Saturday, 18 August 2012

West Ham United V Aston Villa - Match Report

On the hottest day of the year it was time to kick-off the new season back in the Premier League. Upton Park was the venue for this battle of the two sides who don the claret and blue kits.

The match saw competitive starting debuts for new signings James Collins, Jussi Jaaskalainen, Mohammed Diame and George McCartney, although the latter of the four it probably felt like a normal start in the shirt having spent the previous season on loan.

As the game kicked off, few would be blamed if they felt it was going to be an evening of frustration. A lot of stray passes missing their targets and Aston Villa looking comfortable on the ball, it didn't start as many may have hoped. I can't blame the players, the opening fixture is normally a cagey affair and you just want to make sure you don't make yourselves foolish. Aston Villa had a very early strike at goal through Brett Holmann that Jussi watched stray past his right post. Following this strike their appeared to be about 5 minutes worth of fouls by each team, some seemed fairly light, but it may have been Mike Dean stamping his authority and letting the teams know they he wasn't letting players do anything silly. After that Villa had another shot go wide right of the goal.

After this short spell of dominance in the opening 10 minutes from Aston Villa, West Hams midfield started winning the ball more in the middle of the pitch and it soon appeared that they were growing into the game. Trying to spread the ball out wide and get some crosses and also winning a couple of free kicks in dangerous areas near the goal. It soon came from one of these free kicks that Ciaran Clark was booked for a foul on Mohammed Diame. Noble then sent the ball into the box from the far left with the free kick, the ball seemed to float over everyone apart from Wembley hero Ricardo Vaz Te who then put the ball back in for Nolan to tap home from close range and put West Ham 1-0 up. Something tells me Nolan's goal scoring ability could be a huge asset to our season. The game carried on much in the same way in the second half, with cheap fouls being conceded, Aston Villa looked happy to pass the ball around, but never really seemed to create anything and debutant Collins and Reid in the centre of defence dealt with any high balls by being commanding in the air. Half time came and it was so far so good, going into the break with a 1-0 lead.

The second half arrived and the sun was still shining. West Ham started the half brightly winning an early corner and from that corner winning a second instantly after, it felt as though the team may have started feeling confident. Still no threat from the Aston Villa attack, Collins proving what a buy he was as he kept Bent quiet and maybe made the Villa fans question why they sold him. Possession seemed to flip between each team in short spells, Diame looking very comfortable at fending off players when in possession and taking the odd player on to feed through to the attack as well made for a very promising future for the Senegalese.

At the 73 minute mark West Ham brought off their skipper and goal scorer Nolan for academy player Tomkins, both players met with a thunderous round of applause and an opportunity to see if Tomkins could manage in a midfield role like he had a few times in the Championship. It almost felt as though we were shutting up shop. Which probably made a few people nervy as nobody likes to see a team try to defend a 1-0 lead. This wasn't quite the case though as West Ham had their best opportunity to double the lead shortly after, a beautiful delivery from Matty Taylor was met by the head of Cole, who saw this header run agonisingly close but just wide of the post, it has to be said, the reaction of Collins face said it all, he couldn't believe it hadn't been a second.

On the 80th minute West Ham were then introduced to another new signing, Modibo Maiga was put on to replace Cole. It then felt like the quietest 10 minutes of the game as neither team really kept hold of the ball when pushing forward to produce anything. The fourth officials board was then put up to announce there would be 4 minutes of added time, much to the disbelief of the home support, as nobody could really tell where they had amounted 4 minutes from. Villa then tried route one to get themselves back level and salvage something from a game where they seemed to have not turned up. Once again Reid and Collins rose to the challenge, clearing their lines comfortably. 2 minutes into added time and we finally got to see what Maiga was made of, a long ball was lofted over for him and he had beaten the Aston Villa defence for pace to run through on goal, he then rounded the oncoming Given and struck a tame left footed shot at goal which was cleared off the line, so unfortunate for the man from Malia, as he looked to have done enough to cap his debut with a goal in front of the home crowd, unfortunately for him though, his touch past Given made it a tough tight angle and he couldn't get an easy shot on the goal.

