The GoatyGav Column

Quietly Going About Our Business

League Table Courtesy Of Google

The media are making a lot of noise about a few clubs at present. High flyers Southampton are deservedly taking much of the plaudits. The Spuds are starting to be spoken about in title chasing terms, with Ally McCoist and others answering the hypothetical that they will finish above City this season, while Aston Villa and Leeds are being praised for their efforts this season to date. Of course many channels have been at pains to point out that Leicester had, before yesterday’s defeat, been three points better off this season than at the same point in their title winning campaign of 2015-’16.

Meanwhile our perennial underachievers in Claret & Blue have been uncharacteristically consistent since the disappointing opener against Newcastle. Despite the fact that there have been one or two that have stood out slightly more than others the team ethic, that continues to grow on matchdays, has developed to the point where all eleven players on the pitch are performing well. So many aspects of their play seems more confident including their strength and conditioning which is enabling them to compete, control and dictate more of the game.

A few weeks back I replied to a post-match comment with words to the effect of ‘I don’t care if West Ham unbeaten runs rarely last long…I’m just enjoying the ride right now’. Let’s face it, we’re so used to false dawns, we might as well enjoy the purple patches without concern for what lies ahead. I’m genuinely glad to still be in the same place as when I made that ‘in the moment’ post. Without getting carried away, or dreaming of European football next season, long may that feeling continue. Quite frankly it’s great and I’m absolutely loving it.

At this point of the season, with a quarter of the games already played, our usual MO is to be looking downwards and worrying about a relegation scrap. It’s a really nice thing to be looking upwards and just six points off the top of the table. Apart from the nose bleed it’s particularly pleasant having a positive goal difference. In fact ours is the equal fourth highest in the Premier League alongside Liverpool’s!

Another reason to be cheerful this term is the lack of injuries we’ve suffered. Almost always near the top of that division by this stage, in fact at any stage come to think of it, there’s a strange absence of physio room occupants. The only major miss has been Antonio with his recurring hamstring problem. Thankfully, on this occasion, it’s not a six month lay off but one that’s seen him miss only three and a bit games. In fact, if he’d have been available for the Liverpool match, you wonder if the result might have been different…such has been the impact of the likeable former Tooting and Mitcham Talisman.

So despite David Moyes’ call for calm, and solid feet on the ground, this Hammer is only focused on the enjoyment of recent games and the satisfaction of seeing us in the top half of the table without thinking of where the rest of the season will take us. Long may it continue. Be that as it may, however, it has to be said that it could have been a worse time to be facing Aston Villa at home. Next Monday can’t come quick enough.

Sadly not quite so happy tidings with the Women’s team. The club announced, last Thursday, that Matt Beard has left the club by mutual consent following the defeat to Brighton. Beard will always have the cup final the season before last on his CV. Having attended the semi-final, and were it not for ridiculous fixture scheduling I would have been at the final as well, I can honestly say that it was one of the highest, most enjoyable, points I’ve had watching West Ham over the last couple of seasons so, if you’re happen to read this Matt, many thanks for great memories and all the best for your future in the game.

As I write the under twenty threes are taking on Dimitri Halajko’s former charges at the King Power stadium in what looks like a good start for our lads. With Burnley currently leading Palace, and Nick Pope pulling off a worldy of a save from Benteke, it looks like we might also hang on to our eighth spot for the time being. I’m going to chill out for the rest of the evening with a ‘Bolognese a la Gav’ and unwind so won’t be doing my usual brief report on the game this week.

Stay safe and well and have a good week all.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

Growing Up A Hammer In The North

This week’s article is something a bit different. After listening to a spoof version of the twelve days of Christmas song I was reminded of the Manchester United supporter’s version with the, unimaginative, lyrics involving Eric Cantona. You know the one. Similar to their Ryan Giggs song with the only variation being “Five Cantonas!” This got me thinking of my time growing up near Manchester as a West Ham fan.

It was always a special treat when I could sneak in with the Hammers faithful at matches in the North West. Be it Citeh, Manyoo, Stoke (which was probably equidistant to Manchester), Liverpool or others the day was far more enjoyable when I was with ‘my own’.

