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JANUARY 2016 #55





He drives us mad at times, but can Mauro Zarate still become an Irons hero under Slaven Bilic?

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

West Ham fans have plenty to look forward to as 2016 dawns H appy New Year to you all. I hope 2016 will be a prosperous one to everyone associated with our wonderful football club. I’m feeling very positive about what 2016 has in store for West Ham. It was always going to be a special season with the move from the Boleyn to Stratford but Slaven’s men are certainly playing their part in ensuring we leave our current home with a bang. A lot was said before our clash against Southampton last month about our ‘winless’ streak stretching back to Chelsea in October.

I heard it mentioned several times in December but I was surprised very little was made about the fact we went undefeated after our thrashing at White Hart Lane on November 22 to the end of 2015. The commentator covering our game against the Saints summed us up beautifully when he said we’d been ‘treading water’ as we wait for several key players to return and I couldn’t agree more. With so many key players out injured, we were always going to struggle in December to continue our fine form but I’ve been very

impressed with how Slaven and the squad have coped. It’s not been easy to watch but to have picked up maximum points against a side which thrashed Arsenal 4-0 a few days earlier and to have drawn against an in-form Stoke City and away at Manchester United, should be seen as an achievement. A huge thanks to Alan Taylor for allowing us to interview him for this issue. It was an absolute pleasure to sit next to him at the King’s Lynn Irons Club Christmas meal.


The big interview - David Gold

‘The new stadium will let us compete with the very best’

David Blackmore finds co-owner David Gold in a very confident mood ahead the most important year in West Ham’s long and proud history


avid Gold feels the club have been vindicated for replacing Sam Allardyce with Slaven Bilic following a great first half of the season. In a wide-ranging interview, the West Ham co-chairman said getting off to a good start was key for Bilic but his passion for the club and the West Ham way will help keep fans on side during any future winless periods. He has also set out his vision for West Ham for the next five years with the main target being regular European football and also stated the club will be debt free once the first ball is kicked at their new home in August. ‘I think we all knew that Slaven was very capable – indeed as some of the other applicants were [for the vacant manager position],’ he said. ‘We knew their CVs but the issue was whether or not we were going to be able to work with this man, and whether there was chemistry between us. ‘At most clubs, there

Ambitious: Slaven Bilic will lead West Ham into the Olympic Stadium this summer

is usually one man who deals with the manager but in our case it’s two chairmen and vice-chairman Karren Brady. Now all three of us ticked the box to say we could work with him. ‘The other box to be ticked, of course, was something nobody else could and that was him being an ex-player.

Ex-players are always warmly received by the fan base but key to any success of a new manager, particularly in the early stages, is to get off to a good start. He did this. ‘West Ham fans also know we don’t have a divine right to win every game, but what they do have a divine right to ex-

pect is that their football team is going to give 100 per cent, and they’re going to see passion from their manager, and that’s what they’ve got.’ Premier League survival for the final season at Upton Park and the first season in the Olympic Stadium was made clear to Bilic on starting his reign at the club but he wasn’t given a target position, Gold confirmed. ‘I’m sitting here right now and just for a moment I’m a fan and I’m optimistic,’ he continued. ‘Their expectations levels have risen because of how things have gone but also because we’ve got some quality players. ‘They didn’t know what Lanzini was going to be like and how he would fit in. They also didn’t know how Payet was going to settle in and become the player that he has been for us. ‘The fans will be feeling like we can finish in a European place and I believe this side is good enough.’ As for where he sees West Ham five years from now, Gold replied: ‘I see us being well es-

Fighting talk: David Gold says West Ham have a bright future

tablished in the Olympic Stadium, and I see West Ham United flourishing and challenging Spurs and Arsenal in London. ‘It’s always very difficult to talk about comparing us to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City who have wealth that is indescribable. ‘It’s very difficult to compete with them financially on a regular basis but that’s not to say we can’t compete with them on the football pitch and that’s what I’d look to see in the next five years.’ Gold also claimed it would be impossible for the club to move forward until it becomes debt free. ‘We expect it to become debt free when we move to the Olympic Stadium. Within in five years, I’d like to see us stay debt free and competing season after season in the top six,’ he added. ‘There is a correlation between fan base and position in the league, and we’ve under-performed for 50 years because we are higher up Star: Dimitri Payet has allowed West Ham fans to dream

Game changer: The Olympic Stadium will allow West Ham to compete with bigger clubs like Arsenal in the future

in the league of fan base than our position in the league over the last five decades has shown. ‘Therefore I’m optimistic now because our fan base has a new stadium to go to that will generate income and I believe the Olympic Stadium will enable us to raise more income to give us

a better position in the league and I do feel we will be in the top six on a regular basis and one day we will get into that top four.’ As for the constant speculation that West Ham’s two chairman are planning on selling their shares in West Ham once the club has moved to its new home, Gold reiterated once more that it has “never been part” of their plan. ‘At no time have we ever talked about selling the football club,’ he explained. ‘We’ve talked about having maybe another investor come in to help share the burden with us so that we can compete with Roman Abramovich and Man City but we have never

ever talked about selling. ‘It’s our intention to pass on the shares in West Ham when we become too ancient to continue to our children who have the same passion as us. ‘The passion of my two daughters for our football club is not dissimilar to my own and sometimes I think their passion is greater so from that point of view if something happens to me, my daughters would step up to the plate.’ Looking back on the final few months of 2015 and matters off the pitch, the conversation turns to media frenzy around requests made by football supporters’ groups for an inquiry into West Ham’s Olympic Stadium move,

which was rejected by the government. ‘Is it not true that great stories go on and on? This is a great story,’ he said as he described himself climbing onto the proverbial soapbox. ‘A lot of those articles were biased and there was the constant red herring of taxpayers’ money when in fact the opposite is true because if West Ham wasn’t involved in becoming the anchor tenants, the Olympic Stadium would become exactly the same as the vast majority of Olympic Stadiums around the world – a white elephant. ‘They go into decay, they rot and they cost taxpayers millions of pounds a year to keep them from becoming a hazard and that was exactly what was going to happen to the Olympic Stadium. The last Labour government had planned to reduce the stadium from 80,000 seats to just 25,000 with no roof and only the ability to hold athletics there but we know this would not have been sustainable. ‘Yes we want our young people to participant in running and jumping and all forms of athletics. We want them fit and well but the bottom line is, apart from the Olympics, nobody is interested in watching athletics. ‘We’ve come along and become anchor tenant and arguably you can say we have saved this burden on the taxpayer. The

West Ham fan Louisa has the X-Factor

Fan: Jacqueline Gold shares her father’s passion for the club taxpayer would have had to pay £60m to reduce it from an 80,000 seater stadium to 25,000. ‘That was planned and budgeted for, and then it was going to cost £4m a year forever but along come West Ham and we’ve done a deal and that’s no longer going to be the case.’ Asked about any ambition to expand the Olympic Stadium beyond 54,000 seats in the near future, Gold replied: ‘There aren’t any plans because our current plan is to get the

