CLASSIC WALLPAPER #1: TEVEZ

In an effort to avoid reading about last night’s loss to Saints I decided to look back to the days of Carlos Tevez. Whatever your opinion on Tevez, nothing will change my memories of his season in the claret and blue; a dark season that was lit-up by this hard-working, passionate footballer who lent his enthusiasm to our club.

It makes me chuckle how fickle both sets of fans from Manchester are… My mate’s a Man Utd fan (yes, he lives in London), and I recall the days of us both agreeing Tevez is world class. Just the other night we had a heated discussion in the pub as said friend now considers him an ‘average’ player.

No such tomfoolery will ruin the legend of Tevez amongst West Ham fans.

I knocked this wallpaper up for my desktop at work and thought I’d offer it to anyone interested. It’s a nice, subtle image of one of the goals I remember celebrating the most in recent years. It marked the first goal for a player who put his heart into playing for our club, who came in with no real connection to the Irons but played as if his life depended on it.

Clicking on the image below should take you through to a bigger version.

TIME TO PIQ YOURSELF UP

Piquionne celebrates scoring against Spurs

I’ve been openly critical of Freddie Piquionne on this blog and I feel it’s with good reason. I once wrote a post calling Carlton Cole the ‘perpetual infuriator’, due to faltering levels of performance based on his effort rates, and this is slightly similar to Piquionne…

The reason Cole infuriates me will be the same as many Irons fans; I consider him, on his day, to be a player with enough class to play for one of Europe’s top clubs. (I was going to use the world-class description then, but thought better!) The only problem is that his performances are just too unpredictable – one game he can dribble through five players and score, the next he won’t even jump to win a header.

I always support Cole with enthusiasm because he always shows enough to keep me on his side, plus he must be one of our longest-serving players now, despite having the opportunity to move away following relegation. In the modern game I can’t help but reward loyalty.

Piquionne shows similar traits in his game but, while I will always support a player in claret and blue, I find myself totally unforgiving when I judge him. There have been a couple of matches when Piquionne has shown moments of brilliant skill and I’ve started to think that, with a run of games, he could be a decent player for us.

But when he does get a run of games he struts around the pitch like a poor-man’s Dimitar Berbatov. And that’s exactly what he reminds me of. For me, he plays with a very similar style to Berbatov; rarely breaking into sprint, ruining attacking build-ups with failed attempts at taking on his defender and an apparently complete inability to win a header despite being 6”2’. Only, unlike Berbatov, Piquionne can’t change a game with a single moment of magic, so I find him much harder to tolerate.

Whether this is a perceived lack of effort, or an actual lack of effort, I can’t say 100%, but I do know this: I am a mere 5”10’ and when I play football twice a week I take pride in tracking back to help my team, in out-jumping blokes taller than me through simple determination, and if I lose the ball I’ll chase it until my team wins it back – and I’m not being paid tens of thousands of pounds a week to do it. But I sure spend a lot of money playing this sport and watching the team I love – and like most fans all I ask is that the players put in enough effort to remotely justify their wages!

It’s not my style to dislike a West Ham player… Actually, I’ve just realised that’s a lie – I literally got annoyed having to look at Matthew Upson during the last few months of his time with us. Other players have annoyed me but still retained my support, as I mentioned with Carlton Cole. Another example is Luis Boa Morte, who wound me up no end but I could never get on his back too much because he always tried hard.

The latest news suggests that Piquionne could be on his way in a loan deal, possibly to join Ilunga at Doncaster, and I welcome this. I was actually surprised we kept hold of him considering the signing of Carew, who in my opinion is a vastly superior back-up striker. I’d guess that it was either too late to ship him out, or no one would take him.