Shortly after the full time whistle was blown. West Ham capped their return to the Premiership with a 1-0 home win and it was definitely deserved. Although the side didn't perform outstanding, they had definitely proved to Aston Villa that we weren't hear to be taken lightly. Our defence especially deserved fantastic credit for coping with everything that was thrown their way. James Collins marked his debut with a man of the match performance and I wouldn't be surprised if Diame was a close second and Reid just behind him.

West Ham

Demel, Collins, Reid, McCartney (71)
Diame, Noble, Nolan (73)
Vaz Te, Cole (80), M.Taylor


Henderson, Tomkins (73), O'Brien (71), Diarra, O'Neil, Maynard, Maiga (80)

Aston Villa

Baker, Vlaar, Clark, Lowton
Ireland, El Ahmadi, Delph (77)
N'Zogbia (74), Bent, Holman (61)


Guzan, Lichaj, Bannan (77), Herd, Gardner (74), Weimann (61), Burke


Mike Dean


34, 172

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Not Long To Go

With the new season drawing near, the thought has crossed my mind of just how ready we are.

I know pre-season is a very hard to judge moment, such as the fact we won every game under Avram Grant and then went onto watch one of the most painful league seasons that I can remember witnessing since I've been a West Ham fan. This season appears to have been rather the opposite, we have had a few games with struggled, the stand out game being the Ipswich match where we lost 3-1, but then last night we drew 1-1 with Braga and we kept trying for the full 90 minutes, even when we were a goal down. That sign of not giving up, despite it only being pre-season has to be one of the promising signs of our team. The age old saying of pre-season was always that it is about getting that match fitness back, the result not being important, I have to say overall this is the main thing, but having a win can do well for your confidence, but overall, it’s all about making the work you put in count come the start of the season.

Transfer wise I feel we have actually been very successful. Getting McCartney on a permanent basis is good as he has already settled in with the players, Jussi and Henderson are two good goalkeepers and I feel they will be good replacements for Green who left, Maiga coming in to help make this 451/433 formation flow much better as he is used to playing in this sort of formation will be a big asset I hope and could provide with a very tough front line of either Taylor, Vaz Te, Cole, Maynard or Maiga in there, we’ve also brought in Diame and Diarra who are both good holding midfielders and I’d say they will easily feature more that Diop last year and are possibly better than him, these two being good in the holding role will definitely give more freedom to the likes of Noble, Collison and Nolan who I would think may play just in front of Diame or Diarra, I also feel this will be perfect for Nolan, he chipped in last season with a lot of valuable goals and I feel this will only benefit him more as we won’t be exposed when he does charge into the box to help the strikers. I also would not be surprised if we’re still keeping an eye out for a couple of players, with rumours of us potentially signing Jarvis from Wolves, who would be like our own Matty Taylor but for the right hand side of the pitch, I feel we would be very well equipped for the new season, it would give us the options of 433 with say Vaz Te, Cole and Maiga or a 451 with for example Taylor, Cole and Jarvis, if being the main word regarding the Jarvis rumour, but I see a right midfielder as providing us with the perfect foil to mix our teams against those who we think could pressure us, or where we feel a decent delivery will put their teams into a panic. The only other position I could see us strengthening is right back, it’s hard to say just how good Demel is, as I felt he was never fully fit last season and the O’Brien seems to be a little hit and miss at times, but maybe Sam has faith in these 2.

Unfortunately this is all just speculation on my behalf but by 3pm next, we will all be watching in anticipation of what to expect, it’s great just to be back in Premiership, but if we can hold our own and then slowly build to push forward each season, then we can only look to the future and hope. Let’s show the big guns what they’ve been missing. Come On You Irons!