As the old rumour went, that Manchester was blue, I had more Manchester City fans as mates than I did Manchester United. I was more familiar with Main Road than Old Stretford. The reason for that, however, went a little deeper than the fact that I know more blues than reds. Back in the ‘80’s, if you were in to your clobber as many of us were, you’d tend to be part of a youth movement of some description. I’m generalising here but, in the main, Manchester United fans were not know for the ‘football casual’ look. In fact they weren’t really known for any look at all and were considered, by City fans, as a bunch of scruffy, unfashionable lager louts. I was no fashionista by any stretch. Frankly I didn’t have the budget for it but City fans, at least, made an effort and I naturally felt more drawn to those who looked ‘cool’. I won’t talk too much about, what Eddie Izzard describes as, ‘the pursuit of cool’ as that’s another subject in it’s own right.

As well as the above I found the banter better at the Moss Side ground. The aforementioned ‘lyrics’ that were heard on the terraces of the Stretford End lacked any real creativity, imagination or originality. By contrast you’d often hear amusing songs created, quite often to the latest hits of the day, by the City faithful. The chants were different to the, hum drum, repetitive normal ones you’d hear across town. As I tend to be drawn to that which is a bit ‘different’ it was no surprise that I watched more football at Main Road. I must add that, If I’d have had the time, cash and was old enough, I’d have been on the train to Upton Park of course.

So I’d often go and watch my beloved Hammers heroes, with my City supporting mates, in the Kippax Road stand when I was unable to break the police cordon and get in with the away crew. On more than one occasion, outside the ground in the narrow streets and ‘snickets’ of the Moss Side, I found myself running from my own fans who had planned ambushes for home supporters. Thankfully for me I was quick enough not to have to explain that I was West Ham and would escape to catch the bus back to Piccadilly.

In my teenage years I’d often go out with mates and get on the beer. Didn’t always have to be beer, in fairness, as many spirits, wines and various other alcoholic drinks were mixed with the aim of getting plastered quickly. On one occasion I lost my inhibitions to the point of me deciding to run down Mill Street, Macclesfield, with my cousin singing ‘Bubbles’ at the top of my voice. Turned out to be another occasion where I had to outrun supporters who, on this occasion, were not West Ham. One older Manchester United fan, I remember, was particularly annoyed at the affrontery of hearing a Hammer in full voice in his own town. So much so he continued to chase us through the streets when his mates had given up until he ran out of breath. Saved by the athletic legs once again.

On one occasion in the mid ‘80’s I managed to sneak in to the West Ham end of the Kippax. The loudest sound that I’ve ever heard from a crowd at a football game was on that day. At the time one of our favourite songs was “We’re the Pride, We’re the Pride, We’re the Pride of London Town!” About half way through a rendition, seemingly from nowhere, there came an impromptu “City! City! City!” that made the three lads stood next to me and I practically jump out of our skins.

Of course much of the, West Ham related, conversations about football at my school were me having to take a ribbing for the numerous losses suffered at the hands of the Manchester and Merseyside clubs. The worst of those was following a six-nil drubbing at Anfield when, not just the Liverpool fans but, fans of all other clubs seemed to take great pleasure at rubbing my nose in it. Occasionally, however, I’d be the one with the bragging rights and, funnily enough, whichever club was on the end of the defeat at our hands would often get the mickey taken by supporters of all the other clubs. The old adage that West Ham were everyone’s second team, I found, had a little truth to it…even in the North West.

Have to admit it’s been fun sharing some of my, West Ham related, memories from my youth in Cheshire. I know I’m not entirely alone on this site in that regard with Stockport Hammer occasionally posting and, slightly further afield, Fallingegirl appearing on many threads. Apologies to any others I’ve left out. It would be great to hear your experiences supporting our proud club so I’ll keep a close eye on the comments this week.

The ladies, unfortunately, lost to the only goal of the game against Brighton this week. Elsewhere the U21s made it three from three group games in the EFL ‘Papa John’s’ Trophy with a 1-0 win at Pompey and the U23s had no fixture. No reviews this week as I’ve banged on far too long and am over the 1K word count. More reports in future threads.

Stay safe and well all.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

Recognising Growth And Learning Opportunities

Occasionally it’s difficult to see the wood from the trees. Things just aren’t going your way, and haven’t been for a long time, you’re finding it tough going and feel that you’re on a slippery downwards slope. These challenging times are often when we learn and grow most.