So thanks, Piquionne, because there were actually some good times despite the negativity of this post. The winner against Spurs was a key factor in what became one of my moments of the season, and I remember him running from the right-hand side in central midfield and scoring a wonderful goal, even though I’ve forgotten which game it was (possibly Barnsely in the Cup?)! I even enjoyed hearing him in interviews as he certainly talked the talk, even if he couldn’t back it up with the walk…

But all in all, for me he is one of the few remaining ‘dead wood’ players that the club has been needing to shift for too long now!

Onwards and upwards!

COYI

A GOOD MEMORY FROM LAST SEASON 3: REDKNAPP’S MISERABLE FACE

This is the third in my series of posts about good memories from last season, and I can’t believe I’ve managed to think of three. This one came earlier in the season than my first two memories – Parker’s Kiss and Spector’s Brace – and marked our first league win of the season.

We had to wait until Saturday September 25 for that first league win and wouldn’t you know it, it happened when Harry brought his Lilywhites into town.

Like so many of the more edgy and memorable wins over recent seasons, it coincided with Rob Green being at his best. He made several great stops, including an incredible save to keep out Luca Modric. He was beaten only once as Spurs’ Tom Huddlestone rounded him but failed to hit the target and slammed the ball into the side netting. It was at that point I started thinking we might hold on for the win.

Another thing worth noting from this game is that Dyer played the first 42 minutes, before going off injured (possibly his longest appearance?) and had a hand in our goal. From the corner he won, Noble delivered a decent cross into the box and Freddie Piquionne used his head to send the ball past Carlo Cudicini. It was a nice finish and a textbook goal – a good show of Piqionne’s ability when he is in the mood.

The everlasting memory for me was during the TV coverage of the match. Moments before the final whistle, one cameraman planted himself down in front of Redknapp and captured the final minutes, as a miserable looking Redknapp stood in the foreground, and the west stand recited an enthusiastic rendition of Bubbles aimed at our former boss.

It was one of those moments you’re so pleased to be a West Ham fan. I loved watching so many fans singing and dancing with happiness, with a classic edge of bitterness aimed towards old Redknapp. In fact, I remember rewinding and watching it back quite a few times. It was quite moving stuff, remembering the joy that our club can bring.

It was one of only a few highlights of Avram Grant’s reign, and after the match I think I even saw him smile. “Last season was traumatic for this club and we know it will take time to change the mentality. We are doing everything right.” promised the man in charge.

Oh dear. But this is West Ham, and without the bitter, the sweet just isn’t as sweet… and seeing all those fans taunting Redknapp? That was sweet.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR SUPER SCOTT PARKER?

Despite being resigned to relegation for a good few weeks, I’m still not sure it’s sunk in properly. Walking to work this morning I nearly had a heart attack over the minor realisation that both the sleeve badges and player names will now appear on our shirts in the hideous Championship styling – which looks like it was designed by a year seven design student. If that was enough to depress me, I’m not looking forward to realising the far more serious repercussions of dropping down to the Championship.

In my mind, the first two major developments will be getting the right manager in, and the future of one or two players, and I can’t stress enough the importance of not making decisions on the playing staff until the new manager is appointed.

Until the Bongo Brothers and Avram Grant cocked everything up, I was hopeful of Parker spending the rest of his career with us. His status as a West Ham legend isn’t in doubt but I was so dearly hoping he’d stay with us until he retired and receive a hero’s sign-off. Remember when Trevor Brooking retired and was held aloft on the pitch and applauded by adoring fans? I was picturing that for Scotty. Except football is sadly different these days. If we walked on the pitch to celebrate the career of a hero we’d probably all be banned for life from Upton Park, or the Olympic Stadium [shudder].

But it’s also worth remembering that Brooking stayed with us when we were relegated and played for us in the second tier of English football. In this day and age, is it too much to ask of a 30-year-old Scott Parker, still fighting for his place in the England team, to drop a division?

Firstly, were I the owners of West Ham, I would already have called Fabio Capello and asked him, honestly, if going down would affect the chances for Parker – if you were going to ask Parker to stay, this could be make or break.

