Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Leicester City

After a much stronger West Ham performance against Manchester United last weekend, this Saturday sees us welcoming Leicester City to the London Stadium. Coming off the back of a defeat they will be hoping for a good result against us to maintain their current position of seventh. Ahead of the game I spoke to Chris Forryan of online fanzine leicestertilidie to garner his thoughts on the season, the game, etc.
Hi Chris, Leicester have been a bit like West Ham in having 3 or 4 managers in the past 4 years. Were you one of those who thought Claude Puel’s time was up? Early days yet, but how is Brendan Rodgers standing up to comparison with him and previous incumbents?
Regarding Puel: I was sceptical when he was appointed, and he had the poisoned chalice of letting some of the title winners and big earners leave whilst bringing through our excellent youth prospects. That said it is hard to rebuild a house when the current one is crumbling around you and at times the team was. Results overall were not good enough and he never won over the fans. I was surprised he stayed as long as he did, a couple of good wins over Man City & Chelsea at Christmas keeping him in the job a bit longer. Too early to judge Rodgers at the moment to be fair.

As the season wraps up Leicester sit ‘best of the rest’, but you’ve got a hard run in, do you think you’ll stay in 7th place? Are you satisfied with that, or do you think that as recent champions you should be closer to the top 4?

That was a one off season, but we have struggled to follow up that success. Top 4 is out of the question when you look at the clubs that occupy those positions normally. With a couple of the big boys normally struggling each season a top 6 should be our aim. If you ask will we finish top 7 this season? No we have a tough run in and I think it would be too soon. Let Rodgers have a full pre-season and look to aim for that 2019/20.

How do you think Manuel Pelligrini is doing on his return to the Premier League with West Ham?
Surprised me when he went to West Ham to be fair, but then I was when Rodgers joined us. Always interesting to see how Managers that win things with clubs with ‘money’ like MCFC actually manage with less financially backed clubs. After a poor start he seems to have got you improving and next season will be the real test

Where will West Ham finish the season?
Top 10 might just be beyond you this season, but you should be in the group just behind this.

You’ve had a few players come into your team since you won the league who have been your best and worst recent purchases? Can any of them replace Rihad Mahrez and N’golo Kante?
Gray flatters to deceive in the Mahrez mould but if we can keep hold of Youri Tielemans after his loan expires he could prove to be better than Mahrez. When Ndidi is on form he looks as good as any we have had to replace Kante. And he has seen off European heavyweights Iborra & Silva to be first choice in that position.

Gary Lineker or Jamie Vardy?
Jamie Vardy. Lineker is a hero to LCFC fans but he was a tap in from inside the box player. We all know what Vardy can do from anywhere in the opposition’s half.

Who is going to get you vote for player of the season this year, and who has also been in the running?
Ricardo Pereira is leading the poll on the LTID website atm and I must agree with that. Now he has settled into one position of attacking Right back (rather than switching every game between RB & RM) he has made that position his own.
Ndidi is good and had Marc Albrighton not got himself injured and than there is Youri Tielemans, had he been here all season he would have probably walked it.

Who has not merited their place in the Leicester City squad?
Kelechi Iheanachi. Lets face it you or me could score goals if we played in that Man City team. He looks lazy and uninterested and has one season to prove himself under Rodgers if he is lucky, or he will go. If we sign another striker he will fall further down the pecking order anyway.

Which West Ham player if any, would you like to see lining up for Leicester?
Can we have Declan Rice please.

Yes Declan is proving to be very popular! How will Leicester line up against West Ham on Saturday? Team/Line up?
I would imagine the same as Newcastle last Friday night. Newcastle came and did a job on us, they all have a point to prove.

Are you confident you can beat us this weekend? Prediction for the score?
You can’t tell with Leicester this season, so no I’m not. We are both coming off defeats, but will go for a 2-1 Leicester Victory.

Well many thanks to Chris for his time. I think that despite having a few players missing, we will build on last week’s performance and get back to winning ways. I’m going to reverse Chris’s prediction and go for 2 – 1 to the Mighty Claret and Blue. COYI!


Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Manchester United

West Ham seem to have packed their cases for their end of season holidays at the moment. This weekend sees us travelling to Old Trafford, which with a few notable exceptions has not been a happy hunting ground for us. We will be hoping that we can take advantage of their mid-week exertions, and their need to keep something in their pocket for next week’s return match against Barcelona. Ahead of the game I chatted to lifelong Manchester Red Robert Gayle to discuss his thoughts on the game and the season.
Hi Robert, as we enter the dog end of the season you’ve just about got something to fight for, but must be disappointed by the home defeat to Barcelona, do you think you will be able to turn that particular result around?
Barca were poor last night and we should have got something out of the game, so yes disappointed at the result but what was encouraging was the manner in which we took the game to them after a poor start.

At least Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given you something to cheer about. How do you view the Mourinho era? I notice he has started briefing the press that he wasn’t fully backed by the board during his tenure – any truth in that our just typical Jose bluster?
When he came to the club I thought it was the right choice and would bring a certain amount of success and stability with the sacrifice of a change to the, some might say degenerate, style of football. In reflection it was a disaster and toward the end of his reign, toxic. Like you say everything he said or did seemed to relate back to the board not backing him, which began if I remember correctly when he started with McTominay in a back three against you lot earlier in the season with better options on bench.,

Is Solskjaer going to be able to return you to the glory days of Sir Alex, or will he turn out to be another short term appointment?
Only time will tell but at least the players are responding to him.

It must be quite galling to see your two main rivals fighting it out for the top honours, which of these do you least want to win the league come the end of the season?
Urrggghhh, what a dilemma!!!!!!!!! I couldn’t bear to see the Scousers winning the league, they’re unbearable at the best of times. But City doing the Quadruple is an equally terrifying thought. I think the best of both worlds is City win the league and get knocked out of the Champs league and the Scousers win the sweet FA!!!!!! I’d settle for that.

Are Manchester United going to be able to gatecrash the top 4? Predictions for the other two places?
Yes, so that only leaves one top four place. I’d say Arsenal in top 4 because they have the easiest run in, then Spurs and Chelski 5th and 6th.

I think you may be being a bit optimistic as you’ve got to play Everton away, as well as Chelsea and Man City. Where do you think West Ham will finish the season?
11th, where you are now: you’ve a couple of tricky games coming up and I’d say you’ll get another six point from now to the end of the season.

Who will get your vote for player of the season this year? And who has come close?
Marcus Rashford. Luke Shaw has had a great season also.

I thought in the 0 – 0 game at our place at the back end of last season that Luke Shaw was the best player on the pitch, and couldn’t see what Jose had been complaining about with him. I notice the rumour mill is tipping Manchester United to make a move for Declan Rice this summer, something West Ham fans will be praying won’t happen. How do you rank the achievements of the three previous West Ham juniors to make their way to Old Trafford: Paul Ince, Rio Ferdinand, and Michael Carrick?
Ince, Rio and Carrick were all been great players for us but with the latter two winning the champs league they rank higher. Ince went to Liverpool (nuff said)
Where else needs improving in your squad for next year?
Declan Rice , Central Defender, Creative midfielder, 20+ goals a season forward.

West Ham fans will have fond memories of beating you in our last game at Upton Park, and Paolo Di Canio sliding the ball past Fabien Barthez at Old Trafford a few years ago for an improbable away FA Cup victory. Any particular memories of games against West Ham?
The most memorable (not for a good reason) is the 91/92 the last season before the premier league started. It was a race between us and dirty Leeds for the title and we needed to beat you to regain top place. We battered you (as far as I remember) but couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. We lost the league on the last game of the season shortly after.

Ah yes Kenny Brown’s goal, but I thought it might be taking the Mick a bit too much to mention that one as well. I also remember Sir Alex saying in one of his autobiographies that as he walked off at the end of that game, an old bloke in a hat sat in the stands called out his name, and when Ferguson turned to him and said ‘Yes?’ the geezer told him to ‘Go away’, but in less a less friendly manner: Sir Alex was not amused! Anyway back to this game: how will Man Utd line up against us this Saturday? Team/ Line up?
Dave
Young (if not suspended with Shaw), Lindelof, Smalling, Dalot
Pogba, Mactominay, Fred, Martial.
Lukaku, Rashford

Will your Champions League endeavours mean that West Ham will be able to sneak a point? Prediction for the score?
I don’t hold much hope for your chances. I’ll go 1 – 3 to Man U.

