Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Burnley

Well we’re in the doldrums again. Over the years we’ve had worse starts and ended up mid-table, but things are not currently looking good. This weekend we travel away to play against a Burnley team who are always up for a game. They lost to Sheffield United 3 – 0 last week and will be looking for a better result at home. We will be hoping to end our losing streak. Ahead of the game I spoke once again to Tony Scoles, editor of Uptheclarets to discuss everything Claret and Blue.

Hi Tony, good to talk again. In general are you satisfied with Burnley’s position when you consider that most of the past 45 years you’ve been in the lower leagues, or do you think ‘forget all that we’re in the Premier League and we’ve got to keep on improving.’?
You can never be blasé about Burnley being in the Premier League. I was brought up at a time when we were one of the country’s top teams but they were different days. Yes, we would love to keep improving and that is always the aim but we know we are probably the smallest club in the Premier League and I think any fair minded Burnley fan will think we are doing OK right now, a fourth successive season here and with that Europa League adventure last season.

How do you rate your recent purchases/loans and are any of them forging a permanent place in the Burnley line-up?
Only Erik Pieters of the summer signings has been able to win a regular place and that was due to a pre-season injury otherwise he would have had to wait like the others. Jay Rodriguez has been in for the last three games because of injuries but those two apart the team we’ve been turning out are players who have been here for three years and more.

Where if anywhere do you think you most need strengthening and will you be looking to buy in the winter transfer window?
I doubt we will be looking to do much, if any, business in January but if we do it will be the continuing theme of just strengthening the squad. We certainly won’t be pushing the boat out to bring in any expensive players, that’s just not our way.

Who have been the best three Burnley players for you over the past few years?
I think Steven Defour would have been top of this list had he not suffered with injuries almost constantly throughout his time with us. I’d certainly have Ben Mee in my top three. He’s been a constant performer in the centre of defence and I’d also include Ashley Barnes who has become a very good striker for us. It’s difficult picking players out but I’d probably add Tom Heaton who is now with Villa. He was our captain and a damn good goalkeeper for us.

Who have been the best three Premier League players you have seen at Turf Moor over this time period?
Undoubtedly we’ve seen some quality but it’s so difficult to pick out players from one performance so I’d be tempted to go with the obvious players such as Sergio Aguero who always seems to score against us. The ones that have stood out though in one game were Cesc Fabregas and Samuel Eto’o who probably turned in his one good Everton performance against us.

Give us the current feeling towards Sean Dyche if you wouldn’t mind. From the outside it looks as though you are a perfect fit.
He’s just completed seven years with us. When he arrived we were struggling in the Championship but he’s given us two promotions, with 93 points in each, and five seasons so far in the Premier League. That’s probably as perfect as it gets. There were some questioning him at this time last year when we were seriously struggling but I can’t think of anyone I would prefer managing us.

It looks as though once again Liverpool and Manchester City will fight between themselves for the league title, who do you pick to win it, and who will join these two in the Champions League positions?
It’s a toss of a coin almost for the title and should Liverpool win this weekend against Manchester City it would take them into a very healthy position. I think, right now, my money, if I were a betting man, would be on Liverpool.
Who else in the Championship League positions? Spurs seem to be blowing up, there are problems at Arsenal and Manchester United are simply just not good enough. That opens the door to the likes of Leicester who are looking good and I think they might just make it with Chelsea.

Where do you think Burnley will finish the season? I won’t ask where you think we’ll end up!
I think we’ll be OK and clear of the relegation back. We are good enough to get up into the top ten but that’s a big ask so I’ll say around 12th. I’ll let you decide on West Ham.

Who are your early picks for relegation? Your selections at a similar time last year proved prophetic!
Hopefully that meant I went for Cardiff, Fulham and Huddersfield a year ago at a time when we were right down there. I think, this season, I’ll have to be boring and go for the current bottom three. Norwich are a certainty for me given the number of goals they give away, something has gone seriously wrong at Watford and I think Southampton are a poor, poor side.

