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West Ham co-owner David Sullivan on his plan to keep the Irons’ throne

WELCOME EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: David Blackmore MANAGING EDITOR: Simon Osborn CONTRIBUTORS: David Bowden, Marcus Johns, Geoff Hillyer, Tim Holland, Andrew Hosie, James Jones, James Longman, David Meagher, George Parris, John Payne, Emily Pulham, Julian Shea, Bianca Westwood, Brian Williams, Lucy Woolford PHOTOGRAPHERS: Nicky Hayes, Mikey Cartwright EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES: editor@blowing- ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES: WHERE YOU CAN READ IT: Blowing Bubbles is available to buy and is also available to read on your PC, Mac, Tablet or Mobile. Blowing Bubbles is published by Fanatic 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

Is anyone else as perplexed about the Hammers as I am? W hat an incredibly West Ham way to start the season. Wins at Arsenal and Liverpool with defeats at home to Bournemouth and Leicester wedged in-between. A friend of mine texted me after the victory at Anfield and said had I bet against the favourite in all our four games, I would’ve made a tidy sum in August and looking at some of the odds I could’ve got for these games, the bookies seem as perplexed about West Ham as I am. What I think August highlighted is that we’ll be a good side to follow

on the road. At both Arsenal and Liverpool, we absorbed the pressure and counter attacked with pace and conviction. With the players we have and the way Slaven has us lined up away from home, combined with our two early away victories, I’m sure we’ll clock up some good points on our travels. My biggest concern is that we haven’t quite got our heads around what we should be doing at home. Granted Bournemouth had been playing some nice stuff before they arrived at Upton Park -

as had Leicester - but we looked vulnerable to any sort of attack and I think every visiting side will be looking forward to coming to the Boleyn to try and inflict the same pain on us. With it being our final season at the Boleyn Ground, it would be nice to see us dominate the majority of our matches and that our home form gives us the platform to excel in the league and cups. Enjoy reading our latest issue. It’s another absolute cracker. Come on you Irons!


The big interview - David Sullivan

‘There aren’t any billionaires left who don’t own a top club’ West Ham co-owner David Sullivan tells David Blackmore about his plans to stay put and how the Hammers nailed the transfer window


avid Sullivan says he has no plans to sell West Ham United when the club moves to the Olympic Stadium. The Hammers’ majority shareholder insists he is in for the long haul and is desperate to establish the club as one of the best teams in the country before eventually handing over to his sons. In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview with Blowing Bubbles Monthly, the 66-year-old claimed he would only ever consider selling up if the deal would allow a huge injection of cash into the club’s playing squad. ‘If the King of Saudi Arabia or a multi, multi-billionaire – like the owners of Manchester City – wanted to take over and I felt it was for the good of the club, I would step aside but I really don’t think that will ever happen. ‘There aren’t many multi, multi-billionaires left out there that are interested in football and haven’t already got a club. In fact I don’t think there is one that exists!

Don’t grow on trees: Not every club can find a Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan like City The move to Stratford, combined with the Premier League’s latest TV deal, has seen West Ham’s value rocket since he bought the club with lifelong friend and business partner David Gold in January 2010. But Sullivan says there was never a masterplan to move the club away from the Boleyn Ground before making a huge profit by offloading the

Irons to an overseas investor. ‘This is something that comes up all the time but we are not looking for anybody to take over. I don’t think we will sell in our lifetime. I’m certainly not here to make a quick buck – I don’t need the money. ‘We’ve been very honest and open with the supporters about how we’ve gone about

everything since we came and we will continue to do so for a long time to come. ‘People forget we were at Birmingham for 17 years. We did, at one stage, have a 28 per cent stake in West Ham. We really wanted to buy West Ham, it was our preferred option, but we eventually sold those shares and went to Birmingham. ‘The only club we have ever wanted to own was West Ham and now we’ve got it, we’ve got absolutely no desire to sell.’ However, even without a huge takeover similar to the ones experienced by Manchester City and Chelsea, Sullivan believes a glorious future is already on the horizon. ‘I always believe the best times are ahead,’ he added. ‘It’s great to have heritage and history but for me, the best times are always in front of you. ‘It’s never been a tougher time to be in the Premier League and every season the gap between the top four and the rest of the league gets bigger because

Dear leader: David Sullivan has no plans to give end his reign as West Ham boss

of the wealth of those clubs. But if we get some luck with injuries and transfers, our long-term aim is to break into that top four and to be challenging for the title. ‘Why can’t we have these aims? It’s surely got to be the aim of all Premier League clubs? You can’t start the season, and plan for future seasons, with the aim of finishing 17th and being happy with that. We want to go into every season and every match thinking we can beat anyone put in front of us. ‘It’s a very exciting time for us. We are a club in transition and we are changing our style, and it will take time to adapt to a new system, but I think over time we will see us getting better and better results.’ Our conversation turns to his sons, Jack and Dave, and what they might do when they are older – will they follow in their dad’s footsteps? ‘I hope they do what they want to do and have a really good life,’ Sullivan replied. ‘I just want them to be happy. ‘What I will say is that

Star: West Ham splashed the cash to sign Dimitri Payet this summer

they absolutely love their football – you can hear their passion whenever they appear on a podcast. ‘They’ve got a great passion for the club and hopefully they will learn a few things from me and keep learning as they get older. We

Close: West Ham tried to do a deal with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy over Emmanual Adebayor

all make mistakes and I hope they always learn from them.’ The sound of the transfer window slamming shut is still ringing in Sullivan’s ears as our discussion continued and he spoke of his highs and lows in the days leading up to September 1. ‘If you’d asked me how I felt a week or two before the transfer window shut, I would’ve said I felt p***ed off, depressed, worn out, and worn out from the criticism of the supporters because we had been really working hard,’ he explained. ‘We got some business done very early and I

was pleased with this but I wish we had done more early deals. Having said that, it all came together at the end and I’m elated with the business we’ve done.’ West Ham signed four players on transfer deadline day – Alex Song, Victor Moses, Nikica Jelavic and Michail Antonio – which came on top of big money deals for Dimitri Payet and Angelo Ogbonna earlier in the summer. ‘We already know what Alex Song can do. We knew when we signed him that he wouldn’t be able to play until November but we still went for him and he was

the number one choice for the manager. ‘Victor Moses is a Premier League player and a hardened pro, and Nikica Jelavic is a proven Premier League performer.’ However, Sullivan revealed he is most excited about the arrival of Antonio, who came in a £7million deal from Nottingham Forest. ‘He got 15 goals and 15 assists last season and already has four goals to his name this term. ‘He came up the hard way from Tooting and Mitcham and up the leagues. ‘The manager thinks he is still a raw talent but he feels in 12 months he can turn him into a really top player. His raw talent, however, will still be more than enough to score goals in the Premier League.’ West Ham were also reportedly close to signing Tottenham Hotspur striker Emmanuel Adebayor on transfer deadline day but, while Sullivan admits a deal was close, nothing came of it. ‘It was a choice between Adebayor and Jelavic and the manager chose Jelavic,’ he explained. ‘We had agreed a deal with Spurs but for reasons I can’t go into, it didn’t happen.’ Looking to the month ahead, Sullivan was looking forward to one fixture in particular. ‘It’s going to be interesting to see how we get on against

New home: The Olympic Stadium has the potential to be a game-changer for West Ham when the club moves

‘A proper East End film’ David Sullivan’s film, ‘The Rise of the Krays’, is out now. The Hammers chief part-financed the film which is available to buy now and has received positive reviews. ‘I’m so proud of how well it’s doing,’ he said. ‘It’s a British Manchester City who have humiliated us a few times recently but we go up there on the back of two outstanding away victories at Arsenal and Liverpool,’ he added. ‘What made both those

film and 200 people who wouldn’t have had work, got a job. We have produced a film that it very thoughtful and honest. ‘We’ve not glamourised them or made them out to be nice people because they were incredibly violent.’ victories even better, in my opinion, was that Liverpool were unbeaten and hadn’t conceded a goal before we played them and Arsenal have not lost since our win at the Emirates.

