Talking Point

"The Heresy of Heresies was Common Sense"

“The heresy of heresies was common sense.” – George Orwell, 1984.

It has felt for a few weeks that the common sense end to this season – to actually play the remaining games – has also been, arguably, the most controversial. This evening, exactly 100 days since Leicester defeated Aston Villa, the Premier League will indeed make its return. The 2019/20 campaign resumes behind closed doors, with increased matchday squads and an increased number of substitutions available for managers to make.

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Regular readers of the comments section of WHTID will be well aware that I am in support of the season restarting. Had we been in a position where only three games had been played, as was the case in 1939/40 when the outbreak of war ended the football season, I would have accepted the campaign’s curtailment. However, with nearly 80% of the season played, and league titles, European places, relegation and promotion still all to be played for, I firmly believe it’s only right that these outstanding issues be settled on the pitch (I will say, however, that I do not agree with changing the rules on substitutions).

The efforts of the likes of Sheffield United, Wolves, Leeds, West Brom and Brentford deserve to be recognised by playing the season’s remaining games and bringing 2019/20 to a playing conclusion. The likes of Aston Villa and Norwich do not deserve to be relegated when there are still 900 minutes (in Villa’s case) of their season still to be played.

The alternatives are there to be shot down. Cancellation? This would involve promoting and relegating clubs on a points per game formula which has seen Tranmere brutally relegated in League One despite having taken maximum points from their last three matches and being only three points behind Wimbledon, with a game in hand. The same formula unceremoniously dumped Peterborough out of the play-off places and moved Wycombe from eighth to third in the ‘final’ table. On such decisions, there’s nothing to suggest that a club like Aston Villa, if relegated, wouldn’t do a Sunderland and end up in League One within a year or two. The future of football clubs, and the jobs of those members of staff behind the scenes, are at risk from the decisions of bureaucrats in the event of PPG. A Weighted PPG model is even more unfair.

Null and void? This would involve stripping all matches from the record books. West Ham United, for example, would go back to not having won at Chelsea for 17 years – Aaron Cresswell’s matchwinner at Stamford Bridge would, under the very definition of null and void, not have counted if the 2019/20 season were to be consigned to the dustbin. David Martin’s emotional appearances for the club would similarly count for nothing; Leicester’s record-equalling 9-0 mauling of Southampton would be stricken from the records.

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Is it fair to discount the achievements of players and teams in the 2019/20 season to date? Is it fair to have the rest of this season’s matches determined by a mathematical formula dreamt up over a video conference call? Of course, football will look very different in these remaining matches. As a supporter who attends the vast majority of matches home and away, up and down the country, I want to be there to support my team. Right now that’s not possible though, and that’s no reason to throw the season to the dogs or allow it to be finished by maths rather than matches. It is very far from ideal but, for me, seeing the season out with 11 players against 11, on a football pitch, with a referee and VAR, is vastly preferable to having a guess about what happens over the remaining matches.

We are now in for a relentless end to the season which will be more akin to an international tournament given the frequency of the matches; similar, in some ways, to the end of 1985/86 when we hadn’t played a league mach for six weeks due to bad weather. Whilst far from ideal, at least the season’s remaining drama will be played out on grass, rather than graph paper.

Let the games begin…


Nostalgia

On This Day, 15th June: Happy Birthday John Paintsil

Happy 39th Birthday John Paintsil

John Paintsil was born in Berekum in the Brong Ahafo region of south Ghana on the 15th June 1981 and started his career in his native Ghana at Berekum Arsenal and Liberty Professionals between 2000 and 2002 before moving to Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv where he won the title. He signed for Hapoel Tel Aviv in December 2004, helping them to win the Israeli State Cup and to runners-up spot in the league.

Israeli international and then-Hammer Yossi Benayoun recommended Paintsil to Alan Pardew after loan right-back Lionel Scaloni’s departure from the club. Pardew gave the 25-year-old Paintsil a trial during a pre-season tour of Sweden before completing the £1m signing in August 2006. He was given the number 14 shirt with ‘Pantsil’ on the back – the new signing insisted that the club had spelt his name wrong despite all the official documentation in his transfer referring to him as such. John’s family name is Paintsil but, at birth, it was registered as ‘Pantsil’. This then appeared on his passport and his subsequent registration with the Premier League. Pardew had brought in two other right-backs that summer in Tyrone Mears and Jonathan Spector and it was Mears who got the nod to start the opening game of the 2006/07 season against Charlton. However, Paintsil came off the bench at half-time to replace Mears with the Irons 1-0 down to the ten-man Addicks and the Hammers went on to win the match 3-1. Paintsil would start the next two games, at Watford and Liverpool, but appearances would be few and far between, the right-back only registering four starts and three substitute appearances in total in his first season in east London.