How are you enjoying the introduction of VAR into the Premier League this season?
I believe this is one of the worst changes ever introduced into the game. We’ve fallen victim to it more than once with two ridiculous decisions not to overturn poor decisions on penalties and then the pure farce of our equaliser being ruled out at Leicester when it wronged a previously correct decision. I decided I would give it a chance and not judge too soon but if I were making the decision as to what to do with it then I’d suspend it immediately. It’s destroying the game.

How are Burnley going to line up against West Ham on Saturday? Prediction for players and line-up please.
This is a difficult one in this particular week with Sean Dyche having suggested changes after our performance at Sheffield United last week. I do think there will be a couple, could be even more, but we will play 4-4-2 I think and the likely line up is Pope, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, Hendrick, Westwood, Cork, McNeil, Barnes, Wood.

I suppose you’ll look at our fixture and the next two against Palace and Watford as a chance to get some points on the board leading up to Christmas, but I suppose you might also have included Sheffield United in that list as well. Are you going to get back to winning ways against us? Prediction for score?
I very much hope we are going to get back to winning ways. Sheffield United was bitterly disappointing but tomorrow is another day and a repeat of last season’s 2-0 win will go down just fine.

Well many thanks to Tony again for his time and thoughts. There’s no way on earth that I’ll predict a West Ham win this week so the most I can hope for is a 1 – 1 draw! COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Newcastle United

Woe is me! And probably you as well. That short period of time when it looked like we were possibly going to have a decent season now seems like a distant memory. Failing to see off Sheffield United after losing against Everton and Crystal Palace means that a poor result against Newcastle United who we travel to play this weekend will leave us feeling like Southampton fans. Ahead of the game I had another chat with t David Punton from NUFC fanzine The Mag to gain his thoughts on everything Claret and Blue and Black and White.

Hi Dave. It’s that time of year again. November and both our clubs look like we are on our usual journey through the season of moving between feeling temporarily elated to more permanently depressed! We’ve both beaten Manchester United, but you’ve also beaten our London neighbours Spurs away. How do you sum up your season so far?
We’re about where we thought we would be with a manager like Steve Bruce. The crazy thing is that we are better off in terms of the points total than we were this time last season. There have been a few good moments, of course, but the bad has just about outweighed the good so far. Ten games gone and we’re firmly in the relegation mixer. Fans are staying away and the mood is bleak at home games so our ‘famous atmosphere’ isn’t what it was. As one of the journalist put it after the Wolves game, there is a relegation pie being baked at NUFC and the ingredients are all going in.

Of course the biggest change that you’ve undergone since we last met was to change managers from one of my favourites ‘Rafa the Gaffer’ to one of your own (although I’m not sure if you subscribe to that) in Steve Bruce. What are your thoughts on this latest turn of the managerial merry-go-round?
It was a damaging summer for us. We lost Rafa and we now have a manager that many fans simply don’t think is up to the job, certainly not tactically. Let me put it this way, would West Ham fans want Bruce? He might be a decent guy, from the local area, but his CV is middle road at best. Villa fans coming out in waves of sympathy told its own story.

I suppose a lot of Newcastle fans’ energy must be taken up with thoughts of Mike Ashley. What’s the latest news on him? It must almost be time for another of those ‘I hear Mike Ashley’s selling the club’ rumours that tend to go round once a year, although I’m beginning to think that it is all a marketing ploy.
Ashley’s selective absenteeism goes on. A deeply unpopular regime that looks like it isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The club needs root and branch change, fresh ideas and fresh investment in all areas. Ashley just keeps the pilot light on. There are claims of interested buyers, the latest one being Peter Kenyon, but the situation there seems to be summed as ‘man with no money wants to buy football club’. The day Ashley sells, whenever that may be, will happen out of the blue. We live in hope rather than expectation of that day ever happening.