Well thanks to Robert for his time. Not physically able to predict a defeat for West Ham I shall go for a 1- 1 draw, hoping that they rest 10 of their players. COYI!

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Everton

This weekend West Ham welcome an Everton team who we are currently sat 2 points behind us in the table, for the Saturday 5.30pm kick-off match. Hopefully we can continue our recent winning streak at the London Stadium against a team that although we beat earlier on in the season, historically we have performed poorly against. Ahead of the game I spoke to my old sparring partner and lifelong Everton fan James Coke aka the disabled chef to talk about the up and coming fixture, and the season past and future.
Hi Jim the last time we spoke was just before we played you for our fifth game of the season, when we were still pointless, and if my memory serves me well you were at the time unbeaten: (you won’t need reminding that we secured a rare victory at Goodison Park on that occasion) – how do you judge your season since then?
That was a chastising event. Yes, we were unbeaten but had been shipping poor goals and had drawn a lot, but you made us pay with some clinical finishing that day. It should have been a wake up call. We bounced along alright for a few weeks afterwards but Pickford’s injury time howler at Anfield, ripped the guts out of our season and it’s been an uphill slog since. The defence has been very porous and there are too few leaders prepared to step up to the plate which has led to many insipid performances. In recent weeks there have been some shoots of recovery and we’ve played some really nice football. If the Mad Mackem in Pickford hadn’t materialised at Newcastle, Silva might have been up for MOTM but I did expect more from the season, especially after the underhand way we appeared to secure his services. I’m hoping he’ll come good in the long term but still fear he is our next Mike Walker.

Your new manager has not been the great saviour that Everton fans expected, and I heard BFS on TalkSport last month banging on about he did a better job than Silva is doing. More Big Sam hot air, or does he have a valid point?
BFS’s failure on the Apprentice recently showed that the man likes to think himself a player but is in fact full of hot air, which he proved at Everton. He moaned about the players and the fans and drilled the team to defend and play one dimensional. It was boring as hell and annoyed everyone, apart from himself. Silva on the other hand delivered some excitement at first, a bit like Martinez, but the consistency has been poor. Personally at times it’s been hard watching Everton under either, but Silva’s style, vision and intensity (he reminds me of Rafa) means he gets my vote. Six more months of Sam would have been terminal for most Evertonians.

I read the other day that after the two Manchester Clubs, Liverpool and Chelsea, Everton have spent the next most money over the past five years: you must be disappointed not to have cemented your place in the top six teams in the country over this time. Which players over the past 5 years have been worth the money, and who has been best value?
I know its been embarrassing. I don’t think we are used to spending money after years of austerity under Kenwright and much of Moshiri £300m+ has just been pissed away into the Mersey. It’s not helped by the astronomical price of players but we’ve bought some right donkeys paraded as thoroughbreds. Cases in point being Tosun and Klassen who we paid £50m for. The former couldn’t hit a barn door from 5 yards and the latter looked like a startled rabbit every time he hopped onto the pitch. There’s then the case of the loanees like Vlazic and Onyekuru who are bossing it in Europe but still overlooked by the mothership. On a positive note though the signing of Idrissa Gaye for £7m was a fantastic piece of business and adding Richarlison, Digne and Bernard looks like shrewd work. I’m most excited by our youth set up which is the future. Five of our lads played for England under 21’s in the week and I think Domonic Calver- Lewin will go onto become a great centre forward – we’ve just got to keep him.

Do you think you need to spend again during this summer, or does Silva have the players to improve your standing?
I hope not. We’ve definitely been a gravy train for a lot of players and their agents recently and that’s got to stop. I’d like to see us off load a few like Walcott, Tosun and sadly Jags and good old Bainsey. I’d bring back some of the boys on loan and work with what we’ve got. There is some real talent in the squad like Lookman. He is under utilised despite being outstanding for Dortmund last season on loan and has to be given more game time. Gomez has settled in well and could be the leader in the pack we have been missing. He’s got a bit of Arteta about him and can only become more influential the longer he is with us. Finally we have some real talent in the under 21’s we should keep integrating. Calvert-Lewin, Tom Davis and John-Joe Kenny have shown the way and I’m excited by the crop currently leading Premiership 2.

