Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Carling Cup draw
West Ham will be visiting Bolton in the third round of the Carling Cup, in what promises to be an interesting match between the two high-flying Premiership sides.
Carling Cup Third Round draw:
Doncaster v Gillingham
Bolton v West Ham
Crystal Palace v Liverpool
Man United v Barnet
Chelsea v Charlton
Reading v Sheffield United
Fulham v West Brom
Mansfield v Millwall
Sunderland v Arsenal
Everton v Middlesbrough
Wigan v Watford
Grimsby v Newcastle
Aston Villa v Burnley
Blackburn v Leeds
Cardiff v Leicester
Birmingham v Norwich
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
This is a Boy's Own story. A story of courage, belief and a fierce will to succeed. But also to do the right thing. It's the story of Yossi Benayoun.
Aged nine and he was spotted as a footballing talent. Aged 11 and the talent was labelled a genius. By 13 his face appeared on the front of magazines in Israel.
With his father, Benayoun, always a slight, almost fragile figure, hitch-hiked to the training grounds of Hapoel Be'er Sheva, the only senior team in the Negev desert. The Negev is an extraordinary place. Desperate. 'It's a normal life like anybody. My family still live there, in the desert,' Benayoun protests before adding 'It's a different life from England but it's my home. It's one of the smallest and poorest cities in Israel.'
His hometown is Dimona, a place where families such as his, which emigrated from Morocco, were sent in the 1970s and '80s. It's also overshadowed by Israel's nuclear reactor, where many inhabitants worked, although Benayoun's father was, and still is, employed by the council.
'I was a football player from ever since I remember,' Benayoun, sitting in West Ham United's training ground, says. 'My dream was to play in the Israeli Premier Division.' Except bigger clubs came calling. Suddenly one of the biggest of all, Ajax, that Dutch footballing factory, wanted him. Benayoun was just 15 and he took all his family his parents, his sisters, his brother with him.
'It ripped my family,' Benayoun says. 'It was very hard, difficult. My girlfriend, Mirat (now his wife) was also just 15. It was just too hard for everyone.' His little brother, in particular, pined for Israel. 'It was just not the right time,' Benayoun states.
Ajax clearly thought it was. Although things were not right, he thrived on the field. Top-scorer and 'best player' of the youth team he was, having just turned 16, called in and offered a four-year contract as a first-team player. 'But the day after I had to say 'sorry, I want to go back',' Benayoun explains. After just eight months he returned to live in the Negev.
'It was hard, especially for a family who had nothing,' he says. 'The money was important but there are lots of things which are more important. You have to be happy, if you are not then money doesn't matter.'
His family had also been given cash by well-wishers back in Israel, to help them. 'A lot of people,' Benayoun says. 'But when I went back I returned it.'
There was, nevertheless, a problem. 'There was a lot of criticism,' Benayoun says. 'The press in Israel, the journalists, are very hard. When I went back they wrote horrible things, saying I would never be a player, I would never be able to make it in Europe and didn't have the character. They just didn't understand.'
When he had left for Ajax the stories had been very different. 'Everyone in Israel loved and supported me,' Benayoun says. 'They liked the stories that I had nothing, my family had nothing, and I came out and had great success.'
Benayoun has always been known as 'The Kid' in Israel. He still is. 'All the time, yes,' he laughs. 'I'm 25 and they call me 'The Kid' since I started. I started very young. I was in the Premier League in Israel at 17 and have been eight years in the national team. All the time it's 'The Kid, the Kid'. But they don't understand that now, I'm a father.' He adds: 'But I hope they still call me 'The Kid' when I'm retiring.'
After Ajax, the Kid returned to train with Be'er Sheva. 'I was there for one year,' he says. 'No one expected me to play, but I was put into the team and was the top-scorer and player of the year.' It came down to the last day of the season. Despite Benayoun's brilliance and 15 goals, the team had to win their last game, and hope another result went for them, to avoid relegation.
In the last minute they were drawing. Then they won a penalty. 'I had to take it,' Benayoun says. 'The other players were aged 29 to 32. It was a very experienced team but none of the other 10 wanted to take it. No one. And I tell you something " I missed. The goalkeeper saved it.' But the rebound fell back to him and, coolly, The Kid chipped into the net. Chaos. 'I ran and ran,' Benayoun says. But it wasn't enough. 'Yes,' he says. 'Unfortunately, in the other match, the other team scored in the last minute too and we went down.'
There's a photograph of Benayoun taken after the game. It shows the tears, the distraught youthful face. It struck to the heart of Israel. They took The Kid back and loved him again.
He went to Maccabi Haifa. 'A big team,' Benayoun says. 'But one that had not won the league for seven years.' With him they were champions twice in four seasons and, twice, he was named Israel's footballer of the year again.
'It was a lot of pressure but I call it positive pressure,' Benayoun, who did his three years national service during that time as well, says. 'It was the pressure that every player wants. Since I started I wanted to be the best, to be the best in the national team, to be one of the leaders.'
His club did well in Europe. They beat Paris St Germain twice, and performed beyond expectation. 'People started to look at me again,' Benayoun says. 'I just had to make the right decision and this time the right decision was to leave. I always felt sure that I would get another chance in Europe and it came along.'
