Tuesday, 30 December 2014


It's been a while since I've done one of these, so apologies if it is awful.

First off, what a season it has been for West Ham so far! Sitting in 6th place half way through the season is an impressive start, compare this to last season and it is almost beyond belief and it definitely didn't prepare me for this. We have seen an influx of new players who have all been very influential in our progress forward. Firstly at the back the signing of Cresswell and loan option of Jenkinson have been a real coup, there may still be a few question marks over them defensively but they are both young, learning and still really adjusting, yet going forward they provide width and pace and both have excellent deliveries on them. Then you look at our midfield where the main man of note would be Alex Song, his class overall tends to shine through where he makes everything seem effortless, although now and then he could seem like he is trying a bit too hard, then you have Kouyate who is similar to Diame in ways but a bit more consistency about him, although he doesn't offer quite as much of a goal threat, he is very solid, then you have Almalfitano, who when we signed I wasn't sure about at all as he seemed to go missing for West Brom last year, but he seems to have slotted into our side very well. Lastly up front you have Sakho and Valencia, the latter not quite setting the world alight with goals, although the ones he have scored have been pretty good! They also offer the perfect starts of our defending as they have the energy to close down opposition defenders to rush them into making a mistake. On top of that you have Carroll and Downing who are like shadows of the players Liverpool wanted out of their club, Downing at the top of a diamond has seen him become one of the most creative players in the Premiership and with Carroll staying fit is like an extra signing.

Highlights of the season for me have definitely been the home games against Liverpool and Manchester City, which highlighted a big improvement in the way we set up as a team and how our team don't fear anyone. Yes we lost out to Chelsea without doing much, but they have world class players in every position and it is always going to be tough against them and I fully expect them to win the league comfortably.

I'd also like to mention Adrian, he has been a rock at the back for us and has undoubtedly kept us in games by himself with multiple saves throughout games.

With the January window opening, it appears Zarate is off to QPR, I feel for the guy as I feel he's never really being given a full chance to show what he can do, but the fact it is a loan and QPR will probably play him a lot (hopefully), then it could have it's benefits, it could show us that he could be a very good player who deserves a chance in Claret and Blue, or he could flop and we could see we need to let him go. My main concern this window though is Winston Reid, he still appears no closer to signing a new contract and if that is the case, then surely we would be listening to offers now rather than letting him go for free. Which makes me believe we need at least 1 quality centre back in although I'd like 2 to cover any injuries, I like Collins and Tomkins, also Kouyate could work as a backup, but I feel both James' have mistakes in them that can sometimes prove to be costly. Overall though, I'm not really sure what else we would need, maybe another striker to put pressure on the main 3 we have, as I don't feel Carlton Cole shows that!

I do have one concern though Sullivan our co-chairman recently spoke to Soccer AM how Sam did not want Sakho but he persisted and it appears to have paid off, this worries me that there is a bit of a power struggle over transfers, especially with Zarate stating he wasn't the managers signing. I know from when they owned Birmingham how outspoken Sullivan can be and he was similar under previous managers for us and renowned himself with going to the press when things were not going West Ham's way. I just worry that one day this could all come to blows and see if things end sourly.

Lastly I am going to try to guess where we may come this season, I honestly cannot see us being in the top 4, I feel the main contenders are a bit too strong for us and will probably not suffer as much during the AFCON. I do however feel we could qualify for Europe and I think Sam will be hoping that is the case to prove a lot of his doubters wrong. So I am going to plump for 7th.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Dear Sam

Sam Allardyce,

You recently mentioned in an article that you had received a letter from a fan backing you and was happy to have someone fight your corner, you also noted that you would not walk away from your position and were happy to have the Chairmen's backing at this time and are looking for every possible way to get the club out of the situation that is currently looming, of being in a horrid relegation battle.

Now don't get me wrong, although you are a manager I dislike, you do have credibility about you. As you always mention yourself, teams do not get relegated under you (although I feel if you do stay in your current position that may change), you did get us promoted back at the first time of asking and you did reach a good solid 10th place last season built on a superb home record where we were almost impossible to beat, my highlight of the year watching us come back from a goal down to win 3-1. So yes I will give you credit for that.

