Return Bellamy - in one piece!

After seeing Bellamy enjoying himself and looking really good in his 20 minutes against Fulham, hopes were rising in this part of the West Ham community.
What an addition he would be if he could be a regular starter.

The way he "corrected" Cole (for not leaving the ball to Etherington and running into the box) told us something about his position in the team. Carlton looked like a dog just yelled at by his master. The puppy wasn't even considering yapping back!

Now it's time for Wales to give him yet a premature 180 minutes of competitive football.
We've had this scenario before and I don't like it.

It's not that I don't like players that want to do their best for their country, but i do think the club should have a slightly more restrictive policy in these matters.
After being sidelined for this long most players need to be eased back into the game.
Craig had such an injury laced last campaign, only playing 9 full games for us, meaning his body just isn't used to the tough schedule of an international playing in the premiership.

This is an injury layoff in the making!


The Fulham game - focus on Hérita N'Kongolo Ilunga

When McCartney was sold and all we seemed to have for cover was a Neill out of position many of us were upset.

Some days after the deadline we seemed to at least have someone reminiscent of a left back in the squad. I for one was hoping, but not really believing, that Hérita Ilunga would be the solution.
However, after watching Neill totally bomb as left back it was obvious that Ilunga or the free transfer recruit Alberto López would have to be the one to fill McCartneys position, almost no matter what.

Before the Fulham game Zola had played them both in that position. Ilunga against Newcastle and López against Watford.
Unfortunately I couldn't see the Watford game, but to many López was considered the man of the match.

I still think López will have a very hard time getting into the starting lineup for some time, because Ilunga played an almost immaculate game against Fulham.

OK, his totally disasterous throw in that almost left Zamora free in the box wasn't beautiful and maybe some other small mistakes were also there, but still...
Not only did he look solid defensively, he produced some very accurate and creative passes when possible. In my view he also chose the right moments to deliver the attacking passes, and didn't hesitate to play the simple ball when needed.
He also seem very comfortable on the ball even under pressure.

The way he quickly got over Johnsons headless studs-in-ankle assault was also appealing - do we have a hard man here?

Maybe he was not pushing forward as much as Konchesky or McCartney would have, but did overlap a few times.
I hope that this is enough for Zola because I haven't been so relaxed when watching a West Ham left back in a very long time.

It will be very interesting to see how he will work out against opponents with lots of pace, and if he does well, we should jump at the fist chance of making his move permanent.

The Fulham game - First Touch and 4-3-3

The game against Fulham had three phases/faces.

1. The home team is pumped, full of confidence and determination, and not yet tired
2. The home team has done its best, starting to get a bit tired and the away team is no longer “shell shocked”.
3. The home team scores and get some hopes back while the away team is getting nervous.

A pretty ordinary premiership scenario especially if the home team is something of an underdog.
Why am I dwelling on such a trivial matter then?

Because I think that it tell us a lot about what we may be seeing against stronger sides!

During that first phase we had little or no possession and when we did get the ball we treated it like it was red hot.
Fulham didn’t give our players much time before being all over them, and this pressure made our West Ham players either deliver a panic pass or see the ball getting stolen.

Two things were more obvious than other in this initial part of the game.

First, the first touch of many of our players is below par.
This is quite disastrous when being under pressure. The time between the first touch and when the ball is actually under control must be next to nothing since it won’t be long before you are being tackled (this is the "wellcome to Premiere League" situation we love when foreign players firts get this treatment). If that first vital moment is used by waiting for the ball to come down from the beautiful arc it’s doing after a poor fist touch, there will be no time left to decide what to do with it. This was obvious again and again.
Several players suffer from this but for a playmaker and a target player, both getting lots of passes, and must be expected to be under a lot of pressure, this is more obvious as well as more punishing than for other players.

Secondly, the 4-3-3 system, played as “firmly” as it did against Fulham showed its worst side during this period. We were simply outnumbered in the midfield giving their mid 4 an easy task of hunting our midfielders down, not giving them much of a chance to do anything useful with the ball.
This also strongly auguments the first touch problem since in this system there will always be an enemy midfielder close by and your fellow midfielders will be covered or under pressure themselves, leaving you few options and little time.
It also makes it quite hard to get the ball back when you lose it (and if the referee doesn’t allow the kind of tackles Parker is famous for, those three midfield players are in for a very difficult time).
Against a Fulham team without luck you may get away with it, but against better teams we will not.
Teams contesting for a top 10 place will have better skill on the ball and better pace and stamina in the midfield than Fulham does and that’s bad news.

After 7 minutes of the game I was certain that the 433 would, voluntarily or not, in effect turn into 451. This is the beauty – or the trap – with this system, depending on what players you have in the team and the ability of these players to adopt to a situation.
Well, that didn’t happen. The midfield (i.e. Parker) didn’t get much help from Etherington or Di Michele. Who were obviously ordered not to fall back no matter what.

After 35 minutes, and 6 or 7 very good Fulham chances (most blown by Zamora, reminding us why we sometimes had doubts about him), the 433 system started to be right for the situation.
Our midfielders started to have the time they needed to do something useful with the ball since the Fulham players were getting tired, and Etheringtons position and activity started to pay off. Now he was in a more offensive starting position, than he would have been if he had fallen back to that 451 position, when starting his raids, making them more effective.

