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BY FANS, FOR FANS WWW.BLOWING-BUBBLES.CO.UK DECEMBER 2015 #54

SHORTLISTED FOR FANZINE OF THE YEAR

HERE, THERE & EVERYWHERE

JOHN MONCUR ON BILIC, BOOKINGS AND BIG SAM


WELCOME EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: David Blackmore MANAGING EDITOR: Simon Osborn CONTRIBUTORS: David Bowden, Arjan Drissen, Marcus Johns, Geoff Hillyer, Andrew Hosie, James Jones, David Meagher, George Parris, Stuart Plant, Emily Pulham, Andrew Raeburn, Danny Rust, Bianca Westwood, Brian Williams, Lucy Woolford PHOTOGRAPHERS: Nicky Hayes, Mikey Cartwright EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES: editor@blowing- bubbles.co.uk ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES: advertising@blowingbubbles.co.uk WHERE YOU CAN READ IT: Blowing Bubbles is available to buy and is also available to read on your PC, Mac, Tablet or Mobile. Blowing Bubbles is published by Fanatic Media. Blowing Bubbles is a completely independent publication. The views expressed within Blowing Bubbles are not necessarily those of the publishers. Opinions expressed by companies and individuals appearing within the magazine are not that of Blowing Bubbles or the publisher. The publisher accepts no liability from any action raised in response to any such opinions. Readers are strongly advised that although we take every care to ensure prices and content, etc, are up to date, it is the responsibility to check with the advertiser before purchasing or travelling to view products. No reproduction, either in part or whole of the magazine is allowed unless written consent is obtained from the publisher. The publisher accepts no responsibility for any actions arising from articles or features or advertisements within this magazine. Readers are advised to pay by credit card when ordering goods as these are regulated under the Consumer Act 1974. Debit and charge cards are not. (c) Blowing Bubbles

Our Europe-hunting Hammers need a cracking Christmas W elcome to our Christmas issue. This is always my favourite time of year with so many games played over the festive period. Christmas can make or break a season, and I really hope we are able to kick on from our impressive start to the campaign and get to January still in the hunt for an European place. With Stoke, Swansea, Villa, and Southampton coming up this month, we could take a huge leap towards Europe. We could, equally, lose all four - especially without Dimitri Payet who will surely prove to be a

huge loss for us. Whatever happens, I cannot wait for the games to come thick and fast. Looking at the final issue of 2015 and, once again, I’m absolutely delighted with what our brilliant writers have contributed to the magazine. Their hard work does not go unnoticed and it was great to be short-listed for Fanzine of the Year at the Football Supporters’ Federation awards. We didn’t win but to be recognised as one of the best fans’ publications in the country was amazing. Looking at this issue

the feature that really stood out to me was from Aston Villa fan Andrew Raeburn on why West Ham are partly responsible for his club’s decline in recent years. Without giving the game away the signings of Nigel Reo-Coker and Marlon Harewood both feature. My thanks also to Emily Pulham for pulling together an excellent piece on Karren Brady and whether or not we take her for granted. From everyone at the team I’d like to wish you a merry Christmas.

David


The big interview - John Moncur

‘Allardyce hung our kids out to dry at Nottingham Forest’ David Blackmore finds John Moncur confident about West Ham’s future but angry about the way Big Sam treated his son’s career

L

ike Whitney Houston, Hammers cult hero John Moncur believes the children are the future. But unlike the superstar singer, he feels the future success of West Ham’s famed Academy won’t be on the teachings of Terry Westley, but about waiting for the right youngsters to come along. Westley was given a five-year contract in September despite the development squad not winning a single game up to that point of the season and having been relegated from the Barclays U21 Premier League Division One last season. The 56-year-old joined the Hammers in July 2014 to oversee a massive overhaul of the Academy and immediately set to work releasing many of the existing squad including Sebastian Lletget, who has been taking the MLS by storm, and John’s son George. Currently the under-21s sit fourth from bottom in Division Two but they have won their

In his prime: John Moncur had a great career at West Ham

last four games, including a victory over table toppers Derby County, and Moncur Snr believes Westley is the right man to turn things around. ‘I don’t know him, but he has a lot of experience at this level,’ Moncur said. ‘You’ve got to ask yourself are the players good enough? ‘The crop of players

coming through when I was playing, was it a freak because they had so many good players at the time? They had Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Glen Johnson. Sometimes you have to have the material. You can’t blame Terry Westley if the lads aren’t good enough.

‘I don’t know if it’s luck or what. Just look at Manchester United. The amount of players they produced that were world beaters but since then, they haven’t had it and I don’t think they’ve changed their system or personnel too much so sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for the right lads to come through.’ A couple of years ago the Hammers had a very successful Academy side, but disappointingly failed to bring any of the players through to the first team. However, Moncur says it does not matter how many good young players you have at the club, it is how many great ones you have that counts. ‘With the previous regime you had George [Moncur], Dan Potts, Sebastian Lletget, Blair Turgott, etc and they were top of the league because they had a bunch of lads who knew each other, played well together and had a strong team. ‘At the moment, it’s not really about winning


leagues or being at the bottom or being relegated, it’s about producing one or two players who can go and play in the first team. ‘That’ll be Terry Westley’s job so hopefully with Slaven managing the first team, I think the young lads will get a chance. Certainly more of a chance than they would’ve had under Sam Allardyce so it will be nice to see one or two of them break through.’ As for his son George, who has scored 12 goals in 43 appearances for Colchester United since he made his permanent move last year, Moncur Snr still holds a grudge against Allardyce and his treatment of his son. ‘It was disappointing when he left because it’s my club but I think it was an even bigger disappointment for George,’ the ex-Hammers midfielder continued. ‘It was just unfortunate that the arrival of Sam Allardyce didn’t help him. ‘He never looked to the young players and what he did to them on that day when he threw them all in at Nottingham Forest was an absolute joke being honest with you.’ Favourites: Sam Allardyce was not known for trusting young players

Gone: George Moncur left West Ham for Colchester United in 2014

Looking forward, Moncur, who joined West Ham from Swindon in June 1994 for £1m, believes Slaven Bilic is the right man to take West Ham forward to an exciting future in the Olympic Stadium. ‘He certainly was the one [candidate] that stood out for me because I know him, I played

with him. He’s a great lad,’ the 49-year-old explained. ‘He had all the experience to come in and do the job that he is doing. He was a good international manager, and he likes to play the West Ham way. ‘I think he has proven that he has got good recruitment skills, that he has the right people round him and that he knows the European market as well as English players. I think he has done a great job and it doesn’t surprise me that he has done so well up to now. ‘I think he is going to be the one to take us onto the new chapter when we move into the

new stadium. I think the project over five years if we stick with him, the club will be in healthy hands.’ Heading into the final few games of 2015, Moncur, who scored six goals in 176 appearances for West Ham, believes a top half finish is still achievable for Bilic’s men. ‘I think the way we are set up as a team, we look really good away from home with pace on the counter,’ he explained. ‘I think that obviously the home form is a bit of a problem as the performances aren’t as good as they are away from home. ‘At the end of the day, I think we have a deep


enough squad to finish in the top half and I think that would be superb if Slaven, in his first year, could get into the top half.’ The conversation turns to Moncur’s career in the claret and blue, he is quite quick to bat away the suggestion he is a cult hero before adding: ‘When I look back at my time at West Ham, you are judged by a crowd that is very knowledgeable but can also be quite hostile at times. I think it’s a credit to the nine years that I had there that they held me in quite high regard so that’s quite pleasing.’ Moncur started his career at Tottenham Hotspur, coming up through the ranks, and spent eight years there, playing 21 times and scoring once. During his spell at White Hart Lane he was loaned to five clubs before joining up with Glenn Hoddle at Swindon Town for £80,000 in 1992. Asked why things didn’t work out for him at Spurs, he replied: “At the time they had good midfield players who could keep the ball like Paul Gascoigne and he was arguably one of the best midfield players in the world. ‘I don’t think Terry Venables, who was their manager at the time, was keen on playing both of us for some reason. I think we were both as mad as each other and I think that our games were quite similar to a

Legend: Paul Gascoigne kept Moncur out of the Tottenham team

point, although he was obviously the better player. ‘Looking back, I think I probably stayed there one or two seasons too long but in the end an ex-Tottenham player took me to Swindon in Glenn Hoddle.’ After being with a club for such a long time, does he look out for Spurs’ results as much as he does West Ham’s? ‘I do but only because I’m hoping they’ll lose,’ he replied quickly. ‘I felt I didn’t get a fair crack of the whip

there. As time went on, I always felt I did reasonably well when I played against them because I felt I had a point to prove. ‘Having signed for West Ham, it made it extra special when we got a result against Spurs. I’m not bitter towards them, it’s just one of those things. It’s the way football is.’ As for his regular appearances in the referee’s notebook, Moncur points out most of his yellow cards came later on in his career.

