Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with The Villa

After the International break enforced absence, West Ham return to Premier League action with a visit to Birmingham on Monday night to play newly promoted Aston Villa. Before the game I had a chat with James Rushton, managing editor of Aston Villa blog 7500 to Holte to chat about everything Claret and Blue.
Congratulations on your return to the Premier League after a three year absence, at what stage of last season did you think you had a good chance of promotion?
Cheers Jeff. It’s nice to think about the success of last season, and thanks for bringing me on to talk Villa: honestly, it wasn’t until quite late into the ten game run that we went on that I started to feel like promotion was possible. It was all rather doubtful until we got into the playoffs, and even then it wasn’t a given. The final and the victory was a real ‘pinch yourself’ moment. It didn’t seem possible.
You’ve had a few managers over the past 10 seasons, how does Dean Smith stand up against the rest? Any of those past managers that you wish were still at the helm?
We’ve been all over the place for a long time and the worst thing? Nobody really knows where we stood with certain managers, especially so with the interviews they give down the line… So I can’t really say that I wish any one of them were still at the helm. For instance, we all assumed Gerard Houllier was a great coup for us, but he didn’t get on with our top performers and seemed to be going nowhere. We all assumed Alex McLeish was awful (and the football was), but the players seemed to be galvanized under him according to recent interviews. All of this hindsight has created a mess and leans us into using recency bias. Steve Bruce was decent enough for us, but couldn’t go the distance. Dean Smith has been a breath of fresh air and isn’t afraid to bet on his talent. I love that.
Apart from the loss of a few familiar faces, e.g. Arsene Wenger, and the arrival of your neighbours Wolves as a Premier League powerhouse, what other notable changes have been you seen in your absence?
Honestly, everything is new. The Premier League is a better league than the one we left and each team boasts elite talent. It’s rough! West Ham’s ‘new’ stadium is a big change for us – and in all honesty, most things are new so it’s difficult to pick out a big change. If I had a gun to my head I’d probably go for the elite tactical styles on display. Manchester City and Liverpool are capable of real genius, and that wasn’t so evident in 2015. They are trendsetters.
As expected you’ve had to boost your squad since your promotion, from what you’ve seen of them so far, who of these signings is going to most improve your team?
Tom Heaton, without a doubt. Jed Steer was a top goalkeeper for us, but Heaton is amazing. He’s capable of genius and he’s the type of character we need to keep us up. It’s testament to Tom that I’m saying this with how much we’ve spent. He is superb.
Do you think you are better equipped to survive this season than you were the years ago when you were relegated?
Absolutely. We’ve got a humble manager with the ability to adapt, we’ve got a good setup and we’ve got a strong team. The pieces are in place for a decent season, but nothing is guaranteed.
Where do you hope/think The Villa will finish the season?
I hope for 12th. I think we will finish 16th. That’ll be a good achievement for us, considering that as the Play-Off winners, we enter at the bottom of the pile.
How about West Ham, where will we end up?
Keep this start up and you might hope for 5th or 6th. West Ham are tricky to predict – and anything can happen, but it’s early so why not go overboard with the optimism.
Early days yet, but who do you think will end up being relegated?
I think Watford, Norwich and Newcastle (as well as ourselves) will be in that conversation right now – so I’ll lean with the former three.
Who are your picks for the top 4? In order.
Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea
In the Premier League era you’ve had a few old West Ham stalwarts turning it for you. How do you Villa fans remember the likes of Joe Cole, Nigel Reo-Coker, James Collins and Marlon Harewood?
All of them have fond memories, and some more than others. Harewood is a bit of a cult hero, Nigel Reo-Coker was steady. Collins was a warrior and Joe Cole was sometimes a spark in a dead-and-buried team. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about those lot.
That’s good to hear. Is there any of the current crop of West Ham players that you wouldn’t mind swapping Claret and Blue shirts? If so why?
I’d want to back this Villa side, but I’d like Haller. He’s very good and he’d be a great option for us up front while we find out what we have with Wesley. I’d pick other options but I’d feel then like I’m damning half this Villa team without seeing some of them play!
Any memories of West Ham/Villa games of the past?.
I destroyed my Premier League memories when we got relegated – but I think about our last matchup often. It was the day hope ended for us when Jordan Ayew threw an elbow on Aaron Cresswell. Up to that point every player showed fight. It ended with that game. We died and fell apart.
How will Aston Villa line up against West Ham on Monday? Prediction for players and formation?
It’ll be a 4-3-3 with our DM dropping into the centre halves. Heaton in goal. Fred Guilbert will be the RB and Neil Taylor on the opposite side. Mings and Engels will be the centre back duo. Douglas Luiz will anchor the midfield while Jack Grealish and John McGinn push up.
Trezeguet, Wesley and Jota will be our forward line.
Are you confident that you will be able to best us? Prediction for score?
I think we can be a threat at home, and I think that gives us an advantage in this one. You’re a good team, but sometimes that means nothing when the atmosphere gets going and the game develops. 2-1 to the Villa.