54,000 seater stadium full and vibrant. ‘The sight lines are world class and no seat is further away from the pitch than Wembley. ‘There are some seats that are closed away and they could be introduced in the future. The present is to ensure we fill the stadium week-in, week-out’ *David Gold was speaking to Claret and Hugh for Moore Than Just a Podcast. Listen to more from the team at BBM

West Ham have another celebrity fan after happy Hammer Louisa Johnson won the X-Factor. The 17-year-old saw off thousands of rival singers, stealing the hearts of millions across the country with her incredible singing talents. During the show Louisa got to meet and perform to the first team squad and even got to hug Mr West Ham himself, Mark Noble. Inviting her down to meet the squad was another good PR move for West Ham and added to the feel good factor around the club before this year’s stadium move. Her debut single, a cover of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young, may have only reached nine in the charts but, whatever happens, she has added to the list of famous West Ham fans.

Your shout


West Ham have survived the storm and will reap rewards F LETTER ootball is a funny old game. West Ham’s back-to-back wins over Southampton and Liverpool have totally changed the perception of the season. Prior to the 2-1 win over the Saints, Slaven Bilic’s side had gone eight games without a win and, according to some, were in real danger of sliding into a relegation battle after Christmas. However, now the Hammers are unbeaten in seven games, have only lost four all season and are back in the hunt for the Champions League spots. While both sets of statistics were true, the analysis should be somewhere in the middle. Certainly Slaven Bilic deserves some credit. While the run of draws in the build up to Christmas was frustrating the manager should be praised for making West Ham hard to beat while


we had so many injuries. At one point we had Diafra Sakho, Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini, Victor Moses, Enner Valencia, Andy Carroll, Winston Reid and Aaron Cresswell all out injured. Can you imagine how Arsenal would cope without Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud, Laurent Vital: Arsenal would struggle if Mesut Ozil was injured

He’s back: Everything will be ok now Dimitri Payet is fully fit again

Koscielny and Theo Walcott?How about Manchester City without Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure? We are now well positioned to kick on over the second half of this season, to target a European spot in the league and have a real go at the FA Cup. Our team is not the best in the division, far from it, but we have a good squad and a talented young manager who knows exactly what he is doing and handles himself with real integrity. It’s time to sit back and enjoy the ride. Chris Warren

FA Cup is now the No 1 priority West Ham find themselves on 32 points after the first 20 games of the Premier League season. That total has two major benefits at this stage of the campaign. Not only does it mean it should be almost impossible to get relegated, it also gives Slaven Bilic the luxury of playing his best team in the FA Cup. The Hammers host Wolves in the third round and, if they can get past them and get a good draw in the next round, the competition could really open up in the coming months. What a fitting way it would be to mark the last season at Upton Park with a cup run and a possible trip to Wembley. Aiden Hodges

We’ve found a better Carlton I’m delighted to see Michail Antonio get, and take, his chance in the first team. The winger was dubbed the ‘forgotten man’ in the first few weeks of the season after his transfer from Forest but got his head down, worked hard and is now getting the rewards. He’s the new Carlton Cole! Lewis Pogson




Antonio is a fighter

Smart: Slaven Bilic played the long game when the injuries bit

Bilic proved his worth as the going got tough D

ecember for West Ham was all about consolidation and being more pragmatic but the victory over Southampton at the end of the month was very much needed. It’s not been pretty to watch but one defeat in seven games and going undefeated for the whole of last month was what was required as we wait for some of our key players to return. We all know Slaven wants us to be playing attacking football but

last month showed he will not sacrifice results in a bid to entertain, and we ended 2015 in eighth place - surely we would have all taken that at the start of the season? As for the Southampton game, it was definitely a game of two halves. In the first half, I don’t think we could’ve played any worse defensively or in attack. If someone had tapped me on the shoulder after 20 minutes and said we’d win the game 2-1, I would’ve thought they

were having a laugh. But for the second half, we were a completely different side. It wasn’t rocket science that Bilic needed to mix things up but there’s changing things for the better and worse so hats off to him for making the right calls with formation and personnel on the night. We are in a very healthy position at the moment and we’re looking forward and up the table, rather than down and over our shoulders.

It’s been great to see Michail Antonio get a run in the side and play as well as he has been. He certainly was one of our better performers against Southampton and he would have loved the fact he managed to score his first goal for the club. Yes, his goal was one of the most bizarre I’ve ever seen but for him it won’t matter. The next day the papers said it was his goal and in the history books, it’ll be his name down as the goalscorer - it won’t go into the fact he was on the ground and a defender kicked the ball against his head for it to go in. With Payet and Moses making their way back into the squad after their injuries, hopefully the few games Antonio has had recently will have given him the confidence that he is able to step up and be a Premier League star.

Pub talk

Blowing Bubbles’ top writers settle down to put the world to rights... Going into 2016 how happy are you with the state West Ham are in? Lucy Woolford: I have to say, I’m very happy. Happy with the players we’ve acquired and absolutely delighted to have Bilic in charge. We’ve had some great results this season to give us confidence and we’re sitting pretty in the top half of the table. The aim of the season was to stay up and we’re exceeding those plans easily. What’s to complain about? David Meagher: Delighted and excited! I had high hopes for Slaven and he has exceeded them with his honest and forthright style. We have a strong squad and proper game plan that means we can match anyone when at full strength. The return of our missing stars

Impact: Slaven Bilic has enjoyed a fine start at West Ham

over the next few weeks will allow us to make a real charge for the top six, something that was beyond us under Sam Allardyce. Financially, the board have worked tirelessly so that the days

of selling on our best players appear well and truly behind us. James Longman: I’m over the moon. Some outstanding wins, an exciting team to watch, and a squad and manager

who are hungry and full of potential. If we can just keep players injury free, we could land a top six spot. Andrew Hosie: Very happy! This time 12 months ago we were on exactly the same points, same goals scored, same goals conceded but this season has a whole different outlook compared to last. Everything is positive again and it feels like we have weathered a bad run pretty well, with the troops now coming back from injury, and we’re not about to plunge into one long steady descent into tedium and despair like last year. Drew Osborn: You have to give the club’s board a huge amount of credit for the state of the club compared to when they took over. We’re improving every season and are attracting top class play-

ers in their prime. You have to feel it is only the start of things to come with the new stadium on the horizon. Where would you like to see the club this time next year? LW: That’s a tough one because it could be a rocky start to settle into our new home. This time next year we’ll still be new to the Olympic Stadium and it’s hard to say whether our set of players will have shaken off the nerves of playing in such a prestigious stadium with such high expectations. What would I like? To have started the same way as this season would be ideal. DM: In the top six and playing out of a packed and noisy Olympic Stadium. Leaving the Boleyn is hard but times change and it’s worth remembering that in order to become West Ham we had to move from Hermit Road to Upton Park. JL: If we were in the same spot this time next year as we are now, I’d be happy. I’d like to see us constantly bothering the top six, and with a few squad additions, I think we can. AH: Let’s see what this year brings first. It’s amazing to think prior to Southampton we hadn’t won since we beat Chelsea but then win two in a row and we’ve bounced right back into Europa League contention. If we are not quite there this year, it