Having started two matches in two days at Tottenham and Chesterfield in October 2006 under Pardew, Paintsil would not make another start for the Hammers until a trip to Arsenal on New Year’s Day 2008. Alan Curbishley had been in charge for just over a year, with Lucas Neill establishing himself as Curbs’ first-choice right-back. Another start followed four days later in a goalless FA Cup third round draw at home to Manchester City but Paintsil’s stop-start Hammers career was put on hold again and he did not feature at all for another two months. A string of appearances from the bench in the early spring was followed by three consecutive starts at the tail-end of 2007/08, in a 2-1 home win over Derby, a 2-2 home draw with Newcastle and a 4-1 defeat at Manchester United. Paintsil’s final appearance for the Hammers was as a half-time substitute for George McCartney in a 2-2 home draw with Aston Villa on the 11th May 2008, the final day of the season.

After 24 appearances and no goals in his two seasons at West Ham United, Paintsil moved to Fulham along with Bobby Zamora for a combined fee of £6.3m on 15th July 2008. After three years at Craven Cottage, Paintsil was released and joined Championship side Leicester on a free transfer on 21st July 2011. The 30 year-old made seven appearances for the Foxes under Sven-Goran Eriksson but did not play a single match following the appointment of new boss Nigel Pearson just three months into the 2011/12 campaign. He was subsequently released in May 2012 and returned to Hapoel Tel Aviv.

After a year back in Israel, Paintsil moved to Cape Town side Santos in South Africa in October 2013 before joining Maritzburg United in the summer of 2014. He was released on disciplinary grounds in January last year following a bust-up with manager Ernst Middendorp and retired from playing in June 2016.

In 2013, it was claimed Paintsil hit his wife, Richlove, and allegedly stabbed her in the eye, although complaints were later withdrawn. In May 2016, after Richlove accused Paintsil of stealing her car, Paintsil reportedly assaulted the investigating officer and the District Commander inside the police station. Paintsil, 39 today, has most recently been the assistant manager of Johannesburg-based Kaizer Chiefs.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish a very Happy Birthday to David Murray, a member of our WHTID Family. Have a great day David!


Nostalgia

On This Day, 14th June: Happy Birthday Harry Hooper & Mohamed Diame

Happy 87th Birthday Harry Hooper

Harry Hooper was born in Pittington, County Durham, on 14th June 1933 – he played for local side Hylton Colliery before signing professional forms with West Ham when his father, Harry Hooper Senior, was appointed assistant trainer at the club. A fast, direct winger, he made his debut for the Second Division Hammers in a 4-2 win over Barnsley on 3rd February 1951 at Upton Park in front of 16,781. He scored his first goals for the club in an Essex Professional Cup Semi-Final replay win over Leyton Orient, his brace helping the Hammers to a 6-1 victory. Three league goals followed as Hooper made 14 appearances in 1950/51, playing alongside the likes of Ernie Gregory, Malcolm Allison and Frank O’Farrell as West Ham finished 13th in Division Two.

Hooper struggled for games in the following season, making just three appearances in 1951/52 before playing 12 matches in 1952/53, scoring four goals, including a double in a 4-1 win at Brentford on 21st March 1953. His exciting runs and dazzling wing play impressed manager Ted Fenton though, and Hooper secured a regular place in the side in the 1953/54 campaign. By now 20 years old, Hooper scored nine goals in 27 appearances as the Irons again finished mid-table, in 13th position; these nine goals included a brace in a 4-0 FA Cup third round win over Huddersfield at the Boleyn Ground. The Hammers moved up to an eighth-placed finish in 1954/55 though, with Hooper ending the season as second-top scorer (after John Dick) having bagged 13 goals in 43 matches.

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Hooper’s burgeoning reputation as an outside-forward saw him become the first Hammer to be selected for the England Under-23 team; he scored twice in England’s 5-2 win over Italy at Stamford Bridge. His performance at age-group level earned him a place in the England B team and he was selected as a reserve for England’s 1954 World Cup squad. He would never win a full international cap though, with his competition on the wings coming from Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews.

Hooper’s best season at the club was also his last; he scored 16 goals in 37 matches from the wing but the Hammers finished 16th in the Second Division in 1955/56. By now joined in a team featuring John Bond, Ken Brown and fellow winger Malcolm Musgrove, Hooper’s goals included two doubles in a 6-1 win over Notts County on 3rd September 1955 and a 2-1 win against Fulham, again at home, two weeks later. He also scored his only hat-trick for the club in a 6-1 thrashing of Doncaster at Upton Park on 22nd October 1955. He scored his final goal in his last game for the club, a 3-2 home win over Bury on 19th March 1956.