What is the moral of this then?
Given the players in our team, I think this system must be more flexible if it is to be successful. This may evolve as the players get more accustomed to it, maybe giving it a future. Otherwise we will be butchered by sides with a good midfield!
It also emphasizes the need for a playmaker with a slightly defensive inclination (Parker again), since it will be hard to fit a Mullins type player in it, but if Parker is sidelined Noble is not yet ready.


New kid in town - Walter Lopez

Walter Alberto López Gasco, born on October 15 1985 in Montevideo Uruguay.

López joined West Ham as a free agent on September 5 after impressing in training and in a behind doors game. It was rumoured that several European clubs were interested, but we all know what that can be worth…

He started out playing for Montevidean club “Racing” in 2003 and after a stint in San Martin of Argentina in 2004 joined Uruguayan side River Plate between 2004-2007.
After signing for Spanish “Xerez CD” in January of 2007 he left for Mexican "UAG Tecos" in august the same year, playing only one full game and appearing in two more before heading back to his native River Plate. He has also been capped 3 times by his national team.

He seems to be signed as a defender but has played on the left side both as defender and in the midfield for his previous teams. His style of playing has been described as quick and technical. He is also called “physical” by some and “not very physical” by others, but this may well depend on the surroundings. Let’s see what side he will show in West Ham.

His first start for West Ham was in the substandard League Cup game against Watford where he was one of the best, if not the best, player in Claret and Blue.

However, he has not figured in any reserve game, bar that behind doors that got him the contract, which I find a little odd.

He faces competition for the left back spot by Ilunga and (God forbid) Neill. Let’s hope that at least one of Ilunga and López turn out to be solid.

Getting on with it allright

The genie is out of the bottle, the avalanche is moving, it's snowballing... chose any idiom you like but we are just witnessing the start of something that could be totally crippling for English football.

Now its time for the Sheffield players to smell blood and rear their ..... heads in this never ending legal farce.

According to Daily Mail at least ten of the players who were relegated with Sheffield United have taken the first step in launching their own multi-million pound legal action against West Ham for suffering financially following SU's relegation.

If FA does not understand what is about to happen and nip this ugly sprout in the bud, the PL will be decided in the courts rather than on the pitch from now on.

If a Club already fined for an offence need to go through what we are, can you imagine the aftermath to the Reading ghost goal if it ends up hurting Watford in some way?

Please FA, put your foot down quickly before it's out of control!


Timing is everything! Sponsor update.

One would think most companies would love to come in as sponsors of our Club at this point since there is no shortage of media coverage.

Now some players have understood the importance of keeping us in the public eye and taken steps of their own to ensure a good sponsor deal.
The latest addition is a '24-year-old driver was spoken to and arrested on suspicion of driving with excess alcohol. He was taken to a central London police station and later bailed.'

Even though it would be below my dignity to print a name, I can’t withhold that Carlton Coles mother is said to be very upset.

Where is Anton when we really need him?

New Team Captain!

West Ham have apparently hired high profile solicitor Maurice Watkins as leader of our legal side in the quest of getting the Court of Arbitration for Sport to rectify the verdict of the of the Football Association Arbitration Hearing in the continuous story of Sheffield and Tevez.

Watkins have represented players and clubs before FIFA and UEFA tribunals and overseen countless big-money transfers during his time at Old Trafford as well as represented players and clubs at the Court of Arbitration for Sports and international and league compensation tribunals.

According to “Wiki” Maurice currently occupies these positions:

* Director of Manchester United Football Club Limited
* Company Secretary for MUTV (Manchester United Television)
* Director of the British Association for Sport and Law (Former President & Chairman)
* Member of the FA Legal Working party
* FA representative on the Association of European Union Premier Professional Leagues (EPFL)
* Member of Working Group for Financial Matters of the FIFA Task Force "For the Good of the Game"
* Member of the FIFA Decision of the Dispute Resolution Chamber
* Non-Executive Director for the Rugby Football League
* Regional Chairman for Coutts Bank
* Trustee of the Professional Footballers Pension Scheme
* Appeal Chairman of the New Children’s Hospital Appeal
* Governor of Manchester Grammar School (!)

- and he famously defended a certain famous French “flip-up collar” player (not the only thing flipped with this remarkable personality) after his almost as famous flying kick on a somewhat less famous Crystal Palace supporter in ’95.

Looking at this list it seems lik he knows his way around European sports law and authorities, have a busy schedule and a split personality - and doesn't come cheap! However, a person that know these territories will be extremely important for the outcome.

Having Watkins “on loan” from ManUre could be the most important signing since Steve Clarke, and Watkins team could play as an important part of the Club future as any we field on a pitch.

As this is still a rumor, I am afraid that it may be a bit too good to be true. But if it is, I am very pleased that he will be in our colours during the CAS (and presumably "FA damages") hearings.

Edit: 2009-09-26 CAS says that the appeal cannot be heard without the agreement of Sheffield United. My money is on SU not agreeing - wanna bet?