The Dilemma of Sam Baldock

Firstly I would like to credit Jason Hannen for part of my inspiration for this post after reading his comments regarding our very own Sam Baldock here. If you agree or disagree and want to talk to him with it then you can find him on Twitter as @JayHannen
Sam Baldock is really causing quite a stir before the season has even begun. He is a very strong fans favourite, this is probably for his non-stop running and eye for goal, he seems to have that never give up attitude that every fan would love, but then there comes the issue…
Last season he wasn’t given many chances, quite a lot to the frustration of the West Ham faithful, especially heard at the game away to Burnley when we were 2-0 down before half time. As the players, coaches and manager headed back to the tunnel you could hear a lot of the away fans chanting “We want Baldock”. In this game, they got their wishes and, it paid off, as we came back to draw 2-2. Even though he didn’t score, he looked like much more of a threat that game than most of our other strikers.
It is clear to most fans that Sam Baldock isn’t Sam Allardyce’s favourite, which is one that brings a lot of debate and to some even confusion. So here I am going to do my best to analyse what is causing this.
Baldock is a short, pacey, centre forward. He has an eye for goal, which is great but, he doesn’t have the strength or power like other players we have like Cole or Vaz Te. In a world where it appears the 4-4-2 system is dying very quickly, especially at the top level, it causes problems for Baldock, who seems to be a player who likes to feed off the other striker who can hold the ball up and thread a pass through for him to run onto.
He is your ideal little man in the big man and little man 4-4-2 but, with the formation not being used very often and, especially under Allardyce, we don’t see it much at all. That’s going to already be a slight struggle for Baldock. West Ham clearly use a 4-5-1/4-3-3 system under Allardyce, with the big centre forward holding the ball up to invite the wingers into play.
Vaz Te, for one, appeared to strive under this formation, playing out wide and running onto balls so he could cut inside and have a strike at goal, or run to the by line and try a cross. I don’t think Baldock has the ability to play in that wide position, he doesn’t seem like a wide man, even though his pace could work were he to run inside to shoot.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave, much to the frustration of a lot of fans, but it seems he is not Allardyce’s favourite and also if he wants to further his career, he will want to be much more than a bit part player. Nicky Maynard has already admitted he was willing to change his game style to suit the Allardyce way, maybe Baldock isn’t so willing, which is why his chances have been slim.
I personally hope he stays, I like the guy as a player and he appears like he wears the shirt with pride and wants to do well in the claret and blue. Also, he has been our best finisher in pre-season. I know a lot of people will say that pre-season means nothing apart from getting your fitness up, but I’m sure it would also fill a player with confidence if they are doing well.
Furthermore, having Baldock could mean we can mix up our formation, rather than sticking to the one system, while he could also be developed into a winger who can cut into play and strike a goal. He could become a very deadly opponent for others, but he would also need to work on tracking back, as this season will probably be one of the toughest for our sides and our defensive play will need to be at the strongest it has ever been.
Maybe the best move for Baldock would be to go on loan, build up his experience and fitness, then he can try to prove to Allardyce what he is missing and maybe, just maybe, Allardyce would admit he was wrong about him and give him a chance.
It’s tough to say…I personally think he needs to prove he can play in a different system to which he prefers and then take his chances as soon as they arrive.
What are your thoughts on him? Do you think he deserves a chance, or is he not good enough in your opinion? Leave a comment, or tweet me @conflictinbanno as I’m very interested to see the views of the fans.

