Inside: Stevie Bacon reveals his favourite West Ham pics BY FANS, FOR FANS BLOWING-BUBBLES.CO.UK
FEBRUARY 2016 #56
BIG SAM REVISITED As Allardyce brings Sunderland to Upton Park, we review his legacy in East London
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Big Sam still divides opinion months after West Ham exit I ’m going to be very interested to hear the reception Sam Allardyce receives when his Sunderland side visit Upton Park at the end of this month. Do I think fans will boo him? Yes. Do I think he will receive applause from supporters? Yes. Who will be the loudest? The booers. From the moment he arrived at West Ham there was a sizeable anti-Big Sam brigade. You need only look on the West Ham internet forums and overhear conversations down the pub to get a feeling there were plenty who’d rather
not see Sam in charge. This minority grew slowly but it could have so easily been diminished had Sam charmed the fans like Slaven has. He didn’t, and for that, he will get jeered. How do I feel about his return? I’m not too sure. The history books will show he was in charge of our great club for four seasons, he got us out of the Championship and back into the Premier League during his first season and then preceded to keep us in the top flight with modest finishes. He did what was asked of him and for that he
is due credit but he could have gone about it differently. Some of the football we played under Allardyce was absolutely horrific and I never felt he bought into the ethos of the club. His attitude towards the FA Cup and our youth players was also, in my mind, a disgrace. Needless to say, Allardyce dominates this issue. My thanks to Brian Williams and Emily Pulham for their views and as you’ll see in our popular feature Pub Talk feature, he still divides oppinion.
The big interview - Stevie Bacon
‘I want to see Upton Park one more time before we move’ West Ham’s legendary snapper Stevie Bacon tells David Blackmore he is optimistic for the future despite his long battle with diabetes
or more than 30 years, he enjoyed a unique view on goings on at the Boleyn Ground and undoubtedly remains West Ham’s most loved photographer. There is, of course, only one Stevie Bacon, but the Newham Recorder’s legendary snapper is facing an uncertain future after having had his lower left limb amputated as a result of complications with his diabetes. Confined to a bed in a room in his ‘wheelchair unfriendly’ house, Stevie knows life will never be the same again. Even now, a few months on from his operation, the 63-year-old admits he does not know where he will live and how much care he will need moving forward. ‘My big problem is I’m living in a rented house but it’s not wheelchair accessible so I’m stuck in a room and confined to bed,’ he explained. ‘I’m currently waiting for the council to find a property for me which will enable me to get around and, most importantly, help me to get out and
Winners: Stevie Bacon gets his hands on the play-off trophy
about. It might sound like a silly thing to say but you don’t realise how difficult things can be. It’s so very difficult for me to do anything at the moment but I’m trying to make the best out of this situation.’ While Stevie still harbours dreams of returning to the touchline at some point he admits it is highly likely he’ll never work again.
‘I’ve only got a year left before I retire and, as things stand, I don’t think I will be back working,’ he continued. Bacon, who turns 64 in the same month as West Ham will begin life in the Olympic Stadium, hasn’t been able to get to the Boleyn Ground for a couple of seasons and admits he would love to see the old ground one more time before
the move. ‘I love Upton Park,’ he explained. ‘I’ve spent half my life there from starting to do my first games there in my late teens, right through to a couple of years ago. ‘I’ve got really fond memories of the place and the players I have met and the fans. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get over there before we finish there this season but it just depends on my situation. ‘West Ham have said I can go when I want which is really nice of them and I really want to get there sometime soon.’ However, while he admits it will be a sad day when the John Lyall Gates are closed for the final time, Bacon says the move to the Olympic Stadium will allow the club to move forward. ‘Given the choice I would have stayed at Upton Park but then you realise they have probably done as much as they can there, he added. ‘They could have redeveloped the East side but at the end of the day it makes more sense to move to the Olympic
In his pomp: A young Stevie Bacon poses with a camera
Stadium. Getting in and out of Upton Park is a nightmare so we have to think of the fans because it’s much easier and better to get out of Stratford. I just hope the atmosphere will be just as good there.’ Bacon admits he is always pessimistic about West Ham, but even he now admits the Hammers will be able to avoid relegation and that things are looking good – ‘for once’. ‘We’ve been unbelievable this season,’ he said. ‘My biggest fear coming into this season was getting relegated and moving to the new stadium as a Championship club - it would have been a huge dent in our plans. ‘We started the season brilliantly though with all the away wins and, despite our bad run of injuries we held our own and managed to keep going and now we can start to push for a European slot.’ Bacon says he is especially delighted about how the season has panned out for Slaven Bilic, a man he got to know well while the Croatian was a player at the club back in the
Happy days: Stevie on West Ham’s tour of Australia
1990s. ‘I got on very well with Slav when he was here. He was great – a very friendly guy and very knowledgeable,’ he added. ‘He always preferred to sit and chat rather than play cards on the coach. I’ve always said he didn’t do bad for us but that he didn’t stay too long. He was a
Chats: Stevie got to know Slaven Bilic on the coach
decent man.’ Bacon was able to get to know Bilic, and many of the players, when he travelled on the team’s coach as his role as club photographer. ‘I always tried to make new players feel at home,’ he added. ‘I can remember when Ray Stewart joined us and I got a call from the manager John Lyall asking me to come to the ground to get a few pictures. John had been the first person Ray saw at West Ham and I was the second. Ray and I got on really well and we went on to form a great friendship. He still keeps in touch today.’ As for the players
he connected with the most, Bacon his closest friends in football are from ‘Boys of 86’ – the team that came within a whisker of winning the old first division. ‘They were more my generation when I was working closely with the club,’ he added. ‘I didn’t have much access to the current crop of players. Mark Noble I always got along well with as I did with Scott Parker when he was at the club. Football has changed completely. I was talking to a journalist the other week and he said that in the old days, press officers were there to help you make contact
