Sunday, April 30, 2006
FA Reject Appeals
There is some good commentary about the ridiculousness of the decision here.
At face value it might seem like Garcia is a bigger loss to Liverpool than Mullins is to us but I don't agree. Mullins may not get too many headlines and public plaudits but he is a huge part of our midfield and it is his gritty dependability that allows NRC the licence to get forward. He would definitely be in my top 3 for hammer of the year.
I feel sorry for him having to sit out such a huge occasion because of a handbags at 5 paces nothing incident.
Friday, April 28, 2006
NRC: Hoping to become East End legend
Nigel Reo-Coker on his diary website at icons.com:
"I know that we lost 2-1 to Liverpool on Wednesday night, but it's still been a fantastic week for us. To reach an FA Cup final with West Ham is a dream come true for the whole team. It's so exciting.
"Both clubs rested players for the league match this week, so it won't have a huge bearing on the final itself. But having said that, I do think we can take more positives than negatives from the match at Upton Park. We scored one, and should have had another when my second goal was disallowed, which goes to show that we will be dangerous opponents for Liverpool in Cardiff.
"Apart from the loss, which I thought was unlucky, the night was also marred by the red cards shown to Hayden Mullins and Luis Garcia which means they are out of the FA Cup final. I think most people agree that they were yellow card offences, not red, so I hope that the FA will look at it sympathetically and show some leniency to both players by making a sensible decision.
"It was a moment of madness that was all over in a flash and nobody got hurt. It was a minor flashpoint, not a big incident. Hayden's character is brilliant and he's never ever in trouble with referees. His disciplinary record is quality, he's only had two yellow cards all season. That's why it would be so harsh on him to miss out on the final over such a little thing. We're all fully backing the club's appeal.
"Looking ahead to next month's final at the Millennium Stadium, it's so, so exciting. For me, it doesn't get any better because I was a Liverpool supporter as a kid. It really is a dream final for me.
"We won't be going into the game with any fear. I can promise that. It's a massive occasion for the club, but we aren't overawed by it. We want to go for it and show everyone what a good side we are. This set of West Ham players have a golden opportunity to make history and become East End legends for ever more, and we're determined to make it happen. It's down to us, and we believe we can do it.
"Our semi-final hero at Villa Park was Marlon Harewood and I am so pleased for him. It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, or to a player that works harder than him. He's a great lad.
"Marlon's scored 16 goals this season, his first in the Premiership, but I still don't think he's getting the credit he deserves. The recognition he's had since Sunday is long overdue in my opinion. We all think the world of him at Upton Park - and long may his, and the team's current success continue!"
West Ham have confirmed that they will be appealing Hayden Mullins' red card in the league match against Liverpool.
Although I fell asleep trying to watch the game last night, I did catch the incident and frankly I think both red cards were on the soft side, although the ref wasn't unreasonable in the decision. Garcia was fouling Mullins in an act that was well worthy of a yellow card (although not a straight red IMO) and I must say I was quite chuffed at Mullins "I ain't takin' no shit from nobody" response. When I first heard that Hayden was shown the red I thought he must have acted stupidly, but having seen the incident I'm quite proud of him. He acted like a man - in stark contrast to the cowardly, girly actions of his opponent. It's left me in no doubt as to which of the two will garner more respect on the field should the clubs' appeals go through and see the players head-to-head at Cardiff.
At any rate, I don't think that the fact that both players would be missing the final should affect the FA's decision. The importance of the match should have no bearing on the outcome of such decisions. That line must not be crossed. However, I do think that both red cards were very soft and under normal circumstances I would hope that the FA would show some clemency towards the players; although their acts were violent, neither would have resulted in any injury and that the more violent of the two (Mullins') was in reaction to the first act. Strictly, yes, red cards were deserved, but I think the "spirit" of the incident warrants only a yellow each. Or as one reporter suggested, the official FA term of "adopting an aggressive attitude" is spot on the money; at least, the existing charge of "violent conduct" is inappropriate.
But if the FA do downgrade the charges and allow the players to be selected for the final, they must make it absolutely clear that the importance of the match did not affect their decision.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
It's happened again...
For the third time this season West Ham have been defeated in the league by a team they are about to play in the FA Cup, thanks to a Djibril Cisse brace. The last couple of times, of course, we went on to progress in the cup. So let's hope it's an omen..
However, this time the Irons gave a good account of themselves and could have come away with something. It was certainly great to see Elliot Ward given another chance, although I wasn't able to see how well he did. Unfortunately I didn't know it was televised so I missed most of the first half and only saw patches of the second half, as I was flicking between it and the Champions League match and getting ready for work at the same time. I'll probably watch the replay tonight, but from what little I saw it seemed West Ham played very well. Walker could have done better for the second (I didn't see the first) but he was left exposed by Ferdinand. It looked like Zamora, Sheringham and Benayoun all played well, and of course Nigel Reo-Coker who got our consolation goal for his 100th appearance for the Hammers.
I expect Liverpool will play Cisse and Crouch for the final. Fowler and Morientes are the kind of players that our defence can handle, pretty much, but the height and speed of Crouch and Cisse would likely give us problems. At the back, obviously Carragher is a very difficult man to get around. I think the best form of attack for us would be to head down the wings or inside a little bit, and cut the ball in on the ground. It's difficult to say who we should play up front. Harewood and Ashton seems obvious, particularly if we allow Harewood to make diagonal runs into the path of our wingers, and to slot low balls into the area. Ashton would win us some headers. But then so would Zamora and he seems hungry, and he might take the Scousers by surprise. He is also a good support player. But I don't think Bobby and Marlon play particularly well together. Sheringham, given the opportunity, can really hurt defences but he needs to be surrounded by fit players to draw the opposition off him a little to allow for his lack of pace. Basically we're spoilt for choice up there and if Pardew does his homework, and if we play well, we could really hurt them.
We will really need NRC to have a good day. I've no doubt he'll be really up for it as he loves the big stage and will relish the challenge against such a brilliant player as Gerrard. Nigel is our key player for the day and I'm counting on him to have a big one to supply the wingers and take control of the ball in the centre of our attack. If Garcia's ban is reduced, then we may have some trouble in the centre of the park.
I'm concerned also about our right side. Kewell's form is scintillating of late. Yossi likes to drift inside a lot, as it is his natural position, and this will allow (presumably) Riise and Kewell the space to play off each other and advance against our right back. If it's Scaloni we're in a world of hurt. If it's Ferdinand we might just get by. But Pardew needs to hold back their left side if we're to get anything from the game, and I think he may do that by playing the hard-working Harewood on the wing in order to keep Riise deep and prevent the direct supply to Kewell. Harewood has the hunger and fitness to do a lot of work wherever he plays so maybe it would be best if he does play on the right wing. If so, then it seems that the next natural move would be to bring Yossi into the middle and let NRC be our midfield steel. But who would be up front? I think we need Ashton to win headers and provide that knock-down support that proved so valuable against Middlesbrough. As to whether he's supported by Sheringham or Zamora, I could really be convinced either way. Sheringham is slow, but he has a fantastic brain and could really pick apart a defence with a single moment of genius, like he did against Liverpool this morning. Zamora is an excellent and hardworking player who can score some fantastic goals. I think I'd go for Zamora, but it's a close call.
Now, if Pardew can keep Konchesky out of Etherington's turf, we should stand a good chance...
So for me, at this moment, our final squad should be:
Shaka/Walker (whoever is in form)
Ferdinand - Collins - Gabbidon - Konchesky
Harewood - Reo-Coker - Benayoun - Etherington
Ashton - Zamora
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Fox Football Frenzy
FFA AND FOX SPORTS MEDIA RELEASE
Wednesday 26 April 2006
FFA and FOX SPORTS announce ground-breaking broadcasting agreement
Historic deal to secure Football's future
Football Federation Australia and Fox Sports today announced a landmark agreement that will see all Australian home internationals, the Asian Cup, Hyundai A-League and AFC Champions League, broadcast exclusively live on Fox Sports from 2007.
The agreement is worth in excess of $120 million over seven years. The combined package covers all Qantas Socceroos home matches, including the 2007 & 2011 Asian Cup tournaments, Asian Cup qualifiers, and the World Cup qualifiers through the Asian Football Confederation in 2008 (selected preliminary matches) and 2009 (all final round matches).
