to set up captain Kevin Nolan for the opener. He continued to

torment Bertrand all afternoon and although he was improving every game before that, this was by far his best performance for the Hammers. Downing has been scrutinised by football fans since his big-money move to Anfield, but it seems that he is finally regaining his confidence since making the move to East London. His crossing has been a major threat to opposition defences and he has shown exactly why Allardyce bought him in ahead of a striker. One glaring omission from his time at Boleyn Ground so


far is that he is still yet to find the back of the net for the Irons. Allardyce has been ruing missed chances all season and the fact that Downing is still searching for his first West Ham United goal will be a concern for Allardyce. As a wide player, Big Sam would have hoped that the England international would be chipping in with his fair share of goals this season, but that has not been the case. Allardyce and Hammers fans alike, will be hoping that he can get off the mark sooner rather than later. Another concern is that although Downing’s crossing has been excellent so far this season, he has only grabbed two assists. But in Downing’s defence, he has only started a handful of games with first choice striker Andy Carroll. What is clear from his recent performances is that Downing is beginning to improve significantly and Allardyce will be hoping that he keeps his recent form up. If he does, then it is highly likely that he can steer the Hammers further clear of the relegation zone, and lead the Hammers to a mid-table finish. Follow me on Twitter @Danny_Rust10


Opposition View: Southampton

David Treadaway talks to Tim Holland about the future of Luke Shaw and midtable security How do you assess your season thus far? There have been some ups and downs but for me midtable security is fine. The win at Anfield was a highlight at the start of the season. The season has seen a good squad come together – with a good mix of youth players and seasoned internationals. It’s probably the best squad we’ve had for a long time. Pochettino has made a number of big signings this summer. How have they done?

Wanyama is a great player with a great engine and someone we’ve needed for a long time. Déjàn Lovren is a quality player and adds something to the defence. Less said about Osvaldo the better! Lallana and Jay Rodrguez are in and around the England squad. Do you think they’ll make the World Cup? I know I’m biased but I really think both should be on the plane for the World Cup. They both offer something different to what we’ve had traditionally in the England

team. I think Lallana would be a shoe-in for a lot of internationals but because he plays for Southampton and we’re not the most fashionable of team there needs more of a debate. Nicola Cortese resigned in January and there was talk of a club and player sale along with Pochettino’s resignation but the club weathered the storm. What does the future hold? If I knew that I probably buy a lottery ticket. In all honesty, I have no idea. I expected Pochettino to go after his


comments last season about his position if Cortese left. Katarin Liebherr has said there will be no player sale but I think the club will be sold sooner rather than later. Hopefully to someone with the funds to take us to the next level.

Club record signing Dani Osvaldo left on a loan after a bust up with Jose Fonte. Was that more of a shock or disappointment?

A mixture of both, there were huge expectation when we signed him and to leave on loan the way he did was A lot has been said about embarrassing. Hopefully he’ll Luke Shaw. Do you think he’ll come back with his tail be at the club come next between his legs and play season? again next season. I’d love for us to keep hold What are your thoughts on of him but I think he’s West Ham this season? destined for a top four club and I think David Moyes might You had a tough season be keen on him. before Andy Carroll come Ricky Lambert is vying for his place in the England squad against the likes of Andy Carroll. Do you think he’ll make the final squad? I think he’s ahead of Carroll in goals and match fitness so for that reason I think he’ll go to the World Cup ahead of Carroll Is there anyone West Ham should look out for in the Southampton squad? I think you’ve mentioned everyone already. Lambert, Lallana and Rodrgiuez are all good attacking players. Jose Fonte also pops up with goals from defence as well.

back but you seemed to have improved now he’s back. I think you’ll be safe from relegation but I think Sam Allardyce may go in the close season. What are your predictions for the match and for the season? I will go for 1-1 for the match with Southampton to finish 9th and West Ham to avoid relegation and end up 15th. Follow Tim Holland on Twitter @timsyouruncle


Toby Fry

Can any manager tame Ravel?