with players but now they are stopping you making contact with the players and that sums it all up. ‘This isn’t just at West Ham - it’s the same wherever you go. Players are kept away from the fans as much as they are the media. Some training grounds are more like fortresses now and you can’t get anywhere near where you used to be able to go.’ The conversation turns to his highlights from working as West Ham’s official club photographer for three decades, and Bacon says he still feels privileged to have done a job he enjoyed for so long. ‘Being involved with the club was great for me being a local boy and a West Ham fan,’ he explained. ‘To get to travel with the team was incredible. The biggest highlight for me was when I was able to go to Australia with them on tour. It was three weeks with them and it was superb.’ However, it was the big European nights that really stick in his mind. ‘I’ll never forget when Dinamo Tbilisi came to Upton Park and were applauded off the pitch,’ he explained. ‘Then there was the game behind closed doors [in October 1980 after rioting by fans in the first leg against Castilla in Spain in the European Cup Winners’ Cup]. That was eerie. Everyone was desperate
Friend: Stevie says he has always got on well with West Ham’s Mark Noble
to see the game but it was only played in front of such a small number of people. ‘Travelling abroad with West Ham for European games was also something I really enjoyed. I covered the Cup Winners’ Cup final when we got beat by Anderlecht and also the Intertoto Cup in 1999.’ While Bacon is happy reminiscing over the past, the future hangs like an elephant in the room. However, he
remains determined to be positive and reveals he still has high hopes for the future. ‘Hopefully the council can come up with a property that I can move to and I’m looking at getting a prosthetic leg which would give me at least a bit more mobility. ‘I do like to travel and I love driving. It would be nice [once I retire] to be in a situation where I can get a car under the Government’s Motability Scheme that will allow
me to do a bit more driving and take some photographs. ‘I’d also like to shoot some football again somewhere but at the moment I’m taking everything one step at a time – if you excuse the pun what with me having just the one leg!’ Whatever tomorrow holds though there will only be one Stevie Bacon, and he’ll always have a special place in the hearts of West Ham fans. BBM
A fan cries as he pays tribute to Bobby Moore
The good, the bad and the ugly
Legendary snapper Stevie Bacon picks some of his favourite photos Trevor Brooking wins us the FA Cup
Julian Dicks scores against Manchester United
Carlos Tevez finally found the net
Paolo Di Canio shows his emotion A fan takes it on the chin
A battered Billy Bonds
of West Hamâ€™s glorious history
from his glittering career professionally covering the club he loves Paolo Di Canio stuns Manchester United
Harry Redknapp and Billy Bonds celebrate promotion
West Ham had to play Castilla behind closed doors in 1980
West Ham fans owe Jenkinson their thanks for all his efforts The news Carl Jenkinson suffered a major injury against Manchester City is desperately sad news for the player. All the indications suggest that he will be out for at least the rest of the season, so has in all likelihood kicked his last ball for West Ham. The right-back, who has spent the last 18 months on-loan at Upton Park from Arsenal, hasn’t been in great form this year but no true Hammers fan can take any pleasure from seeing him hurt. It is important to remember that Jenko is just 23-years-old and, like any young player, is going to have ups and downs while he learns his trade. This year has seen
more downs than ups, but he still managed to change a couple of games from the bench when he replaced the more defensively minded James Tomkins such as at Bournemouth. Although he is a born
Signing Fenerbahce striker Emmanuel Emenike on loan is a great bit of business and shows the club have learned their lesson from last year. Last season we were well placed at the turn of the year but failed to strengthen, something that ultimately cost us as we fell away over the final few months of the campaign.
When you consider we also signed Sam Byram, one of the most highly rated young players in the Championship, then I think we have to be pretty happy with the transfer window as it addressed two key areas where we lacked depth or quality. Hopefully the two players will help us push on for Europe. Matthew Brown
All change: Sam Byram replaces Carl Jenkinson
LETTER OF THE MONTH and bred Gunners fan he could never be accused of giving anything less than 100 per cent for the shirt and I’m sure all West Ham fans wish him the best for the future in his career. Steph Jones
Emenike deal reveals bigger ambition
Fixture change hurts real fans I am writing to say how disgusting I feel it is that West Ham’s game with Southampton was moved at such short notice. The match was meant to be played on February 8 but has been brought forward to the Saturday at just over a week’s notice. I know it is because of our FA Cup replay with Liverpool but I think this is a kick in the face for supporters who had already made their travel arrangements. I don’t understand why the Liverpool game couldn’t have been the following week. This is quite simply unfair. Roger Pluck
Now that is the West Ham way! They say describing the rules of cricket to a foreigner is one of the hardest things you can attempt to do. Well, explaining the West Ham way may be even tougher. We all know it exists but putting it into words isn’t at all easy. All I can say is that if you want to see it in action you should watch the Man City game again. The match had everything and I came away feeling proud. Ted Thompson
THE HAMMERS’ HERO PULLS NO PUNCHES IN HIS EXCLUSIVE COLUMN
Payet song is genius
Exciting: Sam Byram chose West Ham over Everton
Byram’s decision shows how far we have come
very week in football you can see how the best laid plans often go astray and against Man City this was very much the case for West Ham. We bought Sam Byram from Leeds United with an eye for the future. He’s young, talented and has bags of potential. Like Michail Antonio, Slaven would have wanted to ease his new signing into the squad, and get him used to training with Premier League players. But with James
Tomkins sidelined, he made the bench against the Premier League title challengers only a few days after joining the club before going on to make his debut in the top flight of English football when Carl Jenkinson went off injured. With Jenkinson out for the rest of the campaign he’ll certainly get a few more games and more experience, but it certainly wasn’t what Slaven would have wanted. It’s just one of those things. Just when you
think you have cover across the pitch, you get one or two injuries and then you are down to the bare bones again. Sam Byram’s signing bodes well for the future, but he is still young and we need to give him chance to develop. We must accept he will make mistakes along the way but he has already shown that the step up from the Championship to the Premier League is possible, and there’s no reason why he can’t make the transition.
There’s not a West Ham game that goes past without me hearing ‘I just don’t think you understand’ from the crowd. Payet must be loving the affection he is being shown by the fans. From a player’s point of view, if the fans are singing about you, it puts you in good stead and shows their warm regard for you. It’s certainly a memorable song - as is the one I still hear from time to time about Ludo Miklosko. It was always good to hear it when I was playing, and clearly whoever came up with it had a good think about it. I had one or two songs myself although you probably don’t hear them so much these days. As players, we never really spoke about the songs being sung, but certainly you always want them singing something like the Ludo song!