Lame "Dux"?

Scott Duxbury's future as Chief Executive Officer of West Ham United may not be under official review by the Club, but I have a feeling things are piling up on him and I wonder how long he will be enjoying our pond.

The main issue now, of course, is that he reportedly spoke with both of his tongues at the same time – one to representatives of Kia Joorabchian and one to the PL, not quite saying the same thing to both parties.

One can argue that the whole board must have known about this and Duxbury was just the messenger. That would make him something of a scapegoat.
Regardless, if Duxbury in a future negotiation tries to reassure a possible business partner that all is under control, will he have the credibility needed in those situations? Will he, for instance, be the one sent forward to broker the new sponsorship deal?

He seems to have (had?) the ear and trust of BG but i fear that BG will have to do more reassuring than he cares to in situations that may be important to the Club future. And then, if a chief executive cannot be handed the big issues, what good is he?

When the dust settles after the Tevez/Sheffield affair and his inside information will no longer be able to hurt the Club/board/owner, Scott Duxbury may have outstayed his welcome at the Club, at least as CEO.

One for the future - Jack Jeffrey - update

Yet another young shortish striker 5'8" (173).
Born in Gravesham August 1989, he joined our academy in 2004.
A regular in the reserve team before going on loan to conference side Cambridge the last part of the 07-08 campaign, starting 4 out of 10 games there.
This preseason Jack played in a behind closed doors against Norwich scoring twice and he grabbed one earlier in the pre season against Tilbury.
Now he is on his way to the O's on a one month loan to get some more first team experience.
It isn't easy at the moment for young strikers to break through into the first team with Bellamy, Ashton, Cole, Sears and now David Di Michele in the club, not to forget Zavon Hines who will also try to catch the eye of the new coach and manager.
As for his playing style Jack is a hard working player that reminds people of a young Tony Cottee! Now that doesn't sound bad for the future does it?

Mid September he took off to the O's on a one month loan to get some first team experience but suffered a knee injury in training and only played one game, as a sub, before returning home.

Now the loan deal with Leyton O's is back on after returning to fitness.
Better luck this time Jack!


Money for nothing

People try to make us buy all sorts of stuff we don't need. I buy quite a few of them myself actually, but here is an offer I can refuse.

Through the official site you can subscribe to news directly to the mobile. Or at least what the site considers being news. This is usually what is already distributed by news bureaus for a day or two and has been on West Ham forums for a bit more than that.

Imagine subscribing to this fine service for £3 a month, getting a beep in the mobile and receiving the breaking news that the club is considering what to do about the FA arbitration…

Let's just get on with it!

So we may be paying Sheffield £30m for having Carlos in our side even though we didn’t own his contract – or something.
This must be the longest running agony in club history...

Can you believe that a year and a half after that game, the game we all will remember as the game when the hired gun – the player having absolutely nothing to lose - showed more heart than any other player on the field (with the possible exception of Mark Noble) we are still talking about this?

The issue of whether the contract was OK or not have been discussed back and forth by all possible instances and a fair share of lawyers have made a decent living out of it.All I can say is I’m incredibly bored with this story even though the money side of the game is one that interests me. But this has just been going on for too long! To have a £30m axe hovering over your neck for almost a year and a half is just too much.

I’ve gotten to the point that I want to say: OK get on with it, even if it kills me, get on with it.

But it won’t kill us. Bruise us – yes, but not kill us. Our club is run by businessmen, and I say it again – that does have some up sides. We will not have to worry about whether the people in charge have planned for this outcome. This comes as no surprise to anybody involved in the club and will not really change anything in the short run. I cannot see that there will be a need for any panic actions. Everything we’ve hailed this last week will be allowed to go on.All we really have to worry about is when the club will find the money to take it to the next level. Obviously, £30m could bring in some serious players to any club (unless you are Tottenham…), and could be a big building block for taking that next step regardless if the money would be spent on strengthening the squad or propelling the stadium project.

But given all the facts – wouldn’t you do it again? Wasn’t it worth it to have Tevez in our side? Wasn’t it worth it to experience “The Great Escape”? I’d spend a couple of million of the clubs money just to re-live that last game of the 06-07 season, at least compared to millions used to sign Nigel Quashie.I rather have an economic whipping – even this size of a whipping – compared to the ultra insecure life in the championship with a lot of talent very possibly drained from the team.

OK, there are some things that I regret with the whole Masherano and Tevez business and that is that we had managers that were handed a once in a lifetime opportunity - and blew it! The fact that Masherano was hardly played at all and Tevez got in the team after almost half a season is just incomprehensible. Well, that part of the story is also quite old to so I should get on with it I suppose.

If I got it right, we can either appeal and take the case to the Court of Arbitration Of Sports or we can pay. Our board will now decide if we take this further.

£30m (if this is the amount set by the "damages hearing" of the Football Association arbitration hearing) is a lot of money, but the CA(O)S (love that acronym!) have, as far as I understand, a record of not wanting to rectify much.