Anyway enough of the despondency. Give us the latest news on the new players that are making their way into the Newcastle team. Who are they and how do they look for the future?
We spent £40m on a striker called Joelinton. This 22 year-old Brazilian was making his name in the German top flight, but Bruce has him playing as a target man and it doesn’t seem to be working and he may not trouble you. We had a target man in Rondon who we got rid of to play a player as a target man who isn’t a target man, if that makes any sense! French winger Allan Saint-Maximin is a box of tricks, one of the brighter spots so far, he can run at pace and cause defenders to be pulled in. WE also took some lad called Andy Carroll that West Ham fans may have heard of, but guess what…he’s injured.

Ha ha, Poor old Andy! You seem to sell your strikers quite regularly: how did you feel when Ayoze Perez was sold on? It looked from afar that he was finally beginning to find his feet in the Premier League.
Perez was always likely to go once Rafa announced he was not signing on. Perez gave good service and at 27 the time was right in his career for him to go. Many thought he’d go back to Spain but then Leicester came in with £30m. He’ll do well there. He’s a good finisher, when he doesn’t do his vanishing acts. He got some stick from some elements of NUFC fans, but the reality is we all miss him.

Do you think Mike Ashley will let Steve Bruce buy during the Christmas transfer window? Where in particular needs strengthening most?
The claims doing the rounds are that Bruce will be allowed to bring a couple in over the January window. We need something else in centre midfield and they may need another striker or a winger. As ever, we expect it to underwhelming.

You managed to finish quite strongly last season, after flirting with the bottom of the table for a bit. Where do you think/hope that Newcastle can finish up this season?
I hope that we can stay up. A lot hinges on Bruce. I’m not convinced we will end this season with him in charge. I think we will fulfil the aim many believe is set out by Mike Ashley, 17th place. The problem is I haven’t seen worse sides than us bar Southampton so far.

It’s looking as though Liverpool and Manchester City are once again going to fight out the top honours between themselves. Do you think Leicester will break into the Champions League slots again? Who are your predictions for the top four in order?
Rodgers is doing a great job at Leicester. He gets teams playing the right way and is at a club with brilliant owners. Not sure they make top four though. For me: Liverpool win the title, Man City second, Spurs third then Chelsea and Arsenal will surely turn around.

It’s still very early on in the season, and the bottom three positions are always a bit more fluid. Who are your pre-christmas picks for the drop?
Watford, Southampton and one from NUFC, Norwich, Villa, Brighton and Burnley.

What are your thoughts on VAR? Have you been adversely affected by its implementation?
Everyone screamed for video refs and now everyone is moaning it’s ruined this game. They definitely still to refine it as it has seemed mainly negative so far. NUFC thus far have not had any VAR controversy, and we benefited from it to hang for the win at Spurs.

How are Newcastle going to line up against West Ham this weekend? Line up/Formation prediction?
No idea as we have Steve Bruce. The plans will be ‘go out and give a go’. Expect three at the back with two wing backs bombing on.

Last year was a rare feat for us in beating you home and away – are you going to be able to reverse your fortunes this year? Are you confident going into this game of getting back to winning ways? Prediction for score please.
I’m not confident at all. A draw would be something akin to progress. I expect we may get done, 2-0.

Well many thanks once again to Dave for his thoughts and comments. From my point of view it seems almost perverse to predict a West Ham win, so I will buck the trend and go for a fighting 1 – 1 draw. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with The Blades

This weekend West Ham welcome Sheffield United to the London Stadium. After two successive defeats we will be hoping that we will see a return to the form that had us threatening to break into the top four a couple of games ago. Ahead of the game I spoke to Sam Parry of the Sheffield United Blog Dem Blades to discuss the season past, present and future.
Hi Sam, before we start, let’s recognise the elephant in the room: you’re not going to have a go at me for the almost forgotten act of West Ham failing to dot a couple of i’s and cross a few t’s in the signing of Carlos Tevez in the season you were relegated, are you?
It might be better that I plead the fifth on that one. Not to stop myself from having a go at you, but because the whole of that period – crappy as it was that the FA dealt with the matter with all the backbone of [insert invertebrate here] – was an era I’d rather not dwell on. Let’s focus on the here and now.
Good answer! Now that’s been dealt with, at what stage last season were you confident that you would be promoted?
Honestly, it was January. At least, January was the month where I turned my back on any superstition and confided in my partner in crime at Dem Blades (also called Sam) that ‘I have a feeling’. West Ham have recent enough experience of life outside the top-flight to know what that feeling is like. You just know. It was heart confidence over head confidence.