Talent: Would Leeds United’s Sam Byram be a good signing?

should definitely be a key target for next year, so a couple more wins and a couple less draws would be ideal. DO: Exactly the same as right now. The Olympic Stadium will hopefully take us to the next level but that won’t happen overnight. You will assume Chelsea will be back in the top four so if we can be in or around sixth place with 30 plus points going into the New Year that will still be good enough. Who / what sort of player would you like to see West Ham bring in

in the January transfer window? LW: It’d be lovely to see players come in who are perfectly healthy and not prone to injury, but of course, there’s no such guarantee. Obviously, strikers have been at a premium this year, but with a fully fit squad that wouldn’t be a problem. A high quality back-up striker would be great – sort of what Jelavic was intended to be. Oh, and a little fella called Lanzini! Let’s get that done and dusted. DM: We need another right back and, as al-

ways, a poacher up front. I am sceptical about the Tomkins experiment at right back as he is a cracking centre back and wasted out wide. JL: I would love us to sign a quick, terrier-like forward, someone to play off Carroll. I like Sakho a lot but he is injury prone and doesn’t hit the net as much as I’d like - perhaps he will if he gets a good injury-free run. But just imagine if we had a Craig Bellamy or a Jamie Vardy. We need another option at full-back too. AH: The club have said

there is not a penny available to be spent unless players are shipped out first. Since that statement was made, Matt Jarvis has made his move to Norwich permanent so that’s bolstered the kitty a little and saved on the wages. Infact that kind of means we have half the transfer money for Sam Byram from Leeds United, who is being touted as a possible target. Could he be a ‘Cresswell Mark II’? It would be a good move and definitely bolster competition in our tricky right back area. DO: It is a toss-up between a right back and a centre forward. I feel James Tomkins is very uncomfortable in the full back position and doesn’t offer enough going forward, particularly at home. Top centre forwards don’t grow on trees though so hopefully Diafra Sakho can come back soon. Would you let anyone leave? LW: No, I don’t think I would. I think we’re in a great position where we have a squad that is capable of working

Time to go? Joey O’Brien has hardly featured this season

together well. The likes of Payet and Lanzini, when fit, bring a whole new dimension and confidence to the players around them. DM: Joey O’Brien’s time is probably up. Jelavic looks like a rare piece of bad business and is occupying a spot as back-up forward that I would have preferred to On-loan: Will we see Elliot Lee play again?

see Elliot Lee fill instead of his loan spell at Blackpool. Zarate is likely to fall down the pecking order once Payet, Moses and Lanzini are all back. Let’s hope his previous disciplinary issues don’t resurface but I think Slaven sent out a strong message in the Amalfitano affair. Behave or move on! JL: Jarvis is gone, who knows where Joey O’Brien is, is Nigel Quashie still on our books? Happy to keep who we have. People talk about selling Carroll but that’s madness. AH: We have to sell before we can buy but this is a tricky one as the only player that I’d be happy to let go would be Joey O’Brien. It’s

unlikely he’ll see first team action again unless we have another monumental injury crisis. The only problem is he is injured so it’s highly unlikely he will go before the summer unless a mutual termination is discussed. Other than that, I wouldn’t be that concerned if Jelavic moved on. Carl Jenkinson seems out of sorts this year. Why do you think this is and would you still like to see him make his loan move permanent in the summer? LW: It’s one of life’s great mysteries – one season he was indispensable and the next he’s a bit of a liability. His return for a second season and his desire

to stay speaks volumes and I think we all love that, but he’s come in for a lot of stick, which is never good for a player/ fan relationship and confidence. I think he might be worth the risk though as long as the price is right. DM: Tough one. He has been unreliable in defence and after signing a five year contract with Arsenal, he seems distracted and unlikely to make the move East without a big fee. Whatever the reason for it his recent form definitely does not justify a £10m investment in the summer. This is an issue that certainly needs to be revisited in a few months when things hopefully settle down a bit.

JL: When Jenko gets on the ball, you can hear the crowd collectively hold their breath and almost see the confidence drain out of him. The Bournemouth match was a low and he hasn’t quite recovered. I’m not sure what the answer is but he comes across as a passionate, talented player. I just hope Bilic can sort him out. DO: I agree, Jenko is clearly a confidence player. We are in a healthy league position so I think we should keep playing him and hope his form and confidence returns in the second half of the season. If it does we should sign him up as I still believe he has a great future. BBM

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Under-pressure: Carl Jenkinson has not been the same this year under Bilic

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Antonio’s shown there is lots of talent in the lower leagues


p to the Southampton game, there were a few people complaining about the fact we hadn’t won a game since beating Chelsea at home in October but I never lost faith. Before this season, I would have expected us to have collapsed but I went to the Liverpool game feeling confident and that’s a new sensation for me. We really do have a half decent team! There’s nobody who you could say is being carried at the moment and there are certainly no passengers like we’ve had in previous seasons. Against Liverpool, everyone to a man put in an incredible shift to ensure we got all three points. James Collins at the back was a rock and I’m glad he is staying. I think he has thoroughly deserved his new contract. Although when Winston Reid gets back it’s

Popular: Michail Antonio has taken his chance in the team not definite to be Collins that partners him, he’s made a very good case for himself. Angelo Ogbonna or James Tomkins will be pushing him all the way and it’s great that we’ve got such strength in depth at centre back. I know I’ve spoken a lot about Michail

Antonio since he signed for us but I’ve been so pleased that he has proved me right. I’m feeling pleasantly smug about that! He showed against Liverpool his desire to play and across the pitch that was the real difference between us

and Liverpool - our lads wanted it more. You could see at full time how much the players and Slaven Bilic enjoyed it. I went to the press conference after the game and it was obvious how much Slaven enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere after such a brilliant win at home in front of the fans. I definitely think Slaven was starting to feel the pressure before the Southampton game with no win in eight league matches. Had this happened this time last season, people would have been screaming about it but I never felt the desperation and panic like I have before as a West Ham fan. I was confident we had the players, and the manager, to turn this situation around. You’ve got to remember as well that we’ve got strength in depth and quality players all fighting for places when was the last time

you could say that about a West Ham squad? When, for example, Victor Moses comes back from injury, he is going to want to walk straight back into the team but Michail Antonio wants to keep his place and I think he has done enough so far to keep playing. As for Andy Carroll, I was over the moon for him after the Liverpool game. People have been saying that he isn’t good enough but when he is on the pitch and at his best, he is unplayable as he showed against Liverpool. I was interested to listen to what Slaven said after the game about Andy and it being up to him to train well, look after himself, rest well and then, and only then, will he be an asset to the Hammers. I think he is very settled at West Ham and in London but you get the feeling it is either sink or swim for him now. He worked his socks off against Liverpool, was powerful, has tremendous aerial ability, defended corners and showed with his goal that he has still got it. Players say that playing against their old club doesn’t mean anything and they don’t read the papers but it does mean everything to them. They don’t like to think they have failed. They have a point to prove. You don’t get a career in the Premier League

