Thursday, 2 July 2015

Reece Oxford will tonight become the youngest player to play for West Ham

West Ham will play a very young team against FC Lusitanos at Upton Park tonight. This includes Reece Oxford and Lewis Page who have yet to play for the first-team. James Tomkins will captain the side for the first time. Several of the senior figures in the team were injured at the end of last season and therefore returned early this summer. 

Reece Oxford is aged 16 years and 198 days making him the clubs youngest ever player beating a record set in 1922. He will be partnered at the centre of defence by Reece Burke who is only 18 but managed 5 appearances last season. 

Although Slaven Bilic will be present at the ground the team will be led by new Academy director Terry Westley, who recently succeeded Tony Carr in the post. Westley commented: "We've got some very exciting young players coming through. Lewis Page and Reece Oxford will get their opportunities tomorrow. Blooding young players is crucial. Lewis and Reece haven't played for the first team yet. We've got other players on the bench too."

It is reported that the starting lineup for tonight's game is as follows: Darren Randolph; Joey O'Brien, James Tomkins, Reece Burke, Reece Oxford, Lewis Page; Morgan Amalfitano, Diego Poyet, Matt Jarvis; Diafra Sakho, Mauro Zarate.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

West Ham News

Slaven Bilic defends his record as a manager. 

David Gold said only a few weeks ago that West Ham United planned to appoint a manager who had achieved success in one of the major European leagues. It came as quite a surprise when Slaven Bilic was announced as the new manager. Although he did well with the Croatia national team he was far from impressive when he was with Lokomotiv Moscow and Besiktas. 

Bilic has hit back at criticism of his lack of silverware from fans and says the only reason he did not win the league in Turkey is because the club did not have its own ground. Besiktas' Inönü stadium was being rebuilt during his two years there and will not reopen until next season leaving them to travel miles to play their "home" games in Istanbul, Konya and Ankara. He told Fanatik: "I can say this without any reservations one of the key factors behind Beşiktaş not winning the league was not having a stadium. (21st June, 2015) 

Will Charlie Austin sign for West Ham?

The striker Charlie Austin is wanted by West Ham with relegated Queen’s Park Rangers looking for a fee of £15m from the transfer of their most saleable asset. Other clubs are also interested in Austin who made an impressive impact in his first season in the Premier League with 18 goals. This includes Chelsea but it is believed that Austin will reject the champions because he wants to be a regular starter. 

Newcastle United have made the first bid but Austin went on Twitter to suggest that he is not attracted to the idea of living in that area of the country. Crystal Palace are also interested but Austin is likely to be more willing to go to a club that can offer him European football. Southampton, who are also rumoured to want him, can indeed offer him that but they cannot make a bid for him until they sell Morgan Schneiderlin. 

This morning it is reported in the Daily Express that Liverpool are interested in signing Austin. This of course depends on them selling Raheem Sterling first. Charlie Austin lives in London and I suspect that if a bid comes in early West Ham could get him to become their main striker next season. (16th June, 2015) 

Slaven Bilic's first signing might be Croatia's new young sensation, Alen Halilović.

It is being reported that Slaven Bilic's first signing might be Croatia's new young sensation, Alen Halilović. He is the youngest ever debutant for the Croatian national team, and is considered to be one of the most promising young talents of European football and has been described as the “Croatian Messi” due to his overall skill and ability. 

When he was seventeen Halilović signed for Barcelona in March 2014 for €2.2m. However, he still has not played for them and the increasingly frustrated Halilović might be tempted to join his fellow countryman at West Ham. 

It has been suggested that other Croatian youngsters are worth looking at. For example, Andrija Balić and Nikola Vlašić both play for Hajduk Split. Some of the top European clubs have shown interest in these players and Valencia have already offered €10m for Balić and Vlašić. Balić's six goals in 18 matches from midfield looks especially impressive. (14th June 2015) 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Sam Allardyce – The Psychological Problems of Success

I do hope that Sam Allardyce does not get a new contract at West Ham.  To many fans this might appear to be a harsh judgement on a man who got us promoted to the Premier League and kept us there.  I also expect him to keep us in the top eight until the end of the season.  In normal circumstances, a manager with these achievements, would expect to receive a new contract. After all, one of Sam’s proud boasts is that he has never left a club in a lower position than when he took over. Blackpool (1994-1996), Notts County (1997-1999), Bolton Wanderers (1999-2007), Newcastle United (2007-2008) and Blackburn Rovers (2008-2010). It is statistics like this that unite the football pundits in criticising West Ham fans for not wanting his contract to be renewed.

