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INSIDE: David Gold on his 10 years in the Irons hot seat BY FANS, FOR FANS BLOWING-BUBBLES.CO.UK

DECEMBER 2019 #98

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Gold and Sullivan are not perfect but we could have worse owners T hey came, they saw but I’m sure David Gold and David Sullivan would even agree West Ham aren’t close to becoming the all-conquering side they’d hoped we’d be when they took full control of the club 10 years ago. Yet while both Gold and Sullivan have been heavily criticised over the years, sometimes fairly, often very unfairly, things could have been a lot worse for the club had the two West Ham fans not taken the plunge in January 2010. We were in a huge

mess back then, and during a chat with me recently, David Gold admitted if he went back 10 years to advise the 2010 David Gold, he would question his logic. Why? Because the basket case of a club they found themselves taking control of a decade ago was in more trouble than they thought. ‘Every cupboard we opened another skeleton fell out,’ speaks volumes of the state our club was in and the work that was needed to be done to ensure our claret

and blue ship was steadied. I would go as far as to say they worked harder than any other potential owner to make sure West Ham United had a future because they loved the club. I’m not convinced another investor - particularly from abroad - would have stuck at it, and maintained a passionate interest, especially after our relegation season under Avram Grant. Have a great Christmas and Happy 2020!

David

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The big interview: David Gold

‘I’ve no regrets leaving Upton Park, we had to move forward’

David Gold reflects on his 10 years at West Ham and talks London Stadium, why he appointed Avram Grant and why we’re not in the Champions League yet...

DAVID BLACKMORE

@DavidBlackm0re

‘I

remember it so vividly, like it was yesterday,’ David Gold replies when I remind him that next month marks 10 years since he and David Sullivan took over West Ham. The anniversary date is January 19 and back in 2010 the joint owners set out early objectives of addressing the imbalance of our squad, and tackling the “crazy wages” some players were earning. Then came the pledge, by David Sullivan I might add, of taking West Ham into the Champions League with their ‘seven-year plan’, which would involve spending ‘lots of money’ and also moving West Ham from Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium.

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Business partners: David Sullivan bought the club with David Gold in January 2010 Sullivan also, you may recall, pledged his support for our then manager Gianfranco Zola by telling the media: ‘We appointed four managers and parted company with two at Birmingham in 16 years. We believe in our managers and give them the time and support they need.’ Move forward 10

years, and I’m sat across Gold in his office at Ann Summer’s HQ on the outskirts of Croydon reminding him of the promises made. I pointed out while they only had four managers during their 16 years at Birmingham, they’ve had six in 10 years at West Ham. My first question for

Gold: If he could travel back in time today and give some words of advice to the 2010 David Gold, what would he say? ‘The first thing I’d say is: “Are you sure?” Not in a million years would I have touched West Ham had it not been for the fact I was a West Ham fan from birth,’ he answered. ‘It came so soon after we left Birmingham as well. The plan was for us to take a year off and visit other clubs before deciding our next move. I’d gone to Charlton, Brighton, I had conversations with Simon Jordan at Palace, and also the then chairman of Southampton. ‘At the time, they were all basket cases and then West Ham became an option and that was the worst out of the lot. But the worst was to come when, having done the deal, every cupboard we opened, another skeleton fell out. ‘Slowly but surely we got to the bottom of things, we cleared out


Frank: David Gold admits running a Premier League club is tough

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a lot of the deadwood and Karren Brady was relentless in getting us back on our feet – but then we got relegated, which set us back.’ As for the comments about Champions League football by 2017, Gold added: ‘What we should’ve said was that in seven years we were hoping to be knocking on the door instead of saying we will be in the Champions League places. ‘I’ve certainly learnt a lot from the things that we’ve said but you’ve got to understand we said things like that with the very best of intentions based on the knowledge that we had at the time that we could make it happen.’ So what’s been the best thing to have happened during Gold’s 10 years at the helm at West Ham? ‘The move to the Olympic Stadium – without a shadow of a doubt,’ he replies promptly. ‘Despite the anger from some fans, I will never alter my stance on this. I knew back in 2010 that this football club had more chance of competing with our rivals, particularly our rivals in London Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs - by moving to the Olympic Stadium. ‘We were miles behind them in terms of stadia but now I think we’ve shown glimpses of having a platform to springboard to

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New home: The move to London Stadium is the most controversial part of Gold and Sullivan’s legacy

seriously challenge our London rivals, thanks to our fantastic fanbase. ‘Is the stadium perfect? No, it’s not. Why? Because the people building the Olympic Stadium had a firm belief that football would never be played there and that it must always remain an athletics stadium. ‘From where we sit, there’s like 20 yards that the stadium could have been brought for-

ward had the hop, skip and jump been placed on the other side. How many people really watch hop, skip and jump? Seriously? ‘This left us with a legacy of that gap from the first row of seats to the pitch on that side. ‘But that aside, we’ve got to come to the realisation – and I think many, many fans have – that this is our stadium, this is our future, and this is our opportunity. We are

certainly not burdened with a billion pound debt either. ‘What I hope we can do in the future is negotiate to ensure the stadium is only used for football and perhaps sports like baseball and American football but not athletics. We’ve got to be realistic, from a financial point of view, that it doesn’t make sense to continue having athletics at this stadium.’


What would Gold have done differently in the past decade? ‘I wish I’d kept my mouth shut more. I regret saying that the seats would be “this” close to the pitch and then that didn’t happen. ‘It didn’t happen because of the roof. We’ve got the largest free-supporting roof structure in Europe but to get it over another 30 rows of seats would have cost untold millions and they just couldn’t do it. ‘We understood this and we had to adjust our expectations accordingly and that meant we were going to be further away from the pitch on the west side. ‘But we will be able to bring the seats in at the goal ends, that’s going to happen and remember we are still only in our fourth season at our new home. ‘Every month, you walk into the stadium and there’s another thing done. If someone hadn’t visited the stadium for a season or maybe a couple of years, they would see a big change to how it once was.’ Moving onto the six managers the club has employed during his time as co-owner, I ask Gold for a summary of his memories of dealing with each of them. ‘It’s difficult to summarise each manager when I could write a

Mistake: Avram Grant interviewed well but took West Ham down story on each of them,’ Gold replies. ‘Zola was great but his assistant, Steve Clarke, I couldn’t work with him. He wasn’t a good fit for West Ham. The relationship between him and us wasn’t sustainable but I liked Zola very much. He was a proper footballing person. ‘But we decided to let him go because we needed to change it to avoid being relegated the next season and

I promise you, if you were in the interview with Avram Grant, you would have employed him. ‘His enthusiasm, his charm, his footballing knowledge, his connections, everything about him was perfect during our interviews with him and at that time we thought he was the best man for the job. ‘But it didn’t work. Sometimes you get these things, some-

times you do your due diligence and sometimes you get them wrong and you’re surprised but OK, we moved on. ‘After being relegated to the Championship, we brought in Allardyce because we thought he was the best man to get us out of that division. ‘He should have got us out easier mind! Looking back it’s fantastic from a fan point of view. We went to Wembley, and it was so exciting but it wasn’t for us. It was nail-biting and frightening after they equalised because you’re thinking we’re the favourites but we are going to get beat here and remain in the Championship and then we got that goal. ‘I still watch that winning goal from time to time. I’ve got big pictures printed of our celebrations and it was hugely exciting. ‘But let’s not forget that we shouldn’t have been in the playoffs. With the players that we had we should have won that league by five points and we didn’t. ‘Although Sam did his job and he will tell everyone for the rest of his life that he got West Ham out of the Championship and back into the Premier League, he did do it the hard way. We then gave him the instruction; “Keep us up

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Sam” and he did.’ Moving onto Slaven Bilic and Gold smiles as he remembers the Croat’s first season in charge – our final at the Boleyn. ‘A lot of things went our way that season. Being the last season at Upton Park, I really wanted us to win our last match and we did – what an evening to remember that was. ‘We ended up finishing seventh – our highest position for many, many years. We had a superstar in Payet and we were playing wonderful football. Yes if VAR had been about that season, we could have won at Old Trafford and got to the FA Cup semi final but I don’t think anyone could have asked for more unless they were being greedy. ‘That season was absolutely amazing and it sent us off to a new adventure – an adventure that no other club in England has done by moving into the Olympic Stadium. ‘But then things went wrong for Bilic when we lost Payet. I remember him being drained by his efforts to try and keep him. ‘Bilic did everything he could to keep Payet. He pleaded, he offered new contracts, bonuses, all kinds of things but he couldn’t win because all Payet had in his mind was getting back to his wife and his children.’

