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The Boys of 1985/86 - 30th Anniversary Special Edition BY FANS, FOR FANS WWW.BLOWING-BUBBLES.CO.UK

NOVEMBER 2015 #53

West Ham’s greatest forward pair talk the past and future


WELCOME EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: David Blackmore MANAGING EDITOR: Simon Osborn CONTRIBUTORS: David Bowden, Marcus Johns, Geoff Hillyer, Andrew Hosie, Brian Jeeves, James Jones, James Longman, David Meagher, George Parris, Emily Pulham, Danny Rust, Julian Shea, Bianca Westwood, Brian Williams, Katie Whyatt, 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.

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Payet can inspire West Ham to party like it is 1986 again Every now and again when watching West Ham I like to focus on one particular player and give them the ‘player cam’ treatment. Against Chelsea, I decided to keep an eye on Dimitri Payet because I’ve been very impressed with him so far this campaign, as I’m sure many of you have, and I wanted to see more of him. Clearly when focusing on one player for a prolonged period, rather than picking them out when the action is with them, you get a better flavour of what they are about, and it was a

delight to see how Payet influenced the game. I’ve watched David Silva for a game before and there have been a lot of similar characteristics shown by Payet that gives me belief he will become a great player for West Ham. He played one particular ball in the first half that also had a touch of the Zinedine Zidanes about it. He received the ball near the halfway line, turned sharply, picked up his head, saw Sakho running the channel, and without a moment’s hesitation, clipped the ball with the outside of

his right foot to ensure the ball not only stayed in play but kept in Sakho’s path. It was pure class. With interviews with Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie, and pieces by George Parris and Brian Williams on the Boys of 86 in this month’s issue, it certainly feels like we’ve now got a squad capable of emulating the success of 30 years ago. Payet will be key to any success this campaign. We must ensure he stays fit, motivated, and keep giving him the ball!


The big interview - Frank McAvennie

‘I turned down Arsenal as my heart was set on West Ham’ Frank McAvennie on his life in London, why he turned down a goal bonus and the day he dumped a nasty bully into the Chicken Run

JULIAN SHEA @juliansheasport


ost players would sacrifice anything and everything for the opportunity to play professional football, let alone in the top flight in two different countries, let alone to establish themselves as club legends still assured of hero status 30 years after their finest hour. But then again, Frank McAvennie always was a bit different. It is three decades since the Scotland international striker arrived at the Boleyn from St Mirren and formed the legendary goalscoring partnership with Tony Cottee that saw the duo bang in 46 goals – 20 for Cottee, 26 for McAvennie – as the club achieved their highest ever league placing of third in the old First Division. But as he

Today: Frank McAvennie is proud of his time at West Ham revealed recently, McAvennie’s entire career as a professional footballer happened by chance. ‘I didn’t start playing until I was 19 – I used to go and watch Celtic every week and all the junior leagues played their matches on a Saturday, so I never played,’ he admitted. ‘One week their game was can-

celled, so some friends asked me to go and play in their game – there were some scouts there supposedly watching one of the other team’s players, but I got spotted instead!’ This was the unconventional start to a career that never saw McAvennie do things by the book – ‘I don’t

think I’d have made it via the traditional route, if I’d been an apprentice having to sweep the terraces,’ he admitted – and after three years playing for St Mirren, mostly in midfield, it was another happy accident of fate that directed him towards the club where he enjoyed his greatest success and where he remains most adored. ‘I was supposed to be going to Luton, when David Pleat was the manager,’ he said. ‘I’d built my hopes up about going there, but then the chairman walked in and slapped me on the back of the head, saying “Welcome to the club Frank”, and straight away I said to the people I was with “let’s get out of here before I do something I shouldn’t”, I was out the door. I could see Pleat was panicking as Luton had paid for the flight for me to come down, and St Mirren weren’t too pleased that the move was off either, but there was no way I was going to play for someone like that.’ Luton’s loss was West Ham’s gain, howev-

In his peak: Frank McAvennie was half of West Ham’s best ever strike partnership

er, and following an early hours meeting with manager John Lyall at Toddington Service Station, McAvennie was a West Ham player, for a fee of £340,000. ’I didn’t know anything about West Ham’s interest when I went to speak to Luton, but once they came in for me, that was it – it didn’t matter who else came in for me, I was going there,’ he revealed. History was just about to begin. McAvennie’s wages on joining were £300 a week, and amazingly for one of the best strikers the club has had in living memory, he turned down a goal bonus. ‘I was offered one but I wasn’t interested,’ he revealed. ‘I was more of a team player – I would pass to anyone, as long as we did well, so my thinking was never mind a scoring bonus, negotiate a better contract.’ Having spent three years at St Mirren playing in midfield, McAvennie was earmarked for a role behind West Ham’s front two of Paul Goddard and homegrown hero Cottee. But

Up for fun: Frank McAvennie always enjoyed a party

an injury to Goddard in the opening game of the season changed things, and once again, a twist of fate played a major role in changing the course of McAvennie’s career and life. ‘I don’t know if it would have worked, with me behind them

Pals: Frank McAvennie with Tony Cottee

as a front two, I don’t know if they were used to having someone so close behind them. But in my first home game, I was pushed up front to play alongside TC. The guy who was marking him bullied him a bit, so I smashed him into the Chicken Run, and after that, we got on brilliantly.’ Despite always being spoken of in the same breath, as if they are one unit, Cottee and McAvennie were wildly different characters, on and off the pitch, but that contrast may have been the secret of their success. And jealousy was never an issue for the striking duo. ‘It was never a compe-

tition between us,’ McAvennie explained. ‘Tony’s more of an out-and-outstriker, I was more of a team player. I knew that if I got through on goal and drew the keeper out, I could pass to him and he’d be in place to score. I also knew that if he got through on goal, he’d shoot! But it really didn’t bother me at all who scored, just as long as we won.’ In October 1987, after two full seasons at West Ham, McAvennie joined his boyhood heroes, Celtic – not that he was actually that keen on the move. ‘I wanted to stay and I told John Lyall that,’ he said. ‘I’d already signed a couple of contracts, so I thought I was

due a bit of a signing-on fee, but the club couldn’t offer it, and when they were offered £750,000 for me, John let me go – only because it was my boyhood team, I think. Mind you, Celtic never gave me a signing on fee either!’ McAvennie’s time at Parkhead was successful but controversial, and after a fall-out with manager Billy McNeill over his return from a broken arm, McAvennie was on his way from his first love in the east end of Glasgow, back to his second in the east end of London. ‘I had the chance to go to Arsenal, and I went to speak to George Graham just to find out what they were saying, but they weren’t offering a life-changing amount more money, so I’d already made up my mind I was going back to West Ham,’ he admitted. ‘It would have bothered me if I’d not bothered to go and have a chat, though. I knew Arsenal were good enough to win the league, and I knew West Ham looked like they might go down, but I still came back. To be honest, I think John Lyall signed me as the player to try and get them back up, not to keep them up.’ But for a man whose career has turned on so many twists of fate, this time, luck was not on his side. As predicted, relegation followed and in the first game of the following season,