‘You know when you are just that little bit slower but still have got that desire to win the ball,’ he continued. ‘I wasn’t a dirty player – I was just committed. That’s how I see it. Yes, I picked up a few yellow cards but as the game went on, what you could get away with 20 years before at the start of my career, you couldn’t get away with at the end of my career. ‘They were giving yellow cards away for next to nothing so the game did change a lot during


‘I picked West Ham for my Granddad’

Gaffer: Harry Redknapp managed John Moncur for many seasons my career and that added to the amount of yellow cards I received. ‘I look back at some of the games against Chelsea and Leeds with Norman Hunter and Chopper Harris, some of their tackles were like GBH – they wouldn’t last five minutes in today’s game. It’s just the way it is. I think football is better for it in a way but then you do lose the art of tackling. It’s gone out the game a bit.’ Another difference in today’s footballing world is the culture of drink-

ing, something Moncur admits was prevalent for the majority of his footballing career. ‘The foreign players [coming to the Premier League] perhaps changed that culture. I don’t think they do it now as much but in the old days we’d probably go out once or twice a week and we built up our team spirit by going out. ‘With sports science and everything we know today, it probably doesn’t do you any good. What we didn’t realise that to go out, even on a

Saturday night after the game, it took you two or three days to recover so I think the sports science element has changed a lot of it and that’s why you don’t see it so much in football. ‘I remember Frank Lampard [Snr] telling me Bobby Moore used to come in on Sunday with a plastic bag and sweat it all out.’ *John was speaking to Claret and Hugh for Moore Than Just a Podcast. Listen to more at www.moorethanjustapodcast.co.uk BBM

John Moncur’s career could have taken a different turn had he signed for Chelsea before Billy Bonds paid £1million to bring him to Upton Park from Swindon. ‘Most people thought I was going to sign for Chelsea but you know, my granddad was a lifelong West Ham fan out of the East End,’ he explained. ‘My granddad had died a few years previous and my heart ruled my head a little bit. I wanted to play for West Ham and I’m glad that I signed because in the end, I had nine really good years there.’ Billy Bonds was in charge when Moncur signed but he didn’t get a chance to play under the Hammers hero – who made way for Harry Redknapp shortly after. ‘Bill was a really good guy to me. Obviously I didn’t have time to see what he was like as a manager but he seemed a really good bloke and he managed the way he played, fully committed. ‘It was a shame that he left when he did.’


Your shout

Email: editor@blowing-bubbles.co.uk

West Ham need to sort out the club’s dated training ground T here has been plenty of speculation that West Ham’s current injury crisis is somehow down to the state of their training ground. The Hammers currently have Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia, Manuel Lanzini and Dimitri Payet all out injured and as fans we are looking for reasons why this could be the case. I don’t buy this theory, however. Manchester United and Arsenal both have world class facilities but still have plenty of players out. The reality is Sakho, Valencia and Payet were all hurt by bad tackles and it is just our bad luck that they are all out at once. That’s not to say Chadwell Heath doesn’t need major investment. Compared to other Premier League clubs, our training ground has been left in the dark ages

and, once the move to the Olympic Stadium has been completed, must be addressed. Manchester City spent £200million on a new training complex last year and while I know we can’t spend that kind of cash they did it for a reason. Top players want to

Slaven Bilic made the right call dropping Carl Jenkinson for James Tomkins against Manchester United. I’m a big fan of the onloan Arsenal full-back but he hasn’t been up to his usual high standard this season. I don’t know if it is because he got

back late for pre-season as he was with England at the Euro under-21 Championships or if Slaven’s tactics don’t suit him as much as Sam Allardyce’s system did? Whatever the reason a few weeks out the team may do him good. Amit Patel

LETTER OF THE MONTH

Impressive: Manchester City’s training ground play in top stadiums but they also want a good place to train. Can you imagine a top international player being wowed by the Olympic Stadium only to be driven to Chadwell Heath? He’ll be back at the airport quicker than you can say Irons. Nick Caster

Jenkinson deserved to lose his place

Dropped: Carl Jenkinson

Time ‘Big Andy’ found the net With West Ham suffering so many injuries the time has come for Andy Carroll to step up to the plate and justify the massive investment the club have made in him over the last few years. The former Newcastle United and Liverpool striker has only had limited success since moving to Upton Park, mainly because he has struggled to stay fit. On his day we know he can be a real brute to play against and his winner against Chelsea proved he is one of the best strikers in the air in the world. Come on Andy, it’s time to deliver. Mark Chandler

Hammers fan does good turn I’d like to say thank you to the West Ham fan who found my iPhone at the West Brom game. It must have fallen out of my coat pocket but I didn’t think I would see it again once I realised it was lost. However, I got home later that night and there was an answerphone message telling me it was safe and asking me how it could be returned. It was a really kind thing to and has restored my faith in humanity. Jess Reynolds


GEORGE

PARRIS

THE HAMMERS’ HERO PULLS NO PUNCHES IN HIS EXCLUSIVE COLUMN Top quality: Manuel Lanzini has enjoyed a fine start to his West Ham career

Lanzini’s injury is as big a blow as losing Payet

D

imitri Payet was undoubtedly West Ham’s star man for the first quarter of the season. His injury against Everton was obviously a huge blow but I wasn’t panicking as I thought it would give the jewel in our side the opportunity to shine. I figured our squad was now in a position where Payet’s absence wasn’t going to have as much of a massive, season-changing impact as an injury to a player of his importance has had

in previous campaigns. The reason was I knew we had Manuel Lanzini to fill the void. He’d done all right this season, and I’d been impressed with what I’ve seen. He’s scored some crucial goals already, and took his goal against Spurs very well, and you just thought he was starting to step out of Payet’s shadow. With no Payet until 2016, we needed him to keep scoring, creating chances, and playing well but his injury is very

cruel on Slaven Bilic. The other talking point amongst West Ham fans recently has been Andy Carroll starting games, and how he looks so much better coming off the bench. Because of the player he is and his reputation, there is an expectation that he is going to score in every game and create a bundle of chances for others. But when you have had a long lay off you need time to get back to your best and we need to persevere with Andy for a bit longer.

Spurs was a one off The result against Tottenham was very disappointing but we mustn’t dwell on it as we head into December when the games come thick and fast. Clearly the international break didn’t help us ahead of our visit to White Hart Lane, and it could’ve been a lot worse than 4-1. Yes, Spurs had been on a decent run after losing their first game of the season away at Manchester United but given how well we’ve played against them during our last two visits and our good form so far this season, I would’ve thought we would have been confident of coming away with the points. The beauty of football, however, is that there is always another game and with quite a few winnable games in December, we’ve got the chance to bounce back and pick up quite a few points.