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Great season: Dimitri Payet was the star of West Ham’s fantastic final year at Upton Park

Moyes arrived at London Stadium after the club parted ways with Bilic and Gold believes the former Everton boss could have enjoyed a longer spell as manager had he managed at a different time. ‘Moyes was the perfect manager for that moment in time. I liked him and I had high regard for him. He took over a damaged

ship and had so little time - half a season, made one purchase, which was a complete failure, but he was very easy to work with. ‘His mandate was to keep us up which he did. But by this time, we’d arrived at the moment where we had built up some reserves and we had an aspiration and a desire to push the club forward. In order to achieve this

we felt we needed a world class manager and we just felt it was the Pellegrini magic that was needed at our football club. ‘Certainly, I believe, at a different time in our history, David Moyes could have been West Ham manager for many years.’ Our conversation took place before our disastrous October and November fixtures but I suspect Gold still currently holds Manuel Pellegrini in the same regard today as he did when we spoke. ‘The arrival of Pellegrini gave us confidence in spending our money. He approved the players, he made the final call and I’ve always admired his quiet, authoritative way that he goes about his work. ‘His reputation was a powerful factor when appointing him – how could you not support him with what he has managed to achieve?’ While Gold believes West Ham are closing the gap on the likes of Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea, he has tipped Liverpool and Manchester City to dominate the titles in England for years to come. ‘There is a huge gulf between the top two and the rest of the league. Manchester United are no longer guaranteed that they are going to be in the Champions League –


those days for them are over. ‘Manchester City will be there for a long time – just like Barcelona and Real Madrid have been in Spain. These are super wealthy football clubs. Liverpool are blessed with having a top quality manager who has been there, done that and he has arguably the best forward line in the world.’ As the opening of the January transfer window rapidly approaches, Gold doesn’t believe West Ham will be investing in too many new recruits. ‘It’s an emergency period. That was the whole idea behind it

but for many years, it became a period where a few clubs spent big to try and stay up. Now, if they were to announce we’d no longer have it, I don’t think it would bother most clubs. ‘Most clubs do all their big business at the beginning of the season and use January to recruit an area or position in an emergency. ’Having said that, you could find there will be more activity this January than in previous years. If Manchester United, for example, find themselves mid-table, could they go out and spend £200m on players?’ BBM

Star manager: Jurgen Klopp has made a huge impact at Liverpool

Looking for the perfect Christmas present for the fan in your life? BY FANS, FOR FANS

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We reveal how West Ham can solve their defensive problems! BY FANS, FOR FANS SEPTEMBER 2018

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YOUR BUMPER GUIDE TO THE NEW SEASON

SQUAD GOALS

Can record-signing Sebastien Haller transform Manuel Pellegrini’s side into top six contenders?

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10 years of Gold and Sullivan

How have Gold and Sullivan got on with the bold 10-point plan? Blowing Bubbles takes an objective look at our owners legacy after a decade

ROBERT BANKS

@RobBanks68

W

ith the tenth anniversary of Sullivan and Gold’s ownership of the club approaching I thought it was the right time to consider my thoughts on their tenure. Fair to say I am not a huge fan, but I like to think my reasoning is somewhat more objective than some of the name-calling that gets thrown around on social media and in the stands on occasions. Firstly, look at the context of their arrival at the club. It is often said that they “saved” us. I say that is nonsense. It is true we were in a mess, an even bigger mess than we are in now, following the conclusion of the Tevez affair and the collapse of the Icelandic Banks. Both of these incidents had put us

All change: David Sullivan poses with a West Ham shirt after buying the club in January 2010 in deep trouble due to the incompetence, in my opinion, of previous owners. West Ham was previous chairman Gudmundsson’s only viable asset but it seemed that the sale of the club would not even match what he had paid for it, let alone the £300m plus that he owed in personal debts. The club’s new asset management owners

at that time, CB Holdings indicated that they would continue to allow the club to run as normal, but a sale would be sought within three years. So there was no immediate hurry to sell. Tony Fernandez, Intermarket and an Italian consortium had all show an interest but firm bids did not materialise. “Sugo” appeared to win a

race with no finish line, almost by default. I thought it might be interesting to look back at the ten-point pledge made by Sugo at the start of their first full season in charge, and see what, if anything has been achieved. 1. Appoint the right manager Fair to say this has been a mixed bag – the appointment of Avram Grant was nothing short of a disaster. Allardyce a necessary evil, Bilic an inspired choice, Moyes hinted at desperation. With Pellegrini, they seemed to finally get it spot on but with the manager needs to come investment. 2. Sign new players In terms of playing staff it’s fair to say spending has increased and we have generally signed a better quality of player than the McCarthys, Midos and Illans that arrived in their first window. But it’s not just about numbers. You can spend a lot of money on players that turn out to be average. In terms of recruitment

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how have we closed the gap on the top six, if at all? I’ll leave that to you to answer. 3. More investment in the Academy The academy continues to produce talented players but with the exception maybe of Declan Rice (admittedly a once in a generation Academy player) and maybe Grady Diangana, how many have been given a decent chance at first team level? There is little point developing these players if you simply farm them out to League One clubs. 4. Continue to clear the debt Greater minds than mine have discussed this point - and failed to find a path through the smoke and mirrors of football finances. My guess is the debt is at least manageable as long as we remain a Premier League club. 5. Freeze season ticket prices for renewals Season tickets have remained good value (as long as you don’t count actual match results) but then they have had the luxury of almost doubling the capacity of the stadium in their tenure. 6. Build the status and image of the club This is probably the point where I feel they have failed hardest. We used to be everyone’s second club. Now everyone hates us. The perception is

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Youth team: Declan Rice is the best player to come out of the Academy in the last decade that we have piggy-backed into a publicly-funded stadium in order to compete in the Premier League. Within the club, the perception is that they have sold our history and our soul to try and achieve that. They have created disharmony and I have never seen West Ham fans so divided. The can-

celled march in 2018 did nothing to enhance our image. This could all have been avoided. See point 10. 7. Make it enjoyable to come and watch Ah. Actually this is probably the point where they have failed hardest. 8. Get closer to the community I do believe the club

does excellent work in this area, but then, they always did. 9. Go for the Olympic Stadium Whole books have been written on the subject. There is no point crying over spilt milk. We have to make the best of it. But there can be no doubt that moving stadium was part of the plan from day one, and I feel that it would not have mattered if there had been a properly organised fan protest over this throughout the six years it took for the plan to become a reality, they would not have listened. Every man and his dog from then London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, down to the average West Ham fan, said this could not be allowed to happen, yet somehow it did. A lot of promises were made about the next level. The words “World Class” were used too frequently. We wait. 10. Listen to supporters Ah. Scrub points six and seven THIS is the area they have failed most spectacularly. In 2010 they said: ‘Arguably the most important of all is our commitment to listen to what you have to say. We know we are just the custodians of this club. You who follow us every week, whether near or far, are the


true owners. Whether talking to you online or in print, or face to face at fan forums, we will be open, transparent and available.’ What we have ended up with is a communication line only with a supporters board made up of fans selected by the club. Several independent groups have offered their services but been rejected. It hasn’t helped of course that there has been a lot of in-fighting among those groups. But at least those groups have elected representatives. The OSB does some really good work but Is no reason why the representatives in each area should not be directly elected by the fans. Overall conclusion? Gold and Sullivan probably no worse than any other owners in terms of spending, player and manager recruitment. But they took us away from our spiritual home. When you do something like that it changes the make-up of the club irreversibly. If you make a fundamental change you need to get results quickly to keep people on side. You need to show that progress is being made with tangible improvements in league positions, quarterfinals, semi-finals, finals. Europe. That’s not happen-

Work in progress: West Ham’s move to London Stadium is still being refined

ing. It shows no sign of happening. The longer we wallow around, failing to gain ground on the top six, the harder it will become to attract the managers and players that see us as something other than an opportunity to make a few quid. We can’t go back to the Boleyn. But now we seem to be stuck

between the devil and the deep blue, with no tangible assets other than a group of players who cannot seem to be bothered. If these owners are not prepared to spend the necessary cash to reach that next level then as soon as they are permitted to, they need to find some who are. BBM

Looking for the perfect Xmas gift? From the author of An Irrational Hatred of Luton, West Ham Till I Die and The Legacy of Barry Green come his account of the last 15 years at West Ham. They have been complicated. There’s been a lot to digest. So if you need a blow-byblow account of the traumas of relegation in 2003 and 2011, the Tevez affair, the Icelandic banking collapse, the move to the Olympic stadium, coupled with the highs of promotion in 2005 and 2012, the FA Cup final and a myriad of other mini triumphs and disasters, explained and recounted in a light-hearted and humorous way, then this book is for you. Laugh along with the highs and the lows and remember all those players and matches you had forgotten. You can get a copy signed direct from the author using twitter @robbanks68, look for the book’s Facebook page, or simply go to Amazon.