Following on from the first season, Fox will again broadcast the Hyundai A-League, with the vast majority of matches continuing to be shown live.
The Chairman of FFA, Mr Frank Lowy, said the deal was "truly remarkable," and a massive vote of confidence by a major broadcaster in the future of football in Australia.
"Importantly, this transaction creates a 'home of football' and enables the FFA to support and nurture the whole of the game, including the professional and community arms. The Socceroos will be beneficiaries, as will the Hyundai A-League, both at the overall competition level, as well as individual clubs; this deal enables the FFA to subsidise each club, equally, and thus will help sustain them and showcase our new national competition, the Hyundai A-League."
"Fox Sports is to be congratulated for embracing the game, for showing faith in the enormous potential of football in Australia and for investing upfront in helping to realise that potential."
Fox Sports Chief Executive Officer, David Malone, said "football's performance over the past 12 months suggests it can fulfill its potential in Australia in the years ahead."
"Having invested significantly in that potential back in 2004, we have been delighted to see the game in Australia exceed all of our expectations," he said.
"We believe the coverage and presentation of Football we have provided on Fox Sports has played a part in its success to date, and we are looking forward to creating an even more exciting Home of Football over the next few years.
"There has never been a bigger commitment to football from a broadcaster in Australia, and with our history of providing great football coverage including the English Premier League and last season's first ever A-League, we are now very much looking forward to giving the same commitment to Socceroos matches, along with the Asian Cup and Asian Champions League."
FFA Chief Executive John O'Neill said today's announcement represented "a terrific deal for Football at this early stage of its development as a mass entertainment sport in Australia."
"At this stage, above everything else, Football needs security and sustainability," he said.
"It is something that it has never had, and without it the Game would remain fragile and vulnerable. From such a stable platform we can genuinely develop this sport over the years ahead."
Mr O'Neill stressed the challenges still facing the Game.
"As significant as this agreement is, it is sobering to remind ourselves of the extraordinary resources required to operate such a uniquely diverse and expansive sport as ours.
"Eight national representative teams - men and women - as well as a genuinely national professional domestic competition, and a grassroots participant base comprising more than a million players, means there are a lot of mouths to feed!
"This deal will allow some further investment in the identification & development of elite players of the future, in developing and enhancing our national competition, the Hyundai A-League, and in better servicing our grassroots."
Mr. O'Neill acknowledged Fox Sports role in the revival of football in Australia and said today's announcement was further evidence of its commitment to play an active role in the development of the game.
"The quality and credibility of Fox Sports' coverage has been, and will continue to be, a vital component of the Game's revival in Australia," he said.
"We remain very grateful to David and the team at Fox Sports for the initial leap of faith that they took in 2004, and we look forward to growing our already successful partnership over the coming years."
"The guaranteed nature and extent of their coverage will ensure that Football fans are presented with the quality which they expect and deserve."
In closing, Mr. O'Neill thanked, and acknowledged the continuing commitment of SBS. "SBS have been long term supporters of the Game, and they will continue that association as they broadcast the first of Australia's Asian Cup Qualifiers in the second half of this year, and then through their recently-announced deal to broadcast the FIFA World Cup in 2010 and 2014. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Shaun Brown and his team at SBS for their ongoing support for Football."
Dean Ashton has told of his delight at reaching the FA Cup final in a diary entry on the website icons.com.
"It's an absolutely unbelievable feeling to be going to Cardiff. There aren't many guys who don't dream when they're a young lad of playing in an FA Cup final, so to have that opportunity is something special. With Liverpool already having qualified for the Champions League, we're guaranteed a UEFA Cup spot now, which is also a fantastic achievement. I have to pinch myself to think that only 18 months ago I was at Crewe and still wondering whether I was going to make it into the big league. I owe a lot to West Ham for signing me.
"Hopefully this will be the start of something for this West Ham team. We have to try to keep these players together and build for next season, and if that can be done there's no reason why this team can't really go on to achieve things.
"It was a tough game against Middlesbrough and there weren't many chances created. But it was nice to play a part in the goal, nodding it on to Marlon Harewood, and the way he finished it was fantastic. Marlon has his critics, but he pulled off a fantastic strike with his weaker foot in a crucial game, and that says it all.
"I saw Alan Pardew's little dance routine after the goal, and I thought it was funny, but when your team scores you're bound to do things that are out of the ordinary.
"Liverpool will start as favourites in the final, and other than a few West Ham fans there aren't many people who will back us to win in Cardiff. But the main thing was to get there, and now we're in the final anything can happen. We certainly feel that we've got a good chance.
"We play them on Wednesday in the league in what will be a dress rehearsal of the final. But with the amount of games that both clubs have been playing, I think you'll see very different sides to the ones you see at Cardiff.
Our FA Cup run meant that our league form suffered a bit, so with European football in the bag for next season, it takes a lot of pressure off us in the last few games and means we can just go out and enjoy them."
Monday, April 24, 2006
They weathered a determined Middlesbrough attack for 45 minutes, then came out of the blocks in a manner few could have expected. They then scored a goal. Then they weathered another attack. On another day, Boro could have scored and have found themselves pitted against Liverpool in the final. But it wasn't another day.
It was the day that Alan Pardew's new-look West Ham came of age. It was Ron Greenwood's day. It was Johnny Lyall's day.
Something intangible kept the ball out of Shaka Hislop's net at Villa Park, and I won't belittle the moment to suggest what it was. But the tide has turned, the years of darkness seem to have gone, and West Ham have given themselves the chance to grasp at greatness.
West Ham have forever been blowing bubbles and only rarely seen them reach the sky. Now is the time to turn things around.
West Ham Semi Final Venues in Australia
This post is sticky - scroll down for more
Australia, or the rest of the world for that matter! (post a comment using the
link at the bottom of this post, or find our email addresses under the "contact"
menu to the left). This post will be updated as we get more info. Excuse the crap formatting & blame Mirosoft!!
Kickoff 1am EST Monday morning 24 April for Brisbane, Sydney, and Canberra,
12:30am CST for Adelaide.
North Terrace, Adelaide.
David Sosnowski (email@example.com) or Kevin Pinchback (firstname.lastname@example.org)
for more info.
123 Eagle St
Tel: 07 3832 9099
Labor Club (Main Bar),
Tel: 6251 5522
are not a member page Danny Brosnan when you enter the Club and he will
sign you in. Any problems or questions contact DANNY BROSNAN (W) 02 6266
4520 (M) 0416 053135 or email: email@example.com.
PJ O'Brien's, 87 Lake Street, Cairns 4870
Tel: 07 4031 5333
The Celtic Club, 320 Queens Street, Melbourne.
Tel: 03 9691 7444
Floreat Athena Football Club (Old Velodrome)
Britannia Road, Mt Hawthorn
Doors Open: 9PM
Full Bar Facilities
61-67 Hall Street
Tel: 02 9130 3344
from DPL: I am sponsoring the bar! Every WHU fan who is on my list from
the 2004/2005 playoff finals gets a free drink on me. All you have to do
is respond via email confirming your attendance and you will be placed
on a list. Simply mention your name and your "DPL beverage" will be
supplied. Sorry guys but one only per person and strictly only those on
my email list!!! This way I restrict it to the WHU faithful.
Any hammers in Townsville ??
My son is working at a pub there, The Great Northern Hotel on Flinders
Street and would like to meet up with any other hammers who are in town.
Semi may be shown at the Brewery on Flinders Street Mall, yet TBC. You
can whomail me or call in the pub and meet up with my son.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Melbourne, Cairns & Perth venues confirmed
I am delighted to announce that the
MELBOURNE VENUE IS CONFIRMED!
The Celtic Club has once again agreed to be the host for all Melbourne Hammers......
Entry to ALL venues is free of charge!
The Celtic Club, 320 Queens Street, Melbourne.
http://celticclub.com.au/ Contact: (03) 9691 7444
Kick Off 1am EST Monday morning 24 April 2006.
PLEASE spread the news and bring as many other hammers fans as you can and go early to the venue to support our hosts and make it OZ Hammers Central!
PJ O'Brien's, 87 Lake Street, Cairns 4870
Tel: 07 4031 5333
Floreat Athena Football Club (Old Velodrome)
Britannia Road, Mt Hawthorn
Doors Open: 9PM
Full Bar Facilities
Come on you Irons!