Pub talk

Blowing Bubbles’ top writers settle down to put the world to rights... West Ham hit the post twice in their 0-0 draw with Manchester United, but were you happy only taking a point from Old Trafford? Lucy Woolford: In a word, yes. All right, it looked at times like West Ham could’ve taken all three points, but it was an impressive performance both defensively and in attack. Man United had their chances too. Injuries are plaguing us again, but to get a good point at Old Trafford and activate their boo-boys is always a bonus. David Meagher: Even though we rarely get anything up there, and we had a seriously depleted attacking line, I wasn’t happy with the point. We had a clear game plan that was not just an Allardycian bus parking exercise. As a

Almost famous: Mauro Zarate missed a great chance at Old Trafford

result we competed and ultimately created the better chances. Apart from the two that hit the post, Moses and Zarate missed super chances. Under Bilic we refuse to be intimidated, ever. Andrew Hosie: Yes,

very happy, particularly after some poor away performances recently (Tottenham and Watford matches I’m looking at you!) it was good to get back on track. Yes, we could have sneaked it but overall with our

injuries to key players the performance was excellent. David Bowden: A point at Old Trafford is one never to be sniffed at and a result I am sure every Hammer would have taken before the game. However the way the game panned out to not walk away with the three points is bitterly disappointing. But to be gutted with only getting a draw against Manchester United shows how far we have come as a club. Marcus Johns: I think a point is about the best we could have hoped for – but if only Zarate had managed to finish either chance!! With the amount of attacking talent on the treatment table, our ability to counter is seriously hampered. But the fact some are disappointed by a point at Old Trafford


shows how far we’ve come! James Jones: I think you’ve always got to be happy with a point at Old Trafford. Man United haven’t been playing well and were there for the taking. It was a good result all the same, though. The Hammers have plenty of attacking players out at the moment, how confident are you the club can make it through the busy Christmas period? LW: The way I know I’m confident is that I’m not panicking before each game. I’m not giving it too much thought, but to me that’s a good sign that we have enough decent backup to counteract the losses. It’s going to be a tough Christmas, but if we can avoid more injuries, we’ll be fine. DM: Our fixtures are relatively easy but it will be a stern test, especially with Moses out now as well. As an optimist, I am inclined to see opportunities for the likes of Antonio and Jelavic to show what they can do. DB: Alex Song returning to fitness is massive for the Hammers, but with Victor Moses and Manuel Lanzini picking up knocks it only adds to our ever-growing injury list. Whilst I have every confidence in Slaven ‘the tinkerer’ Bilic, I do see us struggling in front of goal, thankfully the fixture gods have been kind and served us up some winnable fixtures.

Star: Jordan Rhodes would be a great signing in January

MJ: Injuries have been our curse again in recent weeks. Zarate has looked lively, so we do still have some creativity. Enough to unlock Villa surely? If Valencia is back for Southampton it’s a huge bonus as we need more mobility up top. I’d like to see Antonio given his chance in the first team too. JJ: I’m confident we can continue getting results. We proved on Saturday that we can still play well without our very best players available. Although it’s not ideal, I really do think Bilic has got things under control and I trust us to pick up some wins

over the festive period. If you could ask for one (realistic) player for Christmas who would it be? LW: I think we need to be looking at proven Premier League and maybe even Europa League performers. But first and foremost, let’s wrap up this Lanzini deal that’s said to be on the table in order to stop any suggestions of him heading elsewhere in the summer. That’d make my Christmas. DM: Charlie Austin or Jordan Rhodes. We still lack that classic poacher who would take us to the next level. Austin is wasted at QPR, while

Rhodes deserves a chance at the top level as he has never failed to deliver yet. AH: I don’t really know, to be honest. We need a right back definitely and I’ve been reading reports about Davide Santon. It’s all a bit moot though isn’t it, if, as we’ve been led to believe, Bilic has to sell before being able to buy. DB: We need someone who can put the ball in the back of the net. With that in mind, I would bring a rather controversial striker back to the Boleyn. Jermain Defoe, love him or hate him his goal-scoring record speaks for itself and


we need his predatory instincts in front of goal. MJ: It’s tricky to call, as what we will need at Christmas, might not be what we need in the long term. Andros Townsend might give us an attacking edge – but will he get in long term? I think a right back might be needed – Jenkinson seems out of sorts, and is going back to Arsenal anyway. In essence, I’d be happier signing no one than signing an Adebayor!! JJ: I’d like to see us sign another striker. All that fuss with Charlie Austin in the summer pretty much hindered our chances of ever signing him, so I’d go for Jordan Rhodes instead. Should Sakho suffer any more injuries, Rhodes would be the perfect alternative. What has been your highlight from 2015? LW: I’m going to go right back to the beginning of 2015 and say that one of my favorite moments was that Adrian penalty in the FA Cup against Everton. Hero: Adrian’s penalty against Everton was one of the highlights of 2015

Available: Could Andros Townsend be tempted by a move across London?

I constantly replay the ‘gloves off ’ moment in my head and smile every time. Then, of course, meeting the man himself was a personal highlight. DM: There have been so many happy days under Mr Bilic, but for comedic value, the win over Chelsea was a gem.

The manner of the win, and Mourinho’s implosion were to be savoured amongst the great days at Upton Park. AH: This season, basically. After the dreadful second half to last season, it had got to the stage where watching West Ham was actually a horrible experience, ultimately depressing. That’s not the case now as win, lose or draw West Ham have been (mostly) very entertaining to watch. DB: This is an easy one; it has to be that early season away form. To win at Anfield, The Etihad and the Emirates as well as a cheeky home win over Chelsea was phenomenal. Those results will go down in the history of this club

and in general, let’s be honest, 2015 had been a terrible year up to that point. MJ: Oddly, all of my highlights have come during the non footballing months over the summer. From sacking Sam, appointing Bilic and bringing Dicksy back, through to the signings of Payet and Lanzini – the way the board have helped the team is mine. On the pitch, probably beating Chelsea for one final time at Upton Park. JJ: The second half has obviously been a lot better than the first. The wins at the Emirates, Etihad and Anfield obviously stand out, but personally my highlight of 2015 is that five min-


Bubbles ‘is a must for all Irons’ fans’

Trouble: Will Sam Allardyce finally take Sunderland down? ute spell against Chelsea when Mourinho’s side had a complete and utter meltdown at Upton Park. Matic sent off, Jose and one of his coaches sent to the stands and players getting booked left, right and centre. We are almost halfway through the Premier League season. Who are your three teams to go down? LW: I can’t see Villa making any kind of progress over the rest of the season, so to me they’re all but gone. The performances Newcastle are putting in don’t warrant Premier League football at the moment. I’m going to go for a surprise too and say Swansea will go if they don’t buck up their ideas sharpish.

DM: It’s nice that for once we don’t even come into the reckoning. Until Sam arrived, Sunderland were favourites but already he has made a difference and they should just about survive. That’s bad news for Villa and Newcastle who look clueless, while Bournemouth look like they might just scrap their way to safety, leaving Norwich in 18th. AH: Such a difficult one to predict - Aston Villa looked better against Southampton but really I have to go for them. I think Newcastle and Sunderland will survive, so, unfortunately I have to choose Bournemouth who I can’t see managing to maintain such a phenomenal work-rate

and Norwich who I don’t think have enough quality to survive. DB: I think Villa are already gone. I think Sam Allardyce’s luck has run out and I think he’ll take Sunderland down in dramatic fashion. Last but not least, despite their magnificent result at the Bridge, Bournemouth will fall through the trapdoor. MJ: It’s as tight down there as it is at the top. Villa look certainties – they’ve just been really poor all season. Swansea seem to be in freefall at the moment too. As much as I’d love to say Chelsea, it’s only a matter of time until they turn it around. Sadly, I think Bournemouth will go. BBM

Blowing Bubbles Monthly was highly commended at the Football Supporters’ Federation’s annual awards in London. The magazine was shortlisted for ‘Fanzine of the Year’ and was up against some of the longest running fans’ publications in the country. And while it was unable to take the top prize – Bradford City’s ‘City Gent’ took the award for their coverage of the anniversary of the Valley Parade fire – the judges hailed the magazine’s coverage of the Hammers. ‘Produced to a high standard, Blowing Bubbles combines journalistic know how with fanzine charm,’ they said. ‘It has become a must for all Hammers fans.’ Blowing Bubbles editor David Blackmore said he was proud of the team’s effort. ‘To be nominated for Fanzine of the Year less than four years after we launched is a fantastic effort and I’m very proud of everyone who has made this happen.’


