Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Intermarket to Buy West Ham?

Daily Telegraph

David Byrne, Intermarket’s company secretary and one of its two founding directors, said an offer would be lodged at the beginning of next week. “We will be making a bid on Monday,” Byrne told The Daily Telegraph.

He added that he could not reveal any details of the offer – or his backers – as Intermarket had signed a non-disclosure agreement with Rothschild Bank, which has been engaged by West Ham’s owners, CB Holding, to canvas potential investors.

Byrne said that he expected to find out quickly whether Intermarket’s bid was acceptable to CB Holding, whose main shareholder is the Icelandic bank, Straumur.

It is understood that Intermarket values the club at around £100million. However, that includes estimating the debts at £48million — West Ham are adamant they are closer to £38million — and factoring in the costs of outstanding settlements to Sheffield United because of the Carlos Tévez affair and to former manager Alan Curbishley. In essence this means that only around £30million would go to Straumur and the other creditors.

A bid for West Ham was submitted before Christmas by former Birmingham City co-owner David Sullivan which amounted to £46million for a 50 per cent controlling stake. Under the Sullivan plan money would be committed to debt repayment and to sign new players in return for shares, but no cash would go to CB Holding, which had been hoping for an eventual return of around £50million.

Straumur insists that it is under no pressure to sell. However, it has not ruled out doing a deal with either party, or other potential bidders, though it has been annoyed by the tactics used, by the Sullivan bid in particular, to portray the club as being in meltdown and needing to sell all its star players in January.

West Ham will have to sell one of their big-name players to provide the funds for manager Gianfranco Zola to strengthen the squad in the transfer window. The most likely candidate is Matthew Upson who is 30, has 18 months left on his contract and is refusing to sign a new deal.
Upson is also keen to leave to strengthen his hopes of making England’s World Cup squad and is believed to be available for around £12million.

CB Holding has pledged that any funds raised in January through transfers will be made available to Zola in full.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Harry Rednapp and Andriy Shevchenko

Harry Redknapp has revealed how he missed out on signing Andriy Shevchenko as West Ham United manager. According to a report in today's Guardian, Redknapp admits he could've signed the former AC Milan and Chelsea striker. "I was at West Ham and Frank Lampard Snr and I were approached by these two villains who said they were doing some business in the Ukraine, and we were so scared of them we agreed to have a look at a couple of these kids. One of them we played against Barnet Reserves and he scored the winner. They said they wanted a million quid for him, and Frank said it was too much - well I’m blaming Frank — and we let him go. His name was Andriy Shevchenko!"

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


Intermarket and West Ham United

David Byrne, Intermarket's company secretary, and one of its two founding directors claimed on Tuesday that it had signed a non-disclosure agreement with Rothschilds. Byrne said: "Some people were dismissing us as not being serious bidders but we are. We have satisfied them [Rothschilds] that we have proof of funds."

When Intermarket went public with its interest in West Ham several weeks ago, the claim was met with scepticism by sources at CB Holdings, the company that controls the club. They questioned Intermarket's intentions and made it clear that West Ham will not be sold cheaply.

It is understood that Intermarket value the club at £100 million – claiming that includes taking on debts that they estimate at £48 million and also the costs of the Carlos Tévez affair.

It means that the group of creditors who own West Ham would receive just over £30 million, which is far less than they are hoping to recoup and would be unacceptable.

Byrne said that the investors he represents will have the financial backing to improve the club's prospects in the transfer market and improve the squad, backing manager Gianfranco Zola.

"We have definitely got the interested parties with the money needed to do what we need to do and get in some funding to stop West Ham having to sell players and make sure they can strengthen to be able to avoid relegation," he said.

There has also been annoyance that Intermarket have not made public where their proposed funding is coming from but Byrne claimed on Tuesday that the information had now been passed on to Rothschilds.

He added that he represented "a group of investors from institutional level down to high net-worth individuals".

Byrne said: "We are West Ham supporters and are deadly serious and we believe we have satisfied Rothschilds that we are serious. This has been portrayed as an American bid (because of the involvement of a US financier Jim Bowe) but that's not the case. The Intermarket Group is London based."

Signing an NDA does not mean that Intermarket have been granted permission to start due diligence and does not mean that the company has to prove it has funding. There are also, according to sources, other potential bidders and investors who have been appointed along with Standard Bank, and who are trying to access the club's books.

Byrne claimed that he expected to see "official figures" next week which will lay out West Ham's finances and added that Intermarket were keen to try and finalise a deal before a creditors meeting on Dec 11.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Monday, 26 October 2009

West Ham v Bournemouth (1929)

You can watch film of the 1929 fifth round FA tie between West Ham v Bournemouth at Dean Court (attendance 11,346). The game resulted in a 1-1 draw. Tommy Yews got the goal for the Hammers. He also got one of the goals in the 3-1 victory at Upton Park (attendance 30,217).

Unfortunately, West Ham was knocked out in the next round by Portsmouth. Jim Barrett got both goals in the 3-2 defeat.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Gianluca Nani

News of the World

Zola has been willing to embrace a new "project" to develop the club's best youngsters but his relationship with West Ham technical director Gianluca Nani has become strained.

Nani is in charge of transfers but Zola was bemused when the club sold Craig Bellamy for £14m to Manchester City last January.

West Ham then quickly shelled out a reported £9m for untried, Ugandan-born German Under-21 international Savio.

Despite a rave billing, Savio flopped and has since been involved in a swap deal with Fiorentina that has brought defender Manuel da Costa to the club in a deal that was worth around £3m.

Neither Zola nor assistant boss Steve Clarke particularly rate Da Costa and were upset that the club sold defender James Collins to Aston Villa for £5m.

That enabled Nani to bring in attacking midfielder Luis Jimenez on loan from Inter Milan and striker Alessandro Diamanti from Livorno.

Zola has not been keen on confrontation but I understand Clarke has had several heated debates with Nani over the logic behind some of the signings.

Zola is cutting an increasingly frustrated figure on the sidelines at Hammers matches these days.
And after Monday's 3-1 defeat at Manchester City, which locked the Hammers into the bottom three with just four points from six games, Zola read the riot act to his players.

He regards today's clash against fellow strugglers Fulham as a match that could shape the club's season.

Zola said: "Preparing for this game is like a cup final for us. At Manchester City on Monday, it was the worst we have played all season. We have to improve."

The manager then vowed to act with a firmer fist. He added: "I am going to be more focused and demanding of the players. I am going to be on top of it until I get it right."

Skipper Matthew Upson is set to return today following a calf injury. Clarke said: "You need all your experienced players. Matthew has been good for us since Gianfranco and myself came to the club."

Monday, 5 October 2009

David Gold and David Sullivan

From the News of the World:

The £100million takeover of West Ham by David Gold and David Sullivan is back on.

Now the sale of Birmingham City to Chinese tycoon Carson Yeung has been rubber-stamped, Gold and Sullivan have the funds to buy the Hammers.

But the pair will only make a formal move if the Icelandic bankers who own the London club are realistic about the selling price.

The Essex-based pair backed off last month when it was indicated that a £120m cash deal was wanted.

At the time, West Ham's owners were hopeful of creating an auction but no other firm bidders emerged.

The asking price has now dropped to £100m and I understand that takes into account about £50m of debt.

So Gold and Sullivan, who sold Birmingham for £80m, could land the Hammers for in the region of £50m in equity.

CB Holdings, an off-shoot of Straumur - which took over the club after the collapse of another bank, Landsbanki - were holding out for an economic upturnin the hope of increasing the price.

But key creditors in Iceland are now pushing to have their debts settled.

Gold and Sullivan have been biding their time but the pair are now poised to make their move and then radically overhaul the Hammers.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Zavon Hines: Part 2

I wrote on my West Ham blog on 2nd August, 2009:

"West Ham's pre-season games have been disappointing so far. The one bright spark is Zavon Hines. Although he only played the last ten minutes in the two games in China, he looked very lively and was impressed by the way he took his goal. (You need to see it in slow motion to realise just how good it was.)... The way Hines moves reminds me of Ian Wright. He seems a confident lad, a vital ingredient if you are going to be a top striker. It would not surprise me if Hines is our breakthrough player this season."

I was very impressed with the way he played yesterday. The reason he caused the Liverpool defence so many problems was his electric acceleration. One can understand why Jamie Carragher thought he had time to clear the ball in the 2nd minute that led to Hines hitting the post. As Stanley Matthews used to say, it is the speed that you have over the first 10 yards that really causes defenders problems. This is why he was fouled so much and Martin Skrtel should have been sent off for his last ditch foul on Hines as he raced through the middle.

Hines’s first touch is very good but he needs to improve his passing and tackling. However, he will not be truly effective until he plays in a 4-4-2 system. His talents will be wasted if has to stay on the wing defending his own full-back.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Guillermo Franco

Guillermo Franco claims he has signed for West Ham. He did not score for Villarreal in 18 games last season. However, he did score four goals for Mexico in 2009.

Here is the latest goal against Costa Rica:

Friday, 11 September 2009

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Zavon Hines Update

On 2nd August 2009 I wrote the following:

West Ham's pre-season games have been disappointing so far. The one bright spark is Zavon Hines. Although he only played the last ten minutes in the two games in China, he looked very lively and was impressed by the way he took his goal. (You need to see it in slow motion to realise just how good it was.)

The Hammers handed him his debut at the start of the 2008/09 season as a 27th minute replacement for Valon Bahrami in a Carling Cup tie at home to Macclesfield. Hines scored the third goal in a 4-1 extra-time win.

Hines signed on loan for Coventry City on 27 March 2008. He scored his first goal in his second game for Coventry City on 1 April 2008 in a 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday. According to the BBC: "Substitute Zavon Hines looked to have snatched victory for the Sky Blues with his sublime left-foot volley late on."