The Blowing Bubbles’ team settle down to put the world to rights... Sam Allardyce returns to Upton Park for the first time. How do you feel about his return? Do you think fans will boo or applaud him? David Bowden: Sam Allardyce is the ultimate ‘marmite’ figure. Some fans like him, many don’t. For that reason I think it will be a strange reception. I am hoping the polite ripples of applause will outweigh the boos. It’s important to remember what he did for us. James Longman: It’s the circle of Big Sam life. Hated him at Bolton. Supported him here. Mild dislike for him at Sunderland. I think enough fans appreciate what he did in a difficult time. I was chuffed to see us win beat Blackpool at Wembley, but it was time for him to go. I hope he
Returning: Sam Allardyce gets applause and then we stuff them. Marcus Johns: I disagree. I think fans will boo him. As has been said many times before, there are ways to leave a club, and there are ways not to. For every Rio,
there’s a Lampard. And Allardyce falls into the same category as the latter, and not just because they’re both fat! Yes, he did a great job in getting us up and keeping us there. but the football was dire, and he refused
to buy into the ethos of the club. Andrew Hosie: Judging by the scramble for tickets for this match, it’s one that has been keenly anticipated since Sam was announced as Sunderland manager. There’s bound to be lots of boos, but should, hopefully, be more on the banter side than hostile side. Let’s hope Sam doesn’t spoil our party. It looks like Carl Jenkinson has played his last game for West Ham after suffering a serious knee injury. What will you remember from his time playing in claret and blue? DB: It’s a great shame for Carl, and it was disappointing to see some fans celebrating his injury on social media. He was terrific last season; unfortunately he hasn’t quite lived up to that
hype this year. The moment that sticks out in my mind was his cracking last-ditch goal-saving tackle against Chelsea at the Boleyn last year. AH: He had a great first season. Maybe Sam’s playing style suited him more than Slav’s or maybe he’s just been found out. There’s no doubting, though, that many people were unhappy when Arsene Wenger refused to sell him to us before this season and were pleased we got him back on loan again. Obviously, while no-one wants to see anyone end up with a serious injury, it does seem we’ve come out of a difficult situation fortuitously. MJ: I think people will be split. The Jenkinson of last season will be remembered as a great attacking full back. This season’s will be remembered as a defensive liability who was devoid of confidence. There’ll be some who won’t bother to remember him at all. JL: I’m sorry to say that the match against Bournemouth will live long in my memory. Costly mistakes, a stupid sending off, a lack of confidence. People seem to think he had a great season last year. He did OK, but our defence was shaky. Good luck to him, and thank you, but it’s time to look elsewhere. Mauro Zarate joined Fiorentina last month. Were you surprised he left? Do you think we’ll miss him? MJ: Given the injuries, I
Departed: Mauro Zarate joined Fiorentina in the January transfer window
was surprised he’d gone, especially for such a small fee. I did, however, find him frustrating to watch. He did so many good things, but invariably tried to do one good thing too many, and would lose the ball rather than pass. His talent was unquestionable, but I felt he played more for himself than the team.
Compare him to Payet, who is more skillful and more prepared to track back. It’s a shame Zarate didn’t display those qualities more. AH: I was a little bit surprised because I thought he’d done well and had upped his game a bit under Slav. However, with Antonio making sure he took his
chance when he finally started for the first team, Lanzini on the way back and a variety of options to ‘mix it up’ in midfield and wide areas, I guess it worked out best to free up some wages and go on to strengthen in other areas. DB: It didn’t come as a massive surprise. It was clear that Mauro wanted
first-team football, and his displays this year have shown that. He has tried to make an impression, but by doing that he has often been greedy which has had a negative effect on the team. I wish him luck in Italy. JL: The 50/50 man. Fifty per cent brilliance, fifty per cent utter garbage. He had his time, and though we saw flashes of brilliance, they were too rare. If Joey Barton describes you as disruptive, you know something isn’t right. Mauro, we shared some special moments but it’s time to say ciao. What did you make of the signing of Sam Byram? DB: He looks like a good signing with Jenks being injured. To get a young promising English talent ‘on the cheap’ is great for the club. His debut was one of the most assured I have seen in recent times given the circumstances. JL: I was very happy with Byram signing for us. It shows we are moving in the right direction. He is young, hungry, talented. A great debut, a great first touch
Forward thinking: Slaven Bilic knows the importance of young players
Highly-rated: Sam Byram was loved by the Leeds United fans
from Payet’s testing pass, and a welcome addition to the squad. I just hope he gets home each night in time to do his homework. AH: This is one that many of us had flagged
up for a while so obviously I was delighted that he chose to come to us rather than elsewhere. To be thrown in earlier than expected against a team of the calibre of Manchester City and do so well shows just why the club wanted to land him and what a great talent he is. A great performance and looking forward to seeing many more! MJ: It’s a good signing that showed Bilic understands our need for young British players – something Sam never
did. I thought he’d be more for the future so was worried when he came on against Manchester City, but he was great. His 50 yard cross field interchange with Payet was a great introduction to the fans, and he looked good going forward and tracking back. The fact he kept cramping up shows he’s clearly off the pace a little, but I think he’ll do for us exactly what Cresswell has done. How do you feel if West Ham were forced to share the Olympic
Injured: Carl Jenkinson has returned to Arsenal
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Stadium with Tottenham or Chelsea for a season? DB: This is irony at it’s finest. Spurs wanted to win the right to knock it down and build on the area, now they want a piece of our cake? I hope West Ham tell them to politely ‘do one’. It would make my blood boil seeing them in our ground, so it’s a definite no from me. JL: The whole situation feels like we are being made a scapegoat for a badly handled Olympic legacy. I can’t see Chelski
or Spuds fans wanting to share with us in any case. They are welcome to pop round once a season to see their team get spanked by claret and blue. MJ: To be honest, I’m not sure I have an opinion either way. Yes, it’ll be annoying, but it’s not really as if it’s our home yet, in the same way as Upton Park is, and I’d rather them move into the Olympic Stadium with us for a year than for them to have Upton Park after we’ve moved out! BBM
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Classless ‘fans’ who celebrate Jenk’s injury are not real Irons
efore our final home game in January, I fancied us to beat Manchester City - just like I fancied us against Liverpool and Chelsea. This feeling of expectation and quiet confidence is new to me but I’m steadily getting used to it. Yes, we still mainly walk on the underdog side of the street but we can cross over every now and again, and sooner or later you get the feeling we might stay there. To be in such a healthy position when players were dropping like flies over the festive period is testament to the hard work put in by everyone involved at the club. Ok we didn’t win for a while but we didn’t lose either and that is a big step in our evolution. I interviewed James Collins about this new found resilience and he agreed that there is now an inherent belief that, even when the team go
Gone: Carl Jenkinson was not having a great season but always gave his best
behind, they can react strongly and get a result. They have a dogged determination and come-back spirit that perhaps has been lacking in previous years. This, Collins says, comes from the strong characters in the dress-
ing room, but is best typified by the man in charge. Slaven Bilic is “a very passionate man, everyone can see, he wears his heart on his sleeve, kicks every ball, goes for every header and to see that on the sideline gives you
a bit of oomf to dig in and do well for the team and club”. The Ginger Pele himself also embodies this battling, robust, neversay-die attitude, and he was outstanding against Liverpool. He’s an old school defender who will never shirk a challenge or turn away in a wall. He’ll always put his body on the line and deserved his new contract. He’s also a great team player and never once complained when he was told he would be way down the centre-back pecking order. He just got his head down and got on with it. Having Angelo Ogbonna waiting in the wings will keep both Collins and Winston Reid on their toes so I have every faith we can continue to lead a decent defensive line. It was a shame that Carl Jenkinson’s last kick of the ball for us came
in conceding a penalty. Some said it was ironic but I disagree. I was absolutely disgusted with some of the comments I read online in reply to Jack Sullivan’s announcement that Jenks’ injury was worse than initially thought and he would be out for the rest of the season. I was so ashamed and embarrassed I had to speak out. He hasn’t had the best of times recently and, in all honesty, he’s had a season to forget. Yet so many of those classless fans who were happily piping up in pleasure at the desperate misfortune of one of our players were keen to resign him in July. He had a terrific season for us last time
round. He worked hard, he was strong, and he played with purpose. Yes he had a stinker in August against Bournemouth, but he got us level against Sunderland and off the mark at Palace. Important goals led to important points. Regardless of how poor fans think he may have been lately, do we not thank players for their service anymore and wish them on their merry way? Some tweeters have got far too much to say for themselves, and no real intelligence to back it up. Thankfully the majority of our fans are still as classy, down to earth and humble as they ever were. Don’t go changing. BBM
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Old school: James Collins would never turn away in a wall
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The transfer window
‘Strikers are just like Ferrero Rocher - you can’t get enough’
West Ham boosted their attacking ranks by signing Nigeria’s Emenike High-hopes: Can Emmanuel Emenike hit the ground running at West Ham?