First love: Frank is a Celtic fan and had two spells with them

McAvennie suffered a particularly bad broken leg that ruled him out for most of the season. Although he recovered to play two more seasons for West Ham, the long-term effects of the injury affected him both on and off the pitch, and McAvennie was never the same player. The 1991-92 season was a particularly grim one, with relegation and a 22nd place finish in the final season of the old First Division meaning West Ham missed

out on a place in the first outing of the new Premier League, and it also marked the end of McAvennie’s West Ham career – but only after, with relegation already assured, he marked his final appearance by coming on as a substitute and scoring a hat-trick. Now living back in Scotland, McAvennie is a regular sight at Celtic Park. But despite his long-standing love for the Bhoys, it is clear where his heart lies. ‘I go to Celtic because

that’s where I’m based now, but if I was living in London I’d be at West Ham instead,’ says one of the most colourful and flamboyant players ever to wear claret and blue. ‘It’s always the first result I look for, every week.’ It is safe to say that that love affair is a two-way thing. *Frank was speaking to Claret and Hugh for Moore Than Just a Podcast. Listen to more from the team at www. moorethanjustapodcast. BBM

Tony Cottee

‘I’m sick and tired of seeing West Ham fail to win trophies’

Julian Shea finds Tony Cottee very excited about West Ham’s future


ew people know West Ham inside and out, on and off the pitch, quite as well as Boys of 86 hero Tony Cottee. So there are few people in as good a position to make a realistic assessment of the team’s chances of success this season under Slaven Bilic – and the good news is that the striking legend thinks the end of the Boleyn Ground era could be the start of something even better for the Irons. ‘Part of being a West Ham fan is you get more miserable moments than good, but when they’re good, they’re very good, and I really think there are good times round the corner,’ said Cottee, who scored 146 goals in 336 appearances over two spells at the club. ‘When you look at the squad we’ve put together, this is probably the strongest we’ve been in 15 years, since the Harry Redknapp/Paolo di Canio era. ‘We’ve got a great keeper, four good defenders, an abundance of midfielders and crucially we’ve now got four decent strikers. ‘I’ve always said you

Young: Tony Cottee in his playing days

have to have [decent strikers] if you want to succeed in the Premier League, and in Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia, Andy Carroll and Nikica Jelavic, finally we’ve got that. ‘Looking through the squad, this is the best we’ve had since the days of Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe and Glen Johnson. This is a really important season for the club, but we should all be a bit

excited about what can happen this season. We’ve got some really good players.’ As one half, along with Frank McAvennie, of the most famous, adored and successful double act in West Ham history – 46 goals between the pair of them in the 198586 season, which saw a club record highest third place finish in the old First Division – Cottee is in a better position than

most to assess the Irons’ striking options. ‘Sakho is so good that he picks himself,’ said Cottee. ‘I like Valencia a lot, Jelavic I see as being a squad player, third or fourth choice, and then there’s the matter of Carroll. ‘He’s a great option to have, he gives you so much, but I’m not sure at his age and this stage in his career that he’s going to want to just be a sub to be called upon as an option.’ As both a lifelong fan and also a media pundit, Cottee is realistic in his assessment of the team’s current position, but as someone who was part of the club’s best ever league finish, he is keen to see the team rise to the next level – a move he thinks will become a more realistic proposition following next season’s much-anticipated move to the Olympic Stadium. ‘In all honesty, we’re in the second division of the Premier League at the moment, but if we can have a good season, I certainly expect us to be in the top 10, and hopefully challenging for the Europa League

places,’ he said. ‘This is a hugely important season for the club. Nobody wants to leave the Boleyn as it’s where all our memories are, and we’ll all shed a tear when it’s time to move on, but as a fan, I’m sick and tired of 35 years of us not winning things. ‘Since we last won a trophy, the likes of Birmingham, Swansea and Wigan have won cups, and we haven’t – so clearly, something is wrong. ‘I’ve already bought two season tickets for the Olympic Stadium – my twin boys are West Ham fans, so after I’m gone, that can be my legacy to them. ‘Although I’m sad to leave, I’m very excited about where we’re going. We’ve got to make sure we take the best of the Boleyn with us, and I think design elements of the Olympic Stadium like the roof with the floodlights underneath, and having retractable seating, will help us to take that atmosphere with us. ‘The owners have been brilliant, and with the new stadium, there’ll be more money washing around, which you’d hope will help bring in more, better players. That, of course, means more chance of winning something. ‘Everyone needs to get their head around this move, and embrace it. I think when the first game there happens, there’ll be a real wow

Big fan: Tony Cottee says Diafra Sakho is a must-pick for Bilic

Cottee’s career timeline 1965 Born in Forest Gate, London 1983 Made his West Ham debut at the age of 17 against Tottenham Hotspur on January 1, scoring in the process. 1986 Voted PFA Young Player of the Year as West Ham finished third. Made his debut for England against Sweden. 1987 Bagged 23 league goals – which would be the highest of his career. 1988 Joined Everton in a £2.2 million deal 1989 Played in the FA Cup final as Everton lost to arch-rivals Liverpool.

factor, as people look around and think “this is our new home”. ‘We could stage the Champions League final there if we wanted to! Leaving the Boleyn will be sad, and we’ll all want a souvenir before we go, but once it’s happened, we’ll all be looking

forward. There’s so much for everyone at West Ham to be looking forward to at the moment.’ *Tony was speaking to Claret and Hugh for Moore Than Just a Podcast. Listen to more from the team at www. moorethanjustapodcast. BBM

1994 Returned to West Ham United in September and scored 13 league goals as he helped West Ham fight off relegation under Harry Redknapp. 1996 Hit 10 goals as the Hammers finished 10th.

Your shout


West Ham must strengthen in the January transfer window I think we can all agree that, with 20 points on the board from our first 11 games, West Ham have enjoyed a fantastic start to the season. Slaven Bilic has masterminded some amazing victories, notably at Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and best of all at home to Chelsea. Our new signings Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini and Victor Moses have all enjoyed bright starts to their careers in London and the club are looking forward to moving to the Olympic Stadium – which promises to be a watershed moment in the club’s history. However, now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back or

be complacent. If you cast your mind back 12 months we were in a similar position and were even in the top four at Christmas. No one wants to see us repeat last season’s slump so it is vital the

Dimitri Payet has stolen the headlines this season but I have been just as impressed with another of our summer signings. Manuel Lanzini, who is on loan from Al Jazira, has taken to English football like a duck to water and I’m sure is going to get better and better. At just 22 years of age he has the world at his feet and West Ham

would be mad to not sign him up. I understand the terms of his loan agreement have a clause that allows us to make the move permanent and I’m sure the club will do that at the end of the season. If we don’t there will be plenty of other teams who will jump at the chance and we could easily regret it. Steph Brown


Boss: Will David Sullivan open the chequebook? club strengthen in the January transfer window. Other clubs around us will do the same and bringing in one or two could be the difference between a good season and a great one. Paul de Sousa

Hammers must secure new Lanzini deal

Warm wishes to our Bacon I read with sadness that former club photographer Steve Bacon had been in hospital. Seeing Steve on the touchline with his camera was one of my earliest memories of going to Upton Park and I always used to look out for his photos in the local paper. The crowd’s affection for him (he even has a burger named after him) was typical of the ‘West Ham family’ and I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to wish him the best. Get well soon Stevie! Michael Waring

*Everyone at Blowing Bubbles would like to send our support.

