Nigel Kahn’s Column

Is It worth it?

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Aston Villa on Monday is open HERE. Entries can be submitted until 6pm on Monday.

The government announcement that fans are finally to be allowed back into games has been broadly welcomed by many as a start to the return to what would be constituted as the “new normal”.

It’s been 10 months now since I last attended a game of football and I frankly I cant wait to get back into the stadium for the first time and finally watch a West Ham team that actually looks worth watching, but when we look at what the government have outlined as in numbers allowed, is it actually worth it and will it be a positive effect on the game that is being played? Also, the fact it relies on what tier you are in regards the number of fans allowed to attend how do they regulate the people attending and as some areas will be in higher tiers than others does competition fairness come into.

The government numbers are if the stadium is in a tier 1 area (lowest tier) then you can have 4,000 fans in attendance or half the capacity whichever is the lower.

Tier 2 area stadiums will only be 2,000 and tier 3 area stadiums will still be off-limits to anyone.

London as a whole prior to the current (so-called) lockdown was in tier 2 restrictions so that would restrict West Ham to 2,000 fans, but how do the club choose who attends? So we know the attendees will come from those fans that paid in full for their season tickets rather than the 30% deposit but should the club also have to factor where the season ticket holder lives. West Ham season ticket holders come not just from Newham or in fact just East London, (I know, was a shock to me as well) but from as from further afield. If a season ticket holder lives in Tier 3 but London is in tier 2 they are now discounted.

Newham’s own rate would put them into tier 2 but in Havering where many a Hammers season ticket now resides their infection rate is far higher. I get the government were buckling to the pressure from the Premier League clubs and other sports but this seems like an ill-thought out compromise. Just a couple of miles away in Leyton I’m sure the 2,000 fans will be a welcome addition at Orient but 2,000 fans hidden amongst the 66,000 seats the London stadium has is just nonsensical.

Saying that naturally if I was lucky enough in the ballot to get a ticket to one of the games played, I’d be at the game like a shot. Hopefully, the Boxing day game at home V Brighton, though if fans are allowed in the stadium my guess would be the game gets moved to the next day for TV.

Talking of TV, the clubs have now ditched the PPV model up until the end of December but that was when they thought no fans in the stadium until March, as was the government’s initial plan. Now with fans being let back into the stadium and money being paid by said fans to go to the game, should the status quo be retained and give every game for free to the masses (subscription still needed I know I know). That would surely be unfair on those going to the game.

The screening of every game should only remain while no fans in the stadium, once we have fans back then that has to stop and return to just the scheduled games on Sky & BT and the rest Kick-off on Saturday or Sunday if Europa league teams are playing.

Having 2,000 fans in a stadium does not cover anywhere near what it costs to put on the game so perhaps to recover some of those costs, they could agree to televise the game and charge those at home to watch it. It will be interesting to see what happens in that regard come to the January games, The 2,000 even 4,000, if any ground is lucky enough to be in a Tier 1 area, could be welcomed by the clubs so they can then justify the charging for the TV games outside of the packages. Once fans are back in stadiums they could point to it being the start of a return to normality that the fans have craved so the fans can’t have it both ways, we can’t have fans in the ground paying ticket prices and allowing the games to be shown on TV without extra costs to those at home.

I imagine the move will be unpopular with the masses who are now used to seeing as much Premier League football they want but fans need to realise that the clubs are losing money hand over fist. Ys the tv deal is the vast majority of their income but remember when they set their budgets, long before covid turned up, they still budgeted with the gate receipts being part of the income.

Fans being back is welcome but when I look at the bigger picture there are still more questions that need to be asked to see whether it’s a price worth paying for the small amount in the ground.

A group of West Ham content providers have been brought together by Nicky from West Ham TV to create content to promote local charities in Newham before Christmas.
We hope to help this year the Newham Recorder toy appeal by highlighting this great cause and pointing you, the West Ham fan base to their links to donate whatever you can to provide the thousands of children in the area that will be going without this Christmas.