Delighted: Andy Carroll will have loved scoring against Liverpool

without talent and working very, very hard and you could see how much that goal meant to him. I don’t think he will go on and score 20 plus goals between now and the end of the season but I think he can still be a huge success for us but this is his last chance. He will need to prove himself by the summer because the club will be looking for a new striker for sure - possibly from a lower league. I think we’ll see more Premier League clubs starting to look at the

lower leagues to unearth gems of unknown young players. As fantastic as the academies are I just don’t think the players coming through have that hunger that the likes of Jamie Vardy, Charlie Austin and Callum Wilson have after plying their trade in the lower leagues. These guys are prepared to fight tooth and nail and give everything to the cause because they’ve had to graft to get to the top - they’ve not had everything

handed to them on a plate. Don’t get me wrong, academies are great but players get very comfortable as they have the best equipment and they don’t have to fight for position. I think a lot of teams, including Premier League clubs, will be starting to look more at the lower leagues and there will be plenty of players looking at the likes of Antonio and seeing where ambition and desire can take you. BBM

New Year resolutions

Nine resolutions that will give us all a very happy New Year Featuring laughter, pitch invasions and a new statue of Eyal Berkovic Monument: The West Ham statue should remain in Upton Park




once resolved to never again make a New Year’s resolution for the simple reason I am too weak-willed to keep them. But by calling on the same set of double standards that means I believe every time one of our players goes down in the box it’s a penalty and when an opponent is brought crashing to the ground it’s a blatant dive, I am quite happy to make them for other people. So this year I have nine resolutions that I would like West Ham United and those of us who support them to adopt. 1) Chase FA Cup glory I would like a solemn pledge from the club that this year we are going to have a serious crack at a tournament which means the world to everyone with claret

and blue blood coursing through their veins. Had Lionel Scaloni sportingly returned the ball to Liverpool via a mighty hoof into the River Taff in 2006 it would almost certainly now be the case that you don’t have to be of an age when you are thinking about your pension arrangements to be able to remember the last time we won it. 2) End the injury hoodoo Find the person with the voodoo doll that, given the number of

injuries suffered by our most creative players in 2015, must now have so many needles inserted into various parts of its unholy body it will resemble a hedgehog. Either that, or start training on the spongey stuff they use in kids’ playgrounds and insist on playing the second half of the season under the rules of Bubble Football. 3) Keep the club’s badge Ditch the idea for the new badge before the

players wear it in public and we embarrass ourselves. We were told we were getting a ‘bolder, cleaner and more vibrant club crest’ that is ‘the handiwork of worldclass designers’ - do me a favour. The crossed hammers are still there, of course. But where we once had a castle we now have the word ‘London’. What’s that all about? We know where we are! Or is this the first baby-step on the road to an American-style franchising system. I hope I’m wrong, but when the London Hammers find themselves playing the Manchester Red Devils it will be the day I finally hand in my claret and blue scarf and take up fishing. 4) Sign a right back Buy a decent right back during the summer transfer window. Right now I wouldn’t take Carl Jenkinson on a permanent deal if he were on sale for 12 quid, let alone £12m. For that sort of money we could make a serious bid for Serge Aurier, who is busily making a name

for himself at PSG. They used to say right back was the easiest position of the lot. Not these days, when the job is a delicate balancing act between getting forward and taking care of the defensive duties. Time to get someone who can do both.

How hard can it be? Safe standing is very popular in Germany

5) Learn the lyrics Please, let’s get the words to Bubbles right. It’s: “They fly so high, nearly reach the sky” not: “They fly so high, they reach the sky”. A small point, but the little things make all the difference. 6) Enjoy a pitch invasion The club should climb down off its high horse and agree to allow supporters on the pitch after the final game. It’s going to happen anyway, so why not withdraw the draconian threat of lifetime bans and accept the inevitable with good grace? People are looking to have a party, not a riot. 7) Keep on laughing It’s time we all stopped laughing at Chelsea. Seriously? Nah – of course not! In fact, if you can find a bit of spare time in your busy day I’d urge you to laugh at Man United as well. 8) Support safe standing Let’s have an unequivocal commitment to safe standing at the Olympic Stadium. David Gold hinted at it in an exclusive interview with

Blowing Bubbles editor David Blackmore in 2013. The club’s co-owner said then: ‘We now don’t have the violence we once had and already what exists is unsafe standing. ‘At Upton Park, we currently have unsafe standing that is illegal and anti-social. The fans who want to stand should be given an area to do so. I think in five years we will see safe standing at football stadiums because, let’s face it, it’s not very ex-

pensive to install and it’s safe, very safe, in fact it’s twice or three times safer than what we have at the moment.’ Well said, Mr Gold. But, as Elvis so neatly put it: ‘A little less conversation, a little more action please.’ 9) Replace the statue As the club has decided to take the Champions Statue to Stratford, even though it was partly paid for by the local council, the least it can do is put something else in its place. There used

to be some public toilets where our World Cup heroes now stand, and I’m sure the local residents would be relieved in more ways than one to see the lavs rebuilt. But if the consensus is for another statue, how about John Hartson and Eyal Berkowich? Their training ground bust-up would fittingly represent the kick in the teeth that the tradespeople of East Ham and Plaistow will be given as a result of the move to the Olympic Stadium. BBM

Mauro Zarate Frustrated: Zarate does not always deliver what he is capable of doing

Sublime and ridiculous, Zarate is still an unpolished diamond David Bowden admits he can’t help liking West Ham’s flawed star


f there were such a thing as a dictionary full of football terminology, under the phrase ‘luxury player’ would be two words - Mauro Zarate. You cannot afford to have too many luxury players at one club. In my view a luxury player is an individual who entertains, and is a bit of a maverick but doesn’t quite have the ability to produce it on a regular basis.