Tomkins 2012 Olympic Dream

As everyone should be aware by now, our very own James Tomkins made it into the Team GB Olympic Squad for the games. I feel this was very much deserved as he had a very good season, especially at centre back, but even now and then when being forced into a defensive midfield role, the only times I remembered him looking uncomfortable was when he was forced to play at right back, although he tried, it was clear he was unsure of his positioning at times. All in all though, he was one of my stand out players of the season and really deserves a chance to shine. Hopefully he will be a starter for the squad, but there are a lot of good youngsters in the side. For him it must be a great sign for the future, from breaking into the West Ham side, to representing England at youth levels, to now appearing in the Team GB squad. It could really help his confidence and as I’m sure everyone will hope, is for him to keep doing well and get the opportunity to represent England at senior level.
I have a lot of faith in him to reach this goal one day, he is still very young and he is coming on leaps and bounds defensively and even looks a good threat in the box from corners and free kicks. I do feel he will keep improving, especially under a man like Allardyce who is a man who likes to be very tough to beat at the back and good from set plays.
As for the Team GB squad, it’s hard to say how well they will do, the squad looks good, but then there will be lots of teams hoping to do well. I think there first aim would be to get at least a medal, but with the squad they have I’m sure the gold isn’t completely beyond them. I look forward to seeing this team in action and below is my starting line up for the games. Whether I’m right or not is anybodies guess!
GK – Butland
LB – Bertrand
CB – Tomkins
CB – Dawson
RB – Richards
LM – Bale
CM – Ramsey
CM – Giggs
RM – Sinclair
ST – Sturridge
ST – Bellamy
Mohamed Diame is also representing Senegal at the Olympics and they are opening their campaign against Tomkins and Team GB on July 26th.
Good luck to the both of them and come back fit and ready for action for the big Premier League kick-off!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

What should we expect?

As the new season draws closer, I thought I’d take a little time at what we could or should possibly expect.
The obvious aim for Sam Allardyce is to secure ourselves in the Premiership. For me personally, I don’t expect any lofty ambitions such as a top half finish or something like that.
Our squad hasn’t exactly had too much change when you look at it, Tomkins, Reid, Noble, Collison, O’Neil and Cole were all around when we were relegated and stuck through the challenges of the Championship to get us back in the top division of English football.
I see this as a good thing more than a bad, though. It shows a togetherness of the players and an ambition that they want to do well for this club.
But we cannot hide from the fact there were two seasons in a row of relegation battles. However, I have no doubt we will continue to strengthen the squad to prove we could be a force to be reckoned with.
I think a top 15 finish would be brilliant, especially if we don’t look like being dragged into a relegation battle at any point. That, for me, would be one very successful season.
I have faith in our manager and his tactics. I know last season they were criticised for being a bit too negative. But there were times when we looked like we played some brilliant football, whether the ball was on the floor or if it was more direct, like when we desperately thought back to earn a point at home to Birmingham. Nobody complained about the directness in that game, as the team did exactly what was required.
I also think the way Sam sets us up, is more to make us tough to beat first, but a danger going forward in numbers, which will work more in my opinion in the to flight, as we won’t have many teams coming to Upton Park, who are going to throw 10 men behind the ball at all times and hope to nick a late winner. Which should hopefully make our side more comfortable on the ball and have a bit more freedom with their attacks.
At the moment, with the signings we’ve made so far, I would say the only aim is to stay up and try to get off to the best possible start we can, as there is no hiding the fact there are some tough months after the opening month.
If we make a few more signings and maybe get some strength in depth, then I think our aim would be top 15. It’s an impossible season to judge in my opinion, though. We saw last season how Norwich and Swansea flourished yet, QPR who were the promotion title winners, struggled and stayed up by the skin of their teeth,.
So it is hard enough to say who could be in a potential fight for survival, especially with all the manager changes that we have already seen, it could be much harder for Norwich and Swansea to repeat last seasons heroics.
I also don’t see any of us three that were promoted being that weak a side to not be up for a fight. Then on top of that you have the likes of Wigan and West Brom, who could be around there too.
I don’t even want to guess who could go down as it seems a lot of the Premiership is getting closer except maybe the top 4-6 teams. I just look forward to an exciting season ahead and hope we give it our all.
If we can stay up, then I feel this would have been a success.
Come On You Irons!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Transfer Rumour Mill

This is a post that seems to have taken an age to come, to be fair in the close season there isn't much we can talk about other than rumours or real signings, maybe a bit of info on the pre-season ahead.

To be honest most people are too busy concentrating on the Euro's and so far so good as it has been a pleasing tournament, I personally think Spain or Germany will be the winners and wouldn't be surprised if these 2 are in the final.