Who are your picks for the top four in the League at the end of May this year, in order.
1. Man City 2. Liverpool 3. Spurs 4. Man United
It will be tight but I think City will nick it (I hope). Liverpool have been awesome but I’ve sensed the odd crack recently. The look of fear in Jordan Henderson’s eyes at Goodison the other week on hearing the air raid siren, Z Cars and 38k screaming Toffees made me laugh as will Jurgen Klopps meltdown which will inevitably come before the end of the season.

Who do you think will be relegated?
Fulham, Huddersfield and….Southampton.
Despite spending more money than us Fulham have been awful. 3 managers says it all so they are down as are Huddersfield who were always going to be against it. The last place is a bit of a toss up but I tipped the Saints to go down and down they will go! Dyche and Warnock are wily old dogs and probably still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Cardiff have the hardest run in but Southampton have been hovering over that trap door since they duped us with Ronald Koeman and I tip Ralph Hassenhuttl to crack under the pressure and lead them to relegation.

We are both amongst the ‘also rans’ this season: where are Everton going to finish up in the League, and will they finish above West Ham? I should let everyone know we’ve got £50 riding on the outcome of this.
It’s disappointing for both of us that this fixture has become so pivotal in our seasons as we both expected more but I’m buzzing for Saturday. We are going to have a good run in and I expect to finish 7th which obviously will be above you and result in the replenishment of my wallet.

Which of your players has had a good season, who will be getting your vote for player of the season, and who else gets a look in?
Digne has been good at left back and Sigurdsson has matured as a sole number 10. I’ve liked the look of Richarlison but like many players he’s drifted in and out of form or not been given a fair run in the team. The most consistent player is Idrissa Gaye so he gets my vote but it might be his last as PSG beckons.

Who on the other hand has had a mare this year?
Well Tosun has disappointed and Walcott never looks interested so those 2 are top of the list and then there is Mina. He was our banker signing in the summer but has laboured at times even when he has been picked. I think he’s been going through a period of self-doubt after he missed that sitter against Liverpool last year but he’s another one that can only get better next season

Which West Ham players if any have caught your eye?
Anderson has looked a class act and super sub Hernandez has a canny habit of scoring goals for you. Nasri is a also a great signing and Declan Rice has a promising future if he can sort out his identity and surprisingly Noble has been a revelation but like many Everton players too many of yours have had indifferent seasons. Marko was well out of order when he had his tantrum as it can only affect the team and your finishing position.

What are Everton’s priorities for next season?
Firstly finish above West Ham so I can cash in and then find some consistency in our form. I’d love to say we’ll break into the top six but sometimes you have to be realistic.

How will you line up against West Ham this weekend? Team/Line up?
Pickford, Coleman, Digne, Keane, Mina, Gaye, Gomez, Bernard , Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Calvert-Lewin

Prediction for the score?
3 – 1 Everton: we are beginning to play well and I reckon you are on for a good beating.

Well many thanks to Jim for his time: he is correct in noticing that Nobes has had his best season for ages, although I think he is obviously deluded in his prediction. I’m hoping that we can gain another home victory, but with a little less stress on my heart than last time out against Huddersfield. I’m going for a 2 – 1 win to West Ham. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Huddersfield

What a la la! as my Jamaican grandmother would have said: West Ham failed to pass muster against an almost relegated Cardiff last time out. This Saturday we will try to make amends against the almost demoted Huddersfield, whose time in the top division is certainly coming to an end. Ahead of the game I once again chatted to our old friend John McNamarra of Huddersfield fanzine Terrierblog to get some home truths on the state of play for a fan of a team that has had an horrendous season, after two of fluctuating success.

Unfortunately it looks like Huddersfield will be returning to the Championship at the end of the season, what’s been the main difference between this season and last season?
Quite simply, momentum. We had 7 points from our first 3 games last season and that gave us a good platform to build on. As it turns out, we needed that good start as our form slipped down the pan just before Christmas last season. This time around we’ve had the wrong kind of momentum. We’ve grown accustomed to not scoring, not getting the rub of the green and most importantly not winning. Losing has become second nature to the players this season and unfortunately, that shows no sign of changing.