Unfortunately for Mauro, in the current squad we already have two expert exponents of that role in Manuel Lanzini and Dimitri Payet but they do produce on a regular basis. The duo have been pulling the strings behind everything good in West Ham United’s play this season. That was never more evident than in the comeback victory against Southampton

that saw the Argentine replaced at half-time after yet another disappointing display. On came Lanzini and immediately showed everything in his armory, which Zarate lacks. I have been a keen observer of the Argentine since the injuries to first Payet during the home fixture with Everton and the subsequent knock picked up by Zarate’s fellow countryman Lanzini. These unfortunate

occurrences gave West Ham United’s number 10 the opportunity to stake a claim to be a regular starter for Slaven Bilic’s Irons. His claim started magnificently with a sumptuous free kick against West Brom to put the Hammers one-nil up. Since then though, he has disappointed and struggled to make any real impact. He has also managed to go from hero to zero

with a stunning miss against Manchester United, which in reality looked harder to miss than score. From that moment it looked as if he has had a crisis in confidence. I have lost count of the number of times this season that I have seen Zarate run into cul-desacs and lose possession when his team-mates are in more favourable positions. I distinctly remember in the fixture against Stoke recently, when Zarate went on one of his trademark mazy runs and I’m in the stands shouting ‘don’t shoot, don’t shoot’. But he promptly produced an effort that cracked against the woodwork; he is just that sort of player. Magic one minute, clueless the next. For every world-class strike, however, there is one that ends up in row Z and therein lies his problem. It seems crazy to say this, seeing as he is a professional footballer and a good one at that, but for me Zarate lacks a ‘footballing brain’. Time after time, he ignores the option of the player in space and the obvious ball to set the team through on goal, as he looks to grab the headlines with a fine individual goal. It is that hot and cold nature that he has that drives fans crazy, but you cannot argue that he has a decent enough goal-scoring record for

On target: Mauro Zarate scored a fine goal against West Brom the club since joining from Velez Sarsfield in 2013 with five goals in 17 appearances. This could be seen as a rather damning report on the West Ham number 10, but I do like him as a player. He is a player, who can get you to the edge of your seat, but what follows usually leaves you plunging your head in your hands as his shot cannons into the fans behind the goal. There is definitely a class player in there; he

just needs to take a leaf out of his countryman and friend’s book. Because right now, when Payet and Lanzini both return to the fold, Zarate is going to be benched. From a team point of view, that may well prove to be a good thing. He is certainly a terrific option to have on the bench. Should Payet and Lanzini remain fit and well for the remainder of the season, it is very hard to see where the 28-yearold fits in.

With the emergence of the energetic Michail Antonio and with Victor Moses set to return soon, the Hammers are option rich in attacking positions. If the club strengthen this summer then this could prove to be Zarate’s final year at the club. Of course though until then, it would be nice to see a few more Zarate specials in the coming months. Either way he’ll get you on the edge of your seat. BBM


Monday, December 28, 2015: Andy Carroll celebrates his goal against Southampton. The forward’s header secured a first victory for Slaven Bilic’s side in nine games and lifted the team up to eighth in the Premier League table.

Alan Taylor

‘The FA Cup winners should get a Champions League spot’

West Ham’s Wembley hero tells David Blackmore why medals count


est Ham legend Alan Taylor has called on Slaven Bilic and his team to put a FA Cup run at the top of their priority list. After four years with Sam Allardyce showing very little respect for the famous trophy, Taylor believes it’s time for the club to give the fans what they crave - a day out at Wembley. The 62-year-old, who scored two goals in the 1975 FA Cup final against Fulham, also feels the club now has a manager who has the club at heart and knows what’s best for the supporters. ‘Slaven seems to have given everyone at the club a new lease of life,’ said Taylor, who also scored two goals in the 1975 FA Cup quarter final against Arsenal at Highbury and bagged another brace in the semi final against Ipswich Town. ‘I’m sure, working with David Gold and David Sullivan, they will take the club to the highest position we’ve had for a long time and hopefully enjoy a good run in the FA Cup.

Today: Alan Taylor with Blowing Bubbles’ editor David Blackmore ‘With the move to the new stadium getting closer, if we do well this season, then I think we will be able to attract bigger and better players, which will undoubtedly led to a brighter future at the club and hopefully regular visits to Wembley!’ As for Sam Allardyce’s attitude towards the FA Cup and his ultimate

departure, Taylor, who scored 25 goals in 98 appearances for the Hammers between 1974 and 1979, continued: ‘I think Sam brought on it himself more than anything because he wasn’t prepared to work and change to how David Sullivan and David Gold wanted to run the club. ‘I think that was the biggest problem with

Sam. I was behind him this time in December 2014 and I thought they would’ve stuck with him going into the new stadium. I’m glad to say I changed my mind and I’m glad the club did as well.’ And Taylor, who played in West Ham’s 1975-76 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup campaign, scoring three goals as the

Hammers made the final but lost 4-2 to Anderlecht, also believes one of England’s Champions League places should be given to the FA Cup winners. ‘As a schoolboy, the FA Cup was big. The coverage would start at 8am on cup final day and go right through the day,’ he explained. ‘It was such a big occasion and to have been involved in something like that was huge for me and I do believe everything that happened that day kept me in good stead for the rest of my career. ‘Today, unfortunately, I think money talks and everybody knows that the European scene is far bigger and greater than the FA Cup. Having said this, I think a few teams have really started to take the FA Cup seriously and I hope we will, one day, go back to how the competition was originally. ‘I’d also like to see the situation where instead of having the top four play in the Champions League, the fourth place goes to the winners of the FA Cup.’ It goes without saying, Taylor continued, that his goals in the 1975 FA Cup quarter final - his first for West Ham - were amongst the standout strikes from his career. ‘The goals in the semi final and final are also goals that come to my mind straight away when I look back,’ he said. ‘But I also scored goals against Birmingham City

In his pomp: Alan Taylor celebrates with a glass of milk

and Manchester City that gave me great pleasure at the time because we had worked hard on certain situations in training and they’d come off on the pitch - it was always great when that happened.’ As for the West Ham players that he respected more than everyone else, Taylor quickly replied: ‘Trevor Brooking and

Taylor tells tales of his time in football

Billy Bonds. Trevor was the big name when I first went to West Ham and he was the key to a lot of success we had and he was a huge asset to my game. ‘Billy was a great leader, a great competitor and for him to play behind me and be my captain, I think he was more inspirational than anyone else.’ BBM

Alan Taylor was the guest of honour at the King’s Lynn Irons Club’s Christmas meal last month. Alan, who also played for Norwich City, Cambridge United, and the Vancouver Whitecaps, was one of the first to arrive and last to leave the annual event, held at the Riverside Restaurant in Lynn. He posed for pictures with members, signed West Ham programmes and recounted countless stories of his time playing for the East London club during a Q&A session. Mark Steele, KLIC secretary, said: ‘It was wonderful to have Alan as our guest of honour some 40 years after that historic FA Cup victory and it proved to be another very special occasion. ‘What we liked most about his visit was that he made time for everyone and made sure he visited every table to meet members and answered all their questions. It was a really nice touch and impressed me.’