Since his arrival at the club Sebastien Haller has spent most of his time in a place somewhere similar to that described above. He was part of one of the most successful front threes in world football, with strike partners Rebic and Jovic, at Eintracht Frankfurt. The chemistry, understanding and movement between those front three was like a well oiled machine. Frankfurt subsequently cashed in on their prized assets with Seb joining us, Serb Luka Jovic going to Real Madrid and Croatian forward Ante Rebic ending up at Milan following a year to them on loan.

The Frenchman, full name Sabastien Romain Teddy Haller, made an impressive impact when first arriving at West Ham. Showing great strength, a striker’s awareness and superb technique throughout the match and for his tap in and overhead strike, in the away win at Watford, he bagged his first two goals for the Hammers. In the next game, at home to Norwich, he scored his third in four games in a 2-0 win when the team played extremely well and all was sweetness and light during the early season. Whether it was quite sweet enough, having spent £155M in transfer fees, was debatable however the optimism, following the previous season’s tenth placed finish and the record signing of the illusive top striker, was flowing at that point.

Shortly following that honeymoon period, however, there came a time when the mutterings and grumblings from the West Ham faithful began. We all love a player who puts in 100% effort so when we see a, shall we say, slightly less mobile striker they’re likely court criticism when they’re not scoring.

Since those early games Seb’s confidence seems to have ebbed away. He’s cut and increasingly isolated figure on the pitch and seldom looks happy.

I’ve been a fan of Haller’s since his arrival. I, genuinely, believe we have a top striker on our hands. He reminds me a lot of Deano in his ability, playing style, presence and finishing. That’s high praise as I am of the opinion that Ashton was one of the best strikers we’ve ever had at the club and was top quality. He’s they type who’s able to score all kinds of goals, is physically imposing and is clever in his movement. The most disappointing thing is that he appears to have made very little progress in adapting to the demands of the Premier League. That said I don’t think we have played to his strengths to date.

In the game against Fulham, however, I saw some encouraging signs. He must be working with Kevin Nolan in training. If there was every a player with knowledge of how to meet the demands of top flight English football, and coach that to a striker, surely it Nolan. I saw an increased work-rate from Haller on Saturday night which, to my eyes, looked more like hunger than I’ve seen from him since those early games last season.

Haller must recognise this period of his career for what it is. A great chance to become a better, more complete striker. If he’s going to leave West Ham, at whatever point in time that turns out to be, at the top of his game then he’s got to adopt a growth mindset. I don’t expect him to become the engine room of the team. That’s never going to be his MO. What I’d love to see is for him to continue to show improvement and development…starting at Bramhall Lane on Sunday week.

Will he get sufficient time to adapt and turn things around. Time pressure being what it is in the Premier League it’s unlikely that there will be an abundant amount of it. The improvement must continue. Should it do so I’ll be over the moon as we’ll, potentially, have that twenty goal a season player we’ve been longing for.

Great performance from the ladies away to Birmingham on Saturday. Two goals from headers off balls in to the box, one of which albeit an own goal, saw off the Blues. Despite going down to another poor one to concede, with Mackenzie Arnold seeming to dive in instalments with the ball going underneath her, the team defended much better than in recent weeks to secure the victory.

On twenty two minutes Birmingham missed the chance to double their lead when a shot from a tight angle hit the far post and fell to Jamie-Lee Napier only for her to drag her shot wide of the upright. For the leveller the West Ham ladies worked a free kick smartly before the diagonal ball from Leon to the far post. Martha Thomas flicked on to a dangerous position from which the Birmingham defender headed in to her own net.

The, well deserved, winner came from open play which produced another good diagonal ball in to the box for loan signing Emily van Egmond to head home. Next up is a home game against Brighton which kicks off at 12.30 on Sunday.

In Premier League Two the Under twenty threes went down 4-2 at Liverpool. After going 2-1 up in the first half the Liverpool team drew level on 49’ before Joseph Anang was. Harshly, sent off on 56’ for a penalty which Liverpool put past substitute keeper Daniel Jiandu. The extra man counted as the game progressed, despite some excellent play and chances created, and Liverpool made sure of the points in the ninety third minute.

Have a good week all.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

It’s Starting To Click

After the Newcastle game I have to admit that I was among those thinking we’d be at this stage without a single point and rooted to the foot of the table. I’m very glad to be eating a little humble pie right now as the season so far can only be qualified as a success.