It’s a fab time to be born into West Ham’s brave new world

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here was a time when I was adamant no child of mine, niece or nephew would support West Ham. Don’t get me wrong, I’m West Ham through and through. Cut me open and I bleed claret and blue but at that time I’d probably have encouraged any new member of the family to support a different team. Why this desire to avoid raising another Hammer? I can just remember when we started taking my brother Billy to Upton Park and we were relegated. Regularly. He used to cry his eyes out - the kind of kid you see bawling on Sky Sports at the end of every season - and it was absolutely heartbreaking for him. It was heartbreaking for us too and I just thought then and there that there was no way I wanted my kids to endure this horror.

Exciting: The next generation may not have to endure the pain older fans have been through Sure you can’t protect your children from everything and it’s said that some exposure to sadness and tragedy is a good thing - but what Billy went through in the Boleyn stands was noth-

ing short of torture! But, you’ll be pleased to read, I’m starting to feel a bit differently now that I’ve got a nephew. The way we’ve been playing this season - apart from our horrendous

performance at Spurs has given me hope that now is a good time to become a West Ham fan. With Slaven coming in, the players we’ve signed this season and the new stadium on the horizon, it all looks very exciting. As I write, my nephew still doesn’t have a name. I have been championing Frankie and Paolo, and I would’ve suggested Billy (Bonzo) too but that’s my brother’s name. Baby Bobby has a certain ring to it as well. I just feel like the first 15 years of my nephew’s life will be the most exciting in the club’s history. We appear to have moved on from being a yo-yo club - something my brother knows all too well - and we’ve stepped up to a new level with the calibre of our squad, manager, the way we’ve been playing, and I feel we are developing a winning mentality. I spoke to James Tomkins about this recently


and he agreed with me that West Ham have been seen over the years as relegation fodder but how the club is trying to change this perception now. We both felt like West Ham are heading in a new and improved direction. As for my nephew, he is going to be a West Ham fan, there’s now no doubt in my mind. I also think his Dad (my other West Ham-through and through brother Miller) would have rather died than see his son support someone else - even if it might see him go through all the hurt we went through in the 1990s and 2000s. My thoughts are now turning to the debate about when you should

take children to their first football game. For me, it should be as soon as possible. Admittedly, it’s not up to me on this occasion but if it was, he would be at the Olympic Stadium for our first Premier League game there. He will then always be able to say he was there - even if he doesn’t remember it! Yes, I’m still cross with them after their performance at the weekend but I just get the feeling that times are changing and we are moving forward in the right way. Hopefully being a West Ham fan in the next five, 10 or 15 years will be full of highs and not something to worry or fret about. BBM

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On the up: West Ham have a bright future

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Down with the decorations?

The party season can turn into a very happy New Year indeed Slaven Bilic’s new look West Ham won’t repeat last year’s mistakes

BRIAN WILLIAMS

R

@BrainWill26

emember this time last year? In the run-up to Christmas we were riding high in the table, actually finding ourselves third at the beginning of December. Alex Song was world class, the Sakho/Valencia combo was a revelation in front of goal and Big Sam was clearly a genius after all. Barcelona, we’re coming for you! Then we went to Chelsea on Boxing Day, Arsenal came to us two days later, and the season began to unravel in front of our weary eyes. Those two London derbies were both so disappointing, albeit in different ways. It’s always easy to be wise after the event, but a manager with more ambition than Allardyce might well have done things differently at Stamford Bridge. We were fourth, and

Ruthless: Slaven Bilic won’t allow West Ham to drop off playing some great football. But, rather than showing faith in the diamond that had served us so well, he went 4-23-1 and sat back, hoping to hit them with a sucker punch on the counter. We never looked like troubling Chelsea and tamely went down 2-0. There’s no disgrace in losing to the eventual champions, but defeat

would have tasted slightly less bitter if we’d at least had a go at them. We did have a go at Arsenal at Upton Park, and it looked like Alex Song had put us ahead when he volleyed home from 20 yards after six minutes – only for referee Neil Swarbrick to chalk it off because he believed Diafro Sakho had distracted Gooner

keeper Wojciech Szczesny while standing in an offside position. We dominated the rest of the first half, but then conceded twice in a couple of crazy minutes just before the interval. Cheik Kouyate’s second half goal wasn’t enough to repair the damage, but for the first time in years we left Upton Park feeling that we really


could and should have beaten Arsenal. All of which prompted the cynics among us to unwrap the very old joke that usually gets trotted out at this time of year. So, come on: why are West Ham like the Christmas decorations? All together now: they both come down in the New Year. Boom boom! as Basil Brush would have said (was he really related to Paul, or was the bloke who told me that just pulling my leg?) Actually, there is rather less to this old chestnut than you might think. In 1964, the year I began to support West Ham, we finished 14th. On the Boxing Day of 1963 we had suffered the club’s record defeat as we crashed 8-2 at home to Blackburn, leaving us in 16th place. According to a report in the Daily Mirror, West Ham’s ‘tactics were all wrong and their covering terrible’. Sadly, that wasn’t the last time anyone was to say that about the Hammers. From 16th to 14th is,

Depth: West Ham’s squad has plenty of options this season

of course, an improvement of two places. By the time I had celebrated my golden anniversary of following West Ham, the second half of the season had seen us slip down the league on 22 occasions. But we’d also improved

Role: Nikica Jelavic could have a part to play

our position in 22 seasons, and finished in the same place we were in on Boxing Day six times. That perfect symmetry was spoiled last year as we slid down the snakes of the Premier League table to our final position of 12th. Admittedly, the reason we don’t plummet after Christmas is usually because we’ve haven’t got very high beforehand. Our most spectacular decline was a fall of 12 places – from 6th to 18th in 1975-76, but that can largely be explained by a fantastic run in the European Cup Winners’ Cup, which took us all the way to the final. The previous season

– again, one that ended with a cup final – saw us fall eight places from the dizzy heights of fifth on Boxing Day to finish 13th. I suspect that was when the ‘decorations’ gag was first unwrapped. After the start we’ve had this year, even the most pessimistic West Ham supporter must be looking at a top half finish. And that’s not to be sniffed at – on average, they only come around once every three years. But can we realistically hope for more? There’s no denying that Dimitri Payet’s absence is a serious blow. However, all is not lost. This is the best squad


we’ve had for years. In previous seasons the injury to Enner Valencia would have been seen in almost the same disastrous light as Payet’s. The fact that we won’t miss him in the way we once would is testament to the fact we have several other players with pace, power and an eye for goal. We may not yet be in that heady position where there are two obvious candidates for every position, but we are getting there. We still look a bit short at full-back (on both sides) but there are serious options in the centre of defence and in midfield. If Nikica Jelavic could rediscover the form he once showed for Super Slav’s Croatia the goal-scoring department wouldn’t look too shabby either, notwithstanding the loss of Enner Valencia. Manuel Lanzini had been seen as the key to our continued success, but his injury has meant it is more important than ever that the whole team contribute to our attacking movement. If we are going to continue to create chances we need help from the likes of Victor Moses, Sakho and, hopefully, a rejuvenated Alex Song. There are calls for Michail Antonio to be given his chance, but that’s only going to happen if we really find ourselves on the slide. He’s been bought with an