Great times: Bobby Moore poses with the FA Cup in 1964

The FA Cup

Seven reasons why the FA Cup is still our most special trophy West Ham have a great relationship with this wonderful competition

matches against teams we wouldn’t normally play Yes, I know there’s the League Cup. But the FA Cup gives you the opportunity to play a team that, sometimes (with all due respect) you’ve never heard of – who doesn’t want a tie against Dover Athletic? Big game, passionate crowd, entertaining to watch and (hopefully) a West Ham win at the end of it. Lovely.



1) You can’t match it for tradition It’s the oldest cup competition in the world, and many people’s first football memory will be something to do with the FA Cup. The basic format hasn’t changed over the years, they haven’t meddled too much with it, and it’s that raw knockout element to the competition that keeps us hooked. 2) It’s exciting, especially when we go far It’s fantastic to follow our progress through the competition, when we win a few games. From tuning in to the third-round draw to the latter stages, the excitement builds with each round, especially if our rivals lose and we’re still in it! 3) It has created some of our best, and most

Hero: Billy Bonds won the FA Cup twice with the Hammers painful, memories Trevor Brooking’s header at Wembley in 1980; Ronnie Boyce’s last-minute winner in 1964; the heartbreak of Liverpool in 2006. Victory or defeat, these games had us off our seats: some of the best and most painful memories come from our FA Cup matches. 4) We love an underdog It’s great watching

the likes of Cambridge United hold Manchester United to a draw. We love it when we have an opportunity to knock out a so-called ‘bigger name’ in a cup competition. I need not remind you of our trip to Manchester United in 2001 – taxi for Barthez, anyone? Let’s just not mention some of the teams who have knocked us out.. 5) We can be involved in

6) It probably represents our best chance of winning something We won’t win the Premier League and, for whatever reason, we don’t have a great record in the League Cup. This is our chance for glory boys! 7) It’s a competition that fills us with hope Most years, neutral commentators have us, at best, as dark horses to win the competition. We, however, as West Ham fans decide every year that this will be the year. With every match and every victory, we become more and more convinced. BBM

Carl Jenkinson Ruffled: Carl Jenkinson has not looked himself so far this season

Where has it all gone wrong for Carl Jenkinson this year? The on-loan right back was a star last season but is now struggling




arl Jenkinson was one of West Ham United’s best players last season and many called for the Hammers to sign the full back on a permanent basis over the summer. Instead, Jenkinson returned to the Boleyn Ground on another

season-long loan deal and judging by his performances so far this campaign, the owners must be happy they kept their wallets in their pockets. The former Charlton Athletic full back, valued by his parent club Arsenal at around £10m, has been a shadow of the player who was so reliable and dangerous down the right flank in the 2014/15 season. His confidence has gone and he is no longer one of the first names on the teamsheet. Academy of Football

graduate James Tomkins has been asked to fill in at right back at times because of Jenkinson’s poor performances. Tomkins has played in that position before under Sam Allardyce, but he is by no means a right back so it further emphasises how much confidence Jenkinson has lost recently. The poorest of Jenkinson’s recent performances came in the comeback victory over Southampton last month. With Aaron Cresswell being ruled out with an injury picked up two

days previously at Aston Villa, Jenkinson came back into the side in the unfamiliar position of left back but he’ll not look back on the game with fondness. Admittedly, he was unlucky to score an own goal to give Southampton the lead after 13 minutes, but he was poor throughout the opening 45 minutes. Dusan Tadic was turning the Arsenal loanee inside out and was beating him for pace and with skill. He also failed to deal with Senegal interna-

tional attacker Sadio Mane when he and Tadic switched wings. But it was not only defensively where Jenkinson struggled – he was also poor in possession. Usually Jenkinson is assured on the ball and can put a decent cross into the box. Instead, the full back struggled to beat the first man with his crosses, and gave away possession on far too many occasions. At half time, Bilic had no option but to switch Jenkinson back to his preferred position and put Tomkins at left back. Jenkinson improved greatly in his preferred position, but he still struggled to retain possession. However, the Harlow-born defender has shown glimpses this campaign of what Hammers fans saw regularly last season. In the famous victory at Manchester City, he dealt with the threat of Raheem Sterling with relative ease. Only a month earlier, Manchester City had forked out £49m for the England international, but Jenkinson contained the former Liverpool winger and Sterling was withdrawn without causing Adrian any problems in the Irons’ goal. Also, Jenkinson has scored two goals for Bilic’s men this term – when he failed to find the back of the net at all last season. He grabbed his first

In-form: James Tomkins has taken the right-back spot

goal for the Hammers in the draw at Sunderland, when he ghosted into the Black Cats’ penalty area and beat Costel Pantilimon when under pressure. He followed that up with another goal a week later, in the impressive victory at Crystal Palace. Once again, Jenkinson advanced into the final third without being tracked, and he slotted the ball past Wayne Hennessey. That kicked the Hammers onto a 3-1 win

at Selhurst Park, which resulted in some pundits stating that West Ham should be seen as contenders for a European spot. In my mind, Jenkinson is still a fantastic right back, and one that West Ham should still consider taking on a permanent deal in the summer transfer window. He just needs to regain his confidence, and that will only come with him getting back in the starting XI. Last season he showed

how exciting he can be when he breaks down the right, while this season he has also demonstrated that he can be dangerous in the opposition penalty area. Also, defensively he can be very good. West Ham fans backed the Hammers to sign him last summer. Now it is up to Jenkinson to prove that he is worthy of the owners spending more than £10million to gain his services from Arsenal on a permanent basis. BBM

The transfer window debate

Is it now time football closed the transfer window for good? Two Blowing Bubbles writers argue for and against the madness



Remember him? When you sign new players in January you end up with soneone like Nene


et it be known that I can’t stand the January transfer window. It’s distracting, it’s unsettling and the media frenzy speculating on players leaving mid-season is stressful for fans. No one needs a full month of Winston Reid being linked with Arsenal, James Tomkins being linked with Newcastle and Andy Carroll being linked with everyone. It’s annoying and tedious for fans, but the January transfer window is definitely good for football. Without it we would either have a never ending rumour mill or no opportunity for teams to change their players during the season. Ten months is a long time in football. A lot can happen in that time. Players can suffer season-ending injuries, players can drastically under deliver and players can fall out of favour and spend that 10

months deteriorating on the bench. The January transfer window offers a helpful halfway point in the season to rectify the aforementioned issues and give teams a fighting chance to avoid fighting on with weakened squads until grinding out a final pitiful 0-0 draw come May. Injuries are the biggest argument in favour of a January transfer window. Injuries have hit every

team this year (bar Leicester, who obviously use witchcraft to safeguard their players) and West Ham have been dealt some of the worst cards. Bournemouth are another club who have been dealt a poor hand with injuries this season. By October three of their key players (Tyrone Mings, Callum Wilson and Max Gradel) had all been ruled out for the full season.