This time it was to Spain, to the north and Racing Santander. 'Everyone expected that we would go down to the Second Division,' Benayoun says. 'But we stayed up and I had a lot of good games.' Few better than the eye-catching hat-trick he collected in Racing's 4-1 victory away to Deportivo La Coruña last April. It helped arrest the slide towards relegation but, after three years, and despite offers 'from two or three clubs in Spain' Benayoun felt it was time to move on. 'I wanted to try something else,' he says. 'And English football.'
West Ham. Again people in Israel questioned his decision. 'Everyone told me I was making a big mistake and that Bolton (who had also bid) were a bigger team,' Benayoun says. 'They think that because Bolton have done well in the last few years and are playing in Europe.' They also have another Israeli, Tal Ben Haim.
'But when I make a decision I'm happy to stay with it until the end,' Benayoun says. 'If West Ham lose all their games and end up in the second division and Bolton go on and win the championship then I know that I still made the right decision. I'm determined. You can ask Mirat that although after 10 years together we make decisions together, of course!'
He has clearly thought about why West Ham, even though newly-promoted, were the right club. 'There's a good combination of young players plus two or three with a lot of experience,' Benayoun says. 'We try and play football and that's what the manager wants.
'I need that. I'm a player who needs the ball, needs to have a lot of contact with it, to feel it. Like you see I'm not so big and strong. When I decided to come to West Ham it was one of several choices but I knew about the history, that they try and play, and that it's important to them.'
It helped West Ham's chances of securing Benayoun that he took testimony from another Israeli, Eyal Berkovic. 'I spoke with Eyal,' he says. 'He played here for two years and I have a good relationship with him. He's one of my best friends and taught me everything I need to know. He told me that I had made the right decision, that I would enjoy it and the football, that it was not like other teams, like Bolton. Bolton are strong but they play long-ball.'
There are similarities in style between the two Israelis. 'That is perfect for me as he is one of the best players,' Benayoun says. 'The only difference is that I play closer to the goal, he's more deep lying. Like me he's not the biggest physically and when I came to England everyone thought my size would be a problem. But I believe in myself and I think I can make the weight up.'
There have been other comparisons too. Many West Ham fans talk wistfully of Benayoun and Alan Devonshire " 'they have told me he was a great player,' the Israeli says " while another of such skill is Joe Cole. 'A great player,' Benayoun says. 'But I've got a long way to prove myself and get close to their level.'
The West Ham manager Alan Pardew has even mentioned, in terms of technical attributes, a likeness to Zinedine Zidane. Benayoun laughs at that one. 'It's good for me personally and shows what he expects,' he says, 'but Zidane's the best in the world and I'm not even close. There is no comparison.'
What is certain is the effect Benayoun has had on West Ham from the left- side of midfield although Pardew is also keen to use him more centrally 'as the brains of the attack', the eventual heir to 39-year-old Teddy Sheringham. Benayoun himself craves responsibility. 'If you bring a player who has played in Spain for three years and you have spent a lot of money on him (£2.5m) he can't just come and be one of the 25 players in the squad,' Benayoun says. 'He has to do more. You expect more from him. It was important for me that I did things in that first game that showed them they had made a good decision. If you prove yourself it gives you power.'
That first game was the home victory against Blackburn Rovers. 'It wasn't a shock, I had expected something difficult,' Benayoun says. 'But I wasn't in the game for the first 20 minutes and I just couldn't get the air into my lungs. Everything was so fast, I couldn't breathe. Every touch I made was bad, every pass. I lost the first five or six balls. After that I said to myself 'look, take your breath. Play simple.' And after that I played better.' So good that pundits named him man of the match.
'No one expected that after five games we would have 10 points,' he says. 'Personally I'm very happy, I'm enjoying it from every point of view but know that I have to keep playing like this.' Indeed Benayoun admits that he expected it to be tougher. 'Before I came here I thought it would be more difficult,' he says. 'Everyone knows it's hard to move to another country, to settle in, there's always a lot to learn.' It helps that he has found a home for his family and a nursery for his little girl.
Still the football can be too frantic. 'I like English and Spanish football but here everything is faster, more aggressive,' Benayoun says. 'Sometimes it's too fast. So fast that you lose the ball. But it's more enjoyable and, of course, the supporters. There is nothing to compare to them. They live their football. They show their appreciation.'
Another image comes into view. It's the Ramat Gan Stadium in Tel Aviv last March during Israel's World Cup campaign - a campaign which could see them reaching Germany next year. They are playing the Republic of Ireland and Benayoun goes into the dressing room.
'They gave me this T-shirt and I looked at it and thought 'how lucky, it's got my number. Number 15',' he says. 'Everyone started to laugh.' The reason why soon became apparent. Out in the stadium everyone was wearing blue T-shirts with Benayoun's number 15 on the back. All 50,000 of them. It was their way of saying thank you to The Kid for the excitement, the hope, the pride he had given to Israeli football.
Monday, September 26, 2005
Pleat praises Hammers defence
In a critical analsis of the match against Arsenal, David Pleat has spoken in praise of the West Ham back four - and the fullbacks in particular - after they blunted Arsenal's attack and kept a clean sheet. He also suggested that Konchesky is doing himself plenty of favours in regards to the national squad. The former Spurs boss wrote the following, as published in the Guardian.
"West Ham showed how to defend against Arsenal, always retaining their shape and making sure their full-backs were not dragged infield by Freddie Ljungberg and Alexander Hleb's decoy runs to create space for Ashley Cole and Lauren.