Well many thanks to James for his time and thoughts. I love his optimism for both Villa and West Ham, but, surprise, surprise, I am going to back West Ham to win this one. I am going to reverse his forecast and go for 1 – 2 to the Hammers. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Norwich City

West Ham celebrate their recent away win against Watford by welcoming Premier League returnees Norwich City to the London Stadium. We will be hoping that we can improve on our last home performance against a rampant Manchester City. Ahead of the game I spoke to Richard Voisey from Norwich City fanzine City of Yellows to discuss everything Claret and Blue and Yellow and Green.
Hi Richard: back in the Premier League after a 3 year absence – congratulations! At what stage of last season did you hope/think you would get promoted?
The real sense of belief that we could gain promotion was destroying Leeds United at Elland Road, 3-1 away in front of the Sky cameras and 36,000 fans at the beginning of February. United couldn’t get near the ball. Also at that point, City had only lost once in 18 games.

You certainly impressed us with your victory against on the opening day, and your performances against Chelsea and Liverpool, you must be thinking that this is all a breeze?
We are an attacking team that scores goals as well as conceding plenty. From three games, six for and eight against tells its own story. No Norwich City fan believes this will be easy. Daniel Farke wants results and not just plaudits. The key positives are that we have created chances and produced more at Liverpool than any opposition side during the whole of last season.

Tell us a bit about your manager Daniel Farke, he certainly seems to have you playing in a positive manner. How does he compare to your most recent managers, Chris Hughton, Neil Adams, and Alex Neil?
Chris Houghton was boring in the Premier League and his teams were not worth watching, Neil Adams is a true gent but was naive as a manager with woeful tactics. Alex Neil turned our season around to produce a magical promotion and success at Wembley at Middlesbrough with the ‘Smoggies’ being swept aside. Alex Neil has since been candid in admitting he was underprepared for the Premier League and made silly mistakes. He is making a good job at Preston, would have learnt a lot from the experience and I hope he gets them up. Farke is a class act. Excellent communicator, a brilliant relationship with the players and fans and has my total respect. With minimal funding, he and Stuart Webber have turned the club around in double-quick time.

What will be the main priorities for Norwich this season to ensure that they manage to stay up?
The club are prepared for relegation both contractually and financially. It would be nice to stay up and build a long term residence in the Premier League. We will need to pick up regular wins against sides outside the top six.

You’ve bought a couple of players during the close season, including our own Sam Byram, which of these players do you think will manager to become mainstays of the team?
I expect all of the new signings to be fringe players unless needs must. Only one in the new group has the potential to hold down a shirt. Defensive midfielder/centre back, Ibraham Amadou should we need to tighten up at the back. Sam Bryram, based on what I have seen is only ever likely to be cover for Max Aarons.