No one wants to pay the better part of 50 quid to watch two teams desperately try to club together 11 men and end up with two central defenders upfront. It’s not just injuries that make a January window valuable for the game of football. It’s also a valuable opportunity to make sure the right people are in the right places across the league. In our world, if your

Fair: Eddie Howe deserves the chance to strengthen Bournemouth for the season’s run-in



boss decides to stop inviting you to meetings – or even inviting you to sit on the bench outside of the meetings – you can quit and move on. Players don’t have that flexibility. Players’ careers are short. If a player falls out of favour at a club or doesn’t fit well into a new style of play, he could waste an entire year sitting on a bench. Furthermore, if a manager replaces

someone sacked in the first half of the season he absolutely should be able to change the fates and fortunes of that team – because the point of it all is to see enjoyable games of football. After all, the January transfer window allows teams to get stronger, to improve and to obtain better results—all of which contribute to the growth and entertainment level in the beautiful game. BBM

It’s the time of year again when we’re linked with every panic buy under the sun – mostly due to an injury crisis – and the owners publically claim there’s no money to be spent. Most of the time it’s true what they say. We rarely do have the money to spend, and that’s even more true when you take Financial Fair Play sanctions into account. But what happens to be more true about the January transfer window is the fact you rarely pick up a good player that you need and who will stay at the club for a long time. In our case, history tells us we’re not very good at utilising the winter market. Never have been, and we probably never will do. Looking back over the last 10 January windows, we’ve only managed to make three decent signings. Those are Dean Ashton, Demba Ba and Ricardo Vaz Te. All three made a positive impact on the club’s fortunes after they’d signed, and it’s a shame the likes of Ba

and Ashton couldn’t go on to achieve more. But the rest of our January signings have been a complete waste of time. Remember the following: Lionel Scaloni, Yaniv Katan, Mido, Benni McCarthy, Robbie Keane, Wayne Bridge, George John, Marouane Chamakh, Emanuel Pogatetz, Wellington Paulista, Pablo Armero, Abdul Razak, Marco Boriello, Antonio Nocerino, Roger Johnson and Nene? All of the above signed in January, many of which arrived on deadline day. Although most of them were loan signings, they all have one thing in common - they made too few appearances to either make a positive impact or were, quite simply, not worth the hassle. So that should be a sign to us, and arguably all the other clubs in the Premier League, that you’re probably better off doing zero business in January. That’s why it’ll probably be a good thing if we steer clear of any business in this current window and instead focus on the squad we have now which, bar another freak injury crisis to almost all our key players, is big enough and to ensure we achieve our goals this season.

Euro 2016

Which West Ham players will shine in France this summer? Collins, Randolph and Ogbonna will all expect to feature at Euro 2016

LUCY WOOLFORD @lucy_whufc


s a Premier League force, West Ham have been relatively formidable this season, but will that translate to international places in Euro 2016 for some of our outstanding individuals? Despite being dropped by Chris Coleman in 2013, James Collins has made a return to the Wales squad, and after their somewhat surprise qualification for the competition, Collins will be hoping to at least be in the final squad selection. He was unfortunate to miss the qualifying campaign due to injury, but at 32 he should still be in with a good chance of at least travelling to France with Wales. If you were going to put money on a player to go to the Euros and do well, it would have to be Dmitri Payet. He

Big chance: Welsh defender James Collins is in the form of his life was on top form before his injury layoff and hopefully he’ll return with the same flare. As his home tournament it would be a dream for him to play in. However, are we set for a soap opera here? Payet was not picked for the France squad in earlier rounds of friendlies, a decision that he feels was unjustified by Didier Deschamps.

Payet last played for France in a friendly against Belgium in June and scored, despite only coming on in the 73rd minute, so there is obviously some confusion as to what has led to his removal from the team. It could be mixed feelings for ‘keeper Darren Randolph if he is selected as part of the Republic of Ireland squad for Euro 2016.

He shone in qualifying but, if Shay Given is fit, it’s hard to see him getting the chance to shine. Angelo Ogbonna has a chance of getting on the plane to France to be with Italy. He has 10 Italy caps in total, the latest being a 15 minute cameo during the side’s Euro qualifiers win over Malta, so it’s fair to say he’s still part of Antonio Conte’s plans, even if it is just for a small slice of action and to be a squad man. The most likely man to be picked for England and albeit down to historical caps, is Andy Carroll. His chances are looking less likely as the season progresses. Injury will probably dictate his misfortune in missing out on a place. However, should he be fit in time and stay injury-free for the remainder of the season, he’ll give Hodgson a different dimension much as he has done with any club he has played at, and is certain to give his all. It also looks as though Mark Noble and Aaron Cresswell will miss the boat after being overlooked by the boss. BBM

2015 in pictures Has to be the best celebration at White Hart Lane. Go Diafra Sakho!

Life through a lens: West Ham’s Blowing Bubbles Monthly’s star snapper Nicky Hayes shares his Kouyate’s goal against Man United

Our fans celebrating a point at Southampton

Enner Valencia stops Swansea’s City’s Wayne Routledge

Adrian’s stunning save against WBA was fantastic

James Tomkins celebrates a late winning goal in the Europa League

Hammers past and present Mark Noble and Frank Lampard

2015 told in 10 superb pictures

favourite photographs of the Hammers from the last calendar year Skills from Adrian at Man City

Martin Samuelson scored in pre-season

My favourite of David Gold

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Supporters’ club of the month

#10: Dubai Hammers


his month Blowing Bubbles caught up with Tony Sutton to learn more about the Dubai Hammers. When was Dubai Hammers founded? In May 2012 a number of smaller groups of West Ham fans who could not get back for the play off final decided to try and get as many people together as possible for the game. In the following months, two of those groups merged to form the official Dubai Hammers group. How many members in your group today? Membership has risen year on year since our formation season of 12/13 when we only had around 50 members. We currently have more than 120 fully paid members and get regular crowds of 50 plus to watch the games.