Edit: 2009-09-23 BBC tells us the Damage Hearing will probably not issue any decision until the beginning of next year. Will this uncertainty never end?
2009-09-24 West Ham has officially stated they will appeal to CAS

Edit: 2009-09-26 CAS says that the appeal cannot be heard without the agreement of Sheffield United. My money is on SU not agreeing - wanna bet?


Steve Clarke – gold in the other bowl of the balance

I love the appointment of Steve Clarke as first team coach!
It must be the best signing the club has made in years and maybe one of the best “value for money” signings of any club this year. It would have been a great coup even before Zola’s arrival but now it’s pure genius.

One can argue that few people have had the opportunity to witness the change in the English game as closely as Clarke, both as player and coach at the top level. This experience will be invaluable to Zola.

Knowing where Zola comes from is also important. He will know exactly what Zola has missed during the years in the provinces and will get him up to speed and “fine tune” him on the demands of the modern club game at senior level.
Also, being highly rated and respected by the players (as rumour has it especially by the English contingent) during his coaching period, should be perfect for reassuring players possibly worried about the new reign, that there is one with the managers ear that is not all vision but knows how to get stuff sorted.

His tactical side may also be very important. His reputation as a defensive coach seem to ascertain that he can balance the attacking mind of Gianfranco, making sure that Zola will not go astray trying to initiate the “exiting game” he wants the team to play.

Another facet of the gem is that he must have great contacts with promising Chelsea players not given a chance of first team football due to the “buy expensive” strategy in place at Stamford bridge. Those contacts may be as valuable as Kia’s and Nanis for recruiting exciting young talent.
The fact that he worked closely with the overrated but decent “Special One” will not be something I will hold against him either ;-)

Chances are that we will not understand his impact since the number 2 spot doesn’t get the recognition it deserves but I think that "under" Zola, Clarke could be the most important and influential number 2 in the premiership.


One for the future - Jordan Spence

Now here is something a bit special. If half of the reports about this prodigy is true he will be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future!

A 6 foot+ (189) full back Jordan “Spencer” Spence born 1990-05-24 signed his first Academy contract on the pitch in front of the Upton Park crowd in the spring of 2006 and turned full time pro July last year. Despite his young age he’s got quite a CV.

After captaining the England U16 team he lead the national U17 squad in the European finals as well as the World Cup quarter-finals in 2007. He scored the game winning goal when his side famously defeated Brazil (can you imagine that feeling?) - the first England team to do so in a World Cup game.

Following the success in the U17 he graduated to the England U19 squad - at the age of 17!
After this proof of his capabilities maybe the fact that Academy Director Tony Carr regard him as “certainly one for the future” doesn’t surprise anybody.

A reserve team regular last season, Jordan was taken on the USA tour with the first team this summer, which was a clear statement of the clubs ambitions with him.
Having played along James Tomkins in the central defence of the reserves for some time I have a strong feeling that this duo could be the fundament of a, finally, solid West Ham defence for years to come.

Jordan seem very mature and incredibly verbal for a young footballer. Just take a look at the video where he talks about the defeat against Spain in the UEFA U17 Championship Finals! CLICK HERE He's only 17 in this clip!

His first full squad appearance was away against Man C this season. Allthough he never got to play in the game, this squad place combined with the fact that he has not been sent off to a lower league club yet indicate that for Jordan Spence and West Ham the future is not far away.

On Nov 25 a 8 match loan deal with Leyton Orient was presented. Jordan is on his way to the O's to get some league action and experience!



Remember the super hero Metamorphos? No? I can't blame you, the comic sucked but he stuck in my mind for one reason - he could totally change appearance in a split second. Pretty much as in The Incredible Hulk something huge could grow out of something quite ordinary. My problem as a 7 year old was - where do these new “qualities” come from?

West Ham will supposedly be going through a metamorphosis under new manager Zola and I find myself with the same confused feeling today.
His comment ”I only know one way to play: on the floor, attacking football, the way things should be done”, although slightly modified by the nervous official site into “Attacking football will dominate his philosophy” implicates a rather big change. But this metamorphosis, were will the new qualities come from?

I have a hard time accepting that a few desperate last minute signings and a new manager will transform this team to one capable of playing football with flair.

Someone may want to tell Mr Zola that there is a slight risk that Parker and Noble in central midfield will not suddenly start to produce brilliant attacking passes. We’ve seen them try, and there is a potential here but unfortunately they have not been able to do that very consistently.
On the wings Faubert and Ethers have on occasion tried to speed up the game, but charging along the flanks and curving into the box is probably not what Zola had in mind when he talked about “football on the floor”. For an on the floor passing game, they both unfortunately haven’t shown enough skill neither on the ball or when passing it. I do have hopes that Faubert will prove me wrong but Ethers passing, especially that last pass, will never be very good.
Also with Neill on the left back we have double problems. He is neither fast enough to overlap in attack, creating more options for a playmaker, nor is he fast enough to keep up with the other teams winger on the way back. Walter Lopez may be the aswer to this, but we are still to see him play.
Behrami seems to me to be better equipped for the offensive part of the game, at least in way of wanting to go forward, but seem almost as slow as Neill.
The moral here is that we’ll better not be playing teams that are good on the break since our wingers (and central midfield as well) will most likely keep losing the ball while our team is pushing up and we don’t have pace enough in the team to keep up on the return.