Class act: Manuel Lanzini is going to be a big loss

eye to the future, not for this season. The joker in the pack could yet turn out to be Mauro Zarate. He is the opposite of an impact sub – he seems to try too hard when he comes off the bench. We get the best out of him when he starts. The shift he put in during the first half against Chelski – both in attack and defence – was one of the finest individual displays I’ve seen in years. After Payet limped off against Everton the prognosis was that he would be out for three months. Let’s be

ultra-cautious and say he will not be back until the end of February, returning to meet Sam Allardyce’s Sunderland. With or without Dimitri, that looks to be a great chance to get three points in the bag. Next up it’s Tottenham at home – and surely we have to produce a better performance than the dismal showing at their place. Nothing short of a comprehensive win will ease the pain of White Hart Lane in November. Then there are 10 games to go, of which five are distinctly winna-

ble. But with a refreshed Payet back in the side anything is possible – including, perhaps, surprise wins at Chelsea and Everton. Draw the others and that’s 24 points – which could mean a total of 30 to drool over when our Gallic genius returns to the side. Who knows? If those standing in for him can keep us in touch in his absence, we might just be looking at our best league finish in 30 years. Now that would be a fitting way to say goodbye to the Boleyn Ground. BBM


FROZEN IN TIME

Sunday, November 29, 2015: West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur players line up next to each other as a show of solidarity after the Paris terrorist attack. It reminded us all there some things more important than football.


The winter break debate

Is it time the Premier League considered a winter break?

Two Blowing Bubbles writers weigh up the pros and cons of a rest

Yes!

SAYS JAMES JONES

I

n the not too distant past I’ve been heavily against England introducing a winter break. There’s something about the festive period and Premier League football that makes that time of the year even better than it normally is. And it always gives me the chance to get out of the missus dragging me around Westfield Stratford on Boxing Day as she spends her January pay slip on cut price goods she’s probably already got! And then there’s New Year’s Day, when you’re still drunk from the night before and travelling to Reading to watch the mighty Hammers get spanked 6-0. Does it ever get any better than that? However, I’m beginning to change my mind. And it’s all because of West Ham. Selfish, I know. The old adage that West Ham ‘come down

Cold: People have been talking about having a winter break for years with the Christmas decorations’ is something we can all agree with. Last season in particular, when we followed a top four spot on Christmas Day, with sliding down the table to eventually finish 12th. Many will have put that down to Sam Allardyce and his tactics, but I would also put it down to the fact a club like West Ham

doesn’t have the quality and strength in depth to maintain an early season run of form into the second half of the campaign. The reasons why the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City are able to compete consistently throughout the season isn’t just because they’ve got the best players in the league. It’s also because they’ve

got the squad-depth to rotate during the winter months, and therefore reducing their chances of crashing and burning like the rest of us. What a winter break would do, I believe, is create a more even playing field in the Premier League. We would certainly have a huge chance of replicating our early season form after the New Year.


Holiday: Would Andy Carroll benefit from having a break?

No!

SAYS DANNY RUST

The players would be fitter and fresher, and they won’t have had to deal with having to be mentally and physically fit to play five games in 15 days. I would wage a fair few quid that we’d give ourselves a huge chance of finishing in the top six or seven this season if there was a winter break. Instead we’ll probably finish twelfth again after

struggling for form in January and February. It’s the West Ham way, isn’t it? I’d much rather spend the January transfer window without any football if it meant witnessing West Ham continue some kind of good form into the second half of the season and finishing the season strongly, perhaps with something to celebrate in May. BBM

Although four of the ‘big five’ leagues have a winter break, England has not followed suit yet. It has been argued for some time that the Premier League should put a winter break in place, but I think the English top flight season should continue to be organised in the same way as it currently is. Not having a winter break has regularly been blamed for England’s poor performances at World Cups and European Championships, but the fact is other national sides go into tournaments better equipped and, often, with a good team rather than good individuals. For years, England continued with Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in the heart of the Three Lions’ midfield when it was clear that the two struggled to work together. So, in all honesty, although it may play a small part in England failing in international competitions, not having a winter break is not the biggest reason for England’s poor form at tournaments. Manchester United

boss Louis van Gaal may have blamed England’s lack of success on not having a winter break – the Dutchman said it was ‘the most evil thing’ – but this is because he has managed in Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, which all have winter breaks over parts of December and January. He has also managed his home country, where there are no fixtures over Christmas so he is simply not used to the English way of playing a full season, rather than having a few weeks off. Also, it is traditional to play English football over the Christmas period. Everyone looks forward to the Boxing Day fixtures, as well as the first game in the New Year, and so it would not go down too well if the festive fixtures were ditched. For decades, matches have been played on Boxing Day and over the rest of the Christmas period and that shouldn’t change. Other sports, such as American Football, play on Christmas Day. Taking part in the televised NFL game on December 25 is seen to be an honour, and the match always attracts sell out crowds. It would be a shame if the current season schedule changed.


Karren Brady

It is time Hammers supporters learned to love this Irons lady Karren Brady has transformed West Ham since her arrival in 2010

EMILY PULHAM

@makingthemarrow

D

espite a dreadful defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham are on the up as they sail through their last season at Upton Park. The Hammers have signed the majestic Dimitri Payet and managed to attract the impressive Manuel Lanzini and Alex Song on loan deals leading to strong team selection options. The club is enjoying a period of relative economic stability and smart business decisions – most of which are being done at the urging of vice-chairman Karren Brady. Brady has been dedicated to improving life in claret and blue since her arrival at the club in 2010, however, she has not been without her critics. They claim she enjoys the media spotlight a

little too much and does not seem to value the club’s history. She was blasted over her suggestion the club could be renamed West Ham Olympic. Of course, the fact she takes home more than £600,000 per year. doesn’t help. She also apparently received a bonus of more than £1million when the club won the race to be anchor tenants at the Olympic Stadium. The question is though are we taking Brady and her hard work for granted? Lady Brady is an extremely intelligent business woman who has done incredibly well to stabilise West Ham United to a point where they can attract a high calibre of player and then actually afford to pay them for their services. She was undeniably crucial in West Ham securing the Olympic Stadium and it can and should be argued that fans should be grateful for the opportunities she has created. Karren has done well to work towards a

stronger financial future at the club, and she’s dealt well with all the twists and turns along the way. The deal with shirt sponsor Betway came from an occasion in which she made gourmet lemonade from really rather unwanted lemons. Previous shirt sponsors Alpari had to abruptly pull out of their deal after filing for insolvency, and instead of ironing some fetching white patches over the old sponsor, Brady managed to broker a record-breaking deal with Betway that doubled what Alpari had paid for the shirts. Her keen business sense has led to good financial news in other areas of the business too. As of the end of the 2014-15 season, West Ham reported a turnover of £120.7m, a record for us, and finished the year with a £8.5m operating profit. Brady’s website states that, since her arrival, West Ham have become one of the five fastest-growing brands in world football, and

top-quality players are willing to come to East London as a result of this strong brand-building. It’s not bad for five years work. It should all be smooth sailing for Lady Brady, but even though she’s worked hard to endear herself to fans, it doesn’t feel like fans are united behind the hard work she’s doing. After she commented on a failed task performed on the Apprentice by tweeting ‘£9 for a salad!’ she was relentlessly trolled on Twitter by her own fans reminding her of her own mistake. Brady hasn’t always got everything right, but she is working tirelessly to keep West Ham in both good league and good financial standings. We owe Karren a thank you, or at least a peace offering of sorts, for what she’s brought to the club. She’s a valuable asset, a strong champion for West Ham’s finances and brand awareness, and as long as she keeps delivering, we should all be grateful she’s on our team. BBM