What’s the biggest difference that you’ve noticed in the Premier League in the years you’ve been away?
I wouldn’t have been asked ten years ago to write for a West Ham publication. Then again, I hadn’t finished my A-levels either. There’s a serious point in there somewhere; the internet’s gone flippin mad in the time we’ve been away. The predominance of online, colourless, hyperwaffle, packaged into tidy SEO bundles, is astonishing.
(If you were hoping for an answer about the football in there, here goes: it’s just as competitive, the players are slightly quicker and they tend to have more facial hair.)
You’ve certainly been through a few managers since that relegation 12 years or so ago. Tell us a bit about Chris Wilder, and how he compares to the others.
He doesn’t compare with the others, they contrast with him. I guess one thing that is worth pointing out to opposition fans is that he is nothing like Neil Warnock. One: he is a proper fan. Two: he is a proper modern manager. Three: he only knows success.
You’ve had a couple of excellent results, as well as a couple of disappointments. What have been the highlights and lowlights if the season so far?
I can’t really count many lowlights. We played better than Southampton and lost 0-1. We had a great second half against Leicester and lost 1-2. We were brilliant against Liverpool and Dean Henderson, our keeper on loan from Man United, dropped a clanger. All disappointing but not lowlights, it’s been a great season. The highlight for me, even though it seems like ages ago now, was our first game of the season where Billy Sharp scored his first top flight goal.
From what you’ve seen so far do you think Sheffield United are equipped to stay in the Premier League? In what position do you think you will finish the season?
YES. 15th.

Which players are going to have to be at their best if you are to have a successful season?
The whole of the back five are crucial really. Enda Stevens – our player of the season to date (closely run by Oliver Norwood) – is a very important cog in the wheel at left wing-back. Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham, our wide centre backs, spend a lot of time overlapping and getting themselves close to the opposition’s box, so they do a lot more running than your average player. They’re crucial to our system.
Are there any areas of your team that you still think need improving come January?
It’s hard to tell. We’ve had a lot of players since league one and the same again from last year in the championship. I’d like to see us sign some younger players, but that might be risky. If we aren’t firing on all cylinders then we’ll have to sign another stirker.
Which West Ham players, if any would you like to see pulling on the red and white shirt of Sheffield United and why?
Can I be frank? I don’t really pay attention to any other teams. I’m a cultural Blades more than I am PL fan. From the bits I’ve seen on MOTD, I like the look of Haller a lot.
Who at this early stage of the season are your picks for the top four places, in order?
From top to fourth: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Leicester.

Who are your favourites for relegation?
18th to Bottom: Norwich, Newcastle, Watford

How will Sheffield United line up against West Ham on Saturday? Team/formation
It’ll be 3-5-2. The same back three as forever. Norwood, Fleck, Lundstram in the middle. I think Wilder will stick with the same two up top, David McGoldrick and Lys Mousset.

After beating Arsenal last week, are you confident you can follow that up with a victory on the road? Prediction for score?
I am actually, yes. At least, I wouldn’t take the draw if you offered it. If we score first, I can’t see us losing. That’s no slight on West Ham, but I’ve watched our back five make proven top-flight goalscorers Aubameyang, Mane, Salah, Firminho, Callum Wilson appear anonymous. I don’t see why that changes this weekend, but you never know. Anyway, I look forward to the game. I will be there, you might notice me, I will be the bloke tutting if a pyro goes off.