Anyway back to real matters, so far West Ham have probably been linked with every player in the world, from the likes of Jussi Jaaskaleinen to Neymar. All in all most of these are just rumours but I'm going to do my best to do a little thought on each of them.

As we are all aware Rob Green is leaving the club, I honestly have no hard feelings, he stuck it out at the club and helped us in our bid back to the Premiership with some truly brilliant games, but I won't lie, I'm not his biggest fan, I can admit in a one on one or when it comes to penalties, he is probably one of the best I've seen, but every now and then I'm not convinced when he seems to see a shot fly past and doesn't even attempt it but maybe he just knows he isn't getting there, I'd still like to wish him all the best in wherever he may go, even if the rumour of QPR is true, Mark Hughes must have a good plan if that is the case or offering him a great wage, although the fact he is away with England makes me find the rumours completely hard to accept. Also leaving has been Julian Faubert, who I felt improved the past season, but he still wasn't the best we could have, the other departures were, Faye, Nouble, Olly Lee and Diop who I'm not surprised to see go, either be it due to age or not quite making the leap to the full squad.

Now onto the (mainly) rumours.

Jussi Jaaskaleinen - He is the only confirmed signing I know of. I personally think he is a good solid keeper and Allardyce knows him well, for a freebie I don't think you can complain and will be a good tutor for Henderson before he makes the leap to the 1st team. I believe with got him for 1 season and have an option to extend this based on how he does.

James Collins - I personally wasn't expecting this but I do rate the guy, he's very tall, something our centre backs aren't so would be a good acquisition, he is still a good player and can definitely do a job. Tough to say how realistic this would be as a recent change of management, but you never know.

Kieran Richardson - Sounds like quite a likely option and in my opinion would be a great signing, can play full back or on the wide of midfield so provides good cover, has a great burst of pace, can cross a ball and also score the odd goal, one signing I'd be very happy with.

Matt Jarvis - I don't think Wolves would want to let this guy go, he is a very talented player out wide and again can cross a good ball and has a bit of pace on him, only thing I'm not sure about is whether he'd work in the 451/433 system Allardyce wants to use. I'd give this a 50/50.

Wilfred Zaha - A very promising young player, on his day he has been very good to watch, he has so much pace and can score some goals, whether we'd be able to get him is another thing though, as from what I know, I thought lots of teams were interested in him. I think he'd work perfectly in the system we use though and would be a great wide player.

Nathaniel Clyne - A fairly good full back, I can't say I know loads about him, but when I saw him play against us he looked very solid and comfortable. So again another promising attempt, I would guess he is an option if we don't get Richardson. Same with Jarvis, he may be the option if Zaha is not coming to us.

Mohamed Diame - Another good player, a very solid defensive midfielder, which is something I think we lacked, yes Noble did a top job last season, but I do think he is sceptical to the late challenge and personally think he'd be better a little more advanced, giving him more oppurtunites to thread balls through to the striker and sitting a bit back when Nolan charges foreword. Diame could provide that defensive cover and help clean up any attacks. Being a free agent I think this could be a very promising deal.

Yossi Benayoun - Now this player needs no introduction. We all remember him fondly and to be fair to him he had a good season when Arsenal started playing. He can provide that flair that our side seems to lack at times and has still got a lethal shot on him. If we could get him I'd be overjoyed, but the question would be, does Di Matteo want him at Chelsea, as he never got to use him when he joined.

Guti - If all is to believed, we currently have this attacking midfielder on trial, I do wonder if we've got him because we've been informed by Chelsea that Benayoun is not an option. This guy is now 35, so he is not young, but in his prime he was playing for Real Madrid, so it's obvious the guy has bags of talent. Having him on trial will be the smartest as Allardyce can see how he plays and decide whether he could cut it in the Premiership, if he still has it, then this could be one exciting signing.

Eljero Elia - Elia has apparently handed in a transfer request at Juventus after only one season. I personally quite like the guy, he has a lot of pace and is a tricky wide midfielder. If he'd consider us he could be a very good signing. Played for Holland in the World Cup just gone as a bit part player and looked like he had a lot of potential, but never got to unlock this at Juventus. If he joined I think he'd be a great signing, I just hope he can be calmed down with the skills as he sometimes even outskills himself. I do have my fingers crossed for this one.