LUCY WOOLFORD @lucy_whufc
he January transfer window is the equivalent of fans finding the biggest magnifying glass in the world and holding it over their respective clubs, just to see what’s really happening behind closed doors. We all want to know every detail of every prospect and we want to know how our club handles business off the field. This is clearly a tough time for boards and managers because, of course, we all become the armchair fans everyone loves to hate. The first question to come at the end of the January window is always: ‘has my club done the right thing in the last few weeks?’ The burning issue for the Hammers this season has been keeping players fit, and at times, strikers have been at a premium.
All right, there are other areas of the field that perhaps need more covering options, but strikers are like Ferrero Rocher – you can’t have too many. At the close of the transfer window, the Hammers had managed to keep most of their strike force – something that is often applauded by fans.
We lost Zarate to Fiorentina in what was reported to be a £1.6 million fee, although it’s officially an undisclosed one. While he isn’t a recognised striker as such, his natural forward play did prove useful, but he seemed to be a Marmite player amongst fans. But £1.6 million? Really? That probably goes to show that poor
Mauro featured very minimally in Bilic’s plans for the near future, supposing all remaining attackers stay mostly fit. To liven up the strike force, it was decided to sign Emmanuel Emenike on loan until the end of the season. Gone are the days when anyone can say that the manager signed a player, because the politics involved means that it could have been any member of the board. A player not without his controversies, Emenike’s ability to settle needs to be apparent pretty sharpish. After being caught up in a match fixing scandal at Karabukspor, his dream move to Fenerbahce was cut short. In fact, he was quickly sold to Spartak Moscow after just two months at the Turkish side. The Nigerian was cleared of any wrongdoing, but various on-field incidents have plagued his otherwise successful career. It has to be said though, that his goal scoring record used to speak for itself. Scoring 30 times in 51 appearances for Karabukspor,
Byram ‘turned down Everton to join West Ham’s revolution’ BY GEOFF HILLYER
Going? Nikica Jelavic does not seem to have much of a future with West Ham
and 21 in 42 league outings for Spartak Moscow, it’s fair to say he was quite an asset. His return to Fenerbahce didn’t turn out to be the dream he hoped it would be and he hit the back of the net just 16 times in 55 league appearances. This was largely due to being played out of position and subsequently falling
out with the management team and the fans. Last season’s loan spell at Al Ain saw seven goals in 11 league games. However, he also fell out with that club too, over accusations of underperforming. He refused to continue his loan spell after six months. It will be interesting to see how he looks in a West Ham shirt. BBM
Sam Byram will never forget his Premier League debut after he was thrown in at the deep end against Manchester City. The young full-back, who had only signed from Leeds United a couple of days earlier, came off the bench after just 13 minutes following an injury to Carl Jenkinson. Despite the fact that he clearly looked spent at the end of a thrilling 2-2 draw, he played with great maturity and clearly wasn’t overawed by the occasion. Given the state of the match - 1-1 at the time and early on - he could have been forgiven for being a bit too eager against a team bidding to be champions. It’s early days but the £3.7million we paid for Byram looks to be one of the bargains of the transfer window. The deal was all the more satisfying, of course, because he chose us over another interested party, Everton (cue Roberto Martinez’s famous “we didn’t really want him anyway” speech). But what can we expect of the 22-year old? Well, he was a regular for Leeds United over
the last four seasons or so, and manager Steve Evans has taken advantage of his versatility: not only has he played in his natural position of right-back, but he’s also been used in midfield on occasions, despite not being his favoured role. An attacking-minded player, he would appear to fit perfectly into the all-new forward-thinking West Ham dynamic of fluid and exciting football. What’s also great, and will naturally help his transition, is that two members of his family are West Ham fans. They will undoubtedly help him settle after spending much of his life in Yorkshire. There is competition in defence when everyone is fully fit, but if he continues to play as he did on debut, there is no doubt that he could make that right-back spot his own. He looks a real prospect.
FROZEN IN TIME Saturday, January 23, 2016: Enner Valencia pokes the ball past Joe Hart to score West Hamâ€™s second goal against Manchester City. The game was one of the most exciting of the season and eventually ended 2-2.