Payet song is just too much I can’t be the only West Ham who has fallen in love with Dimitri Payet this season. The little playmaker has won my heart with his sublime skill, industrious workrate and the fact he has been involved in the majority of our goals this season. I do though, have one major complaint I can’t get that stupid ‘we’ve got Payet’ song out of my head. It’s driving me crazy and I just don’t think you understand. Marcel Lewis



THE HAMMERS’ HERO PULLS NO PUNCHES IN HIS EXCLUSIVE COLUMN Deadly: You knew one of them would always find the net

Cottee and McAvennie lifted the whole team I

t’s great to see my old teammates Cottee and McAvennie as the Big Interview for this month’s issue. It’s crazy to think just how long ago our 85/86 season was. What made their partnership so special? They just had one of those seasons where everything clicked. So much so they could’ve scored with their backsides! They were just thrown together and they hit it off. Paul Goddard was

supposed to play up top with Tony but then he got injured and Frank ended up playing there. Every time we walked out to play, you just felt one of them was going to score. Even if they only got one chance, you just knew they’d take it. There was never a point during that season where we talked about how we were doing and what we could achieve. We just went out there and played. There was never talk about us winning the title or

finishing in the top three or anything like that. There was a period where we played a number of games in a short period and we accumulated a lot of points that really put us in the mix. It was disappointing that our efforts that season weren’t rewarded with European football. I think it will be very tough for West Ham to match our third place finish. Winning the FA Cup would be just as good a feeling though. BBM

Great wins for Slaven We’ve had some tremendous victories this season and I know Slaven Bilic hailed the win at Crystal Palace as the best, but for me the win at Manchester City has been the standout performance. The Liverpool and Arsenal results were great but it was how we played at City that swung it for me. I only managed to catch the highlights of the Chelsea game but it looked like we were good value for the win. Sure a couple of decisions went our way and the offside looked very marginal but we should enjoy victories like that, and remember it when we have a game of everything going against us. Chelsea appear to feel like the whole world is against them but I’m sure things will change soon enough. For now though we can just enjoy the ride.

Pub talk

Blowing Bubbles’ top writers settle down to put the world to rights... West Ham’s victory over Chelsea was the latest big scalp to go with the wins over Man City, Arsenal & Liverpool. What was your favourite and why? Brian Williams: The best win of the season has to be Chelsea for me. I hated them long before Terry and Mourinho came along. Where I was brought up, all the other kids supported Chelsea. I was the only Hammer for miles. They made my life a misery. I hope all those kids still support Chelski – they would have been gutted when Big Andy got the winner. James Longman: Finally winning at Anfield will always be massive highlight, and finding out we had won when I got off the plane in Ibiza set me, and Chris my fellow KUMB podcaster,

Goal: Mauro Zarate scored in West Ham’s win over Chelsea

up for quite a celebratory night involving a giant inflatable swan. However, Chelsea was dreamland and for the big man to score the winner was a moment to cherish for a long time. Geoff Hillyer: You

could make a case for any of these wins. Even though a couple of those wins were by greater margins, I’m going for the game against Chelsea. It was very unWest Ham like. It was a team out of form visiting

us, which is normally a banker defeat for West Ham, and our winner a few minutes from the end. And you felt that we could go places afterwards. James Jones: The Chelsea one has to be my favourite as I didn’t get to the away wins. The atmosphere at the Boleyn that day was unbelievable and certainly a great memory we’ll cherish once we move. David Meagher: The Man City result was the most remarkable given their form prior to the game but the Chelsea win was truly delicious. The manner of the victory was thrilling, culminating in Andy Carroll brushing Chelsea’s much-lauded centre backs aside to score a late winner. The forlorn image of the Special One up in the stands

surrounded by ecstatic Hammers was one that will remain in the memory for a long time! Andy Carroll was on the scoresheet against the Blues, does he get in your starting XI? BW: The way we’re playing under Super Slav, Sakho has to start if he’s fit. He’s got the pace to pull defenders out of position when he runs the channels and gives the midfield some space to exploit. Carroll’s fantastic in the air but he tends to offer a static target and the fluidity goes out of our passing game. JL: As proved against Watford, we really do need Sakho to start up top as his work rate is second to none and the way Bilic sets us up plays to his strength. I am a huge fan of Andy Carroll and an impact sub roll is perfect for him. When he starts we lose some of our rhythm. GH: No, he doesn’t. I view him as an option when things need changing. I think our tendency is to knock it long when Carroll’s in the side, but that bypasses our midfield which has been crucial to our success this season. However, he’s useful to come on and mix things up a bit when things aren’t going our way. JJ: At home, maybe. But on our travels we need pace rather than a target man to complement our counter attacking style. Still, I think even at home Carroll can

Fit again: Does Andy Carroll deserve a place in West Ham’s starting line up?

have a bigger impact off the bench, as he showed against Chelsea. DM: No. It’s a measure of how strong our squad has become that Andy will have to dig his way back into a starting position. Diafra Sakho has not maintained the sensational scoring run that characterised his first 10 games at West Ham but he has remained a potent force and his work rate is second to none. Andy has undoubted abilities and his impact as a substitute is immense but for now, my vote goes to Sakho. How many points do you think West Ham will get in November, the Hammers have home games against Everton

and West Brom either side of a trip to Spurs. BW: Perform like we did against Chelski and the likes of Everton, West Brom and Spurs should hold no fears. A repeat of what happened at Vicarage Road and we’ll get nothing. I’d take six points right now if they were offered on condition that three of them were against Tottenham. JL: I am going to remain stupidly optimistic and go for seven. There are banana skins everywhere as Everton are always tricky, Pulis is my managerial nemesis and Spuds can always go either way. GH: I think November is going to be tough.

Everton and Spurs will not be easy teams to play against and if we could get any more than three points out of them, I would be delighted. West Brom won’t be easy either. That game could be another Watford, with them frustrating us. JJ: Six at the very least, but I’d love to see us get maximum points. That said, part of me would swap a win at Spurs for losses to Everton and West Brom. DM: Right now we are upside down in our results. With that in mind, an away win at Spurs seems likely, we’ll beat Everton and then the Baggies could well turn us over. I’d settle for six or seven points. BBM

Carroll hails the Bilic factor as Hammers dare to think big


had the pleasure of interviewing Andy Carroll for Sky Sports a few days after he scored the winner against Chelsea, and it was refreshing to hear what he had to say about Slaven Bilic and the club. He really is a downto-earth guy. He told me how he wasn’t surprised that the arrival of the new manager gave everyone a big lift. He did point out though that during his time at West Ham there has never been a problem in the dressing room and that there has always been a good team spirit. The big difference, he told me, is that the fans took to Slaven instantly and that has led to a completely different vibe and atmosphere in the ground. He said it is ‘unbelievable’ on the pitch, so much so that they can barely hear themselves shout to each other. I can completely see where he is coming

Fit again: Andy Carroll plans on a long run free from injuries from. Last season, Allardyce would say the atmosphere was toxic at home and the players were hesitant on the ball but you can see now that players are full of confidence. Sure there’s been a few errors but they are playing with confidence and trying things out. When

you are playing with confidence, you make things happen, you get points and win games. I’m just hoping we can replicate our away form, excluding Watford, get plenty more points on the board in the build up to Christmas before kicking on in the New Year and doing

something special. Andy also talked about his latest injury, and I put to him that Slaven seems to think he can go longterm without serious injury and Andy told me he also believes this. He told me that they have changed his training schedule so he doesn’t have to train everyday. It’s not that he doesn’t want to but it’s what he is being told to do. This season because we have more strength in depth and the summer buys have been phenomenal, we’ve not had to rush Andy back into the team like we have after his previous injuries. But whenever he returns to training from injury and gets back into the squad and first team, he has a huge impact on the team. He knows this but he also told me about some pretty dark days he’s had when he’s been off injured.