For people wishing to choose a gift, or gifts, to purchase for a young person this Christmas, an Amazon Wishlist has been set up. This features an array of items – from hats and scarves to CDs and books – that the appeal organisers know would be suitable for those receiving presents and provides an easy way for people to purchase and donate directly.
You can do so here

Donations of items can be made in person to the Terence Brown Arc in the Park, in Bethell Avenue, Canning Town between 9 am and 1 pm Monday to Saturday

Of course, we are still promoting the Irons Supporting foodbanks campaign to supply advent calendars to as many children in Newham as possible. To donate to this cause you can either donate via the Just giving page

And make sure in the comment box you put Advent Calendars.

An advent calendar is only around £2 so any donation is welcome and will be put to good use.

Keep an eye out for your favourite content providers coming together to help raise money for these worthy causes.

Lastly, I and Canning Town Len have made a pilot episode of a new podcast, ‘Nigel & Len’s proper gander – a podcast where we invite a guest, whom we have so much in common with – but have a proper gander at what makes us all different’. Basically, we try to embrace what joins us together but also embrace what makes us all different, no matter where in the world we come from. You can listen here or wherever you get your podcasts from.

As it’s the pilot we are after feedback so if you like it let us know if you don’t go f…BEEEEEEEEEP

Oh no sorry, if you don’t we’d love to know why.

Until we meet on the other side

Nigel Kahn’s Column

It's Time to Care for the Past

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Sheffield United on Sunday is open HERE. Entries can be submitted until 12 noon on Sunday.

The Daily Mail on Tuesday launched its enough is enough campaign into Football and its link to causing dementia in later years. This subject has been around for at least 20 years now, since the death of Jeff Astle who suffered in his later years with the awful disease. The startling thing for me that jumps out about Astle was that he died aged just 59 and had been diagnosed 5 years previously, for me that is very young to have suffered from this condition that we would normally expect to see in more later years.

It is said that as the population lives longer the amount of the population that will suffer from this will only increase, I’m sure many of the readers of this will have a story to tell of a loved one/relative that lived & suffered from this most terrible of diseases.

Is the link to football and the high rate of an effect it has had on old pros conclusive though, and if it is, what can the authorities do to help combat it.
In 1992 I bought my 1st house in Plaistow, a small terraced property a 10-minute stroll to the ground. My next-door neighbours were an elderly couple, Isabell and Bert and across the road was Len, another elderly gentleman who lived on his own.

Len was a character from the start, I pulled up one night outside his house, he came up to my van, tapping on the window. “Boy, Boy, come with me please all my lights stopped working” so into his house I stepped, in pitch dark, I tried nearly every light switch in his house to no avail. His Lights did not work at all.

To fix the problem I needed light to see, I walked over to my house to get a lamp to plug in.

Telling my wife the problem, she said, check the bulbs. Not everyone could have blown, must be the fuse.

On entering Lens house, just to check, I took the bulb from the lamp and put into the light in the hallway. On came the light. I changed every bulb in Lens house and that fixed that except that night as I went to bed, coming from Lens House I could see him standing there, switching the lights on then off, on then off, constantly. Bert next door had eyesight trouble so to be neighbourly I went in one day to see him to chat about West Ham, I had just bought an original 1930s cigarette card collection at a boot sale. I thought Bert would love hearing about this so took it in to read to him the blurb on the back of each card.

Here’s one for you Bert, Len Goulden, you must remember him. Remember him his wife replied, that’s Len across the road, let me go get him. Just a minute later she’s back, with old Len in tow, I show him my collection and Lens face lit up, Tommy Lawton was his favourite. Apparently, Len knew Tommy very well and told us in his eyes one of the best in the world at the time. Do you remember this player, Len, putting his card in front of him?

Len stared blankly at the card, I’m now looking at him thinking, is he playing a game. No, who is he? Sadly Len had failed to recognise himself.