Hines missed much of the 2008–09 season with a knee injury but signed a new contract in March 2009, keeping him at the club until summer 2010.

Hines was born in Jamaica and grew up in the East End of London. On 10 February 2009 Hines was called into the Jamaica team for their friendly international against Nigeria on 11 February 2009. However, he remained on the bench.

The way Hines moves reminds me of Ian Wright. He seems a confident lad, a vital ingredient if you are going to be a top striker. It would not surprise me if Hines is our breakthrough player this season.

Last night he scored a hat-trick against Birmingham City reserves. Hopefully he will be in the first-team on Saturday against Wigan.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Why West Ham fans sing “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”

In the Spring 2005 edition of “Soccer History”, John Northcutt published an article on why West Ham fans sing “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”. He points out that the song was written in 1919 and became a popular hit in the UK in the early 1920s. At the time it was fairly common for football crowds to sing popular songs together. At Upton Park the club employed the Beckton Gas Works Band to play before the game started. One of the songs they played was “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”. However, the mystery remains, why did the Upton Park crowd adopt the song as its anthem?

John Northcutt spends sometime discussing the most popular theory of why this happened. It is a fascinating idea as it involves a famous painting, a soap advert and a young West Ham player named Will Murray.

In 1886 Sir John Everett Millais, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, painted a portrait of his five-year old grandson watching a soap bubble he had blown through a clay pipe (erroneously, Northcutt claims it was painted in 1829). The painting caused a sensation as it was completely different from his previous work. It was first exhibited under the title A Child's World in Grosvenor Gallery in London, and was acquired by Sir William Ingram of the Illustrated London News. The painting was reproduced and presented in the magazine as a colour plate, where it was seen by Thomas J. Barratt, managing director of A&F Pears. Barratt purchased the original painting from Ingram for £2,200 which gave him exclusive copyright on the picture. Millais' permission was sought in order to alter the picture by the addition of a bar of Pears Soap, so that it could be used for the purposes of advertising. The painting/advert now became known as “Bubbles”.

Northcutt then goes on to argue that as the Pears Soap Works was based in Canning Town, there would have been a lot of Bubbles posters around the ground at the time the song was popular. Therefore, the fans would therefore have associated the song and the poster together. There are several things wrong with this argument. First of all, Pears was a national company and their posters would be no more likely to have been around the Upton Park ground at that time than any other stadium. More importantly, Pears were no longer using the Millais’ Bubbles painting in the 1920s.

The next stage of the story is even more unconvincing. Northcutt argues: “The West Ham Boys team often played their home games at Upton Park in front of huge crowds and one of the team, Will Murray, having fair curly hair resembled the boy in the advert. He soon gained the nickname Bubbles Murray and whenever he played the crowd would sing I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, this being the popular song of the day.”

Wikipedia has a slightly different version of this story. It claims that Murray was given the nickname “Bubbles” by his headmaster Cornelius Beal. It goes on to argue that Murray “had an almost uncanny resemblance to the boy in the famous Bubbles painting by Millais used in a Pears soap commercial of the time.”

There is a photograph in existence of Murray in 1921. He looks nothing like the Bubbles painting. Nor could he, as the painting shows a five year old boy, not a teenager. He has dark rather than fair hair. It is fairly curly, but nothing like the original painting or indeed the Pears adverts that were in existence in the early 1920s.

The other important point is that the record books show that Will Murray never played for West Ham first team. His early promise was not fulfilled. However, is it really credible that the Upton Park fans would sing a song about a player who never made it into the first-team?

The club’s historian, John Helliar, added to the story when he wrote an article (17th October, 2009) about the song on the West Ham United’s official website. He follows the claim made by John Northcutt (not referenced) that “Billy Bubbles Murray, so-called because of his distinct and almost uncanny resemblance to the boy in the famous painting by Millais”. He goes on to add some more information on the story. Helliar quotes a letter from a former member of the Beckton Gas Works Band, to the “Pensioners’ Bulletin” in 1983. He recalls that the band “were engaged by the West Ham United Football Club to play for 20 minutes before the kick-off and 10 minutes at the interval.” He added: “We played Bubbles and it very quickly became a favourite with the crowd.” The problem is that the man does not give a date for these performances. It could have been in the early 1920s that would give some support to the story about Murray. However, it could also have been in the 1930s when the promising schoolboy footballer was no longer a topic of conversation at Upton Park.

John Helliar does at least expose the myth that “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” was sung by West Ham fans before the start of the 1923 Cup Final at Wembley. His research shows that the song adopted at that match was “Till We Meet Again.”

Despite the obvious flaws in the Will Bubbles Murray story it became the official explanation when it featured on BBC television last year. As is often the case with television, the story was told as fact rather than speculation.

John Northcutt, in his original article in “Soccer History”, made it clear that the story might not be true. To emphasise this he put forward two alternative theories. The first involves a FA Cup tie against Swansea Town in 1922. Unlike West Ham historians, Swansea Town have carried out research to show that “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” was sung at the Vetch Field. He quotes from the Sporting News (8th January, 1921) that the Swansea crowd sung the song before a FA Cup tie against Bury. “Then came the ever popular Bubbles, and the crowd simply yelled. The spectators on the main bank took their cue from the Mumbles end, and there was one tremendous sway, together with the singing, on the part of about 25,000.”

Northcutt speculates that the West Ham crowd might have developed this tradition after hearing the Welsh fans singing this song in the FA cup game played against Swansea in 1921. Well, this story has been dashed in an article that appears in the current edition of Soccer History. Ian Nannestad has studied newspaper reports of the game and according to the Football Post “there was no singing” before the game.

This raises the issue of why West Ham historians such as John Northcutt and John Helliar have not been able to find newspaper reports in the 1920s and 1930s that remark on the fans singing “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” at Upton Park. If they had found such reports, they would surely have used them in their articles.

Northcutt also includes a third explanation for the singing of Bubbles. He points out that West Ham historian, Brian Belton, has argued that Bubbles was sung as crowds gathered during air raids in shelters and underground stations in the East End during the Second World War. This led to a rise in communal singing by the general public to raise morale. According to Belton, the first time the song was reported to be sung by West Ham fans was during the 1940 League War Cup Final at Wembley. This was a game that the Irons won and maybe the fans took it as a good luck omen. Anyway, that appears to me to be the most logical reason why the fans sing “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” at Upton Park.

History Repeating Itself

The philosopher George Santayana once said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” However, as Aldous Huxley has pointed out: “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”

This is unfortunately true of West Ham. Ever since Arnold Hills decided in 1900 that he was no longer in a position to finance the club he had formed when managing director of the Thames Ironworks & Shipbuilding Company, the club has experienced one financial crisis after another. The solution to this problem has been to sell our best players. For example, in 1901, the club sold their star player, Charlie Dove, to bitter rivals, Millwall.

This failed to solve the problem and the directors of West Ham were seriously concerned about the financial situation of the club at the beginning of the 1903-04 season. It had lost £900 in the past two seasons and had an overdraft of £770 and assets of less than £200. The main problem was a fall in season ticket sales (not surprising given their transfer policy). The club was forced to sell to sell their best players. This included Charlie Satterthwaite, who had scored 18 of West Ham's 38 goals that season.

The following season, Syd King, once again had to sell his leading scorer, Billy Grassam, to Manchester United. These sales meant that West Ham could never reach their full potential. However, King was a genius at developing young players and so the club was able to survive.

The 1905 edition of Association Football included the following passage: "It is the proud boast of the West Ham club that they turn out more local players than any other team in the South. The district has been described as a hot-bed of football and it is so. The raw material is found on the marshlands and open spaces round about; and after a season or so, the finished player leaves the East End workshop to better himself, as most ambitious young men will do. In the ranks of other organizations many old West Ham boys have distinguished themselves."

Every time it looked like Syd King and his coach, Charlie Paynter, were beginning to build a successful team they were forced to sell their best players. A good example of this was Danny Shea. Born in Wapping, he was 21 years old and playing football for the Builders Arms pub team in Stratford when he was discovered by Paynter, in 1908.

Shea, a skillful inside-forward, was an immediate success. In his first season in the Southern League he ended up as top scorer with 20 goals. This was followed by 31 (1909-10), 28 (1910-11) and 24 (1911-12). All told he had scored 103 goals in a 166 games. Shea was described as "an artful schemer and delicate dribbler who had the knack of wheeling suddenly when near goal and unleashing a thunderbolt shot."

Blackburn Rovers, who had won the First Division of the Football League title in the 1911-12 season. They struggled for goals the following season and decided to pay a British record transfer fee of £2,000 for Shea. West Ham fans were devastated.

In the 1913-14 season Blackburn once again won the league title. Danny Shea was in great form scoring 27 goals. He also went onto play for England. Everton’s Patsy Gallagher, described Shea as "one of the greatest ball artists who has ever played for England... his manipulation of the ball was bewildering."

West Ham’s next outstanding talent was Syd Puddefoot. Born in Bow on 17th November 1894 he was educated at Park School in West Ham and played football for Limehouse Town. Puddefoot was signed by West Ham United manager, Syd King, after he saw him play for London Juniors against Surrey Juniors in 1912.

As John Northcutt and Roy Shoesmith point out in their book, West Ham United: An Illustrated History (1994): "The 19-year-old Syd Puddefoot arrived and he found the net on 13 occasions in his first 11 games... He proved he could find the net when opposed by a quality defence, scoring in both games of a replayed cup-tie against Liverpool."

Puddefoot established an FA Cup goal scoring record for the club on 10th January, 1914, when he scored five times in an 8-1 victory over Chesterfield. That season he scored 16 goals in 20 cup and league games.