He told me he is fully fit and that he wants to start every game but you can see at the moment Bilic is reluctant to start him every week and who can blame him because we have been doing all right without him. I think going forward Slaven will look at our opposition before deciding which strike force to deploy. This is the great thing about West Ham this season, we’ve got a plan B and C. The biggest thing I took away from my interview with Andy was that whenever he spoke about Slaven, it was clear that he really has this likeability factor about him. He said the players respect him and they did

so instantly. He has this aura about him and he is a manager they all look up to because of what he has achieved. From what I’ve seen, he is the type of manager who makes people sit up and take notice when he speaks. He does have something about him, the players really like him and it would appear he is a brilliant man manager. He doesn’t leave anyone out and the fans love him. The thing is with Slav, and I’ve said this in previous columns, he knows how to play up to the West Ham fans and he always says the right things. There are worse traits in a manger. BBM

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Fan: Andy Carroll says he has been impressed with Slaven Bilic

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The Boys of ‘86

The Boys of ’86 made fans feel special as we dared to dream There has never been another season like it for West Ham supporters Hero: Alan Devonshire



unny old game, football. You just don’t know what the coming year will be bring. At the start of the 1985/86 season, the so-called beautiful game was at an all-time low in England following two appalling tragedies. On 11 May, 1985, 56 people were killed and more than 250 injured as fire swept through Valley Parade in Bradford. Then, 18 days later, 39 people died at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, which was staging the European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus. The TV cameras were on hand to record the sickening scenes from both disasters. In fact, the BBC was heavily criticised for then showing the Heysel game while other countries opted not to as a mark of respect to the dead.

There was, however, to be no television coverage of the first half of the new domestic season when it got underway in August as the Football League chairmen, ignoring the falling attendances that concerned everyone else, demanded more money from the TV companies to show games that fewer and fewer people could

be bothered to watch. They finally had to climb down in December, by which time West Ham had snuck up on the usual suspects and joined the likes of Man Utd and Liverpool in the title race. November had been a particularly good month. We had won all five games, including a victory over defending

champions Everton. Frank McAvennie’s goal in a 1-0 win at Coventry took his tally for the season to 17 – the highest in the entire Football League. December and January brought mixed fortunes, then in February, just before the weather turned nasty and put a temporary halt to proceedings, a 2-1 win over Man Utd at the Boleyn Ground made the more optimistic among the West Ham congregation start to wonder if this really, finally, could be our year. After the snow cleared, we played Man Utd again in early March – this time in the fifth round of the FA Cup. The first game, at Upton Park, was a 1-1 draw then, the following week, we went to Old Trafford and won the replay 2-0. Forget the league title – now we wanted the double. That little dream evaporated three days later when we crashed out of the Cup at Sheffield Wednesday. Hopes of becoming champions seemed to be fading fast too, as

we lost at Arsenal and Villa. However, revenge against Wednesday at home, followed by a thumping 4-0 win at Chelsea and a 2-1 victory against Spurs in E13 meant the bandwagon was well and truly rolling once more. Phil Parkes was brilliant in goal. Ray Stewart, at right back, never put a foot wrong. Alvin Martin and Tony Gale, in the centre of defence, were imperious. The tireless Alan Devonshire and an assured Alan Dickens were running midfield. Mark Ward was causing havoc on the flank. And, up front, McAvennie and Tony Cottee were simply too hot to handle. But the team was bigger than any one individual. What’s more, this was a group of players that appeared to actually like one another. You got the impression that they were mates off the field as well as comrades-in-arms on it. The spirit of unity was infectious and, increasingly, supporters walked away from Upton Park after yet another victory feeling as if we were part of something special. At the start of April we were fifth. What a month that turned out to be. It began badly, with defeat at Nottingham Forest. Then came a run of eight games in 22 days that were to prove almost as exhausting for the supporters as they must have been for the

Iconic: The 1985/86 team has gone down in West Ham history

players. I was living in west London back then. But if I’d spent any more time in the People’s Republic of Newham they would have made me pay the poll tax there. After the Forest game there were two home wins, against Southampton and Oxford. Next up was Chelsea, and 29,360 of us packed Upton Park - only to watch us lose 2-1. There has never been much love lost between the supporters of West Ham and Chelsea, and after the game the police

had their work cut out keeping the rival thugs from kicking the crap out of one another in Green Street. My god, the atmosphere was ugly. Nights such as that can make you question why you go to football matches. On the Saturday we won at Watford then, two days later, came a game that will never be forgotten by those of us who were lucky enough to be there. West Ham 8 Newcastle 1: the scoreline says it all. Not only was it a

remarkable goal-fest, this game also produced one of the best pub quiz questions of all-time. Q: Who scored a hat-trick against three different goalkeepers? A: Alvin Martin. The comings and goings of the Newcastle keepers that night reads like a plot from Casualty, so I’ll spare you the gory details. But I will just mention Glenn Roeder who, of course, was to go on to manage West Ham and somehow contrived to get one of the most talented set of players

we’ve ever had on the books at the same time relegated. That night he scored an own goal and, having watched several of his team-mates get the chance to use their hands in the box, he tried it as well and conceded the penalty that Stretch converted to take his improbable place in the record books. To be honest Glenn, you and West Ham were clearly never meant to be an item. Next up were Coventry, then Manchester City. Both were nervy affairs, and both ended with 1-0 victories that really did put us in with a serious chance of winning the League. Then came Ipswich, our final home game of the season. A capacity crowd in excess of 31,000 was there to see it. As ever that season, my wife and I were seated in the West Stand. At least, we were at the start of the match. By the end of it we were standing on the seats, celebrating a 2-1 victory that put us up into second and left the title within touching distance. In the end, it all turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. In the penultimate game of the season we did what we had to do at West Brom, but Liverpool beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to squeeze us out of contention for the greatest prize in domestic foot-

Grafter: Mark Ward was popular while, inset, West Ham thrashed Chelsea at the Bridge

ball. Defeat at Everton in the final game meant we finished third behind the two Merseyside clubs – our highest ever topflight league position. To rub salt into the wound, English clubs had been banned from European competitions because of what had happened at the Heysel, so we didn’t even have

the Uefa Cup to look forward to by way of consolation. What we did have, however, was an indelible set of memories of a breathtaking season which so very nearly saw us win the title. Best of all, as a supporter you felt that every one of the Boys of 86 wanted to do it for you.

Thanks lads. Those of us who were fortunate enough to witness it will never forget you. Honestly, we really don’t need the missing TV footage to remind ourselves of just how good you were. * Brian Williams is the author of Nearly Reach The Sky – A Farewell to Upton Park BBM


Saturday, October 24, 2015: Goalline technology saves West Ham against Chelsea as the system proves Kurt Zouma’s header did not cross the line. The Hammers went on to win 2-1 and pile more pressure on Jose Mourinho.