The next year I spent many a night, getting Len back into his house after being locked out and sadly it was obvious that Len was suffering from problems and eventually he was moved into a care home by his family, where he would see out his days.

When the Jeff Astle case was highlighted by his family I had no doubt there must be a connection, but it took years of campaigning by the family to bring the authorities running the game to take notice. It is ok to take notice but what is needed is some kind of plan to try to stop the players of today joining those of yesteryear in suffering.

Firstly, The PFA and the FA should have set up a foundation to look into what are the links between footballers and the high rate of them that develop dementia. The cause is said to be heading the ball, is that being studied.

Care is next, PFA and the FA should have dedicated care home available to all ex-pros, this affects not only those that played at the top but it goes right through the game from top to bottom. If the Actors guild can have retirement homes for old actors then surely the PFA can have the same, after all, why pay your head the highest amount of money for any Trade Union chief without making sure you take care of those that fund that wage.

The Daily Mail listed 28 players including Dave Sexton and Martin Peters from West Ham, who have died or are currently suffering. For those who may still think that football and specifically the heading of the ball has no part, Only 1, Peter Benetti, was a goalkeeper.

In August this year the Daily Mirror reported on 4 ex-footballers all dying in 1 week, all suffered from Dementia, not 1 was a goalkeeper.

There was a study done in Scotland of over 7,000 footballers born before 1977,

Ex-pro footballers 3 times more likely to get dementia from heading balls,

The question of whether heading footballs can damage the brain has been debated for years and much of the UK media suggests it was the key reason why such a link exists.

But it’s important to note:

• the researchers did not look at possible reasons behind the results, such as heading footballs
• while the study found the risk of dying from neurodegenerative disease was almost 3.5 times higher for footballers, fewer than 2% of the footballers in the study died from these health conditions
• the researchers found footballers were less likely to die from some other conditions, such as heart disease, and were less likely to die before age 70
• the researchers do not know if the results are relevant for people who play football for fun or at an amateur level

In researching the study it seems it was funded by the PFA & The FA but then what was the outcome of the studies and why has it seemingly been put on a back burner so much that the Daily Mail saw fit to launch their campaign.

Chris Sutton the former Norwich Blackburn Celtic & Chelsea forward is now considering suing the PFA & FA as his family cares from his Ex-pro Dad.

The family of Chris Chilton, Hull City’s record goalscorer have resorted to setting up a go fund me page to help care for him. They raised £30,000 for Hull fans and some ex-players. Have the PFA stepped in to help though? I couldn’t find that answer.

The time for studies to prove the link is over for me, the link is proved. The list of ex-players is exhausting reading as it just grows and grows, and the only goalkeeper I found to have died suffering was Peter Benetti, Goalkeepers don’t head the ball anywhere near the number of times outfield players do.

I’m not expecting the FA nor the PFA to find a cure, but they need to show they care and start now to set up the network of specialist care homes needed to help look after those that helped to create the cash-hungry game with have now.

Nigel Kahn’s Column

When is Onside, Offside?

As a kid I was an avid reader of football magazines – Match weekly and Shoot were my favourites. I still have my complete collection of Match weekly magazines from issue no1 (Sept 1979) onwards until 1987.

In Shoot magazine you had the great feature, YOU ARE THE REF!, that posed various situations from a game, and asked you the question to guess the answer as if you were the Ref. Last weekend’s set of games brought up many questions for fans,

When is onside offside?
When is offside, onside?
When is handball deliberate or not deliberate?
Who is actually refereeing the games we watch?
Do we still need linesman on the touchline?

It seems that by holding your arm out in front of you, while the rest of your body is onside, the fact the sleeve of your shirt is just past the shoulder of the defender nearest the goal, that now makes you offside. The thing is, no referee or linesman, no human eye watching the game in real motion would ever be able to spot that fact. Luckily it seems, you don’t need to worry as the great Video Assistant Referee sitting in a room with banks of monitors will double-check for you. He can slow the action down, even freeze it at the exact moment he thinks the ball is kicked and with his micro ruler will draw two coloured lines on a screen to make that decision for you. Foolproof, No?

