The GoatyGav Column

A Strong Work Ethic

With exhibition season in full swing, now, I have very little spare time, so it’s another short article from me this week.

Last night’s game started off very promisingly with the boys dominating in territorial and possession terms. Right from the word go, however, I was extremely impressed with Felipe Anderson’s work rate. When he first arrived expectation on the Brazilian was set very high but not so much in terms of his tracking back. This season he seems to be adding a superb work rate to his attacking qualities which is mirrored throughout the rest of the attacking personnel.

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When in full flight ‘Peepay’ , as his younger sister, Juliana, used to call him, is an impressive sight. It’s not just his pace that excites but his ghosting runs that are such a spectacle. There’s a buzz of anticipation when he carries the ball at our opponents but he’s also got that silky, jinking elegance that the likes of Trevor Brooking and Alan Devonshire used to possess that helps make this team so entertaining and such a joy to watch. As well as these offensive skills Anderson is bringing a strong work ethic to his game and is becoming a more complete player as a result. Several times last night he was supporting Mas, or Zabba, winning the ball or closing down to deny Villa space – even winning the ball on occasion.

Frankly, and with all respect to our opposition who played well and threatened in the game, it was simply ‘one of those nights’. On balance the game could have gone either way, with Villa probably having slightly the better chances, but you just felt that our quality up top always made us the favourites in this fixture. If anything we looked the more likely after Masuaku’s sending off as Villa seemed to lose their intensity a little and began to mis-place passes. Right at the death I genuinely thought that we had it when Fornals, who looked improved from his first outing for us, couldn’t quite slide the ball in to Haller for the finish. A few moments before we might have gone one up if Fredericks had have stayed on his feet too.

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Overall it wasn’t a bad point won in Birmingham. A shame we couldn’t win to go third but I can see real progress – especially defensively where we’ve now seen three clean sheets on the spin and have only conceded two goals in the last five. I’m excited about the visit of Man Utd this weekend. I think it’s going to be an absolute cracker of a game which I’m more confident, going in to, than I was about last night. Don’t ask me why – just a feeling. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s at home and that away games are always extremely tough under the floodlights. Maybe it’s just a hunch. Either way I’m confident we’ll see a continuation of the high tempo work off the ball from the whole team.

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Lastly it was another great win for the U23, Premier League 2, team last night. Running out 2-0 winners the boys have kept pace with Manchester United at the top of the table with 13 points out of a possible 15. Dimitri Halajko has done a fantastic job with the kids since joining from Leicester City in the Summer. Long may it continue with youngsters knocking hard on the door of the first team squad.

Have a good week everyone – see you after the big game on Sunday.

Come On You Rip Roarin’ Irons!


The GoatyGav Column

The Compulsion To Leave

You love the club you play for. You’re getting paid for doing the thing you love and earning more in a week than many earn in a year. Surely it doesn’t get any better than that does it?

When I studied Economics the first thing I learned was John Maynard Keynes’ premise that ‘Man’s (human’s) wants are insatiable’ and that ‘opportunity cost’ is the sacrifice of the lesser desired alternative. So, as a human, you always want more but your means are finite – leaving a gap between having what you want/need and what you’re able to have. It’s right at the heart of the science of the discipline which attempts to break down how resources are distributed via the various delivery systems which, essentially, break down in to command, mixed and completely free market variants. I’m sure that Economics has moved on since I tried, twice, to take my ‘A’ Level at night school while working (which, unfortunately, proved too much of a challenge to get to the lectures in time for) but the ‘having your cake and eating it’ principle still stands.

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So what is the ‘most desired’ alternative for West Ham players? After all it’s not possible to stay at West Ham and simultaneously play at another club that’s competing in the Champion’s league and is prepared to pay over a million pounds GBP a month. In the past the club has sold many of it’s best players. We’ve often discussed what ‘might have been’ if the academy players who came through in the late ‘90’s had have stayed at the club. Imagine Paulo DiCanio and Trevor Sinclair added to a squad including Ferdinand, Lampard Jr, Cole, Carrick, Defoe and Johnson (who came through slightly later than the others). Many of those did, actually, play together but, sadly, not all of them or for a sustained period of time. Mouth-watering prospect and a great shame that the relegation put the final nail in the coffin of the dream of a, Tony Carr inspired, home grown European challenging squad.