‘Yet we lost at home to Bournemouth and Leicester. I still look back at these games and ask myself how we lost. Neither of these sides are particularly special but it has been a strange start in the Premier League with very few home wins. ‘That’s why we signed the players, because the manager wanted real pace in the team to be able to breakdown defences. If we get everyone back fit, there will be some great players sitting on the bench, which is a great position for us to be in. There is going to be serious competition for places.’ BBM

Your shout


Friend should be axed after Noble’s ridiculous red card I don’t want to be negative after West Ham’s fantastic win over Liverpool at Anfield but I feel compelled to write in about the performance of the referee. Quite simply Kevin Friend should not be in charge of another Premier League game for at least a month after his bizarre decision to send off Mark Noble. I know it was overturned on appeal but that really isn’t the point. On another day that could have been a turning point in the game and had Liverpool pulled one back after our captain was sent off it could have made a huge difference to the outcome.


Poor: Kevin Friend is just not up to the job The Premier League is hugely important and the financial consequences of relegation this year will be massive as the new TV deal comes in next season.

Referees are human and make mistakes but there should be consequences for them when they make such major errors. Mark Underwood

Arsenal game set standard After seeing how organised and disciplined the team were against Arsenal in Slaven Bilic’s first Premier League match as manager my optimism is sky-high. I was happy to see him getting the job as he always looked like an excellent organiser and motivator wherever he’d managed prior to his appointment with us. In my eyes the match at the Emirates has set the standard for what should be a successful final season at the Boleyn Ground as we looked solid in defence and were totally comfortable going forward against a team that many have tipped as genuine title contenders. Paddy Campbell

Carroll can still have a massive impact

No option but to dump Nolan

A lot has been made of the ways West Ham look different under Slaven Bilic compared to Sam Allardyce. And while it is clear that we will look to keep possession more than we did under our previous manager, I think we will still look to go direct at times. That will be good news for Andy Carroll as the big striker thrives on good quality balls into the box. With the likes of

West Ham enjoyed an excellent transfer window and made some good signings. But in my mind it was just as important for the players we let go. Getting Kevin Nolan, Matt Jarvis and Modibo Maiga off the wage bill is excellent business. This is Slaven Bilic’s squad now and at last the dead wood from the Sam Allardyce reign is gone. Mike Griesel

Dimitri Payet and Victor Moses playing alongside him I think the former Newcastle United striker could do very well. It is important we make the most of every player we have in the squad and Carroll is one of the best target men in the Premier League. I hear he is close to full fitness after his latest injury and I look forward to seeing how he performs under Bilic. Lucy Jones



THE HAMMERS’ HERO PULLS NO PUNCHES IN HIS EXCLUSIVE COLUMN Coup: Victor Moses could be an amazing signing for the Irons

We now have our best squad in living memory W

ith the amount of signings we made on transfer deadline, and the quality of these players, this is the strongest squad that we’ve had in a very long time. Players will now know if someone isn’t performing, there is a ready-made replacement and it might be weeks before they get back into the side. For me, it was great to see Alex Song return. I know he was here last season but I still think

it was a shrewd bit of business. He brings experience and a calming influence to the team. Victor Moses is quite an exciting player too. I really feel that, given the chance, he will provide the ammunition for the front two – or one whatever it may be. Chelsea, the current Premier League champions, are still keen on him and have extended his contract so I think it is a bit of a coup for us to get him.

Arsenal’s Carl Jenkinson is also back here on a season-long loan, who along with Moses have both been capped for the England Under-21s although Moses has gone on to represent Nigeria. What is clear this season is that it’s going to be important that we improve our home form at Upton Park. I’m sure Slaven will get it right and by now he will know what his strongest side is. Expect the results to come. BBM

Matt was a lovely guy It’s been a bit sombre where I live on the south coast recently following the Shoreham air crash. Sadly my friend Matt Grimstone was one of those who died. I knew him well because he used to do some coaching for me before he went onto become a groundsman at Brighton. He was on his way to play for Worthing United against Loxwood with Jacob Schilt when they were killed by a Hawker Hunter that had crashed onto the A27. They were both only 23. It’s such a tragedy. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Matt was a lovely fella – the kind who would do anything for you. He was a lovely lad, quite unassuming and he will be sorely missed. My thoughts are with the family and friends of all those who died.

Pub talk

Blowing Bubbles’ top writers settle down to put the world to rights... West Ham are generally considered to have enjoyed a good transfer deadline day - which of the four signings are you most excited about? James Longman: I’m always excited by a pacey winger and Michail Antonio looks promising. However if we have signed the Alex Song of the first half of last season then that is a real coup. Fingers crossed he rediscovers the kind of form he had then. Tim Holland: Antonio for me, I saw him at Sheffield Wednesday a few years ago and was impressed. He’s got strength, pace and enjoys running at the opposition and which are all qualities we’ve been missing. With Victor Moses he’ll add some much needed width. Geoff Hillyer: For me,

Star: Michail Antonio could be a superb signing

Antonio is the most exciting signing. He looks like an absolute beast - if he can make the step up, he’ll contribute much-needed pace and goals. It’s another of those ‘feels right’ signings - I think he could be very successful with us - the proviso being he’ll need to step up to the demands of the Premier

League. He seems confident he can. Andrew Hosie: It was a terrific transfer window overall for West Ham and what a refreshing final day after many let-downs in the past. All the players brought in on deadline day are terrific for the squad. Obviously Song we know about, Moses is

also a well-known in the Premier League, Jelavic will provide good back up for our main strikers. Antonio is the one I’m looking forward too - a pacey, strong winger with a great assist record and goal-scoring record too. Lets hope he becomes as successful as our previous Championship signing, Aaron Cresswell. Would you have liked to have seen Emmanuel Adebayor join the club from Tottenham Hotspur? JL: He has shown that in the right frame of mind, Adebayor can be an excellent footballer and there is no reason why Slaven Bilic couldn’t get the best out of him. I’m bored however by Spurs and the way they handle business so in all honesty, no. TH: In a word, no. It

was endearing to hear that he wanted to join us on transfer deadline day but I’m not sure his attitude and faltering abilities are what we need especially if his wages are £100k per week. I’m sure Nikica Jelavic will provide the necessary cover up front and we’ll have Mauro Zarate and Andy Carroll back soon enough. GH: I’m glad that we didn’t, in the end. I’m not sure why, to be honest, as the guy’s obviously talented - but I think we have a settled dressing room, we have Carroll and Enner Valencia to come back, we have Diafra Sakho and now Jelavic, I just think that it would be an unnecessary move. Plus it’s hilarious that Tottenham continue to have to pay him! AH: Ha, no! A signing like Adebayor would have seemed like past West Ham, i.e. signing players past their prime. Also it is somewhat satisfying to ensure that Daniel Levy wasn’t dug out of a hole by us. Levy blocked us last time, glad it’s us that turned the tables on them. I hope the tweet by DG was more than a joke because there’s something rather satisfying about doing Tottenham over. If Moses turned down Tottenham too well that’s the cherry on the cake. The Hammers have had a mixed start to the season, are you more or less confident about the campaign now than you were four weeks ago?