Ask 100 fans whether Patrick Bamford was onside in the build-up to his disallowed goal and I bet they will all say, onside.

Without VAR the goal would have been given. In the replays on Match of the Day, no one would have questioned if he was on or offside. The referee adjudicator watching the game would not have marked the referee down as making a mistake nor the linesman for not flagging. The Video ASSITANT referee though felt the need to not only check but to minutely check, drawing his pixel line on a screen, lines so close together that even looking at that still it is hard to see if the red line from Bamford’s arm is in the right place, or the blue line for the defenders either. How do we know that the thickness of the pixel is not wrong?

I have highlighted the word assistant there as this should be the prevalent word to describe their role. It should be to assist the referees not overrule them.

This season we have seen English referees falling into line with their continental cousins and using the pitch-side monitors to look at decisions brought to their attention by the Video ASSISTANT. It seems that only on one occasion when a ref has gone to the monitor has he stuck to his original decision and not changed his mind. That happened two Saturdays ago, and that referee didn’t get a Premier League game Weekend just gone, Co-incidence? I’m not sure.

So, that covers when is onside offside. Our game V Fulham was for me, very enjoyable. If it had finished 0-0, while I would have been disappointed not to win I would still have enjoyed the game. That changed though in the 91st minute with Soucek’s well-taken finish from Benrahma’s lay off but its Seb Haller’s part in the goal which is contentious.
As the original cross is put into the box, you can clearly see from the pic that Haller is offside, The cross is also aimed at Haller, the fact he does not connect with his header is either down to his poor position or the cross was poor. You can all make your mind up on that. Fulham’s defenders are drawn to Haller, but the ball falls to Benrahma, and we know the rest.

Fulham’s defenders did appeal, with their arms in the air, but to no avail. VAR clears the goal, and the Hammers fans are happy. Haller is deemed not to be interfering with the play as he never touched the ball, but the fact the original cross is to him, and the fact defenders will be taking into consideration where he is in making their judgement about what to do it begs the question: how is he not interfering with play?

So here we have a goal with a player offside in the buildup, yet the goal is allowed.

Should we ignore that fact as it benefitted our club. Not for me we shouldn’t as we only have to go back to last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool and their late 2nd goal by Jota to see Mane standing offside as the ball is played through. The ball passes within 2 feet of him, our defenders have moved out, looking at him, to catch him offside. But as he does not play the ball and Jota runs through to score the goal is allowed to stand.

No wonder Scott Parker and other managers complain about not understanding the offside rule as it is being interpreted by the officials as I believe I have explained how now you can be offside when on, but a goal allowed when a player is clearly offside and has affected the defence of the conceding team.

Still with me I hope because we also saw two very similar penalties awarded this weekend. Neither of them were given by the ref on the pitch or signalled by the linesman, but then VAR interferes and minds are changed.

The rule change of deliberate handball and adding in the so-called, un-natural position of arms or hands of the defenders into the equation is again a just spreading mistrust and derision of VAR. The sight of defenders running around having to try to tuck their arms behind their bodies as the ball is crossed is actually more an unnatural position of arms than if they are outstretched as they run back to defend. Try running without outstretching your arm, it isn’t natural.

VAR doesn’t take this into consideration, nor how fast the ball is travelling nor how short the distance from the crosser of the ball is to the defender whose arm the ball has struck.
The radio to the pitch Ref, you need to look at this again. The ref then watches the slow-motion replay 3,4 sometimes 5 times and then decides the VAR is correct, he was wrong it is now a penalty.

Footballers do not run in slow motion, nor try to block a ball. So how can a decision as important as that be made off the back of slow-motion replays? The constant changing of the rules and implementation of the rules alongside VARs use was done without any consultation done with the reason I thought football was played, for the fans.