Loud and proud: The Dubai Hammers belt out a rendition of Bubbles

Where do you watch games? We struck a deal with the CEO of Media Rotana who is also a West Ham fan and he welcomed us into the hotel’s traditional English Pub, Nelson’s. What have been your most memorable days

Stars: Some of West Ham’s greats have been out to visit Dubai

as a supporters’ club? There are two that really stand out. In 2013 we arranged for club members to attend a private training session during the first team’s warm weather break. Fans were given the chance to meet the whole squad, have photos and get shirts signed. More recently we were very proud to welcome legends Tony Cottee, Tony Gale and Frank McAvennie for an evening of stories about the Boys of 86 season. The former greats could not have been any nicer and stayed with us throughout the night. What are the benefits

of being part of your group? Members get a DXB Hammers t-shirt and members card (DXB is the airport code for Dubai) which entitles them to 20 per cent off all food and drink in Nelson’s Pub. How can people get in touch with your club? Our facebook group ( groups/DubaiHammers) or you can can email us at Our website is, you can find us on Twitter @dubaihammers and on Instagram @ DXBHammers BBM

West Ham Ladies

Nurse vows to lead West Ham Ladies back to health in 2016

David Blackmore finds the under-fire manager in a fighting mood


anager Marc Nurse has heaped praise on his young squad for their attitude and enthusiasm following a difficult first half of the campaign. The Hammers currently sit eighth in the FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division and are in their own mini-league in the bottom half of the table with Lewes, QPR and C&K Basildon. Defeats home and away to struggling Forest Green Rovers, hammerings at the hands of Coventry City, Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth, and the departure of six senior players in October have been the standout difficult moments to date. But a draw against Brighton & Hove Albion in November followed by a narrow defeat against the table-toppers soon after, picking up six points from rock-bottom Plymouth and a cup quarter final in January, have given the Ladies manager hope for a better second half of the campaign. ‘We are on target to achieve my goal for this season which is to finish

Ambitious: Marc Nurse still believes he can be a succcess at the club

mid-table but how this has all come about hasn’t been the best,’ Nurse told Blowing Bubbles in an exclusive interview. ‘We’ve lost a few senior players but the squad has adapted very well. They have stepped up and are handling the pressures of being at this level excellently.

‘The squad we now have is quite young but they have been very positive and you can see the impact their attitude has had on some of our results like Brighton and Plymouth. But then we let ourselves down by being completely battered by Portsmouth 7-0.

‘We need to have a bit more consistency going forward and I keep scratching my head trying to explain why we did so well against a side topping the table and then get well and truly hammered by a side in fourth.’ The Ladies had a difficult December on the road with the aforementioned defeat away at Portsmouth followed by a 3-1 loss to fellow strugglers QPR but the Hammers finished 2015 on a high with a 4-2 win at home to Plymouth. Victory over the Pilgrims moved West Ham above Lewes and QPR, and seven points clear of second from bottom Forest Green Rovers and 10 points better off than Plymouth, but they are still five points adrift from seventh place C&K Basildon - a team which former West Ham Ladies players Stacey Little, Kerry-Anne Stimson and Lily Mellors now play for following their departure in October. ‘The players who left a few months ago were a bit of a problem. They wanted their friends to play and didn’t want to include the new players

into the group,’ Nurse continued. ‘The players called a team meeting and I thought the issues had been addressed there but there was still a divide. ‘It’s difficult for any club to go through a situation like this but the players who stayed on have impressed me with their outstanding attitude and they have even performed better than we did with the other players at the start.’ January sees the Ladies kick start their FA Cup campaign against Crystal Palace - a side the Hammers beat 3-0 back in August. They will then take on rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the quarter final of the Capital One Cup before resuming their FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division campaign against high-flying Charlton Athletic and Cardiff City. ‘Crystal Palace was a very good draw for us in the FA Cup,’ Nurse explained. ‘Hopefully it will give us a bit of a confidence boost if we can go through and I’m confident that we can. ‘Spurs at home in the Capital One Cup is going to be a decent game too and one that we can certainly win. Both teams are evenly matched but we’re at home so we’ve got that advantage heading into the game. ‘Our aim is to reach a cup final and have that experience so if we can beat Spurs we are only one game away from

Shock: The departure of Ladies captain Stacey Little cast a big shadow over the club’s season

reaching a final which is fantastic. ‘As for our games against Charlton and Cardiff, I’ll be asking the girls to replicate the performance we did against Brighton. It is, however, going to be a tough month so if we can take three points from our three league games in

January, I’ll be happy.’ As for the rest of the season and next season, Nurse is remaining very positive about what his side can achieve. ‘Hopefully we can find a bit of form in the last couple of months of the season and make sure we pick up as many points as possible as well as

getting to a cup final,’ he said. ‘Then next season I’m looking to see if we can train three days a week. By doing this, it will help to bridge the gap with the teams in the league above who are already doing this. I also want us to start pre-season earlier next year.’ BBM

The last word

Is it time West Ham cut their losses and sent Carroll home?

Julian Shea says time might have run out for our injury-prone striker


hen West Ham’s Facebook page posted comments recently about Andy Carroll hoping to force his way into England contention in time for the European Championships, unsurprisingly, replies left by fans were brutally blunt. Carroll’s latest groin injury which ruled him out of the trip to Swansea last month may only have been a minor one, but it just served to add to the feeling that West Ham fans are destined never to see the sort of form which the striker produced in his Newcastle days, which caught the eye of Sam Allardyce in his short-lived stint as Magpies boss and which persuaded Liverpool to pay £35million for him. Diafra Sakho’s injury and the team’s failure to score in the next three games revealed West Ham’s over-reliance on him as their main goal threat, which only serves to add to fan frustration at Carroll’s ineffectiveness. With all the signs from the boardroom being that there is no spare money to spend in the January transfer window,

Missing: How much longer can West Ham live with Andy Carroll’s injuries?

but the Sakho gap being in desperate need of filling, could the answer be for West Ham to cut their losses on Carroll and see who might be willing to take a punt on him – someone like Allardyce, for example? The thought of such a dyed in the wool Magpie turning out in the red and white of Sunderland may have some fans on both sides of the Tyne/ Wear divide choking on their cornflakes, but it is

a move that makes sense (and for the record, Carroll’s mother’s family are Mackems). If West Ham manager Slaven Bilic wants to resort to the big lad up front tactic, in Nikica Jelavic he has a player who can fill that role, he knows well, he signed rather than inherited, and who does not have Carroll’s injury record. Allardyce likes to bring in players he knows, and having only taken

over at Sunderland in October, has not yet had the transfer window of opportunity to do that. He has spoken in the past of how he spotted the young Carroll in his Newcastle days and how what he saw there persuaded him to sign him for West Ham. When he was at Bolton, Allardyce teams were built around Kevin Davies, straight out of the same mould as Carroll, and it served everyone concerned pretty well. After such a poor first half of the season, Sunderland need to jump start their season pretty fast if they want to avoid a nail-biting end to it – and a fresh start with a manager who believes in him may be the tonic Carroll needs as well. Bilic would surely welcome the chance to shuffle his pack in January, but to do that, he must sell. Allardyce would surely be tempted, and for Carroll, taking on a challenge like that would be the perfect way to silence the snipers and critics. Far-fetched? Stranger things have happened, you know. BBM

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Blowing Bubbles #55  

In this issue: *David Gold in a very confident mood ahead the most important year in West Ham’s long and proud history *Exclusive interview...

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