Bullet dodged: West Ham did well not to sign Spurs striker Emmanuel Adebayor

JL: From the start, I’ve had no idea how this season will turn out and I still don’t! Two amazing away performances and two dreadful home ones. The squad has been bolstered so I’m hopeful we can start getting some consistency and Slaven has to work out his tactics at home. Hopefully we can push on. I’m not emotionally ready for a relegation battle. TH: After our form in the second half of last season and our exit in the Europa League I thought we’re more or less where I thought we’d be – six points from four

games, albeit I thought we’d get the points from Bournemouth and Leicester. I’m hoping for more consistency going into September though. GH: More up and down than a yoyo. It’s early days. We obviously need to get the home form sorted - and Bilic will have to work out how to play in a way which differs from the very effective away performances. I feel reasonably confident that we’ll be OK. I think that once we get that first home win under our belt, we’ll be fine. AH: To be honest our Europa campaign hadn’t

left me to over-enthused about our prospects for this season but I was inclined to have an open mind and our stunning start had me feeling as elated as the previous home win against Manchester City from last season. Of course, in typical Hammers style, the opening day memories quickly evaporated before unexpectedly returning at Anfield. After our transfer deadline day exploits I am now much more confident for the rest of the season, we just need to make sure we try and keep 11 players on the pitch each week to build

a settled side. With more strength in depth we are much better equipped to deal with the inevitable winter injury crisis. The win at Anfield was as spectacular as it was unexpected - when else have the Hammers left you pleasantly surprised? JL: In recent years, my biggest surprise was the signing of Andy Carroll. Though that hasn’t turned out as successful as expected, at the time I was absolutely buzzing and gave me the old excitement I used to get as a kid. The other pleasant surprise was the club fixing the toilets in the chicken run. What a time to be alive. TH: Wins against the supposed top six are always good but I’ve been pleased by our purchases during the transfer window. We’ve strengthened in all areas, we’ve added some flair and width, we’ve attracted top players like Payet and we didn’t get lumbered with dodgy free transfer Licensed to thrill: Dimitri Payet is a crowd favourite

Anfield of dreams: We came, we saw and we shocked ourselves or loan deals on transfer deadline day! GH: The performance at Anfield was different to previous visits - whilst we’ve gone up there, and indeed, to Arsenal, in the past and tried

to nullify them, this time, we actually had an outlet. I loved the pace that we showed on the counter. It was most unWest Ham like - quick, and effective. I’ve been surprised by how good Dimitri Payet is though, he’s been the star of the show. I thought he’d be good, but he’s the real deal. Can’t wait to see more of him. AH: Well, at the moment it’s more exhiliration one week and crushing disappointment the next. I take part in a predictions competition each week and so far I haven’t managed to predict a correct West Ham result let alone the score. We’re so unpredictable but I guess that’s part of

the reason we all love them. My local newspaper had an article before the Liverpool match discussing just how insane West Ham are that he predicted we’d win. So it proved. Difficult to remember when I was simply ‘pleasantly surprised’ rather than ‘dumbfounded in shock’. I think though making the break with Sam Allardyce left me pleasantly surprised, seeing as we all pretty much knew it was coming, but still a relief when it happened. West Ham host Newcastle and Norwich this month while there is a road trip to Manchester City. How many points do you think we will get? JL: I think we will

probably end up with four points though the optimist in me says six. City have looked the real deal this season so a win there is unlikely though a win at Anfield and the Emirates was unlikely! I like to think we have enough to overcome Norwich and the Toon, but Bilic must sort the home form. TH: My heart says six points but my head says four. I think a draw with Newcastle, win against Norwich and we’ll narrowly lose to Man City. I really hope we start performing at home otherwise it could be a long season. GH: If we play to our full potential I don’t see why we shouldn’t claim at least six points. Manchester City is the interesting one. They’ve gone off like a train - but every team, somewhere along the line, comes a little unstuck and drops points. I wonder if we could be their banana skin? I’m anticipating somewhere between four and six points - though not necessarily in the games you’d expect. AH: Well, as I said with my predictions each week, I have failed to get even a result correct for West Ham this season so asking me is probably not the best idea. However as we’ve seen this season home wins are getting scarcer each year as every team strengthens to a point where they can blunt a home side’s attacking verve. Newcastle did it

to Manchester United and they are capable of doing that to us. And we’ve had a great result against Liverpool so we probably will come back down to Earth. No disrespect to Norwich but we have to be targeting three points for that one, and Manchester City are currently playing in a league of one so it will be extremely tough to get a point. Four points won’t be a bad return at all from those games. The Capital One Cup starts this month with a trip to Leicester City. How high a priority should the competition be on Slaven Bilic’s to do list? JL: We have a good enough squad to consolidate in the Premier League and crack on in the cup. I would think the chairmen would have told Bilic that it’s a priority and there is no reason why we should progress, though Leicester are proving to be a tricky team. I would love a cup run in our final season at the Boleyn. TH: I think it should be a priority especially after the palaver of the Europa League and it would appease fans. A decent cup run would also be a fitting tribute for our last season at the Boleyn Ground. GH: I think we should attack the cup competitions this season. In the Capital One Cup, we have a real chance of progression. I think Leicester have had a good start, but they are

In the bag: After beating Arsenal and Liverpool winning at Manchester City should be, er, a walk in the park by no means unbeatable. Unless we end up really struggling in the league, I think we should approach each game with a full squad to try to win it. After all, we are in round three and so only four wins from Wembley! AH: It would be great to actually win a cup competition wouldn’t it? I’d love to see us have a

really good go. It does seem to be a competition where teams throw caution to the wind and goals seem to fly in all over the place. It does seem a nice fit for Bilic and with our more rounded squad why not? The problem is getting over the first hurdle against Leicester. They’re not half bad at the moment! BBM

Slate Nolan all you like, but you can’t say he did not care


few days before West Ham’s fabulous win at Anfield it was revealed the club had parted company with captain Kevin Nolan. The news wasn’t really a surprise and in some ways the writing had been on the wall for the former Newcastle United and Bolton midfielder from the moment Sam Allardyce didn’t have his contract renewed at the end of last season. At 33, Nolan was clearly past his best and I’ve no doubt it was the right time to let him move on. For most of last season he struggled and didn’t seem his normal self. He got plenty of stick from the fans for his performances and I think it got to him in the end. It couldn’t have been nice hearing the stuff that was hurled his way from the stands and I’m sure the abuse he received online would have reached him, even if he didn’t read it himself.