Do we have the qualities in the team to play the way Zola wants to? I doubt it.
But let’s hope that Zola can find a way to transform the players, maybe giving them the trust and confidence they need to attack, so we don’t have to stay the Bruce Banner of English football.


Gianfranco Zola was born in Sardinia on the 5th of July 1966, only a couple of days after West Ham was the first, and so far only, club team to win the World Cup (admittedly with a little help from some squad players).
As a player he was an excellent play maker and delivered some magnificent free-kicks. He was technical gifted and known for his technique and skills. He earned his first professional contract when he, as an 18 year old, signed for the Sardinian club Nuorese in 1984. In 1987 he left them and went to Torres where he played for a couple of years before he joined Napoli in Serie A in 1989.
”I learned everything from Diego. I used to spy on him every time he trained and learned how to curl a free-kick just like him.”
When joining Napoli he got one of the world greatest players ever as a team mate and Zola made the best of it even though he was perceived as the great ones understudy when winning the title in 1990. In 1991 he went on to help Napoli winning the Italian Super Cup and later that year he made the first of 35 appearances for the Italian national team. He scored 10 goals during the process.
In 1993 he went from Napoli to Parma where he played together with the infamous Tomas Brolin amongst others. They won the UEFA-cup and the Italian Cup and became runners up in the league before joining...

Wait a minute, something happened there and it appears that Zola went in to a black hole for seven long seasons. Some rumours says that he was very succesful during those years and that he was voted the best player ever to play for that team.
After that unfortunate spell he went back to Italy to play for Cagliari in 2003. He played there for two seasons before retiring without thinking about going in to management.

2 years ago he was lured into management by his former team mate Pierluigi Casiraghi who had become manager for the Italian under-21 team. The pair led their team to the olympics where they reached the quarter finale where the Belgian team became to strong and they lost by 3 goals to 2. Now it seems like he´s the new West Ham manager.
If you go by his statements it sounds like a manager who knows how to play the West Ham way.
I only know one way to play: on the floor, attacking football, the way things should be done. I want to excite people, that is why we play, isn´t it? This is a new era, a new chapter for me. I was an offensive player, who only knew one way to play. That is how my teams will always play.”
This could be interpreted in a couple of ways depending on what you like to think about him. Is he tactical inept manager or is he just a PR genius who tells us what we, as West Ham fans, like to hear? Time will tell...

Disregard the "posted by" note below, all credit for this post goes to Dicks!


This is what I've been talking about...

The rumour is that Donadoni have pulled out "after expressing dissatisfaction at the way the club have handled the appointment, and the decision to rate his former understudy in the Italian national set-up as a better prospect."

This is what I have been afraid of since we first saw West Ham officials and people closely associated with West Ham (Kia) going public with shortlists and their thoughts on the candidates before the selection process was finished and a contract signed.

Again I have to bore you with my experience of hiring processes.
You tell people of the outcome after someone have signed the contract. This is common sense as well as common practise at any company, and that for a good reason. If “the chosen one” pulls out at the last moment (or suddenly comes up with new demands that you cannot accept - which is not unheard of), you need to go back to number 2 on the list and at that point you don’t want him insulted by official statements!
After some time it will also be apparent that you are going down a list so you don’t want people to know who you have been courting, so leaking the list, and/or confirming the names was another mistake.
At this point I sincerely hope that Zola is the one agreed on by the board and that it is 100% sure that he will sign and that there are no major issues left to be discussed.

And I was the one to be grateful that businessmen ran this club – now I’m not quite sure who is.


Your very own January transfer window

I think we may be seeing the downside of setting a deadline the way Mike Lee did in his interview. With people presumably on the shortlist presumably turning down our offers, or not even listening to them.

What will the candidates contacted after the Newcastle game think - that we had the world’s longest shortlist? And what will we know about the new manager when he is finally announced - in December...

It's also like creating your own January transfer window - if people know you’re desperate they'll make you pay through the nose for someone you wouldn't previously have considered i.e. we could end up with a Quashie-like manager! (maybe I should have saved the Sammy pic for this post...)

Prediction: A new club official (not Spike Lee or whatever his name is) will soon come out and say that this process is way too important to rush and that a week or two is not important since the appointed manager will hopefully stay with us for years to come.

On the other hand, we could be seeing the downside of speculating about stuff based on close to zero information (i.e. 150 newspaper articles).

Silly Season - manager style

Why on earth did Mike Lee go and tell Radio 5 Live that Zola and Donadoni impressed during their interviews? What was the purpose? It couldn't solely be to keep the journos happy, the fans discussing and keeping everybody off the Curbs trace.

Was it to show everybody that we do have serious candidates, and we won't have to use our precious worrying time on the club ending up with Sammy Lee?

Was it to tell the candidates that we're not desperate, we won't have to accept their demands - we have options?

But then why did he rate Collins the way he did? "John Collins is very strong and will be an excellent manager in due course. He truly impressed but is maybe not quite right at the moment".
Not in the race - I hope

Collins must have been totally rubbish or just plain rude at the interview and the board wouldn't consider him in a thousand years, since now it would be a bit embarrassing to go back with an offer to him now, wouldn't it?