Effective: Karren Brady has overseen huge changes at West Ham


Manchester United

Effort: West Ham stopped Manchester United, and Paul Ince, winning the league in 1995

West Ham’s Upton Park battles with United will live on forever

Four great times the Hammers hurt Man United at the Boleyn Ground

GEOFF HILLYER

T

@geoffhillyer

he start of this month saw us renew acquaintances with an old foe who we’ve had our fair share of humdingers with over

the years. It’s fair to say our 0-0 draw with Manchester United wasn’t the most exciting game there has ever been between the two clubs, but the point was nonetheless welcome. There’s been plenty of memorable moments between the teams at the Boleyn Ground in the Premier League era – here’s four of the best. West Ham United 1 Manchester United 0 22 April 1992

It’s amazing how relegation can lift pressure off football players. By the time this match rolled around, we were already bottom of the league and down, but that didn’t stop us from sticking a great big pin in Manchester United’s title-ambition balloon. Kenny Brown’s 66th minute-volley gave us the win, with the Red Devils subsequently unable to match Leeds’ results and conceding the title to them – a rare

highlight in a season full of struggle. The smile was only partially wiped off of our faces by our appearance in the second tier the following season. West Ham United 1 Manchester United 1 14 May 1995 Three years later, it was time to repeat the trick. A win for Manchester United here would win them the title, with Blackburn losing. No problem, surely – except


they were playing us. Having only very recently secured our safety in the league, we didn’t really have much to play for. You’d never have guessed it though, as Michael Hughes volleyed us into the lead. The second half was a different story. After Brian McClair’s equaliser, the match was played mostly in the West Ham penalty area as United desperately looked for the winner. Goalkeeper Ludek Miklosko had other ideas, though, producing save after save to ensure the match finished level, and the title headed to Blackburn thanks to an effort described as “obscene” by Sir Alex. Praise indeed. West Ham United 2 Manchester United 2 8 December 1996 The following season, victories were once again proving hard to come by, with just four wins from the first 16 matches and no wins in five. With only two goals scored in those games and a home defeat from

Miffed: Sir Alex Ferguson had (some) unhappy memories of Upton Park

Aston Villa last time out, it’s fair to say that there wasn’t much optimism ahead of this one. And it seemed as if that lack of optimism was correct because despite being level at half-time, United romped into a two-goal lead in the second half through strikes from Five minutes of fame: Florin Raducioiu did one good thing in a West Ham shirt...

Solskjaer and Beckham. With less than a quarter of an hour to go, things looked bleak. But then, Florin Raducioiu (remember him?) out-muscled Ronnie Johnson and curled past Peter Schmeichel for his finest moment in a Hammers shirt. Suddenly the comeback was on, and was completed when Michael Hughes won a penalty and Julian Dicks hit the ball into the net with such force, Schmeichel didn’t have time to move. Ultimately, it was a season of struggle, but the impetus of goals through the signing of John Hartson and Paul Kitson ensured that we eventually stayed up by two points.

West Ham United 1 Manchester United 0 17 December 2006 An early Christmas present from new manager Alan Curbishley with Nigel Reo-Coker scoring the winner after 75 minutes. In truth, West Ham played with a tenacity which had been missing during the final days of Alan Pardew’s reign, and while Manchester United had their chances, West Ham held on, and deservedly so. The season continued as a battle against relegation following the Tevez/ Mascherano affair, but it was won after a final day victory against – you guessed it – Manchester United. BBM


Nigel Reo-Coker & Marlon Harewood

West Ham have played a small role in Villa’s recent troubles The Harewood and Reo-Coker deals marked the start of the decline Where did it all go wrong? Nigel Reo-Coker once had a bright future...

ANDREW RAEBURN

N

@andrew_raeburn

ext summer, while Martin O’Neill takes Ireland to Euro 2016, one of his former teams could be licking their wounds over a first relegation in almost 30 years. If Aston Villa do drop into the Championship, it’d seem an inevitable conclusion to five years of dour football, desperate mismanagement at every level and a lack of ambition unbecoming of one of English football’s most successful clubs. To partly blame O’Neill, who led Villa to three successive top six finishes, would seem perverse. But you can certainly trace the club’s current malaise back to his reign. O’Neill arrived in the summer of 2006, as American Randy Lerner was buying the club from Doug Ellis. The appointment was

Ellis’ parting gift to a club he had served for decades, though Villa fans had grown tired of his penny-pinching in his final years. With the terrace unrest no doubt firmly in his mind, Lerner gave O’Neill considerable backing, with more than £120m spent on players during his four years in charge.

A number of these signings were successful. Ashley Young, James Milner, Stewart Downing and Fabian Delph were all eventually sold for a decent profit, while James Collins, Richard Dunne and Stiliyan Petrov put in displays befitting their transfer fees. But allowing O’Neill carte blanche was to be

Lerner’s first and biggest mistake. Trusting the manager implicitly, he gave the Ulsterman blank cheques, leading to some eye-watering figures splashed out on fairly run-of-the-mill players. Eight million pounds on Curtis Davies, £7.8m getting Carlos Cuellar, £5m on Steve Sidwell, £6m on Luke Young, £2.5m on Habib Beye (no, me neither) and £7m on Stephen Warnock. Why am I telling you all this? Because, if you remember, West Ham benefited from this largesse to the tune of £12.5m, for the services of Nigel Reo-Coker and Marlon Harewood in 2007. Neither were particularly bizarre signings at the time. Both had been part of the Hammers side which got to the FA Cup final 12 months previously, and there had even been talk of Harewood going to the 2006 World Cup. Although the following season was a pretty miserable one at Upton Park, both still had a decent reputation and miles left in the tank


when they moved to Villa - albeit, in Reo-Coker’s case, in acrimonious circumstances. Neither player will go down in Villa folklore, though one was considerably more successful than the other. Reo-Coker saw out every minute of the fouryear deal he agreed upon signing, occasionally captaining the team and making 123 appearances - though by the end, he was earning his ‘Nigel Mediocre’ tag. Harewood played only 40 times, the vast majority as substitute, scoring seven goals. This equates to £100,000 in transfer fee for each appearance. Though both eventually left for nothing, paying £8.5m for Reo-Coker and £4m for Harewood was nothing out of the ordinary at Villa Park at that time, as the earlier figures show. O’Neill was operating a risky “jam today” approach, ignoring little things like a player’s relative worth or sell-on value, and simply spending whatever it took to secure the players he wanted, in the hope of securing Champions League qualification. To be fair, it came close to paying off. It’s hard to believe now, but in April 2010 Villa were level on points with fourth-placed Spurs with just two games to play. Maddeningly, defeats to Manchester City and Blackburn allowed Spurs to keep hold of fourth and as a result launch

Popular: Marlon Harewood was loved by the West Ham fans

Where are they now? REO-COKER

After leaving Aston Villa Reo-Coker had spells with Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich Town before moving to the MLS. He has played for Vancouver Whitecaps, Chivas USA and is currently plying his trade with Montreal Impact.

HAREWOOD At the end of his time at Aston Villa, Harewood had loan spells with Wolves and Newcastle United. He had spells with Blackpool and Guangzhou in China before returning to England with Nottingham Forest. He then played for Barnsley, Bristol City and Hartlepool. He is currently playing non-League football with Nuneaton Town.