Ha ha! Well many thanks to Sam for his time and comments. You can understand his confidence, it reminds me of how I was feeling 3 weeks ago. But I think West Ham will be fitting on all cylinders for this game, and a 3 – 0 victory will return us to the top half of the table, and will make my return flight from a weeks sunshine in Croatia a more enjoyable one. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Everton

This weekend West Ham welcome Everton to the London Stadium, We will be hoping to return to winning ways after losing last time out against Crystal Palace. Ahead of the game I spoke to my old mate Jim Coke , occasional Guardian writer, and food blogger, who has recently moved out of London to the ‘Deep South’ of Devon, to see how he sees the season so far, and the game ahead.
Hi Jim, first off how is life down in the West Country? You must be missing the opportunity of seeing Everton when they visit the capital?
I’m loving it. It’s a contrast from that buzz of London everything just seems to chug along down here and its great just to be near the sea. As you know I won’t be at the London Stadium this weekend but plan to travel up next year for the other 4 premiership games and of course the culmination of our cup run at Wembley. In the meantime I’ve been catching up on my other love Exeter City. They are a great little club and were saved by the fans who set up the first supporters trust when they went bust. Obviously it’s a much smaller scale than West Ham or Everton but all clubs if possible should be owned by the fans it breeds loyalty and identity. City are playing West Ham u21s in that Mickey mouse cup in a couple of weeks. Any of you guys coming down will be well looked after in the centre spot where the cider flows freely. Before that its the Devon Derby against Plymouth Argyle. The acrimony between the sides borders on hate and the handbags will be out in force, but its normally a good laugh especially if Exeter have the tribal bragging rights.

It sounds terrible! Well Everton seem to have one of those starts that West Ham fans will be all too familiar with. Including losing to two of the newly promoted sides in Aston Villa and Sheffield United, this cannot be how you imagined the season would begin?
It’s been dreadful. I had high hopes at the start of the season as our early pool of games seemed very favourable but we have been so disappointing. Since Moshiri got involved we seemed to have turned into a pantomime team, spending an absolute fortune on a bunch of guys either past their best or happy to mug us off and take the lolly. I get the feeling that there is a lot of acrimony going on just by the body language with the players and the presence of Damocles sword fans above Silva’s head. We need stability but what we’re seeing week in week out is just not good enough.

When we spoke towards the back end of last season, you were still behind the manager, but what are your thoughts on Marco Silva now?
As you know my thoughts on Everton can swim like a barometer. Last season was case in point. When we dismantled you at the London stadium (thanks for paying that £50 bet btw before the teams had left the pitch) I thought we were over the ‘brow of the hill’ and things were looking up. We were playing some great football and finished in top form. However like the close season before we signed a lot but no one has appeared to step up to the plate or like Gomez, have been injured. Silva also has shown to much loyalty to the likes of Sigurdsson, who’s been bloody awful, and has failed to adapt his squad to get better results. He doesn’t look like he’s enjoying it and neither are we, especially with the run of games in the post. Subsequently unless he pulls a rabbit out of the hat his days are numbered.

Were you happy with the summer buys? Who looks to be good value after a couple of months of the season?
Same as last season they’ve flattered to deceive. Everyone went on about replacing Zouma but we didn’t and that’s cost us and the fabled search for the next Dixie goes on. Kean looks great but he’s a kid and responsibility weighs heavy but hopefully he’ll come good. We’ve seriously missed Idrisse Gaye who went to PSG and made all the difference in the midfield. I like Delph but he doesn’t show much attacking verve. Gbamin looked a handful but then got injured. Gomez is our talisman, so if he can keep fit things should improve but overall transfer policy seems to have been up in the air, disjointed and again concentrated towards midfielders which isn’t necessarily the area we need to be investing in.