The interviews continue, Laudrup today, Bilic on Thursday or something, and we're certainly also keeping some back ups warm and courting some dream candidates too during this period, if this board works anything like the companies I've worked for.
However I doubt that we will have "...a manager in place in time for the West Brom. match next Saturday, or if not in the stands, and in place for the Newcastle game the following week" as Lee was hoping - Mike Lee that is.


Impressive interviews - who cares?

Slaven Bilic, Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Donadoni and Michael Laudrup are names said to be left on the shortlist according to Hammers director Mike Lee. But I wouldn't be surprised if other names are still to pop up. Lee also said that Donadoni and Zola impressed greatly at the interview.

Before cracking down on that last statement I must say that I am very impressed that the board seem to have been efficient in the recruiting process so far.
I really shouldn't be surprised , since this is one of the advantages of having businessmen as owners. They know the importance of re-establishing the peace in an organization. They also know that a vacuum created by the lack of leadership is filled by speculation, rumours and uncertainty, leaving any organization underperforming. They also, in the process, take away 99% of the media interest in the Curbs sacking.
Nice work! - so far that is.

Now back to the great impression the two Italians made on Mike Lee.
I always thought that actions speak louder than words. I’ve also been on enough job interviews to know that what you get out of those is not much more than a feeling for the blokes personality. If you’re lucky, or good, you probably will find out if the guy is a complete fraud (although “human resources”- people say that you will not be able to spot the psychopaths…). Granted that the board came to the conclusion that these people are not complete frauds, I’d say toss the rest of the impressions and go for their track records!

A sad example
Let’s take a look at me during my days at the university.
What do you think would tell you more about me – my intentions the week before a new semester or how I actually performed the last semester. This is a painful question that I for my own sake must leave rhetorical.
Now, what do you suggest, should we ask these guys how they intend to manage the team or should we go back and look how they performed on their last position?
I rest my case…


A telltale sign of a manager on his way out!

Curbishley left after feeling that he had been undermined and shown a lack of trust by the owner and board, the main issue being that he was not involved in the transfers made during the transfer window.
This fuelled an outrage (ah well...) among the fans and indignation among managers.
Several managers saw their chance and made comments like “the owner should let the manager manage", to everybody that cared to listen.

Now, "let the manager manage", seems like a statement that everyone could agree with, but what does it really mean, and is the Curbs example relevant for this discussion?

Old school - still around?
Football managers have historically taken responsibility for team-selection, tactics and strategies, but also for buying and selling players as well as negotiating player wages
While this is still the case in many lower-league clubs the increasing complexity of the financial and administrational side of the game prompted many clubs to divide these managerial duties on a group of people, each with their own speciality.

There are some examples of managers with a comparably large input in many of these areas. One popular example of this is Alex Fergusson. But Sir Alex is also known to send messages to the owners by statements in the press and lately the rumour was that he did not field the best starting XI emphasise the need of bolstering the squad with a world class striker i.e. Berbatov. If Ferguson was in charge in the way a manager used to, such signals wouldn’t be needed. Easy to embrace statements like “Manchester United's football team are controlled by one footballing man – Ferguson” is obviously not true.

Modern managers need to know how to communicate and make sure that they are listened to. They need to get the players to understand the tactics and the system and they need to get the board to buy (!) into needed changes of the squad, convincing it that this is the right way forward for the club.

For some reason it is obvious to people that the manager fails if he does not get the players to play the way he wants them to. However, if a manager does not get the board to understand what is needed in terms of new players it suddenly is the board that does not “let the manager manage”. I would say that in many cases it is the manager that is not good enough at his job.

Obviously, this responsibility to communicate is not one sided. The board must strive to understand their manager and the manager must also listen to the other specialists in the staff, those having a deeper knowledge of e.g. the financial or medical side of the game, to understand what frames the manager has to work within - and why.

A perfect example of the need to divide previously manager tasks is when Nani was appointed as technical director. One of his first tasks being to reorganize the so called sport science department, including medical staff, rehab and training facilities - an area where Curbishley did not exactly have cutting edge knowledge. The managerial decision was taken to relocate funds to the sports science area, albeit not by the manager.

The board as the manager?
The other extreme, often brought forward by journalists and fans advocating “let the manager manage”, is that the board gets (trophy) players, not wanted by the manager. The reason could be to “sell replica shirts, global branding, awareness of image” or just to show the world that they are the ones who’ve got him. Now that can obviously be a problem, but to take this as a reason for getting back the old school type managers is stretching it way too far.

But we are missing the point – the Curbs example.
A manager that sees his board buy or sell against his wishes is just not good enough at his job.
He must also know that when this happens it's a telltale sign of him being on his way out.

The Hull boss Phil Brown wrote in his column: "The Kevin Keegan situation at Newcastle highlights a number of issues, the first one of which is all football decisions must to be finalised by the manager." But he is drawing conclusions that suits his purpose, but can't be drawn from that situation. Regardless what Keegans card and board said, at that point he wasn't, in fact, the manager anymore...