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Get over the longer nights by treating yourself... We reveal how West Ham can solve their defensive problems!

BY FANS, FOR FANS

BY FANS, FOR FANS SEPTEMBER 2018

BLOWING-BUBBLES.CO.UK #94 AUGUST 2019

BLOWING-BUBBLES.CO.UK #84

INSIDE

YOUR BUMPER GUIDE TO THE NEW SEASON

SQUAD GOALS

Can record-signing Sebastien Haller transform Manuel Pellegrini’s side into top six contenders?

28

HEZ

S SANC

: CARLO

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THE HAMMERS’ HERO PULLS NO PUNCHES IN HIS EXCLUSIVE COLUMN

Anderson is struggling

Out of sorts: Felipe Anderson is struggling for form and confidence at the moment

It’s hard to believe just how wrong our season has gone I

f someone had said to you it was going to be as bad as it was in October and November, you just wouldn’t believe them. Especially when you consider that in September we were in the top five, looking up and looking ahead to a good season, and then we were in the bottom five suddenly looking over our shoulder. There is so much to sort out but the games don’t get any easier and in December they

come thick and fast. What has been disappointing is that we had games we should have won, especially the games at home like Newcastle. At the start of the season, you look at the games we’ve had and you could see the ones that, on paper, we should be getting three points and we haven’t. We haven’t even got a point. I think what’s gone wrong has been a combination of things.

Fabianski being injured has been a major factor. There has been a lack of confidence in Roberto and that has spread throughout the team. There have also been games where I think the players picked for certain games haven’t been correct. The prime example of that was against Newcastle. They had one of the quickest players in the league and we’ve put Pablo Zabaleta against him.

The way Anderson is playing at the moment, I don’t think there would be any qualms if he was on the bench. Just because he is our record signing and the money we’ve paid for him, he shouldn’t be a confirmed starter. If you are not performing, you are like everyone else. It would send out a good signal to everyone else if he was on the bench for a game or two. We can see that Anderson isn’t quite reaching the heights we think he can so surely the manager can see this too? There have been people talking about how West Ham have been ‘found out’ and how Pellegrini isn’t really changing things depending on the opposition. But now he really needs to look at changing things.

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Pub talk

The Blowing Bubbles team settle down to put the world to rights...

H

ow great was it to not only beat Chelsea away from home but also get one over on Frank Lampard? Meirion Williams: I had this one down for a loss so it was great to win. As for getting one over on Frank, to be honest, that was pretty insignificant as despite his blue leanings, I still see Frank as one of our own and wish him well in his managerial career. Geoff Hillyer: I know you won’t believe me but I always thought we had a chance. Chelsea were due a loss and we were due a win. It’s always nice to beat Chelsea away, made my Saturday! Lucy Woolford: No you’re right Geoff, we don’t believe you! No actually, I didn’t feel

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Unhappy: Frank Lampard suffered a rare home defeat as West Ham stunned Chelsea as doom and gloom about this fixture beforehand, I thought we might get a point. The victory was so, so sweet because Frank’s in charge. Good time to start performing again!

How wonderful was it for you to see the scenes at the end of the game with the likes of Declan Rice running over to hug David Martin as well as Martin’s reaction and later his hug in

the stands with his Dad? MW: it was simply fantastic to see and shows that Declan has real leadership qualities. As for David Martin celebrating with his dad, that really showed how much this meant to him and again was great too see. He has had to wait so long for this opportunity to start and must have thought it was never going to happen. The only other thing we now need to see is Alan Mc Nightmare celebrating that he is no longer rated our worst keeper of all time as that accolade now goes to a certain Spanish keeper and I don’t mean Adrian. GH: Seeing that image was one of the highlights of the season so far for me.


The obvious togetherness of the team was a joy to see, and yes Meirion I agree that it was great that Declan Rice took the lead. LW: It was beautiful and what football should all be about. That image will become iconic. Like Merrion said, he’s waited so long for that chance and it meant so much to him. I thought it was an emotional win anyway, so this just topped it off perfectly and Declan knew what it meant. I think we’ve found our number two ‘keeper. Taking our Chelsea game out of the mix, why has it been so bad for us of late? MW: The bad run coincided with Fabianski’s injury and that seemed to have completely unsettled the whole side. It also seemed that Pelegrini lost his way and his stubbornness really affected our results. The Chelsea result was great to see but let’s not forget that one swallow doesn’t make a summer. GH: I agree Meirion, the Fabianski injury was a major blow, but I also think the loss of Antonio affected us too. As a West Ham fan all I want is to see us try our best and I think the work ethic went missing, so I was pleased to see that return against Chelsea. LW: Yep, as the other two said, Fabi-

Impact player: Michail Antonio has made a difference since returning from injury

anski getting injured completely changed the season. The team dynamics, the confidence, everything seemed different from that moment. It was as bad as the other seasons we’ve been relegated in recent years. But in typical West Ham fashion, we’ll turn it on when it’s ’squeaky bum time’! What’s been different about Antonio since he’s come back from injury? MW: Antonio seems

to have a huge ego and no doubt loves to see himself as our returning hero and saviour. He does though look the real deal, I just worry about his resilience as he had proved to be a bit injury prone. GH: I think we’ve had bigger egos than Antonio at the club before Meirion! I like the fact that he works hard and gives the team so much energy - and he knows where the back of the net is. Put it this way - who would

I have at the moment, Anderson or Antonio? No contest. LW: I agree Geoff, ‘ego’ is a bit harsh. I think we can put his confidence mostly down to banter but he’s got the right attitude, works hard and can actually score goals. I think he needs to become a more refined footballer to gain accolades but there’s no doubt we missed him. Coming back against Spurs, he was clearly the best player on the pitch. BBM

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Now is not the time to panic, West Ham must give Pellegrini more time L

et it be said, I don’t like Roberto at all and, to be honest, he doesn’t even look like a goalkeeper to me - he looks like an outfield player who has somehow found his way between the sticks. We might have got away with him over a couple of games but the idea of him still being in the mix to start this month is a serious worry and it’s hardly any wonder the team suffered a crisis of confidence. The lads would have known what to expect when they saw him on the training ground and the worries will have been there for some time and it really is showing. There can be no question when that happens results are going to be affected - the back four and Roberto seem to have little in common and the defenders clearly

18

Under pressure: Manuel Pellegrini has been linked with the sack have little faith in him! After Burnley’s performance that can only got worse and I thought the manager should’ve put Alvin’s son Dave Martin between the posts against Spurs.

We know he had a bad game in a Cup match on television but before that he had performed impeccably and has to be a better bet than the Spanish lad. It would have been

unfair on Roberto himself and the team to keep playing him and there has to be a change. It’s was quite clear to me as a former keeper the bloke needed to drop to the bench at Chelsea. These are worrying times and things needws to change - the goalkeeping situation had to be addressed right then. End of. I can’t remember a team collapsing into such form as we saw earlier this season it’s alarming but I don’t agree with those who are calling for Manuel Pellegrini’s head. I agreed with the appointment and it was too early to be giving the sort of mauling he was getting on social media - which is really the problem these days. Managers got a far better deal in my day when that stuff wasn’t being spouted all over the place.


He’s a top manager and there’s no doubt in my mind that he will sort it out so long as the players get their acts together. Make no mistake, if they are out of form and incapable of what the manager demands, there’s not a lot the boss can do about it. The players need to get together and sort it out as they did in my day! It happened in teams under John Lyall and back then I had a back four of Ray Stewart, Alvin Martin, Bonzo and Frank. The problem was ours and we had to sort out so that’s what needs to happen now. There’s a huge con-

fidence crisis and that leads to mistakes on the pitch but these are good players who are going through a lousy spell of games but they will bounce back make no mistake. They are good players but they really do need to take responsibility and stop hiding behind ‘it’s the manager’s fault’ excuses. They are highly-paid professionals, they go out with their instructions and know exactly how the boss wants them to play. It’s down to them. So for now we need to get off the manager’s back. This is no time for panic, this is no time for the club to sack anybody. BBM

Bad spells: John Lyall is one of West Ham’s best ever managers but he went through a few rough patches

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the best read hammers news site by far with exclusive news and interviews day by day top names and regular contributors including david gold, frank mcavennie, johh moncur and more at least 10 stories each day, regular ticket competitions, videos from hammerschat, vines from west ham social

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Where did it all go wrong?