Matthew Etherington: Posh boy made good
Matthew Etherington: Posh boy made good
The FA Cup semi-final Interview
Published: 22 April 2006
Matthew Etherington happily declares he is a dying breed. "People call me an old-fashioned winger and that's fine by me. I've certainly got no problem with that," he says. "There aren't that many wingers out there so it's probably a good thing. We're a rarity." All the rarer because it is the left flank that Etherington occupies. He should be there tomorrow for West Ham United in the FA Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough at Villa Park, having shaken off the calf injury that has meant he missed the past two Premiership games.
Middlesbrough, in Stewart Downing, have another practitioner of the winger's art. "It's demanding. Your energy levels need to be high. It's physically tough and you are expected to create things as well," Etherington explains when asked for a job description. "But it's a responsibility that I like. When I came here it was made clear that was my role, to create opportunities for the side, and I've done that ever since. So it's a nice pressure. Certainly you have to perform every week."
It also takes confidence to do so and, although Etherington admits to being " my own worst critic", he also knows that, yet again, he has enjoyed a successful season for West Ham with 103 more crosses, 86 more dribbles and more assists than any of his team-mates. And he is not afraid to say so. " If I've had a bad game or a good game, I don't need anyone else to tell me," Etherington says. "That's just the way I am and the way I will always be. The first half of this season I thought I was doing OK but I knew there was more in there and I've produced that in the second half. That means a lot to me. I wanted to prove a few things to a few people."
This is not the first FA Cup semi-final in which Etherington has been involved. Five years ago, aged 19, he was a member of the Tottenham Hotspur squad that was beaten - far more convincingly than the 2-1 scoreline suggests - at Old Trafford by Arsenal. It was Glenn Hoddle's first game in charge. "I was a bit younger and wasn't as involved as I am now," Etherington recalls. "I feel that now I'm an important part of the team and that maybe at Tottenham I was a bit of a spare part." It was a feeling he never managed to shake off during the three and a half years he spent at White Hart Lane.
Etherington signed on New Year's Eve 1999, along with Simon Davies from Peterborough United. Here was the new millennium at Spurs - two young, thrusting, hungry wingers, with the former cast as having "a touch of the 'Giggsy' [Ryan Giggs] about him" and ready to usurp David Ginola. Even though it was the "never knowingly undersold" Barry Fry who made that declaration, it was expected that Etherington, with his close control and pace, would deliver. But he had been acquired under George Graham and Hoddle did not want him.
"Erm, I'd better be careful," Etherington says when asked as to why things did not work out. "Well, sometimes you go to a club, and it happens all over the country, and the manager sees you in his plans but obviously there's going to be a player there in front of you and if he is fit he's going to play. For me that player was Christian Ziege. I always knew that, no matter how well I did, if he was fit he was going to play. It was as simple as that really, so that's why I moved on. I wanted to leave. I'll never regret leaving Tottenham. I wanted to play football."
Ziege was part of Hoddle's ill-fated, short-term strategy of loading his team with older, experienced - and highly paid - players to try to secure European football. Ironically, the club have since executed a complete about-turn under Martin Jol. They want young - and preferably English - players of promise. Players like Etherington. Unfortunately, they had already let him go to West Ham, who were by then following a similar policy. It is all the more unfortunate as Jol, who likes to play with width, has been desperately searching for a left-winger to fill the void, and bid £7m for Downing, for example.
"I dropped down to the Championship," Etherington, now 24, says of his move - a barely reported makeweight at the time - which sent Frédéric Kanouté, at a cost of £3.5m, in the opposite direction. It was the summer of 2003 and West Ham, newly relegated from the Premiership, appeared to be imploding as they conducted a fire sale of their star players. Etherington saw it differently.
"It was a great opportunity and an opportunity to improve my game and I've done that 10, 20 times since I moved from Tottenham," he says. " I'm a much, much better player now and that's because I'm playing week in, week out and that's what I needed to do. Leaving Tottenham was probably the best decision of my football career." Maybe there's a touch of bitterness - "You need a run of games to get stronger," he says, clearly feeling Spurs were not brave enough to allow him that chance - but given his success it does not sound like that.
Not that things started well at West Ham, as he was sent off at Norwich City, then taken off on a stretcher at Sunderland, his troubles seem to capture those of the team under the quickly under-fire new manager, Alan Pardew. "They were testing times," says Etherington, who turned it round to such an extent that he was voted player of the year - the first to be selected as the club's best in his debut season since the goalkeeper Lawrie Leslie 43 years ago. Still, West Ham lost to Crystal Palace in the play-off final.
"This club is a Premiership club and no one wants to be in the Championship," Etherington explains. "This club shouldn't be there. " So, if anything, last season became even more stressful. " Everyone was under pressure and it was hard going out there some days at Upton Park. The fans were expecting us to win two or three nil and if we weren't, then they would let you know about it, which is fair enough. We understood their frustrations as we were as frustrated as they were. It was difficult. But we've come out the other end." Even so he concedes that " who knows what would have happened if we hadn't beaten Preston in the play-off final".
Unsurprisingly, Etherington has great faith in Pardew. "The progress this club has made since it has been under the manager is unbelievable. He's great to play under. He's been brilliant to me. He's got a good relationship with all the players and he's got us all on his side. West Ham are lucky to have him. We managed to scrape our way into the Premiership and we haven't looked back. We look a good side and on our day we can give anyone a game."
Still, at the start of the season many tipped them to go straight back down. "And, yeah, of course you use that as motivation," says Etherington. "You don't want to hear that about you, that you are not good enough to play in the Premiership. Everyone was writing us off but we've proved that wrong. We were always quietly confident. We're now in the top half of the table, with a realistic chance of getting that seventh spot for Europe and we're in the FA Cup semi-final and if we win that we're in Europe anyway. So no one could argue that it's not been a successful season."
Even so, the question he was asked most often by West Ham's own fans before Christmas was: "Do you think we'll stay up?" Etherington, however, agrees with the theory that "maybe with the side and the players we have got it's easier for us to play at this level. We always seemed to do better in the Championship against the better sides. Against the lower sides we seemed to struggle for whatever reason. Maybe it's helped us."
Maybe, also, it explains why West Ham have enjoyed such a good Cup run. They have faced - apart from Norwich - Premiership teams. Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City have all been defeated in a challenging series of ties. "Tough games," says Etherington, "so we are here on merit."
It is West Ham's first semi-final since 1991 - also at Villa Park - when Tony Gale was harshly dismissed against Nottingham Forest and the tie was lost. In the West Ham end that day was Paul Konchesky, a diehard Hammers fan, then just 10, who now forms a left-sided partnership with Etherington but who had then travelled up on a supporters' coach with his mother. Etherington does not have such close affiliations to any club, although his first shirt was a Liverpool away one - and John Barnes was his hero. "I watched him a lot when I was younger and his style was a big influence on me. "
Born in Truro, Cornwall, Etherington lived in Falmouth - where his father, Peter, had a butcher's business - until he was 13. "Football wasn't exactly big there and there wasn't really a team to follow. But I just loved the game," he says. Etherington was spotted playing for Camborne Lions by the legendary Peterborough academy director, Kit Carson. Eventually his family moved to the Fens to help him to pursue his career. His mother, Julie, worked as the club secretary up until last year while his sister, Hayley, was an executive in the commercial department.
"It was a great set-up," says Etherington of his time at Posh, where he made his first team debut aged just 15 - and still at school where he had to be excused from exam revision - and was selected for the divisional team of the year when 17. He is still in touch with Davies, now at Everton of course, as well as other former team-mates such as Exeter City's Matthew Gill and Mansfield Town's Gareth Jelleyman. "We got to the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup as a Division Three side, which was unheard of really." Tomorrow Etherington hopes to go one better and - for the first time - reach a final. "It's a massive game in every respect. A massive game for the club, for the fans and for the players. It's what you play football for, it's what you live for."
With the other semi-finalists, Chelsea and Liverpool, set for next season's Champions' League, the winner of tomorrow's tie goes directly into the Uefa Cup. "It adds something else which makes it even more important," Etherington says. "We know we're just one game away from Europe. There's a lot riding on it for both teams but, for me, it's a huge occasion in its own right. The FA Cup, no matter what anyone says, has still got its traditions and is still the world's best cup competition."