If you keep it tight on the flanks against Arsenal you have a chance. Although they don't hit crosses in the air, they like to get Cole and Lauren forward, build from there and sometimes flash low balls across the box.
West Ham funnelled Arsenal into central areas and the visitors' play petered out around the edge of the box with overelaborate passing. They were challenged to thread the ball through the eye of a needle and at the moment they're failing to do that.
Space for them [Arsenal] is often created by the movement of the wide midfielders. But Paul Konchesky and Tomas Repka didn't follow when Ljungberg and Hleb moved inside in the middle third of the field.
When Gilberto Silva had possession on the right, Ljungberg ran infield. But Konchesky would pass responsibility for Ljungberg to Hayden Mullins and would then drop off and make sure he wasn't too far from Danny Gabbidon. If he had gone towards Lauren it would have left space behind for an Arsenal player - probably José Antonio Reyes - to spin into.
This way West Ham kept things nice and tight. Although Lauren and Cole went forward well at times, West Ham coped without real problems.
Konchesky and Repka realised there were times when they had to go with their man. It's important nearer the box, in more critical positions, whether the wide man has the ball or not. And also if the wide man gets possession and goes infield the full-back sometimes has to follow and make a challenge.
I was impressed with Konchesky and I think he has made himself a contender for the England squad. He's less dangerous than Cole going forward but his distribution is improving, his tackling was good, his recovery was more than adequate and he rarely went to ground.
Defensively he is reliable. I had him at Tottenham on loan from Charlton and he sat at left midfield in front of Mauricio Taricco and made us nice and solid. When he returned to Charlton we never defended so well."
Johnson linked with return
West Ham are rumoured to be interested in out-of-favour Chelsea defender Glen Johnson. The Academy graduate, who left for £6 million after West Ham's relegation, is tipped to travel back across London for the unlikely price of £3 million. Given the likelihood of Tomas Repka leaving the club at the end of the current season, and the lack of dedicated cover in that position, West Ham could make a move for Johnson in January. They first would have to hope that Harry Redknapp does not make his rumoured loan move for the right-back.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
West Ham go fourth!
The East London club were, by many accounts, the better side, but chances were at a premium and the Hammers might be slightly disappointed not to leave with an extra two points after two penalty claims were denied and substitute Bobby Zamora headed wide near the full-time whistle.
Teddy Sheringham sent a free-kick just wide in the first half and Benayoun saw his shot saved after the break, but most shots were limited to outside the area for both teams and the tie ended scoreless.
Alan Pardew called it a "game of defences" and praised the work done by the West Ham back four.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
"Benayoun has attempted a whopping 14 [tackles] in his first five games and won an impressive nine."
Very impressive for a "lightweight", creative forward.
Anyway, thanks to those who came to the Roar game last night, hope you all had a blast!
Friday, September 23, 2005
Qld Roar vs Sydney FC
Brisbane Hammers will be at the Caxton (or O'Leary's across the road) before and after the Qld Roar vs Sydney FC match tonight.
Hope to see you there!
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Repka shows THE REF the yellow card
Goals, goals, goals
NRC: We're not getting carried away
West Ham midfielder and captain Nigel Reo-Coker has said that his team is not getting carried away with their early success.
"The main thing now is that we keep our feet on the ground," he told the Icons website. "There is absolutely no point us getting carried away because there is such a long way to go yet in the season. Five games is nothing, really, and a lot can change between now and May. It would be dangerous to get over-excited at this stage. All we can do as players is concentrate on collecting as many points as we can, and the sooner we can acquire them the better."
The England U21 star sees avoiding relegation as the main target for this season. "We might be in the top six right now but avoiding relegation from the league is still our main priority. It's the one goal we set ourselves and only once that has been achieved will we set a new target. In the Premiership I think teams like West Ham have to play for their lives to get results, so we'll keep on thinking we're in relegation trouble until that's not the case! We just can't allow ourselves to get in the comfort zone."
In the meantime, Nigel is enjoying the success of the team so far. "The start to the season has gone better than any of us expected, but I don't think anyone that's seen West Ham play so far will say that we don't deserve to have ten points in the bag from our first five games. We're all delighted with the team's form, so up to now we're thoroughly enjoying our Premiership experience. Beating Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday was another great day for us to savour, but I wouldn't say that it was especially sweet because it was a London derby. Every win in the Premiership is extremely enjoyable because it's so hard to do."
Marlon Harewood's recent form has delighted the young midfielder. "A week or two ago I was telling everyone who would listen that Marlon Harewood is a quality striker and that he would score plenty of goals for West Ham this season - and now that he's bagged four in two games I'm delighted to have been proved right! Marlon deserves all the praise he is getting at the moment because he works so hard at his game on the training field. Not many people get to see the hard graft he puts in, day in, day out, to improve his game. He really is a superb, dedicated professional.
"I also admire Marlon for the way he's shaken off all the criticism he's had to contend with over the last few weeks, and also for long spells of last season too. It seems like he's the sort of player that's easy to bash for some unknown reason, but luckily his character is so strong that he won't let it affect him. He's always been an upbeat person, but I must say it's brilliant to see him buzzing the way he is at the moment. Goals breed confidence in strikers so Marlon must feel amazing at the moment."
Hammers Win in Carling Cup
West Ham are through to the third round in the Carling Cup after defeating a determined Sheffield Wednesday 4-2 last night.