Gone: Kevin Nolan scored some big goals for West Ham

Nevertheless, I think he deserves a bit more respect and gratitude than he has received. Some fans feel that, because they go to the games and pay good money, they can say and do what they want. But

these people have to remember that the players are only human. One thing you can never accuse him of was being lazy. He worked hard for the team and did everything he could. I’m sure he would admit

himself he wasn’t the same player who joined our club all those years ago but it wasn’t for the want of trying. He also scored some very important goals for us and led us back to the Premier League after we had been relegated under Avram Grant. For that alone he deserves our gratitude. I heard him talk on the radio recently and he was very complimentary about Slaven Bilic and spoke positively about the style and the methods he was introducing. You can’t be a captain of a club for such a long time without having some sort of affinity with the club and fans. I’m sure he will find another club and I feel he certainly could have a couple of good years left in the Championship. He says he has still got the ambition to play and I for one wish him all the best. As a result of Nolan

leaving Mark Noble was made club captain and, to me, he was the perfect choice. He is Mr West Ham. I don’t know how long this appointment will be for but, if you’re looking for someone who will give everything for the cause, it would be him. I had one of the first interviews with him when he first broke through to the first team and I know being our captain is the biggest honour he will probably have. I know he still harbours ambitions of making it into the England squad but I think his time has probably passed unfortunately, so to lead West Ham could be as good as it gets. One of the first things

Noble will want to do is improve the home form. It’s been like this at West Ham for a while. We’ve had quite a good away record over the last few years but the days of fortress Upton Park seem long gone. When I last interviewed Allardyce, he said players really felt the pressure at home and this season when Bournemouth went 2-0 up, you could hear the booing already. I don’t think it helps matters. Sometimes the atmosphere can get a little bit too nasty, too quickly. I’m not saying we can’t voice our disapproval but booing after 20 minutes won’t get us anywhere. Sing loud and proud! BBM

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One of our own: Mark Noble is the perfect choice as West Ham captain

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Michail Antonio Skills: Our deadline day signing Michail Antonio looks great on YouTube

‘Antonio is a superb piece of business, you have a diamond’ Nottingham Forest fan John Payne on why West Ham have got a gem


ace, power and goals. The qualities Michail Antonio told West Ham fans he will bring to the table after completing his deadline day move from my club, Nottingham Forest. It’s not an idle boast - the 25-year-old has brought all three in abundance during his all-too-short stay at the City Ground. Check out the YouTube

clip of a goal against Bolton in February. He controls the ball with his chest on the halfway line and, despite a quarter of defenders lying deep, he simply surged through the lot of them before hammering the ball into the net. There are plenty of other highlights to be found of Antonio’s best moments in red to get you drooling about the

possibilities of what he can achieve in claret and blue. And while I think it is definitely £7million well spent - and good on West Ham for picking a player out of the Championship rather than going for yet another Premier League import the one warning I would offer is … Antonio is the ultimate YouTube footballer.

The clips of him scoring and creating goals are there in abundance, during his time at Forest he has led the way both in goals and assists, but what you won’t see are the moments when he didn’t look good enough for Tooting & Mitcham, his club up to the age of 18. He isn’t the kind of polished player who would have come

through your famed academy, and sometimes those fault lines show. With Antonio having notionally played in a left-wing role at Forest their left-backs, such as the much-maligned Danny Fox, probably won’t be shedding too many tears at Antonio’s departure. Tracking back wasn’t generally his forte and, when he did, you were often left wishing he hadn’t bothered. For example, he gave away a pointless penalty early in Forest’s 1-0 FA Cup humbling at Rochdale in January. There wasn’t a poorer player on the pitch that day. But in fairness to Antonio, that was one of the few occasions where there wasn’t a moment of magic to more than make amends. Twenty goals in 55 games, including four in five this season, are impressive figures for a midfielder playing in a largely struggling side. And his value is rising fast. Fans of his previous club Sheffield Wednesday gave Antonio rather grudging reviews and yet the £1.5million paid by Stuart Pearce, who seems to have acquired a reputation as a hopeless manager, has been multiplied almost five times in little over a year at the City ground. It will be fascinating to see how Antonio will cope in the Premier League but, while Forest fans won’t like this comment, returning to

Deadline day deals Michail Antonio was the pick of West Ham’s transfer deadline day business. The Forest star arrived for a fee in the region of £7million but was also joined by Hull City striker Nikica Jelavic (£3m) as well as Alex Song and Victor Moses, who both arrived on season-long loans from Barcelona and Chelsea. The only major departure was winger Matt Jarvis who joined Norwich City on loan.

Striker: Nikica Jelavic joined West Ham from Hull City and signed a two-year contract his London roots and joining West Ham seems a natural step for a player who had loan spells in the lower leagues with Colchester, Southampton and Cheltenham before taking the Championship by storm. Undoubtedly he had become the main man at Forest and probably the first name on the team sheet until being left out a couple of weeks ago because transfer speculation meant he apparently wasn’t in the

right frame in mind. To get £7million for a player who wants to go is good business for Forest - and while his goals and assists will undoubtedly be missed - it may help current manager Dougie Freedman to find a formation that works with his preference for two more orthodox wingers. But it’s also great business for West Ham, whose extra quality and strength in depth will take away the burden on Antonio and allow you

to play to his strengths. Throw him on with 20 minutes to go against a tiring defence, as Forest did in a League Cup tie at Walsall a few weeks ago, and see what happens. He’s unpredictable and an enigma. But unleash him as an impact player and despite his obvious limitations it won’t take long for Antonio’s self-assessment to come to fruition. As the man himself says: pace, power, goals. BBM

Europa League exit

Were West Ham right to throw the towel in on a Euro dream? Two Blowing Bubbles writers represent the different points of view




hen it came to West Ham’s involvement in the Europa League, we came, we saw but we certainly didn’t conquer after getting unceremoniously dumped out of the competition after just six games. I’m not exactly crying in my cornflakes about our early Europa League exit though. I’m embarrassed and a bit disappointed but how easily we capitulated against Romanian side Astra Giurgiu, but I’m also sorry to say that I think our early exit from the Europa League was a blessing. West Ham quite simply aren’t ready to compete in any other league except the Premier League right now. If we had to play two games most weeks, the extra time we’d spend on the pitch per week would destroy us. At the moment, West Ham normally only play for 80 minutes per game. Think of how many

Exit: West Ham sent a very young side to play in Romania games last season in which we had a goal scored against us in the last ten minutes of the game – it’s a disparagingly long list. We can barely play for 90 minutes each week – there’s no way we’re ready to play 180 minutes per week instead. Furthermore, the trick to doing reasonably well in Europe and the Premier League is to

do with depth of squad – something which West Ham are certainly improving on, but still haven’t quite mastered. At the time our B-side consisted of Matt Jarvis, Modibo Maiga and Kevin Nolan – three players whom fans have spent the past few seasons moaning that they aren’t good enough for the Premier League – so are they up for the

job internationally? Probably not – a highlight of our first home Europa League game was watching Jarvis narrowly get past an FC Lusitans defender who was wearing just one boot. It didn’t bode well for playing against teams like Ajax and Schalke. The biggest obstacle for West Ham to have the depth in squad is to do with injuries.




Success: Swansea City enjoyed a great run in Europa and did not go down Our league position is the most crucial focus in the season heading into the Olympic Stadium. We have to prioritise a mid-table or higher finish in the league at any cost to maintain stability and a sense of growth. I’m not sorry we rested our best players against Astra in order to record an inspiring win over Arsenal – those are three tremendously valuable

points, especially considering the subsequent lack of points against Leicester City and AFC Bournemouth at Upton Park. I would love for us to play in Europe, but I would love it more for us to do so when we genuinely have the depth in squad to ensure we don’t suffer in the league and right now, regretfully, just isn’t that time. BBM

efore I get started, let’s get one thing straight – playing in the Europa League this season probably would’ve affected our performances domestically. You’ve only got to look at how Spurs and Everton have suffered as a result of their annual exploits in the competition over the years. A slump in league position this season would have us too close to the bottom three to even contemplate. The simple fact is we cannot afford to move into the Olympic Stadium as a Championship side. It just can’t happen, we all know it. But isn’t thinking we’d struggle against relegation a bit too presumptuous in the first place? When Swansea City qualified for the Europa League after winning the League Cup in 2013, they arguably had a similar strength squad to the one we have now. It wasn’t a squad capable of mounting a challenge for the top six, nor was it one capable of winning the Europa League. Sound

familiar? Even still, they went into that season and embraced it. They won all seven of their pre-season friendlies, saw off Malmo and Petrolul Ploiesti in the Europa League third qualifying round and qualifiers respectively, finished second in their group behind Valencia and were then knocked out in the round of 32 by Napoli. Where did they finish in the league? 12th, just three positions lower than the previous season. Their record in the league games directly after Europa League fixtures read W2 D4 L4, which isn’t great and yes, they did improve slightly once they were out of the competition. Swansea showed the competition respect and are living proof that it can be done, and I’d say they’re doing pretty well a couple of seasons on, too. But we’ll never know whether we would’ve been able to cope with both competitions, and it’s that fact that really grates on me. Actually, the simple fact we won’t experience one final European night at the Boleyn Ground grates on me more. But it’s ok, at least we’ll still finish 12th.