West Ham United finished in 4th place of the Southern League in the 1914-15 season. Puddefoot was top scorer with 18 goals in 35 league games. This included a hat-trick against Exeter City on 2nd January 1915. The local newspaper reported that: "Some 14 minutes elapsed before Puddefoot, who completely outshone every other forward on the field, opened the scoring for his side and ten minutes later he was again successful in finding the net."

The outbreak of the First World War resulted in the disbandment of the Southern League in 1915. Puddefoot returned to league football in the 1919-20 season and he was once once again top scorer with 26 goals in 43 league and cup games. He continued in good form in the 1920-21 season with 29 goals in 38 league games.

Syd King and Charlie Paynter had managed to build a very good West Ham team that included Jimmy Ruffell, George Kay, Edward Hufton, Jack Tresadern, Vic Watson, Sid Bishop, Richard Leafe, Billy Brown and Jack Young. The team relied heavily on Puddefoot's goals and it was great shock to the fans when King sold him to Falkirk for the British record fee of £5,000 in February 1925.

As the authors of the The Essential History of West Ham United (2000) pointed out that his departure "nearly caused a riot among Hammers fans". However, the club blamed Puddefoot in a statement issued after his transfer: "The departure of Syd Puddefoot came as no surprise to those intimately connected with him. It is an old saying that everyone has one chance in life to improve themselves and Syd Puddefoot is doing the right thing for himself in studying his future. We understand that he will be branching out in commercial circles in Falkirk and when his football days are over he will be assured of a nice little competency."

The truth of the matter was that Puddefoot was very reluctant to move to Scotland to play for Falkirk. However, at this time footballers had little control over these matters. At the time of his departure, it looked like West Ham United would win promotion to the First Division. However, without their top goalscorer, the club lost five of their last seven games and finished in 4th place.

Hopefully, Zola and Clarke are as good as King and Paynter and they will continue to build a good team based on local youngsters. If not, we may be seeing the demise of West Ham as a leading club in the country.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Football Skills

The history of West Ham United colours.

On 29th June, 1895, Arnold Hills, the managing director of the Thames Ironworks & Shipbuilding Company, announced in his newspaper, the Thames Ironworks Gazette, that he intended to establish a football club. The information appeared under the headline: "The importance of co-operation between workers and management". He referred to the industrial dispute that had just taken place and insisted he wanted to "wipe away the bitterness left by the recent strike". Hills added: "Thank God this midsummer madness is passed and gone; inequities and anomalies have been done away with and now, under the Good Fellowship system and Profit Sharing Scheme, every worker knows that his individual and social rights are absolutely secured."

The first match was a friendly against Royal Ordnance on 7th September, 1895. The result was a 1-1 draw. This was followed by victories against Dartford, Manor Park, Streatham and Old St Stephens. Members of the team included Charlie Dove (apprentice riveter), Thomas Freeman (ship's fireman), Johnny Stewart (boilermaker), Walter Parks (clerk), Walter Tranter (boilermaker) James Lindsay (boilermaker), William Chapman (mechanical engineer), George Sage, (boilermaker), George Gresham (ship's plater) and William Chamberlain (foreman blacksmith).

I have been unable to discover any written documents that reveal the colours that the team played in. However, there is a photograph taken in 1895 that shows the team wearing dark shirts and trousers. If we assume that Arnold Hills selected the colours, I would think that they played in dark blue. The reason for this was that these were the colours of Oxford University, the team Hills represented in the varsity match and in the 1877 F.A. Cup Final.

In 1896 Thames Ironworks won the West Ham Charity Cup. A photograph of the team shows that they are still playing in dark shirts. The first detailed description of the kit appeared at the beginning of the 1897-98 season. The strip consisted of Royal Cambridge blue shirts, white shorts, red cap, belt and stockings. According to research by Grant Hole, these kits were probably inherited from Castle Swifts FC, the works side of the Castle Mail Packet Company.

We do know that Castle Swifts, the first football club to be formed in Essex, had gone bankrupt in March 1895, when the chairman of Castle Mail, Donald Currie, decided he was no longer willing to bankroll the club. They did play in light blue shirts, white shorts and red socks. Arnold Hills took over the tenancy of the Swifts’ Hermit Road ground and he also recruited Tom Robinson, Swifts’ former trainer, to work with the Thames Ironworks team.

The Thames Ironworks Gazette commented that the new colours were very impressive: "The contrast supplied by the delightful green turf is very pleasing." One newspaper reporter commented: "A prettier and more distinctive costume than theirs I have never yet seen on a football ground. Light blue shirts, white knickers and scarlet stockings were their colours." However, when the club played a game during a thunder storm in November, 1897, a local newspaper commented that the "Ironworks appeared on the field with brand new white spotless clean knickers and light blue shirts, but before they had been playing long they were like blackamoors".

There are photographs of the Thames Iron Works taken in 1897 and 1899. Although in black and white, they lend support to the idea that the team continued to play in light blue shirts, white shorts and scarlet socks.

Thames Iron Works was renamed West Ham United in September 1900. A team photograph taken that year suggested that the club had retained the light blue colours. According to club historian, John Helliar, on 14th September, 1901, West Ham “took to the field wearing their new colours of light blue jerseys, with a claret band, and white knickers with a red stripe.”

The earliest photograph I have been able to find showing West Ham wearing the current claret and light blue strip was taken on 16th January 1904. The game against Plymouth Argyle took place at the Memorial Grounds.

The team photograph taken at the beginning of the 1904-05 season clearly shows the team wearing claret shirts with light blue sleeves and hoop around the neck. However, it is recorded that on some occasions West Ham did resort to wearing their old “Cambridge blue shirts”.

According to the Historical Kits website, West Ham first began wearing claret and blue shirts in 1899: “There is a story that in the summer of 1899 Bill Dove, a sprinter of national repute who was involved in coaching the Ironworks team, was challenged to a race with four Aston Villa players at a fair in Birmingham. Dove won but the Villa men could not pay the wager so one of them pinched a set of claret and blue shirts from his club (he was responsible for doing the laundry) to settle the bet.”

This seems very unlikely and the author of the article admits that he got this information from Wikipedia. This story also appears in Brian Belton’s “West Ham United Miscellany” (2006). However, I do not find the story convincing. Nor is there any primary evidence of the club wearing these colours until the 1903-04 season.
It has been pointed out that Aston Villa was the most successful club side during this period having won the league title five times in seven years. It has been argued that the Hammers might have adopted Villa’s colours partly to be associated with the success of the club.

What we do know is that the directors of West Ham were seriously concerned about the financial situation of the club at the beginning of the 1903-04 season. It had lost £900 in the past two seasons and had an overdraft of £770 and assets of less than £200. The main problem was a full in season ticket sales. The club was forced to sell to sell their best players. This included Charlie Satterthwaite, who had scored 18 of West Ham's 38 goals that season. Given their perilous situation, did the wealthiest club in England, take pity on the club and donate them a set of claret and blue shirts?

You can see these early photographs on my website on the early history of West Ham United.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Matthew Upson

It is becoming increasingly clear that West Ham will not be able to buy a striker without selling one of their star players. Although he is our best defender, I fear we will have to sell Matthew Upson. According to news reports, he is wanted by Manchester City and Aston Villa. No doubt Upson would prefer the higher wages being offered by City but I suspect he will go to Aston Villa for about £12m. This will enable Zola to buy Marouane Chamakh, the 25-year-old Moroccan international. Bordeaux want £7.5m for their striker. It sounds a lot of money but he looks the kind of player who will do well in the premier league.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Daily Mirror's West Ham Archive

Some good photographs and original newspaper match reports on West Ham:

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Anthony Edgar

Anthony Edgar got some rave reviews for his pre-season performance against Kingstonian where he worked well just behind Frank Nouble and Cristian Montano. A London lad he was born on 30th September 1990 and is a cousin of Jermain Defoe.,,12562,00.html,,12562~1740374,00.html

Zavon Hines

West Ham's pre-season games have been disappointing so far. The one bright spark is Zavon Hines. Although he only played the last ten minutes in the two games in China, he looked very lively and was impressed by the way he took his goal. (You need to see it in slow motion to realise just how good it was.)

The Hammers handed him his debut at the start of the 2008/09 season as a 27th minute replacement for Valon Bahrami in a Carling Cup tie at home to Macclesfield. Hines scored the third goal in a 4-1 extra-time win.

Hines signed on loan for Coventry City on 27 March 2008. He scored his first goal in his second game for Coventry City on 1 April 2008 in a 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday. According to the BBC: "Substitute Zavon Hines looked to have snatched victory for the Sky Blues with his sublime left-foot volley late on."

Hines missed much of the 2008–09 season with a knee injury but signed a new contract in March 2009, keeping him at the club until summer 2010.

Hines was born in Jamaica and grew up in the East End of London. On 10 February 2009 Hines was called into the Jamaica team for their friendly international against Nigeria on 11 February 2009. However, he remained on the bench.

The way Hines moves reminds me of Ian Wright. He seems a confident lad, a vital ingredient if you are going to be a top striker. It would not surprise me if Hines is our breakthrough player this season.

Birth Date December 27, 1988
Height 5' 10" (1.78m)
Weight 12.2 st (77.6 kg),,12562~43469,00.html

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

History of Football

Here are some good web pages on the history of football:

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Luis Jimenez and Andy Carroll

The Times is reporting that Luis Jimenez's loan move to West Ham United is in the offing after his application for a work permit was successful, despite the fact the 24-year-old has not played in 75 per cent of Chile's matches in the last two years.

Jimenez has been little more than a fringe player during his two years at Inter and it is largely due to this that Marcelo Bielsa, current Chile coach, has not been selecting the player for international duty. There is also little chance of Jimenez finding any success with the Italian champions because coach Jose Mourinho is preparing to axe a number of fringe players from his squad.