When are fans ever asked? then again, considering a big chunk of fans wanted VAR when we didn’t have it, I’m not sure any difference would have been made if they had. I go so far as to say if you wanted VAR brought into the game and are not happy with it now, don’t moan about it on social media don’t complain on here. Go look in the mirror and tell that idiot looking back at you. it is your fault the game is in this mess.

Nigel Kahn’s Column

We’re All in it Together

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Fulham on Saturday is open HERE. Entries can be submitted until 5pm on Saturday.

So, lockdown mark two is upon us, but this time the Premier League machine gets to trundle on. Quite rightly in my book as while many will be off work or back into furlough, the Government advice is to work from home, unless impossible to do so. Since you can’t play football from home then off to work they go, the same as I will do and many more people this so-called lockdown does not affect.

The upcoming game this weekend against Fulham is our first in the current round of PPV games. A couple of weeks ago I touched on this subject on why I don’t disagree on why this is happening.

West Ham has lost millions due to the fact no fans can attend and will continue to do so this season with fans not being allowed back in. The players are still on full pay, currently, no staff have been made redundant, the outgoings of the club still need to be paid. As a supporter do you think the club should continue along this line of meeting its obligations? Some of you will. You may think the club should be looking to bring in more players in the January window. It is obvious to many that we need re-enforcements on the forward line.

If that is the case then I’m guessing you will be paying the £14.95 charge to watch Saturday’s game, to help the club raise finances towards getting in the new players, keeping existing players on better contracts (Declan Rice).

If you are a fan that is making those demands then surely you see why the clubs voted for the PPV charge, as with the losses being incurred all income from wherever it comes helps, does it not? And remember that the £14.95 goes to the club and not to the TV companies so it will be welcomed.

My point is if you are a fan that makes demands of the club surely in its hour of need you will help. No? There is a debate to be had about the funding of the club and what do fans expect. It seems to me many think the owners of the club should bankroll it and part of me agrees with that. It is in their business interest, after all, to invest in the club in times it’s needed, and it is needed now. They have done that though with the £30 million rights issue.

This week it was revealed they have borrowed money from Barclays Bank. Many guess as to why they have done that but my guess is to help with the cash flow. As I said earlier, bills still need paying. Season Ticket money needs refunding and throw in the 10% for those that took the club cash option, even that has to be covered so at the moment the club is doing its best to just standstill.

The problem with the PPV charge is it comes at a time when not just football is struggling, most of the population is affected financially by the current pandemic. The phrase we are all in it together has been trotted out a few times, the problem with that is for me, the player’s response to this.

They took a deferment of wages back in April, but that has now been fully paid up, so now, with the club still starring at losses the players still take their 100% of wages while the clubs so desperate of money go back to the fans to plug the gap.

The PPV charge has been mishandled and misunderstood by both the clubs in the way they came to explain the decision and the fans as to why it was needed.
The good news is, you don’t have to pay the charge, the highlights of the game will be available in the usual places as if the game was being played on Saturday at 3 o’clock and not being televised, so nothing is really lost there if you don’t want to pay.

Don’t forget if you want to protest against the PPV charge the best way to register that protest is to go to…

IronsSupportingFoodbanks and donate money to their cause, making sure to put PPV in the comment box so they know the reason for your donation. Don’t feel the need to donate the full £14.95, anything helps be it the full amount a tenner or a fiver.

I’m guessing that the clubs will scrap the PPV charge at the end of the month anyway as it has been nothing but a disaster publicity-wise for the Premier League and it seems to only benefit the clubs with the largest support, if the rumoured viewing figures are to be believed.

Only around 1,000 watched a recent Burnley game while Arsenal attracted ten times that amount, maybe even more. It seems even PPV discriminates against the lesser teams.

Nigel Kahn’s Column

West Ham is the drug for me

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Liverpool on Saturday is now open HERE. Entries can be submitted until 3.30pm on Saturday.