Pardew named a drastically changed side from the team that beat Fulham on the weekend, keeping only Marlon Harewood, Bobby Zamora, and Tomas Repka in the starting lineup. James Collins made his debut start, while Gavin Williams, Mark Noble, Elliott Ward, Chris Cohen and Shaun Newton were all in the starting lineup. Shaka Hislop made his first senior start in goal for West Ham since returning to the club, and Christian Dailly was named in midfield. David Bellion and Hogan Ephraim were on the bench, while Academy players Tony Stokes and Matt Reed were named for the senior squad bench for the first time.
Bobby Zamora provided the opener in only the second minute of the match, smashing in a spectacular shot from Gavin William's pass. Shortly afterwards, Marlon Harewood pulled a shot just wide of the post, and Zamora forced a save from David Lucas with a powerful header from a Shaun Newton pass. Just before the half-hour mark, Glen Whelan shot over the bar for Wednesday, but the Hammers went into the break a goal ahead.
No sooner had the second half kicked off than Chris Brunt forced Shaka Hislop into an acrobatic tip-over. Ten minutes later, skipper Christian Dailly put the ball into the net for West Ham's second goal, with a strong header from Newton's corner. In the 63rd minute, Zamora got his second and West Ham's third after curling a brilliant right-footed volley over Lucas.
Wednesday soon fought back with two goals in two minutes, the first coming from a corner when Graham Coughlan headed into the net, and the second from David Graham after James Collins allowed him to turn and shoot past Hislop.
West Ham were given a further scare as the clock ticked down when Graham clipped the top of the bar, but substitute David Bellion settled the score six minutes from time by scoring a superb solo goal, turning two defenders before rifling in his shot.
Tony Stokes and Hogan Ephraim were handed their first-team debuts as injury time beckoned.
Alan Pardew said after the match, "It was a bit of a scare towards the end. We switched off a little at 3-0. Overall I have to be very pleased considering that's the most changes I've made as a manager. They all came out of it with some credit. We want to keep the winning mentality. The first-team boys we left behind will see the score. It will put pressure on them, and that's what we want."
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Farewell to Cantwell
Here's a nice little Noel Cantwell eulogy.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Couple of quotes :-
"The little revolution is, however, not so much about individuals as attitude. The team plays without inhibition; they are not afraid to get forward, nor are they afraid to make mistakes."
"Not for a moment did West Ham consider circling the wagons. They played as if the game was scoreless and in being positive, they gave their rivals hardly a glimpse of goal. From where, you wondered afterwards, has their lack of inhibition come? “We consciously went out and bought young players,” explained Pardew"
Pardew to Stay
West Ham Managing Director Paul Aldridge has revealed the club's intention to keep Alan Pardew as manager in the long term.
"If you keep your manager in place it generally means you're successful," he said. "We put a lot of store by continuity and we would certainly like to keep our manager in place for the foreseeable future. We see no reason to change. He's very good in the transfer market, he's got a lot of respect from the players and it's a relationship we're very happy with, long may it continue.
"Alan's always had our support. He knows it's a results business, he's never shied away from that. He was brought in to bring that success. If he hadn't have been the club would have had to look at changes, but that never came as close as some people thought."
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Pig And Whistle Report
The match was on the huge screen and we were swilling away and singing. Top stuff.
Which regular WHU-AU contributor launched not once but twice into the wrong song when Marlon scored...for a few secs he thought the first goal was Zamora and then I thought he was taking the piss when he launched into the Nigel Reo-coker congo song after the 2nd goal but nope, strike 2 to our eagle eyed correspondent. To be fair the screen was only about 10 foot by 8 foot and we were, oooh, 6 feet away from it...Nigel Reo Coke 'A, Nigel Reo Coke 'A, La 'Da Da Da..
Hopefully we will see a few more of you guys at the next meet up.
Fulham 1-2 West Ham
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Reserves Repeat Performance
West Ham Reserves have taken a leaf from the first team's book, and smashed Ipswich Town Reserves 4-0.
Tony Stokes, Jeremie Aliadiere, Petr Mikolanda and Christian Dailly all got onto the scoresheet as the Hammers dominated the match.
Premiership Team of the Week
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Fulham vs WHUFC @ P'n'W
Brisbane Hammers will be watching the Fulham vs West Ham United match at the Pig 'n' Whistle (Eagle St.) on Saturday night, the 17th of October 2005.
Hope to see you there!
From West Ham vs Aston Villa. We won 4-0, don'tcha know.
Praise from Pardew
Sunday's training was the best session I have ever witnessed from a team as a manager or player," said Alan. "It was unbelievable, and I thought that if we play that way against Villa the following day then we'd have a great chance.
"Everyone was terrific and the energy from the players was amazing. The signs were certainly there from the players that we could put in a performance. But it is never a guarantee as any manager will tell you, so I was delighted to see the team go out and give a performance like that. It was a perfect night for us.
"Everyone was great for us. The back four were magnificent again and gave us a great platform to build on going forward. The midfield was full of energy and up front we were looking dangerous every time we went forward. We worked extremely hard and really forced the issue against a good team.