The two sides met on Easter Monday. Boro ran out easy winners. "But it will be two different sides," Etherington says. "We probably had half the team out against Middlesbrough and vice versa. I don't think last Monday's result has any bearing whatsoever on Sunday."
Nevertheless, he regards the opposition as favourites. "Middlesbrough have a lot of top-quality players, top names who are on big salaries. So they probably would be the rightful favourites. We're above them in the League, but they are in the semi-finals of the Uefa Cup." Indeed, their exertions against Steaua Bucharest may have a bearing on tomorrow's events.
Cup success - and being back in the Premiership - will continue to push Etherington's again flourishing international claims. He was capped at Under-16, 18, 20 and 21 by England - where he played alongside Steven Gerrard and Jonathan Woodgate - but his progress had slowed. Another former team-mate was Joe Cole. Can he challenge his place on the left of England's midfield?
"I've heard it mentioned and it's nice," says the naturally left-footed Etherington of the prospect of an eventual call-up. "If I keep doing well and it's good enough then great. But it's out of my hands. I want to concentrate on West Ham, the club that took me on three years ago and showed faith in me. I think I'm paying them back now. I'm certainly giving them as much as I've got."
Friday, April 21, 2006
West Ham in line for Olympic legacy
THE West Ham United supporters who will help to fill the new Olympic Stadium and try to urge British athletes to Games gold in 2012 could be returning to the venue to cheer on their football team.
Three days before they attempt to reach their first FA Cup Final for 26 years and with a Uefa Cup place very much in their sights, West Ham got another boost yesterday when they learnt that they could be among the biggest beneficiaries of the London Olympics in six years’ time.
It had previously been planned for the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium to be reduced to 25,000 seats as a permanent home for athletics, to replace the ageing Crystal Palace. However, it may now be possible to have a stadium of at least 40,000 seats, which West Ham could use to replace Upton Park, which has a capacity of 35,056. The stadium’s warm-up track would remain for daily public use.
Lord Coe, who led London’s victorious bid team last summer, said that the London Olympic Organising Committee (Locog) was “looking at all options” for the legacy of the Olympic venues, adding: “I don’t think we have ruled out any Premiership club”. But he insisted that a permanent athletics track would be retained.
One advocate of dual use is Sir Robin Wales, the Mayor of Newham, the London borough where the Games will be held, and a Locog board member. He said: “Letting West Ham have the Olympic Stadium is something that I would support as there would be so many winners.” He foresaw West Ham becoming “one of the big clubs in the world”.
It may be possible for the Olympic Stadium to be reconfigured after the Games so that the front rows of seats could be rolled over the track when a football match is taking place. This occurs at the 80,000-seat Stade de France, which hosted the 2003 World Athletics Championships and is also the venue for leading football and rugby games.
The debate was taking place yesterday as the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Co-ordination Commission began a two-day visit to London to inspect preparations for the Games.
*UPDATE* Message from DPL: FA Cup Tour
Given the demand, I have re-organised and can now offer BOTH the complete 10 day Full Tour or the UK Land Package Weekend Only Tour option. BOTH include tickets to the FA Cup Final!
However, we will give preference to OZ Hammers who book the Full Tour and they will be allocated places first. To ensure you get your ticket to the OZ Hammers Tour in Cardiff, please book either the Full Tour or the Weekend Tour as soon as possible. Bookings will be processed in the order they are received provided that you have completed payment. We will ask for credit card details at time of booking. These are ONLY used as a guarantee and we will not take any money as long as the bank transfer comes through in 4 days.
If all you want is the UK Land Package Weekend option, please also book ASAP and we will allocate tickets to you once the Full Tourists are complete. We can get more Hospitality seats and could manage 20-30 more provided that you all book in time.
The Tour Itinerary and costs are set out below.
The booking Form will be on my web site Friday 21 April by 10am Sydney time and bookings will close at 6pm Tuesday 25 April. Download the Form at https://4tknox.au.com/dlagroup.com.au/soccer/game.htm and send both to Event Travel Management in the UK AND to me via Fax in Sydney 02 9555 4788 (International +612 9555 4788).
I look forward to seeing all the Sydney Hammers on Sunday night 23 April at:
The Hakoah Club
67 Hall Street
Bondi NSW 2026
Now all we need to do is beat Middlesbrough!
FULL OZ HAMMERS 10 Day Tour:
Friday 5th May 06 - Depart Sydney Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong
Saturday 6th May 06 - Arrive London transfer to Hotel
Sunday 7th May 06 - WHU v Tottenham @ Upton Park (Ticket NOT included in price - AM WORKING ON THIS as the game is a sell out! Price circa £145 per ticket)
Monday 8th - Thursday 11th May 06 - Free time in London. Suggested evening function for OZ Hammers supporters in London.
Friday 12th May 06
Depart London 10.30 am
Travel to Bristol stopping in Bath for Lunch.
2 nights accommodation in Bristol (3 / 4 Star hotel) on bed and breakfast basis.
Saturday 13th May 06
After breakfast depart for the short trip to Cardiff.
The off-site facility is a short walk from the stadium to ensure you will miss none of the action.
Your Off-site Hospitality Package will include:
o Reserved Match Ticket
o Champagne reception
o Four course meal with selected wines, o Coffee & chocolates
o Complimentary bar (including beer, wine and soft drinks)
o Post match refreshments
o Limited edition gift o Match programme
o Televisions within the hospitality facility
o Printed event information with menus and maps
After the match and hospitality return to your hotel for overnight
Sunday 14th May 06
After a leisurely breakfast you will return to London arriving in central London mid afternoon.
Monday 15th May 06 - Depart for Sydney
Economy Return Airfare Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong
4* Accommodation in central London 6th - 11th May, 14th May
Arrival and departure transfer from LHR - Hotel
UK Land Package COMPLETE 10 DAYS
Per person in a Twin Room A$3,530.00
UK Land Package COMPLETE 10 DAYS
Per person in a Single Room A$4,135.00
UK Land Package WEEKEND ONLY
Per person in a Twin Room A$2,760.00
UK Land Package WEEKEND ONLY A$2,976.00
Per person in a Single Room
Flights from Sydney - London - Sydney A$2,150.00
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Will You Sing at Villa Park???
Despite West Ham having the better of the first half, it was Middlesbrough who would go in at half time a goal to the good. Paul Konchesky yet again caught out too far up the field was beaten to the byline where the ball was laid back into the path of Jimmy Floyd Hasslewank, who does not tend to miss with the goal at his mercy in this manner.
The Hammers began the 2nd half in as exuberant a manner as the first and immediately put the Boro goal under pressure winning a series of corners in the process. Boro having weathered this onslaught began to launch an attacking endeavour of their own. West Ham were made to pay for the lack of goal scoring prowess as Boro were soon awarded a penalty which was cooly converted by Massimo Maccarone. From the other end of the pitch it was hard to asscertain if the penalty was justified but what I did see in the 2nd half was 2 blatent handballs in the Boro area which were denied by the rather home biased referee.
I don't think this performance can really be critisised. Pardew could have rested far more players than he did and the players out there put in efforts that deserved a greater reward than a 2-0 loss. The atmosphere from the away fans was electric and is a sign of intent that we will attempt to sing West Ham to the FA Cup final on Sunday afternoon. The battle of the crowds in my opinion will be easily won, however what remians to be seen is whether the players can match the commitment of the fans and push this club towards silverware which it so desperately craves.
Shaka Hislop 7 - good saves
Lionel Scaloni 6 - Better performance but I think this was more through lack of exploitation of his weaknesses than an improvment from the player himself.
James Collins 7 - Really looking the part in the absence of Ferdinand
Danny Gabbidon 7 - Consistent performer.
Paul Konchesky 6 - needs a kick up the arse and told how to defend!!
Shaun Newton 7 - Perforing well for a bit part player.
Nigel Reo-Coker 7 - good first half performance faded a little in the 2nd.
Hayden Mullins 6 - Fairly average performance, nothing of note.
Yaniv Katan 6 - Don't think this kid is up to it TBH.
Marlon Harewood 6 - Not Marlons best day although chased down a couple of first half lost causes.
Teddy Sheringham 8 - Showed great presence and came close twice in the first half to putting the Hammers into the lead including a well taken free kick. Surely must soon become the first 40 YO to score in the Premier League.