Secondly, I’ve read quite a comments from people over at West Ham Till I Die with the same ideas as me; loan Parker out on a one-season loan to a Premier League club on the proviso that we can bounce straight back up to the Premier League. If we do, we take back our prized asset; if we don’t, a clause is activated in which the club loaning him can buy him outright for a pre-determined sum.

An idea like this is maybe unrealistic but it definitely has its merits. To West Ham, Parker is priceless; the job he does for us isn’t even worth ten or twenty million, because we couldn’t replace him with those amounts of money. Yes, going down is a strain on the finances but what would selling Parker for ten million help in the long term? Not much. Were we to loan him out his wages would be covered by the loaning club and we could also receive a loan fee of a couple of million. Scott does love it at West Ham, so could be open to the idea of keeping his options open on returning if we return to the top flight as the first time of asking.

If Parker does leave for good I hope it’s to the right club. It didn’t work out for him at Chelsea because he was a small fish in a big pond of players – At West Ham he was the big fish in a small pond and excelled remarkably – So he would be wasting his time going to any of Manchester City, Manchester United or Spurs, who employ a high rate of squad rotation.

Any clubs smaller than those above would be a waste of time in my opinion. Scott has nothing to gain by joining the likes of Villa or Fulham. He’s also a devoted family man and might be against the idea of uprooting his young family away from London, his hometown. A club I can see him being a success at is Arsenal. They’re a good side but are always one or two quality signings away from genuinely competing for silverware; the signing of a quality goalkeeper, defender and then Parker in midfield could be the difference between them fading out towards the end – as usual – and genuinely maintaining a title challenge all season.

I’m not saying I’d be happy to lose Parker, far from it, but it’s of little value in the long term to sell him for a silly sum like £10 million. But if he does go I hope he makes the right decision on where he plays his football next season.

SPURS 0 – 0 WEST HAM; SURE SIGNS OF PROGRESS?

More often that not a draw always seems a bit of a disappointment, but when you consider our overall form of the last few seasons, an away draw at White Hart Lane is something to be pleased about.

The match was played with a great tempo and had a classic derby feel about it. Spurs started strongly and made it quite a hard match to watch, when a player of Dawson’s ‘calibre’ hits the crossbar with a curling, long-range effort you start to wonder if your team is capable of keeping a clean sheet.

But we did. Although Spurs carved out more clear-cut chances than us, their failure to put the ball into the net meant that we could easily have won this game, but unfortunately we were also guilty of not taking our chances.

The Daily Mail caption said this was Demba Ba. It clearly isn't. Idiots. Carlton Cole had a decent game but was guilty of missing the easiest chance of the match

Cole was put through one-on-one against Gomes but failed to shoot around the Spurs ‘keeper, spurning what was possibly the easiest chance of the match. Demba Ba showed his quality again both in his holding play, his creative passing and his eye for goal, and he was desperately unlucky not to score from range with a cracking right-footed shot that was palmed wide from Gomes.

While Gomes had a good game for Spurs, Rob Green had one of those matches that prove his often-doubted quality. Later in the match, the goblin-faced Gareth Bale hit a gorgeous free kick that was flying into the top-right corner of Green’s goal; he saw it come over the wall late but made one of the saves of the season to palm the ball on to the crossbar. He answered the call every time West Ham needed him on Saturday, like he has done so often before.

In midfield, Hitzlsperger continued his impressive form and looked pure class. Some of his passing is a joy to watch and nearly every match you know he’ll put someone through on goal with his exquisite vision and delivery.

Parker his usual self. I had called for Obinna to play out right purely to stick to Bale an counter his pace and athleticism and was concerned to see us playing 4-3-3, but when you have Scott Parker you can take calculated risks like that. He was everywhere, an animal stalking the pitch for the ball. His determination and skill are literally worth two players. He has been rewarded for his form again by receiving an England call-up; easily England’s best midfielder of this season.