Ravel Morrison – the most talented player Sir Alex Ferguson had ever seen. He is also the same player Sir Alex and his staff struggled to control him and after a few years, gave up and shipped him off to West Ham. Sam Allardyce took on the England Under 21 midfielder and after a less than ideal start, Morrison returned from this loan spell at Birmingham and really showed what he could do at the top level at the start of the season. He really was the spark in a rather static West Ham side with his direct running style and tricky feet.

His solo goal against Tottenham caught the eye of the footballing nation. He then went on to score three and assist another two in all competitions. Far from brilliant for a man of Ravel’s talent but in a struggling West Ham side, he was regularly a breath of fresh air. However, it has now been confirmed that Ravel Morrison will be joining Championship side QPR on loan until the end of the season. The Hammers will have the option to recall Ravel after 30 days if they wish to do so, although I wouldn’t

expect that to be the case, unless the Hammers’ injury list starts growing. Ravel Morrison has gone from being talked about being a surprise inclusion to the World Cup squad, to being “relegated” back to The Championship. A real shame. What exactly has happened behind the scenes to trigger the demise of Ravel? Was it the public interest from Fulham? Or was it the much talked about attitude of the young man? One thing is for certain, the only person who can tame Ravel Morrison, is Ravel Morrison.


Sir Alex tried and failed. Allardyce, it would appear, has tried and failed. He seemingly got on well at Birmingham under Lee Clark, and perhaps another loan spell in the Championship will produce the desired effect. Even if he produces good performances at QPR, and subsequently returns to West Ham, will Big Sam still be willing to try with Ravel, who’s ability is being held back by his mindset? In years to come he may be one of the greatest underachievers in football history. If Ravel was going to change his ways, he would have by now. It is sad times for a player who I previously dubbed as “the most exciting West Ham player of all time” with his pace, and skill. For a while that quote grew ever more valid, but now it seems that two managers have lost patience with Ravel. A new challenge awaits at QPR with a whole host of big egos. Could that possibly change Ravel? How will be cope with playing alongside one of the most controversial and widely despised footballers in Joey Barton? Or will the clash of egos be the final straw? I for one will be surprised if we see Ravel Morrison in a West Ham shirt again. A great shame, for the player, the club, and the country.


David Bowden

I’m sorry Captain Kev! What a difference four games makes: Four clean sheets, 10 points, and three wins on the spin, the doom and gloom around the Boleyn has been lifted and the Hammers are on the rise. I wrote in my last column how important this month would be, and three wins out of three has been the perfect answer to the fears I had. I concluded that piece hoping we could get 12 points out of 12 and that dream could well be turning into reality this weekend. This upturn in fortunes is largely thanks to key players

stepping up and players coming back from injury. Three players who have really stepped upto the plate are midfield duo Matthew Taylor and Mark Noble as well as James Collins who alongside James Tomkins have been rocks at the back. But there is one man in particular who has certainly hit some form this month Kevin Nolan. In previous articles for Blowing Bubbles, I have slated him and called for him to be dropped. I must admit his antics at Anfield and Craven Cottage

left me fuming, but he has answered his critics with fine captain’s displays against first Swansea, where he linked up with his old buddy Andy Carroll to bag a brace. Then away at Aston Villa where he once again bagged a brace, this time without his partner in crime, proving that he can play without the big man. After the Villa game he came out and told the press that he felt he had a lot of making up to do to his teammates, fans and management staff, after the “lowest point of his playing career”. Four goals in two games is a great start Kev. The evidence is there for all to see, when the skipper is happy and performing well, so does the team and it gives the club a real lift. Kevin Nolan needs this club, and his recent performances have not only proved me wrong, but the West Ham faithful who have doubted him, the club needs him. I have called him lazy and predictable far too often in Blowing Bubbles, but his hassling and harrying in recent weeks has shown how hard he has worked on his fitness in the gym whilst he endured his “hell” on the side line after his stupid red cards.