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Essentially it’s all about how desirable the prospect of playing for another, ‘bigger’, team is perceived by the player. As much as players think that they love life at West Ham with the adoration of one of the most loyal set of fans, the close-knit team spirit and general, on the up, improvement in the standard of the squad there will always be bigger fish to tempt them away.

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Not for the first time, it would seem, the timing of the ‘head-turning’ seems to have coincided with one of our players on England duty. International team-mates from bigger clubs appear to be extolling the virtues of moving on to pastures new. Declan Rice now seems to be making the kinds of noises that many other players have made at similar stages of their international careers. Don’t get me wrong – I can completely understand if a player wants to improve both their lot and test themselves in European Club competition. It’s just that I find the whole ‘you could be doing so much better than West Ham’ conversations, while away with England, a shame and a little sneaky. Oh well – it’s not the first time and it, almost certainly, won’t be the last.

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Away from first team matters I’d like to congratulate, and commiserate with, the PL2 and Ladies teams for their most recent results. The ladies put in a tremendous performance against WSL Champions Arsenal on Sunday. Especially in the second half they showed tremendous fighting spirit and endeavour to halve the deficit against a very strong team. If this is a sign of things to come from the team then I think we could be in for an even better season than last term. Another brilliant second half performance from the U23s saw them make an amazing comeback, from 4-1 down to win 5-4. The Newport manager was magnanimous in defeat while complimenting our lads for the type of football that they played and character that they showed. The only downside from the game was the bitte that was inflicted on Reece Hannam by Crystal Palace loanee Ryan Inniss. Inniss has got form for violent conduct and is facing a lengthy ban. Frankly quite right too. Inniss needs to learn that you can’t get away with that and should be reflecting on how he’s let his club and team-mates down as well as behaved completely inappropriately while causing harm to another person.

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Back to Declan I wish him all the very best of luck for the England game against Kosovo. It’s likely to be a good challenge for Gareth Southgate’s team so he’ll need to be on his game if selected.

Come On You Rip Roarin’ Irons and Come On England!


The GoatyGav Column

Moving To A Samba Groove

I find myself, sometimes, thinking out loud. I often think that my articles take the same tone as when I’m having these audible internal conversations. My wife thinks I’m talking to her and, upon occasion, I have to explain that I’m having a discussion with myself again. Not sure what that says about the state of my mental health but, there you have it, it might go a little way to explaining my processes when writing on here.

One such subject I often find myself mulling over is Felipe Anderson’s natural tendency towards passing the ball and then standing still. It completely goes against all that I was ever told to do when playing football and all I teach when coaching the, now U15, kids I have the privilege of working with. At first I became quite animated while voicing my displeasure at, what I perceived to be, this laziness and unwillingness to create opportunities through, off the ball, movement. Now, however, I’m starting to gain a greater appreciation of South American, and more specifically Brazilian, footballing characteristics. I’m trying to remember when West Ham have ever had a Brazilian ‘Fantasista’ so I guess it’s something relatively new.

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To incorporate the ‘fantasista’ player there must be at least one Meia-Armardor, or ‘holding-playmakers’ if you prefer. With that in mind is it any surprise that Anderson has tended to influence games at the same time as the rise of Declan Rice. I’m certainly warming to Felipe Anderson, not just because of his ‘ghosting’ runs but, because he is starting to make his presence felt by tracking back and helping the team to regain possession. When he first joined the club he used to get back to help defend with all the enthusiasm of a teenager asked to tidy their bedroom. He could still do with strengthening his upper body as he’s a little lightweight and, occasionally, muscled off the ball but his technique is second to none. The mazy run from one flank to t’other, before releasing Fredericks in a threatening position, on Saturday was amazing. Weirdly footage of the run was not shared by either Match Of The Day or the club’s website’s own ‘highlights’. The site has, however, released an ‘Anderson’s Man Of The Match Performance’ video which you can view below (the, width of the pitch, run can be seen from 0.59 mins to 1.11 mins) : -