Sunday, August 9, 2015: West Ham’s players celebrate after beating Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates on the opening day of the season. Goals from Cheikhou Kouyate and Mauro Zarate gave new boss Slaven Bilic a winning start.

Joey Barton

Barton’s case proves Di Canio must never be Hammers boss

West Ham don’t want saints but the Claret and Blue needs integrity



here’s no denying that, on his day, Joey Barton, is a top class player. On the other hand, someone who has achieved everlasting notoriety by stubbing out a cigar in a young kid’s eye is clearly not a nice person. Let me put my cards on the table. I’m relieved that he didn’t join West Ham. I didn’t go so far as to sign online petitions and tweet my disapproval when a prospective move was being mooted, but I was pleased that the deal fell through. The question remains, however, should a man’s behavior off the field make a crucial difference to the way supporters feel about what he does on it? I understand the ‘who are we to judge’ argument all too well, having

Iconic: Some West Ham fans would love to see Paolo Di Canio back as manager one day done a number of things in my life that I’m none too proud of. I also believe that everyone is entitled to a second chance if and when they face up to their mistakes. However, there is more to supporting a football club than the number of games you win (unless you’re Chelsea) and the integrity of those players who are lucky enough to wear claret and blue at some time in their ca-

reers matters to me. No one says footballers have to be saints. But they are held up as role models – and they represent the club they play for in the eyes of supporters and detractors alike. It’s one thing when a player who is already on a club’s books steps out of line. No doubt James Tomkins seriously regrets the incident in December 2013 that resulted him being fined more than

£7,500 after admitting being drunk and disorderly and assaulting a policeman. He paid his penalty, just as any other member of society would be expected to do, and it would have been wrong for him to be punished twice for the same offence by being sanctioned by his employer. But it’s a different matter when it comes to signing a player who has been dogged by controversy all his career – that sends out a totally different message. Even if inviting someone to play for you doesn’t actually condone previous bad behavior (which in Barton’s case includes two convictions for violence resulting in 77 days behind bars) it certainly says a club is prepared to turn a blind eye in its direction. By the same token we never should have signed Lee Bowyer, not once but twice. An on-field punch-up with a teammate is bad enough – a racially motivated attack on McDonald’s staff is far worse. Paolo Di Canio is possibly the most intriguing character ever to be on

Rebel without a club: Joey Barton almost signed for West Ham

West Ham’s books. Many supporters would like to see him back at the club in the manager’s office. He himself believes it is his destiny. He was a wonderful player for our club – one of the best we’ve ever had. Anyone who has ever seen his astonishing goal against Wimbledon as he morphed into Neo from the Matrix to volley home Trevor Sinclair’s cross will know instantly what I’m talking about. Goal of the season? That was the goal of a lifetime. There are so many Di Canio memories: the fantastic moment of sportsmanship that won him the Fifa fair play award when, rather than head home into an empty net, he caught the cross and demanded that play be stopped until the prostrate Everton keeper was restored to full health; the time he wrestled junior Frank Lampard for the ball when we were awarded a penalty in the amazing comeback game against Bradford City in which we turned a 2-4 deficit into a 5-4 victory. And there’s no doubting his love of West Ham; he’s even got the tattoo to prove it. The trouble is, he’s got other tattoos as well, and they are a good deal less savoury. His back alone is a tribute to fascism, featuring a symbolic imperial eagle and a portrait of Italian wartime

Too important: There is no place for fascism at West Ham United

Talent: Joey Barton is a very good player - but is that enough? leader Benito Mussolini, complete with military helmet. Mussolini, Adolph Hitler’s closest ally and architect of one of the most repulsive ideologies mankind has dreamt up, liked to be known as Il Duce – ‘The Leader’. If the picture on Di Canio’s

back wasn’t enough, his arm carries a tattoo that says Dux, the Latin translation of Duce. In his time at West Ham, from 1999 to 2003, Di Canio wisely kept his political thoughts to himself. Neither did he celebrate any of the 48 goals

he scored in 118 appearances by hailing the crowd with a straightarmed fascist salute. But he did just that when he returned to Lazio – the club he supported as a boy and notorious for its links to extreme right-wing politics. And he did it more than once. Di Canio is adamant that he’s not a racist, which rather suggests he doesn’t fully understand what fascism is all about. A political movement that is based on the idea that the people of one nation are inherently superior to those of other countries and continents is inherently racist – and it doesn’t become any more palatable when the believers of this idiocy try to implement their way of thinking with extreme violence.

Politics has no place in football, say Di Canio’s supporters. I disagree – politics and money go hand in hand, and there’s a lot of money in Premier League football. But even if they were right, there are some things that are just wrong. To appoint a man who has aligned himself so closely to fascism as club manager would do untold damage to the credibility of West Ham. The East End has a proud tradition of resisting fascists. The Battle of Cable Street sent Oswald Mosely and his blackshirts packing as they tried to spread their message of fear. And the people of the area withstood the worst Hitler and his airforce

could throw at them as the bombs rained down during the blitz. They even coined a phrase to encapsulate their defiance – ‘We can take it.’ I think there is something in the DNA of every West Ham supporter that yearns for one of our great players to return as manager and create a side in his own image. But I’m sorry Paolo, it can never be you. You see, if you were to get the job it would send out the message to those who want to intimidate anyone they dislike because of their colour, their religion or their sexuality that it is somehow all right to do so. And that we couldn’t take. BBM

Smart: Hammers boss Slaven Bilic turned down the chance to sign Joey Barton

Slaven Bilic

‘This is my club. I played the best football of my career here’ Slaven Bilic tells Marcus Johns why this is more than just business


s the Premier League campaign reignites itself in the early weeks of the season, already managers are beginning to make rash, bold statements. The final whistle goes, and hurting from the defeat, managers are rushed straight in front of the media where more often than not they proceed to shoot straight from the hip, waving goodbye to rhyme and reason. Not so with Slaven Bilic. Every time he speaks, you can tell it is with careful consideration, thought and planning. Something which appears to transcend across to his team. Gone already are the panicked long punts into the box hoping to find a West Ham head. His patient and calculated approach is already beginning to show through. With Bilic, you suspect that preparation is key in every way - none more so apparent than when he was discussing the Arsenal game. ‘The players now think about the game. Against Arsenal, we wanted