With this in mind, the Chilean is favourable towards a switch that will guarantee him a place in the starting XI every week. West Ham are able to offer this.

Though the Hammers are confident of landing their man, Tottenham Hotspur are also looking to add Jimenez to their squad. Gianluca Nani, West Ham's technical director, has been tracking Jimenez for some time and this may be a crucial factor if and when the player is forced to choose between the two London clubs.

West Ham United are lining up an offer for Newcastle United's highly-rated target man Andy Carroll, in news that is bound to disappoint Toon fans, who could point to a whole host of players they would rather see leave than the locally-born prospect.

Carroll had been viewed by many observers as having a key role to fulfill for the Magpies, as they look to bounce back from their ignominious relegation to the second tier of English football after a 16-year stay in the Premier League.

English tabloid The Daily Star is reporting that the Hammers, whose financial situation was stabilised somewhat by a takeover last week, are keeping tabs on Carroll though, with manager Gianfranco Zola apparently an admirer.

Newcastle are already looking short on striking options with Mark Viduka and Michael Owen set to be released, and Obafemi Martins, despite his assertions that he will stay, being heavily linked with a move to Arsenal, Aston Villa or Everton.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Luis Jumenez

It is argued that Luis Jumenez of Inter-Milan will join West Ham soon. Here he is scoring for Chile against Venezuela:

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

West Ham Player Ratings (2008-09)

Over the past few seasons I have collected the ratings of each West Ham players that have been assessed by 13 national newspapers and football websites, including KUMB. As this reflects the judgments of so many different people it is probably the most objective way of assessing a player’s performance over a long period. It also provides an insight into the performance of people like Zola and Clarke. I will comment on this later but here are the ratings of all those who played for West Ham this season. You can also see the player’s ratings for individual games and previous season’s figures here:

Craig Bellamy (6.93)

Scott Parker (6.86)

James Tomkins (6.69)

Matthew Upson (6.67)

Rob Green (6.66)

James Collins (6.63)

Jack Collison (6.55)

Carlton Cole (6.55)

Dean Ashton (6.46)

Mark Noble (6.37)

Junior Stanislas (6.35)

Freddie Sears (6.35)

Herita Ilunga (6.23)

Calum Davenport (6.23)

Lucas Neill (6.19)

Valon Behrami (6.16)

Radoslav Kovac (6.15)

Matthew Etherington (6.12)

Lee Bowyer (6.10)

Hayden Mullins (6.08)

Jonathan Spector (6.01)

Luis Boa Morte (5.94)

David Di Michele (5.94)

Julien Faubert (5.65)

Diego Tristan (5.54)

Kieron Dyer (5.46)

Savio Nsereko (5.37)

Monday, 11 May 2009

David Di Michele

I have never been convinced by Di Michele. He might have been alright at his peak but there is no way that he can be effective in the best league in the world. Zola has done some great things this season but he has a complete blind spot when it comes to his foreign loan signings. Surely it would be better to give some experience to Sears and Hines at this stage of the season. Would Collison and Tomkins have been given an extended run if we had a couple of foreign loan signings in the squad?

This is what Jonathan Northcroft of the Sunday Times had to say about Di Michele yesterday:

"David Di Michele is almost small enough to look Gianfranco Zola straight in the eye but for some time to come he may have trouble doing that. This was a forgettable game that contained a classic football moment - but not of the glorious kind. It was not so much a comedy as a whole six-season sitcom series of errors; first, in trying to accept an Alvaro Arbeloa pass, Jamie Carragher lost his balance inexplicably and swiped fresh air, allowing the ball to run free and Di Michele to collect it and bear down on Jose Reina. Di Michele lured the goalkeeper forward and nicked the ball past him with his right foot. So far so good. Then came the banana skin. The West Ham striker was four yards out, the goal was open and all he had to do was tap the ball in. Instead Di Michele lost co-ordination. His left foot came down in the wrong spot, he stumbled into the ball and it was somehow knocked wide of the goal. An attempt to retrieve the situation, and his pride, ended in further ignominy. Di Michele threw himself on the grass, looking for a penalty. Instead Alan Wiley booked him for simulation - Di Michele deserved punishment for trying to fake being a striker."

Monday, 4 May 2009

West Ham and Rory Delap

A football commentator at Sky recently said that no team has been able to deal with Rory Delap's long throws this season. It seems to me that West Ham did very well against it on Saturday. In an interview in the Guardian today, Rob Green explained the tactics employed by Zola and Clarke: "Everyone stood up to it and really took on board the information we were given" said Green. The article goes on to say: "The key to combating Stoke's dangerous long throws and set-piece deliveries, Zola and his assistant, Steve Clarke, had told them, was not to crowd the penalty area." Green added: "When we watched the videos, a lot of the time it was two or three of the opposition with one Stoke player, which didn't really make sense, it's better to have a clearer area and someone to head the ball... We went man-to-man and said 'We'll win the ball', and everyone today did that."

Green also gave an interview to John Wragg of the Daily Express: "The advantage of facing a long throw is they can't throw it straight in he net, whereas with a free kick they can. So you can afford to come off your line a little bit more and help the guys out. It's a massive part of Stoke's game. We took it on board what they had and knew what was coming. It was just a case of being organised."

Andy Wilkinson, Stoke's right-back, claimed after the game: "Green was more commanding than the other keepers who have tried to deal with Delap's throws. He came out and claimed a lot of them."

Monday, 27 April 2009

Dick Richards

Dick Richards was signed by Syd King, the manager of West Ham United for a fee of £300 in 1922. Richards was the club's outside-right in the 1923 FA Cup final against Bolton Wanderers. He was also an important figure in the team that won promotion to the First Division that year. Richards only played in 9 league games in the 1923-24 season before being sold to Fulham. Richards was also a member of the Welsh team that won the Home Championship in 1924.

I recently had an email from Robert Jarvis, whose wife is related to Dick Richards. He is involved in researching her family history and has uncovered Dick's birth and death certificate. It seems that the club and the Football Association have got their facts wrong.

Richard (Dick) Richards was in fact born in Weston Point, Runcorn on 14th January 1892. His father had been tragically drowned in the dock on the Weaver Navigation before he was born. The family later moved to Glyn Ceiriog (the place that the FA says he was born).

Dick Richards died at Salford Royal Infirmary following an accident while working for a electricity company at the age of 43 on 27th January, 1934.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

West Ham player-ratings against Sunderland (4th April, 2009)

West Ham player-ratings against Sunderland (4th April, 2009)

James Tomkins (7.76)

Junior Stanislas (7.61)

Luis Boa Morte (6.84)

Rob Green (6.84)

Matthew Upson (6.84)

Mark Noble (6.61)

David Di Michele (6.53)

Lucas Neill (6.38)

Herita Ilunga (6.23)

Jonathan Spector (6.15)

Diego Tristan (5.84)

Friday, 20 March 2009

Bondz N'Gala

Junior Stanislas has told West Ham United fans that defender Bondz N'Gala will be the next off the development conveyor belt.

The winger told "Bondz will get his chance as well. I've got mine and he will get his so it's all good. It was a good experience for me.

"We're in seventh place and could maybe have played a bit better and picked up a couple more points but, personally, it was a good start for me."

Hammers reserves coach Alex Dyer also said of N'Gala: "I see that hopefully he can go on and play first-team football, hopefully with West Ham but, if not, certainly at a good level of the game. He works hard in training and trains with the first team all the time now and you can see that he's developing. He's comfortable on the ball and he can pass it. You can see that he encourages others to do the best around him and that's why I made him captain."

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

West Ham v WBA

Although the Hammers had been in reasonably good form recently, the omens were not good for the game against WBA. It had been over a year since West Ham had won a game with Carlton Cole in the side. Behrami and Collison, two of our most influencial players in recent months, were both out with long-term injuries.

Even so, after a reasonable start to the season, WBA are now rooted firmly at the bottom of the league, and clearly the worst team in the division. Surely a patched-up West Ham would be able to beat a team that cannot score and has the worst defensive record in the top tier.

The suspensions and injuries gave Zola the opportunity to give a first start to our record signing, Savio Nsereko. Another, relatively untested 19-year-old, Freddie Sears, was also in the line-up. So also was James Tomkins, as James Collins was still unfit to play alongside Matthew Upson. The warm sunshine in the afternoon suggested that maybe it was going to be the first day of Spring for West Ham fans. Unfortunately, the buds failed to blossom and by the end of the game fear, rather than hope, was the overriding emotion.

It was not long before it became clear why Zola had resisted calls to play Savio from the start. He was clearly nervous but even making allowances for this there was little evidence that this was a future premiership star. He was a willing runner but his touch constantly let him down. He got back to help his full-back but his defending was naïve and he was passed very easily. Savio managed a few shots and crosses but I don’t remember any of them reaching their intended target. I know that he is very young but I thought, given the large fee that has been paid for him, he would have shown a lot more potential than he did.

Freddie Sears showed a bit more composure than Savio and looked much more comfortable on the ball than his expensive colleague. However, he never looked a real threat in front of goal and irritatingly was constantly getting caught offside. Mind you, the service he got was appalling.

At the current time, Tomkins looks the best prospect out of this trio of teenagers. I like the way he always seems to have plenty of time to do the things he needs to do as a central defender. The way he reads the game reminds me of a young Bobby Moore. His contribution became even more important after Upson was stretchered off after landing awkwardly in the 29th minute. A promising display but it has to be remembered that Tomkins was facing a forward-line that had only scored 25 goals in 29 games this season.