Sam Allardyce returns
Arrogant Allardyce never got what West Ham are all about
He picked the Hammers up off the ﬂoor but never won over our hearts Outspoken: Sam had plenty to say in his book
here was a time when I had a soft spot for Sunderland – based entirely on the 1973 Cup final when the Wearsiders produced one of the great upsets of all time by turning over the seemingly invincible Leeds United at Wembley despite being in the second division at the time. Everyone loves the romance of an underdog coming out on top. What’s more, I truly despised that Leeds side under Don Revie. And the fact that, with the illicit help of my elder brother, I had invested my week’s earnings from a paper round on Sunderland at 8/1 at our local Ladbrokes was the icing on a highly calorific cake that Mr Kipling would have been proud of. Yet now I would be delighted to see the
Mak’ems relegated – and if later this month we can hammer a nail into their coffin by sticking eight past them as we once did at Upton Park it would make it all the sweeter. So why the change of heart? Simple: Sam Allardyce. I know it’s petty. But I suspect I’m not alone in wishing to see that smug ‘I’ve-never-been-relegated’ grin wiped from his self-satisfied, gum-chewing face. I’ll admit Allardyce isn’t the worst gaffer we’ve ever had. When
you’ve been managed by the likes of Glenn Roeder, Gianfranco Zola and Avram, Big Sam doesn’t even get on the podium, let alone win the gold medal. But I think he’s the one who showed the most contempt towards us, the supporters. And it is for that, rather than his record, he will be remembered by many. So, what did he achieve in his four years at the Boleyn Ground? From 2011 to 2015 Allardyce was in charge for a total of 181 games, of which
he won 69, lost 67 and drew 45. Roeder, Zola and Uncle Fester, on the other hand, all lost more than they won. Respect the point, my friends. The play-off final was undoubtedly the highlight for me. It had been a long time since I had last witnessed West Ham triumph at Wembley, but, in truth, we should never have had to rely on the play-offs in the first place. That team – on paper at least – was good enough to have gone up automatically. On returning to the Premier League, any supporter’s initial ambitions have to be modest these days. No team is ever going to repeat Nottingham Forest’s remarkable achievement of winning the league the year after securing promotion. Security and stability are the watchwords, and no one can deny Allardyce provided those. It was the season after that when the supporters’ frustration really began to boil over, culminating for many of us in the anger that was directed at the manager after the home
game against Hull. That, I hardly need remind you, was when the team was booed off the pitch despite winning. Winning that match we effectively banished any lingering fears of relegation. But when you find yourself 1-0 up and playing against 10 men at home, supporters can be forgiven for expecting something better than what we got that night. It was shocking, and the reception that Allardyce got at the end really shouldn’t have surprised him quite the way it did. And he most certainly should not have cupped his ear in Tipping point: Sam Allardyce reacted our direction when we to being booed off after his side had expressed our dissatissqueaked past 10-man Hull City faction. ‘I did it because I was hearing booing and I always be grateful for into what the club is all couldn’t quite believe it,’ the win against Chelsea about. he said afterwards. ‘I’ve that ended a 10-year Much was said about never been to a place barren spell against the the ‘West Ham way’ where I won and got team I detest more than when Allardyce was in booed. I started at 16, any other. charge. There are those got into the first team at And who could forget who will tell you it 18 and I’m 59 and I have the day he metamordoesn’t exist – not least never been in a place phosed into Sam AllardAllardyce himself. where we have won and ici, opted to go without In his first season as got booed.’ Well, you a recognised striker and manager he dismissed have now. – with the considerathe idea after he took a In his final season ble help of Ravel considerable amount of in charge all Morrison stick from 6,000 supwas forgiven – walloped porters who had made as we surged Spurs 3-0 at the trip to Peterborough Years as into the top their place. and were not amused West Ham four. Then But the by what they saw in the the second first half. manager good times half of the just seem ‘We’re West Ham season turned to to make the bad United – we play on the custard and it was clear ones worse – because floor,’ he was reminded, to all that Big Sam’s reign they demonstrated what and he didn’t take this was coming to an end. we were capable of if constructive criticism at To be fair, there were only Allardyce had been all well. notable moments during able to throw aside his He responded by his time in charge. I will natural caution and buy saying: ‘There has
never been a West Ham way shown to me. I’ve spoken to a lot of people at the club and no one can tell me what it is.’ Apparently, those of us who believe there is such a thing are ‘deluded’. How will history judge Allardyce? There is no denying he handed on the club to his successor in better shape than he found it, and anyone in the directors’ box is going to consider that a job well done. Many of us in the stands, however, will view things differently. Too cautious, too arrogant and too much gum. So let’s hope it’s back to the Championship for you Sam – that should give you something to chew on. BBM
Subtle: West Ham fans let the club’s board know what they think of their manager
Big Sam’s ‘deluded’ comments will come back to haunt him The former West Ham boss has made his bed and must now lie in it
t’s been a while since we’ve seen our ex-manager Sam Allardyce after his departure from West Ham United
last summer. It’s not like we’ve been missing him too much; both West Ham and Sam have kept themselves busy since we said goodbye. West Ham have moved into the top six of the Premier League and already won three league games in January. Meanwhile, Sam Allardyce became a published author and is working hard to relegate Sunderland. This division of ways
has gone just fine. But, much like when you and your ex-lover have to attend a mutual friend’s wedding after months of silence and deleting each other on Facebook, we’re going to have an awkward face-to-face reunion with Big Sam when his relegation-threatened Sunderland side take on our high-flying Hammers at Upton Park. We haven’t seen Sam since his contract wasn’t
renewed at the end of last season – a decision initially touted as ‘mutual’ but since then appearing to be anything but. So when we see ‘dear’ Sam again – how should we react? Does Sam deserve a bad reception when he returns to Upton Park, or should we applaud him for his previous efforts? Sam worked hard to get West Ham promoted
and stabilised in the Premier League – something for which fans are grateful for – but in his last seasons, fans became increasingly frustrated with his lack-luster and overly cautious style of play as well as his absurd insistence on giving constant playing time to ageing offside expert Kevin Nolan. Most fans were pleased to see him go, and it could have been over then. It could have ended peacefully, without bloodshed. But no, Big Sam wasn’t done with West Ham United. He wasn’t even close to being done. You see, then Sam wrote a book. In this book, he took the time to refer to West Ham fans as ‘deluded’ and ‘brainwashed’. He elaborated by complaining about the pressure the fans put on the management and players by their negative reactions. To be fair, Sam, we don’t tend to boo Dimitri Payet, but I just don’t think you’d understand. Furthermore, after seeing him chuckling away on Match of The Day at West Ham losing to Bournemouth (a feat he narrowly avoided himself last week) he burned any remaining the bridges between himself and the claret and blue faithful. So how should we welcome the big man back to the East End of London? Do we remember
Big Sam’s West Ham timeline JUNE 2011: Appointed West Ham boss just after the club had been relegated to the Championship. JULY 2011: Signs Kevin Nolan from Newcastle United. MAY 2012: Beats Blackpool in the play-off final at Wembley. MAY 2013: Guides West Ham to a 10th placed finish on their return to the Premier League. MAY 2013: Breaks West Ham’s transfer record to sign Andy Carroll.
Bitter: Sam Allardyce seems to hold a grudge against West Ham the man who gave us Premier League football and stability? Or do we see an ear-cupping monster who called us names when he wasn’t offered a shiny new contract? Sadly for Sam’s legacy – it will be the latter. He behaved badly when he left, and we’ll repay that in kind when he returns – with jeers, boos and inappropriate hand motions that children
shouldn’t really see. We can’t applaud someone who calls us ‘deluded’. The simple act of doing that would validate his claim that we aren’t thinking clearly – and we can’t allow that to happen. Does Sam deserve a bad reception when he returns to Upton Park? Possibly not – but will we give him one? Of course we will. BBM
January 2014: Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho accuses West Ham of playing 19th Century football. MARCH 2014: West Ham are booed off by thier own fans after winning. October 2015: Wins manager of the month after taking West Ham into the top four. May 2015: Leaves West Ham at the end of the season when his contract expires.
The Best XI
What is Slaven Bilic’s first choice XI if everyone is fit?
