Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Manchester United

West Ham fans have let out a collective sigh of relief over the past week or so, as our emphatic victories against Norwich and Watford, combined with the results of our fellow strugglers mean we are to all intents and purposes absolutely safe from relegation. We can now relax and hope our players can continue their recent form and finish off the season in fine style. Ahead of the game I spoke to Andy Cook lifelong Man Utd fan and founder of holdiay web site takethefamily.com to discuss the game and the season.
Hi Andy, Man Utd are currently sat in 5th position as we enter the last 2 matches of the season. What would constitute a successful season for you?
Earning the right to play in the Champions League next season. Finishing third would be a bonus.

After ringing the changes over the manager’s position since Fergie left, Man Utd seem to have finally settled on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, is he set to be there for the long haul? What did you think of the tenures of José Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal?
Yes, though ‘long-haul’ these day is all relative, with Watford already on their 4th manager this season. In contrast to Moyes, Mourinho and Van Gaal, Solskjaer has reminded the team how to play lively, attacking football and have fun. Everyone wants to be selected and make a difference, that wasn’t so evident with his predecessors.

Is your ex-manager David Moyes going to make West Ham a better team?
He certainly has passion and determination. And the results are improving. Not sure whether that’s enough though, see above.

It must be a bit galling for you to see your big rivals in Liverpool and Man City bossing the League over the past few years. Do you think you will be able to sustain a winning campaign in the Premier League next season?
Yes. And so could Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal based on recent form. I think it will be a lot more even next season among the top clubs. If our front-three continue to deliver, if Pogba and Fernandes continue to be great play-makers, if we shore up our defence…..then, yes, we could enjoy a very strong season.

Which two teams are going to join the above in the Champions League next year?
Chelsea and Manchester United. Leicester were favourites until very recently, the odds are now stacked against.

Which two teams are going to be demoted with Norwich?
Aston Villa and Watford, providing Bournemouth win at Everton.

West Ham have finally shrugged off their early season lethargy with a couple of decent displays, which if any of the West Ham players would you like to see at Old Trafford?

Which Man Utd player gets your vote for player of the year, and who else was in the running?
Has to go to Fernandes for having a massive impact in the short time he’s been with us. In recent months the front three have shown great promise and Pogba looks lively post-injury break.

Which player(s) have disappointed?
Jesse Lingard. And David de Gea has let in a few shockers.

It looks like you’ve got your forward line sorted for the next few years, but do the other parts of the team need bolstering over the summer?
We’ll need to see if De Gea is ‘merely’ suffering a bad spell. If not, then we’ll need to sign. Our defense needs further bolstering too.

*Highlights and lowlights of the season?
The four-nil win over Chelsea at the start of the season is a highlight and the 3-0 recent defeat to Chelsea is the lowlight. Other highlights include beating Manchester City twice.

Any particular memories of Man Utd/ West Ham Utd games of the past?
Our 7-1 victory in 1999 stands out, the game had everything: coming back from behind, a trademark Beckham free-kick, a Scholes hat-trick that included a very cheeky back-heel and even super-sub Ole got on the score-sheet. Even West Ham supporters will enjoy highlights – check it out on Youtube.

I very much doubt that, and will certainly not be revisiting those highlights! I prefer to remember the Di Canio FA Cup game, or the final game at Upton Park, among many others. How will Man Utd line up against West Ham this week? Players/Formation please.
The changes they made for Chlesea didn’t deliver so they will revert back to their ‘usual’ formation. Martial, Greenwood and Rashford up front, supplied by Matic, Pogba, Wan-Bissaka and Fernandes. Lindelof and Williams are also likely to start. Other positions really depend on recovery from recent injuries.

West Ham will be looking to continue their current form of scoring 3 or 4 goals against you. Are you confident that you will be able to see us off, or are West Ham going to put the spanner in your end of season spokes as we have done a couple of times in the past? Prediction for score please.
I’m predicting a lively game, 4-2 in Manchester United’s favour. Yes, you have a good recent record against us. However, you’re 25 points adrift of us (and an extraordinary 56 shy of Liverpool!). We have the Champions League spot resting on this game, you don’t have the same need for victory. Good luck!