However, over the last two seasons Sam has shown that he has a fatal flaw and I believe with another manager we can obtain even better results than we have had over the last three years. Sam’s problems are located in the success he has had in the past. It is a common problem with many managers. Sam problem goes back to his time at Bolton, the place where he had his greatest success. The person who was his commander on the pitch and in the dressing-room was a young man by the name of Kevin Nolan. He was appointed captain of the club at the age of 24.

Bolton achieved great success under Sam -  sixth in 2004–05, eighth in 2005-06. However, he claimed that he knew he would never win anything important at Bolton and in May 2007 he moved to Newcastle United. Although a much bigger club than Bolton, Sam struggled at the club and with fan protests about poor results and a low standard of football he lost his job in January 2008.

He was not out of work for long and he had soon signed a contract with Blackburn Rovers. The club finished 15th that season. This was improved to 10th in the 2009-2010 season. He was sacked the following season with the club in 13th position.

Although all these clubs marginally finished higher in the league than when he joined them, only at Bolton was he really successful. It is this success at Bolton that dominates his thinking. It was no real surprise when one of his first signings for West Ham was Kevin Nolan. It is true that Nolan did a reasonable job for Bolton when he was in his early twenties. However, it was never good enough to get him into the England squad (he did appear in two under 21 games). He was also 29 years of age and his recent form had suggested that he was well past his best.

 It was not a real problem when we were in the championship but he was clearly not good enough for the Premier League.  Despite this, Nolan always plays except for when he is injured. This is usually when we play at our best. Nolan was out of the side in the early months of the season with an injured shoulder. Sam made a revealing comment on television when Chris Kamara complimented him on this good run of form. Sam replied that it had given him a problem of how he was going to get Kevin Nolan back in the team when he was fit. Of course, Sam found a way, and it was at the detriment of the team. It is no coincidence that Stewart Downing always plays better when Nolan is not in the team.  He likes the freedom to roam into those areas that are normally occupied by Nolan and therefore tends to stay wide too much where he is less effective.

Sam often claims that he is a keen user of stats. However, he seems to have a blind spot when it comes to Nolan. The reason for this is that he is making these decisions for psychological and not performance reasons. Nolan is Sam’s man in the dressing-room. As long as this is the case, he is confident that he will not lose the support of his team.

Captains are important to managers. There is a very interesting story that concerns Arsène Wenger when he joined Arsenal in 1996. The team did not approve of his training methods and his strange views on diet. A delegation of players went to see him to complain. He had a rebellion on his hands. He solved the problem by persuading the strongest character in the dressing-room, Tony Adams, that he was employing the right methods. It was Adams who was able to convince the rest of the team to accept Wenger’s new ideas.

It is no coincidence that since Tony Adams left the club, Arsenal have gone into decline. It often has been said that his side lacks strong characters such as Adams. That is surely true, but maybe that is because Wenger does not want strong characters in the team. The problem with dominant personalities is that they sometimes challenge the authority of the manager. Only the really great managers are confident to have those types of characters in his team.

Kevin Nolan gives Sam Allardyce security.  He does not have the intellectual confidence to leave him out of the team. That is why we need a new manager who is more flexible in his thinking. It is claimed that David Moyes is favourite for the job. I would prefer Tony Pulis, who last week gave Sam a lesson on how to set up a team. However, I suspect both will be unavailable. I would give the job to Sean Dyche who has done a fantastic job with Burney. Only two players in the team, Danny Ings and Kieran Trippier, would get into any other Premier League team. Yet, they are still in with a chance of avoiding relegation. I have heard him interviewed several times and I suspect he is going to the very top. Hopefully, he does it with West Ham and not some other team. 

Monday, 4 August 2014

West Ham United and the First World War

Great Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August, 1914. Cricket and rugby competitions stopped almost immediately after the outbreak of the First World War. However, the Football League continued with the 1914-15 season. Most football players were professionals and were tied to clubs through one-year renewable contracts. Players could only join the armed forces if the clubs agreed to cancel their contracts.