Does having to share your ground with a Rugby League team have any effect on the football team, or has it always been thus?
I went to my first Town game in spring 2004 and the pitch was pretty torn up from the Huddersfield Giants then. Fortunately that made little difference back then as we predominantly launched long balls to our prop forward Andy Booth! In the promotion season Dean Hoyle invested heavily into maintaining the pitch to mitigate the impact of rugby on the playing surface. It still isn’t ideal but I don’t think it’s had any significant impact on our fortunes this season.

It was sad to see David Wagner leave earlier on in the season: at least from where we stand it looks like he left on his own terms. Was he right to go? How do you sum up the David Wagner years?
You’re right, he did go out on his own terms after initially agreeing to see out the remainder of the season in private. It was unfortunate to see Wagner go as he is an absolute legend in Huddersfield. Without going into too much detail, David Wagner’s job was made 10 times harder this season than last through no fault of his own. I think he had just got to a point where he was burnt out and we bare no ill will towards him for looking out for his own peace of mind and leaving his post.

I suppose it was all too late for Jan Siewert to have any impact on your season, will Jan still be guiding you next season?
I feel sorry for Jan Siewert. His position is similar to that of Theresa May, he’s inherited a poisoned chalice. Can he really do anything to improve our season now? I don’t think so.
It’s all about next season in the Championship and Siewert’s success will very much depend on what he does in the transfer window. Perhaps with more focus on the departures rather than the incomings.

What have been your highlights if any over the past two years in the Premier League?
I think I mentioned it in a previous Q&A on your site, but I absolutely despise the Premier League. Real football fans and real football experiences are few and far between I’m afraid. I feel obliged to say that the highlight was beating Manchester United but any joy I had after that result was assuaged by the patronising punditry. I believe Ian Wright constantly referred to us as ‘Sundersfield’ on Match of the Day with no hint of irony.

Returning to the rest of the division, who have been the best players you’ve seen this year at The Kirklees Stadium?
Wilfried Zaha without a shadow of a doubt. It would be easy to pick a player who plays for one of the big clubs, but those players are surrounded by other quality operators. Zaha is playing in a limited side and he single handedly won the game at our stadium earlier this season.

Who is your pick to win the Premier League this year, and who are going to fill the other Champions League places?
I think it all depends on the Champions League. I think City would give anything to win the Champions League so if they go deeper in the competition than Liverpool I can see them slipping in the league. Apart from those two I firmly believe Arsenal will grab a top four finish, I’ve been impressed with their resolve under Emery and they have a favourable run-in. I’m also backing Manchester United to pip Spurs to the final top four spot. Whatever pact Daniel Levy made with the Devil, it’s surely wearing off now and Spurs simply cannot continue to overachieve as they have done now for so long.

Who are your favourites for the drop?
Fulham, Cardiff and Southampton… Only joking. Obviously we’ll finish rock bottom with Fulham just a few points ahead of us. I reckon Cardiff will slip away too, although that’s more of a hope to be honest because I cannot stand Neil Warnock.

Which of your players will get your vote for club player of the season? Which other players have got a look in?
Christopher Schindler. He is without doubt our best and most committed player. If he had a higher level of ambition he would be plying his trade at a much better club than ours.
Unfortunately for Town fans, there is not one single player in the squad that has come even close to matching his levels of consistency this season.

Which players do you think will be on their way during the summer?
Brace yourself, here’s my list of players that I’ll happy drive to their next clubs; Zanka, Hadergjonaj, Diakhaby, Mbenza, Mounie, Depoitre, Pritchard and Durm.

Are we going to have to wait another 45 years or so years to see Huddersfield come back to the top flight? Do you think these past couple of years have laid down the structure for your rapid return?
It all depends on Jan Siewert’s first transfer window, until then we won’t really know what to expect in the Championship. What’s certain is we need to get rid of a lot of deadwood if we are to mount a serious challenge to return next season.
The players we currently have are far too familiar with losing every week, so something needs to change in that regard. To be honest though, I’d be happy enough to flirt with the play-offs rather than get promoted. The Premier League isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

What will your priorities be for next season back in the Championship?
Score some goals, have a bit of fun, win a couple of matches and compete in every game we play. The beauty of the Championship is that a Preston fan can go to promotion chasing Middlesborough and watch their side win.
Fans go into every game knowing that there’s a chance of their team winning. Can any of your fans honestly say the same about a trip to the Etihad?