The weekend's FA Cup tie with Middlesbrough has taken on a new light following the sudden passing of West Ham's last FA Cup-winning manager, John Lyall, on April 18. The team will be hoping to duplicate Lyall's feat some 26 years after his achievement, and to do so would be a fitting tribute to one of West Ham's greatest managers. Condolences from all West Ham fans in Australia go out to Lyall's family.
Here are some tributes from West Ham staff and players.
Alan Pardew is determined to lead West Ham into their first FA Cup final since 1980 as a fitting tribute to the memory of John Lyall.
Lyall was the last West Ham manager to win the FA Cup when, 26 years ago and as a Second Division side, the Hammers overturned the odds to beat Arsenal.
Lyall went on to lead West Ham to their highest league placing ever of third in 1986 and is regarded, along with his predecessor Ron Greenwood who died in February, as one of the club's greatest managers.
West Ham take on Middlesbrough in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park this Sunday and Pardew expects it to be an emotional but suitably grand occasion.
"It would be lovely and a beautiful thing to happen for us if we could get to the FA Cup final," said Pardew.
"I am pleased we have a big game to highlight John Lyall's legacy here at West Ham. At least that can be underlined.
"We have a chance as a team and as fans to pay our respects to John in front of the whole country and that is really nice.
"To win the FA Cup twice and lead the club to its highest-ever league finish tells you just how much of an impact John Lyall made on the history of West Ham.
"His contribution will never be forgotten and I am sure our supporters will pay tribute to John's memory in a fitting manner at Villa Park on Sunday and we as a team will do the same."
Greenwood and Lyall shared a philosophy on the game - a belief it should be played in the right way and coached in the right way - which developed West Ham a reputation as the 'Academy of Football'.
Lyall, who died suddenly aged 66, spent half his life at West Ham. After working as office boy, player and coach he was manager for 15 years and his legacy remains central to the club's ethos.
"Unfortunately I only met John once," recalled Pardew.
"But I remember he gave me his opinions of modern football and told me how they used to play at West Ham. To listen to someone of his experience was a joy.
"It is another very sad day for West Ham after the loss of Ron Greenwood just two months ago and, like Ron, John did so much to build the footballing beliefs and values that this club is built on.
"What I really admire about him was that he not only looked at the club in terms of winning trophies, he looked at the club as a whole and built the club.
"They are the managers I admire and his legacy here will not be forgotten."
West Ham's kit-man Eddie Gillam and academy coach Jimmy Frith were both hired by Lyall and still work at the club's Chadwell Heath training ground.
"One of John's famous sayings was 'it's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice' and we try to keep those sentiments going at West Ham," said Frith.
"I am coaching the kids now the way John Lyall coached them 30 years ago. The players we have produced with John Lyall's methods have stood West Ham in good stead.
"John Lyall was a real gentleman, he was a great man and it would be tremendous and very fitting if we could win the FA Cup. That is why we will go out all guns blazing this weekend."
In an era where expensive overseas imports are prevalent in the Premiership, Pardew has not only built a side around young English talent but players who grew up a stone's throw from Upton Park.
Bobby Zamora and Paul Konchesky were West Ham fans as youngsters and remember watching Lyall's teams from the terraces at Upton Park.
"He is a man who has done so much for West Ham. I was only young at the time but I was a West Ham fan and it is upsetting. We are thinking of his family," said Zamora.
Anton Ferdinand is the latest in a long line of talented youngsters to graduate from West
Ham's academy and was humbled to meet Lyall at the recent funeral of groundsman Ian Jackson.
"John Lyall is a legend at West Ham and, as someone who grew up here through the youth ranks, I knew about him and what he achieved at the club," said Ferdinand.
"He came up to me and introduced himself. It was a pleasure to meet him face to face.
"He told me how pleased he was that I had come through the youth team to play in the Premiership and advised me that if I kept working hard, the rewards would come. It was nice, because he didn't have to come and say that, and it meant a lot to me.
"He was probably the greatest manager in West Ham United's history, and it would be fitting if we could win the FA Cup in his memory.
"I know the fans will be desperate for us to do that, and we will be giving it our very best on Sunday."
(c+p Times Online)
February 24, 1940 - April 18, 2006
One of West Ham United's most successful managers and loyal servants
JOHN LYALL was not only one of West Ham's most loyal servants, enjoying a 34-year-long association with the club, but he was also one of the East London side's most successful managers.
He helped the Hammers to win the FA Cup twice, took them to the brink of European glory and guided them to their highest ever league position. He would later go on to manage Ipswich Town, leading them from the second division to the Premier League.
Of all his achievements, perhaps the most memorable was West Ham's win over the mighty Arsenal in the Cup Final of 1980, when the second division side outsmarted their London rivals in a 1-0 victory. This remains the last time a team from outside the top tier has lifted the FA Cup.
A native of East London, John Lyall joined West Ham as a groundstaff boy in 1955. He showed promise as a reliable left-back and appeared in the 1957 FA Youth Cup final and in February 1960 he made his senior debut against Chelsea.
His playing career was cut short after three years by persistent knee injuries, and after a spell working at the Upton Park offices, he joined the West Ham coaching staff. He was taken under the wing of the side's manager Ron Greenwood (obituary, February 10), who not only gave him great guidance and assistance, but at an early stage assigned him managerial responsibilities, such as sorting out transfers and contracts.
Lyall was appointed assistant manager in 1971 and three years later, with Greenwood taking up the England job, he was appointed head coach, with Mick McGiven as his assistant.
His first full season in charge brought immediate silverware. After beating Ipswich in a contentious encounter in the semi-final, West Ham overcame Fulham in the "Cockney final" of 1975 by two goals to nil. A year later, despite a tenacious performance against Anderlecht in the European Cup Winners' Cup final, the Hammers lost 4-2 to the Belgians.
The team's fortunes thereafter took a downward turn, and in 1978 they were relegated to the second tier. They bounced back in thunderous fashion in 1981, with a tally of 66 points, a joint record for the division (this was the last season in which two points were awarded for a win). Before doing so they staged one of the great FA Cup upsets when they overcame Arsenal, the holders, in the 1980 final.
Arsenal had come to the final exhausted after requiring three replays to dispatch Liverpool in the semi-final. Those four games had also given Lyall plenty of time to study his opponents, and his decision to play David Cross as a lone striker, pulling Stuart Pearson back to bolster the midfield, effected the desired result. After a rare header by Trevor Brooking in the 13th minute, the Hammers employed the tactic of contain-and-counter-attack which completely shut out the Gunners.
Under Lyall's tutelage, West Ham went from strength to strength throughout the 1980s, and in 1985-86 they finished third, the side's highest ever position. They did it in style, too, with the impish partnership of Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie particularly delighting. Had English teams not been banned from European competitions after the Heysel disaster in 1985, West Ham would have qualified for the Uefa Cup.
In May 1989, after a series of stuttering campaigns, West Ham were relegated after a 5-1 thrashing by Liverpool at Anfield. Lyall, the longest serving manager in the first division, was sacked in June. Many fans and commentators thought the decision ill-judged, hasty and even cruel, given the years he had dedicated to the Hammers, the silverware he had brought to a club that only two years beforehand would have been playing European football.
A year later he took the helm at Ipswich Town. Resuming his partnership with McGiven, he once more displayed his managerial acumen. In particular, his decision to retain the services of the ageing Ipswich legend John Wark was a bold one, but it proved to be shrewd. He lifted the struggling and unfancied outfit to the second division title, earning them a place in the inaugural Premier League in 1992.
Although they did not play the most attractive brand of football, Ipswich did punch well above their weight. By January 1993 Ipswich were in fourth place, pushing for Europe, and to their more optimistic fans, for the title itself. Yet they lacked stamina, and after poor results they drifted down the table, finally ending in 16th.
The 1993-94 campaign witnessed an even more dramatic plummet, with Ipswich narrowly avoiding relegation. By December 1994, with Ipswich rooted at the bottom of the table and doomed to relegation (a fate that was duly realised), Lyall and the club departed company.
Lyall commanded respect and was widely held in affection by the players he worked with. The old-fashioned virtues of politeness, honesty and loyalty came naturally to him.
"Respect and good manners, Ron Greenwood used to tell me, was all that you can ask of anyone," he said. "You don't need education for that or wealth."
He is survived by his wife Yvonne and a son.