Whet’s the appetite doesn’t it? I really can’t wait for the Manyoo game now. The only thing that I’d really like to see develop is the understanding between Lanzini, Anderson and Haller. Although not just exclusively those three I feel that the trio will become a force in the Premiership if they truly ‘click’. There have been little morsels to tease us with but when they really get to know each other’s game, their runs and movement then it’s going to be extremely exciting. Already that buzz of anticipation when Anderson or Lanzini get on the ball is starting to get up to the same levels as when Brooking, Devonshire or, more lately, Payet were menacing opposition defenders.

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So should Felipe stick and not run after passing the ball in the future I won’t be on his case. I’m not convinced that we’ll ever see a complete transition to ‘Samba’ football at West Ham. If anything it wouldn’t work in the hussle and bustle of English football but you can’t deny the South American influence that’s on view in the bowl nowadays. Manuel Pellegrini’s ‘project’ is still in it’s development phase – a work in progress. The team are still not dominating possession the way that he’d clearly like us to. In fact the stats from Saturday surprised me when I saw that Norwich edged it at 51% but things are definitely going in the right direction and are more in line with ‘The West Ham Way’.

Other players apart I’m definitely starting to dig Anderson’s Samba groove. May it continue to rock the bowl for several years to come.

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Today, as I write, saw the departure of Javier Hernandez. He’s a player I like who always acted professionally, respectfully and with dignity and, from what I could gather, was a positive influence while at our club. I wish him all the best in Seville and would like to go on record to thank him for his efforts for West Ham. I will certainly welcome Chicha back should he ever return to play at the bowl again.

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Lastly I’d like to wish Aji Alese all the best for his loan to Accrington Stanley. I think he’s a real prospect and would love for him to come back to the club in January having had a successful experience at the League 1 club. He won’t, however, be joining up with the club until after his excursion with the England U19 squad over the next couple of weeks – for which I’d also like to wish him luck.

Come On You Rip Roarin’ Irons!


The GoatyGav Column

Sorting By Priorities

It’s a subject that I’ve spent quite some time discussing on WHTID over the years but one that I still believe is current, relevant and very important. How much importance should the Cups, and more specifically the League (Carabao) Cup, be given by Pellegrini and the team?

When you trace Tottingham’s rise as a team you can almost pinpoint their League Cup victory as a turning point in their progression to a regular top four side. Some may argue that’s not true and that their side started to move up the pecking order a number of seasons after lifting the ‘Carling Cup’, as the competition was known in 2007-08, but, for me, they, notably, grew in squad strength from that point forward.

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Although not in the League Cup Chelsea also had a ‘crossing of the Rubicon’ moment after they won the F.A. Cup in 1996-97, following up that victory with League Cup honours the following season and going on to attract investment from Mr Abramovic.

At present our squad is stronger to the point where we’re able to field strong starting line-ups while giving some senior players a rest. In past seasons I wouldn’t have said this was true. The risk of losing senior players in the early rounds was bigger due to the fact that we’d already racked up a lengthy injury list to a squad that had less depth.

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Outside of the progression of the club there’s also the kudos and excitement, in my mind, of playing under the floodlights in European competition. I don’t care what they say about the Europa League I love being involved in it. Childhood memories of sitting by the radio listening to West Ham’s Cup Winner’s Cup exploits still gives me butterflies and goose pimples. I want that feeling again and a League Cup win would deliver it.

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It’s not like a Cup win would be a pipe-dream either. With so many of the top six clubs fielding weaker sides in the earlier rounds a good cup run for any other Premier League side would be a distinct reality should that team decide to prioritise a set competition. Get to the Semi-Final and, who knows, we could go all the way.

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At present we have a manager who has given West Ham increased pulling power with respects prospective players. This would be greatly enhanced should the OS/LS/London Bowl (I look forward to the day the naming rights are sold for a set period of time and we can settle on calling it one name) play host to teams in Europe.