"Again we played a really open game, perhaps a bit more open than we would have liked at times. But to do that you have to have good individual players in your defence and we certainly have that. The likes of Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon and Paul Konchesky were outstanding, but if I had to pick one of the back four as the best on the night it would have to be Tomas Repka. Tomas has taken criticism in the past, but everything he did against Villa was outstanding. Their front two have pace and guile, so to keep a clean sheet against them was a really good effort."
Pardew also singled out the gifted but hard-working Yossi Benayoun for praise. "Yossi is one of those players that makes you get out of your seat. He is easy on the eye, he lets the ball drift across him like Zidane and he goes either way. It is very difficult to deal with when you have players like that. He showed a real work ethic against Villa and I think he surprised a few people. He won three headers against a 6ft 1in full-back. There are all sorts of things to his game. There is a presence about him.
"I had a feeling Yossi would like this division. He got better every year in Spain and when you look at his pedigree, you have to say he is a thoroughbred horse and hopefully he will get better at West Ham."
The West Ham boss also revealed that he nearly dropped Marlon Harewood after some disappointing displays. "It was not cut and dried that I picked Marlon," Alan said. "Bobby Zamora is in good form and he wants to play.
"Marlon is a confident lad but worries about his football. It concerns him, he wants to listen and he wants to learn. The thing about Marlon is that when he works hard it all clicks into gear. But he doesn't always do that. The fans have been a bit impatient with him at times because he just switches off a little bit.
Pardew congratulates Harewood on his superb display
"He has to play at 100 miles an hour. He is not good when he backs off and he started at the right tempo. There were times last year when he did not do that and he had poor games. In the Premier League you cannot play at 80%, even for periods of the game.
"He gave everything he had and at the end he could hardly walk."
In a separate interview, Marlon Harewood spoke about the competition for places at West Ham. "It's not extra pressure for me, it's good competition. You have to take your chance. It brings the best out in everybody because you have to give 100% to get in the team. People have been getting on my back as I am the striker and I have to get goals. I know with my goalscoring record there is no reason for people to get on my back but that is the way it is in football. They are looking for top people to do top things and I just have to keep doing what I am doing. It is good the manager has kept faith in me. He has faith in all the players here. He has got us to the Premiership and done fantastic."
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
4-0 to the Cockney Boys!
Marlon Harewood celebrates his opening goal against Aston Villa
Naming an unchanged teamsheet for his 100th match in charge, Alan Pardew showed faith in the 26-year-old striker, putting him up front with Teddy Sheringham despite calls for Harewood to be dropped from the team after some poor displays in recent matches. However, Marlon repaid this small debt with substantial interest and is now West Ham's top scorer so far this season. I wonder if the golden boots he wore had something to do with it?
Carroll, Repka, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky, Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Mullins, and Etherington rounded out the remainder of the team.
The match was an open one, with plenty of shots on goal and frantic goalmouth scrambles. Villa were unlucky not to get onto the scoresheet but the result was nevertheless a fair representation of the match. West Ham took their chances and Villa didn't take theirs.
Early in the match there was a few chances for the home side, with Matty Etherington shooting wide from long range, and Yossi Benayoun failing to keep his shot on target after being given a good chance by Teddy Sheringham.
Harewood got his first when Sheringham nodded the ball on, allowing the former Norwich hitman a one-on-one with Aston Villa keeper Sorensen, and Marlon made no mistake with a clinical finish. His celebration - holding a finger to his mouth to silence his critics - left no doubt that the goal was a vital one for his confidence. But if his critics weren't silenced by that effort, they certainly were within the next five minutes after Harewood cleverly flicked Anton Ferdinand's shot over the former Sunderland keeper to get his brace.
Villa had a few dangerous attacks, mostly utilising former West Ham target Milan Baros and his pace. Baros and Phillips managed to get around the West Ham defence once or twice but was always denied by good covering work, while Konchesky managed to keep the Villa winger quiet. The visitors only had one notable chance but hard-working Milner's shot was saved by Carroll.
At the other end, Harewood was denied a crystal clear penalty after being rugby tackled in the box by Ridgewell when clear on goal. The referee must have had cataracts because he also missed the same player attempting to kick Harewood in the head. If the ref had brandished a card of either colour after one of these incidents, perhaps the scoreline would have been even more one-sided. I don't like to criticise a referee in a match like this, but I think a report on this bloke is in order for at least the first of these incidents.
At any rate, the Hammers went into the half time break on a high. As expected, Villa came out of the blocks early in the second half with a flurry of attacks, but West Ham held out with some desperate defending and some good fortune. Carroll failed to deal with Milner's attempted cross, which miraculously rebounded off both posts and fell to Phillips, who inexplicably shot wide.
Soon afterwards, Sorensen misjudged a Matty Etherington corner and failed to reach the ball after coming off his line. In doing so, he distracted a Villa defender who was about to head the ball clear. Who else should the ball fall to but Mr. Golden Boots himself, who easily slid the ball in between the two defenders on the line to complete his hattrick.
Later, Etherington got a slight knock and was replaced by Shaun "10K" Newton. Bobby Zamora came on soon afterwards on to allow the hattrick hero a well-earned rest, coming off to a standing ovation.
A period of keep-ball (and a laughable miss by Ridgewell) was followed by a moment of brilliance from our two-footed Israeli star. Yossi Benayoun dazzled the Aston Villa defence with some marvellous touches, before performing his favourite "shape to shoot but cut the ball inside" manoeuvre, firing a low left-footed shot into the far post to complete the rout. We all knew Yossi was capable of this sort of goal - he had been threatening to pull something like this off all season - and the diminutive Israeli will be pleased to get his first goal for his new club.
