Thursday, 2 July 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 21 June 2015

West Ham News

Slaven Bilic defends his record as a manager. 

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

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

Will Charlie Austin sign for West Ham?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Sam Allardyce – The Psychological Problems of Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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