No, the Curbishley and Keegan examples really have no relevance for the discussion on the power of the manager under normal circumstances.




The discussion on Bilic has focused on whether he can leave his present gig as the Croatian head coach.
I find this extremely surprising!
Generally when people are hired the question of qualifications is the one that is scrutinized.

Let’s look at what he has done so far and try to find out if he has the merits that we would like our new manager to have.

He is a success at the national team level guiding the Croatian U-21 side to the Euro-playoffs 2006.
At the senior level he has 2 years of experience, being appointed head coach of the Croatian national team in July 2006. There he was facing the task of taking the team, ranked 15:th in the world at the time, through to the Euro 2008 playoffs. The obstacles set up before him was England (ranked 5:th at the time), Russia (23) , Israel (44), Macedonia (55), Estonia (105) and Andorra (don’t know, didn’t have the time to scroll that far down on the FIFA homepage). So the task was really not to underachieve! Avoiding that and a top 2 placing would be secured.

Croatia didn’t underachieve, they made it to the playoffs by drawing Russia twice, winning with the odd goal against Macedonia at home and loosing away. All in all a fairly predictable series of games if it weren’t for the famous beatings of an underachieving England team led (?) by McClaren.

At the Euro 2008, some experts had them as favourites for the title and at the group stage they played 3 solid games, winning against Germany, Austria and Poland only to be knocked out by Turkey in an memorable quarter final.

When Turkey, with an unbelievable effort equalised after the surely game winning goal Croatia had scored in the last of 30 minutes of overtime, it was interesting to study Bilic (yes this article is still about Bilic and his CV). He totally broke down, crying and yelling out in despair over what was happening. Understandable – yes certainly, but he was the leader, the leader set to coach and inspire the team to win this still undecided game. I hardly think he by doing so instilled security in the players chosen to shoot the penalties only a few minutes later.
He gets a lot of due credit for comforting his players after the lost shoot-out, but maybe he had been better off doing that before.

To sum it up, he may well turn out to be a good club team coach but that is still very much unproven since he has no experience in managing a team on a day to day basis.
He has coached a national side to meet pretty much what was expected of them and he breaks under (OK, extreme) pressure.

Is the act of staying in West Ham to keep us up 11 years ago enough to compensate for this?


Who will be desperate enough?

What would be most deterring for a manager when considering the West Ham job, you reckon?

1. The obvious lack of funds for transfers?

2. The obvious need to keep the salaries down – most likely also the managers?

3. The proven record of no respect for the managers wishes?

4. The obvious inability of the board to handle relations with managers?

5. All of the above?

Number 5 I'd say, but who will take this job anyway?

The answer is - someone desperate!

Let's take a look at some of the most likely categories:

Profile 1: A person with previous managerial experience at the highest level, but who is out of a job and don’t have any choice but to take whatever comes his way to get back into the game.
Profile 2: A person with experience on a lower level who sees this as one of very few opportunities to manage a PL team.
Profile 3: A person with some kind of history at the club and with a brand new (Italian?) coaching licence…
Profile 4: A caretaker that really has nothing to loose (also fits Profile 2 above)

I can’t say I fancy any of the profiles but if I have to choose one it would be Profile 2.
Get someone with a future and not merely a past!

Passion and departure

To our owner West Ham United is a business, not a passion. Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson will always run this club as a business. He’s no Abramovich or Al-Fahim and didn’t buy this club as a way of showing the world that he is so wealthy that he can go and buy instant success.
No, BG is more of a Glaser, buying the club since he saw it as a potential profitable investment. Eggert Magnusson was the passionate one, known for his overwhelming enthusiasm although not for his housekeeping, possibly talking his mate BG into this venture to begin with. But now Eggs is gone and with him the passion – and, for better or worse, the excesses.

It is pretty obvious that the owner is not one with visions and funds at the moment, at least not for West Ham United, regardless of the official statement desperately trying to tell us the opposite. What he is, however, is an Icelandic businessman that knows how to limit costs when he think it is necessary (or can that maybe pass as a short term vision?).

Why is an owner with such an obvious lack of drive still the owner?
Could it still be economically sound for some reason?
Could it be that he does feel that he can turn this around and really make West Ham a top PL club?
Or is the time not quite right to sell the club yet?
It could very well be that the club needs to show better economic balance for a future investor to be interested.

I wouldn’t be that surprised if we end up with a new owner before next season!


While we wait for the autobiography

I feel that I must at least give our ex-manager the opportunity to explain what happened, so over to you Alan!*

I started my West Ham United career when I left school in 1974 and have remained a lifelong fan. I have been incredibly proud to manage such a great club and my decision to resign has been very tough. The selection of players is critical to the job of the manager and I had an agreement with the club that I alone would determine the composition of the squad. However, the club continued to make significant player decisions without involving me. In the end such a breach of trust and confidence meant that I had no option but to leave. Nevertheless, I wish the club and the players every success in the future.

Thanks for the statement Alan! I'll be back with some comments on your time as our manager so just stay tuned!

Since this is pretty much in line with what most people thought, even though this is only one side of the story, I would be very surprised if we, at some point, will have to make a major re-evaluation of this sad part of West Ham history.