Hooper fetched a record fee for a winger when he signed for Wolves for £25,000; such uproar at a sale had rarely been seen in east London since Syd Puddefoot had moved to Falkirk in 1922, with accusations of the club lacking ambition and being a feeder club for the big boys. Hooper later said he would have been happy to stay at the club; however the school in Castle Street wanted their land back, which was then serving as the main entrance to the Boleyn Ground on Green Street (on the site that later became covered by the ground’s main car park). The money received for Hooper paid for the land and the main entrance which stood at the ground from 1958.

After scoring 47 goals in 136 appearances for West Ham United, Hooper was Wolves’ top scorer in his first season at Molineux but began to struggle and was sold to Birmingham in December 1957. He helped the Blues to a runners-up spot in the Fairs Cup before returning to his native north-east with Sunderland. 87 today, Hooper went on to play non-league football with Kettering Town, Dunstable Town and Heanor Town before retiring.

Happy 33rd Birthday Mohamed Diame

Mohamed Diame was born in the Paris suburb of Creteil, France on 14th June 1987 and was selected to attend the Clairefontaine academy between 2000 and 2003. On completion, he began his professional career with Lens but left four years later after facing health problems. He signed for lowly Spanish side Linares before moving to Rayo Vallecano the following year. While playing for the Madrid-based team, Diame was reportedly targeted by Real Madrid, Barcelona and Arsenal but he ended up signing for Wigan in the summer of 2009.

On 20th June 2012, with West Ham United newly-promoted back to the Premier League, the out-of-contract Diame signed for the Hammers on a free transfer. By now an international player for Senegal, the 25-year-old underwent a stringent medical after heart problems had been detected when he had signed for Wigan. Diame – an agile, powerful, pacey midfielder – made his Hammers debut in a 1-0 home win over Aston Villa on 18th August 2012. He scored his first goal on 6th October 2012, giving the Irons the lead against Arsenal at Upton Park when curling a sumptuous strike into the far corner from a tight angle after cutting into the penalty area down the left – the Gunners hit back to win 3-1 though. His second strike for the club was in much happier circumstances as his low strike from the edge of the penalty area, from a Carlton Cole lay-off, put the Hammers 2-1 up against Chelsea on 1st December 2012 – the match, which ended 3-1, gave the club their first win over the Blues for over nine and a half years. Diame scored his third and final goal of 2012/13 on 17th April 2013 against another ‘top club’, Manchester United, spinning away from Wayne Rooney on the right corner of the penalty area to make space before firing a curling, left-footed rocket into the far corner beyond David de Gea after fine work by Ricardo Vaz Te and Guy Demel.

Diame, the subject of much speculation throughout his time at the club due to a well-known £3.5m release clause in his contract, scored his first goal of the 2013/14 campaign at the Boleyn in a 3-0 win over Fulham on 30th November 2013, opening the scoring via a deflected shot. He bagged the Hammers’ first goal of 2014 in a 2-1 New Year’s Day defeat against the same opposition in the reverse fixture at Craven Cottage, giving the Hammers the lead early on after turning home a loose ball in the box. Diame produced a lung-busting run from his own half on a counter attack to seal the points with a deflected finish late on a 2-0 home win over Norwich on 11th February 2014 before scoring his final goal for the club on 31st March 2014 in a 2-1 win at Sunderland, a bobbling effort into the far corner which ultimately proved to be the winner.

Diame’s final game for the club came as a substitute on 30th August 2014 in a 3-1 home defeat to Southampton. Having scored seven goals in 79 appearances for West Ham United, the 27-year-old Diame joined Hull City on 1st September 2014. He scored on his Tigers debut against the Hammers in a 2-2 draw two weeks after signing but a knee injury suffered in December 2014 virtually ended Diame’s season as the Tigers were relegated.

Diame scored nine goals in 38 matches during the regulation Championship season before scoring the only goal of in the 2016 Play-Off Final for the Tigers against Sheffield Wednesday to return the club to the Premier League. Diame was not to join them in the top flight however, the 31-cap Senegalese midfielder signing for newly-relegated Newcastle instead. 33 today, Diame spent three years at Newcastle and is now at Qatari club Al Ahli.


Nostalgia

On This Day, 12th June: Happy Birthday Bobby Gould

Happy Birthday to former Hammers striker Bobby Gould, who turns 74 today.

Bobby Gould was born on the 12th June 1946 in Coventry and began his career with his hometown club before moving to Arsenal for £90,000 in February 1968. He joined Wolves in June 1970 but moved to Black Country rivals West Brom just 15 months later. He signed for Bristol City in December 1972 before his move to east London.