Here is where some of that credibility fails me though, the squad you managed to hold in the Championship, was hands down on paper, far too good for that league and a lot of people said even Premiership sides may have envied our midfield...yet this side only managed to finish 3rd and won the play-off final, which was a fantastic day, but the game itself was not convincing, sitting at Wembley I was fearful of Blackpool a lot. Then the first season back up and we did very well, possibly a high from getting promoted and on top of that the loan signing of Andy Carroll proved a big help. But then again, the team Alan Pardew had that won the playoff final, on paper was probably not as good as yours, on top of that, the following year Pardew guided us to 9th and also guided us to the FA Cup final, a game a lot of people felt we should win. He suffered a familiar feeling that I am getting now, the side struggled the next year and suffered one of our worst starts in our history, yet I was sad to see Pardew go at the time, yet yourself, I would be happy to see leave. Here's my reasons why, firstly the tradition of West Ham that I fell in love with when my brother first started showing me football was the way we played, not always the prettiest, but they wanted to pass the ball and play quick attacking football, no matter who we were against, be in Manchester United or a League Two minnow, we stuck to our ways, sometimes this could lead to a memorable victory, other times it could lead to awful shock defeats, but one thing always stood out, our fans no matter the outcome would sing and support the team as they always felt they were giving 100%. Under yourself, you have a much different tactic to this, you set the side up not to lose (although I've always heard the best form of defence is attack). You will almost always stick to your lone striker ruling, even when chasing a game and you aren't afraid to toughen a side and bully the opponents. I admit this can sometimes work very well, the problem I have though, is when we lose, we look like we just rollover and have no alternative. You seem to allow the team to stand off the opponents and let them come at you, which just puts a side into a tough position, you also promote a much more direct root of football, launching the ball in the general direction of a target man who will try to flick the ball onto a team mate or control the ball, which is not a brilliant style of play to watch at times. Don't get me wrong I don't mind winning ugly if you have to, but in recent performances especially, it doesn't look like our team are even comfortable attempting to pass it short or on the floor. Making the losses look even uglier than those wins when you can draw out.

Secondly, when I was growing up, West Ham had the nickname "The Academy of Football" and for very good reason, back then I saw the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Frank Lampard come through, then later on we saw Jermain Defoe, Anton Ferdinand and Glen Johnson, then even later we saw the likes of Jordan Spence, Freddie Sears, Junior Stanislas, Frank Nouble and Zavon Hines come through (almost all of which you have shown the exit too), now I admit, the class of the earlier players was much higher than that of the latter, but they all had their talents to be given a chance, Sears for his scoring ability in the Development Squads, Stanislas for his wing play and delivery of the ball, Hines for his pace, Nouble for his strength and Spence I admit was thrown in at the deep end of a relegation battle, but he put in some promising performances at the time. Yet you seem adamant to never give our young players a chance and recently claimed none of them as good enough (and you wonder why Forest beat them after their own manager probably shattered their confidence to pieces). You have given the odd player a chance, Potts, who many admired and thought might push into the first team, Chambers and Ruddock in the cup, who both had put in reasonable performances (yet when we had a centre back crisis, you opted to play McCartney and O'Brien in centre back roles rather than possibly give one of these an opportunity in their natural position) and Spence has featured as a substitute a few times. Also you allowed Rob Hall to walk out the door, possibly against your wishes as he wanted first team football despite you saying he was one of our best prospects (surely you would have promised if he continued to impress he would get his chance and if he took it, then first team football would come his way. He still talks about West Ham and clearly loves them, so I feel you missed a trick there). So I would like to know, why not chance some of these players, you never know, they just might shine, take for instance when we seemed to not even be able to buy a goal, yet Elliott Lee was scoring for fun in the Dev Squad, surely he could have done no worse than our strikers at the time who were struggling to find the back of the net. Or why not build on Dan Potts' promise and try to make him into a confident and impressive future left back? All I'm saying, is you shouldn't rule out the players before first of all giving them a chance. The only players you seem to like from our academy are Noble and Tomkins, which I'm pleased you do, but we also have a very good midfielder in Collison who has also scored some vital goals for us, rarely ever getting a look in.

Lastly, is your transfer business, you spent a lot of money on one man, Andy Carroll. Now I am pleased you signed him as he did very well for us, but surely even you knew, he was going to need an operation, so would have signed a second striker in preparation or maybe had a different tactical plan for while he was out? It just seems you are still trying to play as if he is there, when Maiga for example, is quite clearly a very different type of player to him and Carlton Cole just hasn't quite be at the top of his game. Maybe risk them both together? Again it could pay off.

As you can see, I'm not the happiest of Hammers right now. I feel you're taking everything I knew about West Ham and are just ripping it to shreds, on top of that, the performances are not going your way, your so called hard to beat team now is leaking goals for fun (although I won't lie, a lot of that could be down to injuries and having to play players out of position...or maybe try the younger players who might well fit the bill and full the void until then). And our recent performances have just been horrible to watch, I don't doubt for a second they aren't giving it their all, but the tactics and style of play just look clueless, standing off opponents and letting them keep the ball, then every attack we seem to do is to launch it to the target man and hope they win a flick on or knock it out wide and hope one of Downing, Jarvis or J.Cole beat their man and get a cross in. Also when everyone else could see Nolan wasn't performing very well, you kept him in the side and never ever subbed him off. On top of that, in games we've been losing, you've swapped Maiga for C.Cole or vice versa when, maybe just once, we could do with using both of them.

It seems that you won't be walking away and you won't be getting sacked. So all I ask, is maybe to change some of your styles or views. It could just be the one gamble you need to survive in this league and I'm not saying this will happen, but maybe if you did change it, then some fans will warm to you, if you don't then I'm afraid, even if you do keep us up, then you will never be accepted by many of our fan base, as even when you did guide us to 10th last season, I knew a lot of people that were still very unhappy and all it takes is for a few bad performances for them fans to start getting louder again, you've heard it for yourself in the Championship, last season at times and especially, right this second. I just feel you should consider it.