John Lyall, football manager, was born on February 24, 1940. He died of a heart attack on April 18, 2006, aged 66.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Boro win FA Cup preliminary
For the second time this season, West Ham have lost a league game against a future FA Cup opponent thanks to a Hasselbaink goal and a Maccarone penalty.
Hopefully the pattern will continue and we'll beat them this weekend!
If we do beat them, and Liverpool defeat Chelsea, then the Liverpool league match will become all the more intriguing...
Anyway, where's Dave with the Boro report?
Looks like Pardew played another strange squad - Katan, Sheringham and Zamora all started. Is this a feint, to throw the opposition off the scent of a Harewood/Ashton partnership? What will Benayoun's role be - winger or free? Will Harewood be on the right or up front? Will Anton be fit? Will Scaloni play? I can't handle the suspense!
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Hammers Hold on to Narrow Victory!
On arrival at Upton Park tube station the day was starting to look like things could not be better until we arrived at the pie n mash shop to be greeted with a queue the size of centrelink on benefits day pouring from the door. With barely an hour til kick off it looked like the long awaited pre match ritual of pie n mash would have to wait another 2 years to be fulfilled - bad start! However a quick visit to the Duke of Edinburgh soon restored parity to the day - nothing like a pint of stella to re-allign the planets.
Once we scoured the dizzy heights of the Dr Martins West Stand Upper Tier and made our way to our seats, we were greeted by a fantastic view. We were pleasantly surprised as we did not need our binoculars afterall and we could see every corner of the pitch from our Row X seats. An electric atmosphere from the hammers fans reflected the terrific season we've had in our return to the Premiership and it took us a good 10 minutes to even realise there were Man City fans in the ground.
If our players had been shellshocked from the result against Chelsea last week, you wouldn't notice it as we came out of the blocks at a ferocious pace trying and mostly succeeding to keep City on the back foot. A lively first half performance from Bobby Zamora saw him foiled on several occasions by the smartness of the City back line. But Bobby soon got the better of the City rearguard as he turned just inside the opposing half and made a pacy run down the left before cooly threading through the city defence to an unmarked Shaun Newton who with his marker was left for dead back on the half way line, slotted home what would prove to be the deciding goal.
City responded well and almost found themselves level as a sublime chip from Trevor Sinclair was plumeting towards the West Ham goal it was bizarely followed in to the net by an offside Micah Richards who was deamed to have interfered with play and the goal was promptly dissallowed.
If the Hammers had been slick in the first half then the second half threatened to deteriorate in a similar manner which shocked us all last week at Chelsea. City started the half like a team with the belief to claw something from a game which was far from being settled. Trevor Sinclair looked desperate to get a result against his former employers as he terrorised Paul Konchesky down the right flank. But it was through the middle that the ex Hammers favourite almost caused us embarrassment as he was allowed to cut straight through the pitch from his own half to eventually create a one on situation in which Jimmy Walker brilliantly saved low to his left.
It seemd enevitable that City would eventually break the deadlock and Darius Vassell soon put the ball into the net to the delight of the travelling City fans including two northern monkeys in front of me who had managed to blag tickets in the home end. But they were to be denied by a hairline offside decision which was greated by chants from the home ground of "Sit down, Shut up, Sit down, Shut up" :-)
Despite the home defence's best efforts to gift City a point, West Ham managed to hold on to their slender victory.
Jimmy Walker 8 - some great saves to deny City when too often the defence left him exposed.
Paul Konchesky 6 - All too often caught out too far up the field leaving space for Sinclair to exploit.
Danny Gabbidon 6 - Too short! In the second half was very nearly embarressed by a ball he allowed to bounce over his head to give City a goal scoring opportunity. Cleaned up quite well in the first half but scrapy in the 2nd.
James Collins 7 - Looked our best defender on the day although was made to work hard as all too often cleaned up Scaloni's mess down the right.
Lionel Scaloni 4 - Out paced, out thought and totally out of his depth. Embarrasing. On this performance bring Dailly back in.
Shaun Newton 7 - Promising runs down the right and scored his first goal for West Ham. Good performance from 10k.
Nigel Reo-Coker 6 - One of the more lacklustre performances from Nigel. Pardew has commented that this lad needs to learn to perform against the lesser sides as well as the big guns - I think he's right.
Hayden Mullins 7 - Tidied up very nicely and kept some calm in midfield. Great link up play. Even showed a nice turn of skill.
Yossi Benayoun 8 - Worked very hard, creative but too often it came to nothing - very little to produce for without the presence of Harewood.
Bobby Zamora 8 - Again worked very hard, showed glimpses of skill and pace but too often made the wrong decision and was out thought by City's defence. However played a very clever ball through to Newton for the goal.
Dean Ashton (or was it Johnny Hartson??) 5 - Out of sorts. Looked like a championship player today.
Marlon Harewood 7 - added pace down the right but caught offside too often.
Carl Fletcher 7 - added steel into the midfield.
Teddy Sheringham 6 - Didn't get involved too much but an improvment on Ashton.
Man of the Match: Walker - Pushed close by Zamora for the gong but made 2 critical saves to keep the points.
And now I'm off to bed!
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Middlesbrough have gone through to the semi finals of the FA Cup after defeating Charlton 4-2 this morning.
I must say I'm pleased with the outcome. I think we have a slightly better chance against Boro and it should be a decent game. We found Charlton to be a difficult opponent and were somewhat lucky to get away with the draw, whereas Boro should be a more open affair which suits us more (and provides better entertainment). Boro have done well lately, winning a trophy and playing in Europe. The Aussies at the club (big Dukes and Schwartzer) will still be buzzing after qualification to the World Cup so expect them to be in good form. Jimmy Floyd is, IMO, quite an underrated striker and I think Chelsea made a big mistake letting him go - he found himself surrounded by multi-million pound signings and pulled his socks up and played brilliantly. Frankly I'm surprised Boro were able to get him. Rochemback is also quite a decent player. Our pace and strength up front and down the wings should give their defence headaches, and if I remember rightly (which I rarely do) they aren't too flash in the air, suggesting perhaps Ashton - if his form improves - should start up front or even Collins if Anton is fit. Having said that however I think pace is our strength against Boro so at this stage I'd be looking at playing Z-man and Harewood up front. Our main worry is their front two. They are certainly capable of banging in the goals so I hope Anton is fit for the match, and I hope Scaloni isn't playing!
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
NRC: We bottled it
Nigel Reo-Coker has revealed his disappointment at his team's defeat at Stamford Bridge earlier in the week.
"Losing 4-1 at Chelsea on Sunday was very disappointing for everyone at West Ham," the club captain told website icons.com. "It hurt us to lose so heavily against ten men, especially as we'd started off so brightly and taken the lead. Most times this season we've acquitted ourselves well, but on this occasion there wasn't much that any of us can be happy about. Looking back we just didn't go for it enough. When Maniche was sent off we should have gone for the jugular but for some reason we didn't push on. It wasn't down to anyone in particular because no one said we should sit back, but it happened to us collectively during the game."
"Despite our own frustration I think you have to give credit to Chelsea. It's never easy playing with ten men but they made it look very, very easy. They showed their international quality when they needed it most, and that has to be the sign of champions. When they were up against it in the first half they found an edge that they needed to come out of the match on top. They proved that they have the character to handle pressure, so fair play to them."
Reo-Coker is looking forward to making amends in future performances. "The best way I can describe our performance is that it was a glitch. We are angry with how we underperformed and want to put it behind us as quickly as we possibly can. For me, the match was another valuable learning experience. I wasn't overly happy about how it went but you never fail to learn something when you come up against world class players."
And on the reported transfer rumours, he added, "It was interesting to see my name linked with Manchester United in one of the Sunday papers last weekend. If it's true then I am greatly flattered, but whether anything ever comes of it is another matter. I am more than happy here at West Ham and don't take any notice of other speculation."
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
How to react, Knee-Jerkingly
West Ham needs a shake up, and soon. The fantastic performances and self-belief shown by the boys in claret & blue at the start of the season are all but gone.
Not that they were truly sublime. We played above our station for a while, for sure. We had good luck and bad luck, but we did better than we'd all hoped. Best of all we knew that we could improve in seasons to come, building on the talent within to become a true force in the league.