Six reasons West Ham’s season has taken a turn for the worse There isn’t a simple explanation for why our form has fallen off a cliff edge

in the first five games that Roberto was between the sticks, the Hammers’ expected goals against was 8.07 (which as it was left them the sixth worst in the league). To make matters worse, the Spaniard conceded 11. At the point of injury we knew that this was going to be a worry for West Ham’s season, but we didn’t realise just how disastrous it would be.

LUCY WOOLFORD @lucy_whufc

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t’s fair to say that this season has taken a turn for the worse, isn’t it? August optimism has quickly slipped into looking over our shoulders within touching distance of the dreaded ‘R’ word. Talk of managerial changes is a complete flip side to the chat of mid-September when things were going swimmingly. On the surface, it’s difficult to see just what went wrong. But perhaps it’s not one incident that has led to a downturn in fortune, maybe it’s a perfect storm of events. League Cup woes Our heavy defeat to Oxford United certainly didn’t help anything. Manuel Pellegrini picked a somewhat weakened side to face

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Injured: Lukasz Fabianski has been a big loss the League One side, however there were still plenty of first team players starting and on the bench. This performance may have affected confidence and was probably the result of complacency, which should have been a warning that attitudes weren’t right. It was also the West Ham debut of Roberto in goal, which leads nicely to

my next point. Filling the Fabianski void The sharp decline in results and performances coincides with the injury of Łukasz Fabiański. Picking up just one point in six games following his injury and shipping 14 goals in the process, we’re seeing far too many unforced errors. Statistics show that

We’ve been rumbled Pellegrini knows what (and who) he likes. He has a system with the players he prefers to utilize and he generally doesn’t deviate too much from that. It seems as though teams coming up against West Ham have worked it all out. They know how to set up against us and how to exploit our weaknesses. There have been questionable substitutions made on occasion too in favour of mixing up tactics and style of play. Leaking like a sieve.


Missing the target. In the first six games of the season, the Hammers defense let in seven goals and kept three clean sheets. In the six games to follow, they conceded 13 goals with zero clean sheets. Not only that, the amount of shots coming their way increased, exposing a faltering midfield. The first six games saw 27 shots on target for the opposition, while the later six games allowed 44 shots on target for opponents. While the ‘keeper has a lot to answer for, the players in front of him also haven’t stepped up. The attacking force is also leaving a lot to be desired. In the six games before playing Bournemouth, West Ham were taking 12.1 shots per game, on average. The season average up to game 12 dropped to 10.4. Touches in the opposition box have also dropped by 6.4% over the season so far and average goals per game is down to a lowly 0.8, down by 0.6. Confidence and hard work There’s clearly a lack of self-belief for many players. The more defeats that come our way, the harder it’s going to be to get that confidence back. Players that promised so much this

Out of sorts: Sebastien Haller has lost his place in the side after a rough few weeks

season are struggling to perform since mid-September. Haller started so well and seems to have gone missing, Yarmolenko made a triumphant return only to look off the pace in the last few games, even Declan Rice hasn’t seemed himself and has made a few costly errors. The team as a whole isn’t putting in enough work compared to the opposition. In every game this season (up to and including the Spurs defeat) the

Hammers have been outrun by their opponents. Statistics also show that teams make quicker attacking progress versus West Ham than against any other team. New recruits disappointing West Ham fans were initially excited by new signings made over the summer, but it seems they’re struggling to impress. Following an initial impact, Haller looks off the boil. Fornals never really gave us anything

to shout about. Ajeti hasn’t had a chance to shine. Roberto has been truly awful. This comes after letting Grady Diangana go out on loan, a player who had showed potential at times last season. Also failing to renew Adrian’s contract is now looking like a huge error. Losing Arnautovic was inevitable, but the club hasn’t really moved mountains to make sure a proven replacement was found to take us to the ‘next level’. BBM

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Games to save our season

Christmas offers hope, and we can grab a few wins this year! Our festive fixtures aren’t too bad and a good run could get us back on track

MEIRION WILLIAMS

@meirionw

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hose of us of a certain age will remember the old football saying of: ‘West Ham go down like the Christmas decorations’. This correlation stems back to the 1975-76 season where we had topped the table after 15 games but then had a spectacular fall from grace gaining just 14 points from the remaining 27 games and finishing in 18th place. Luckily in those days there were 22 teams in the league so at least we were safe from relegation. But what of this year? It seems that the festive season could be a real indicator of just where we will end up come May 2020. It’s a bit of an odd festive season for us

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Happy hunting ground: West Ham have a decent record at Southampton and there seems unusually to be a lack of games before that mad rush when all the bank holidays hit. The postponement of the Liverpool game could be a double edged sword. If we suddenly go on a run at the start of December it could crush momentum but if we continue to haemorrhage goals and points it could be seen as a time to regroup. It may be an op-

portunity to bring our walking wounded back into the frame and of course the transfer window will be open. It’s a confusing time at West Ham so let’s see who we will be playing over those few weeks. Well up first before that free weekend is our visit to St Mary’s to take on Southampton. The team from the south coast had failed to win in their first six home games and during that time they

received a real drubbing from Leicester. They need to turn their season around quickly or relegation could beckon. The form guide for our visits doesn’t offer much help. Of our 11 visits to St Mary’s, we have won three, drawn four and lost four, a real mixed bag. When the game takes place Southampton will have come off some winnable games


and we will have just completed a really tough schedule. Will Southampton have the momentum or be in free fall? I can only see a point here but we won last season so this could be the game to move things forward. After all the turkey and cranberry sauce it’s back to a rush of games and the first one is the annual Boxing Day away fixture this time against Crystal Palace. Palace are a really mixed bag, we should have beaten them at the London Stadium but instead imploded allowing Zaha to have his say. This should be pay back time. But it does seem that all that Christmas pudding and turkey weigh heavy on our players as we haven’t won on Boxing Day since 2010 and during that time we even lost to lowly Swansea 4-1 and thus the omens are not good. As for Palace they are having their usual season flirting with relegation, I see only a draw again out of this one. Finally just before the end of the year we get a home tie, the only problem is that it is against high flying Leicester City. Brendan Rodgers really has got the Foxes on the move and they have cer-

Dangerman: Jamie Vardy is in red hot form tainly progressed this season. There were three teams at the end of last season where it looked as if they could challenge for that top six spot, Leicester were one of those as was Everton and West Ham. We need to be in great form to get anything out of this one. Just like buses, you wait for one to come along and two appear as just three days after the Foxes we entertain Bournemouth on New

Year’s Day. We have a pretty good record for ties held over the 1st and 2nd January and this could be our first real opportunity to pick up maximum points. We do struggle when we play Bournemouth so don’t expect a goal fest but a win at the start of the year would be a real boost. After the Cherries we have the third round tie in the FA cup after which we return to the

league with a Friday night fixture up in Yorkshire and our friendly rivalry with the Blades. Now this is going to be a tricky one Sheffield United has surprised many and are really holding their own in the Premier League but could our visit be the start of a slide similar to that if their near neighbours Bradford a few years ago? The television companies clearly see this as a feisty tie hence why it is live on television. The game though has, in my eyes, score draw all over it . So that’s it a month of our season, and with the horrendous fixture list during the end of November and beginning of December a thing of the past, it looks like five games of which, all bar Leicester, seem winnable. I’m never great at predictions but six points should be the minimum target. But this is West Ham and we all know we can be summed up in one word: unpredictable. One thing though is clear that run of fixtures could define our season. Will we motor on or be looking down the barrel of relegation? Well this is West Ham so your guess is as good as mine. One thing though is certain it’s going to be a real roller coaster. BBM

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FROZEN IN TIME

Saturday, 30 November 2019: West Ham’s players congratulate David Martin after the keeper kept a clean sheet in the club’s 1-0 win at Chelsea. Martin replaced Roberto in goal for the clash.

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How bad has it got? Day to forget: The less said about our trip to Burnley the better

Chelsea win is a start but there’s plenty of work for us still to do Pellegrini’s Irons simply cannot afford more days like we endured at Burnley

EMILY PULHAM

@makingthemarrow

B

efore our fabulous win at Chelsea, it had been a long time since West Ham grabbed all three points at a football match.