That was the 89th minute and Aston Villa were completely becalmed and West Ham easily kept them scoreless as the clock ran out. Mullins went off for Christian Dailly in order to waste a bit of time. Almost immediately the final whistle went, triggering a stirring rendition of a little ditty called "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" by the West Ham faithful.
Hey Baros, what's the score?
Roy Carroll (6) - Hot and cold, did some good work but wasn't as reliable as in previous matches. Made one or two errors but importantly didn't concede.
Tomas Repka (7) - Very good. Did everything well.
Anton Ferdinand (7) - Allowed Villa (and Baros in particular) through occasionally but always recovered well. Looks good, as always.
Danny Gabbidon (7) - Same as Anton.
Paul Konchesky (8) - Great performance. Got very involved in defence, which is normally considered his weak point, but also went forward and linked with Matty. Well done Konchy.
Yossi Benayoun (7) - Good display, occasionally choosing the wrong option but tried his little heart out. Got a sublime goal which he's deserved on the basis of his season so far.
Nigel Reo-Coker (8) - Awesome. Made a single error when he took a long range shot instead of feeding Zamora in on goal, but otherwise a great display in the middle of the park. Hardly put a foot wrong all night.
Hayden Mullins (8) - A commanding performance. What a fantastic midfield pairing we've got here. Hayden showed so much guts, winning the ball all the time, but also some tricky footwork. Well done Hayden and Nigel.
Matty Etherington (7) - A good performance but came off with a slight knock. Hopefully he'll recover for Fulham.
Marlon Harewood (9) - Unlucky not to get four. What more can you say. Top work there Marlon.
Teddy Sheringham (5) - Despite what other reports say, I thought Teddy had an awful match by his standards. He got an assist for Marlon's first but was slow mentally and physically for this one. Really should have been substituted at half time to give Zamora a chance, but surprisingly stayed on for the full 90+ minutes.
Shaun Newton (7) - On for Matty. Can't remember much of what he did, so I guess a 7 is fair.
Bobby Zamora (7) - Mature performance and could have had a goal when Reo-Coker neglected the easy pass. Deserves more time on the pitch.
Christian Dailly (6) - Came in for Mullins to kill some time.
Alan Pardew (7) - We won, and by a good margin. However, there is still work to do. Surprisingly allowed Sheringham to play a full game.
Pardew said, "It was a perfect night, nothing went wrong, the back four were terrific and the goals were the icing on the cake. Marlon's always scored goals in his career, he deserved them because his all-round performance was very good. We looked quicker and jumped higher, we've got to keep this enthusiasm going and see what happens."
Harewood said, "To just score just my first goal of the season was great, but to come away with three goals and the match ball is just brilliant. I was desperate to score, but I knew that if I kept working hard, kept believing in myself then it would come. I wasn't worried about it, but I was determined to get off the mark. I never imagined it would be with a hat-trick though.
Of the team performance, Marlon added, "It was a great performance. Every player was important, everyone played well and we showed what we can do against Villa. They are a strong side with plenty of Premier League experience. But we came out, attacked them right from the first whistle and they just couldn't handle us. There is a fantastic atmosphere around the squad. The feeling is great and I think it's showing on the pitch in the way we are playing. It was a tremendous performance, I'm delighted to have taken home the match ball and helped win the team what could prove to be a really good three points. We knew that Aston Villa were a team that we should beat at home, but we're confident going into every game because at this level you have to be. It was a great night and the fans were magnificent. They inspire us in every game, so to score three goals in front of them in such a good performance is just fantastic. It was definitely our strongest performance since coming back to the Premier League. But we've played well in all four games and it's been a great start. I think we've probably surprised a few people at the way we've played, but we were confident going into the season and things have started well. After losing against Bolton it was important for us to get back to winning ways, and it was a fantastic result. Now we just need to focus on keeping this form going. We'll enjoy the result and then it's back to work to prepare for the trip to Fulham this weekend."
I must say it's pleasing to hear the West Ham team talk of Aston Villa - a stalwart of the Premiership - being a "team they should beat at home".
Villa beat West Ham
Monday, September 12, 2005
NRC: Have Faith in Marlon and Bobby
In an interview yesterday, Nigel Reo-Coker spoke about the recent criticism levelled at West Ham's strikers.
"Marlon Harewood and Bobby Zamora have come in for some criticism from certain people who don't think they can score goals in the Premiership, but I don't agree with that at all. I think they've had extremely unfair criticism.
"I believe in Marlon and Bobby, the rest of the players believe in them, and so does the manager. I also know that they believe in themselves and their own ability. I think they should be given a chance before people start jumping on their backs. Both of them have scored plenty of goals in the past and they will carry that on at this level too, I'm sure. They just need a bit of luck to get them going.
"It amazes me the way strikers get built up, only to get knocked down again at the first opportunity. Bobby and Marlon's goals helped take the club back into the Premiership and they were our heroes, so I think it's wrong for those same people to get on their backs now."
The West Ham midfielder also spoke about the club's failed attempt to sign Benni McCarthy. "It was a shame the club's attempts to buy Benni McCarthy from Porto fell apart at the last minute before the transfer window closed," he said. "He would have been a fantastic signing, but I don't think it's the end of the world by any means. It was a pity we didn't sign him but I have every faith that the strikers we have at the club will do a valuable job. If one or two forwards pick up injuries we may be short on numbers, but if that doesn't happen we'll be fine."