Gareth Bale into the European stratosphere. It could so easily have been Ashley Young at Real Madrid - or maybe not! On the eve of the following season, O’Neill walked out. He had known for a little while Lerner would no longer sanction the sort of money he wanted to spend. Under Gerard Houllier and Alex McLeish, sign-

ings were funded by the sales of Milner, Young and Downing while Paul Lambert’s remit was to slash the wage budget and completely rebuild the squad on a transfer pot of roughly £20m per season, half of what O’Neill spent. The inevitable decline brings the club to where it is now - yet another desperate battle to stay up. It may be a little

far-fetched to suggest signing Reo-Coker and Harewood was the beginning of the end. After all, they were a (small) part of Villa’s most successful spell of the 21st century. But thanks to O’Neill, it came at a cost - potentially the club’s Premier League status. I hope he remembers that when he leads the Republic out in France. BBM


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Dimitri Payet

How can the Hammers cope without the crocked Payet?

David Bowden says all is not lost by the Frenchman’s shock injury

I

t would appear the West Ham injury curse is very much alive and kicking after our talismanic Frenchman Dimitri Payet was sidelined for three months. In previous seasons this could have had a huge impact on our campaign but we aren’t a one-man team, far from it with the emergence of Manuel Lanzini. Having said that, Payet is still a huge loss for us. Since joining from Marseilles in June, he’s shone and was involved in eight West Ham goals in his 12 appearances, scoring five including match-winning goals against Newcastle and a vital equaliser against Sunderland. As soon as Payet fell to the ground after James McCarthy’s lunge, you could feel the fear and worry inside the Boleyn Ground. There was an eerie hush around the ground before a typically defiant chant of the Frenchman’s popular song. It wouldn’t be at all naïve to say that Payet is West Ham’s equivalent to Cristiano Ronaldo at Madrid and Leo Messi at Barcelona in terms of his

Missing: Dimitri Payet enjoyed a fine start to the season but is now out until February

importance to the squad, but it’s critical that we don’t dwell too much on his absence. His layoff comes at the pivotal time of the season with such a busy festive period coming up but it will give players like Michail Antonio and Lanzini the chance to show their true capa-

bilities. Bilic, however, may now need to look at a slight change of plan in terms of style of play with his main man sidelined. With Payet pulling the strings, the team looked settled and you always could rely on him to create something from nothing. With him in-

jured, the pressure now lands on the shoulders of the back-up players to star. Mauro Zarate, in particular, seems like the obvious option to come into the starting line-up. As we all know, the Argentine’s statistics when he starts games are second to none, with two goals in his three League starts so far this season. It isn’t too dramatic to say how we react could make or break our season such is the impact Payet has made at the club since his summer arrival. He is the closest the club has came to a natural creative player since Paolo Di Canio and we all know what impact he made at the Boleyn. I think the biggest blow to come from the draw against Everton was not only to lose Payet but to lose Enner Valencia as well. The Ecuadorian would have been the readymade replacement for Dimitri, he adds goals and pace to the Hammers side. But much like the West Ham way, the injury curse always bumps us back down to reality. BBM


VVV-Venlo

Why going Dutch may just pay huge dividends for West Ham A West Ham fan from Holland gives his take on our deal with VVV

ARJAN DRISSEN

U

ntil recently, the name VVV-Venlo will have meant little to West Ham United fans. Earlier this season, the Hammers announced they had struck a deal with the Dutch club that would allow the best youngsters in our academy to get first team experience on loan in the second tier of Netherlands football. The news was pretty unexpected, and left many supporters scratching their heads and wondering what the benefits would be. After all, what good can come of sending our next Reece Oxford or Reece Burke to a country that has failed to qualify for next summer’s European Championships in France? However, what I would argue is there are plenty of benefits from the arrangement, one being that it will also give West

Thinking big: Terry Westley says the deal will help West Ham’s young players develop Ham first option on buying any talents the club known as The Good Old are looking to cash in on. The Jupiler League, which is named after the Belgian beer company, is probably about the standard of League Two. The football is more physical than in the Ere-

divisie but there is still an emphasis on playing the ‘Nederlandse School’ (the Dutch way) of 4-3-3 with the full-backs pushing on and a number 10 behind the striker. VVV are no exception to this rule and this means that any West Ham youth players who will be plying their

trade there will have to adapt to the Dutch way of playing and must be comfortable on the ball. The division also has a reputation of helping young players to make their names and reach their potential. The likes of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Sami Hyppia, Jaap Stam, Dirk Kuyt, Nacer Chadli, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen, Keisuke Honda and Michel Vorm all spent time in the Jupiler league, which helped to launch their football careers. As such West Ham’s youngsters can expect to be schooled in a different type of football and this can only add more strings to their bow and become more rounded footballers. Since the clubs are a lot smaller and don’t have as many resources as Eredivisie clubs the players will have to look after themselves. That means any youngsters we send over will have to mature a lot faster. They will have to live on their own, do their own cooking and have to get to grips with the basics of the Dutch language.


Talent: Would Reece Oxford benefit from a spell in Holland?

Westley hails Venlo deal

VVV is also a good choice of club from West Ham’s point of view as there will hardly be any off-field distractions for the players. Venlo has a nice city centre and isn’t too small by Dutch standards (about 40,000 residents call the place home) but it is hardly Amsterdam,

Rotterdam or Eindhoven with its flashy clubs, bars and model shows. West Ham, of course, are not the first English club to collaborate with a Dutch team. In 2010, Merab Jordania, a business associate of Roman Abramovich, bought Vitesse and the club have since borrowed many of

Chelsea’s youngsters including Josh McEachran and Sam Hutchinson. Now West Ham have followed suit. The players who get to go out on loan to VVV will live the life, play first team football and experience a different culture. It is now up to them to make the most of it. BBM

Academy boss Terry Westley says West Ham’s deal with VVV-Venlo will lead to more home grown players making it into the first team. ‘It’s something we have looked at for 12 months,’ he said. ‘We have been to Slovakia, France and Holland. ‘We have met with different clubs and we chose Venlo in the end after doing our homework and looking at the environment and what the staff are like. ‘Our thought process was could we be futuristic? If you look at defenders, Reece Burke is a great example as going to Bradford is really helping him and being tough against a senior centre forward. ‘But if you are looking for a midfielder or an attacking player, you might be looking for a different type of game and Venlo ticks those boxes.’


Supporters’ club of the month

#9: Kings Lynn Irons Club

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his month Blowing Bubbles caught up with King’s Lynn Irons Club secretary Mark Steele as the supporters’ club gears up to celebrate its 10th anniversary. When, how and why was group founded? I guess the foundations for what became KLIC came about after I discovered that I wasn’t the only Hammer in King’s Lynn when I started to work on the railways in 1977 and with ‘free travel’, I was able to make the 200-mile plus round trip to Upton Park on a regular basis. But it wasn’t until the arrival of mass football coverage by Sky that my friends and I realised just how many more there were in the pub each time. They also always knew of other friends or friends of friends that were Hammers. It was

Legend: Ronnie Boyce was a guest of honour

also at this time that I subconsciously started a campaign to recruit a new generation of Hammers. From the moment my daughter Lauren started

Packed: The club had many fans at the 2012 play-off semi final

at school and made lots of new friends, they were treated to ‘kids for a quid matches’ and cheap train trips to Upton Park, some of their parents were converted too. In Lauren’s last year at primary school, I discovered one of her teachers was a lifelong Hammer. This was Tony Cudworth who is a valued friend and Chairman of KLIC. It was during our 2006 FA Cup run I resolved to use my organisational skills to good effect and KLIC was officially born.