David Meagher says West Ham have plenty of options in every spot
ince his arrival last summer Slaven Bilic has quietly enacted a revolution at West ham ringing in the changes in a side that had lost its way in the second half of last season. Consolidating the impressive backline, he has added mobility and guile in midfield to provide better support up front. As a result, the Hammers are flying-high in in the Premier League table and are nicely positioned to push for a European slot just as the business end of the season begins in earnest. As our injury worries finally seem to be settling the big question is what is our strongest starting XI? It is a measure of the strength of our squad that there is hardly a position where selection isn’t worthy of debate. Here Blowing Bubbles attempts to find out what West Ham’s best team really looks like… Goalkeeper: Adrian In goal, Adrian is a truly top keeper and his statistics compare well with David de Gea, Petr Cech
more than capable defensive unit behind him. With the European Championships coming up this summer Cresswell has to be pushing for an England place after kicking on again this year.
all have legitimate claims on the second berth. In essence, this call is so close that the choice should be made on a game by game basis according to the opposition and our tactical plan. Tomkins and Ogbonna both have pace and can therefore push forward with confidence, but where we are planning to defend deep then Ginge is our best at suffocating the opposition with his tenacious shot blocking. For what it’s worth, we have had eight clean sheets in league and cup games this season using four different centre back pairings during which the appearance count has been Ogbonna (6), Collins (4), Reid (4) and Tomkins (7 – 6 as right back). Tomkins would get my nod to partner Reid on a regular basis.
Centre-backs: Winston Reid & James Tomkins The centre-back situation is truly contentious. Most observers would agree that Reid is our cornerstone but Ogbonna, Tomkins and Collins
Right back: Sam Byram Carl Jenkinson started the season as our first choice right but but lost form and confidence. This forced Bilic to intervene by bringing in Tomkins as a makeshift
Star: No one would argue about Dimitri Payet’s selection
and Thibaut Courtois. Indeed, Adrian is well above them with a shots saved per game ratio that is second highest in the division. Darren Randolph has performed admirably in his absense, however, so while we have a clear number one at the moment there is obvioulsy real competition for the shirt. Left back: Aaron Cresswell To be fair to the man, Sam Allardyce left a
right back. Tomka has been excellent defensively but full back is a specialist position and his lack of offensive nous means that the arrival of Sam Byram should provide greater penetration up the right wing.
The best XI? Do you agree with our line-up?
Holding midfield: Mark Noble & Cheikidh Kouyate Slavenâ€™s midfield set up employs two players in front of the back four. Cheikidh Kouyate has pushed on from the fine performances of last season and is really enjoying Bilicâ€™s reign. Alongside him, released from the burden of carrying an ageing Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble looks back to his best and has started to push forward more. With Alex Song regaining fitness and form and Pedro Obiang providing an energetic alternative, the competition in central midfield is intense. However, Noble is our heart and Kouyate our strongest engine and these pair get the nod when fit. Attacking midfield: Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini & Michail Antonio At the attacking end of our midfield, Payet has been simply sensational and already warrants comparisons with the likes of Carlos Tevez and Paolo Di Canio. We can only pray that he remains injury free for the rest of the season. Not far behind has
been Lanzini who is another fine lock picker and can allow Dimitri some rest time from conducting our attacking orchestra. The third spot alongside this pair provides a compelling battle between Victor Moses and Michail Antonio, which the latter is currently shading by virtue of his impressive physical im-
pact and energy during recent games. Forward: Diafra Sakho At the tip of our attack there is a battle almighty ahead. Enner Valencia is finally delivering upon his undoubted potential and has benefitted from a more central role that has produced a string of recent goals.
The soon-to-return Andy Carroll remains almost unmarkable when fit and his impact at set pieces (both offensive and defensive) should not be underestimated, while new signing Emmanuel Emenike will have not come to sit on the bench. Overall though Diafra Sakho edges it due to his goal threat. BBM
West Ham accounts
Hammers splash ‘more than £7m to agents’ but debt falls
West Ham’s latest accounts prove the club is now valued at £196m Benefit: West Ham’s move to the Olympic Stadium has added millions to the club’s value
SEAN WHETSTONE @westhamfootball
he release of the West Ham financial accounts recently gave us a chance to do an annual check up on how the Hammers are faring with the massive debts they inherited in 2010. The accounts confirm that that they reduced bank debt by a further £12m and that £2.3m was paid in interest on bank loans in the last financial year. These interest payments were paid to Icelandic shareholders, CB Holdings, Vibrac and David Sullivan, all of which acted as bankers in the last financial year. The Hammers have a total of £91.5m of debt, of which £20.5m is due within one year and £71.07m a year later. Cash in bank was £18.07m so therefore ‘Net Debt’ has reduced to £73.5m in May. Breaking down the debts further a total of
£24.5m was still owed to banks or third party lenders in May although this reduced further in August by a further £6.5m Meanwhile amounts owed to other clubs for player transfers is £13m and shareholder loans amount to £49.2m with an additional £9.33m of accrued interest charged at 6-7 per cent. Looking back to 2010 and David Sullivan once explained: ‘We’ve
paid down some of the debt and injected some working capital but there’s still more than £100 million of debt. In that there’s £50 million owed to banks, there’s £40 million owed to other clubs. There’s not a penny to come in, they (the previous owners) have borrowed against the next two years of season-ticket money. The sponsors have paid 70 per cent of their three-years up front. In
addition there’s the club’s settlement to a former manager (Alan Curbishley), so the real debt is about £110 million.’ Five years on and much of this debt is now owed to David Sullivan and David Gold in the form of shareholder loans which now total £58.5m including interest. The joint chairman has constantly said they do not see a scenario where they would call in
these loans. The truth is, unless West Ham made £110 million pounds of profit in the past five they were never going to be able to clear the debts themselves. West Ham financial accounts also showed that the Hammers have borrowed £30.1m from ‘Pay Day lenders’ James Grant Funding (JGF). The cash has been borrowed against future TV money and is paid directly by the Premier League to the British Virgin Islands lender. The sole director of JGF is called Jonathan McMorrow as recorded on the West Ham loan paperwork filed with companies house, who was an employee of the James Grant Group until April 2015 which is chaired by Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy. Both companies shared the same registered address at companies house until earlier this year when JGF moved changed to a P.O box. Following the publishing of the accounts of the last financial year, West Ham also published how much they paid to football agents in accordance with Premier League rules. The total amount paid to Agents/Intermediaries during the period 1 October 2014 to 30 September 2015 was £7,049,001.18. This included two new signings in January and February 2015 and 12 arrivals during the summer. West Ham were the
Improving: West Ham’s finances have slowly got better under David Sullivan
Key points from the accounts * The club’s debt was reduced by £12m last season
*West Ham still borrowing from ‘Pay Day’ lenders
* Net debt down to 73.5m
* Hammers paid £7m to agents
* Much of the debt is to the owners, Gold and Sullivan
* The club is now valued at a staggering £196m
sixth biggest spenders to agents in the past 12 months behind Liverpool £14.3m Manchester United £13.8m Manchester City £12.4m Chelsea and Arsenal both on £11.9m. Watford paid the least at £1.6m while Leicester City spent £4m. Premier League clubs have been required to publish the amount they pay to agents since 2008 and West Ham have paid £30.9m since records
began in 2008/2009. West Ham did not have to reveal agent fees in 2011/2012 as they spent one season in the Championship. Finally, West Ham have been included in a top 20 list of the World’s Richest Clubs according to the London School of Marketing. West Ham were one of seven Premier League sides in the list, with the Hammers valued at £196m taking into
account our move to the Olympic Stadium next year. Fellow London rivals Spurs are almost twice as valuable with news of planning permission granted for their new stadium. Meanwhile Arsenal and Chelsea are valued over four times the value of West Ham. Manchester United and City are in a different league, with both over ten times the value of the Hammers. BBM
Where did it all go wrong for Jarvis in a West Ham shirt?