Yakubu - Scored so many goals for a relegated team, proven in the Premiership time and time again. I think he would be a great signing if we can persuade Blackburn to part ways with him. I personally think he has much better hold up play than Cole, so would easily bring those wide players into the game, add this to his shooting ability and he would be a great buy.

Kenwyne Jones - This is one I'm undecided, thought he was brilliant for Sunderland, but hasn't quite matched that at Stoke, I'm not sure if he just doesn't suit their side, or if he's had a dip in ability, good in the air and shows good acceleration, so could be a good purchase and do a job, even though I'm not a fan of him. Again he is much better than Cole if he can recapture that form he once had.

Neymar - This is one rumour that, if I'm honest, made me laugh. If the rumours are to be believed though, we have offered to loan him for 1 season. It may be true, as we did try to loan him once before, but this never happened. Even if we have I just can't see it happening, this is a player that if Santos wanted to sell, they could coup somewhere in the region of £30 million plus! He is highly rated as a future star of world football. Then again, maybe Santos feel loaning him to a side in the Premiership could launch that price tag even higher, although this could be a double edged sword, as if he failed to perform in the Premiership and was bullied/out muscled off the pitch, then that could lose any interest from a team in that league.

These are all the rumours I know about and if I get a few more I may again post my views.

Pre-season fixtures confirmed to get a chance to see West Ham before the start is:

Away to FC Rot-Weiss Erfurt
Away to Austria Vienna
Away to Boreham Wood
Away to Southend United
Away to Oxford United
Away to Colchester United
Away to Dynamo Dresden
Away to Ipswich Town

For more details on these you can find this all on West Ham's official site

Monday, 21 May 2012

Season Closed

First of all, I would like to congratulate the whole of West Ham United on gaining promotion. Although the season wasn’t perfect at times, Allardyce delivered exactly what he promised, to take us back to the Premiership at the first time of asking.

I also would like to say Allardyce, for me has made me change my opinion on him than when we first announced he was a manager, I was one hater of him, claiming he was too direct in his play, but I now see that isn’t the case. He is a manager who likes to concentrate on the simple things, a strong defensive platform, with players who are hard to beat and all work together, the style of play with the ball is sometimes direct, but it isn’t a constant, there have been times when the side have passed it around very nicely. He is a much better manager than I first thought, although he had a good record, I never truly saw his management style as something I could enjoy.

There have been some brilliant performances from our squad this season and I have been very impressed with Green, Tomkins, Reid, Noble and Vaz Te, we have also seen some strong performances from Cole and Collison recently, which you could argue have been vital in the play-offs.

I do hope the side enjoy their break and look forward to the new season coming up.
If we are to stay in our side then everyone knows, we need to strengthen and I’m sure no one knows that more than Allardyce. I personally think the positions we need strengthening are as follows. Possibly a Goalkeeper, but this all depends on whether Green signs a new contract or not, I’m personally hoping he will. In defence I would like to see a left back, which I wouldn’t be surprised if McCartney joins permanently, a centre back as I feel Faye will only be a bit part player next season and a right back, this is because it looks highly unlikely Faubert will be signing a new contract and Demel is rather injury prone. In midfield I would like to see an outright wide right player, as at the moment I feel we only have Vaz Te who is effective out there, Collison and O’Neil are mainly preferred to be in the centre, if the rumours are true about us being interested in Benayoun or Joe Cole then these could fit the bill, they can stay out wide and deliver a cross or they can cut inside to create chances for themselves or others and on top of that if we had Vaz Te and Taylor in the wide positions, they can be just as effective in the middle of midfield. I also feel we’d require another striker, Cole has proven his worth in recent games and if he keeps playing like that then I’d expect him to be involved, I think Maynard will be seen a bit, especially when we require goals as we can switch formations by bringing him on, but I personally can’t see Baldock getting in the squad as much, he isn’t big enough to play up top on his own and clearly doesn’t feel comfortable being pushed out wide, although I hope he doesn’t go as I do rate him highly.