The main problem was in central midfield where Zola played two holding players, Kovac and Parker. Noble, who is primarily an attacking player, was forced to play wide. He is clearly not happy with this role and he constantly drifted inside to a crowded midfield. Kovac offers nothing going forward and even though Parker did try to add support to the forwards, it is clearly not the strongest part of his game.

Di Michele was awful. He was constantly caught in possession and when he did manage to pass the ball it rarely reached a colleague. He did manage two shots on goal but both were so wide that they went for throw-ins. Di Michele was not alone in this and Carson did not have to make a save all night.

Junior Stanislas replaced Savio in the 68th minute. He was a slight improvement and definitely had less difficulty holding onto the ball. However, his crosses into the centre were wasted as the rest of the forwards treated the WBA box as a no-go area.

Despite showing their complete lack of quality, WBA had the best chances and Green did well to block Morrison’s shot after he casually waltzed through the West Ham defence in the first-half.

In the 70th minute Greening did the same thing but luckily for the Hammers he lifted the ball over the bar. However, the closest WBA came to scoring was when Jonas Olsson’s elbowed Green in the face, leaving Shelton Martis to head against the bar.

After the game the former referee, Graham Poll, described the incident on television: "Olsson comes in with his arm. He is looking, knows where Green is and catches him across the chin. If seen, it is a red card offence. I think it was deliberate." That was my assessment as well and I fully expect retrospective action to be taken against Olsson. Green commented: “He caught me with a good one. Luckily, it was on a sturdy part of my face rather than an eye socket or nose that could have done me some proper damage.” Green is to be commended by his reaction to the challenge. He reminds me of those English goalkeepers in the 1970s who never made a fuss when they were whacked at corners.

With a little bit more ambition WBA could have won the game against a lethargic side that seemed to think they were still playing beach football in Marbella. Let us hope that it is the last time that Zola thinks it is a good idea to take the squad on a mid-season break to the seaside.

Last night’s game showed that what shrewd observers have been saying for sometime. The main starting line-up is not too bad but the quality of the rest of the squad is just not good enough. On this form we have no chance of holding onto 7th place and a few away days to remote European towns and cities.

Player Ratings

Green: Good save from Morrison and as usual commandeered his area with authority. (7)

Neill: Gave the ball away several times when moving forward but was not really troubled defensively. (6)

Tomkins: The way he reads the game reminds me of a young Bobby Moore. (8)

Upson: Was not really troubled before he was stretchered off after landing awkwardly in the 29th minute. (6)

Ilunga: His worse game so far for the club. Rarely got forward and when he did he had difficulty keeping the ball in play. (5)

Noble: Will not reach top form until he is played in central midfield. He is clearly not happy with this wide role and he constantly drifted inside to a crowded midfield. (5)

Kovac: Does not look good enough for this level. As soon as he gets the ball he passes sideways. Would much rather see Noble play in this role. (5)

Parker: Worse game for sometime. Made a few efforts to get forward but nothing came of his advances upfield. He was also slow to get back and showed signs that he is suffering the consequences of a hard season. (5)

Savio: He was clearly nervous but even making allowances for this there was little evidence that this was a future premiership star. (5)

Di Michele: He was constantly caught in possession and when he did manage to pass the ball it rarely reached a colleague. He did manage two shots on goal but both were so wide that they went for throw-ins. (4)

Sears: He never looked a real threat in front of goal and irritatingly was constantly getting caught offside. (5)

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Why I am a West Ham fan

My father took me to my first football game when I was about six years old. He was born in North Landon and was a passionate Spurs fan. The game was against Arsenal. I stood on a stool at the front and I watched the game through the curved railings that was on the top of the wall.

I only have a few visual memories of the game. I remember Ron Burgess coming up very close to me in order to collect the ball to take a throw-in. He was bald headed and looked very old. This was a time when young men did not shave their heads and few suffered from premature hair loss.

The second image I recall was of the long shorts worn by Jimmy Logie. It must have been a huge disappointment for my father when I told him that I preferred Arsenal’s red shirts to the boring white of his team. He must have been a tolerant dad because I received an Arsenal shirt as a birthday present that year.

It was another couple of years before he took me to White Hart Lane on a regular basis. When they were playing away from home he took me fishing. My older sister still feels angry about how my father took me out every Saturday. However, in those days, it was vitally important for sons to be trained to have the same interests as their fathers. His father would have done the same for him if he had not been killed in the First World War when he was just a child. All three of us, as first born sons, all had the same Christian name.

If you are to believe the theory of “filial imprinting”, or what John Money has accurately called “the lovemap”, I should have become a fan of the Spurs. But it never happened. I suspect the main reason was that as we were living in Chingford at the time, most of my mates supported West Ham.

The second factor was that my father was killed in a road accident in 1956. My father’s brother and my mother’s brother took it in turns to take me to White Hart Lane. However, if my father could not turn me into a fan, my uncles definitely couldn’t.

After the death of my father when I was eleven we moved to Dagenham. This was a place where it was extremely unusual to find a non-Hammers fan. It was the largest council estate in Europe and every boy wanted to play for West Ham. It was seen as our main route to success. It was either playing professional football or working at Fords. The teachers, who had no chance of controlling our behaviour by dangling the possibility of academic success in front of our noses, resorted to using the prospect of fame and success on the football field. I remember on one occasion John O’Rourke being paraded around the school in the kit he wore on his debut for England schoolboys. He also appeared on stage during one school assembly. He followed three boys who were caned in front of the whole school. That sums up the moral message of the school. The choice was between public humiliation or mass adoration. For those without the necessary football skills, this was no choice at all and for most working-class children, schooling was about the lowering of aspirations and the production of factory fodder.

John O’Rourke wanted to play for the Hammers but unfortunately for him he never caught the attention of the West Ham scouts and he was forced to sign for Arsenal. He then moved onto Chelsea but it was not until he reached Luton Town that his career took off (64 goals in 84 games). Then came Middlesbrough, Ipswich Town, Coventry City, Queens Park Rangers and finally Bournemouth, but he never made it to the Hammers.

As soon as I was old enough I used to go to Upton Park on my own. This was a very different experience from attending matches at White Hart Lane. I had found my cultural home. One of the first games I saw was against Manchester United on 8th September 1958. I still remember the pre-match announcement over the tannoy that Bobby Moore would be playing his first game for the club. We were not aware of the drama that had been going on behind the scenes. Billy Lansdowne and Andy Nelson were both injured and the obvious replacement was Malcolm Allison, who had been the club captain until he had been taken ill after a game against Sheffield United in September 1957. Doctors discovered he was suffering from tuberculosis and he had to have a lung removed. Allison returned to the club and played several games for the reserves but with only one lung he struggled with his fitness. The other possibility was a 17 year-old Bobby Moore.

Ted Fenton asked Noel Cantwell who he should select for the game, Allison or Moore. Cantwell, who was very close to Allison, surprisingly, opted for the young untried player. Allison was never to forgive Cantwell for what he considered a betrayal of friendship. Moore recalled in his autobiography: "I'd been a professional for two and a half months and Malcolm had taught me everything I know.... When Malcolm was coaching schoolboys he took a liking to me when I don't think anyone else at West Ham saw anything special in me... I looked up to the man. It's not too strong to say I loved him."

Moore added: “It somehow had to be that when I walked into the dressing room and found out I was playing, Malcolm was the first person I saw. I was embarrassed to look at him… For a moment I wanted to push the shirt to him and say ‘Go on, Malcolm. It’s yours. Have your game. I can’t stop you. Go on, Malcolm. My time will come’.“ But he didn’t, and the beginning of his career brought an end to that of his mentor. Allison was never to play another first-team game for the club.

Moore later confessed: “I went out and played the way Malcolm had always told me to play… Be in control of yourself. Take control of everything around you. Look big. Tell people what to do.” West Ham won the game 3-2 (John Dick, John Smith and Malcolm Musgrave got the goals) and although Moore did not have an outstanding game, he became my first football idol. Partly because of the immaculate way he played but also because he looked like the way we wanted to look, whereas most of the players reminded us of our dads and uncles. I suppose he was like an older brother who was tuned into our teenage culture.

West Ham had just won promotion to the First Division. They had been a Second Division club since the 1931-32 season. Fans were apprehensive about how we would cope as Ted Fenton had constructed a team that played very direct football. This included two fast wingers (Mike Grice and Malcolm Musgrove) and three goalscoring inside forwards (Vic Keeble, John Dick and Billy Dare). The Hammers scored 101 goals in the 1957-58 season with 40% coming from Keeble and Dick.

The only change Ted Fenton made to the format in the First Division was to bring in Phil Woosnam, a creative inside-forward from Leyton Orient, to replace Billy Dare. West Ham had a great season finishing in 6th place. An amazing achievement considering that it was their first season in the top division for over 25 years. Keeble and Dick were once again in great form scoring 47 of the club’s 85 goals.

I was only 14 years old but I was in love for the first-time. In the words of Nick Hornby: “I fell in love with football as I was later to fall in love with women: suddenly, inexplicably, uncritically, giving no thought to the pain or disruption it would bring with it."

In his 1929 novel, The Good Companions, J. B. Priestley explained what it was like to be a football supporter in a working-class area: “It turned you into a member of a new community, all brothers together for an hour and a half, for not only had you escaped from the clanking machinery of this lesser life, from work, wages, rent, doles, sick pay, insurance cards, nagging wives, ailing children, bad bosses, idle workmen, but you had escaped with most of your mates, and your neighbours, with half the town, and there you were, cheering together, thumping one another on the shoulders, swopping judgments, like lords of the earth, having pushed your way through a turnstile into another and altogether more splendid kind of life, hurtling with conflict and yet passionate and beautiful in its Art.”