Doing it for Dad

Dad would be proud I’m finally on the road with the Hammers

Yellow Advertiser Irons’ reporter Brian Jeeves on his father’s first love


ellow Advertiser football correspondent Brian Jeeves is a regular in the Upton Park press box. But it was never meant to be like this for the Southend United-supporting son of a Hammers fan. West Ham United v Leicester City. Saturday December 20, 2014. 1:30pm I always take my seat this early because I like to sit with a cuppa and watch the ground gradually fill up. I take a slurp of the steaming brew, browse through the match programme and have a nose around. Two elderly chaps have just taken their seats. They are here most weeks, and I’ve no doubt they’ve seen it all. A young lad stands with his dad at the top of the stairs, gazing wide-eyed across the stadium. It’s his first time here; a fledgling dream has come true. Meanwhile down by the players tunnel, a clutch of kids wait patiently for any sign of a player who might be willing to scribble an autograph in their books. I continue to breathe

At work: Brian Jeeves in the West Ham United press box in the atmosphere and the anticipation of the fans as they arrive for the rollercoaster ride ahead. I then glance up at the clouds hanging above the Chicken Run and smile to myself. You see, it was never meant to be this way. I am the son of Anthony Jeeves, a railwayman from nearby Forest Gate. Dad drove the huge steam engines between

Southend Victoria and Liverpool Street. He was a huge Hammers fan and quite clearly wanted me to follow suit. Dad and my mother moved to Rochford in 1958, but he still watched the Hammers whenever he could. Following my arrival ten-years later, his grand plan was for son to follow in his footsteps

leading all the way to Green Street. But his momentous blunder was taking me to Roots Hall for my football inauguration. He believed he could ‘blood’ me at Southend United, then ease me in at Upton Park along the way. But much to the old man’s frustration I’d fallen head-over-heels for my local team. Try as he may, there was no way back, I was a die-hard Shrimper. Of course, in time this led to many ensuing quarrels, usually starting with dad saying: ‘The trouble with Sarfend is…’ And my dedication to Southend made life tough for me at school too. South east Essex is a West Ham hotbed. Hopelessly outnumbered by Hammers fans, any crumb of success for the Shrimpers was belittled by the claret clan on the King Edmunds playground. Amongst Dad’s earliest childhood memories were of being lifted over the Upton Park turnstile and passed above the crowds’ cloth caps and placed behind the North

Bank goal. He remembered looking up and seeing a man in a bottle green sweater hanging on the rigging of the goal and smiling back at him. It was Hammers goalkeeper Ernie Gregory, and he instantly became the old man’s first hero. Dad told me how he would go to Gregory’s house with his school friends to ask for autographs. A woman, perhaps his wife or landlady, would come to the door and hand out squares of paper with the treasured squiggle adorned across it. In 2003, about a month before he passed away, I was out with the old man on Southend seafront when he seethed: ‘I never saw Ernie Gregory, I bet that woman signed those autographs’. I wondered just how long that had been eating away at him and set about getting Ernie’s signature. Sadly, by the time I obtained one, it was too late. But Dad had plenty of other Upton Park recollections, and he wasn’t slow to let me know about them. Hero: Billy Bonds was one of Anthony’s favourites

What a catch: Anthony Jeeves loved his fishing and, inset, worked on the railways

Great players he’d seen play for and against the Hammers such as Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, George Best and Bert Trautmann to name a few. He’d also tell tales about players with

curious actualities. Syd Puddefoot and Jim Standen were particular favourites, and he’d often recite both football and cricketing facts about the pair. Puddefoot had represented Essex, while Standen was a leg-spinner for Worcestershire, taking 313 first class wickets between 1959 and 1970 at an average of 25.34. My personal favourite memories are of watching the 1980/81 team lift the Second Division championship. Dad and I would visit Upton Park when

Southend were away or had played on a Friday night. They had some super players. Parkes, Bonds, Brooking and Devonshire. Looking back, it’s criminal to think that they were plying their trade in English football’s second tier. But soon teenage tantrums had kicked in. By the time Cottee and McAvennie were tearing up the First Division, those jovial childhood disputes between Dad and I had become quite bitter. These family feuds were not helped by Sou-

thend’s fruitless toil in Division Four, ironically under the management of Bobby Moore. I’d actually started to despise West Ham. In Dad’s later years, footballing days out circled around Southend. He didn’t like wandering too far from home on a match day, although we’d both mellowed enough to hold a conversation about the Shrimpers and Hammers without cursing at each other. After Dad’s passing I began to write down his old football tales, just so my own children had something to remember him by. One thing led to another and here I am 12-years later, a three-times published author and a football correspondent with the Yellow Advertiser newspaper, covering both Southend and West Ham, something I enjoy immensely. Indeed, not getting off to the best of starts with the Hammers, I must admit I was a nervous wreck the day I covered my first game at Upton

Legend: Brian with Julian Dicks

Memories: Upton Park has changed over the years

Park against Manchester City in the semi-final of the League Cup. In truth, the game was the deadest of dead-rubbers. West Ham were trailing 6-0 from the first leg and stood even less than no chance of progressing to the final. Nevertheless, this

was my first taste of the big-time, and for Dad’s sake I had to get it right. A Hammers-supporting mate accompanied me that night for moral support. He was understandably less than enthusiastic about the match and asked me to ‘go easy on us’, as the home side faced the possibility of another tough evening. City won 3-0 to complete a 9-0 aggregate, but I tried to be as courteous as I possibly could to the Hammers. But back to today, and for the record a goal in each half from Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing is enough to see off the hapless Foxes, sending the

Boleyn faithful home full of Christmas cheer. The game was far from a classic, nevertheless today is a special day. It is the first anniversary of me becoming an accredited football reporter, and 11 years to the day since I last watched a match with the old man. Southend lost 1-0 to Bristol Rovers that afternoon. Five days later on Christmas Day 2003 his heart gave up and our lives changed forever. It seems somewhat poignant that I was spending this anniversary at Upton Park covering his beloved Hammers. I brought him a retro Hammers shirt

that Christmas, sadly it never came out of the wrapping paper, until today that is. The press box quickly empties. I sit here alone, frantically typing up my final word on proceedings. I say alone, but he’s here, I know he is. I can feel his presence everywhere. And to the present. We continue to embark on the Boleyn Ground’s final journey, a chance for fans, and in this case a journalist, to be a part of history. Of course just over the horizon, that Swansea City game will be a tearful occasion. I think back to all those arguments we had over the Shrimpers and

Hammers, but it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. I want that final by-line above all others. It’s not just an opportunity to scribe a piece of unique footballing history, but to be here for the old man sporting that shirt for him of course. He’s probably looking down on me chuckling now. After all, I’m a regular at the Boleyn Ground now, he got his way in the end. But one thing will never change. How I’d love to watch just one more match with him, whether it be Shrimpers or Hammers. Goodnight Upton Park and sleep tight Dad – Thanks for the memories. BBM

First love: Brian at Southend United

Reece Burke

‘Astonishingly good’ Burke is showing his class at Bradford

Bantams fans have fallen in love with West Ham’s on-loan defender Impressive: Reece Burke has won many fans at Bradford City




o really do justice to the success of Reece Burke’s loan spell thus far, it’s worth providing context to his move. For third tier Bradford City, the unprecedented success of manager Phil Parkinson’s era, including that famous 4-2 FA Cup scalp over Chelsea, was underlined by two precepts: character, and an efficient back four. Alongside centre half partner Rory McArdle, former Stoke and Middlesbrough defender Andrew Davies was talismanic for the Bantams, and integral in upholding both of these values but he was decidedly injury-prone, leaving Parkinson repeatedly scrabbling for an able replacement each season. With his contract on the brink of expiry and Davies in the club’s top echelon of earners, both

parties parted ways in July. For a while, it was a contentious decision, in the past, Davies’s replacements had proved just about satisfactory, but the disparity had remained striking. And as City slipped down the table as summer turned to autumn, the size of the missing link became more galling. Enter stage, Reece