How are Huddersfield going to line up against West Ham on Saturday? Players/Formation?
I have no idea. Siewert has changed his formation several times and the playing personnel as well. He seems to have lost his rag with a couple of senior pros recently and has been happy to replace them with youth.
Don’t be surprised to see a couple of players with squad numbers in the 40s facing off against your lot.

Are you going to follow Cardiff and give us an unexpected beating? Prediction for result?
No, of course not. Bet your wage, your savings and your house on West Ham to win to nil. We certainly will not score, the amount of goals you get all depends on how up for it your players are.

Well thanks once again to John for his thoughts: he didi warn me they might be a bit on the glum side. Despite wrongly having predicted us to beat Cardiff surely we can put Huddersfield away this weekend. I’m going for the ridiculously optimistic shout of 4 – 0 to West Ham. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Cardiff

This weekend West Ham travel to South Wales to play against a Cardiff team still apparently reeling from the tragic death of Emiliano Sala before he had even played a game for them. Ahead of the game I once again spoke to Paul Evans from Cardiff City Blogsite Mauve and Yellow Army to discuss the upcoming game and the season so far.
The last time we spoke we were about a third of the way through the season. Now with only nine games left how would you sum up your 1st season back in the Premier League?
If I’d been asked that question about six weeks ago, I would have said not too badly, but events have cast a shadow over the season and, after it initially appeared that the team had shown strength in the face of tragedy, recent games suggest that it is now having the effect many predicted.

What do you think seeing your ex-manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær turning around Manchester United? Do you wonder how he would have performed with a mass of great players in Cardiff? Or do you think that maybe you could persuade ‘The Special One’ to come to Cardiff now that he is out of a job?
Ole signed one or two players who have done well for us (e.g. Morrison and Pilkington), but he was a disastrous appointment. I can remember him addressing the crowd before his first home game, against West Ham as it turned out, and thinking what is this doing for our opponents – we lost 2-0 that day and it was a sign of things to come.
Based on what he is doing at Manchester United, I think he’s got some good tacticians with him there. It was impossible to tell what Ole was doing from one week to the next with us and I don’t there were many City fans unhappy to see him go, but, to be fair, he has shown over the last two or three months that he isn’t as bad as his spell at Cardiff suggested he was – as for Mourinho, we’ll let someone else have him!

Talking of managers how do you rate Neil Warnock’s year? Is he hampered by not having a good enough squad, or has he not maximised the potential of the players you’ve got there.
I think, generally speaking, Neil Warnock has has a good year, but I’ll qualify that to some extent in my answer to one of the other questions you’ve asked.

What have been your highlights, and lowlights of the season so far?
Last time we were in this league we beat eventual Champions Manchester City and came out on top against Swansea in a derby. I don’t think there has been anything to match that so far this season, so I’d go for scoring winners in added time to secure our only two away wins so far at Leicester and Southampton. A persistent lowlight of the the season for me is the way we have been so passive against top six sides – i’m not expecting us to be turning them over on a regular basis, but we have seemed in awe of them which is unlike us. More specifically, we were awful against Huddersfield in January and barely any better last week against Everton.

The title looks like being a two horse race: who do you think will end up as top dogs, Manchester City or Liverpool? Which two teams will join them in the Champions League positions?
Manchester City are the class act of the division for me and Liverpool were unable to quite shake them off during their poor spell around the turn of the year – I think Liverpool have probably lost their title chance with recent 0-0 away draws.
Who joins those two in the Champions League next season is a tough one. For me, Spurs are the best of the other four, but there is a bit of a frailty to them lately, Arsenal are the weakest judging by their games with us and what I’ve seen of them on the telly, but are hanging in there, Chelsea are having one of their “walkabout” phases and I’m not wholly convinced they are back to something like their best and, instinctively, I’m against any group of players that “down tools” in the way that Man United’s did in the first half of the season, but, if I had to pick two from four to make it into the Champions League, I’d go for them and Spurs.