West Ham good form was not to last. In the 1959-60 season they finished in 14th place. Ted Fenton’s time was coming to an end. After another poor season, Ron Greenwood was brought in as manager. His first signing was Johnny Byrne from Crystal Palace. This was a statement of intent and it heralded the beginning of the West Ham way of playing. The pinnacle of this was winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup on 19th May 1965. I was lucky enough to be in the crowd at Wembley that day. However, for younger members, I would urge you to watch the DVD of the match.

It was one of those occasions where my football pleasure was in the “present”. For most football fans the excitement comes from thoughts of the future. As with gambling, the punter needs the odd success to feed the addiction. In his fascinating book “Those Feet: An Intimate History of English Football”, David Winner helps explain the motivation of a passionate football supporter. “One doesn’t instinctively think of football as a narrative form, but that’s a large part of the game’s appeal: it’s a vast, never-ending unscripted drama. As spectators, we yearn to know what happens next. Every free-kick, corner and penalty has dramatic tensions. To fans, the progress of their team is more involving than any TV soap, and much less predictable.”

David Winner misses out one important aspect of being a football fan. The true fan is far from being a passive observer of the soap opera that we call football. We desperately desire to be the scriptwriter of this drama. We want in some way to shape these events. That is why we are so keen to show our opinions by cheering or booing the manager’s decisions. It is our way of selecting the team. We also try to influence the tactics employed by the manager by posting on this forum. Deep down we hope that Zola and Clarke visit the forum to find out what they need to do to bring success to the club.

However, being a West Ham fan is not just about winning cups or titles. If it was the passion would decline during the long periods of failure. The real pleasure of being a West Ham fan is those moments of beauty you see on the pitch. It was a West Ham fan, Alf Garnett, who once said: “football is a working class ballet.” It was meant to make us laugh but like the best jokes, it reveals a kernel of truth. Football, when played the right way, is a visual treat, a thing of beauty.

Like ballet, the beauty of football is in the movement. This takes many forms. Bobby Moore gracefully moving across the pitch to intercept a pass or Trevor Brooking floating across the Upton Park grass with the ball at his feet and with his head held high looking for an unmarked comrade.

Probably the most wondrous sight of all is when several players combine to create beautiful patterns. That is what happened when Carlton Cole scored the goal at Wigan last Wednesday. It was as good as anything I saw under Ron Greenwood and John Lyall. It has taken an Italian, himself a master of the beautiful game, to give us the kind of football that we have so long craved.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson

Daily Telegraph

Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, the West Ham owner, will ask for an extension from the court of three months and has prepared a series of reports detailing plans to restructure the companies.

It will be argued that the value of Hansa's assets, of which West Ham is a key component, is above the claims of the creditors. The court is not expected to make any decision over Hansa until next week, though club sources maintain that the outcome of the hearing will not force any immediate sale of the club.

West Ham's ownership is complicated but, though Hansa is the holding company, West Ham United Holdings Ltd and West Ham United plc are also within the structure.

West Ham United plc is regarded as the member organisation by the Premier League, meaning that the possibility of a sporting sanction against the team could not be considered in respect of any financial issues relating to the holding company.

Negotiations over prospective takeovers have stepped up in recent weeks and it is understood that the interested parties include an Asian consortium.

However, West Ham have not yet received an acceptable offer, while no group has reached the stage of due diligence.

Gudmundsson was significantly affected by the economic crisis in Iceland, but the club are financially "firewalled" and were true to their pledge during the January transfer window of not selling players in order to finance any Hansa debts.

Indeed, on the pitch, there has been considerable progress under Gianfranco Zola, with European qualification still possible.

West Ham face Wigan on Wednesday in the Premier League, but will be without midfielder Valon Behrami after he was carried off the pitch with an oxygen tank after badly twisting his knee in Sunday's win over Manchester City.

His absence will mean the probable return of Mark Noble after suspension, though James Collins (hamstring), Luis Boa Morte (groin), Kieron Dyer (calf), Danny Gabbidon (stomach/back) and Dean Ashton (ankle) remain sidelined.

With Wigan one place and one point behind West Ham in seventh, the outcome of tonight's match could determine a possible Uefa Cup place for either club.

"A win will consolidate seventh place, which at the moment looks good enough for a Uefa Cup spot," said midfielder Jack Collison. "That is the target the manager, Gianfranco Zola, has set us. We have got 10 or 11 games now until the end of the season and we are going to look to kick on now rather than see the season out."

Monday, 23 February 2009

West Ham v Bolton (John Simkin)

It could be argued that fans of West Ham will only be convinced that we are on the right track when we manage to win at Bolton. So far we have never won at the Reebok Stadium and have only beaten Bolton away on one occasion in fifty years. Our last victory was at Burnden Park when Tony Cottee was on the score-sheet. As we were unbeaten away from home since October, and Bolton had only won once in seven games, this seemed to be the game that was going to change the record books.

Optimism grew when it was announced that Cole was fit enough to play. Jonathan Spector came in for the suspended Lucas Neill but there was still no place for our record signing, Nsereko Savio. At the time we were told that the Ugandan-born, German striker was a replacement for Bellamy. It now becomes clear that Zola sees David Di Michele as Cole’s strike-partner with Savio coming on as a wide-midfield player late in the game.

Bolton has one of the best records in the division for scoring in the first fifteen minutes of a game. One would have expected the West Ham team to be prepared for the onslaught. However, they were slow to start and Collison sloppily gave away a free-kick when he brought down Mark Davies in the 10th minute. Green was poorly positioned and Taylor beautifully curled his effort over the wall and just below the cross-bar.

West Ham lost the ball in their next attack and Kevin Davies managed to get his head to a hopeful ball forward. Elmander kept control of the ball up before crossing it across the 18-yard-box. It broke nicely for Davies whose first time strike flew past Green’s outstretched right-hand.

A few minutes later, an attempted sliding-tackle by Collins left the tall central defender writhing in pain. Zola must have realized it was not going to be his day as he watched Collins being stretched off for what appeared to be a bad hamstring injury.

However, from this point on, West Ham dominated the match and had enough chances to win the game comfortably. Bolton kept a high-line based on the position of Cole. A team playing this way is always vulnerable to late runs from other players. Several times Di Michele was caught offside when he failed to time his run properly but in the 35th minute Cole made a clever reverse pass and Noble managed to beat the off-side trap. Noble only had the goalkeeper to beat but inexplicably he decided to square the ball back to a group of players trying to get into the Bolton penalty area. The pass was intercepted but it bounced back to Noble whose attempted lob was knocked over the bar by Jaaskelainen.

A few minutes later Noble hit a superb long pass that enabled Di Michele to beat the off-side trap for a second time. As Di Michele closed in on Jaaskelainen he decided against the easy option of passing the ball past the goalkeeper. Instead he tried to curve it around him with the outside of his foot. However, he got it terribly wrong and the ball sailed well-wide of the far post. It was nearly as bad as his miss against Middlesbrough. In many ways it was even worse because this time he failed to score because he was trying to show off his skills.

At the beginning of the second-half West Ham forced an early corner. Tomkins, who was proving himself an able deputy in both penalty areas, got his head to Noble’s corner. Cole adjusted his jump to send the ball towards the goal but it was cleared from just under the bar by a Bolton defender.

Admirably led by Scott Parker, the Hammers had nearly total control of the midfield. We all know what a great defensive player Parker is but against Bolton he also passed the ball well. It was no real surprise that the terrier midfielder was the instigator of West Ham’s goal. In the 66th minute he ran with the ball out of defence. Cole failed to control the forward pass and it ran loose to Spector on the right-wing. Parker ran past Cole and arrived in the penalty area to knock the full-back’s accurate cross into the net.

Eight minutes later Parker made another penetrating run into the box. He was brought down by Ricardo Gardner but the referee played the advantage rule as the ball ran free to Di Michele who once again faced an open goal. Instead of hitting it first-time he decided to show off his skills by taking the ball around the goalkeeper. He did this successfully but by this time two Bolton defenders were back on the line and his weak shot was easily blocked by Gary Cahill.

Di Michele might have been a great player in his prime. However, he is definitely not a replacement for Bellamy. After the game Zola told Sky that Di Michele had promised to make it up to his manager by scoring two goals in his next game. Given the loyal way that Zola looks after Di Michele, it would not surprise me if the Italian forward is given another chance against Middlesbrough in next weeks cup tie.

I had been hoping that Zola would have brought on Sears at half-time. But he left him on the bench. On the hour mark Zola did at last bring on Savio. However, it was to replace Collison rather than Di Michele. Sears did not enter the fray until the 85th minute. Even so, it was for Spector, and so the young striker again had to play out of position. Sears must be feeling terribly frustrated by the way he is being treated by Zola. At the moment he is not being given a fair chance to show what he can do. I would not be surprised to see him picketing outside Upton Park with a placard saying: “Equal opportunities for English jobs”.

West Ham had 62.3% possession of the ball and their dominance was reflected by their 13 corners and 18 shots on the Bolton goal. However, this is meaningless when you have difficulty in scoring. It is now apparently clear that Zola made a terrible mistake in not replacing Bellamy with a proven goalscorer.

Player Ratings

Green: At fault for the first goal and had little to do after we went 2-0 down (5)

Spector: Far more assured that Neill and provided Parker with an excellent pass for the goal. (7)

Collins: Was taken off after only 15 minutes so it is unfair to give him a rating.