The League Cup, barring the Wartime League Cup which I’m not sure counts, is a competition that West Ham have never won. I’d like to see that put right. Now I’m, by no means, suggesting that the League Cup is in any way a bigger or better competition than the F.A. Cup however there are, by comparison, some advantages for the lesser domestic competition. Firstly you play less rounds to get to a final. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, a League Cup win can be less detrimental to a season than it’s more illustrious and historical alternative. To reach an F.A. Cup final you have to keep producing over the course of, almost, an entire season. This season’s League Cup is over on the 1st March, 2020. The oft described ‘distraction’ can be out of the way at an earlier stage allowing focus to be placed back on League form. In fact a win in the first major domestic competition of the season has often proven a huge boost to team confidence.

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Don’t get me wrong. I’d sooner be sat here this time next year with another F.A. Cup win than with League Cup honours however, insofar as priorities are concerned, I really want us to be gunning for a great run – starting with Oxford United away on the 24th September.

Come On You Rip Roarin’ Irons!


The GoatyGav Column

Fairness – A Bridge Too VAR?

This week’s article is going to be a short one due to the holiday demands of kids wanting to get to the beach and the inflatable assault course in the sea. M’Julie and I will be sticking to sunbathing on the beach.

Once again this weekend’s game has been heavily influenced by VAR. This time after Brighton had a goal chalked off for offside. It was marginal but clear – not in the ‘daylight’ sense however. Listening to the likes of Ian Wright anyone would think that the offside rule had just changed to hamper strikers. Does he not realise that the rule is the same – just that strikers are now being found to be offside, according to the same laws. The ‘armpit’ offside brigade would like to see the rule changed so that clear daylight can be seen between the defender and offside attacker. Problem is the same ‘armpit’ argument exists in the clear daylight scenario. You have to draw the line somewhere and, simply put, offside is offside.

I had to laugh listening to a Man City fan phone in to BBC Radio London after the game on Saturday evening. This supporter was not calling to discuss the goal disallowed in injury time but was bemoaning a nailed-on (you’ll never find me using the term ‘stonewall’ incorrectly – does my head in) penalty that the VAR officials decided not to review. Kind of ironic after the Rodri foul, with absolutely no attempt to play the ball, on Haller, that Mike Dean was looking directly at from no more than ten yards away, that led to the City fifth goal the previous week. Not only was it a foul Seb Haller got completely clattered in the most blatant of fashion to the point I believe a yellow card was warranted. How the VAR team could let that one go is beyond me. The main point is, however, are we going to get what we hoped for, and were discussing at length on this blog during the pre-season, in that VAR will prove to be a leveller where decisions have previously gone the way of ‘bigger’ clubs? Early evidence might suggest that the review teams sat at Stockley Park are also choosing to ignore situations which would have benefitted those outside of the Premier League’s top six? Going back to the Haller Poleaxing it certainly seems there is some evidence to suggest it. All of the subsequent media coverage of that goal appears to be ignoring the barefaced clattering too. Now if that had’ve been the other way around with, say, Declan Rice playing Aguero instead of the ball we’d have been watching the footage of it, from every possible angle, on Match Of The Day whilst listening to their commentary team condemning Rice for such an awful challenge. Tell me I’m wrong?

Overall I’m a fan of the technology. It’s only going to improve. Suggestions of a ‘hawkeye’ style system with technology installed in boots, along with an amendment to the off-side law to make the front foot (or back foot if the player has their back to goal) the object of the decision are positive ones. Goal-line technology has been fully accepted and widely viewed as the fair way to way to judge if a goal has been scored or not. Same goes for VAR IMHO.

The argument, that I hear from former professional striker pundits, to say “but it’s only very marginal,” just doesn’t cut it. You have a rule and you stick to it otherwise you introduce ambiguity and, appropriately to this article, further opportunity to side with the bigger boys.
Right – back to that Estrella Damm on the balcony. See you all next week.

COME ON YOU RIP ROARIN’ IRONS!


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