Parker's dedication and professionalism must embarrass his peers

The team excelled in defence, dealing with Spurs attacking energy impressively. Da Costa has come back into the side and done well alongside a resurgent Matthew Upson, who is starting to look like the Captain he should be. Lars Jacobsen dealt quite well with Bale, knowing he could trust the likes of Parker and Noble to cover him. It says a lot that one of the weak areas of our side looked to be Wayne Bridge, who performed well but appeared a little shaky at times.

Overall, a point away at Spurs is a fantastic result and carries on our recent run of form. Would we have drawn this one a year ago? No way. Progress is being made, we’re out of the relegation zone and the players – for the first time in a long time – are looking up with genuine confidence.

SPURS vs. WEST HAM MATCH PREVIEW

A wise man once said of Spurs, “Neutral football fans would support Spurs if it weren’t for their own fans.” I’ll reveal who at the end of this article.

After the exertions of playing Rugby Union side Stoke City last weekend West Ham return to football and the main task at hand: Premier League survival.

Having witnessed referee Mike Jones literally ‘take control’ of last weekend’s FA Cup clash against Stoke, it’s not exactly heart warming to learn that Mike Dean is taking charge of the match at White Hart Lane.

Towards the end of last season Dean became a walking advert for video-replay technology by ruining the spectacle of Manchester United vs. Chelsea. The dum dum allowed two goals to stand that should have clearly been ruled out and failed to award two clear penalties. Every major decision he made was proven wrong by post-game video evidence.

Brilliant.

The result last weekend was disappointing after a recent run of good form, but the match against Spurs was always the priority. Demba Ba should return to the side and we’re all hoping he can prolong what has been an incredible start to his West Ham career. His energy and enthusiasm should be enough to worry Spurs’ weaker players like young pineapple-head himself, Benoît Asshole-Ekotto.

Thanks to Ba’s movement and ability to link attack and midfield Cole will hopefully be less isolated than he was against Stoke. Piquionne picked up a knock amid a scrum last weekend so I don’t know if he’ll feature, but I’d be tempted to go with Victor Obinna in midfield despite his anonymous outing against Stoke.

Containing the returning Gareth Bale is never going to be easy. Everyone wants to avoid physical contact with the ugliest man in football, but we need someone with real pace to stick to him for 90 minutes.

I’m inclined to think that Obinna is the best man for the job; he’s fast and has proven before that he can be dedicated when tracking back – albeit balanced with some bad decision making. Alongside Obinna the selection is simple; Noble and Hitzlsperger are superior to the likes of Jenas and Huddlestone, and Parker should be told to stick as closely to van der Vaart as Harry Redknapp does to his tax returns.

Hitzlsperger and Bridge might not have the pace to stop Lennon on their right wing but that can be solved with a couple of early knocks to push him to the periphery of the action. With any luck he’ll pick up a pre-game injury while shaving those amazingly-stylish stripes into his hair and eyebrow… honestly, what a plonker.

In defence we’re likely to see Lars Jacobsen return at right back with Wayne Bridge on the left. I might get some slack for this, but in the middle I would partner Upson with Da Costa; his sheer physicality is better suited to marking the likes of Crouch and van der Vaart than Tomkins.

It’s going to be one of the toughest matches of the season against what is one of the best Spurs sides for years, but most of our squad will remember the insane atmosphere inside Upton Park when we beat them earlier this season.

Losing to most Premier League teams means Monday morning is spent civilly discussing the match with your rival fans, but with Spurs you know you’ll get an undignified series of self-delusional taunts, so I’m hoping for a good team performance and a hard-earned point.

Thanks for reading. Come On You Irons!

My team to play Spurs

Oh, that quote? A wise man didn’t write it; I did, but only because everyone keep saying it to me…

Disclaimer: I have generalised about Spurs fans which is unfair. My Uncle Trev and Cousin Tom are rare exceptions.