You’ve certainly been one of the biggest spenders of the past few seasons, but this has not been reflected in results. Supposing ‘50 Grand Seamus Coleman’ was the best value, who of all the recent big money buys has been the biggest waste of money?
That’s what I mean we’ve been a pantomime Club – if Darth Vader was our manager, then the farce not the force would be with us! I cannot think of anyone we’ve signed in recent years besides of Idrisse who jumps out. Most of our big signings like Walcott and Tosun are just warming the bench and counting their pay packets. I was shocked when we spent over 35 million for Iwobi which had me questioning our director of football Brands. Perhaps Iwobi might be the fire fighter to fill the No 10 role but we shouldn’t be thinking maybe or what if – we should know. That’s the problem, I’m beginning to think there are too many jobsworths at the club and its lost a lot of its direction.

You must be casting envious glances across Stanley Park at the success that Jurgen Klopp is achieving, whilst spending less money?
I have my eyes Wide Shut when I look at Liverpool’s form and they’re undoubted quality. Klopp is a fantastic manager who could probably motivate any team. Our biggest achievement last season was to draw with them at Goodison which was the last points they dropped allowing City to pip them at the post. Its hardly something to be proud of and is indicative of how far we’ve dropped. I’d been saving this bottle of wine to celebrate a victory against them but me and the missus got bored waiting 8 years and drunk it. It was a cracking vintage unlike what we’re used to getting served at the school of science.

The days when Everton regularly had one of the highest attendances in the country are long gone, although I hear more rumours that you will finally be getting a new stadium, what’s the latest news on that?
I think you will find dude, despite our dreadful form in recent years we can still call upon a dedicated and resilient fan base. Goodison sells out every other week and is still iconic as it was in 1948 when 78,299 crammed in for the derby. Sadly the old lady’s days appear numbered, but you wouldn’t put your mortgage on Everton moving to the Bramley Moore dock as proposed. Dan Weis the US architect has come up with a brilliant design which will help regenerate the whole of North Liverpool and give us the ideal platform to build on, but until there are bricks and mortar in place nothing is guaranteed.

I must say Jim, that the experience for the away fan is not so good: stuck on that bottom tier you can hardly see when the ball is going up our or your right wing.
I’ve only been in there once. My mate who’s an Evertonian was given 2 tickets for the derby when Gary McAllister scored that injury time free kick. He wouldn’t swap the tickets and wè had to watch in the spot you are on about. It was an experience I’ll tell you that! The worst thing was I couldn’t get out at the end and had to endure a full rendition of YNWA in my Everton shirt. I still wake up screaming about it all these years later so don’t take me back there.

Anyway despite your poor start it is still very early in the season: where will Everton finally finish in your opinion?
Well it’s going to get worse before it gets better even if we manage to beat you. Besides of Man City we have got to play everyone else in the top 6 including Leicester by the end of December. On saying that if we can raise our game then we can be a handful for anyone but improvement is imperative otherwise we could quite easily be in a relegation dogfight with the likes of Southampton and Watford – 11th.

Where do you think West Ham can finish?
West Ham’s form is up and down but it’s a definite improvement on last season. I like the look of Haller and Yamerlenko is quality – I just hope he leaves his shooting boots at home on Saturday unlike last season. Pellegrini feels like the right fit and should only get better. I saw him in Exeter recently and asked him if he was taking over at the helm of the Grecians. He shook his head, laughed at me and sauntered off – so you should be fine. Happy to wager our nominal £50 if you dare – 8th.

Going against recent history West Ham twice beat Everton t your gaff last season, are you confident you will be able to reverse the result this weekend, predictions for score?
Outside of last season when you took the spoils your form at Goodison is poor. I can’t see Everton losing 5 on the bounce especially when the air raid siren turns the ground into a rabid bear pit. On saying that though we cannot defend set pieces, look jittery at the back, can’t score and have a dysfunctional midfield -so what could possibly go wrong? 2-2 Kean to open his account.*

Do Everton have any injury doubts? How will Everton line up against us this time out? Team/formation?
Coleman is suspended, Gbamin and Delph are out, but Gomez should be back. Silva needs to mix it up and be ruthless as otherwise he could be getting presented with his P45 on the pitch at 5pm
Pickford – Digne – Sidibe – Mina – Keane – Davies – Gomez – Bernard – Richarlison – Kean – Calvert Lewin

Well many thanks to Jim for his time. I would probably be happy with a 2 – 2 draw, but think we can just get the better of them. An early goal would unsettle the crowd, so hoping for the first goal I will go 1 – 2 West Ham. I myself am flying to Croatia for a week on Saturday, so will find out the result on landing. Let’s hope it’s a good one. COYI!