Are there any areas that you think have not been strengthened enough?
We have two centre backs out of action at the moment in Zimmermann and Klose. Hanley is getting some stick from fans although Amaddou could provide cover. Pukki back up is provided in Swiss International Josip Drmic, although he is also injured. That leaves us with Dennis Srbeny, who can’t score and unproven youngster, Adam Idah. If Teemu Pukki is injured, City can turn off the lights and lock up Carrow Road.

Which West Ham player would you like to see turning out for the ‘Canaries’, and why?
Haller would be my top pick. A superb finisher who has proven his quality at finishing in France, Netherlands and Germany.

We were certainly impressed by your centre forward Teemu Pukki, you must be pleased that he seems to have brought his goal scoring form with him to the Premier League? How does he compare to Dean Ashton, who of course graced Carrow Road and Upton Park for a few years before injury forced him to retire?
It is such a shame that Dean’s injury finished his career far too early. He would have gone to produce a glittering club and country legacy. Both players were/are natural finishers. Ashton was more robust and operated as a traditional number 9. Pukki is unselfish, works his socks off, backtracks to cover colleagues and peels off defenders. He does not need to look up when shooting. A proven International finisher for Finland. We are so lucky to have him.

What are you most looking forward to seeing, and what could you well do without coming across again in this first season back in the Premier League?
I prefer the Championship, 46 games and hope that you can win every game. The fanbase is also more genuine. There is plenty of Norwich City blog and forum chat at present about ticket allocation now ‘plastics’ have joined the fray. I don’t want to be thrashed in any games, want to be competitive in every game and hope injuries to key players do not disrupt what is a very thin squad.

Where do you think Norwich can realistically end up at the end of the season?
Somewhere between 10th and 20th

What position do you think West Ham will finish?
Somewhere between 10th and 18th

Who are your picks for the top four positions in the Premier League?
1st Manchester City, 2nd Liverpool, 3rd Arsenal, 4th Tottenham

Although it’s early, who are your favourites for the drop?
Sheffield United, Watford and Newcastle would be nice. My wish list would be Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton!

How do you think Norwich will line up against West Ham this weekend? Prediction for players and formation.
The same 11 as used against Chelsea subject to injuries. Pukki upfront, Stiepermann behind him, Cantwell and Buendia wide midfielders, Leitner and Tryball central. Handley and Godfrey centre backs with Aarons and Lewis as flying fullbacks. Tim Krul between the sticks. Amadou and Kenny McLean could force themselves into the first 11?

Are you confident that Norwich can have a successful return to the capital? Prediction for the score?
I have hope with head and heart that a City can head home with a result. 2-1 for the Canaries.

Well many thanks to Richard for his time. He does seem particularly optimistic about this fixture, but I am hoping for another three goals this weekend from West Ham, and so it’s another 3 – 1 victory. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Watford

This weekend West Ham travel to take on Watford, just above us in the alphabet, and a short hop on a train from Euston. We already have 1 point on the board, three games earlier than we did last season. With Watford appearing to be weakened we may just get a victory. Ahead of the game I spoke to Jon Southwood, from Watford fansite GloryHorns to discuss the match and the season.

Hi Jon, like us you’ve had a poor start to the season. Losing away against Everton is not totally unexpected, but you must have been shocked to lose against Brighton on the opening day! What happened there?
It was a shocker! A horrible debut from Craig Dawson and below par performances from the whole team really. Very disappointing since pre-season had seemed well organised with several promising results against decent European opposition, Just one of those games where it all went wrong,

You seem to have been quite busy on the transfer/loan front during the close season, which of these do you think will cement their place in the team?
I think Craig Dawson will be a good signing and assuming he plays more like he did against Everton than Brighton will quickly become a fixture,
Danny Welbeck is obviously quality but has had his injury problems, I’d imagine if he stays fit he’d be in but we’ll have to wait and see . You guys had Andy Carroll so you’ll know what I mean. We’ve not seen Ismaila Sarr in Watford colours yet due to his involvement in AFCON but he certainly looks exciting and we could definitely do with an out and out winger.