Burke. Even at this relatively early stage in the season, it’s probably not hyperbolic to cast him among the front-runners for the Player of the Year award, he’s been that good. Thus far, Burke has banished Davies’s shadow with such flair and aplomb that he halted comparisons before they even began. It’s not that he’s cat-

egorically ‘better’ than Davies, I’d place their abilities on par with each other, but that he’s a completely new style of centre half, the likes of which we’ve not seen at Valley Parade before. Burke is very much your ‘modern’ centre back. What separates Burke from Davies’ other ‘replacements’ is the general confidence in his play, and his ambition with possession. As well as exhibiting solid defensive acumen, his vision is exemplary. He likes to bring the ball out from the back, and, against Wigan, sliced six men out the game with a surging run before delivering a pinpoint cross. Among our defenders, Burke is alone in being the one with the composure and the vision to read the game in this way repeatedly, while possessing the belief in his ability to pull off such a move. He feels like an old head on young shoulders. That’s not to say he never gets himself into trouble - there’s a time and a place for such runs, shall we say - but errors are few

and far between. He’s dogged, reliable and his positional sense works like a compass. He knows when to run with a man, when to hold the back line, and he copes well with sudden bursts of play. For his goal against Oldham, Burke took a pacy punt back in onto his back foot, opened up and coolly slotted into the bottom corner. For City’s second against Bury, Burke was harrying on the edge of the box and managed to hustle the ball home via a deflection. He’s slick and works with flair, but can do the ugly stuff well, too. And it’s testament to the mutual benefits of keeping Burke at Valley Parade that his stay has been extended for at least one more month. Truthfully, I think there’s still a negative perception of what life in the lower leagues entails, that the game’s too physical, or full of embittered ex-pros seeking one last paycheque. And while it won’t match the Premier League for explosive pace in the final third, the overall pace of the game is generally much quicker, with greater physicality and more congestion in key areas of the park. Hammers scouts have spoken publically about wanting to take Burke beyond the parameters of Valley Parade, and, in our minds, there is no doubt he will ultimate-

Home grown: Can Reece Burke establish himself at West Ham United?

ly make waves in the Premier League. But this doesn’t mean the off-field landscape behind a club like Bradford City isn’t providing a steep learning curve. With aspirations of Championship football, plus the freight of historic cup endeavours this side cannot be separated from, expectations here are perpetually high, but often outstrip reality. There is little margin for error, yet Burke has risen to such demands

manfully. Valley Parade consequently becomes a breeding ground for this warrior-like mentality. Today, only four players remain from the Bradford squad that took the jaunt to the League Cup final, and three of those make up the current back four. These defenders, two of whom are Australian and Northern Ireland internationals, and one an ex-Liverpool player, are a well-drilled unit and have repeatedly placed

among the most efficient back lines in Leagues One and Two. But they’ve also proved vital in sustaining the mentality that Parkinson emphasises, and that will be just as vital as any experience Burke garners on the field. It’s comforting to think Burke’s growing up is going to be done within this group of consummate professionals but honestly, he looks like he’s already had a lifetime of football. BBM

Morgan Amalfitano Gone: Morgan Amalfitano left the club after falling out with Slaven Bilic

Why Bilic was right to dump the ‘trouble-maker’ Amalfitano West Ham can afford to have no bad apples in their in-form squad




laven Bilic wasted no time in stamping his authority at West Ham United, as he banished Morgan Amalfitano

from Chadwell Heath due to a falling out, and this has since led to the winger leaving the club by mutual consent. Amalfitano fell out with Bilic after he missed a team meeting in August. As a result, Bilic ordered the ex-France international to stay away from the club’s training ground and instead train with the Development Squad at

Rush Green. The winger had appeared four times for the Hammers in the Europa League since Bilic’s appointment, but the fall out resulted in Amalfitano failing to appear in claret and blue again. Since the incident, some have questioned whether Bilic was too quick to dismiss Amalfitano and if the new manager perhaps strug-

gles to deal with egos. But Bilic got it spot on as recent history would seem to suggest that the former Marseille winger has attitude problems. Bilic’s predecessor Sam Allardyce labeled Amalfitano an ‘unprofessional’ player after he was sent off for lashing out at Chris Brunt in the embarrassing FA Cup defeat to West Bromwich Albion last season.

He also forced through a loan move to the Hawthorns, from Marseille, by handing in a transfer request after the French giants failed to qualify for the Uefa Champions League in the previous campaign. Amalfitano did show glimpses of what he can do last term. His best performance came in the 2-1 home win over Manchester City, where he grabbed the opening goal. He did, however, seem to be disinterested at times when the Hammers were not in possession, and he could be slow to track back. The termination of Amalfitano’s contract has hardly made much of an impact at the club, as it is clear that he would not have been in the Hammers’ starting XI, whether there was a bust-up or not. Dimitri Payet’s displays have shown why Bilic made him the club’s number one transfer target in the summer. The France international has been involved in the majority of the East London club’s goals since his arrival and there is no way that Amalfitano could have displaced him. Also, Manuel Lanzini has been a welcome surprise. Many were expecting the Argentinian to struggle in the Premier League, but he has settled in well and scored important goals in wins at Liverpool and, more recently, Crystal

Boss: Slaven Bilic is not someone you want to mess with

Could we forgive a Berahino?


Palace. Victor Moses has often been on the left wing since the club secured his services (until the end of the season) on transfer deadline day. All three of them are versatile and are able to switch wings or even move in behind Sakho. Amalfitano was not as versatile as those currently at Bilic’s disposal. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that he would have started ahead of any of the trio

regardless of a bust-up. Moving Amalfitano on removed the possibility of his attitude bogging his teammates down. With the Hammers flying high, the club wants no distractions, and he could have been a big distraction for Bilic’s men. The Hammers need everyone to be on the same page and if one player is not then it is probably best for the club if they leave. BBM

West Brom’s Saido Berahino has a bit of a reputation for making the headlines. Back in the summer his situation at the Baggies seemed untenable as he vowed never to play for the club again after being refused a transfer to Tottenham Hotspur. Baggies fans seem a forgiving bunch though and have welcomed him back into the first team. This begs the question would we have been so generous? The obvious example here is Paul Ince, who (lest we forget) was pictured in a Manchester United shirt long before the deal was complete. Ince was idolised by West Ham fans but he has received a torrid reception ever since. Ince claimed his agent advised him to have that picture taken before he went on holiday, after the deal was close to being done – but the picture was found by a sister paper, who published it before the deal was announced. Cue uproar. Saido must be glad he’s not a Hammer.

Sam Allardyce autobiography - review

Allardyce: My wife begged me not to take the West Ham job Julian Shea find a few titbits in the former Hammers boss’s book


ne of the basic rules of writing is - know who you are writing for. If you are Sir Alex Ferguson, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Paul Gascoigne, you’re writing for the whole world but in the case of Sam Allardyce’s autobiography, readers are left wondering – seriously, who is this for? Sporting biographies are usually written to cash in on success, as a career retrospective, or to surf the wave of possibly fleeting popularity but Allardyce does not fit any of these categories. Maybe leaving West Ham looked like some sort of career milestone. In fact, in the introduction written in June, he talks about having just turned down the Sunderland job and looking forward to some time off but before this book was published, he was back on the managerial treadmill at Sunderland. The most successful period of Allardyce’s career, at Bolton, ended eight years ago, so is hardly a unit shifter, so you can only assume the book is being pegged on his time at West Ham. But considering the

lukewarm relationship he had with them, are Irons fans likely to rush out and buy it? As early as page eight, he swats the fly of irritation he seems to feel about the fans (who on page nine he once again calls ‘deluded’), brings up the old ‘what is the West Ham way?’ chestnut, and playing the ‘good luck – you’ll need it’ card to Slaven Bilic, who guided the team to