But not this way. Once again, as in seasons past, the belief and hunger seems to have gone from the squad. A goal up in 10 minutes, and a man ahead in another 7, against one of West Ham's biggest rivals and the one club in the Premiership that all fans (of any club) would dearly love to defeat. What an opportunity. But no - we weren't up for it. We pissed it away.
As I've said before, the players are tired. Pardew hasn't rotated enough throughout the season and that policy is really starting to hurt. Players need resting. Others just need a size 10 up the crack.
Here's my knee-jerk plan of action for the remainder of the season. Obviously you don't want to change everything at once but I'd recommend a slow drip-feed of several changes.
Goal - Well, Shaka's generally OK, but I don't see why old reliable Jimmy can't come back. He played well in his Premiership debut despite the farce that was going on around him. Shaka's positioning is getting worse, and I've seen him argue with Danny G more than once.
Fullbacks - Scaloni is a liability. His performance against Chelsea was dismal. He is slow (in both senses) and just gets skinned all the time. Occasionally he does good things but mostly he is awful. Clive Clarke played well there, I thought - give him another go. Konchesky started the season well but he's slid alarmingly. His game against Chelsea was probably his worst so far. One of our best players, Etherington, is almost entirely taken out of the game by Konchesky's ridiculous hunger for the ball. He's here, he's there, he's every fucking where - but not in a good way. Matty just doesn't know where to go. Konchy's crosses are poor, his passing is poor, and his positioning is sometimes really off. Pardew needs to reign him in and get him to do his job: defend. Only once that is taken care of should he be allowed to go forward. Etherington is seeing less and less ball and I blame Pardew and Konchesky. Matty's crosses and passing are much better than Konchy's. Did I mention Clive Clarke yet? Once again, poor planning - I said at the start of the season that it was a mistake to let Powell go back to Charlton and I still think he'd have done a job for us. Konchesky has started every game and never been subbed. For a player of his, err, quality, that's not a good sign. Play Anton at right-back (or Newton if Anton's injured), and sub Clarke for Konchy at left-back at half time, just to see what he can do. If he does as well as in his debut then keep him there.
Central defence - Generally these guys do OK. Concentration is lacking from Danny G at times but usually his positional sense is superb. Anton, when he plays there, does a great job. He is our best defender and I hope he recovers soon. Collins... Plays very well but at times looks like the Premiership rookie that he is. He will come good, I'm sure. I'd be happy enough leaving Gabbers and Bloodnut in the middle. But what's happened to Ward? The lad who, with Anton, formed that brilliant partnership that virtually brought us through to the top division? His display in an impossibly difficult match should not be taken as read - he was given no support at all. He was a damn fine defender, and I'd like to know why he hasn't been given a chance.
Wingers - Marlon is our best right winger, but he's better off up front as we all know. Yossi is no winger, he comes inside too much and never, ever aims for the byline. Too predictable - he's been found out. We need to find a right-sided Etherington. In the meantime, there's not much we can do. I would hate to stick Marlon there and waste all his good work. Y'know, I'd put Yossi in the middle and stick 10K Newton on the right... mostly because of the central midfield problems, see below. As for the left side, Etherington has been one of our best players so I'd keep him there, unless he needs a rest, in which case I'd try Zamora at left wing. I've always thought he'd make a good goalscoring support player so give him a shot at it - and he's left footed too. I think he'd make a better winger than striker.
Central midfield - here's where the core of our problems lie. I know many people will disagree but Mullins and Reo-Coker have had it. Early in the season they dominated the middle of the park. Now you hardly even notice they're there. We need muscle and bite here. Both Mullins and Reo-Coker need a boot - more so Mullins IMO. Where is the hunger? Are they tired? Reo-Coker tries hard but he is making no impact. Yossi isn't exactly bite but he is creative. I really don't know what to do about this area, but I'd seriously consider dropping Muggers and putting Yossi in his place, and let Reo-Coker do the mopping up. His attacking runs have vanished anyway. Let him tap the heels of a few players, get him hungry again.
Forward - Ashton is rapidly becoming lazy, either that or he is really tired. Either way, Zamora deserves a start ahead of him. I don't care how much he cost - he ain't delivering. His touch has gone to pot as I've said before. Marlon is tired, but he's still running his big ole heart out. Let him come on as a sub and start Sheringham. Even Katan has looked quite good to me at times, why not let him run off Zamora or Marlon? He reminds me slightly of Milan Baros.
Basically what we need most is to stop the rot, and to start taking chances (not just goals, but opportunities to win the ball or to keep it). We are going long ball too much. We have nobody in central midfield to pass to. All our passing is going out to the wings. Oh, how predictable. Let's mix it up. Get the ball on the ground, and knock it about... it ain't that hard, we were doing it early in the season.
There's an FA Cup to be won, and league positions up for grabs, don'cha know.
Monday, April 10, 2006
What a load of *&%$!
Shameful - a word which would not underestimate the lack of will and passion shown at Stamford Bridge this afternoon by a team that has shown much promise over the course of this season.
We'd better pull our fingers out at the weekend - for I shall be gracing Upton Park with my presence for the first time in 2 years. Expect a full match report here from myself Sunday for the Man City game and also the Middlesboro away game Monday as I'll be making the trip up to monkey land. If I play my cards right I may even get into the semi final at Villa Park :-).
Friday, April 07, 2006
Gold Coast Hammers?
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Pig & Whistle Brisbane Upcoming Events
1) The game against Chelsea will be live on the big screen Sunday night @ 9pm.
2) Sunday April 23 is St George's Day. On the Sat night before they have lined up a stand-up English comedian, Football Trivia, Arsenal V Spurs (EPL) and then Chelsea V Liverpool (FA
CUP). A special food and beer menu will be available. Then on the Sunday @ lunch they have a family day with Morris Dancers a special lunch menu and generally all things English! And of course we know what will be happening later on that Sunday night..C'mon you Irons.
Glimpse behind the curtain
Pardew wants his Hammers to be feared and revered - most of all, he wants them to be winners
By Mark Shail 05-04-06 http://www.givemefootball.com/display.cfm?article=8114&type=1
To say Alan Pardew's young West Ham side has come a long way in a short space of time is an under-statement. Just over a year ago, the Hammers were languishing outside the top six in the Championship and the Upton Park faithful were taking their frustrations out on the club's under-fire boss on a weekly basis.
However, 12 months on, West Ham find themselves on the verge of an FA Cup Final and on the brink of a European place for the first time in seven years. Despite their unexpected success this term, Pardew says he is determined to keep things moving on an upward curve.
"I want us to play with exuberance. I want people to say 'aren't West Ham a good side? They are all about winning, they are trying to play attractive football and having a go'. We have produced that, sporadically, on occasions," said Pardew.
"We lack a little bit of smartness and knowledge, but we are gaining that. Nigel Reo-Coker has lulls. I tell him that to be a top player he has to produce every week. He tends to produce against the best teams, but against some of the lesser teams he is not as effective. If Roy Keane was playing against Colchester he would be the best player on the pitch. Nigel needs to get that mentality."
Pardew is as meticulous with his match preparations as he is with the way he treats his players on a one-to-one basis, realising his assessment of individual personalities and mood swings are a crucial aspect of successful man-management.
He says the likes of Anton Ferdinand and Marlon Harewood are 'chirpy', goalkeeper Roy Carroll can take it very personally when he makes a mistake, while new record signing Dean Ashton is quiet, although his desire is there for all to see.
"Any new player is difficult. I know I upset him on Wednesday (Ashton) when I had a go about his first half performance against United. Well that is my way. We will talk about it. I have never met a more focussed, determined player than Ashton.
"Things happen between managers and players, but I'm sure we will develop a bond. I have it with all the players, Anton more than most. But you have to learn about each other to get things right.
"We have the chance to win something - we have to grasp it. I am always mindful of a strategy to try and win the game at the end. People under-estimate team selection. If you look at Jose Mourinho sometimes, his selection is about winning in the last 20 minutes."
As for the dressing room banter, Pardew insists he can hold his own against anybody in that department, with the exception of Wally Downes - former Wimbledon Crazy Gang member and Pardew's former coach at Reading.
"When I began, my banter was a little bit sharp. I think I can verbally joust with anyone and win - apart from Wally Downes. I've had to focus on that as players can take it negatively. I like to correct things if the banter gets too negative.