Upson: Bruising battle with Kevin Davies. (6)

Ilunga: Couple of good attacking runs but was caught out of position for the second goal. (6)

Behrami: Spector did not need the kind of protection usually provided for Neill. Fairly quiet game and did not look like he had fully recovered from his injury. (5)

Parker: Probably his best game for the club. A captain who leads from the front, he totally controlled the midfield. We all know what a great defensive player Parker is but against Bolton he also passed the ball well. (9)

Noble: A return to form and a great pass to set-up Di Michele in the 39th minute. However, his decision to pass when put through by Cole was inexplicable. (7)

Collison: Seemed to lose his confidence after giving away the free-kick that led to the first-goal. (6)

Cole: An impressive performance considering he did not train all week. Unfortunately, all the good chances fell to his fellow striker. (7)

Di Michele: Missed the best two chances of the game. He rejected the easy options in order to show off the skills that he has apparently lost. (4)


Nsereko (61 minutes): Couple of nice touches but it is not easy to come on and make an impact. Would like to see what he can do when he starts a game. (6)

Tomkins (16th minute): Never looked in trouble after coming on for the injured Collins. I am sure he will become a regular first-team player next season. (7)

Sears: (85 minutes): Sears must be feeling terribly frustrated by the way he is being treated by Zola. At the moment he is not being given a fair chance to show what he can do.

Monday, 16 February 2009

West Ham v Middlesbrough (John Simkin)

In my report on the Arsenal game I argued that the real test will be when Zola is forced to make changes to a team that was performing well. I raised doubts about the quality of the players in the squad who will need to come in if anyone gets injured.

In the game against Middlesbrough, Zola was forced to replace Behrami with Boa Morte. This was a strange decision since he could have called upon Savio. I know he is untried at this level but surely this would have been a better option than Boa Morte, who has shown time and time again that he can no longer deliver the goods in the premier league.

The inclusion of Boa Morte considerably weakened our midfield, as over the last few weeks, Behrami has played a vital role in winning the ball from the opposition. Boa Morte is not only very poor as this task, he consistently gives the ball away and even against a very moderate Middlesbrough side, we found ourselves for long periods without the ball.

To make matters worse, Cole injured his left ankle early in the match and was virtually a passenger before he was eventually taken off in the 33rd minute. Therefore, for most of the game we were without two of our key players.

West Ham started off badly and a mistake by Collison and a poor clearance from Upson led to Johnson shooting just wide. This was followed by a period where the Hammers had difficulty keeping hold of the ball. In the 10th minute Di Michele was easily brushed off the ball by Digard and his cross found Downing, whose shot from 25 yards out flashed wide of Green's left post.

After good work from Collison in the 16th minute, Noble attempted to curl the ball past Jones but it instead went straight to the goalkeeper. A couple of minutes later Noble had a much better effort tipped around the post. The corner led to a second and from that a powerful drive by Collins forced Jones to make another good save.

It seemed it was just a matter of time before the Hammers took the lead but after a Middlesbrough breakaway, O’Neil put in a great cross that just escaped Collins and Downing arrived late to head in at the far post.

With Cole a passenger, it was left to Di Michele to lead the fight-back. In the 24th minute he cleverly flicked the ball over Digard head before volleying from the edge of the box, but it flew just wide of Jones' left post. On occasions like this he looks like a good acquisition, however, for most of the time he struggles to cope with the speed and power of the English game.

Just after the half-hour mark Di Michele was joined by another foreign import that seems well past his sell-by date. It is difficult to see what Diego Tristan has to offer the team. He rarely beat the Middlesbrough central defenders in the air and his first touch is lamentable. He is a ponderous runner with the ball and panics when in sight of the goal.

Despite the weakness of our strikers, the West Ham midfield drove the team forward and in the 38th minute Boa Morte managed to find a teammate with a pass. Noble miss-hit the ball 12 yards out, but a deflection made the save difficult for Jones, who could only push the ball weakly into the path of Collison, who instead of passing it to an unmarked Di Michelle standing in front of the goal, he wildly shot over the bar.

Just before half-time a Middlesbrough free-kick resulted in a quick breakaway. Di Michele’s path was blocked and he carefully teed it up for the late-arriving Tristan. It looked like a certain goal but Tristan visibly panicked and he blasted the ball well over the bar.

James Collins later said: “We were shocking in the first half, terrible, the worst we’ve been for a long time. We’ve been playing so well and to go out and perform like that we were speechless at half-time.”

Scott Parker and Mark Noble both had games where they failed to dominate the midfield. It was Stewart Downing, who abandoned his usual winger’s role on the left, to play just behind Afonso Alves, that was the influential player on the pitch. Despite the fact that we played so badly, we could, and should, have been 3-1 up at the break.

In the 48th minute Zola brought on Sears for Boa Morte. After the game Zola said that: “The first 50 minutes was the worst we have played recently… Their bodies were there, but their minds sometimes weren’t… It was not near our standards. After that we picked up a bit.” I disagree. Unfortunately, the arrival of Sears did not make much difference to the performance of the team.

West Ham increasingly resorted to the long-ball game in the second-half. This was absurd as David Wheater won everything in the air. This is rarely a profitable strategy even when Carlton Cole is in the team. However, with Diego Tristan playing up front, it bordered on the ridiculous. For the first time since the game against Spurs on 8th December, the Hammers began to look desperate.

It was not until the 72nd minute that West Ham created their next chance. Illunga, who was West Ham’s best attacker, overlapped on the left and after reaching the byline he crossed to the unmarked Di Michele, who faced with an open goal, scooped the ball over the bar from eight yards out. It was probably the team’s worse miss of the season.

This was immediately followed by Zola bringing on Savio for the disappointing Noble. Although his passes are not always accurate, Savio does everything at speed and he helps to create a sense of urgency. He is also a great deliverer of crosses and his corners were a marked improvement on those provided by Noble.

In the 81st minute O’Neil used his hand to stop the ball reaching Savio. After the booking of O’Neil, the Ugandan-born, German striker, whipped in a dangerous free-kick that was missed by the big men on the edge of the penalty area and Ilunga, running-in behind, headed home from close-range.

The confidence of the Middlesbrough team seeped away but despite the pressure from the revitalized Hammers, they could only manage one more shot and that was from Sears who fired over from the edge of the box.

After the game, Zola said “Boro were organized and caused as problems. It is a good lesson for us.” He then added: “I am delighted for Ilunga. There are not many full-backs in the league better than him.” There is no doubt that Ilunga is one of the best loan signings of the season. However, on the few occasions we have seen him, Diego Tristan, seems to fall into a very different category altogether.

Player Ratings

Green: Made some excellent saves from Downing and Alves. (7)

Neill: For the first time in several games he was not targeted by the opposition. Benefited by the fact that Downing played in the centre instead of wide left. (6)

Collins: At fault for the goal but was generally solid. (6)

Upson: A poor clearance in the opening minutes led to Johnson shooting just wide. After that, he comfortable dealt with Alves. (6)

Ilunga: His overlapping on the left caused constant problems for the Middlesbrough defence. Capped off a fine performance with the equalizing goal. (8)

Collison: Lively as always but it was a terrible miss in the 38th minute. (6)

Parker: A very quiet afternoon for a player who usually dominates midfield. (5)

Noble: Another disappointing performance from a player who could be carrying an injury. (5)

Boa Morte: Tried hard as usual but is still to achieve the standards he regularly showed at Fulham. His passing was extremely poor. The worst moment was when he was under no pressure at all he passed the ball to the centre of a group of three Middlesbrough players. (4)

Di Michele: Showed some nice touches but is still too easily knocked off the ball. Probable the miss of the season when he blazed over in the 72nd minute. (6)

Cole: Injured early on and it was foolish to keep him on the pitch for so long. (5)


Tristan (35th): He rarely beat the Middlesbrough central defenders in the air and his first touch is lamentable. He is a ponderous runner with the ball and panics when in sight of the goal. (4)

Sears (49th): Fairly lively but unfortunately none of the real chances came to him. Needs to play from the beginning if he is to show what he can do. (6)

Savio (74th): Despite the injury to Behrami he was left on the bench. He was also ignored when Cole had to come off and he was only given the last 16 minutes to show what he could do. A good dead ball kicker, his corners were a marked improvement on those provided by Noble. Provided the cross for Illunga’s equalizing goal. (7)

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Zola’s Management Style: The Importance of Positive Reinforcement

It soon became clear that in post-match interviews that Zola is not the sort of manager that criticized his team in public. At first I found this slightly irritating, especially when he insisted that his team had played well, when clearly this had not been the case. In recent weeks this approach has become much more acceptable as Zola post-match comments have mirrored reality.

It is true that most managers do not criticize individual players about their performances. Harry Redknapp’s comments about Darren Bent after the game against Portsmouth was considered to be fairly unusual and received a great deal of attention in the media. With 10 minutes left and the score at 1-1, Bent headed wide from six yards. Redknapp said: "You will never get a better chance to win a match than that. My missus could have scored that one. Bent did not only have part of the goal to aim for, but he had the entire net - and he put it wide. Unbelievable."

It is hard to believe that outburst like this actually improve the performance of a player. Nor did it help the confidence of Hull City players when Phil Brown conducted his half-time team talk against Manchester City on the pitch with the team railing 4-0. He defended himself against his critics by claiming: “It was the right thing to do. There is no doubt about it. I have got no regrets about it whatsoever. If it bruised one or two egos then so be it, although it wasn't intended to be that way... Hopefully, the mentality of the group will be stronger for the experience.” This defence of his “public humiliation” strategy is not helped by the fact that Hull City have not won a game since this incident took place.

Coaching football players is like any form of teaching. The main objective is to improve the performance of the individual. A lot of research has been carried out into discovering the most effective methods of educating young people. These methods fall into two main categories: positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Or in football coaching terms, “putting your arm around a player” or “kicking him up the backside”. It is often claimed that good managers know the right-time to use either of these two strategies. However, the research suggests that it is positive reinforcement that is far and away the most effective way of improving the student’s performance.