second in the Premier League the weekend after the book was published. The underlying feeling that Allardyce never really enjoyed being at West Ham is confirmed when he says he took the job against the wishes of his wife, and with a warning from Steve Bruce about how demanding David Sullivan was as a boss. There are some pub

trivia titbits along the way, for instance Liverpool only let Andy Carroll leave because Brendan Rodgers thought Clint Dempsey was on his way to Anfield. However, events of significance to fans, such as the double Cup humiliation of January 2014, are glossed over in the space of a paragraph – admittedly it was a time of desperate injuries, but surely it deserved more than the written equivalent of a shrug. The New Zealand trip of summer 2014 is flagged up as a huge mistake which played a role in the team’s subsequent problems, but ironically it was when the team were at their peak. As many fans were quick to point out, Allardyce and West Ham were always an uncomfortable fit; this book suggests the feeling was mutual. As early as page 10, talking about the Olympic Stadium, Allardyce writes ‘they need to fill a 54,000-seater stadium with entertaining and successful football. The fans won’t turn up if

Outspoken: Former West Ham boss Sam Allardyce is now at Sunderland

Can Big Sam get Sunderland to pull off a great escape? BY EMILY PULHAM

West Ham are playing fantasy football and losing 5-3 every week.’ Maybe, but the football Allardyce served up at West Ham, like the 2-1 win over Hull in March 2014 where some fans booed the home side off the pitch, would not fill those seats either. In a dark hour, West Ham turned to Sam Allardyce. He did the job that was asked, was paid handsomely for doing so, and served his purpose.

The club may not have necessarily wanted him, but at that point, it needed him. He was the man for that time, and now someone else is the man for another time. In hindsight, West Ham fans may start to have slightly more grudging respect for Allardyce and what he did for the club. But whether that will be enough to make them feel the need to buy this book is another matter. BBM

When Sam Allardyce finally left West Ham United after the expiry of his contract, I had nothing bad to say about the man. He brought us stability in times of inconsistency and whilst we weren’t always entertained, and sometimes we were downright bored to tears, we were relatively safe and secure in a Premier League seat, which I am grateful for. I also agreed it was the right thing for both Sam and for West Ham not to renew his contract as the club had higher ambitions for success than what Sam seemed to feel we could achieve. With that in mind, I thanked Sam and wished him well. Since then, Allardyce has gone on to write a book and deliver quotes and sound bites which negate and bemoan his time at West Ham United, which I think is a real shame. After seeing him on Match of the Day after our 4-3 loss to Bournemouth, I no longer wish him well. In fact, I want him to suffer. Now that Allardyce has been named the new manager of relegation-threatened Sunderland, I’m won-

dering if my wish may have actually come true. Sunderland have had some tricky recent seasons, but have always come up trumps when they needed to. This season they just seem thoroughly dejected after every defeat. The question is, with Sam’s new appointment at Sunderland – a club who have the dubious honour of being absolutely awful this season – will he actually suffer? Or will he soar into the Stadium of Light as a majestic albatross coming to rescue the suffering North East fans and guarantee them years of dull, sensible, “let’s throw on another defender as soon as we go 1-0 up” football? I have an annoying feeling it will be the latter – and that he’ll absolutely excel at it. Annoyingly, I think he’ll thrive. Allardyce is exactly what Sunderland need. He’s tough, stoic, disciplined and a man who excels at stabilising clubs who need results. I still won’t wish him well – but honestly, he doesn’t need my wishes anyway. He’s going to be just fine on his own.


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Enner Valencia

Will we see the best of Enner Valencia in a West Ham shirt? The striker is back from injury and ready to make a massive impact Fit-again: Enner Valencia is now back from injury




t’s not just our form and league position that’s got me pinching myself at the moment. The fact we’ve got where we are with a number of first team players still to return from injury is nothing short of ridiculous. I mean that in a good way. In previous seasons our strength in depth, or lack of, has cost us dearly. Last season it cost us a finish in the top ten and you could also use it as a small excuse for our failure to stay in the Premier League in the past, too. But now things are different. We’re strong in almost every position; so strong that we’re all wondering how a Champions League winner and former Barcelona player is going to get in the team once he returns from injury. It’s not just Alex Song

who’ll be sweating over his place in the starting XI, though. Last summer’s £12million signing Enner Valencia arguably has a bigger job on his hands. Our success so far this campaign can be put mostly down to our attacking threat. Diafra Sakho, Manuel Lanzini, Dimitri Payet, Victor Moses and Mauro Zarate have all been superb, scoring and creating goals every week. Then you’ve got Andy Carroll back fit and firing, throwing his hat in the ring for a piece of

the pie with his winner against Chelsea. Oh, and Michael Antonio is still to get his chance to shine. So where exactly does Valencia fit in now? The Ecuadorian hit the ground running last term with our goal of the season in a 2-2 draw against Hull. It was a goal that had everyone saying ‘hang on, we’ve got a player here.’ The 25-year-old hardly replicated that early promise for the rest of the campaign, ending the season with just four league goals, which had

some fans wondering whether he was worth the money after all. However, you’d like to think Slaven Bilic can get the best out of him. Squad rotation is going to be key to us avoiding another dismal second half of the season and instead achieving a top eight finish at the very least. But if squad rotation is to work, it has to involve a number of quality players all of which are happy to wait their turn and chip in with quality performances when they get the call. Valencia should be deployed in a similar role that Zarate has played this season, but Zarate has only really played when Victor Moses hasn’t, which goes to show how much competition there is for places this season. Valencia’s partnership with Sakho last term was a promising sight and one I’m sure both players are eager to rekindle this season. Bilic will know that, it’s just finding a way for it to work and for all of them to be the same positive impact when it’s their turn. BBM

Manuel Lanzini

Five things you didn’t know about West Ham star Lanzini

Lucy Woolford digs into the past of the talented Argentine youngster


anuel Lanzini has enjoyed a fabulous start to his West Ham career, and has even been compared to the likes of David Silva and Luca Modric. Here are a few things you might not know about the player. 1) He has a great nickname The youngster is nicknamed ‘La Joya’ or ‘The Jewel’ for his sparkling performance characteristics that quickly made him one of the leading players in Argentine soccer. Great news for the tabloids who surely can’t resist a glittering pun. Good job he took those English lessons prior to his Upton Park move so he can understand them all. 2) He had a great upbringing The 22-year-old is a graduate of the River Plate youth system, an academy famed for producing the likes of Ariel Ortega, Alfredo Di Stéfano, and more recently, Gonzalo Higuaín and former Hammer Javier Mascherano. He chose the River Plate youth academy

the future of Argentine international football, Lanzini has four caps for the U20s. There has been a lot of pressure on the youngsters at international level and Lanzini has arrived at a time where youth set-ups for the national team perhaps haven’t been up to scratch. Hopes are firmly pinned on the likes of Manuel Lanzini, who is a bright prospect and a keen playmaker. He possesses most traditional traits of an Argentine number 10; dribbling ability, acceleration, good vision and splitting defenders.