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Crystal Palace

This weekend West Ham return to the London Stadium, where we entertain our South London neighbours Crystal Palace. Ahead of the game I spoke to Jay Crame of The Eagles Beak blog to discuss the game and the season.
Hi Jay, after such a strong start to the season, including beating Manchester United away, you must be hoping that you will not have to suffer the worries of a relegation battle this season?*
Let’s not speak too soon eh? In all seriousness, it makes a change to start the season with a bit of form even if the points have not come as we would have expected. As a football fan, we kind of get used to that but as notoriously slow starters, and after a difficult summer transfer window, it is nice to have double figure points after just seven games. It is something to build on rather than to start panicking about picking up points. It’s all about getting to the 40 point barrier, or securing 10 wins and seeing at what stage of the season that is before you start looking ahead any further.

Roy Hodgson seems to have brought a bit of stability to the club, but are Crystal Palace fans totally behind him? How long can Roy keep going for, he makes our own 66 year old Manuel Pelligrini seem like a spring chicken?
There still seems to be some mixed emotions when it comes to Roy but for the most part, the fans are behind him. Personally, I he has brought stability to the club at a stage when it was much needed after Pulis, Pardew and Allardyce and de Boer (remember him?). He has been a perfect fit and most fans believed he would return to Croydon at some point. He is a hugely experienced and talented coach and we knew he could do a job after seeing what he did at Fulham and West Brom (not so much with Liverpool and England!). It will be interesting to see how much longer he can go on but I fully expect him to take a higher role at the club at some point, maybe one more season after this one but then you question who would we want to come in – let’s have more of this stability first before we start thinking about that!

Talking of Manuel Pelligrini, how do you rate the job he is doing at West Ham?
He has really steadied the ship after what has been a volatile period for the club what with the upheaval of the move to the London Stadium and everything that brought with it. There has been some sensible recruitment in areas that were needed but there is a sense that it remains a work in progress as there seem to be some short term solutions rather than longer term ones but it is coming along, particularly from the outside looking in this season.

And to continue the manager theme: we’ve both had Big Sam (BFS) and Alan Pardew as our mangers. (I suppose the biggest surprise is that you never had Harry Rednapp in charge!) How do you compare the job that both of those guys did for you?
We could still have Harry Redknapp to pretty much complete the set of old school managers that have taken charge at Selhurst Park! Those two had very different roles in terms of aims while at the club and they are completely different managers. Pardew was always given more time than most after his playing days at the club but his time in charge has tainted that somewhat. Having said that, he did take us to an FA Cup final and very almost carried it off and I will always be thankful for that. As for Big Sam, I enjoyed his tenure as he joined us at a very difficult time and did the job he was asked. I was fully expecting a full season out of him after that but he walked away which was a shame but after the England debacle, we did him a favour with a route back into the game and he did us a favour by keeping us up. It was probably never destined to be anything different.

Separated by one point, towards the top end of the table, we have both had better starts than we usually accomplish, is this a sign of the times or just a temporary blip at the start of the season? Where are you hoping Crystal Palace will finish up at the end of the season? And where do you think West Ham will finish?
We will probably not be too different come the end of the season, the two squads are very similar while the managers are wiley old foxes! It has been a very good start for us considering what we are normally used to but it must be something to build on to push for a good finish. It is early days of course and anything can happen, but there is hope after a difficult summer. West Ham have a real chance of finishing in the top ten this season which I hope Palace can strive to achieve as well.