Of course, all teachers lose their temper and resort to negative reinforcement. They will try to justify this by saying that the students benefit from this behaviour. This is what Harry Redknapp and Phil Brown did after their outbursts. However, in reality, the reason they acted in this way was because they lost control of their emotions. It was relieving frustrations rather than applying logic to solving a problem.

Zola clearly is a believer in positive reinforcement. He concentrates on praising rather than criticizing behaviour. Great teachers treat each student as an individual that they honestly care about. This is clearly Zola’s approach. In a recent interview Jack Collison claimed that the recent improvement in his performances on the pitch is a result of one-on-one tuition from Zola.

Interviews with other players such as Carlton Cole and Matthew Upson reveal that Zola spends a great deal of time building up player’s confidence.

It is no coincidence that everybody who has had any contact with Zola describes him as a “loveable” man. Zola has that fairly unique ability of making people feel good about themselves. That is because he praises rather than criticizes. In his everyday relationships he uses positive rather than negative reinforcement. So many people, especially those suffering from an inferiority complex, are more concerned with putting people down than raising them up.

Zola is not the first football coach/manager to use this approach. The greatest exponent in the use of positive reinforcement was Herbert Chapman. He used his extensive scouting network to identify young players with potential. Chapman would then watch them play and carry out an investigation into their personalities. When he was convinced that they had the necessary requirements he would go in and sign them.

In 1927 Eddie Hapgood was a 19 year-old playing for non-league Kettering Town. In his autobiography, Football Ambassador (1945), Hapgood describes meeting Chapman for the first time: “After a dozen games, Bill Collier, the Kettering manager, called me into his office and introduced me to a chubby man in tweeds, whose spectacles failed to hide the shrewd, appraising look from his blue eyes.”

After he had confirmed that he did not smoke or drink, Chapman signed him for Arsenal. The following day, Chapman told Hapgood he was going to make him the best left-back in England. Like Zola, Chapman and his trainer, Tom Whittaker, went in for one-to-one tuition. Gradually, they built up his confidence until he was the best left-back in the country, illustrated by the fact that he played 30 times for England.

Chapman told everyone he signed that he was going to make them the best player in that position in the country. He even told Whittaker, who was forced to give up the game because of a serious leg injury, that he was going to make him the best trainer in the world.

In May 1929 Chapman signed the 17 year old Cliff Bastin from Exeter City for £2,000. Bastin did not initially want to leave Devon but was persuaded by Chapman's manner: "There was an aura of greatness about Chapman. I was impressed with him straight away. He possessed a cheery self-confidence, which communicated itself to those around him. This power of inspiration and the remarkable gift of foresight, which never seemed to desert him, were his greatest attributes."

As Stephen Studd pointed out in Herbert Chapman: Football Emperor (1981): "He (Chapman) set great store by what he regarded as the dignity of the athlete, treating his players as human beings instead of mere paid servants, which was how most other players were regarded elsewhere."

Chapman also rarely made changes to the team. Even when individual players were in poor form he was reluctant to drop them. According to Chapman it was a matter of confidence and he saw it as his job to build up self-belief in his players. That is why he always criticised supporters if they barracked one of his players. "When they (team changes) are necessary I try to arrange that they cause as little disturbance as possible." Drastic changes only unsettled the players and if the side was not playing well, "the moderate course is always the best".

Jack Lambert was one of the players who was often barracked by the Highbury crowd. Chapman was furious and proposed that barrackers should be thrown out of the ground if they did not respond to an appeal for fairness over the loud-speaker. Lambert, very much like Carlton Cole, and only scored one goal in his first sixteen appearances. However, Chapman refused to lose confidence in him, despite only getting 4 goals in 22 games the following season.

Herbert Chapman gave Lambert another opportunity to show him what he could do by giving him a good run in the 1929-30 season. This time he did well and scored 18 goals in 20 appearances. After that, there was no stopping him and by the time he had left the club he had the excellent record of 109 league and cup goals in 159 appearances.

Chapman was not always successful in persuading the Highbury crowd to lay off his players. He later admitted that Arsenal crowd destroyed the confidence of one young player. The 20 year-old player told Chapman: "I'm no use to anyone in football and I had better get out. The crowd are always getting at me... I hope I shall never kick a ball again." Chapman eventually allowed the young man to leave the club "though it meant sacrificing a player who, I was convinced, had exceptional possibilities of development".

Chapman’s methods brought great success and his teams won the First Division championship six times with two different clubs before he died in 1934 at the early age of 56.

Let us hope that Zola’s methods also brings the same success as achieved by Herbert Chapman.

West Ham v Manchester United (John Simkin)

The newspaper reports of the game against Manchester United will do doubt be dominated by the activities of their aging stars. The 35-year-old Ryan Giggs will rightly be praised for scoring in every Premier League season since the competition's inaugural campaign of 1992-93. Edwin van der Sar will also dominant the headlines with his 13th consecutive clean sheet in the league that sets a new British record.

The hacks will also go on about how the league leaders and arguably the best football team of the world were below their best. This is what they did when the Hammers achieved draws against Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. It seems to be beyond the logic of these journalists that teams are only as good as they are allowed to be. Despite the fact that they had an attack that included Ronaldo, Giggs, Tevez, Berbatov and Ronaldo, Green only had one save to make.

After the game, Gianfranco Zola said: "It was a close match. Unfortunately for us they have some great players and if you make a mistake they punish you." In truth, the goal followed a series of small errors that resulted in Green being beaten for the first time in 400 minutes.

In the 61st minute a harmless lob forward caused confusion between Collins and Neill and the former gave away a needless corner. Upson headed-out Giggs corner to Noble who tried to set-up a quick counter-attack. He lost the ball to Vidic, and the ball broke to Paul Scholes. Meanwhile, the rest of the defence had moved forward to catch United’s forwards offside. However, Neill walked rather than ran, and he played Giggs on, who gratefully received a delightful cross-field pass from Scholes.

With Neill rooted to the spot, Carlton Cole made a dash for Giggs. Unfortunately, instead of holding-up Giggs, he dived in and he veteran winger coolly side-stepped him and headed for the penalty area. Parker had also sensed the danger and he raced towards Giggs. He anticipated that Giggs would move the ball to his favoured left-foot, however, he saw Parker’s intended tackle and moved to his right. Behrami, who obviously expected Parker to stop Giggs in his tracks, failed to close him down and he was able to send a right-foot shot through a crowd of players and past Green into the bottom corner of the net.

Six small mistakes and two great pieces of skill caused the Hammers to be beaten by a single goal. However, it should not be forgotten that for the game was evenly matched. Upson and Collins restricted Tevez and Berbatov to the odd long-range shot.

Ilunga and Collison ably defended the left-flank and both Ronaldo and Giggs were forced to try their luck on the opposite wing. Here they found Behrami in inspired form and his protection of Neill was outstanding. His importance to the defensive set-up was illustrated when he was replaced by Diego Tristan in the 88th minute. Within sixty seconds Ronaldo took on Neill who stuck out a leg and brought the winger down. Dowd took pity on the hapless full-back and waved away his rightful claim for a penalty.

Carlton Cole posed a constant threat to Ferdinand and Vidic. In the 13th minute Cole ran onto an excellent through-ball from Noble. Ferdinand struggled to match his pace and was forced to hold onto his arm. Cole, unbalanced by Ferdinand’s tug attempted to lob the goalkeeper. This is a difficult thing to do against a tall goalkeeper like Edwin van der Sar and he was able to make a comfortable save. Most observers will claim that Cole should have hit the ball as hard as he could, but with Ferdinand holding onto him he would have found it virtually impossible to get any real power behind the shot.

Cole was even more impressive in the second-half. One moment in particular stands out in my mind. In the 59th minute Cole received the ball 30 years from goal. Even though Vidic had hold of his shirt, Cole was still strong enough to turn the central defender. With Cole heading for the United penalty area, Vidic decided to take a yellow-card by hauling him to the ground.

The problem for Cole is that he received very little support from Di Michele. Although the Italian was neat and tidy and successfully found his teammates with 29 of his 37 passes, he never posed a threat to the United defence. In fact, according to the Guardian’s chalkboard analysis, he only made one successful forward pass throughout the game. The other passes went either sideways or backwards.

According to Kevin McCarra: “The United method is to exhaust teams and then defeat them. There is such confidence in the passing that the opposition's lungs burn as they chase after the ball that is being withheld from them.” That never worked against West Ham who now seem to be one of the fittest teams in the league.

Savio came on for Noble in the 76th minute. One of the problems of bringing him on late is that he tries too hard to impress. Instead of keeping it simple he tries ambitious passes that at the moment are not coming off. As a result four of his fourteen passes did not reach a teammate. Hopefully, he will be given the opportunity to start in the game against Middlesbrough. With Neill playing in Japan for Australia on Wednesday, it might be a good idea to give him a rest for next week’s game.

Green: Good reaction save when Scholes shot that was going wide was diverted by Ronaldo. Had no chance with Giggs’ goal. (7)

Neill: Nearly 25% of his passes went astray but did manage to get two shots on target. (6)

Collins: Managed to get in the way of most things thrown at him (8)

Upson: Along with Collins kept Berbatov and Tevez fairly quiet. (8)

Ilunga: His reputation goes before him and Giggs and Ronaldo spent their time working on Neill’s failings. (7)

Behrami: Another all-action performance who provided excellent cover for Neill. The danger of Ronaldo meant he could make few forages upfield.

Parker: Exemplary game except for the failed tackle against Giggs that led to the goal. (8)

Noble: Lovely pass to Cole offered West Ham best chance of scoring. However, overall, his passing was not up to his normal standard with a 25% failure-rate. (6)

Collison: Doubled-up with Illunga against Giggs and still found time to help the attack. (8)