His four goals in two games saw him climb to top of the top goal scorer charts to six goals, somewhere the West Ham fans have expected to see him be after he finished top goal scorer last season. If he is happy then West Ham are happy and bang in form. His rise in fortunes have seen the club go unbeaten in four and up to the dizzy heights of 11th place in the league, and you could see when Diame broke away in the last minute to seal the win against Norwich that the team spirit at the club is at an all time high. Mo was mobbed by his team mates as his deflected shot sealed the Hammers third consecutive win. My first change in thought pattern about Nolan came as I was watching the Cardiff game and Nolan was barking out instructions on the sidelines despite being suspended and no real need to be out in the Wales rain. But there he was lifting up Joey Cole as the second goal from Noble flew in. It was that moment that made me realise just how much West Ham United actually meant to the Liverpool-born man. Our midfield, a mixture of English heart and passion has

also seen a rise in fortunes in recent weeks. The centre midfield duo of Noble and Taylor has seen the Hammers repel everything thrown at them, with Matty Taylor putting his body on the line time after time. Then there is the ever reliable Mark Noble, who is improving every time I see him, his eye for a pass is second to none. Stewart Downing and Matt Jarvis are improving all the time, with both English wingers growing in confidence with every win,

and the aforementioned Kevin Nolan, the midfield is looking stronger than ever. It says a lot when internationals like Nocerino and Diame can’t get into the starting line-up. With Carroll’s return just one game away, things are looking rosy for the Hammers, and it is refreshing to have that feel good factor back at the club. Here is hoping it continues for the foreseeable future and we continue to pull away from danger. Follow me on Twitter @Bowdenwhu


Opposition View: Everton

Tim Holland speaks to Terry Pitman, lifelong Everton fan, about having nothing to complain about, Baines signing a new contract and Baines’ free kicks

What do you make of Everton’s season thus far? It’s been much better than expected. The draws at the start of the season were a concern but we’ve been resilient in defence and the consistency has come back into our game. Up front Mirallas and Lukaku are both scoring and the squad is now playing as a team which I always thought has been an issue before. Which of your new signings has stood out for you this season?

I’ve been impressed by Gareth Barry as I wasn’t quite sure of his transfer in the summer and wasn’t sure what he’d offer the team but he’s been immense. Lukaku has also been great for us this season. Leighton Baines has signed a new contract with Everton. How big of a deal is that for the club? Baines is England’s best left back and it signalled that we’re no longer a selling club. It also signalled that we’re on the up.

What have you made of Roberto Martinez’s reign? Roberto has been exactly what we needed at the club – a new direction. I think our style of play has improved and I’ve been impressed with his signings. So overall I’ve got nothing to complain about. Are you surprised David Moyes has struggled at Manchester United? I am a bit. He was great for us but it’s a very different environment at Manchester


United. It may be a short journey but it’s a completely different club with different expectations. He struggled in the transfer window and for the first time in a while the team looks low on confidence. Fellaini has struggled this season at Man United. Would you have him back? I like the big man and I would’ve liked him to set the league alight at Manchester United but it hasn’t worked out for him. If it continues next season I think we’ll make a cheeky loan bid in January. Ross Barkley is cementing his place in the England squad this season. How highly do you rate him? I think he’s already one of the best midfielders in the country already and I hope he stays at the club for years to come. How has the rivalry with Liverpool changed now they’re improving under Rogers? It doesn’t matter if they’re playing well or battling against relegation, they’re still just a small club that will forever be in our shadow. Who should West Ham fans be wary of in the Everton

squad when the club’s meet? Lukaku has been in great form this season, as has Mirallas but I suppose after our last match you should probably keep an eye out for Leighton Baines’ free kicks. What’s been your opinion of West Ham this season? I haven’t seen much of you to be honest apart from the cup matches against Man City but I’ve read that you’ve been doing well this month although your form will dip just when we play you.

Which West Ham players would you have in your squad? I was disappointed that Razvan Rat left as he has one of the best names in football! I like your wingers especially Jarvis and Cole. Andy Carroll’s not bad for a big lad. What are your predictions for the match and for the season? I’ll go 2- 1 to us for the match with Everton to finish 5th and West Ham 17th.


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Blowing Bubbles #33 (West Ham V Southampton 22/02/14)  

In this issue: *Julian Dicks' exclusive column *League progress proves FA Cup sacrifice was worth it *The only way is up for Downing *Will o...

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