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Prior to that sweet victory, we’d waited since September 22nd since we’d last won a game. In that time we went from flying high at the top of the table to failing to even muster a scrape at the bottom of the barrel of the Premier League - and it’s been one terrible loss after another. We’ve lost 1-2 to Crystal Palace, 2-0 to Everton, 2-3 to Newcastle, 3-0 to Burnley

and, deep breath, 2-3 to Spurs. After a while, all the losses start to feel like one giant disappointment, but incredibly each is frustrating in it’s own way and comes with a knife to the heart - but which one of these was the rock bottom moment for our season so far? Picking a least favourite loss is akin to picking a least favourite child, except that children aren’t all

awful and everyone of these games was awful. The first two (Palace and Everton) weren’t the worst; sure, no one likes to lose - but it wasn’t apparent at this point that we were in such a steep decline. Also, Palace got off to a smart start to the season - and we lose to Everton every year anyway. It was Newcastle and Spurs where the worry escalated to fear, and


the poor performances became de rigueur. There was no fight in the squad; no ambition, no drive, no creativity and the loss of Fabianski was woefully exposed, time and time again. The slight saving grace was the subs bringing a little more life to the game and the Hammers somehow rescuing two goals - but not enough to save face. It was the same story against Spurs; we went 3-0 down before team changes saw us claw back two goals. It’s been so poor and it’s made it worse given that it was such a high height to fall from given our start to the season. When we started, Manchester City game aside, we were full of heart, passion and drive - and we were also full of Fabianski. The sad truth is, our season took a turn for the worse when he went off injured. But the blame doesn’t lie with his hip muscle. It lies with the failure to plan for injury and prepare a suitable replacement for him - and for the failure to get the squad to believe they are capable of winning without him on the pitch. It was this failure to plan and resulting lack of belief that made the Burnley game the least bearable of the bunch - and a game that, for

The turning point? West Ham finished November with victory at Chelsea West Ham, was more farce than football. It’s not to say that Burnley didn’t deserve to win - good god they did - but the “performance” delivered by West Ham was an all-time low - and it was so bad it was laughable. This was a Burnley team who easily kept a clean sheet against West Ham, having previously conceded nine goals in their previous three consecutive

defeats. Burnley didn’t even have to score all their own goals on this occasion, as Roberto managed to punch the ball into his own net for their third - the first own goal from a Premier League goalkeeper since April 2018. He also more or less set up another of Burnley’s goals with a terrible throw which caught Balbuena off guard. Injuries to two key West Ham players

put the cherry on top of this absolutely abysmal ice-cream sundae of losses. It’s bad enough facing another season in and around the relegation zone, but games like Burnley make us a laughing stock. It’s the loss of being taken seriously that’s the worst loss for West Ham this season - and it’s going to take more days like at Chelsea for our boys to turn it around. BBM

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Manager options

Who could we turn to if the club decide to sack Pellegrini soon? Ben Harshaw considers the potential runners and riders for the manager’s job

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ith the promised land of the so-called ‘next level’ as far away now as ever, the inevitable speculation about the manager’s position is in full flow. Performances and results are at an all time low under Manuel Pelligrini, and whilst it is debatable how much of the blame should be laid at his door or whether the common denominator, the board, should be called to task, it is clear that something has to give. After yet another dismal display and defeat against Spurs left us winless since beating Manchester United in September, and our manager amongst the favourites in the Premier League managerial sack race, I wanted to take a look at some alternatives to the Chilean should the board take affirmative action and produce his p45. Currently one popular bookmaker makes former Newcastle and Brighton boss Chris Hughton the 2/1 favourite at time

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Familiar face: Rafa Benitez has, again, been linked with the West Ham job

of writing. The idea that a man sacked by Brighton is the answer to our problems is laughable at best and only goes to demonstrate just how much disarray the club really is in. Former player and current Charlton Athletic boss Lee Bowyer is priced at 4/1. Bow-

yer, a Hammers fan himself, has done a remarkable job at the Valley under difficult circumstances. He has led Charlton to a return to the Championship via last season’s playoffs and his side sit comfortably in mid-table. Another feather in Bowyer’s cap is that

he has experience in dealing with difficult owners, which is a necessity at our club. However questions must be asked if he can make the step up to the top level. Also priced at 4/1 is the forever linked Rafa Benitez. Benitez is currently working in China, having left Newcastle United last summer. He brings with him a wealth of experience but some won’t like a much more pragmatic style. Whether the Spaniard would want to come to the club given the similarities with his time with the Magpies and their unambitious and interfering ownership remains to be seen. Another name mentioned has been Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe, although it seems Everton is his most likely destination should he leave the Cherries. Howe has done a fantastic job at Bournemouth across his two spells, however, his time away managing Burnley was


less impressive. This leads us to current boss of the Lancashire side, Sean Dyche. The Englishman has worked wonders at the clarets with significantly limited resources and would certainly bring organisation, work ethic and discipline that is obviously lacking currently. Dyche certainly deserves the chance to step up and could well do for us. His style of play may well be an issue but some would argue that he is simply working to the strengths of the tools that he has at his disposal. Speculation has also been circulating that our former short-term boss David Moyes may return for a second spell at the helm. Although like Howe, Everton seem a more likely destination for the Scot. I was not impressed with Moyes first time around and feel the club were right not to renew his contract and certainly wouldn’t welcome this appointment. He did the job that was asked of him in keeping us up but the style of play and his general demeanour didn’t allow me to warm to him. One would suspect that having been tossed aside Moyes may not want to come back to the club

Doing a great job: Sean Dyche has built a great reputation at Burnley

anyhow. Another Englishman to be linked is Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder, he has done a phenomenal job in the steel city, but his love for the club and the feeling of unfinished business leads me to suspect he may prefer to stay where he is. Rangers boss Steven

Gerrard has also been suggested as a possible boss. The Liverpool legend has done great work at the Glasgow giants and has them very much in the mix for the title as well as enjoying success on a European stage. But like Wilder, I feel Gerrard would want to

continue his current work and push for honours. Former Spurs and Bayern Munich bosses Mauricio Pochettino and Niko Kovac respectively are amongst the outsiders and I am sceptical about either having real interest. Kovac has previously worked with Sebastien Haller which would be a bonus, but he lacks any experience of English football. Pochettino is widely expected to replace the disastrous Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when he and Manchester United finally part ways. One thing we have to ask ourselves is out of all these candidates are they the answer and an upgrade on what we currently have? I am of the opinion that it doesn’t matter who we have in charge, as nobody will be able to succeed and the club will be unable to make real strides forward under our current ownership regime. Regardless of all those possible candidates, I simply can’t see our owners stumping up the cash to pay off our current boss and these days managers don’t resign and forfeit said payoff so I believe the Chilean will remain in charge at the London stadium for the foreseeable future. BBM

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Tottenham managers

I’d drive Poch to London Stadium myself but it’s just pie in the sky The sacked Spurs boss will have plenty of offers from clubs much bigger than us

GEOFF HILLYER

@geoffhillyer

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n a season that started full of promise but seems to have not only gone downhill, and fallen off the edge of a cliff, there’s been no end of moments where you thought things couldn’t get any worse, and then they promptly do. One example is Jose Mourinho taking over at Tottenham. The minute that happened, you knew that we were going to be beaten, as this is what years of supporting West Ham has taught me, and most likely beaten well. And that’s exactly what happened forget the apparent closeness of the 2-3 scoreline: they were miles better than us all over the park. Whatever you think of Jose – and if I’m honest, I’ve never warmed to him, and

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Top manager: Mauricio Pochettino did a great job at Tottenham thought his ego was the size of London – you can’t deny that he gets people talking. And when he does that, and the focus is on him, that seems to suit both him and the clubs that he’s managed - Manchester United aside, which was a shambles from start to finish. Look at the success he achieved with Chelsea and Porto.

Let’s put our claretand-blue tinted specs aside for one moment and acknowledge that in all likelihood, he is going to do very well with Tottenham. They’re through to the knockout stages of the Champions League, he knows how to manage players, and he will bring a buzz to them. They’ve underperformed so far this

season, but I would be very surprised if he didn’t have them moving very quickly up the table. Personally - and I’m saying this through gritted teeth- I think that the Premier League is overall a better place with Mourinho in it. Now, before you start writing in and complaining that this is a West Ham magazine and I’m eulogising Tot-


tenham, I’m really not. I have an irrational hatred towards them. But I think in part that my irritation is that they are just better than us. Frankly – and I’m talking here off the back of what feels like several years since our last win, so I’m a bit grumpy – we appear to be stuck in the dark ages. Classic case in point: our very ill-advised social media post mocking Mourinho before the match, and then being made to look utterly stupid afterwards. I am a huge fan of Pellegrini and I supported his appointment but it seems as if he does not have an answer to some of our well-documented issues at the moment. Oh, and to have a backup keeper the ‘class’ of Roberto is close to unforgiveable. Would Mourinho – or indeed his predecessor Mauricio Pochettino – have made that mistake? No. Does their team appear, tactically, to be better set up under either of those managers? Yes. Do they seem to care more? Yes. Man alive, it is so frustrating. Going back to Pochettino for a moment, I’m just thinking about what might change if he ever came to West Ham, and I’m aware that he won’t, because why