The winger looked as though he was out of his depth from the start Flop: Matt Jarvis failed to deliver at West Ham
hen you think of West Ham’s club record signings over the years the first thing that word that springs to mind is ‘flop’. Savio is the biggest one, who arrived from Brescia in 2009 for a whopping £9million, despite no one having ever heard of him. Ten league appearances later and he was being sold to Fiorentina at a loss of about £7m. Many will turn to Matt Jarvis as the second worst club-record signing, and although that may be a harsh assessment, it’s difficult to argue against it. Jarvis signed for the club in a deal believed to be around £12.5m in August 2012, with Sam Allardyce claiming the reason he paid a club-record fee for the winger was because he was statistically the best
crosser of a ball in the Preier League. No one really questioned it at the time. What followed was just over three seasons of pure frustration. Between 2012 and earlier this season, Jarvis made a total of 90 first team appearances for the club and scored six goals. Allardyce bought him for his ability to assist, not score. Throughout his entire West Ham career, Jarvis registered
just nine assists. That’s one every 10 games. When you consider two of those came in the Europa League qualifiers against sub-standard opposition earlier this season, it makes even worse reading for the 29-year-old. It’s not all about cold, hard statistics, though. I’m a sucker for stats, but the one thing we can all agree on is the fact Jarvis just wasn’t worth the money we paid and his aimless dribbles towards
the by-line before providing a pointless, dinked cross into the box often had us with our heads in our hands. I don’t think I ever saw him look up when he was in possession, he was that frustrating. That said, his failings at the club certainly weren’t down to his lack of effort. He genuinely tried hard every time he was on the pitch, but it just wasn’t to be for him. The writing was firmly on the wall for him last season, and that was due to the arrival of a number of better players. Jarvis only made 13 first team appearances last term, seven of which were off the bench. Then Bilic turned up and it wasn’t long before he was shipped off to Norwich. Some will blame tactics on his demise in east London, others will look at the pressure of being a club’s record signing, but ultimately it was his failure to deliver the one thing he was brought to the club to do – assist – which means he’ll forever go down as a complete and utter waste of money. BBM
The honeymoon period Love of our lives: What else would you rather do on honeymoon than hang out with these guys?
‘I left my wife on honeymoon and fell in love with 11 men’
John Quinn left London a changed man after chance trip to Upton Park
JULIAN SHEA @juliansheasport
s anyone who has been married will know, the honeymoon is the time when after
months of hard work and stress, the newlyweds can finally look forward to a bit of time together; just the two of us, with no-one and nothing else to think about. So an extra person muscling into the picture makes things decidedly awkward – let alone 11 strangers. But that is what happened when Canadian newlywed –
and now, new West Ham fan – John Quinn came to London with his new bride Sarah. ‘I made the mistake of researching our stay in London when I’d had a few beers, and being a big sports fan, of course that was one of the things that I was interested in,’ the 29-year-old from New Brunswick said. ‘Before I knew what I was doing, I’d bought
myself a ticket for West Ham v Norwich – just the one, I could only find single seats – and I was ready for my first English football game. Without really knowing much about the game. Or West Ham. And without my wife.’ As you do when in a position of complete ignorance, John turned to the internet – more specifically, Reddit, with
a post entitled ‘I’m on honeymoon and ditching my wife to go to my first football match. I’m from Canada and know nothing. Please help’. Fortunately the West Ham cyberfamily were welcoming, with some advice on how to get the best out of his day out in the East End. ‘Before this, my football background was quite limited,’ John explained. ‘Ice hockey will always be number one in Canada – I’m a big Montreal Canadiens fan, and in fact I proposed to Sarah during a match. ‘I’m also a Toronto Bluejays baseball fan, so Sarah’s used to my obsession with sport. When I saw West Ham were playing when I was in London, it was a no-brainer.’ After a wedding described as a ’48-hour party in a rustic cabin rather than anything more formal’, the new Mr and Mrs Quinn spent their honeymoon touring Scotland, Ireland and England together before going their separate ways – just for the one afternoon. ‘As it was such short notice, I could only get the one ticket, but I figured after six days she’d be sick of me anyway by then, and fortunately she was very understanding about it’, said John. ‘We’d been planning our trip for a year in advance, and she knew I wanted to see a football match, but I had zero idea about how to go arrange
Happy: John Quinn with his beautiful wife Sarah on their wedding day it – fortunately, five days before we were heading off, I found West Ham were playing and so that made my mind up.’ Armed with his Reddit advice, such as learn Bubbles, when he arrived at the ground, the first-timer had at least a clue what to expect. ‘The atmosphere outside got me straight away,’ he said. ‘The Boleyn reminded me of some of the old-school hockey arenas, and when I found out this is the last season, that made it feel extra special. When I told them my situation,
the guys sitting near me were extremely welcoming and they were very impressed that I knew Bubbles.’ John’s outsider status made him notice things which would totally bypass Upton Park regulars. ‘When Norwich scored, their fans made a lot of noise but West Ham were straight back at them, and some of the chants were hilarious,’ he said. ‘There are nowhere near as many away fans in Canadian sport, so that made for a really different atmosphere, and fantastic noise. They
say the Canadiens are hockey’s loudest, most passionate fans – West Ham are certainly up there with them!’ Having arrived as an intrigued outsider, soon John was fully sucked in. ‘I found myself shouting my head off at players whose names I’d only just learned!’, he said. ‘Towards the end there were lots of near misses, then when West Ham equalised I was leaping around and shouting just like everyone else. That was when I realised: I’m a West Ham fan for life now!’ BBM
West Ham Ladies
Ferreira promises to deliver some French ﬂair to the Irons Marc Nurse rings the changes as the Ladies aim for a strong finish Talent: Cindy Ferreira has played at a high level in France
est Ham Ladies strengthened their squad in January, as manager Marc Nurse made three signings. Lauren Picton joined from Tottenham Hotspur and Liz Berkeley made the switch from Millwall, while Ilona Dronne and Claire Lallart made the move to east London from French giants Paris Saint-Germain and Toulouse. However, the most intriguing was the signing of Cindy Ferreira, who had been playing in her homeland of France for VGA Saint Maur. Boss Nurse believes the deals will take the club to the next level. ‘I am happy to have signed three players in January, these signings will improve the current squad,’ he said. ‘I have signed Lauren and she is now hoping
to be my number one keeper. ‘Lauren was at West Ham United Ladies and played at youth level, before moving to Tottenham. ‘Liz comes from WSL 2 side Millwall. She is an exciting player with great pace and is very strong and athletic. She is a
fantastic addition to the squad. Cindy is a player that I have been looking at for a while and I am really pleased to have her here. She is a forward and I am looking forward to working with her. She played at the highest level in France Division 1 club VGA Saint Maur.’