Last season went quite well for you, especially getting through to the cup final: apart from this, what were your own particular highlights?
Beating Spurs early on was a great result. I couldn’t get to the game but watched it live in a pub packed full of Spurs fans with my lad and I being the only Orns there was special. especially since I’d advised all the early mockers that they could well be in for a tougher game than they bargained for.

What most depressed you during last season?
The drive home to Devon from Wembley…nuff said!

Yes I remember that feeling after our heart-breaking loss to Liverpool in Cardiff. Last year you finished just behind us, where do you think Watford and West Ham will sit in the table come May?
I’d imagine much of the same but I hope both of us would be 7th and 8th…us 7th obvs.

You will obviously hold Brighton in high regard, but who are your ultimate picks for the top four places in order?
Liverpool, City, Spurs, Arsenal

Likewise, which three teams are going to fall by the wayside and end up being relegated?
Newcastle, Villa and Sheffield United

From afar, Javi Garcia, seems to be doing a sound job for you as Watford manager, but what do the fans think of him?
I think he’s generally popular amongst the fans. He engages well with supporters, has the team playing decent football, is a good man manager and seems to have the respect and trust of the players. Glad the Pozzos have stuck with after all (many enforced ) changes.

Which team do you least look looking forward to playing against and why?
Manchester City. Throughout my years as a Watford fan , all 44 of them, encounters with them were never great. Many of those were in lower divisions as until Sheik whoever took over they were definitely in the shadow of United.I don’t remember the Franny Lee era and they were in relative obscurity for perhaps 3 decades. They didn’y ahve particular stars that I recall, Tommy Hutchison’s goal being the only notable thing in that time. So encounters with them were invariably dull as I recall. Roll on to today and they are just too good. You don’t go into a game against giving yourself a hope in hell. The talent they have in depth is incredible. That said, I think Liverpool may just pip them this year as they have improved immeasurably under Klopp and are smarting from missing out on the Premiership. City will win everything else though

How do you think Watford will line up against West Ham this weekend? Prediction for lineup.

Foster

Janmaat Dawson Cathcart Holebas
Hughes Capou Cleverley Sarr
Deulofeo Grey

Are you confident that Watford will win this particular battle of the ’W’s on Saturday? Prediction for score?
No. I may have been this time last week but without Deeney, Doucoure and Pereyra I think you’ll win 2- 1.

Well many thanks to Jon for his time. I’m going along with his way of thinking that without Troy Deeney bullying our defence, we could just sneak a win. I’ll also go with 1 – 2 West Ham. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Brighton

After that battering against Man City last week, this weekend sees West Ham fans travelling the short distance to the south coast to Brighton to see if we can score our first goals, and secure the first points of the season. Ahead of the game I spoke to Scott McCarthy from WeAreBrighton to discuss the game, last season, and the season ahead.
Hi Scott, the season seems to start earlier every year! Hope you’ve had a decent break. Brighton certainly had a great victory last weekend – was that expected?
Absolutely not! We went to Watford on the opening day last year, lost 2-0 and didn’t manage to record a single shot on target. Most Brighton fans would have been expecting an improvement on that, but to go to Vicarage Road and completely blow away a relatively solid Premier League club on their own patch was unbelievable. We’ve only won once away in the Premier League by three clear goals before – don’t worry, I won’t remind you of who that was against – and we only scored 16 times on the road in the whole of last season. So to win 3-0, it was chalk and cheese compared to last year. You’d have to have taken some pretty strong acid to have predicted that happening.