How many members are there in your group today? Season after season our membership has steadily grown and through this many new and valued friendships have been forged. The aim of the King’s Lynn Irons has always been to bring together West Ham supporters of all ages, and to make it possible and more affordable for them to attend matches in these times of austerity. Each season sees increas-


ing numbers of our members travelling to more matches, not just at home but also away. To date we have more than 130 members on the register. Of these, 100 are fully paid up members. These range from season ticket holders to our ‘armchair pensioner supporters’. In the past three months we have also seen our two main season ticket groups attend appointments at the Reservation Centre in Stratford to select our seats for the Olympic Stadium. We have a group in the ‘East Stand Kop’ of around 25 and another group of around 20 in the upper tier behind the goal at the North End. KLIC now has members as far afield as Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Nottinghamshire, London, Bristol and Australia. What have been your most memorable days as a supporters’ club? We have had some really memorable adventures with Blackpool away a few seasons ago being a highlight. We’ve also had some we would rather forget. Birmingham in the Carling Cup semi final where we were kettled by the West Midlands Police, Stoke in the FA Cup quarter final in 2011 where overzealous police hijacked our minibus, and Wigan in our last match of 2010/2011, where our hopes were lifted before being

Happy times: Former Hammer Brian Dear has also visited

crushed. The following season, KLIC was able to achieve the magnificent result of getting 60 members tickets for the play-off semi final home leg against Cardiff City. KLIC was also proud to be one of the first supporters’ clubs to become an official affiliated supporters club and we are one of, if not the largest, West Ham supporters club outside of London. What are the benefits of being part of your group? We are very proud of our social scene with our Christmas and end of season events now cater for upwards of 60 guests. We have also been very privileged to have some true West Ham legends

Furture: Many members will have season tickets at the Olympic Stadium next year

attend as our guests. Our Christmas dinner 2014 saw Ronnie ‘Ticker’ Boyce as our guest of honour and at our end of season dinner, we welcomed Brian Dear. For our Christmas meal at the start of December this year we welcomed Alan Taylor as our special guest, some 40 years after he made history in our 1975 FA Cup triumph. KLIC can even boast

its own pub. Lifelong friend and Hammers fan, Daran Kerr is the landlord of The Bentinck Tavern in King’s Lynn and whenever matches are televised, The Bentinck is the place to go. How can people get in touch with your club? For more information see our website www. kingslynnirons.com or email secretary@kingslynnirons.com BBM


West Ham Ladies

‘I could not be happier than I am playing for this great club’ David Blackmore finds Aditi Chauhan confident about her future

H

er arrival at West Ham Ladies in August saw Aditi Chauhan unwittingly thrust into the spotlight as she became the first Indian woman to play in English league football. In what she describes as a ‘crazy’ period, she’d gone from a foreign exchange student at Loughborough University to international football star, Indian role model and self-driven ambassador for women’s sport. Fast forward to the end of November and the shotstopper was back in the headlines after again creating history by scooping the Woman in Football award at the third Asian Football Awards. The 23-year-old collected her award at a ceremony at Wembley Stadium as part of an evening that recognised the achievements of British Asians in football. ‘It’s been a great journey since I arrived in England,’ she told Blowing Bubbles. ‘I came here to complete a masters degree in sports management at Loughborough University and now I’m playing for West Ham.

Impressive: Aditi Chauhan has performed well ‘To have been recognised at the Asian Football Awards and to have gone to collect the award at Wembley, which is such an iconic place, it really was the icing on the cake.’ Despite making the headlines in England and India twice in only a few months, the 23-year-old remains

impressively grounded as she refused to hold back her determination and passion to achieve her dreams and, more importantly for herself, achieve a better standard of football for the female game worldwide. ‘I never expected any of this to have happened,’ she continued. ‘My focus was just on playing for

West Ham, which was a dream come true because it was not something I could have done except dream about in India. ‘But I’m glad that I’ve been able to path a way for ladies in India, and that I am in a position to inspire the young boys and girls back home.’ She added: ‘I had such a warm welcome from the fans of West Ham when I joined and now before every game, I get so many good luck messages – it’s just incredible. ‘I certainly think West Ham have got more fans in India now because I’m playing for the Ladies. The Premier League is very popular in India but to have me playing for West Ham, I think it has really helped raise the club’s profile over there.’ Chauhan, who has represented her country in international tournaments, made her Hammers debut in a 5-0 defeat to Coventry and, despite her positivity, admitted the months that followed proved equally as tough, culminating in the departure of six senior players, including captain Stacey Little.


But after picking up a point against Brighton and Hove Albion last month before narrowly losing away to the league leaders and also to rivals Spurs, Chauhan is hopeful the Ladies will pick up points this month. ‘There have been some good performances lately and I’m enjoying every game, and making some good saves,’ she said. ‘As a team, I feel we’ve been growing and getting better in every training session and game since we had a few girls leave last month. ‘Brighton are a very strong side so to have got a draw with them was a brilliant result and then although we lost 1-0 to them, I felt I played very well to keep the score down to 1-0. ‘We have got some tough games coming up in December and the start of January but we have a chance of picking up three points in some and we will certainly do our best. ‘We know we are lacking in some areas but we are working hard to improve on them and looking to pick up some better results and move

Ouch: Aditi Chauhan was in the wars against Palace

up the league. As for me, I absolutely love it at West Ham. ‘I couldn’t be happier. The only thing on my mind off the pitch is getting my visa sorted so that I can stay and play for West Ham.’ The 23-year-old’s student visa runs out at the end of January and the

club is unable to sponsor her application for a work visa as the Ladies are in the third tier of women’s football and classed to be semi-pro. Her brother, Aaditya, has launched a petition backing her, which has so far attracted almost 1,000 signatures, and Chauhan is considering

whether to apply for an exceptional talent visa or a temporary worker visa. ‘I’m keeping positive about this situation but I’ve not had any leads yet,’ she added. ‘I don’t really know what is destined for me but right now I’m focused on sorting out my issues off the pitch.’ BBM

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The last word

Why ‘forgotten man’ Antonio can still be a huge hit in E13

Stuart Plant says his old pal has what it takes to shine at West Ham

I

was a staunch advocate for the club’s perusal, and capturing, of Michail Antonio from Nottingham Forest this summer. I happily admit a large portion of that is down to the fact he was in the year above me at our secondary school and consequently having played football in, and out, of school with him. Add to that he was a brilliant character, I was all for it! Now though, we find ourselves in a rather strange situation. Antonio hardly featured in the games played up to our clash against Manchester United, playing only half an hour during our win at The Etihad and a few minutes against West Brom. This has left a majority of fans wondering what on earth is going on when we’re not playing a winger we paid £7million for. On the face of it, I understand the confusion. Why pay any fee for any player when you don’t play him, right? Only, Antonio is not any player. Lets not get ahead of ourselves and make grandiose

Benched: Michail Antonio has hardly featured since joining the club in September

statements, but, he has everything he needs to make it in the Premier League. He just needs to pull all of those components together now, which is where Bilic and his coaching staff come into play. The main thing he obviously has is the physicality for the Premier League, with his frame, strength and speed. Many people will have seen his highlight reels from his time playing in the Championship and noticed his ability

to breeze past players as if they weren’t there, as well as some technically brilliant goals. He had started to add those goals to his game, which saw him leave Nottingham Forest with the impressive stats, for a winger, of a goal every 2.8 games. The main component, especially in this situation, that Antonio possesses is patience. At the age of 25 he has worked his way from non-league football to the Football League, now finding himself at a

Premier League club that is currently in the top 10 of the table. Four years ago he was playing League One football. This, is not down to luck. It is down to hard work, patience and talent. If we can all show a fraction of the patience that Antonio himself has shown to get here and now the patience to wait for his chance in the Premier League, then I am confident we will all be looking forward to seeing more from him at West Ham. BBM


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Blowing Bubbles #54  

In this issue: *John Moncur on Bilic, bookings and Big Sam *Exclusive columns from ex-Hammer George Parris and Sky Sports' Bianca Westwood *...

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