Still special? Jose Mourinho is back in the Premier League would he?. Would I be happy with that as an appointment? I don’t even need to think about that answer – of course I would. I’d drive him to Stratford myself. I don’t care if he was at Tottenham, he’s a brilliant manager. He demonstrates passion for his club – watch him at the end of the match against

Ajax last season. He is very astute tactically and is an excellent motivator. He gets the most out of his players (first part of this season aside), he exudes energy on the touchline and you sense he is heavily invested in his football ‘projects’. He took Tottenham to the Champions League final, for goodness sake, and got them

regular football in that competition. When could we ever say these things about any of our own managers? Has any manager even come close? And if you say ‘Alan Pardew’ I think our conversation ends here. Piers Morgan said that he would have Pochettino at Arsenal in a heartbeat, and I think he’s on the money with that one. If he was backed with cash, I think he would turn an underperforming team such as ours, one that seems to aim for mid-table at best and limps to draws and defeats against mid-table sides, into much more solid, consistent performers in the Premier League. Of course, like I say, it isn’t going to happen. The chances of someone like Pochettino coming to West Ham are about the same as us not folding to a Championship team at their ground in the FA Cup any time soon – non-existent. Although there’s a chance that by the time you read this, Pellegrini may have been removed, and we might now all be singing Pochettino’s name at our games this Christmas. But probably not. Bah humbug. Merry Christmas, and a very happy New Year. BBM

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Boxing Day football Boxing day sales: Does Westfield mean West Ham will never host a game on 26 December ever again?

‘All I want for Christmas is the chance to watch us at home...’

Will West Ham ever get to play at home on Boxing Day again after our move?

WILLIAM PUGH

@WilliamPugh_

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miss playing at home on Boxing Day mainly because it gave me an excuse to avoid a day sat across from my angry and drunk Uncle Keith screaming at

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everyone over a Trivial Pursuit board. But alas, the last five years have seen me yelling back that ‘doubles’ does mean I get another roll and if he doesn’t give me the cheese I am owed then ‘I quit’. Arsenal beat us 3-1 at Upton Park the last time we had a festive home fixture the day after Christmas. Carlton Cole opened the scoring before a Theo Walcott brace

and a Lukas Podolski strike wrapped up the points for the Gunners. And the last time we saw a Hammers home win on hangover day? 2009! An Alessandro Diamanti penalty and a late Radoslav Kovac goal saw us take the points of fellow relegation strugglers Portsmouth. That’ll be a decade this year since we got to go and see our team win at home on

Boxing Day and that’s not OK. Football at Christmas time is part of the festive period as much as mince pies and turkey and we have been denied that in recent years. There is a widespread belief that West Ham no longer play home games on Boxing Day because of London Stadium’s proximity to Westfield. The huge influx of people keen to bag a


Boxing Day bargain in the sales makes it too dangerous to host a football match – or so the story goes. At a 2018 meeting of the West Ham Supporters Advisory Board, Karren Brady claimed that notion is a myth. Now whether you believe Brady or not is up to you, but I for one don’t. That is to say I certainly don’t believe it’s as black and white as she suggests. There is no way in a million years a conversation would not have been had between the club and Westfield’s stakeholders when the initial stadium deal was struck. And there is no way in 10 million years the business owners at Westfield would not prefer the Hammers to play away every December 26. Simple logic tells you shoppers are less likely to visit Westfield with the threat of 60,000 raucous football fans (or 57,000 raucous ones and 3,000 quiet ones if we are playing Arsenal again) competing for train, road, car park and restaurant space. And simple economics tells you less visitors is bad for business. So while there may not be an official agreement in place, I find it hard to believe there are not some unseen factors at play

Ho ho ho: Could we live without seeing this again? and if not… well you can pluck my feathers and call me a turkey. A lot of fans struggle to believe it is just bad luck or coincidence that has stopped us playing at home on Boxing Day. And personally, I believe it about as much as I believe in Santa Claus. This year’s reason for being away to Crystal Palace the day after St Nick comes down the chimney is “transport issues”.

Sean Whetstone published an article on October 9 reporting the Newham Council led London Stadium Safety Advisory Group Chair Shelia Roberts informed the safety group in July: ‘There will not be a home game on Boxing Day due to challenging transport issues.’ Sean went on to write: ‘Other stakeholders such as Westfield Shopping centre, TFL and Metropolitan

police are able to lobby the stadium safety group to request that certain fixtures aren’t played at home and for this season it appears TFL successfully persuaded the powers that be that the transport system in Stratford wouldn’t cope on 26th December 2019 with a West Ham home crowd.’ Apparently major engineering works are taking place on Southeastern railway - the high speed service into Stratford International – over the festive period and the high volume of supporters who use this line make a home Boxing Day fixture unfeasible. Well unless I’m very much mistaken, railway companies use public holidays to undertake works all of the time. They always have and they likely always will. So who says there won’t be ‘major engineering’ works again next year? And the year after that? It’s one of London’s biggest stations for crying out loud. If you ask me it’s just another hidden clause in the contract no one was asked to sign when we switched postcodes to E20. And if we have learned anything from recent times it’s not telling people what they are signing up for can be dangerous ground to walk. BBM

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Aaron Cresswell

Were West Ham right to secure Cresswell’s long-term future? The left-back has penned a new contract to keep him at the club until 2023

Long-term deal: Aaron Cresswell has signed a new contract

GREG RICHARDSON @rakis14

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hen the contract extension for Aaron Cresswell was announced, tying the left back to the club until 2023, it split opinion. Some saw it as an admission of being content with mediocrity and indicative of a lack of ambition. Others, of which I am one, saw it as part of a bigger picture and an indication that the club are starting to think long term. Cresswell is a ‘home grown’, England-capped, former Hammer of the Year who has a great affiliation with the club, the squad and the fans. He has value because he still brings professionalism and experience which can only have a positive effect on youngsters like Ben Johnson. Securing his services is

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sensible, if not exciting business. And, this is not the first ‘long term’ deal the club have got over the line recently. Diangana, Rice, Lanzini, and Masuaku have all committed to the cause since Pellegrini’s arrival. It is an indication of the direction the club are trying to go, thinking more long term, tying valuable

players, whether in terms of market value - Rice/Lanzini - or use to the club - Cresswell/Diangana - down for the foreseeable future and not allowing them to enter the last 18 months of their contract when power shifts to agents and the buying club. It also suggests that players like Rice and Lanzini are buying into the side and the

project Pellegrini is building. If reports are to be believed, this approach will continue over the next few months. Players whose deals are due to expire in 2021 include Antonio, Noble, Fabianski, Balbuena, Wilshere, Snodgrass as well as back up keepers Roberto and Martin. And whilst you could make cases for most


of these to be offered extensions, if the club is really trying to think long term, it has to ensure it is being discerning and calculated when weighing the pros and cons. For example, many of these players are fan favourites, who know what the club is about and what the fans want and expect. They are experienced pros who can help younger players by being both mentors and examples to follow. Noble, Antonio and Wilshere are all ‘homegrown’ talents, and given the fees involved in recruiting English players, they would be costly to replace. Also, as they get older they are more likely to be ‘happy’ with only playing bit parts (like Zabaleta this season). On the flip side, there can be no denying that many of these players are reaching the twilight of their careers. Is it really sensible to keep them and their considerable wages on the books as their powers decline? One of the most pleasing things about the Pellegrini era has been the way he has lowered our average age. Assuming they would all extended till 2023 as Cresswell did, Fabianski will be 38, Noble 36, Snodgrass 35, Antonio (like Cresswell)

Buying young: Pablo Fornals is just one of the younger players recently signed 33 and both Wilshere and Balbuena 32. Giving them all new deals would be the antithesis of turning to youth. Do we really need that many experienced heads and ageing legs in the side? And maybe therein lies the key point. Many saw the appointment of Pellegrini and, just as crucially, his chosen Director

of Football Mario Husiilos, as a step into modernity for the club. So far, recruitment has been encouraging. If this is to be the turning point for the club that so many of us hope it is, we now need to ensure we get the balance of player retention and selling on right. We can’t just keep players on if the ‘value’ isn’t there. Mark

Noble, regardless of when his legs really do ‘go’, adds value to the club. His passion and knowledge for West Ham cannot be underestimated. Nor his leadership. Fabianski too holds value. Goalkeepers have a longer shelf life than others anyway, and once he can no longer hold the no.1 spot, would be an excellent pro to have as backup. Michail Antonio, however, maybe worth cashing in on. I love Antonio and think he is a great asset when fit and firing. But injuries are starting to become an annual event, and each time he returns he takes longer to get back up to pace. Selling, undoubtedly at a profit, would make good business sense and enable reinvestment. The same could probably be said of Snodgrass, whilst Balbuena and Wilshere are decisions that need a little more time to assess. Regardless of who is and isn’t offered a new deal, it is vital that, as the club starts to look more long term, it does so with a clear plan in keeping with the vision and project that Pellegrini is building. If we are all on board with creating a big club mentality - we need to behave like one off it as well as on it. BBM