Talent: Manuel Lanzini has had a great start to his West Ham career

over Boca aged just nine and he was quick to make an impression. His teammates tipped him to become a big star in the future. 3) He started young Lanzini made his professional debut at the age of 17 following the departure of current Spurs forward Erik Lamela for Roma. He came through as a versatile player with the ability to create pace

in midfield as well as terrorise defences. One of his stand-out moments for River Plate came when he scored against their biggest rivals, Boca Juniors, a game which ended in historic victory and raised Lanzini’s profile and his exceptional raw talent. 4) He has four youth caps Billed as a hope for

5) He doesn’t score that many Now for the stats. When he turned professional, he netted 13 times in 89 appearances for River Plate over the course of four years. He also put in a handy 14 assists. Once out on loan at Fluminese, he scored five goals in 37 league games. He gained a somewhat better ratio at Al Jazira Club in the UAE League scoring eight times in 24 games. BBM

Supporters’ club of the month

#8: Maltese Hammers When, how and why was group founded? The Maltese Hammers was founded in 1995 by Norman Galea. We are a small but passionate group of people who follow the Hammers mostly with live TV games. Tours to Upton Park are organised twice to three times a year. Our founder Norman Galea has also been a season ticket holder in the Bobby Moore Lower for the last six years, which has ensured our club has good contacts with West Ham United, and most of all the supporters’ groups both in England and around the world. How many members in your group today? How quickly has that membership risen since you founded? Where do you watch games? The club has about 50

Looking good: The group show off their flags

Loyal: Malta has some proud and loyal West Ham supporters

local Maltese Hammers fans. The games are on satellite TV so it’s easy to follow the Hammers on TV in clubs and pubs all over the Maltese Islands. How many times do

members travel to games? As a supporters’ club we travel twice to three times a year mostly for home games at Upton Park. Since the club was formed we always manage to go to the big games such as our two play-off finals in Cardiff, the FA Cup Final against Liverpool in 2006 and the latest play-off final at Wembley against Blackpool. What are the benefits of being part of your group? How can people

get in touch with your club? The biggest benefit is being able to come together most weekends and have a pint while watching our favourite team. We’re also a nice and friendly bunch. Supporters, both local and international, who would like to contact us can find us on Facebook, on Twitter (@maltesehammers) or can email us on and freddies@onvol. net. BBM

West Ham Ladies

‘West Ham have not hit rock Bottom’ insists captain Katie

David Blackmore talks to the new skipper after dramatic few weeks


ew West Ham Ladies captain Katie Bottom has called on the Hammers to continue to fight for each other after one of the most difficult months in the club’s history. The departure of six senior players - including captain Stacey Little - at the start of the month followed by a heavy 8-1 defeat against title-chasing Charlton Athletic was hard for the Ladies to take. But the Hammers consolidated, re-grouped and fought back towards the end of the month with a draw away at Lewes before beating the South Coast side at home on October 25. Those four points helped to lift the Ladies up to ninth and within striking distance of the group in front - much to the delight of midfielder Bottom. But with their next two games scheduled to be against Brighton and Hove Albion, who topped the FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division at the end of last month, November promises to be equally as tough on the pitch. ‘We were very pleased

Fan: Katie Bottom says it is a huge honour to captain West Ham to pick up four points in our two games against Lewes,’ the Ladies’ skipper told Blowing Bubbles. ‘You could say the results should’ve been the other way round or even that we could’ve lost the home game as we rode our luck during that win. ‘But there was plenty

of fight around the team for both games and everyone was fighting for each other. ‘The performances weren’t what we expected or where we wanted them to be but there were plenty of positives to take.’ With the likes of Stacey Little, Kelley Blanchflower, and Emma Sher-

wood leaving the club, members of the club’s development squad have found themselves in the first team - something Bottom can relate to. ‘With the new set of players we have in the squad now, it will take time for us to get to know one another,’ she continued. ‘I can remember what it was like when I made the step up from the development squad to the first team four years ago so I can understand what they must be going through. ‘It was more physical and the pace was a lot quicker but when I broke into the team, I was given a few minutes here and there as I adjusted to it but some of the girls in our team now have come in and played the whole game.’ As for the departure of six senior players last month, she added: “It was very difficult for me because I was very close to the girls that left. ‘There’s only myself and Danica still here from last year and Danica’s injured at the moment and not about so it was very tough. ‘Stacey was a massive

loss and I still keep in touch with her as well as Kelley. ‘There’s no grudge from my point of view. We still get along and I wish them the best of luck with whatever they chose to do next.’ Bottom has played for West Ham for 11 years, having joined the club as a 12 year old so she was delighted to have been appointed club captain. ‘I’m a West Ham fan so to be the captain of the Ladies is a huge honour for me. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,’ she said. ‘I didn’t enjoy the best start to my captaincy with our defeat against Charlton. We knew it was going to be tough but there was no expectation on us to come away with anything after everything that happened that week. ‘Once we finished the game, and that week, it was very much a case of us saying to one another to forget what had happened and start a new chapter.’ As for Bottom’s expectations for the coming weeks and months ahead, she added: ‘At the moment we are in our

Popular: Former skipper Stacey Little left the club after a row with manager Marc Nurse

own mini-league at the bottom of our league so although we will be trying to get points off Brighton and Hove this month, we looking more at making sure we pick up maximum points from those teams

around us. Having said that, QPR have beaten Brighton and they are below us so we know it can be done. ‘We just need to keep focusing on doing the right things and taking the positives out of each

game. We’re very much taking it week by week. We’ve been improving with every training session and we will keep working hard to make sure we can challenge every team in this league.’ BBM

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The last word

Sorry Tottenham - the future is now clearly claret and blue

David Bowden says West Ham are ready to step out of the shadows


ands up who’s had that playground school debate of ‘my team is better than yours’ - everyone? Good. After all it is the classic argument that happens up and down the land in pubs, offices and schools. The conflict between West Ham and Tottenham has been the one that has riled for many a year. Now seems like the opportune moment to examine things a little closer given the Hammers’ flying start to the season. Under Slaven Bilic, the Irons have assembled a squad packed full of exciting players that like to play football ‘the right way’ and it is proving fruitful with the East End club sitting high up the table. With Spurs hot on their heels, it is time to open that can of worms again, and ask, are West Ham United better than Tottenham Hotpsur? If you had asked me this question over the years my answer, despite all my bravado, would be a painfully hard admission that Spurs have arguably been marginally

Gutted: Expect to see more of this from Harry Kane ‘better’ than us. They have won the First Division twice, the FA Cup eight times and the League Cup four times, as well as enjoying their fair share of honours in Europe. They have enjoyed regular European football in recent years including that Champions League run under Harry Redknapp. Our recent forays have sadly been rather short-lived, so they are also one up on us in that sense.

But for some reason, this year feels different. Under Slaven there appears to be a new sense of belief around the Boleyn, it is really starting to feel like ‘our year’. On the face of it, we have a better squad than Spurs, with only really Hugo Lloris and Christian Eriksen players I would bring into my West Ham starting 11 from North London. In Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini, Victor

Moses, who rejected Spurs to come to us by the way, and Diafra Sakho we have a strike force that anyone outside of the usual top four would love to have. Whilst Bilic may not hold the same level of Premier League experience that Mauricio Pochettino has, the Croatian has been a breath of fresh air since arriving in E13. At White Hart Lane, the football is equally free flowing, but unlike the Hammers they are reliant on one or two members of the squad to pull the strings. In Eriksen and Harry Kane, they have two terrific players, but when they aren’t on form, the Lilywhites tend to fire blanks. So whilst they may edge us on historic honours, I have every faith that our move to bigger and better things in Stratford alongside Slaven building a strong squad, that the Hammers will soon be a much, much bigger club than Tottenham and maybe even the biggest club in London. Let’s dare to dream for a moment. BBM

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