I look forward to pre-season as much as ever and the new campaign ahead of us. I have faith we can stay up with the correct signings and hopefully the future will be claret and blue.


Monday, 7 May 2012

Wembley Bound

As I write this, West Ham have overpowered Cardiff City over 2 legs to book their place in the Play-Off final at Wembley. First and foremost I want to congratulate the team on an extremely good set of games, they've made me proud to be a West Ham fan with their performances recently, even Allardyce has impressed me with his team selection and even his substitutes.

The 2 games in general, if I'm honest surprised me. Cardiff were extremely disappointing, Miller doesn't seem to know where the goal is and their main threat Whittingham didn't seem to show up for either game. The first leg was the closer of the 2, both teams had chances and looked dangerous, but overall we edged it and took our chances unlike Cardiff, which we don't get to say too often, as we are normally ruing wasted opportunities. We had a nice 2-0 lead going into the home leg, which was a good cushion to have for this game. In all honesty though, I think Cardiff were beaten before we even kicked off. The side straight from the off didn't look confident with 50-50 chances and let us control the game with no real attacking threat, we kept piling on the pressure and eventually made it 1-0 from a corner that was headed home by Nolan, another important goal to add to his tally to make the full score a comfortable 3-0, then we controlled the match even more, passing it around for fun and whenever they did try something, be it a long throw or a cross, Green was there to clean up every time and didn't have much to struggle with. Then later in the first half Vaz Te latched onto a good pass and smashed it home to make it 2-0 on the day and 4-0 overall, this pretty much killed the tie off. This showed in the second half, with Cardiff's players coming out very early, clearly showing they just wanted the next 45 minutes to be over and go home, our side continued with the dominance of possession, but we didn't create too much compared to the first half, Collison came off with an injury, which is a little worry as he just seems to have found form at the right time. Although the change I was most impressed with was Maynard on for Cole with about 5 or 6 minutes to go, he then showed exactly what he can do when played in the right position, he made a telling run and called for the ball which was passed through and he immediately brushed past the defender to latch on the ball and drive it home to make it 3-0, I really do hope from that goal alone that we get to see more of him as he is clearly a top quality finisher.

So 5-0 over both legs and 2 very confident performances from the Hammers, could this squad have suddenly gelled and found the confidence that we lacked earlier, with too many draws condemning us to finishing third  in the table. Let us all hope so when we travel to Wembley on May 19th to face the victor of Blackpool and Birmingham, although Blackpool hold a current 1-0 lead, they know a trip to Birmingham is tough and will need to be at their best to get the result. Hopefully neither side will match us, but that is a story of ifs and buts. Enjoy the day West Ham fans and let's all hope we see a similar performance in our final game of the season and book a place back in the Premiership.

Come On You Irons!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Play-Off Chances

So we are all now ready and set for the play-off's. It's a tough mini tournament and not always does the favourite come out on top.

I'm sure many of us remember when we were strong favourites and lost out to Crystal Palace as a strong showing of this. On paper is not always the best to be, as we have seen quite a lot this season.

This seasons play-off's could be the most exciting yet, with all the teams having very strong performances throughout the season.

We go to Cardiff to open ours on Thursday, personally I'm hoping our away record could really assist us here, it's always nice to come back for a home leg with a goal or even a winning advantage. We cannot underestimate Cardiff though, they have a lot of experience and one player who could easily cause us problems is Whittingham, if he plays on the left, I genuinely think he could be an issue for Demel, he has a brilliant delivery and he is not afraid to run at the defence. I think if he is played centrally, we would cope with him better, Faye, Reid and Tomkins have all looked solid for us and Noble covering will be a great help. In my honest opinion I also think this could be where the ability of Nolan could be vital, he has scored a lot of vital goals for us and I'm sure he won't be afraid to place a few shots in. I think both games will be close and my predictions are a 2-1 victory for us away, but a very cagey and probably uncomfortable 1-1 draw at home.