Of course you’ve appointed a new manager in Graham Potter. Were you surprised to see Chris Hughton being sacked at the end of last season, given that he had again successfully retained your place in the league? Was he a bit hard done by? What will Chris’s legacy be?
It’s a strange one by modern football standards in that whilst most Brighton fans were sad to see him go, it was a decision that unfortunately Tony Bloom had to take. On the face of it, Premier League survival and an FA Cup Semi Final appearance represents a good season. But that only tells half the story. We were 12 points clear of relegation at Christmas, at which point Hughton changed from 4-4-1-1 to 4-3-3. The result of that decision was that we won just two league games in 2019, lost at the Amex to Burnley, Southampton and Cardiff, suffered our heaviest home defeat for 46 years when Bournemouth left Sussex with a 5-0 victory, went 14 hours without scoring and ultimately had to rely on Crystal Palace of all teams to beat Cardiff to keep us up. It was abysmal and if Hughton had stayed and we replicated that form over an entire campaign, we’d be going down this season. That last four months doesn’t detract from the amazing job that Hughton did over his four-and-a-half years though and he’s still the greatest manager of my time supporting the club.

Before we start on this season and game, what were the highlights for you last season? And conversely the low points?
That 14 hour run without a goal and the Bournemouth home game were diabolical. I can’t recall a Brighton side ever playing as poorly as we did against the Cherries that day, and I’ve seen us lose 1-0 at home to a Walsall side who played for over an hour with nine men and go down 3-1 to Barnet in front of barely 1,000 people on a Tuesday night at ‘home’ in Gillingham. The high points have to be both wins over Palace. We took six points off our rivals and then they were the ones who kept us up by relegating Cardiff. Can’t imagine that went down too well in Croydon.

It’s now your third season back in the top division, what will be the expectations of Graham Potter this season, and can you tell the unenlightened a little bit about him?
It’s impossible to know really. Potter wants to play attacking, possession based football which is about as far removed from Hughton’s style as possible. We played 3-4-3 on Saturday with three strikers on the pitch and wingbacks pushed miles up the pitch. It’s bold and it’s brash and while it’s got absolutely no right to work against the big six, it’s ridiculously exciting to watch. We’re probably undergoing the most radical overhaul in approach that a Premier League club has attempted in a single summer since Palace replaced Big Sam and his pint of wine with Frank De Boer. We all know how that worked out and to be honest, we could end up going the same way. Or we could gatecrash the top 10. Nobody knows. That’s adding to the excitement and intrigue.

You certainly seem to have been busy during the close seasons with purchases: which of those do you see becoming regular starters for Brighton?
Leandro Trossard is the most exciting for me. He’s only 22 but captained Genk to the Belgian League title last season, scoring over 20 goals from out wide. He’s been in excellent form in pre-season but interestingly didn’t even make it off the bench at Watford. In Neal Maupay, the Albion will be hoping they’ve found Glenn Murray’s successor – which will be about time given that we’ve spent the past eight years trying to replace him since Gus Poyet went insane and released him first time around in favour of signing Craig Mackail-Smith. Adam Webster was our other big money signing but it’s hard to see him breaking into the back three at the minute with Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy ahead of him and Big Dan Burn having been our best player at the weekend.

Given that you’ve got off to a flying start where do you think Brighton will realistically finish the season?
As I said, it’s impossible to guess – and I don’t think we’ll really know how good or bad Potter is until around Christmas time. After all, the last time we scored three goals away from home on the opening day under a new manager, we then lost the next 12 in a row, Martin Hinshelwood got sacked and we were relegated at the end of the season. Fingers crossed that won’t be the case this time.

Can West Ham recover from their opening day battering? What position do you think West Ham will end up in come next May?
Manchester City and Liverpool are so far ahead of everyone else that a 5-0 home defeat against one of those two isn’t actually a bad result these days. You seem to have recruited quite well and have a good manager, so top 10 should surely be the aim again.
Will it be the ‘same old, same old’ at the top of the League this year? What are your early predictions for the top 4?
The top three are pretty much sewn up but after that, it seems like a good year for someone else to have a crack at the top six. I’m never convinced by Arsenal, United weren’t exactly great once Solksjaer was put at the wheel permanently and Chelsea are serving a transfer ban having appointed a bloke whose managerial record reads one sixth place finish in the Championship. Most people would probably pick Wolves to gatecrash the party, but I like the look of Leicester. Brendan Rodgers is an excellent manager, they’ve bought well and they have a young squad packed with talented English players.