Many thanks to Andy for his time. Blown away with enhanced optimism I do actually think we can win this one, so I’m going to go for a 1 – 2 away win. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Watford

West Ham welcome Watford to the London Stadium this Friday evening, for a genuine 6-pointer. The winners will be safe, whilst the losers will have to endure a nail-biting week or so until the final curtain is drawn on the season. Ahead of the game I once again spoke to Jon Southwood, from Watford fansite GloryHorns to discuss the match and the dying embers of the season.
It’s been a strange old season, with both our clubs changing managers, (Watford twice). How is life under Nigel Pearson?
Life under Nigel Pearson is pretty good I think. He started brilliantly after taking over when we were 6 points adrift at the bottom and then the results kind of dried up. Since the restart we got a good draw with Leicester followed by some disappointing performances. Winning the last 2 games has been great but we’re still right in the mire. Good to have an English coach at last.

I expect like me, you were cursing the results at Bournemouth and Aston Villa, after our own wins? Are you confident that Watford will be able to stay up? Who are going down with Norwich?
Absolutely, being 6 points ahead of Bournemouth on Saturday lunchtime felt a bit like job done, we’re safe. Then come Sunday the situation reverts to being the same. It would have been nice to have been playing out a draw on Friday safe in the knowledge that a point for each side would probably enough. I’m not confident that we can stay up unless we get something out of Saturdays game. Villa will go down with Bournemouth or Watford.

Switching to the top of the table, which teams are going to join Man City and Liverpool in the Champions’ League? And which two teams will take the next 2 places?
Chelsea and Man Utd for Champions League, Leicester and Wolves for Europa

Which opposition teams and players have impressed you this season?
I think Southampton have impressed me most for the way they have played since getting drubbed 9-0 at home. The reaction there has been superb and Hassenhutel has done an excellent job as has Danny Ings….surely a shoo in for the next England squad.

Who gets your vote for Watford player of the year?
Etienne Capoue

Which player(s) have most disappointed?
Andre Gray …hopeless and a complete waste of £18,000,000

What have been the highlights and lowlights of this season?
The 3 – 0 win over Liverpool was the absolute highlight. We played them off the park in every department and scored some great goals to boot, a brief glimpse at how the season could have been. The rest of the season has been a lowlight really missing out by inches too often and not getting the points that some performances have merited but also putting in far too many weak efforts

Looking ahead to next year, what do Watford need to do to improve on this season?
Concentration and discipline in defence and burying chances upfront

How will Watford line up against West Ham this Friday? Players/formation?

Femenia Cathcart Dawson Holebas
Sarr Capoue Hughes Pereyra
Deeney Wellbeck

Are you confident going into this game? Prediction for score please?
I’m confident that we’ll be up for it, we have to be because (with no disrespect to you) Man City and Arsenal away aren’t likely to be anything but losses. I’d hope we can share the spoils on Friday night.

Well many thanks to Jon for his time and thoughts. Let’s hope that we can see off Watford, if merely to prevent me spending more hours staring at the fixture list and table, wasting hours working out the permutations. 2 – 1 West Ham. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Burnley

I hate to be too optimistic, but it looks like West Ham are inching their way to safety: after dramatically beating Chelsea last week, and picking up a sound point against Newcastle we look a more confident team. For the first of our last 5 fixtures sees us welcome Burnley, who are having another decent season, to the London Stadium. Ahead of the game I spoke once again to Tony Scoles, editor of Uptheclarets to discuss everything Claret and Blue.
Hi Tony, how are you enjoying the return to action after the mid season break?
It’s been hectic. We go all these weeks without football and then suddenly it is two per week and televised games day after day. Being of a certain age, and having underlying conditions, it has been a solitary existence for a good number of weeks so to at least have some football back has been enjoyable. I have to say though that I’m finding it very frustrating having to watch us on television rather than being able to attend the games.

I would say that Burnley are having another good season, how do you rate it compared to beginning of season expectations?
My hopes, every season, are that we can be comfortable and ensure we stay in the Premier League without too many relegation worries. Probably the lowest point in the season was back in January when we were on 24 points and had just lost the previous four games. We do seem to have this ability to get out of problems and since then we’ve been on a terrific run that has seen us reach 46 points. That’s a terrific return for a club like ours and so it can only be looked at as being another excellent season for us.