Gould joined Ron Greenwood’s West Ham United in November 1973 for £80,000 with the Hammers badly struggling in the bottom three of the First Division. He made his debut against one of his former clubs, Arsenal, on 24th November 1973 in a 3-1 defeat at the Boleyn Ground. Gould scored his first Hammers goal in a 3-1 defeat at Birmingham on 15th December 1973 and notched another in a 4-2 win at Chelsea on Boxing Day 1973. His first goal at Upton Park arrived on New Year’s Day 1974 in another 4-2 win, this time over Norwich. Gould’s last goal of 1973/74 came at Manchester City in a 2-1 defeat on 20th April – the Hammers finished the campaign in 18th position, one point and two places clear of the drop.

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The hard-working striker bagged a hat-trick in a 6-0 League Cup second round replay win over Tranmere at the Boleyn on 18th September 1974 and followed that with a brace in a 6-2 home win over Leicester three days later. Strikes in successive away games at Coventry and Everton in October secured 1-1 draws before he fired the fifth and final goal against former club Wolves in a 5-2 home win on 16th November 1974. Two more goals followed before Christmas, one in a 2-1 home win over Leeds and another in a 1-1 draw at Chelsea. Gould got the Hammers’ ultimately triumphant FA Cup campaign off to a flyer by scoring in the 2-1 win at Southampton in the third round but would be ruled out for seven weeks, although he did score in his comeback game at Wolves in a 3-1 defeat. Another goal on the road came a month later at Sheffield United in a 3-2 loss but nine games without a goal at the end of the season cost Gould his place in the FA Cup Final team which defeated Fulham 2-0 – Gould was an unused substitute. His day in the Wembley sun was yet to come…

Gould, a great-hearted competitor who used to conduct the Boleyn Ground crowd during renditions of ’I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’, put that disappointment behind him and scored at Stoke on the opening day of 1975/76 in a 2-1 win. Injury struck again and he would be out of the side for two months – his hard work building back to fitness paid dividends when he bagged the winner in a 2-1 triumph over Manchester United at Upton Park on 25th October 1975, his final goal in claret and blue. Gould played his final match as a Hammer in a 2-1 defeat at Derby on 15th November 1975 – he had joined the club when they were in the bottom two of the First Division and he left almost two years later with the club enjoying FA Cup holder status and sitting fifth in the top flight. Gould had played a significant part in lifting team spirit during his time at the club and departed having scored 19 goals in 62 appearances.

Five of Gould’s 19 West Ham goals can be viewed in my video below – his first strike for the club at Birmingham, the fifth in the 5-2 win over former club Wolves, the FA Cup third round header at Southampton, his goal at Sheffield United and his winner against Manchester United.

Gould returned to Wolves in December 1975 for £30,000. He moved on to Bristol Rovers in October 1977 and had spells with Norwegian club Aalesunds and back in England with Hereford before hanging up his boots. He became Geoff Hurst’s assistant at Chelsea in 1979 and took caretaker control when Hurst was sacked by the then-Division Two Blues in April 1981. Gould took charge of two matches before leaving the club, a 3-0 defeat at Swansea and a 2-0 home loss to Notts County, who finished runners-up to West Ham.

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Gould had two spells as boss at former club Bristol Rovers with a period in charge back where it all began at Coventry sandwiched in between. He became manager of Wimbledon in 1987 and led them to an unlikely FA Cup fairytale when they won the trophy in 1988, defeating Liverpool in the Final and making up for Gould’s non-appearance back in 1975. He went on to manage another former club, West Brom, before returning to Coventry in 1992 to lead them into the Premier League era. International management followed with a four-year spell in charge of Wales from 1995 to 1999. He returned to club management with Cardiff in 2000.

Gould’s final full-time managerial post came in February 2003 when he took over at Division Two strugglers Cheltenham Town. Gould has since had brief spells with Peterborough and Weymouth. 74 today, he has been a regular on TalkSport Radio and occasionally appears on BBC Radio 5Live’s Fighting Talk. His elder son Jonathan was a goalkeeper at Coventry, Bradford, Celtic and Preston (amongst other clubs), while younger son Richard is Chief Executive of Surrey County Cricket Club. Bobby’s grandson Matt is a goalkeeper for Spennymoor Town in the National League North.


Video

Video: My West Ham XI

Following on from Iain’s interview with Russ Budden last week, I was delighted to be invited by Russ to discuss my West Ham XI from those players I’ve seen live (1991-present). Russ has recently interviewed the likes of Kenny Brown, David Cross, Tony Gale and singer Chesney Hawkes – with more illustrious guests on the horizon – so it was great to be part of his new channel.


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