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Martin Samuelsen

Samuelsen’s chance has slipped by and it’s time we moved on The attacking youngster looks further away from the first team than ever Time to go: We are unlikely to see Samuelsen back at the club

HOLLY WORTHINGTON

@TheLoneJogger

W

ith a contract until June 2020 and no interest being shown for him in the transfer window, Martin Samuelsen is the Hammer we had high hopes for, but never worked out. Martin Samuelsen joined the Hammers in June 2015 on a free transfer, surrounded by a lot of hype after coming from Manchester City’s Elite Development Squad and reportedly getting interest from Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Expectations were high and amidst countless Justin Bieber comparisons, Samuelsen marked his debut by scoring in a friendly at Peterborough United. I was seriously excited to see what the future held for

Samuelsen. As well as always wanting young players to succeed and make their way through the ranks at West Ham, he showed enormous promise. But after being subbed on for us in the Europa League against Birkirkara, he seems to have dropped off the map. Within four months, Samuelsen had been sent to Peterborough

on loan; another move I thought was a great one, for both him and the club. Why? Because I felt he’d be able to get experience and game time at Peterborough, playing at a decent standard before returning. Having had his loan extended at Peterborough, things were looking great for Samuelsen, returning

to West Ham for the U21 League Cup Final and being part of the winning team in April 2016. However, since 2016, Samuelsen has been on loan at Blackburn Rovers, returned to Peterborough, Burton Albion, VVV-Venlo and now FK Haugesund, moving from club to club without seeming to leave much of an impression. Since Samuelsen was signed for West Ham, players such as Declan Rice have worked their way into the first team and secured a place for themselves, leaving the 22-year-old Norwegian in a tricky situation. A lot has changed at West Ham since Samuelsen was last playing for the club, making it increasingly difficult to break into the first team squad. With wages said to have cost us less than £2million since he signed, and very little interest last transfer window, it’s looking increasingly likely we will let Samuelsen go at the end of his contract next June. BBM

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Football and climate change Harsh words: Greta Thunberg has been critical of global leaders’ response to climate change

Why football must change fast if we want to save our great planet Rory Fyfe Smith says sport cannot ignore the most important issue of our age

W

e need to think seriously about the impact of professional sport on global warming. I love international football, and cross-border European club football, but how much damage to the environment does it have to have people travelling across the world for pro sports? Having read, climate change campaigner, Greta Thunberg’s speeches, in one of

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her latest books, it motivated me to look at one of my fave subjects, professional sport, and the impact it has on climate change. We must look at ways where can reduce the carbon footprint of football, and other sports. My fave idea, in football, is to have regionalised draws for the Uefa Champions League, and the Europa Leagues.

Have the continent of Europe divided into four, with North West Europe, North East Europe, South West Europe, and South East Europe regions. Up to the Quarter Final, teams could only play teams in their region. This would cut down on trips from far Eastern Europe to Western Europe, and from Southern Europe to Northern Europe. There would be two teams from each

region in the quarters. And this would open up the trophies for teams from Eastern Europe, as you would have four teams for certain from Eastern Europe in the quarters. You would not have to worry about thousands of fans travelling all across Europe, every week. I accept we would be losing out on wonderful exotic trips for fans, and for the chance for teams to spread


their name to distant locations. I love the fact that you can see the likes of Aberdeen travelling to Georgia, Croatia, Moldavia, Cyprus, and Kazakhstan in recent seasons, but global survival is more important than exotic trips. We have to remember that global warming could destroy human civilisation. So it is not too much of a sacrifice to cut down on long aeroplane trips? Global warming could create a global extinction like that of 67 million years ago, that wiped out the dinosaurs. We could see tens of millions, if not many billions, dying due to the adverse impact of global warming, in terms of famine, and climate disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, and drought. Huge numbers of species of animals, and plants will be wiped out, due to climate change. Species of elephants, pandas, tigers, and birds could be exterminated. Does it really make sense to encourage people to travel from Central Asia to Iceland for an early stage football game when we are desperately trying to experiment for new ideas to cut down on global warming? Does it really make sense for a team to travel from Southern

Different way of thinking: Should Tottenham Hotspur be groundsharing with Arsenal?

Portugal to travel to Central Russia, when they could play a team from France, in the early rounds? Plus in the United Kingdom itself. I am dead against uniting the British leagues, mainly because having independent football leagues is part of our identity in the Celtic nations. But it will also mean more travel. I support more cross border cups on top of domestic, and Euro-

pean football, such as a Celtic Cup, a British Premier Cup or inviting Scottish Premier sides who have not qualified for Europe into the Football League Trophy. And inviting all Welsh Premier sides into the FA Trophy. But a small number of trips over the border is OK, but entire seasons of it is wrong. Using global warming as a motivating factor, here are a few more of my ideas;

Decrease the size of the Olympics, to cut down the carbon footprint, of tourists, and building white elephant stadiums. Stop having World Boxing Championships fights in locations that will encourage more people to fly across the Atlantic. Decrease the size of major international football tournaments. As it does not make sense to have 24 teams in a World Cup,

39


or European Championship when that means up to 24 different countries sending thousands of fans, each, across Europe, or the world, for what could be a handful of games. Make the European Championships an eight team competition. Also with less games there would be less stadiums needed, and ergo, there would be less need to build white elephant stadiums for major championships, as building new stadiums adds to the carbon footprint damage. Look at Russia, and Japan for white elephant stadiums. I’d like to regionalise the football European Championship, and World Cup qualifying draws too. At least then Scotland would not have to travel to Kazakhstan. Encourage football teams in the same city to share stadiums, so there is less carbon footprint from building new football stadiums. For instance, Dundee and Dundee United should have one stadium, rather than both building new stadiums. Why should every London side have their own stadium? It is stupid, if we want to save the planet. Why did Spurs and Arsenal not share their stadium? I accept Glasgow Celtic, and Glasgow Rangers would not share a

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Is it needed? Should boxers like Anthony Joshua fight in Las Vegas when they are from London? stadium. But that is an exception. We need to save precious resources. Regionalise domestic cup draws, for less travel. The other continental tournaments should be regionalised. With Asia, Africa, and South America regionalising their trophies. Regionalise the lower divisions, to cut down on big journeys across England, Scotland,

and Wales. Have less teams from the big countries qualifying for the Champions League. Limit it to no more than two teams from each country. Choose nations that already have the requisite stadiums to host major tournaments. Perhaps have more shared World Cups, and European Championship hosts, to save on the need

to build new stadia. Rather than encouraging new Olympics, and football stadiums to be built that only end up as white elephants. Stop building new race tracks for Formula One, and make motor sports, all electric. Stop English Premier, La Liga, and Italian teams travelling thousands of miles away to Asia, Australia, or North America for


friendly matches. Keep the Football World Club Championship to only a few teams each year, rather than a new larger trophy with more travelling involved. Do not have a European Super League in football, as that would be a disaster for climate change, as massive teams would be travelling by plane every week. The rugby union international teams need to play more local games rather than travelling on tours on the other side of the world. Perhaps even cut the number of teams in the Rugby Union World cup. My admission of guilt. I have been to Rio De Janeiro, Baden bei Wien, Vienna, Bratislava, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Toledo, Madrid, Athens, Rome, Cherbourg, Le Harve, Bayeux, The Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, Wales, The Isle Of Man, England, and that makes me guilty about my carbon footprint. But let’s look at ways to cut global warming. Even if it is hypocritical, and killjoy, of me to argue for these changes. I am a poacher turned game keeper. If global warming continues, then due to sea levels rises, most of the links courses that host the British

New way of thinking: England’s qualifiers should be against countries that are close by

Golf Open will be flooded. Golfers will need to wear goggles, and flippers to play at St Andrews in Fife. If global warming continues you will have to travel by boat to go and watch your team playing Blackpool Island FC. If global warming continues, Fiji will have to quit rugby union, and take up water polo, as their national sport.