Liverpool of course have ended up as Champions, and assuming Man City are runners up, who do you think will fill the next 5 places?
I think we can just about safely assume Manchester City will be runners up. Leicester are dropping and I think both Chelsea and Manchester United will finish above them and Wolves look set to take the next place. I see why you were asking me to go down to seventh place. The way we are playing I’d have possibly said we might make it but it is going to be difficult with the squad stretched to a large extent just now. If not us, I’d like it to be Sheffield United.

Not many people will complain if Jürgen Klopp gets manager of the year, but should there be a subsidiary award for the likes of Sean Dyce, Chris Wilder, or Nuno Santo for exceeding expectations?
Chris Wilder won it last year, a big surprise. When we won the Championship in 2016, Sean Dyche didn’t even get the divisional award, it went to Chris Hughton who hadn’t even won promotion. Sean has done so, so well for us again as has Wilder and I do like Nuno at Wolves. I’m not sure you can take it away from Klopp this year though.

It looks like Norwich are down, but who are going to drop with them? I should mention your November pick of Southampton have been revitalised from their early season form.
Did I really say Southampton? That looks good now doesn’t it? It was probably a week or so after their 9-0 hammering against Leicester and everyone was predicting they would go. Norwich are all but gone I would think and I’d probably think Bournemouth and Aston Villa are the most likely to go with them. Both have looked poor in the games I’ve seen since the restart.

What have been the highlights and lowlights of the season for you?
Probably the lowest was on New Year’s Day when we were outplayed in the first half at home by a very poor Aston Villa team. Despite being 2-0 down, we should have gone on and won it in the second half but could only score one goal from a host of chances. The highlight is one I don’t even have to think about too much. In 1965 my dad took me to our FA Cup tie against Manchester United. We were winning 1-0 with just a few minutes to go but lost 2-1. I’ve waited, and waited, and waited to see us win at Old Trafford. In 2017/18 and 2018/19 we were 2-0 up and ended with 2-2 draws with late goals, one a shocking decision too. This time we won 2-0 and it was an unforgettable night.

Yes, great to win at Old Trafford! Thoughts on VAR?
I don’t think it has improved the game in any way. It’s slowed it down with the long waits, look at the one at West Ham last week that took not far short of four minutes. Despite VAR we are still getting decisions so clearly wrong so I’d much rather we get on with it and putting up with the on field referee making the mistakes.

The games are coming thick and fast, and so it becomes a bit more difficult to predict line ups, but how do you think Burnley will line up against West Ham on Wednesday? Players/Formation?
Usually I would be able to very accurately give you some team news. Sean Dyche doesn’t make too many changes but right now we have so many players unavailable it is frightening. For one reason or another we are without Matt Lowton, Ben Mee, Jack Cork, Ashley Barnes, Joe Hart, Jeff Hendrick and Aaron Lennon. We also have three players coming back from injury who are not quite ready to start games. All I can say is that the team against Sheffield United was: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Charlie Taylor, Dwight McNeil, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Erik Pieters, Jay Rodriguez, Mat?j Vydra. I don’t see many changes from that line up.

You’re unbeaten for the past three games after losing to Man City, are you going to keep the run going? Prediction for score.
I hope we are going to keep the run going. If we do win it won’t be like the last time we won at West Ham with supporters running on demonstrating against your beloved (????) owners with every goal. I’m hoping we can keep things going with possibly a 1-0 win.

Well many thanks again to Tony of Uptheclarets for his time and thoughts. Reading his long list of Burnley casualties, I’m going to back us to take advantage. 2 – 0 West Ham. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Chelsea

Today West Ham welcome Chelsea to the London Stadium for our second London derby on the bounce, hopefully this one will have a better outcome than the last. Ahead of the game, I once again spoke to lifelong Chelsea fan Malcolm Walker, of the prison charity St Giles Trust to ask him his thoughts on the game.

Hi Malcolm, How are you enjoying the return of football? Presumably beating Man City in the League, and getting through to the FA Cup semis, you’re welcoming it?
It’s really odd as I hadn’t really missed it during lockdown as everything changed, I’ve just been doing different things and spending lots of time with the family which is nice. When the first game came on I wasn’t that interested as it seemed a bit false playing in an empty stadium with artificial crowd noise. But inevitably my interest returned quickly as the games came thick and fast and I’m now enjoying it just as much as before, except for the fake crowd!