"Peter Grant (his assistant) might joke to someone 'you weren't so good yourself at the weekend'. I don't like that as it is negative. Banter is part of letting off steam, part of the game, talking about the weekend, what is on TV, Didier Drogba's handball - we are no different to any other club."
Monday, April 03, 2006
The points were shared at Upton Park for the visit of Charlton, as the two sides cancelled each other out during a lively but scoreless encounter.
Credit to Charlton - they came out and forced us to work hard. We rolled our sleeves up and did a job. Unfortunately it didn't result in the goal I feel we deserved, but that's football and we can't complain too much about the nil-all. If Charlton had scored, I'd have felt robbed - we had more chances, and much better ones. I was disappointed that Yossi made little of his opportunities but they were mostly difficult ones except for the header - not his fault he's a small bloke. I thought we went down the wings a shade too often; I felt as though we could have broken through the Addicks defence with Marlon and Teddy, but we never really gave ourselves that chance. The crosses we were sending in were decent, but they were dealing with them easily. But overall we did pretty well and I'm quite happy with the shape of the team at the moment.
Shaka 6 - Not a lot to do but did it well.
Konchesky 6 - Average.
Danny G 7 - Defended well.
Collins 6 - Defensively OK, had a cracking shot on target.
Ferdinand 7 - Did his job.
Etherington 7 - Got forward but crossing and corners were poor.
Mullins 7 - A good game from Muggers.
Reo-Coker 6 - Moments in the first half, vanished afterwards and rightly substituted.
Yossi 8 - Full of energy and attacked very well, shame he's no good in the air or we'd have another 2 points.
Ashton 5 - What happened? A few weeks back he looked very sharp, now he looks clumsy.
Marlon 7 - He did a lot of things very well and worked his socks off, but also made some dodgy decisions.
Sheringham (on for NRC) 7 - Played fairly well and unlucky not to score.
Zamora (on for Ashton) 7 - Nearly scored.
Katan (on for Marlon) 6 - Made an effort.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
Last season, at the end of March, everything suddenly clicked for the team and the effect has carried through in a big way to this season. What happened to cause that?
The answer to that is a theory that I have about any workplace in every walk of life. I knew we were doing the right things, recruiting the right people, and that our work on the training field was of the highest order. It just needed a tipping point, and that tipping point probably came down to selection at the end of the day - Jimmy Walker coming in as goalkeeper, Elliott Ward coming into the defence alongside Anton Ferdinand. All of those things combined - not one more important than the other - for us to turn the corner and go on that run, which we are still on to be honest.
Can you really ascribe the low incidence of injuries in the squad this year to the fitness programme in place?
Michael S Barber
In our Head of Technical Support, Niall Clark - who I call 'The Professor' - I believe we have the best person in the game for conditioning players, and also for the recovery and maintenance of players when it comes to injuries. My recruitment policy is to sign players who don't have bad injury records, and the combination of those factors is the reason we have looked so fit and suffered very few problems with injuries this season.
We also happen to have a very good physiotherapist, Steve Allen, who joined the Club last summer, and don't underestimate the impact he has had on the players.
It's all about creating a workplace that enables everyone to thrive. We have a very strong spirit among the players and the staff, with an aim to produce our very best every week, and to do that we need to have our best players fit and performing well.
Elliott Ward and Mark Noble were sent out on loan this season, will they be real contenders for the first team next season?
At the moment, only Elliott Ward has made the kind of impression that warranted him coming back here and receiving a chance in the first team. Unfortunately, things didn't go too well up at Bolton for him, but he has definitely got a big chance in the future. In the case of Mark, he has had his problems with injuries this season but, if he wants to get in the first team here, then I need to hear some big reports of his performances at Hull City.
We've sent a number of young players out to lower league clubs this season in order for them to gain more experience. Tony Stokes is at Rushden and doing well, Chris Cohen has been playing regularly for Yeovil, and I'm a great believer that they will learn more playing first team football elsewhere than they will in the reserves here.
That has always been my policy and will be for as long as I am here - the young players will go out on loan and, hopefully, when they come back to me they will have made an impression.
How much involvement do you have in the progress and development of our Youth Academy players?
I think I've already gone on record in saying that I try not to interfere with that part of the Club. Because of the tradition and the success our youth academy has enjoyed, I don't think it is necessary for me to be involved.
I haven't interfered with anything that Tony Carr and his staff are doing, other than a couple of little things that I've wanted to introduce throughout all levels of the playing staff - in terms of sports science and that kind of thing. Tony has taken that on board and I gain my interest and experience of that department from him.
If I have an opinion about a young player, I share it with Tony, but it's his advice that usually I steer with, and that is still working very, very well. I can report that we've got some fantastic talent coming through, and it's obviously in good hands.
What factors do you feel have influenced what, from the outside, appears to be the best team spirit the club has had for many years?
I think it stems from people you surround yourself with. I surround myself with strong characters, winners and people who I like to think have good, sensible morals. I include all my staff and players in that, and if I don't see it in an individual, then I get rid of that person.
I don't like people who drain my time and energy. If you've seen the Harry Potter films, we use the term 'dementors' - people who can draw the life out of you in terms of your energy. So we eradicate the dementors, encourage the positive people, and that spreads around to create the team spirit we have here.
Are you aware of the size of the transfer budget you will recieve in the summer?
I don't think anyone will be surprised to know that the acquisition of Dean Ashton in January was partly funded by using some of next year's money, so we haven't got a massive pot for the summer as things stand at the moment.
However, we will have sufficient funds to improve the squad, and just one or two additions could make all the difference to this team. The nucleus of the squad is young, and they are all secured under long-term contracts. They are all hungry and determined to win a trophy, and we are going to be under good shape in the next couple of years if my additions can add to the team. For any manager, at any club, the most important job is recruiting.
With our Premiership future safe this year, what do you honestly think we will be a worthwhile goal to aim for next season?
I'm not going to even talk about next season, simply because the chance for us is here and now. There is a chance to finish in a UEFA Cup spot via the league, obviously the chance of a trophy with the FA Cup, and we are determined to give it our best shot at both goals.
From where I am sitting right now, I think it will be a blow to us if we don't achieve one of those goals, and I will treat it as a big disappointment. We've already hit one goal this season - to stay in the Premiership. Now we have a chance of glory. In your career and in your life, you have to grasp your opportunity when it comes along, and that is why we are not thinking about next season yet.
If we were to qualify for the UEFA Cup, do you see there being a problem with the current squad coping with the extra demands of playing in another cup competition?
That is a consideration for myself, and something that we will obviously discuss in the summer should the situation arise. Maybe we will have to add two or three more squad players to cover that scenario.
What is important, though, is the progression of the first team, and getting into the UEFA Cup would ensure that players are drawn towards us. We are a successful club, with good young players, and that makes it easier to recruit top players who want to play in Europe.
What do you believe the current squad of players need to add to their game to make us contenders in the top six of the Premiership?
I want our team to be full of pace, to have high energy, to play football faster than anyone else, and to constantly be on the front foot, forcing the opposition into errors and leading to opportunities for us to score goals. And my vision is also to have a little bit more control, especially away from home, in terms of possession.
So there are two scenarios really. One, to increase and improve what we are doing right now and, two, which we haven't quite mastered yet, is to have the experience to take the sting out of games and control possession, especially against the top clubs.
This year, we have had wins against, in my view, two of the top four clubs in the country - Arsenal and Bolton. If you look at some clubs who have been in the Premiership for longer than us, they haven't got any wins against the top sides, so we have already made some big strides in that sense.
We have a potentially a great young side, capable of winning things. How do you intend to keep them together?
Well, all of our young players are secured on long-term contracts and, on our part, we look at the squad and feel that there is real potential here. We like to think that, if they stay together, there will be trophies and European football on offer for them.
If one of our young players made it very clear he was adamant that he wanted to leave, then I've got to say I think it will be difficult for me, but I'm hoping to create such an environment here that they don't want to go.
That is what people misinterpret I think. Players have wanted to go in the past, perhaps because there has been a lack of ambition, a lack of success, but if they can see the opposite of that here now, they won't want to go anywhere.
That's what the challenge is - trying to build the belief and confidence before they start to think that we aren't going to win anything and want to go elsewhere. At the moment, they are all happy learning their trade here and, hopefully, we can win a trophy soon to increase their desire to stay here even further.