On 7th August, 1914, Lord Kitchener , the war minister, immediately began a recruiting campaign by calling for men aged between 19 and 30 to join the British Army. At first this was very successful with an average of 33,000 men joining every day. Three weeks later Kitchener raised the recruiting age to 35 and by the middle of September over 500,000 men had volunteered their services.

On 6th September 1914, Arthur Conan Doyle, appealed for footballers to join the armed forces: "There was a time for all things in the world. There was a time for games, there was a time for business, and there was a time for domestic life. There was a time for everything, but there is only time for one thing now, and that thing is war. If the cricketer had a straight eye let him look along the barrel of a rifle. If a footballer had strength of limb let them serve and march in the field of battle." Some newspapers suggested that those who did not join up were "contributing to a German victory.

Frederick Charrington, the son of the wealthy brewer who had established the Tower Hamlets Mission, attacked the West Ham United players for being effeminate and cowardly for getting paid for playing football while others were fighting on the Western Front. The famous amateur footballer and cricketer, Charles B. Fry, called for the abolition of football, demanding that all professional contracts be annulled and that no one below forty years of age be allowed to attend matches.

West Ham had high hopes that they could win the Southern League for the first time and refused to cancel the contracts of their professional players. In Syd Puddefoot they had the country's most promising young goalscorer. West Ham won six of their first 12 games. Puddefoot got nine goals during this period. George Hilsdon and Richard Leafe were also in good form and got 7 between them. Once again West Ham were challenging for the Southern League title.

In October 1914, the Secretary of State, Lord Kitchener, issued a call for volunteers to both replace those killed in the early battles of the First World War. At the beginning of the war the army had strict specifications about who could become soldiers. Men joining the army had to be at least 5ft 6in tall and a chest measurement of 35 inches. However, these specifications were changed in order to get more men to join the armed forces.

The Bishop of Chelmsford paid a visit in Bethnal Green where he gave a sermon on the need for professional footballers to join the armed services. The Stratford Express reported on 2nd December 1914: " The Bishop, in an address on Duty, spoke of the magnificent response that had been made to the call to duty from the King. All must play their part. They must not let their brothers go to the front and themselves remain indifferent. He felt that the cry against professional football at the present time was right. He could not understand men who had any feeling, any respect for their country, men in the prime of life, taking large salaries at a time like this for kicking a ball about. It seemed to him something incongruous and unworthy".

Under considerable pressure from the government, the Football Association eventually backed down and called for football clubs to release professional footballers who were not married, to join the armed forces. The FA also agreed to work closely with the War Office to encourage football clubs to organize recruiting drives at matches.

The Athletic News responded angrily: "The whole agitation is nothing less than an attempt by the ruling classes to stop the recreation on one day in the week of the masses ... What do they care for the poor man's sport? The poor are giving their lives for this country in thousands. In many cases they have nothing else... These should, according to a small clique of virulent snobs, be deprived of the one distraction that they have had for over thirty years."

Three members of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee visited Upton Park during half-time to call for volunteers. Joe Webster, the West Ham United goalkeeper, was one of those who joined the Football Battalion as a result of this appeal. Jack Tresadern joined the Royal Garrison Artillery. An intelligent man, he quickly reached the rank of lieutenant.

West Ham United supporters also formed their own Pals Battalion. The 13th (Service) Battalion (West Ham Pals) were part of the Essex Regiment. On 5th March 1915 the East Ham Echo reported that Henry Dyer, the Mayor of West Ham, held a concert on behalf of the West Ham Battalion: "During the evening the Mayor briefly addressed the men. He remarked that it was the first time he had the opportunity of speaking to the Battalion as a whole. He was proud of them and when they had gone away a close watch upon their movements would be kept."

In his book War Hammers: The Story of West Ham United During the First World War, Brian Belton argues that the battle cry of the West Ham Pals was "Up the Irons." They saw action at the Somme, Ypres, Vimy Ridge and Cambrai. The war took a terrible toll on these men. Over the next three years the battalion suffered casualties of 37,404 killed, wounded and missing.

Not all the West Ham players joined the armed forces. According to Brian Belton: "Syd Puddefoot, worked long, exhausting and often dangerous shifts in munitions factories." Five former West Ham United players were killed in action during the war: Fred Griffiths, Arthur Stallard, William Jones, Frank Cannon and William Kennedy. West Ham's star forward, George Hilsdon, had to endure a mustard gas attack at Arras in 1917. This badly damaged his lungs and although he played briefly for Chatham Town after the war it brought an end to his professional football career. Fred Harrison was also badly gassed on the Western Front and never played football again.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Monday, 27 January 2014

Sam Allardyce is the sixth highest paid manager in the Premier League.

