Over the last three matches West Ham have rediscovered their ability to play some decent football and there are a couple of reasons I’m very happy about this.
Firstly, it has silenced some of the critics of Big Sam’s playing style. We have outplayed Millwall, Southampton and Blackpool, and were it not for the red cards we would most certainly have taken nine points from those three fixtures. I don’t think we can hardly scoff at seven points from nine either…
Secondly, our performances have taken the attention away from the unusual run of red cards! Had we gone on to lose all three matches then I think we would all be focusing on the disciplinary issues. Obviously I’m still frustrated that we’ve received three reds in three matches, but the reactive spirit showed by our squad has – rightfully – been the show stealer!
Kevin Nolan’s red card was stupidity on our captain’s behalf. It’s easy to think that 20 years ago it could have been a legitimate tackle, but Nolan has been around long enough to know better. Over-the-top and two-footed tackles have been the topic of the season and his lunge let the side down. It’s ironic that his lack of effect in midfield has been heavily criticized yet his show of effort was of poor judgement. The ref didn’t really have much of a choice!
Matt Taylor’s red was another funny one. Honestly observing, he didn’t touch Billy Sharp’s head but the striker went down clutching his face like Rivaldo after having the ball thrown at his chest! Despite that, it was a stupid move on Taylor’s behalf. He did push Sharp a couple of times in the chest and was inviting both Sharp and the referee to react! We all get wound up by things in life but footballers are really paid enough to control urges against other players, no matter how wound up. I guess that is easier said than done and I’d hate to see football lose its edge – but you wouldn’t find me walking round to other magazine publishers and slapping them round the chops because I’m annoyed the ripped-off my ideas.
I’ll always stand up for what I believe in and love a good football debate, but when Sam came out and questioned Nolan’s red I was honestly a bit disappointed. I felt the same after Taylor’s red card; in the Legends’ Lounge at half time, Phil Parkes was openly stating that Taylor should still be on the field and the referee had been conned. That may be the case but Taylor invited the official by raising his hands. To be honest, I was growing a little annoyed at the club’s insistence in defending the players when they should be focussing on reinstalling some discipline to the ranks!
I didn’t feel the same after Robert Green’s red card, though. From the minute I saw a replay I thought it was the wrong decision. In my blog after the match I said straight away that Roman Bednar had knocked the ball too far away from the goal and Faye was there to cover anyway. So this time I was actually pleased to hear the club defend Green and appeal the decision.
And what a good decision it was now the Green has won the appeal and is available for Saturday’s televised match against Crystal Palace! With a shortage of a go-to back up keeper the FA’s decision is very welcome and instils more confidence in what will be another tough fixture.
It was interesting to see Green selected in the latest England squad. Rob is a grounded, intelligent bloke so I’m sure he will see it as an honour and play his part but, after his treatment since the World Cup, I kind of hope disses the call up. I really hope we go up this season and manage to keep hold of Greeno; I’ve always liked him and my admiration has grown with the way he has handled himself since the World Cup. It’s totally ludicrous that some people will still say our poor competition was down to Rob Green!