Who are your favourites for the drop?
Newcastle should be doomed now they’ve lost Rafa the Gaffer. Norwich keep telling everyone how they won’t compromise the style of play that won them promotion but look how that worked out for Fulham. Then probably Sheffield United which will be a shame as it’s an excellent city for an away day.

The old adage ‘Never change a winning team,’ doesn’t seem to apply too much in football these days, will Potter make a change for a home game? Predictions for the line-up?
There’s only one potential change I can see after last week and that might be Trossard coming in for Gross. That would be based on Potter wanting to introduce more pace to the side to play even more on the front foot than we did last week at Watford. Otherwise, unchanged: Maty Ryan in goal; Burn, Dunk Duffy as the back three; Martin Montoya right, Solly March left; Dale Stephens and Davy Propper in the middle; Murray through the middle with Jurgen Locadia one side and either Gross or Trossard the other.

You will have to think yourselves favourites for this fixture, are you feeling confident? Predictions for score?
I’ve watched Brighton for too long to expect them to follow up one good result with another. In fact, it would be very much typical if you came to the Amex and turned us over after last weekend. I’ll go for something in the middle with a 1-1.

Well many thanks to Scot for his time and comments. He has only made a modest prediction, so I will join him in going for a lowly 0 – 1 away win. Let’s get this party started! COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with The Saints

This weekend West Ham welcome Southampton to the London Stadium for our last home game of a mixed season. With a slight chance of overtaking Watford and scraping into 10th place, we will be hoping that we can build on that great victory last weekend against Spurs and finish our season with a flourish. Before the game I spoke to old friend and Saints season ticket holder Simon Lacey from Dance Company New Adventures to discuss the game and the season.

Hi Simon, the last shakings of the seasons’s sack are upon us, how would you judge the 2018/19 year from The Saints point of view?
To distort a cliche, A season of two halves, and it doesn’t take a genius to understand what that means.

Hasenhüttl seems to have done a good job for you since he was appointed – he’s another manager that your board seem to have picked from nowhere, what’s the word on him?
All positive at this stage – the team is organised tactically, he changes it within a game and from game to game, they play with energy and discipline with and without the ball and he gets the most out of players.

I (along with anyone else who has been watching the Champions League run in) noticed that Dusan Tadic has had a major impact on Ajax’s season. I remember him and Sadio Mane terrorising some-team or other a couple of years ago. He’s another one of your old players: was it a case of him leaving a bit prematurely? Did he not get on with Mark Hughes? What happened there?
St Dusan of Amsterdam was the last of the great Saints players left from our return to the Prem and following years, but even the best need others to be effective; we were shite last year so as the opportunity of Champions League football came along why not take it. No negative comments about the Saints like some money-grabbers when they left. He will always be loved at St Mary’s – I’ve been to Old Trafford (a tarted-up shithole by the way) only once and he scored the winner so won’t forget him in a hurry. What a particularly delicious irony it would be if he won the Champions League with unfancied Ajax whilst VVD, Lovren, Lallana, Mane, and Clyne still win nothing despite moving on “to win things”. Footnote: VVD said he was too good for the Saints, underrated and wanted to win things; will he now say only Barcelona are worthy of his genius, the arrogant non-winner?

Which player has got your vote for ‘Saint of the Season’ (or whatever you call your best performing player)? Who has run him close, and who has disappointed?
Nathan Redmond has overcome a couple of poor seasons lacking in confidence to be our main attacking spark (credit Hasenhüttl and perhaps Pep a little for that) but needs a few more goals, Hojberg is becoming a real beast in midfield, but I’d have to give it to the old cliche “one of our own” in Ward-Prowse – technically the most gifted passer of the ball at the club and arguably the best deadball taker in the Prem. Finally (again credit Hasenhüttl) he is considered a starter on the team sheet and we are utilising his strengths and receiving the rewards. I know some Irons fans don’t always rate Mark Noble, but I do: there are similarities and I hope he goes on to be just such a servant for the Saints. Disappointing: Elyanoussi this season.