According to a report published by Sporting Intelligence Sam Allardyce is the sixth highest paid manager in the Premier League. His £2.95m a year is behind Jose Mourinho (£8.37m), Arsene Wenger £6.89m, David Moyes (£4.92m), Manuel Pellegrini (£3.47m) and Brendan Rodgers (£3.25m). 

Allardyce, who is on the same money as Roy Hodgson, the England manager, is the 13th highest paid manager in Europe and receives more than Roberto Mancini (Galatasaray, £2.92m), Rafa Benitez (Napoli, £2.92m),  Claudio Ranieri, (Monaco, £2.5m), Laurent Blanc (PSG, £2.5m), Antonio Conte (Juventus, £2.5m), Cesare Prandelli (Italy, £2.5m), Massimiliano Allegri (Milan, £2.34m),  Felipe Scolari (Brazil, £2.3m), Harry Redknapp (QPR, £2.09m), Joachim Low (Germany, £2.09m), Walter Mazzarri (Inter Milan, £2m) and Vecente del Bosque (Spain, £1.96m).

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The origins of the conflict between West Ham Millwall

I have recently been researching the origins of the conflict between West Ham United and Millwall.  It has to be remembered that Millwall was established in 1885, ten years before Thames Ironworks and fifteen years before West Ham United.

Millwall were in fact champions of the Southern League when Thames Ironworks was established. Therefore the first game between the two clubs took place on 14th December, 1895. That day Thames Ironworks played a game against Millwall Reserves and lost 6-0. A return match was arranged on 25th April, 1896. This time the result was 1-1.

Thames Ironworks won the Southern League Division 2 in the 1898-99. That meant that in the 1899-1900 season they were playing in the same league as Millwall. The first game took place on 23rd December 1899. Up until then Thames Ironworks had home gates of between 1,000 (Chatham) and 3,000 (Bristol City). However, for this game they had an attendance of 12,000. John Powles, the author of Iron in the Blood (2005), does not report any crowd trouble in the game. Millwall won the game 2-0.

That year Thames Ironworks also played Millwall in the FA Cup. This time 13,000 people saw Millwall win the game 2-1. It might be this game that caused the conflict between the two clubs. Tom Bradshaw scored the Hammers goal. It was the last game he played dying on 25th December 1899. Officially the 26 year old Bradshaw died of tuberculosis. However, friends claimed that he had been complaining of terrible pains when he headed the ball. This he blamed on a game he had played several years previously when a member of the Liverpool team.  Did he receive a blow to the head while playing against Millwall? Bradshaw was a popular player and if the fans thought this was the case might have caused considerable anger towards Millwall.

Interestingly, Bradshaw’s death also increased hostility towards Spurs. In 1899, Francis Payne, the club secretary, was given the task of finding good players for Thames Iron Works to prepare them for the first season in the top division of the Southern League. His record signing of £1000 was Bradshaw from Spurs.  Hammers’ fans were convinced that Spurs would have known he was suffering from tuberculosis when they sold him. Bradshaw only played four games for Thames Ironworks before that fateful game against Millwall.

The third game against Millwall was even more important. Thames Ironworks was second from bottom of the league when they played Millwall on 28th April 1900. In front of 8,000 people the Hammers won 1-0. This stopped them from being automatically relegated and had to play a “Test Match” against Fulham. The Hammers stayed in the league by winning 5-1.

The following season Thames Ironworks changed its name to West Ham United. For the next 14 years the West Ham v Millwall was the most important game of the season, attracting nearly double the attendance of any other game. More importantly, West Ham obtained dominance over Millwall during this period. In 1919 West Ham joined the Second Division of the Football League. In the 1922-23 season West Ham was promoted to the First Division and was beaten by Bolton in the 1923 Cup Final.

After this, West Ham was rarely in the same division as Millwall.  Although we did beat them 4-1 in the FA Cup on 15th February, 1930. The next time we played them was in the 1932-33 season after we had been relegated to the Second Division. On 17th September 1932 we beat them 3-0 (two of the goals were scored by the great Vic Watson). The relative size of the two clubs is reflected in the fact that 30,000 attended that game, but the return match at Millwall only had a crowd of 5,000.