For now, Nigel is looking forward to tomorrow's match. "It seems like ages since we had a Premiership match so I'm really looking forward to Monday night's game at home to Aston Villa. The game is going to be shown live on Sky and I think they've made a good choice in screening this one because I have a feeling it will be a really exciting encounter. I don't know why I feel it; perhaps it's because night games at Upton Park tend to have a very special atmosphere. And when the West Ham fans get behind us under the lights it always seems to inspire us on the pitch.
"Our confidence is still pretty high despite defeat to Bolton in our last game. We know we're playing well and that we are coping very well with the step up to this level. Four points from three games is a decent start and everyone is now extra focused on building on that platform."
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Article on Green Street (the movie)
Here be da link.
Roar Revenge - What Goes Around, Comes Around!!
Original post: 4:23 PM, Friday 2 September 2005
A few of us Brisbane Hammers joined nearly 21,000 fans to see Queensland Roar dispose of NZ Knights 2-0 in the inaugural A-League match at the Suncorp Stadium last Sunday.
Norven Munky aka Tony Mac and myself joined in with a few Queensland fans in a light hearted post match sing song in the Paddington Tavern. A young bouncer decided to take exception to this and believing that we had not done anything to warrant his heavy response, we tried to stand our ground and argue our case when asked to leave. After the bouncer threw our drinks in the garden, we were forcefully removed from the premises in an unnecessary manner for no apparent reason other than being jovial and singing songs supporting our team.
Disgruntled at this, the next morning Tony decided to email the Paddo and CC'd Queensland Roar for an explanation of our treatment. Instead of the apology we thought we were due, Tony received a very rude & aggressive phone call from the management of the Paddington Tavern basically claiming we were in the wrong. However the article on the left appeared in the local paper this week, who had obviously been tipped off by Queensland Roar CEO Lawrence Oudendyk. For this reason Queensland Roar will get the full support from the Brisbane Hammers for years to come.
This act of support for two of the clubs fans goes a long way, and shows the importance of a bit of positive PR and support of your customer base that the Paddo could learn a valuable lesson from. If they had sympathised with our case rather than being rude and defensive, then maybe the Caxton wouldn't have a large number of new customers for the course of the A-League season. I for one will be going to a lot more QLD games this season than planned and I may even buy some Roar Merchandise :-)
So thanks to Mr Oudendyk for your support, we hope to repay your loyalty with the Brisbane Hammers' full backing of Queensland Roar Football Club!
Friday, September 09, 2005
I know it's late news, but there's nothing else going on.
Benni McCarthy has revealed his frustration after his eleventh-hour move to West Ham was cancelled by his club Porto."I passed the medical test and I was sure I was signing for West Ham," he said. "You can imagine my frustrations when told at the last minute that the deal was off. I have served the club well and I thought they would finally release me.
"Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers have shown huge interest in me and I don't know why the club won't release me. But I can't change what has happened and I will just have to play for them until my contract with them ends.
"I have two more years with Porto, but I don't think I will be with them for that long. Maybe something will materialise when the window period opens again in January."
Monday, September 05, 2005
West Ham v Aston Villa Live on Fox Sports!
Fox Sports are reporting that the upcoming game against Aston Villa will be shown LIVE !!!
Kickoff's at 5:00am on Tuesday 13th September.
Friday, September 02, 2005
More on Benni & other news
* More details have emerged on the Benni McCarthy non-transfer. Said West Ham director Scott Duxbury: "Myself and Managing Director Paul Aldridge worked through the night on Tuesday and at 3am we thought we had a deal. Senior officials at Porto encouraged us to arrange a meeting with the player and his advisors with a view to concluding a deal yesterday, while they confirmed the details of the transfer with their president. Unfortunately, during the day Porto apologised but informed us that the deal was not acceptable to the president and that they wished to retain the player. During the rest of the day and early evening we frantically tried to persuade Porto to agree to a deal and this cumulated in a club record 9 million Euro [£6.15 million] bid being offered. However, Porto were adamant they would not release the player and we finally accepted defeat at about 10pm. The speculation regarding any clause in the player's contract relating to offers that had to be accepted by Porto was not correct. Porto retained the right to decline or accept any offer at their discretion."
Alan Pardew has expressed his disappointment. "Benni is an excellent player who leads the line well and is a first-class finisher. He's also a delightful man. He never wavered from his desire to join West Ham and that makes the breakdown of the deal all the more disappointing. I want the fans to know this is not the end of our transfer activity for the season. We will look for new players and make our moves in the transfer window come January. We are not taking this setback on the chin and shrugging our shoulders.
"We want to bring players of the highest calibre here," added the West Ham boss. "I am as disappointed for the fans as I am for the team. But we have assembled an excellent young, hungry squad of players here who can cement this club's place in the Premiership if the supporters get behind them. We have had so many positives from our early performances and it is important we keep that momentum going. Our young players have really taken the step up in class in their stride and our new signings have rightly earned plaudits in the media. We have top quality strikers in Teddy Sheringham, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood and Jeremie Aliadiere with David Bellion still to come back from injury. So we are already well served in that department. There is a mixture of anger and disappointment at the club this morning, but we are going to dust ourselves down, work harder and give everything we have got to give the supporters the success they deserve."