My team for Cardiff is more based on where Whittingham plays. It would probably be:

Green, M.Taylor, Reid, Tomkins, Demel/Faubert, Noble, Nolan, Lansbury/Collison, O'Neil, Vaz Te, Cole.

I have gone for a 4-4-2 diamond but when we lose the ball I wouldn't be surprised to see it drop into a 4-5-1, if Whittingham is left mid then I may opt for Faubert for his pace to keep him tracked, but otherwise I would opt for Demel.

We will have to wait and see until the day though. Would be interesting to hear what other peoples sides would be?

If we get past Cardiff, then we would be going to Wembley, which could be a fantastic moment, but we must not let our main focus go, which would be to bounce back to the Premiership at the first attempt. We could either face Blackpool or Birmingham. Both worthy opponents. It's tough to say who I would rather have, we have hammered Blackpool twice which could make them the main choice, but then they may be looking for revenge, while Birmingham have proved to be tough opposition both times this season with 2 draws against us.

I personally would say Blackpool is the preferred, I feel we have the resources to cope with their attacking mentality and hit them on the counter, it has proved effective both times and I do not see the manager changing that style as it works perfectly against them. Birmingham I would be more nervous against, they are like us and try to be sensible at the back while pressuring sides with strong players like Zigic and King. It could prove to be a very entertaining game either way as the fixtures between both have been pretty good, we still need revenge against Birmingham for the Carling Cup and it would be delightful to get past them at Wembley, but they are certainly no pushovers.

My fingers are crossed firmly but I hope we can get through it and back into the top flight.


Saturday, 10 March 2012

My Letter To Allardyce

Dear Mr Allardyce,

I'm writing you to show my concerns about our team. Do not get me wrong you are a very respectable manager and have a very good proven track record. Our away form is full credit to this. We have played some fantastic football and have looked extremely dangerous. My concern though is our home form. Do not get me wrong I don't think it's all the team at fault or yourself, I also believe the fans could be partly to blame. Our atmosphere at home games has been practically non existent (if you ignore Millwall and Southampton) unless we score a goal or get a corner.

I feel this atmosphere is having a knock on effect to our players. When the crowd are frustrated and quiet our team appears to panic, we then resort to kicking the ball long to our strikers, which everyone can see is not helping us at all. I feel you need to calm our team down in these situations, remind them of their abilities and make them play a simple pass and move game. The team would then start to dominate games and create more clear cut chances, instead of kicking it long and suddenly see the pressure thrown straight back on ourselves, thus tiring our defenders and making a mistake far more likely.

Please can you remind this to the players and encourage them to try to play like that, I will almost guarantee if we start playing like that more regularly like we have in multiple away games, our fans would begin to pick up and start to get behind the team a lot more at home again. We have no one to blame but ourselves, all of us, not just the players, not just yourself and not just the fans, we are West Ham and we are all United together. I will never ever boo my side, but after the Doncaster match, we kicked the ball long for 70 minutes, despite everyone, including Julian Dicks who was commentating, pointing out this wasn't helping. Also when we got in wide areas our team seemed reluctant to get the ball in the box, this is one more thing I feel should be encouraged. I'm not real football manager, but I find the long ball see's players like Noble, Nolan, Collison and Lansbury all ignored as it is kicked over their heads, when they are the players who can create chances for players such as Baldock, Cole and Maynard. I don't mind what formation we use, but the tactics at home are not helping any of us. I'm certain you of all people can see that and will push our club to play sensibly. None of us expect us to play like Barcelona, but a simple passing game is something that is hammered into our players minds from a young age throughout the academy, this should not be ignored when playing at home in the first team.

I honestly hope you can help bring back these players confidence in playing in front of a home crowd and win over our fans hearts, which I think you will if we start to play sensible football.

Your Sincerely,

James Bannister

PS Good luck in the remainder of the season, I hope we can all pull together and get us back in the Premier League.