Where do you think West Ham will end the season?
Not a clue! Anywhere between seventh and about fifteenth – you’ve been very inconsistent and, after the amount spent in the summer and the managerial appointment you made, I think I’d be quite disappointed with the season so far if I were a West Ham fan

You intimated when we last spoke that it would be difficult to stay up this season. Looking at your upcoming fixtures you do have to play four of the teams near you, but you also have to face both Manchester teams and Chelsea: are you going to be able to escape the drop? If so, which of the teams above you do you think will join Fulham and Huddersfield, both of whom look truly doomed, in being relegated?
We’ve also got to play Liverpool in those last nine matches, so, a combination of our fixture list, the loss of the talismanic Sol Bamba and the way we’ve played in our last three matches makes me very pessimistic (I see Saturday as our first truly must win game of the season). There’s also the awful Emiliano Sala situation (which is now, sadly, turning into the squalid row about money that it always threatened to be) which, leaving the emotion of the whole thing aside, has seen us pay a club record fee for someone who is never going to score us a goal or win us a game.
Therefore, although £15 million is not a fortune by the standards of this league, it is getting towards half of what we had spent on other new players since getting promoted.
This brings me on to what I would call a weakness of Neil Warnock’s – excepting Sala, his buys when spending big money by Cardiff City’s standards is not impressive. Warnock has chosen to create a squad which, in terms of natural ability and technique, is the worst in the division in my opinion, but has tried to bridge that gap through things like strength, character and team spirit. For much of the time, this approach has looked like it had a chance of working, but the number of times we’ve conceded three or more in a game (eleven) is testimony to the risks behind an approach which leaves us virtually nowhere to go if plan A isn’t working – “Warnockball” played badly has absolutely nothing to commend it at all.
We’ve done well to be the one of the three expected relegation sides that may still confound the pundits, but, in truth, I’m fairly sure we’re going down now – that was a big win for Brighton last weekend because it means that we need two wins to get past them, Southampton have definitely improved under Hasenhüttl and we could never go to Old Trafford and perform like they did, so Burnley’s recent downturn might offer a little hope (they were the worst side I’ve seen us play this season), but we need to get points on the board before we can start to make them panic and it’s hard to see us doing that at the moment.

If worse comes to worst and you are relegated, what should your priorities be for next season?
To hear our manager talk, our budget for this season was peanuts, but that’s not true, so I’m not one of those City fans who think we’ll do something akin to what Stoke did last summer if we do go down. I think it’s more likely that we will be competitive in the transfer market without being extravagant. Whatever happens though, the truth is that we have an ageing squad and a midfield which is likely to be rocked by loan players not returning and Aron Gunnarsson moving on. That all makes me think it would be a good time for Neil Warnock to retire to his farm in Cornwall so that we could bring in a new, more modern thinking, manager who would, hopefully, make improving our truly abysmal record of recent years when it comes to developing our own players a priority.

Which /Cardiff City player will get your vote for player of the season, and who else has had a look in?
Last time we were in this league, goalkeeper David Marshall was, far and away, our best player and this time around Neil Etheridge would be my nominee for that award (that tells you all you need to know about the nature of our two Premier League campaigns!). Honestly, I find it hard to come up with other contenders – Bruno Manga has his backers, as does Bamba and I’ve liked the rare shafts of skill provided by Victor Camarasa at times, but it has to be Etheridge as far as I’m concerned.

How will Cardiff City line up against West Ham this weekend?
Neil Warnock finally seems to have lost patience with a set of wingers that have been too flakey week in, week out for this division, so it’s hard to predict a side – Sol Bamba’s season ending injury means we’re down to two specialist centre-backs, but I still believe that a side with three centre-backs (Lee Peltier can play there), a couple of wing backs, three central midfielders and either two strikers or a striker and number ten would give us the solidity that we can lack when we play wingers. However, I think it’s more likely our team will look something like:-

Etheridge
Peltier Morrison Manga Bennett
Paterson Gunnarsson Ralls Camarasa
Decordova-Reid
Niasse

Prediction for the score?
Your inconsistency gives me a little hope, but, based on our home form since Manchester United beat us 5-1 just before Christmas, you can probably expect one of your most comfortable wins of the season – I’ll go for 0-2.

Well many thanks to Paul for his time once again. I think I will agree with him and also go for a 0-2 victory to West Ham. COYI

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