Last of all, if you are staying, then good luck, as I feel you're going to need it, but if we do go down, then I'd like to be the first to say, I did warn you right at the start of this post.

James Bannister.

Friday, 3 January 2014

New Year, New Me...

Well it's now 2014, with West Ham sitting in a disappointing 19th and 3 points off of the relegation zone. The end of last season now feels like a distant memory as this year has been a great big struggle. We started off okay, although we weren't playing superbly, we looked very good defensively, since the injury to Winston Reid, we appear to be leaking goals left, right and centre, with the only shining light that I can truly recall being those 2 wins at Tottenham, first in the league and then again in the cup (come on, I had to get that in here somehow!). Other than that it appears we just see players getting injured everywhere, Andy Carroll, Ravel Morrison, Mark Noble, Winston Reid, James Tomkins and Stewart Downing to name a few! It seems like a horror show that loves to repeat itself at West Ham and it's slowly getting more and more irritating. On top of that, we haven't exactly performing well at times, struggling to pass, create chances and on top of that score goals. It's a season where I've seen fans calling for Sam's head and other fans just screaming that something needs to change. All in all, I agree with them, I'm stuck though, as I do not feel there are many managers available who could do a decent job, especially when in the tough battle that is appearing ahead to avoid relegation, but at the same time, I want Sam Allardyce to leave, as I find his tactics not only stressful to try and watch but also predictive and uninspiring.

Looking at some of the games we've dropped points are also worrying signs, we can't afford to drop points to teams in the same area as us any more and those prior to this (i.e. Fulham and Norwich who had just suffered heavy defeats before beating us) could end up costing us dearly.

We need to sign in January, I can think of us requiring another CB, a Striker and possibly another number to midfield as cover just to help, especially as Allardyce did say a short while ago that no one in our youth teams was good enough to play in the first team. A verdict that I was strongly upset about, a tradition that I fell in love about West Ham was that we always gave those youth players a chance to shine, just look at some players who played over the years for us, some succeeded and some did fail, but I felt you could only give that verdict after giving them the odd game here and there, even if it was only 15 minutes. There are players who I'm sure would thrive at the chance, Elliot Lee who was scoring for fun in the youth teams would love to score for the senior team and at a time where scoring goals has been an issue then why not chance it? If it pays off, you'd look like a genius for giving him his chances. George Moncur would love to follow his fathers steps and appear in the first team too, from what I've seen (albeit very little) he looks like he could be a composed midfielder. Then you have the likes of Potts, Chambers and Ruddock who have all impressed now and then in little runs in the first team, give them a shot and they might really make a step up, especially playing alongside experienced players, then you also have the likes of Turgott who last season went on a fantastic cup run with Bradford City and Tombides, Spence etc. who must be begging for a chance to play. I'm not saying they are the answer but you could question why they've never really played much to try and show their worth, maybe the hunger they have could be enough alone to make them perform, also it could shout out a strong message to people under performing that they need to be at the top of their game, otherwise their place could be in jeopardy. Thankfully Sam has said he will play a fair few against Nottingham Forest in the cup and I really hope they all put in strong performances despite the managers damning verdict, just to try and prove a point. They may not be the answer, but it is a start alongside restrengthening in this window. I really do hope we are active, even if it is loans, we need something to help us in what could be a big battle to stay up.

Do I think we will stay up? At this moment in time, I would say no, from the games I've watched this season, we've looked like a team lost, unable to pass the ball, lack of movement and support especially going forward, a team that sits back and lets the other team come at them all the time and a severe lack of confidence. They are all things that I feel could hurt us and on top of that, we have a captain who appears to just love being sent off, which is never going to help with all the injuries and he isn't making a good case for himself, especially to me, who is a fan that has never been a fan of him. I honestly feel like he doesn't deserve to be captain right now, but then again, I don't feel Allardyce deserves to be manager anymore, but I feel he could well be surviving on the fact that there are no proven managers who would seriously consider coming to West Ham. Although Malky McKay is available, I honestly have not seen enough of him to warrant us considering him, unproven in this league and could he motivate a team with their heads down to survive relegation? I'm not so sure myself. Also if the rumours are true that it would cost £6 million to sack Sam, that could also be helping him greatly, but then again, the cost of relegation could be much more so and our board won't like to see a repeat of the Avram Grant season. The one thing I really dislike about Sam at the moment though, is his lack of accepting some of the blame. Yes he isn't solely to blame for the injuries and our captain going a bit crazy, but he does pick the team and tell them how he wants to play, maybe if he showed more belief in them then he could get them playing better, also he is one manager who never seems to have a plan B, when we went down 2-1 to Fulham, he brought off Maiga for Carlton Cole in a direct switch, when chasing a must win game, surely you would risk putting on Cole to play alongside Maiga in the desperate attempts to claw at least a goal back, even if you did end up losing 3-1?

Who should we sign in January? Should Allardyce be gone? Should we be showing more faith in our younger players and giving them a chance? I want to hear your views!