* In an unusual move, West Ham have signed former French U19 midfielder Sekou Baradji from Le Mans on deadline day, and have immediately sent the player on loan to Reading until January. Reading director of football Nicky Hammond said, "Sekou is an athletic and mobile player who has trained with us for one day and looks a very good footballer. West Ham were keen to sign him but want him to gain some experience here, and I am appreciative to Alan Pardew that he has allowed him to join us. He will give us another option over the next few months." The 21-year-old is left footed and plays in midfield, but can also play in defence.
* Jimmy Walker has signed a one-year extension to his contract. "To be honest I'm really made up about the contract extension," Jimmy told the official website. "The Club have really looked after me since the injury and I'm grateful for that. Last season worked out brilliantly with us winning promotion and although I worked hard last season and helped to get us there, football can be a cut throat business and you never know what will happen. That's why I'm really pleased at the way West Ham have handled it."
Jimmy also talked about his injury and how well he's recovering. "Things are going well and I'm pleased with the progress. It's obviously still going to be some time before I'm able to play again, but it's seven weeks since the [cruciate ligament] op now and so far so good. It's a long process, but in good have been a lot worse and in many ways I was quite fortunate, if that's the right word. At first they thought I had done the lot, basically damaged the entire knee. But as it turned out it was only the cruciate that was a problem and that's what I had done in the operation. To find out that it wasn't as bad as people first feared was a real bonus and it's given me something to work towards and aim for. I'm going to see the surgeon in four or five weeks and then I'll know a lot more about how far along I am. It's a little too early to put a timescale on when I can come back but I'm still determined to get back again before the end of the season. At the moment I'm just doing different things to control the swelling. I've been wearing this huge sock around the training ground for weeks which is doing my head in. The lads all have a good laugh at it!"
* West Ham have denied an approach by Swansea City to loan midfielder Gavin Williams for the season. Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins claims the club were wanting a Championship club to come in for the Welshman. "It's a sad thing about football, players can lose a good opportunity when a manager thinks otherwise," said Jenkins. "Alan's view is strange. [Williams] has never really played at our level [League One]. It's better for someone to be playing there than not at all. If the player is comfortable moving to a club that is going forward - irrespective of the league they're in - that has to be in their best interests."
* Brisbane Hammers will be sending a contingent to the Queensland Roar vs Sydney FC match on September 23, and will be meeting in the Caxton Hotel before and after the match. At any Roar home match, look for West Ham shirts at the Caxton!
Thursday, September 01, 2005
GUTTED! Benni slips out of West Ham's grasp
Reports have just emerged that a last-minute West Ham swoop for highly-rated Porto striker Benni McCarthy was cancelled just hours before the transfer window closed.
West Ham United's incoming transfer record would have been smashed if the deal had gone through, but the Portuguese club pulled out just two hours before the transfer deadline passed. Their £6.5 million bid had been accepted earlier in the day, and the 27-year-old hitman had already been flown to London and had passed a club medical.
The news follows weeks of reports linking West Ham to the South African striker, including rumours of a £4.5 million bid that Porto had turned down.
West Ham recently missed out on another high-profile striker in a similar manner when AS Monaco made a sudden turnaround just as Emmanuel Adebayor was about to sign for the London club. Alan Pardew must be wondering what he needs to do to bring someone into the club permanently; he appears to have no problem attracting the players themselves but their clubs are unwilling to let them go.
A "club insider" is quoted as saying, "It seems the only reason Porto did not go through with it is because they missed out on a transfer target of their own. An awful lot of hard work and time went into making this work. It was hard to accept when it broke down. We had done our homework and knew McCarthy would fit perfectly into the squad. If we had been told from the outset Porto were not willing to sell, we could have looked at other targets. But now we must wait until January and try again."
There is reportedly a clause in McCarthy's contract that makes him vailable for around £3.5 million at the end of the season.
This news of course is devastating to West Ham supporters across the globe, as it has been well reported that Pardew was looking to splash out on a high-profile forward.
*Of dubious consolation is the news that a sell-on clause in David Connolly's transfer to Leicester has netted West Ham around £350,000 following the striker's recent transfer to Wigan.
Angry Ant joins Premiership
Ex-West Ham striker David Connolly has joined Wigan on the day of the transfer deadline. "I'm delighted to be in the Premiership at last," the 28-year old Irishman said. "Wigan's a forward-thinking and ambitious club, with a great manager."
We never should have gotten rid of this hard grafting, yet talented little fella. I wish him luck but hope he doesn't come back to haunt us!
Long-serving Hammer and ex-Captain Steve "Shaggy" Lomas has gone to QPR. The Northern Irishman, who has been capped 45 times, has been with the club for over 8 years.
This is the last of West Ham's transfer dealings till January.
Disgusted, yes, Suprised,no!
Anybody else think the whole 6-7 million to spend on a striker was total fabrication? Why were we so heavily interested in Baros when there was no apparent chance of us being able to sign him and then when he starts to lower his expectations and signs for Villa, we're not interested? Why did we not put in an offer for Dean Ashton? How come the signing of Adebayor fell through? Could it all be an elaborate show to make the board appear ambitious? A PR stunt? By my counting we've not even spent half of the funds that were apparently made available at the beginning of the summer.