some of their players to have the ball. Not all of them – not Cazorla, not Ramsey . When they have the ball, we attack them. But others, we could rest in our positions. The theory is simple, but in practice – that is where it matters, and the players did this brilliantly. But it is just a start. The confidence is now there, but there is much more hard work to do. ‘Some people have tried to call it total football….but I don’t know. Maybe Barcelona can play and say ‘ok, let’s let our opponents have a few chances, we’ll get 25 ourselves’ but even they have times where they need players behind the ball against good opponents. It is not to sacrifice your attacking, but doing the job properly. We spent the few days before the game telling everyone ‘come on, we can do it’. Some believed, some didn’t some say maybe. But they played the way I wanted – and they did it extremely well but it is still early days.’ Early days indeed. Early days into the season,

into Bilic’s reign and also into a new philosophy at the club that has already seen an excitement from the fans that wasn’t there under Allardyce. Not that Bilic is prepared to hear anything bad said about his predecessor. ‘I have to say that Sam did a great job. It’s a very stable club. We’re not a massive club, so stability is important – which is a situation for me to build on, a very good cornerstone. Watching last year I thought it was a good season. The first part was probably the best part of a season West Ham has had for many years. The second part, not so good. But they were unlucky injuries, unlucky results, and perhaps a little bit of a lack of motivation when the team knew they were safe.’ Not that you can imagine motivation being a problem with the imposing figure of Bilic watching over you, especially with Julian Dicks alongside him. A name that at its mere mention brings a huge grin to Slaven’s face. ‘Wherever I manage, I have my usual team of two from Croatia and

one from Germany, but I always like to have a local coach – but one who I trust, and I can have in what I call my first ring (of confidants). With Julian, we played together, he was my captain, he was my room-mate and he was my friend. He was a great captain, he’s a great coach and he’s very loyal. But this is not just a friendly appointment. His football knowledge is great, and he has a superb philosophy. He’s great for this club as he is Mr West Ham. We are close, but also very different. As you have seen, I sometimes need half an hour to say something, but Julian comes in, says five things and pow! He’s nailed it. For me he’s a gift from God!’ A gift from God he may be for Slaven, but also for us West Ham fans. One of the things that was perceived to be lacking under the previous regime was a passion for the club. Not so with Bilic ‘I always say West Ham is my club. I played the best football of my career here and enjoyed every moment. It really felt like a family. After I

left, I used to check with people, and everyone says it’s the same. Sure, different faces, but same ethos. It’s a very special club, in a city I love – my son was born here – and when you throw in the fact it’s the Premier League. Wow. That’s every manager’s ambition. ‘I’ll be honest, after managing Besiktas, part of me wanted a rest. I really enjoyed my time in Turkey, but it is intense. When I made the decision to resign, it was with a plan to take a few months out to rest. But when the West Ham chairman called, I suddenly say “I don’t want a rest.”’ With his affinity towards West Ham so obvious, it begs the question as to why he ever left us in the first place ‘At the time, I’d been voted Sportsman of the Year back in Croatia. The National Team was doing well and suddenly everyone was asking me why I was involved in relegation battles and not winning trophies, or competing in the Champions League. Then Everton came in with a plan on how they were going to start challenging for the titles, how they had money to spend and where they wanted to get to and I believed it. They had wanted me before the March deadline, but I knew West Ham had tough games coming up, so I said no, I’ll sign at the end of the season.

I wanted to make sure West Ham was safe. Everton didn’t like it, but they had to accept it.’ It’s clear that Bilic is a man who has ambition. With Besiktas, he took them to the Champions League qualifiers, then the last 16 of the Europa League. Is this something he believes he can emulate with West Ham, and do our ambitions match his own? ‘With the Premier League, competition for places is tough. Many teams finish with similar points, one or two results and it all changes. If we can remain positive, we will go as high as possible.’ BBM

Passion: Slaven Bilic says West Ham can get a lot better

Morgan Amalfitano In trouble: West Ham winger Morgan Amalfitano has fallen out with Hammers boss Slaven Bilic

Should Morgan Amalfitano get a chance to redeem himself? David Meagher says the Hammers must be careful over the winger


espite the two home defeats Slaven Bilic has enjoyed a relatively positive start to life back at the Boleyn. He has played a more attacking football style, brought in entertaining players like Payet and Lanzini, taken a chance with our previously undernourished kids, and ended the 15-game Arsenal jinx. Bringing in Julian Dicks was, as he described it, ‘a gift from

God’ as a return to the family has helped us return to the West Ham way. But inevitably, the first spat has arrived. Morgan Amalfitano signed a two-year extension with West Ham in March, but his career at Upton Park has suddenly come off the rails. The Frenchman was recently banished to train with the development squad after ‘a series of misdemean-

ours’ including giving ‘attitude’ to the manager after failing to attend a team meeting. To date, Bilic has been refreshingly open in his dealings with the media and explained that Amalfitano’s punishment was to ‘maintain harmony in the first team’. However, it is less clear whether Amalfitano will make a return or will be forced out as an example to other players. Already the likes of

West Brom, Aston Villa, and even Hull are apparently interested. So what should the Hammers management team do? Amalfitano is an interesting player. At his best musketeering down the wing, at worst hanging off the margins of the action. His goals against Manchester City and Liverpool last season were highlights, but equally he can be wasteful in possession due to

his propensity for taking high risk options that are exciting when they come off but frustrating when they don’t. His signing was deemed a coup for West Ham, but perhaps the Baggies weren’t quite as disappointed to miss out as was reported. Bilic favours the 4-2-31 system which requires energetic and pacey wide players – something that is in relatively short supply in the current squad. Amalfitano fits readily into that system and with the departure of Stewart Downing we are very reliant upon the continued fitness of Payet, Moses and Antonio. On balance. our experiences of Amalfitano have been mostly positive and he would have provided a decent option to release from the bench in the defeats against Leicester and Bournemouth. He is a player who can spring a surprise and many Hammers fans hoped that he might form a useful understanding with fellow Frenchman Dimitri Payet But discipline is essential within any squad and every new management team needs to set out its stall in terms of what will not be tolerated. With six red cards already in nine competitive fixtures this year, the Hammers are a different beast to the fair-play winning squad

of last season. Of note, Bilic’s charge towards the Turkish League title last year with Besiktas was crucially undermined by their massive 10 red card haul. However, in some respects the Amalfitano row provides an excellent opportunity for Bilic and company to make an important point, but such strategies play out best if this aligned to the ability to learn and move on. With the dispute rumbling on without any sign of Amalfitano re-entering the first team fold, it looks like West Ham have lost a useful option. As the saga drags on, it’s also worth noting that the Frenchman’s wages are estimated at one and a half million quid a year which is approximately 30K a week – at that money one wonders who is suffering most, player or club? The issue also highlights one of the great challenges in today’s Premier League where player earnings are so high that it is very difficult to offload players who become surplus to requirements. Poor old Modibo Maiga was a classic case in point. Clearly unsuited to the English game, he needed to escape to other pastures where his relaxed style is more effective. However, he was trapped by the golden handcuffs of a lucrative contract and it took us

Hard to shift: West Ham found it tough to move Modibo Maiga on this year ages to get rid of him. While we all clamour for new signings, perhaps it’s worth remembering that those that don’t work out are very costly indeed. Ultimately, this episode is a great chance for the management team to demonstrate their dynamism. They have made their point about the importance of discipline but now need to show that everybody will get a fair chance.