Something has definitely changed. When you look at every match since the opener the team have played with confidence in the system. Angelo Ogbonna has commanded the back line which has looked far more solid in it’s current configuration. Declan and Tomas Soucek have regularly broken up the opposition, bossed the midfield and turned defence in to attack.

The wingbacks have caused the opposition huge problems and have also defended well. Vladimir Coufal looks like the right back we’ve needed, pretty much, ever since Lucas Neill left. Artur has carried a menacing threat to the opposition going forward but has improved the defensive side of his game hugely. He’s still not the finished article in this department however it’s clear the coaching team are helping him make great strides towards becoming a more complete player.

When it comes to the forwards there’s a newfound balance to the team. Antonio has led the line brilliantly and, like Mas, has improved his game notably this season. Such a shame he’s suffering from the hamstring again.

Bowen and Fornals are providing chances as well as getting their shots away themselves. There’s work-rate and dynamism up front. If there’s one obvious area that could improve, in my opinion, it’s decision making for that telling final ball. Against Liverpool there as a great opportunity to get the second but Fornals went for a shot when an easy ball to Bowen would have provided a great opportunity to score. This is just one example of many and it wouldn’t surprise me if some discussion, and work on the practice pitches, ensues in training this week.

When you look

Above all, for me, it’s the work-rate that’s doing the damage. When you look at the movement off the ball, both out of possession and by other for our players on the ball, it’s reaching new levels. There are technical improvements being made however the single ingredient making the biggest difference is the running. New players have joined the club and have brought a strong ethic with them. Their energy is rubbing off on many of the others.

With all this in mind I’m beginning to wonder if Seb Haller is at the right club. It’s clear that the way forward for players under David Moyes is for grafters who ‘put it in’. I’ve been one of Haller’s biggest supporters to date but I’m starting to wonder if it’s ever going to happen for him. Don’t get me wrong I’m definitely not writing the lad off but Saturday evening was another case of him looking out of sorts with the overall MO that the team are adopting. It’s quite clear, despite his transfer fee, that Antonio is currently ahead of Sebastien when it comes to naming the team-sheet on game day. With a fit Michail I think it’s going to be pretty tough for the Frenchman to break back in to the first eleven unless he really grabs hold of his chance in the next three to four weeks. I know that he’s top scorer however that’s not the case for Premier League games as four of his five goals have come in the League Cup.

When you look at the bench there’s some serious talent. West Ham may not have two top class players for each position on the pitch however there are some very good options to affect matches with the substitutes available. The Tottenham game showed that David Moyes is capable of changing it up to good effect. That said I’d have liked to have seen the changes made against Liverpool happen earlier on however I really can’t criticise as I’m really enjoying watching the lads at the moment.

Fulham at home up next where I hope to see another high energy, high tempo performance from the team. We have to start favourites but, as all us Hammers know only so well, when we’re expected to win we, so often, come-a-cropper. Fulham have shown, this evening, that they’re upping their game and I expect to see Super Scotty Parker, who I’d have loved to welcome back, have his team well prepared and bang up for creating an upset.

Looks very much like professional football will be the only matches played during the next four weeks. While I’ve not been able to watch West Ham live I’ve visited a local side from a lower tier a couple of times, to compliment the games my youngest has played in the JPL, for my live football fix. High flying, and undefeated, Risborough Rangers, from the Hellenic League Div One East (tier 10), were close to making it in to this weekend’s first round of the F.A. Cup. As far as I know they were the last surviving team from that level remaining in the competition when they narrowly lost to Chichester City, two tiers above them, 2-1. I know there are some who don’t feel the lower levels of the game entertaining to watch however I love all football and am glad to have been able to watch in the flesh since the re-start.

Nothing to report from the women’s team since the last post. Despite watching lower level games I didn’t get the chance to watch the U23’s earlier today. Sadly the lads went down 3-2 to, top of the league, Derby County despite a fantastic comeback from going three behind to a penalty on seventy seven minutes. Unfortunately a Tottenham style comeback wasn’t quite completed, though, following goals from Coventry and Afolayan on seventy nine and eighty six minutes respectively. A couple of free kicks late on might have produced the equaliser but came to nothing despite Baptiste connecting with the second one from Coventry. It doesn’t get any easier with third placed Liverpool next up this Friday (should it be deemed ‘Elite Football’, under the latest lockdown conditions, by the F.A.).