Last time we spoke, you seemed to be pleased Frank Lampard was given the Chelsea job, how do you think he’s done so far?
Frank has done really well using a mixture of young players and some more experience. He isn’t frightened to put some new blood into the team which is good to see. That faith has been rewarded with some really excellent performances. Obviously that is tempered with times when the lack of experience shows through and the team doesn’t quite gel together, but on the whole a very positive start to his time at Chelsea. He will be helped next season as we have got some early transfers done, that will give the team a lift and a chance to move some of the old guard on.

Are you indifferent to facilitating Liverpool’s title win, or resigned to it?
I think Liverpool won the title long ago it was just a question of time. They have consistently played the best football this year. Our focus was to keep pushing for a top 4 place.

Are Chelsea going to stay in the Champions League spot? Predictions for top 5 places (in case Man City get banned)?
I believe we are on a bit of a hot streak at the moment with lots of confidence in the squad, players coming back from injury and keen to cement their place in the team. I think we will ease past Leicester into 3rd place. You can never discount Man Utd but I think Leicester will just about hold them off for 4th.

West Ham look to be in deep trouble. Do you think they’ll avoid the drop? Predictions for relegation spots?
Yes West Ham are struggling but both Norwich and Villa look poor, Bournemouth are also having a tough time but I think they will rally a bit as will West Ham so I think maybe Watford to go down with Villa and Norwich.

What do you think of David Moyes’ reappointment as West Ham’s manager? is he going to keep us up again this time?
I’m really surprised David Moyes is back, he really didn’t do that well last time but he wasn’t really given a long enough time to really make his mark. I was a fan of his when he was at Everton, he achieved a lot considering the budget he was working with. It all went wrong when he went to Man Utd, where he tried to fill the impossible job of following Fergie. He has really got his work cut out again keeping West Ham up but if anyone can do it then he can.

How will Chelsea line up against us? Players/Line up?
Christiansen and Pusilic are both doubts for the game, Giroud has been favoured up front recently and has done well but Tammy Abraham is waiting in the wings and maybe he will get his chance this time. Kepa seems to have picked his game up between the sticks recently after some transfer rumours so is a likely pick as is Mason Mount who continues to do well.

Presumably you think Chelsea are in with a chance of victory on Wednesday? Prediction for score please?
Always a tight one especially as we still don’t score lots of goals, I’m going with 2-1 to Chelsea.

Well many thanks to Malcolm once again. I’m going to predict a 1 -1 draw. Fingers Crossed! COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Spurs

The games are coming thick and fast. After our home loss to Wolves, we barely have time to recover and reorganise before travelling across London, to play in front of an empty White Hart Lane, against Tottenham. Ahead of the game I spoke to lifelong Spurs fan Ode Ogwu to talk about the game and the season.

First of all, are you enjoying the return of football to our lives?
Of course, aren’t you?

Not so much after Saturday, no. Will the break have any effect on the outcomes of our football competitions?
Well, the enforced break has meant we’ve been able to get key players back from long term injury: Kane, Son, Sissoko, Bergwijn. So we should be stronger.

I presume you watched your game at the weekend. How did you enjoy the presentation/atmosphere?
It’s fine, with or without crowd effects. The important thing is that football is able to take place in a safe environment. The presentation in all other respects is pretty much the same.

How are you getting on with Jose as manager? Should Pochettina have been sacked?
He splits opinion. But I like his football astuteness. I think many fans would except that things were deteriorating under Poch and ultimately Levy made the call. Most Spurs fans were deeply saddened. Poch is loved, he took us to the top of the mountain and it was great. For a brief moment it felt like Spurs were the centre of the universe.

Is Mourinho a better long term option in the mind of Spurs fans, given your ‘push and run’ history, and Jose’s cautious (to say the least) attitude?
Again, this does split opinion. But winning games helps. The truth of the matter is, we are not as good as we were. We’ve lost balance in the team. The loss of Dembele, Erickson, Trippier has been a key factor together with the ageing Vertogen, Alderweld, Rose. We stood still for a moment and others overtook us. Jose now has to rebuild the side and that won’t be easy. I’m behind him, and so are most I think. He was brought in to win and this may be his biggest career challenge to date. He won’t have the money others have. Style is relative to winning / losing. When you’re winning it feels great and when you lose horrible. We’d all like the perfect outcome of winning in style. I love the fact that Spurs have always tried to play with flair.