Southampton are like West Ham were a few years ago when all our young stars seemed to be sold off to Chelsea and Spurs. Who’s going to be the next player from the Southampton conveyor belt to move to pastures new?
I don’t think at this stage any of them are as good as those from the recent past but I do like Valery, the young right back and if he continues to improve he will definitely be a target for bigger. I’d ask you, can you keep Rice? I’d hope so but Man United for one could do with him.

Where will Hasenhüttl look to strengthen in the post season? What are your priorities for next year?
We need at least one more striker particularly as Ings is injury-prone and he is the only one that I’d feel 100% happy with if fit. I’d like a fast wide/winger type midfielder and a real centre-half leader. My hope is Hasenhüttl will have some in mind that we may never have heard of – when Koeman took over he bought Tadic and Pelle (who? we said at the time) from Feyenoord for virtually nothing and Alderwerield (who?) from Atletico on a loan. That sort of thing would be great business.

What are your thoughts on the season as a whole? Who do you want or expect to win the League?
The gap between the 6 and the rest has become even more exaggerated so if you’re not one of those glory seekers, the aim is for 7th: Wolves or Watford richly deserve that this season whilst the likes of fallen so-called ’istorical greats Everchina spend bucket loads, poach managers and still continue to underperform and win nothing. Want: City. Will: City The BBC and other media are obsessed with Liverpoo.

Which other two teams are going to make up the other two Champions League spots?
Spurs and Arsenal; the former cos they are a cert, the latter more cos I hope Man Utd and Chelski don’t.

Are Cardiff going to join Fulham and Huddersfield in dropping down to the Championship? Any preferences?
They will almost certainly drop though I’d prefer Brighton to as they are dullness personified. We all know what Warnock is but they have had some pretty outrageous decisions against them recently and I do think the big teams and big players get decisions in their favour that the likes of Cardiff don’t. He is entertainment too.

What have been your personal highlights and lowlights in the current football year, either from a Saints point of view, generally, or both?
Totally dominating Everchina at St Marys was fun given what they had spent and their fans’ distorted sense of their own importance but the highlight has to be coming from behind to beat Spurs at St Marys as they arrogantly thought they had won it by scoring first. Beating Arsenal at St Mary’s a close second and Palace away was fun. The lowlights were virtually the whole of the season up to Hughes’s sacking; nothing worse than turning up to watch your team, fearing the worst and that being turned into reality. A highlight will be Liverpoo winning FA again (and that ain’t the Cup!).

I notice Portsmouth are on the way back up, are you hoping you can get a few ‘Solent Derbies’ in a couple more seasons if they keep up their progression?
Up? They have just missed out on automatic promotion. They might scrape in to the Championship but that is the limit of Kenny Jacketts’ ability (witness Wolves and Millwall under him). I don’t care if we never have to play them again but a good beating of the Skates in a Cup would be fun.

Good to see that the old Pompey/Saints animosity still runs deep. How are The Saints going to line up against West Ham this weekend? Team/Formation?
Gunn, Valery, Bednarek, Yoshida, Bertrand, Romeo, Hojberg, Ward-Prowse, Lamina, Redmind, Ings (4, 4, 1, 1) but possibly Vestergaard if fit again of Targett in place of Lemina (5, 3, 1, 1)*

Are you feeling confident for the victory? Prediction for score?
Bearing in mind the result is of little real importance for either team, I could see any result but if you support a team you have to think positive so 2-3.

Well thanks to Simon for his time. Another big up for Mark Noble from an opposition fan highlights that Nobes has had his best season for a while. And of course no West Ham fan would want to see Declan Rice move on in the near future, if at all! I will have to disagree with his prediction though. I am going for a 3 -1 victory to West Ham. COYI!

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