It ain’t no big thing to wait for the bell to ring
It ain’t no big thing the toll of the bell
Aggravated spare for days
I stroll downtown, the red light place
Jump up bubble up, what’s in store
West Ham is the drug and I need to score
Showing out, showing out hit and run
Boy meets girl where the beat goes on
Stitched up tight can’t shake free
football is the drug got a hook on me
Oh, catch that buzz
Football is the drug I’m thinking of
Oh, can’t you see
West Ham is the drug for me
Oh, oh

Saturday 12:30 kickoffs are my least favourite of all the jumbled up kick-off times across the weekend, for one simple reason. Saturday Morning is market day, I’m normally finished by 1:30, to be honest, 2 pm at the latest so 3 o’clock KO’s are always achievable, so this Saturday I new I’d be lucky to see much of the game. I’d finished my deliveries around 11 am so I had some time until I needed to be back at the market to pack up, so I put on the start of the BT Sport preview of the West Ham v Manc City game. Joe Cole was pundit with Joleon Lescott, both standing, socially distanced of course, inside the London Stadium, in the corner box that used for the TV live games. The box is the furthest box towards the Sir Trev stand, I know its exact position as I sit about 20 rows behind it.

Watching Joe Cole talking I couldn’t help but look past him at the stadium. It seemed the sun was shining lighting up the ground, the claret carpet very noticeable in its contract to the green pitch. As I watched I just couldn’t stop thinking, I WANT TO BE THERE. I can’t say that had ever crossed my mind in the past as since 2016 going to the Olympic Stadium to watch West Ham has been a chore, and that’s me being polite. I have had no love for the place and at times detested the fact I have had to trudge there every other week to get my West Ham fix.

Some may have wondered what it would take for me to look forward to watching West Ham in that stadium. Well now we have the answer. A worldwide pandemic that has decimated audience sport in this country. The last West Ham game I attended was against Brighton at home back in February, 7 months ago. Seven months of not going to football. To go back to the last time I went that long without attending at least 1 game it would be 1976-1977 season.

I was supposed to have a fallow time in 83/84. I got into a bit of bother and my mum, being at the end of her tether with me, banned me from going. We had not long moved to Barking and that meant a train ride from Upney to Upton Park for games. I missed a couple before taking my chance, I left home 15 minutes before KO, got to Upney for 3. The train was about 15 minutes, then a short walk we all loved to do again to the ground, only generally missing around 20 minutes. It took years for my mum to find out that even when I was on her ban she still hadn’t succeeded in stopping me.

Growing up going to football became a habit. I’ve done it regularly since the age of 7, after all, and going to West Ham was the pinnacle of that. Football literally became a drug to me and West Ham my smack with all the highs and lows you get from that.

Some of the things I’ve done to go to games frankly embarrass me. I’m not proud of some of them that’s for sure. One I can share that may, or may not, possibly be amusing happened on the 30 August 1995. I had married the other love of my life in June, and on the 30th of August, the photographer had arranged to finally bring us the wedding photos he had taken for us to pick out those that would make the album. The same night we had Spurs at home. He was supposed to arrive at 7pm but he was stuck in traffic and arrived just around 7:30. The downside of living by the ground I suppose. To say I was itchy to get to the game is an understatement. I spent a lot of time standing at my front door looking out for his car. He pulled up further up the road as that was the only spot to park. I ran to his car, asked him what he needed to be brought into the house, picked up a couple of cases he pointed at and ran back to the house. As soon as he was in the house I asked him to show me what albums he had with him. He pointed to one of the cases I had brought in and said “Look in there.”

Top of the pile was a Claret leather type album. "We will have that one,” I said, kissed the wife and left her to choose the photos happy with the fact I had partaken in the exercise and contributed.

I was in my seat missing only 5 minutes of the game, helped by the fact I could still run. I learned another thing that night as well. I always wondered if you could hear Bubbles being played from my road. I never knew as I was always in the ground. The answer was Yes, and that made me run faster.

When we look through the album most the pics are of the wife’s family, That’s another thing I learned that night. When the wife says she doesn’t mind, it means something else. Took me years to work that one out, though.

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