Talking off managers, what if anything did you think of the decision to reappoint David Moyes as our manager?
That’s a difficult question. When a manager becomes your manager you take time to find out about him, listen to what he says, watch and analyse what they do, beyond the general chorus of opinion. I haven’t done this with Moyes. I would have preferred a young up and coming manager but that’s also a risk, one you have to weigh up. West Ham are in a dodgy position and perhaps a safety first approach was taken. Under Pelliegrini it looked like you were building a talented team but it just never took off.

You’ve had two great seasons consecutively, but this one looks to be not so good in comparison. Where do you expect Spurs to finish the season?
Spurs have been in the top four and therefore Champions League for the past 4 years and have qualified for Europe via Champions League and Europa League every year since 2010-11. Levy has been building the club, it’s infrastructure, finances and profile to compete with the big money clubs over the previous 15 years. This year will be a set back I think and realistically I wouldn’t look beyond the Europa League spots while of course hoping for a Champions League spot. It’s very tight and we would have to leapfrog Man.U. who are looking decent again (false dawn one hopes!)

While we’re at it, who (apart from Liverpool) are going to occupy the next 4 places, given that Man City’s place in Europe next year could be up for grabs?
It’s difficult to see any of the top 5 teams seriously crumbling and those outside the top 5 making up the gap. I would give Wolves an outside chance along with Spurs. Hey, this is football and anything can happen.

Predictions for relegation spots?
Difficult again. The best footballing side in the bottom half Spurshave played is Norwich and I will be sad to see them go, as seems likely. Aston Villa don’t look like they’ve got enough. The third spot is anyone’s guess from Brighton in 15th place / 32 points down, which includes Watford, West Ham and Bournemouth. Above Brighton are Southampton on 37 points and another win should see them through.

Harry Kane or Gary Lineker and why?
Harry Kane – He’s one of our own.

Harry Kane or Glen Hoddle?
Well they are both our own but Hoddle takes seniority over Kane simply because he comes before Kane – Kane just needs to continue being great for Spurs. It’s all about what he does next.

Any particular memories of Tottenham/West Ham games of the past?
I used to go to Upton Park quite a lot as a lad of 10-13 years of age with a mate whose dad used to take us – they were West Ham fans of course. Billy Bonds, Harry Rednapp on the wing, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters before he came to Spurs and of course Bobby Moore. But my clearest and favourite memories are more recent. The 2-3 at your ground this season was great in so far as it was Jose’s first game. But the two games that stand out were at Upton park: 2007, Score 3-4 to Spurs, Stalteri scores winner in 94th minute and 2013 3-4 to Spurs, Bale scores screamer to win the match in the 90th minute. But West Ham have had some notable victories over Spurs too – who can forget Lasagne gate, which cost Spurs a place in the Champions League on the final day of the 2005/06 season.

Yes Lasagnegate, was great I woke up that morning heard Spurs players were all sick, and incredibly we were 6 – 1 against to win. I was straight down the bookies. I used to sit behind the goal near the away fans, and the noise during that game was the loudest I’ve ever experienced. How will Spurs line up against us this week? Line up/ Formation?
We started off against Man U on Friday with a back 4, two holding players in Winks and Sissoko, 3 attacking midfielders in Lamela, Son and Bergwijn, behind Kane. I would expect Le Celso to feature probably in place of Lamela and Jose will need to decide whether to bring in Ali and sacrifice Son or Bergwijn. Or bring in Ali for Lamela and leave out Le Celso. Kane looked well off the pace against Utd so it’s not impossible he may play around with the attack but I would expect Kane to Play. He may tinker with the back four too. I think Tobby Alderweld may partner Dyer at the back. The full backs Davis and Aurier. If Jose loses his head a little he may dispense with one of the holding players and go for a more progressive midfielder alongside a holding midfielder. I’d like to see Ndombele feature at some point – what a talent.

You must be quaking in your boots at the thought of playing West Ham at the moment, are you going to be able to prevent us from taking all 3 points away from White Hart Lane? Prediction for score please.
2-0 Spurs!

Many thanks to Ode for his time. Let’s hope we can snatch a point. 1 – 1. _COYI _

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