Bilic has been open-minded in his dealings with Mauro Zarate and now surely Amalfitano should get a chance to redeem himself. During his time Allardyce was quick to deal with unacceptable behaviour by pushing players out on loan – a strategy that limits the fallout from such disputes. Let’s hope that the matter can be sorted out quickly. BBM

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Angelo Ogbonna

Ogbonna has the raw tools to be a huge success at the back David Bowden says the Italian defender can adapt to English football


s strong as an ox and as quick as a cheetah, I believe Angelo Ogbonna is going to be a more than useful acquisition to West Ham’s squad. He became the Hammers sixth summer signing when he joined from Juventus in early July and is a very welcome recruit to the Irons back four. Capped ten times by Italy, Ogbonna is known for his quick decision-making, strength on the ball, and is left footed which adds a nice balance to the back-line Despite standing at 6ft 3 inches, Ogbonna is also known for his speed and reading of the game and I have no doubts that he will be able to settle quickly in the Premier League. I’ve felt for a number of years now that we need another centre back at the club but to have secured one with such experience and pedigree is a credit to the club. The 27-year-old received praise from his new teammate James Collins who described him as a good communicator, quick and a great reader of the game. If

Class: Angelo Ogbonna has the skills to be a Premier League star

it is good enough for Ginge, it is good enough for me. Speaking to a few London-based West Ham fans that follow Juventus as their second club, they seem to think he will prove to be a very astute piece of business for the Irons. The collective opinion is that a few years ago he would have demanded a much bigger transfer fee, so it seems as though he could well prove to be

quite a coup for Slaven Bilic. Born to Nigerian parents in Cassino in Italy, he gained his Italian citizenship shortly after his 18th birthday. He plied his youth trade at local club A.S.D Nuova Cassino in Italy’s sixth division before catching the eye of Torino General Manager Antonia Comi who brought the youngster to the club for €4,000 as a 14-year-old.

He impressed as he rose through the ranks at Torino and made his debut as an 18-year-old. Dubbed as a rising star during his seven-year stay at the club, he secured a move to near neighbours and Italian giants Juventus in 2013. Despite enjoying an ever-growing reputation he found opportunities few and far between at the Old Lady appearing just 41 times during his two-year stint at the Italian champions. That doesn’t tell the whole story though, getting ahead of the superstars at Juve is a tough task in itself with Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Martin Caceres all in front of Ogbonna in the pecking order. Regardless of finding opportunities limited the 27-year-old did enjoy a very successful spell at the Turin-based club securing two-league titles and an Champions League runners-up medal before securing a move to London. Fingers crossed that his success in Italy is only the start for Angelo as he embarks on his new career with West Ham. BBM

Reece Oxford

Visions of a brighter future as Oxford graduates with honours Youngster showed his class in Premier League debut against Arsenal Big future: Reece Oxford now has the football world at his feet

LUCY WOOLFORD @lucy_whufc


hat were you doing aged 16 years and 237 days? No, I can’t remember either, but it certainly wasn’t anything life-changing like making my Premier League debut, or any kind of debut for that matter. When you put into perspective the average activities of 16-year-olds, it makes the achievements of young Reece Oxford all the more impressive. He made his West Ham first team debut against Arsenal on the first day of this season, and what a performance. His debut sent waves through the footballing world. As happy Hammers fans, we couldn’t be prouder of nurturing this ‘wonder-kid’ and letting him show Özil and co. who’s boss. For me, I knew he had a good game because I

didn’t really notice him. I know that sounds a little harsh and unobservant, but to me it’s a sign that he put in a confident performance that was worthy of the first team, in what was a pretty solid team show. His interviews afterwards, though, showed his teenage excitement and it was refreshing. His words were professional and balanced but his eyes and his smile told of his pure joy at starting a game for West

Ham in the Premier League. When asked about special moments in the game, his reply of: ‘When they brought on Sanchez,’ was a great way to reflect how much he had to metaphorically pinch himself whilst relying on his more experienced team-mates to keep his feet firmly on the ground. This dream start came after several years of hard work. Oxford joined West

Ham’s academy from Spurs’ to play for the Under 13s. It was only three years before he began training with the U21s and the senior squad. He penned his first professional contract on the same day as teammate Reece Burke, a move which Academy manager Terry Westley believed showed the commitment they have to the club. Westley told the press: ‘This makes a statement to other clubs out there that we’re not going to let our best players leave and go elsewhere to ply their trade’ – a statement we all hope to be true. With Reece’s growing confidence, he hoped that he would be ready for first team action in time to make his debut at the Olympic Stadium, an expectation that he has already clearly surpassed. He was also given the honor of captaining England’s U17s in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship this year and can proudly say that he reached the quarter-finals with the squad. There are, of course,

consequences to such a great start in a career. In this day and age, a young star, especially an English one, can’t have one great game without the hype-machines going into overdrive. Wonderful for living in the moment, but with scouts’ ears widely pinned open, hype is a dangerous game. West Ham want to be that club again, the one that keeps hold of its most valuable teenage stars in hope that they will retain their claret and blue roots and remain with the club through good times and bad. Hence, immediate calls for hushing up about this wondrous Oxford performance. Slaven Bilic increased calls to dampen the hype, except he came from the angle of protecting a teenager in the game but he’s not stupid, he knows how good an asset this kid is and he doesn’t want Mr. Abramovich. et al getting a whiff of the news. Bilic said: ‘I spoke about him after the Arsenal game, then Monday, Tuesday, Thursday. ‘We are talking about Oxford and it’s not good for me and it’s not good for him. I have no problem doing it but it’s no good for the game on Saturday.’ Bilic is right, even though we’re being constantly reminded that Reece is only 16 years old, it’s all so easy to

Mentor: Slaven Bilic will be able to help Oxford forget thanks to his commitment to the cause and all round ability. No matter what profession we’re talking about, to be 16 years old and ahead of your game is tough and Reece Oxford needs the protection of his family, management, colleagues and fans. He’s got a good role model in Mark Noble, who himself made his full West Ham debut at 17 and was a regular first teamer by the age of 20. Mark has always kept his feet on the ground and has grown to become a greatly loved and

respected member of the team. Which leads nicely into what comes next for Reece Oxford. Well, much of the same we’d all hope. His second appearance against Leicester was less than ideal, but such disappointments can happen to any player at any time. The important thing is that he dusts himself off and doesn’t get too disheartened. It won’t do him any harm to have games like he did against Ranieri’s men – it’ll help his physical development and mental strength.

For me, Bilic has got Oxford’s well being firmly in his sights and the plan is to carry on playing him for as long as he can physically and mentally handle; perhaps a rest on the bench every few matches to keep him on his toes. The future is bright for him if he can continue to work hard. It’d be a real shame if he was a ‘one season wonder’, but with the right management to boost, he’s got the composure and skill to be a longstanding West Ham hero. BBM

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Supporters’ club of the month

#6: Hammers Genova When, how and why was group founded? The group ‘Hammers Genova’ was established in January 2015. Previously, the boys of the group were part of the ‘Martelli d’Italia Sezione Genova’. After some divisions within the ‘Martelli” it was decided we would start walking by ourselves, aware that we have already had a good number of members. The group was established to bring together all West Ham fans in Genova and Liguria. How many members in your group today? How quickly has that membership risen since you founded? The group now has about 30 active members and more than 350 fans on Facebook. Every week someone gets in touch with us to know more about the

Proud: The Genova Hammers pose with their flag

group, the material, the organization of trips to London, etc. Our group meets at Poldo’s Bar, a pub in Genova, which is also our home. Here we look at the matches, we organize events on the football, we project films on English football or