The Hammers faced competition for Ferreira’s signature, with Charlton Athletic also interested, but the striker admits that there was only one place she wanted to be once she knew of the Hammers interest. ‘I’m really happy to sign for West Ham,’ said Ferreira. ‘It’s a really famous team with such an important history. It’s a new experience for me in a different country with a different culture. ‘It was difficult when I signed for West Ham but I know that I have everybody like my family and my friends behind me.’ Ferreira had to wait longer than she may have expected to make her debut, as an FA Women’s Cup second round tie at Crystal Palace was called off just four days after her move to England – and again on January 17. Then a Women’s Ryman Cup semi-final tie with Tottenham Hotspur was also postponed. On the plus side, that has given Ferreira more time to train and bond with her new teammates. However, the striker admits that she is still finding it difficult to
communicate with the rest of the squad. ‘It’s difficult because I don’t speak English,’ she admitted. ‘I am trying to adapt myself to the team and the life as fast as possible.’ Having played at a higher level in her native France, Ferreira is hoping to make an impact in the West Ham Ladies side. She impressed at VGA Saint Maur, and her former club sent a good luck message via Twitter when the move was confirmed. Now Ferreira is confident that she will make an impact in England. ‘I have experience from playing at a high level in France,’ added Ferreira.’ I bring that experience with me. I will try to benefit for all the team.’ Although fixtures were called off, the Hammers did eventually advance in one of the competitions. West Ham lost 5-0 in the rescheduled Women’s Ryman Cup semi-final tie away to Tottenham Hotspur, but they came from behind to beat Crystal Palace 2-1 in the FA
On the ball: West Ham Ladies do battle with London rivals Spurs
Women’s Cup second round thanks to goals from Romina Pinna and Whitney Locke. West Ham Ladies have been handed a home tie against Nuneaton Town
or Blackburn Rovers in the FA Women’s Cup third round. Looking ahead, the Irons will will take on Queens Park Rangers, and Coventry City a
week later. The West Ham Ladies will be hoping to gain maximum points, as they currently sit down in eighth in the FA Women’s Premier League South. BBM
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Supporters’ club of the month
#11: Indian Hammers
his month Blowing Bubbles caught up with Adoksh Shastry from the Indian Hammers. When was the Indian Hammers founded? It all started with Varun Issar, one of our founding members, being featured on the West Ham website in 2010. Scouting social media for Indian Hammers, I came across the article and got in touch with him and after that we both of spent a year trying to locate West Ham fans across India. Our search for Indian Hammers took us to Chennai and Bangalore in South India, Goa in the West, Meghalaya and Shillong in the East, and Delhi and Chandhighar and Bombay up North. Today the group is strong and spread across the country.
A fan blows his bubbles
Looking good: A proud fan shows his colours in India
How many members are there in your group today? The membership is fairly small considering the number of football fans in India. But understandably most of these fans are newer fans and only support the so-called
‘big clubs’. The Indian Hammers comprises of about 45 members who are passionate about the club and have been following it through the ages. We successfully had a Bangalore meet up to watch West Ham beat Liverpool and a Goa meet up is in the offing which would be a national meet. How many times do members travel to games? A few of our members have travelled to the games in London. The distance is a hinderance but whenever our members travel on work or leisure, Upton
Park is the first stop in London. A few of our members were present at the FA Cup Final of 2006 and we hope to have an Indian Hammer contingent present at the final game at Upton Park. Hopefully it will work out financially. What are the benefits of being part of your group? We enjoy the matches over a pint of beer and with bubbles in the air. West Ham fans in India or from India can write in to us atadoksh@gmail. com and westhamindia@ gmail.com. We can also be found on Twitter @ indianhammers. BBM
The last word
Enner Valencia is like finding a fiver in an old jacket pocket Julian Shea says West Ham’s forgotten man can be like a new signing
ne of life’s small but undeniable pleasures is putting on an old item of clothing, slipping your hand in the pocket and finding money. In a footballing sense, this is how West Ham manager Slaven Bilic must feel right now. Enner Valencia. Remember him? He’s back – and he’s very good. Having been sidelined by knee and ankle problems since the summer’s Europa League campaign, amid all the excitement there has been since then, it would be easy for West Ham fans to have forgotten the Ecuadorian striker is even at the club. But just as Andy Carroll has been sent off for repair yet again, and whilst Diafra Sakho recovers from a thigh injury, the £12m South American has returned to fitness and the side – to brilliant effect. His brace against Bournemouth – a neat finish after superb approach work by Dimitri Payet, and a dazzlingly inch-perfect free-kick – was hugely significant as it secured three points, but despite only helping the side to a
In-form: Enner Valencia has reminded everyone just what he can do
draw, his second double of the month – against Manchester City – was even better. This was not just against tougher opposition, it was against a title-chasing side desperate to take all three points. Thanks to Valencia, they had to come from behind twice to settle for just the one. His first was an excellent right place, right time instinctive striker’s finish, and despite being
slightly more scruffy, arguably the second was better; quick thinking, a burst of pace and good physicality to create and take a chance where, seconds earlier, none existed. For a forgotten man, Valencia knows just how and when to give people a reminder. Major tournaments may be shop windows as far as agents and players are concerned, but from a buyer’s point of view, they can be a major
gamble so when after the 2014 World Cup, Sam Allardyce spent so much money on a player who made his name in the uncertain proving ground of the Mexican league, and one who admitted his research into the club was watching Green Street, it was a far from safe bet. A rocket of a goal against Hull hinted at good things to come, but all that followed were a header in the win at Burnley (admittedly a very good one) and another at Stoke. After that, it all went a bit quiet, and until the last few weeks, he had done little to break the silence. Now, however, it is safe to say Enner Valencia is back with a bang. With speculation mounting that West Ham could invest even further this summer, these are exciting times for West Ham fans. But in the short-term, Valencia’s return from the shadows is almost as good as a new signing anyway, so that is one big positive gained from the transfer window month without having had to spend a single penny. BBM
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Published on Feb 3, 2016
In this issue: *Exclusive interview with Stevie Bacon plus his favourite West Ham pictures *Exclusive columns from ex-Hammer George Parris a...