If global warming continues Antarctica will be the sole team in the Football World Cup, as all the other nations will be too hot to live in. If sea level rises continue then the Netherlands, and Bangladesh, will have as much chance of winning trophies as Atlantis. As so much of their land will be underwater. If global warming

continues, there will be no place to hold the Winter Olympics. Even Antarctica will be too hot. But there is still hope. In a few decades we might find carbon neutral ways of travelling, and building new stadiums, so then we will be able to open up the trophies again. But in the short term we need to look at ways of cutting global warming. BBM

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Our next captain

Who will lead us on the pitch once Noble hangs up his boots? West Ham’s squad lacks leaders and we must change that if we are to kick on Leader: Mark Noble is getting a bit long in the tooth

JAMES JONES

@BYJAMESJONES

I

t feels strange writing about this, but a captain conundrum could potentially become a problem at West Ham in the coming years. While we’ve consistently bemoaned the lack of goalscoring strikers, our leaky defence, the club signing injury-prone players and the club buying semi-retired hasbeens, the question of captaincy has never been an issue. Have a think back and it’s difficult to name a single club captain who simply wasn’t up to the job. They’ve all been good in their own right and have been able to guide the team both through good and bad times pretty well. In my lifetime, we’ve had Alvin Martin, Ian Bishop, Julian Dicks, Steve Potts, Steve Lomas, Paolo

42

Di Canio, Joe Cole, Christian Dailly, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lucas Neil, Matthew Upson, Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble all being honoured with the arm band, not to mention the countless deputies, too. Think back when Lucas Neil and Matthew Upson both had injury lay-offs, it was Scott Parker who was called upon to take the armband and the lead the team both on and

off the pitch. It’s crazy to think that Parker was never officially named club captain during his time in claret and blue, but the way in which he took that role onboard when called upon makes you automatically think that he had been. However, now, with Mark Noble edging ever closer to not being able to keep up with the full pace of

the Premier League, it has become very clear that the rest of Manuel Pellegrini’s squad lacks a deputy, another true leader. In the opening two Premier League games of this season, Pellegrini handed the armband to two different long-serving squad members in Noble’s absence. Aaron Cresswell was the man called upon against Manchester City and then Angelo Ogbonna was chosen for the visit of Brighton. Neither particularly stand out as leadership material, and neither could help lead their teammates to anything close to a good performance, barring the opening 20 minutes against City perhaps. But who else could Pellegrini turn to? Pablo Zabaleta would be the obvious choice, but he’s not getting much game time this season as he enters the final season of his fantastic career. What about Lukasz Fabianski, who has the experience and


pedigree? Perhaps the boss doesn’t like the idea of a keeper having the armband. There’s always Fabian Balbuena, whose nickname ‘The General’ would make you assume he’s leadership material, while Winston Reid is another you would be happy to call upon, but he’s being missing for almost two years. The rest of the squad is mostly made up of young, inexperienced players, new signings and team members who don’t possess the necessary qualities to be given such a huge responsibility. But is it a problem in today’s game? Some will argue that the modern game relies less and less on a captain and is more suited to a team coming together as one on the pitch and leading each other equally. Everyone should be taking responsibility, right? Everyone should be accountable. I don’t see it like that. I think, especially at a club like West Ham, there should be a designated club captain, and that man should be fully aware of what it means to wear the shirt and represent the club, 24/7. That’s why Mark Noble makes a good captain, because he’s been at the club his entire life, supports the club and would literally die for the colours.

Icon: Who will be the next Julian Dicks?

Mark Noble is West Ham. West Ham is Mark Noble. Scott Parker was similar, albeit not an official captain. He came in a different mould to Noble, in that he wasn’t all of the above, but he was the type of player who could take a game by the scruff of the neck and inspire his teammates to perform at the same level he did. That’s a leader.

Hard work, passion, respect. Just look at how he did the team talk at West Brom while 3-0 down back in 2011, inspiring the team to come out in the second half and draw 3-3. Before them, Julian Dicks possessed all of the above, while Paolo Di Canio’s character was absolutely perfect for it. A club captain must not just have passion,

hard work and the respect of his peers, but he must also be a man younger players can look up to. All of our past captains have been just that. But we don’t have many of those in our squad. With Mark Noble back in action, this is perhaps not a huge problem right now. But it will be in a year or two and is something we’ll have to think about. BBM

43


The Ex Files

@ExWHUemployee gives you the word from the street

F

or those of you that follow me on Twitter you will know that I have made it very clear that I do not rate our goalkeeper Roberto. I do not like to slate players at the game and always try and get behind them whilst they pull on the shirt because I do not think giving them stick at the ground will help their already destroyed confidence. But it has to be said to be said that in my 30 years of having a season ticket, Roberto is the worst goalkeeper I have ever seen. The most concerning thing about the Roberto situation was that Mario Husillos, our Director of Football, had already signed him for a club once in his career and clearly still believed he was good enough to join us. Even more worrying was that I was told they wanted to sign him instead of Fabianski the season before but fortunately for us this deal didn’t happen. It is the basic things that concern me the most. He doesn’t seem to understand

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Flop: Roberto has been awful for West Ham this season

‘Roberto is the worst keeper I’ve ever seen’

And we tried to sign him instead of Fabianski last year... his angles, he doesn’t have any confidence with high balls, his kicking is poor and he often punches when he should be holding onto shots to name a few of the many lacking qualities from his game. I went to the Bournemouth game and as Fabianski went

off injured, I said to my mate this could destroy our season and it has been proven to be an accurate prediction. From the moment Roberto came in to the Chelsea game, we hadn’t won a game, largely because he gave the opposition at least a two goal head

start. I know other positions have not been performing but it must get into the other players’ heads when they know that pretty much any shot on target is going to go in. I thought we were playing quite well against Spurs until they scored, a shot


which really should have been saved as per usual. It is no coincidence that having changed the keeper against Chelsea to the son of West Ham legend Alvin we played brilliantly and managed to get a victory, if only we had done this many games ago! I am slightly too young to remember the antics of Allen Mcknightmare but the only other keeper that I can think of that compares to Roberto in my time is the former Charlton keeper that we had on loan, Sasa Ilic. He played one game for us and we lost 4-0 and he was at fault for pretty much every goal. The only difference here is that he only managed one game for us before he was found out. Thankfully I think following the Chelsea performance, David Martin will be the number one until Fabianski returns which should be just before Christmas. I do believe had Fabianski not got injured, with the league being so tight, we would be pushing for fifth spot now! I hope the lesson has been learnt going forward that we must make sure our back up keeper is of a decent level in order to not repeat this dreadful situation again. BBM

Returning soon: Lukasz Fabianski should be back for in time for Christmas

Why not try a West Ham Way event? Thank you to all those that have attended our pre-match events. In September we had Hayden Mullins as our first guest and Tony Cottee joined us before the Manches-

ter United game. Matt Jarvis was the player before Crystal Palace and we have a number of top names lined up to be our future guests. If you haven’t tried the events before you

really will not find a better prematch experience elsewhere. Please check out http://www.thewesthamway.co.uk/ category/events/ or my twitter account for further details.

45


HUGH SOUTHON’S

LAST WORD

Getting rid of Pellegrini would be the easy part, but what next?

N

obody ever thought it would come to this yet the blame game started weeks ago. As I write West Ham face two hugely difficult games against Chelsea and Wolves, Pellegrini is tipped heavily for the boot, and David Moyes is apparently the favoured replacement with Sean Dyche and Chris Hughton also in the frame. Eddie Howe has been the name on most lips for months or years, but even during all the long months since Slaven was eventually appointed, he has shown no desire to go anywhere. That, however, is not a satisfactory response for many they believe the board should do all they can to get him despite the fact that apart from a spell at Burnley his entire playing and managing career has been spent on the south coast.

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In trouble: Manuel Pellegrini needs to get some wins He loves the place and even Arsenal couldn’t tempt him away. It’s one of the best known situations in football despite him being reputed as one of the best young bosses of his generation. How ever much we might hope and wish, it would be nothing short of a miracle were

it to happen and at a time when absolutely nobody expected such a situation to unravel at West Ham there are few other options. The anger, frustration and bloody-mindedness seen on the forums and social media would be infinitely more understandable were there not have been such widespread

satisfaction with the Pellegrini appointment. To expect a top line replacement to be lined up in a matter of a few days - and beyond Eddie Howe - former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochetinno was the name on most lips - is optimistic in the extreme. He’s on his way to a Real, Man United, Juventus or wherever! Many will blame or want to blame the board, others the players but sadly the fact remains we are now the same old West Ham as we have ever been and I’ve given up trying to second guess what happens from here. What I do know, however, is that in the critical match against Spurs it was Nobes, Antonio, Rice, and Snoddy who were the stars. They are linked by one common factor - all British - maybe there’s a clue to our future there. BBM


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Blowing Bubbles Monthly Issue 98 December 2019  

Inside this issue: *Big interview with David Gold looking back on 10 years at West Ham. He talks London Stadium, why he appointed Avram Gran...

Blowing Bubbles Monthly Issue 98 December 2019  

Inside this issue: *Big interview with David Gold looking back on 10 years at West Ham. He talks London Stadium, why he appointed Avram Gran...

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