‘Til next time…COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

Fan Sanitizer

Although our team, at times in their history, have lacked a specific playing identity there is no doubt that us West Ham fans are known as down to earth and working class. Dedicated to and passionate about our club we don’t follow West Ham because we’re a glory hunters.

Over the last few years, however, it feels to me like there’s been a gradual erosion of this tradition. It’s not only West Ham. Since the Taylor report you’re not permitted to drink any alcohol within sight of a top tier pitch (although it’s perfectly fine to do this in lower divisions or abroad), you can no longer stand (exceptions same as above) and cctv cameras monitor the crowd. Heaven forbid there should ever be any movement on the restrictions placed on the match-going supporter of Premier League clubs.

Out here in the blogosphere there are times when the sanitization of football appears to be running rife. Certain media channels appear to have agendas as well. Not long ago I wrote about a broadcaster condemning home fans for making an away fan, wearing their club colours in a home area, feel uncomfortable. Go back thirty or forty years and you’d feel a little more than uncomfortable…in fact you’d be risking your neck enough to make many believe you suicidal.

Although not to make precisely the same point the fact that fans are not being allowed to go and watch top-flight football is closely linked. Many ex-pros and pundits are making the, perfectly valid, argument that if you can go and watch a film in a cinema, in an enclosed space, while being socially distanced then how on earth can it not be possible to watch a game of football when you’re, for all intents and purposes, outside? In fact there were West Ham fans who watched the Citeh game AT CINEMAS!

Personally I can’t wait to get back to watching live and in the flesh. I know it won’t be quite the same with 25 percent to 30 percent occupancy, but the day out would remain exactly that. Still a great day out. I’m sure that it wouldn’t do the economy, or people’s mental health, any harm either.

Perhaps it’s something of the conspiracy theorist in me but the thought has crossed my mind that the loss of the fan database by the club, during or shortly after the takeover ten years ago, was no accident. In fact it was this exact thought that prompted today’s article. As many of the traditional core of West Ham’s support, the quoted twenty thousand fans who would go to every home game and spend much time on the road, have now drifted away from attending matches as the atmosphere has, gradually, become increasingly sterile. Although I haven’t stopped going I can fully understand how these people, many of whom post here, feel.

I wonder if the atmosphere at football will continue to decline or if it will make a resurgence backed by sensible rules and regulations. If it continues to drop away I can see a day when your noisy, hardcore fan is driven from the top tier completely and the crowd at a game feels the same as an American Football match. I’ve been saying the same for years however things don’t appear to be improving.

If you’ve read many of my articles in the past you’ll know that I’m not a supporter of the board at West Ham. I am a member of the growing and ever increasingly popular Hammers United and took part in the pre-match march against Southampton. The only caveat that I have to my criticism of how the club is run is that the £99 & £299 season tickets have made it affordable for me to attend matches.

Part of the progressing ‘Fan Sanitization’ programme that seems to have been going on over the last two to three decades was the pricing out of working class fans. The best thing that the current board have done has been to provide provision for those whose budgets are unable to stretch to £800+ to regularly go to live games. Should many get their wish and the board to sell the club I just hope that I won’t be in a position where I’m unable to keep going with my son to watch the club I love.

Back to the football and it’s a much happier state of affairs with the men’s first team. A hard fought point against Citeh was the first ever taken against them at the Bowl. We go in to the Liverpool game more hopeful, although still not expectant, of taking something and playing well. If we see the same level of desire and commitment from the players I’ll have no complaints win, lose or draw.

Internationals meant that there was no WSL last weekend. Next up is a home game in group D of the League Cup against rivals Reading with the game set to be another close contest. A trip to Birmingham City in the league precedes a home game against Brighton which has been moved to 12.30 on Sat 15th November at the Dagenham & Redbridge Stadium.

In their respective international matches Kenza Dali, Martha Thomas, Courtney Brosnan and Katerina Svitkova all featured in their matches for France, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and the Czech Republic respectively.

In the PL2 the U23’s secured their second point of the season with a creditable draw against high flying Blackburn Rovers. Undefeated Blackburn and the young Irons created chances but neither side had their shooting boots on and the game ended goal-less.

Have a good week all.

COYI!


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