Scarves out: The group in action

the English culture in general, and many many other things. How many times do members travel to games? What have been your most memorable days as a supporters’ club? We try to be present as much as possible in London, in line with the financial resources of each of us. The airport of Genova is small so every time we have to move to Milan or Pisa to take the plane and this involves additional expense. Basically we try to be in London at least 2-3 times a year. The most memorable

day was the game against Fulham won 3-0 in the 2013-2014 season, it was the first away match of the group. What are the benefits of being part of your group? Anyone who wants to get in touch with our clubs can email us athammersgenova@, look for us on Facebook and Twitter. We always try to respond to everyone as soon as possible and we are willing to send material as stickers, shirts and scarves. Being part of our group is like being part of a big family. BBM

West Ham Ladies

‘I’ll prepare West Ham Ladies as well as Real Madrid would’ David Blackmore talks to Marc Nurse about his plans for the Irons


est Ham Ladies manager Marc Nurse is looking forward to the challenge of creating a side capable of challenging for titles and trophies. There have been plenty of players come and go over the summer and the Hammers boss has set himself and his players a mid-table target for the upcoming campaign but will crank up the pressure the following season. And Nurse said he already knew plenty about the Ladies from his time working with the Crystal Palace Ladies. ‘They’ve always had a history of being a strong side but they’ve just not been able to regularly compete at the top end of the table,’ he said. ‘Of course I’m hoping that this will change but my aim for this season is to finish mid-table and do well in the cups. ‘There were quite a few players who left in the summer and we’ve brought in plenty of new faces so this season will about gelling together. ‘Next season I want us to be challenging to win the league but my task

Big plans: Marc Nurse says he wants to win things with West Ham Ladies now is to make sure we build a strong competitive team. It’s going to be a tough first season but I’m willing to do what it takes.’ He added: ‘At the moment, I’m enjoying every minute and I can’t wait for the next game to arrive – Sundays can’t come soon enough for me!’ Nurse saw the role advertised on Twitter and fresh from watching the coverage of the Women’s World Cup and the

success of the Lionesses, was inspired to apply. ‘I thought this role was perfect for me,’ he continued. ‘It fits around my working life as a secondary school PE teacher, I live in Basildon so it’s easy enough for me to get to the training ground and our home ground and it just felt like applying for this role was a natural thing for me to do. ‘I thought I would get onto the shortlist and I was confident I’d get an

interview but with the amount of interest there was in the role, I knew it would be tough. When my interview was over, I wasn’t sure how I did but I was delighted to get the call offering me the role. ‘What’s nice for me is that the chairmen and I think the same, we have the same outlook and same ambitions. They are doing some incredible work off the pitch and everything is really positive – there’s a great vibe around the club at the moment.’ He continued: ‘The Ladies were very welcoming when I met them. For the first training session I just watched them train and the next few sessions it was a case of getting involved more, showing them my ideas and how I want them to play. ‘Our pre-season wasn’t the best because of the sides we were up against. The teams were in leagues below us and I didn’t learn a lot about the players from these games. ‘It would be hard for any manager to take things away to work on when your team wins

16-0. I would’ve liked to have played teams above us because it would’ve helped me to see where we are at and what we need to do to get to that next level. ‘We did, however, learn a lot from our first game when we lost 5-0 at Coventry. We were missing six key players who would’ve all started but I took away a lot from that experience.’ Aside from the exposure offered to the Ladies after Julian Dicks left his post as manager to join Slaven Bilic’s coaching staff, the Hammers enjoyed an incredible amount of coverage in India after goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan became the country’s first woman to play English league football. Not that column inches was at the forefront of Nurse’s mind when he recruited the shot-stopper. ‘She was training with Millwall but her visa doesn’t allow her to play in the Women’s Super League so she joined us and then it went mad,’ Nurse continued. ‘There was huge interest from India and the story appeared on most of India’s major TV networks and news organisations. I know Aditi has been on TV over there and it’s great for the West Ham Ladies but also the West Ham brand as a whole. ‘When she signed, I honestly wasn’t thinking about the PR or marketing side of what her signature might mean

Through: West Ham Ladies beat Crystal Palace 3-0

– I just needed to sign a good goalkeeper!’ As for the challenge of trying to recruit women players, something former boss Dicks described as incredibly difficult during his time in charge, Nurse added: ‘I’ve got quite a few friends who work in schools and colleges and I’m speaking to them all on a regular basis. ‘They’ve been sending girls over to us and hopefully this will help us get good players

on board.’ As for his coaching inspirations, the Arsenal fan pointed at Arsene Wenger but also to Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho. ‘I like the way he is. If I was a player, I would like to play for him. I like the confidence he has and his winning mentality.’ He added: ‘My big thing, as a coach, is being as prepared as I can be. There’s no point going into a game and having no clue what you are doing or having any

information about the other team. ‘You can’t be going into games blind and guessing when you are running a team. For me, it doesn’t matter if you are in charge of the West Ham Ladies or Real Madrid, you need to plan and prepare all the time. ‘You need to keep looking at everything you need both on and off the pitch to maximise your side’s potential.’ BBM

The last word

This is Slaven’s team now so the adventure starts for real Julian Shea claims the transfer window has transformed West Ham


t the end of the January transfer window, West Ham co-owner David Gold famously told fans ‘Don’t go to bed’, before a big fat nothing happened. But the morning after the August transfer window shut, West Ham fans would have woken up wondering if they were still dreaming. In short, manager Slaven Bilic has played a blinder. His deals, signing Nottingham Forest winger Michail Antonio and Hull striker Nikica Jelavic, and landing Barcelona midfielder Alex Song and Chelsea winger Victor Moses on loan, mean the new manager for the club’s new era has now bought an entire new team of players. A good window can make all the difference to a team’s season, as West Ham found to their cost in 2002-03, the first time the window was introduced. Injuries to Paolo Di Canio and Freddie Kanoute saw the club’s first-choice strikers sidelined for lengthy periods of time, leaving 19-year-old Jermain Defoe to carry the attacking burden. And we all know how that season

Happy: Slaven Bilic enjoyed deadline day

turned out. Mercifully West Ham’s failure to do business this January did not come at such a heavy price, but somewhere in a parallel universe, there is the reality where Emmanuel Adebayor did sign, the team had a better end of season, and Sam Allardyce received a new contract. In the real world, however, none of those things happened, which is why it is Bilic who was trusted with the spending money – and to spectacular effect.

The signing of his fellow Croat, Jelavic, is clearly his pick. A background playing in Austria and Scotland may not be the most accurate of form guides, but the 30-year-old has a decent amount of Premier League experience now and was a fan favourite at Everton before joining Hull, so knows what is expected of him and has shown he is up to it. Also, having given him his professional (Hajduk Split) and international debuts, Bilic clearly re-

gards Jelavic as someone he can trust. Antonio has been around the block quite a bit for a 25-yearold, but started every league game for Forest last season and was named their player of the year. He has continued that form this season, and could turn out to be inspired business. Song arrived on loan amid much fanfare last season, initially making a huge impact, before going off the boil. When fit, however, he can make a huge difference, and hopefully a better atmosphere at the club than last season might inspire him to the heights again. Moses is an enigma – a headline grabber at Crystal Palace whose career has spluttered since, but if he can find his form, the thought of him and Dimitri Payet in the same team will have Irons fans drooling. Bilic has been given the money and opportunity to stamp his mark on the team and shape it as he wants – and he has taken it. Dead wood has been removed – from now on, this is officially Slaven Bilic’s Claret and Blue Army. The adventure starts here. BBM

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Blowing Bubbles #51  

In this issue: *Exclusive interview with West Ham co-owner David Sullivan on his plan to keep the Irons' throne *Exclusive columns from ex-H...

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