You might as well give us your predictions for the top four come May: can another team shift one of the usual top six this year?
It would be great to see a side sneak up and take one of the top four spots and I would say that Brendan Rogers is doing a great job at Leicester at the moment and they could be that team. Having said that, I think City will pip Liverpool again and be some way from the third placed team who I think will be Arsenal with Chelsea fourth as I believe Spurs and United will have tough seasons.

Early days yet, but who do you think will go down?
The quality in the Premier League is slightly better than last season and it could be tight at the bottom end but I will name Norwich City, Newcastle United and Brighton as the sides we will say goodbye to.

What is the Wilfred Zaha situation: how do you reconcile the fact he has asked to leave again, with him continuing to play? It’s not exactly the same situation that West Ham found themselves in with Dmitri Payet and Marko Arnautovic, but never a easy situation to deal with?

Wilf was going to leave at some point, most of us thought it would be a couple of summers ago but here we are, in the 2019/20 season with him still wearing our number eleven shirt. We are not kidding ourselves, we will not be here next season so we will enjoy every second he plays for us but he has to prove he is worth a club shelling out the money we want for him and that can only be a good thing for Palace. There was a concern about his mindset by the time the season started and while he has been a slow burner after returning from the AFCON late he was excellent against Wolves and last weekend played his best game of the season. He loves the club, the fans love him in return, but he has to challenge himself at the very highest level and while it will be wrench to see him go, it will be with our best wishes.

How about Christian Benteke, he seemed such a strong player whilst at Villa, will he ever come good again?
It is easy to forget he scored 15+ goals for us in his first season and was that striker we had been searching for. Since then he has struggled and a shadow of his former self. He had been carrying an injury which he had sorted and looked strong and lively on his return but his luck in front of goal has been horrendous. His confidence is through the floor, the chance he had against Wolves to seal all three points just proves the point, he did everything right and the ball still would not hit the back of the net. Many are willing him on at every opportunity but it is getting to the point where we have to consider our options as it cannot go on.

Which, if any, West Ham players would you like to join your other ex-Hammers in Cheikhou Kouyaté and James Tomkins? And if any why?
That’s enough, thanks! Seriously though, with our problems up front I like what Haller has done for you so far. Not blazing a trail or anything but showing enough to suggest he could be the man to get you 15+ goals a season which will prove the money was worth spending. It’s not just goal scoring, it is all round game from what I have seen so far and in his time at Frankfurt.

What is the latest news of the development of Selhurst Park?
It has gone fairly quiet but they are exciting times as the ground is in desperate need of a makeover, as us Palace fans can all testify, almost as much as the away fans that visit us. Anyway, visiting teams and fans should not be made to feel comfortable at opposition grounds, right? Or is that too old school? It is an old school ground that has been dragged kicking and screaming into this day and age but it is not wearing well so the sooner the main stand gets its makeover the better. It will really give us something of a legacy from our time in the Premier League which has hit its’ 7th consecutive season, a club record.

Have you paid a trip to the London Stadium yet, and if so what is your take on it?
Yes, for the Foo Fighters, so not for football. It is difficult for me to pass judgement having not been there for a game but it looks to lack something when watching a live game on television let alone being there. I’ve heard plenty of less than complimentary views from fellow Palace fans from our visits there which probably says a lot. Nice venue, just not for football.

Any fond memories of West Ham/Palace games of the past?
Play Off Final at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. Neil Shipperley’s shin and we’re back in the big time! (Sorry, not sorry!)

Yes that was a terrible day! How will Crystal Palace line us against us this weekend? Team/formation?
Not too much different than from recent games but Luka Milivojevic is suspended after reaching five bookings.
Guita – Ward, Kelly, Cahill, van Aanholt – Schlupp, Kouyate, McArthur, McCarthy, Zaha – Ayew

Are you feeling confident for this game? Prediction for result?
With the injury to Fabianski being a big blow, I fancy Palace to take at least a point (1-1)

Many thanks to Jay for his time. I am of course duty bound to disagree with his prediction: I think we are due a productive game for both Sebastien Haller and Felipe Anderson, and think we could serve up a 3 – 1 beating. COYI

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