* Alan’s words were taken from here

On the short term we might end up with a Roederesqe solution...

No, it didn’t go on for long…
Curbs is history and I think this is the best possible news at the moment, at least in the longer run.
Don’t get me wrong, even though I never was a fan of Curbishley, I don’t think his time at the club was a bad one – result wise, that is.
But this is the first sign of a brighter future I’ve seen in a long time.
If this was a sign of ambition I would be ecstatic – but unfortunately it isn’t.
The official site states that the club is now drawing up a shortlist of candidates. I sincerely hope that that is not the case. A proactive board must have seen this coming a mile away, (every internet-active West-Ham supporter have been talking about this for some time now) and prepared for this!
Again, this is not a sign of reborn club ambition – so how can it be good news?
The board now has no choice (?) but to try to attract a decent new manager and for that to be successful he (I presume it will be a male…) must be presented with the war chest that I spoke about in a previous post and that means activity in the transfer market!

On the short term we might end up with a Roederesqe solution, with Day or Keene at the helm, but so be it. But here the Roeder-like situation must end! What must not happen is that such a solution is made permanent and a stand-in manager is set to manage the decline of the club.

So, if the club after some days of “mourning” presents a new manager from the outside with a decent track record, we know that this was a plot set up by the board.
If the club announces a internal solution, witch I suspect, let’s keep our fingers crossed for some good news in December!

“Don’t blame me, blame the board, I do my best with these loosers”.

There is a lot of talk about the future of the manager on forums and in newspaper articles today. At a first glance this seems a tad weird since the start of the season is OK so far and as some thinkers say “to win when the team does not perform at its best is a very good sign”.
However, the obvious lack of support Curbishley gets from the board is a telltale sign of a manager going down. When Anton was sold without the blessing of Curbishley, the lack of love the board have for it’s manager was as obvious as it gets. Not necessarily the fact that he was sold, but the way it was handled.

Curbs did not get any support from the board during the transfer window, and that may have several explanations. The board could be saving the money to build a tempting “war chest” as a lure to catch the big fish they hope to be the next manager (but then there are several other possible reasons!).

Curbishley has said that “The managers job is to manage the team at his disposal”. I actually think that almost all managers have said that, but the interesting thing is when they have said it. The statement actually reads “Don’t blame me, blame the board, I do my best with these loosers”.

The board and the manager does not seem to play well together and that can’t go on for long.

Neill's performance catching up with him?

The dressing room bust up whith Neill supposedly telling Curbishley to show some leadership reported e.g. by the independent (here) is a telltale sign of a captain in frustration.
But what is he frustrated with?
I’d say Neill is showing obvious signs of frustration with his own performance, certainly as a player and possibly as a captain. We’ve all seen it thousands of times - an obviously missplaced fullback yelling at the goalie after him self causing the goal.
This is no different.
This does, however, not imply that Neill was way off in his "analysis".
If there is at least some truth in previous rumours and ex-West Ham players statements, Curbishley does have a comunication problem, at least with some of his players.
The interesting part is that this comes after a 4-1 win.
I'd hate being in the dressing room after a 1-4 defeat!


Ramos is spot on!

Now here is something that won't happen often: I think Ramos is spot on!
I think this last week - or day even - showed, beyond reasonable doubt, that the dates governing the transfer window must be altered.
Ramos is cited saying "You play three games before it shuts while players are uncertain where they are going to be playing and team-mates are thinking which players will go and who will come in. " and "I would prefer it that, once the league has started, you don't have a player playing for one team once week and playing for another the next."

I can't agree with him more, it's a mess and the FA should act to get it sorted - one way or another.

West Ham take David Di Michele and Hérita N'Kongolo Ilunga on loan

Who actually thought there could "... still be good transfer deadline news"?!

"The club recognise the lateness of this announcement" - and causing the heart to stop in the majority of West Ham fans, they could ad.

I have too little knowledge of these two players to grade these loans, but the grouch in me is afraid that these two boys "subject to registration at the premiere league" have something to prove!

Ilunga was delighted to come and we were delighted to have him.
Actually there was so much delight between the parties during the negotiations that they had to snap out of it to get the deal done on time - barely making it!

I'm really hoping these loans are not just cover (at least not Ilunga) but will ad quality to the starting lineup. However, In view of previous signings of non-PL-broken players (e.g. Faubert, Masherano and even Tevez) I predict that these boys will get very limited first team experience the first half of the season.

At the moment the relief of having at least cover for a refurbished slow right back dressed up as a left back, is greater than the doubt.
Let's just hope registration at the Premiere League won't be a big issue!

Or was it more like this?

Scott Duxbury: Hi George, someone told me your old lady wanted to move back north.

George McCartney (Not looking up from the PS3): Well, yeah but don't worry about that I can take care of it.

SD: Keene called.


SD: He really likes you George!

GM (still not looking up from the PS): OK

SD: You get to keep the pay.

GM: (now showing some interest) And a sign on bonus?

SD: Yeah, but only if I can make it look like you were the one wanting to leave.

GM (now back on the PS3): OK Scotty, you do what you do best and I'll sign it!

SD: OK, cheers mate!

Give us the official story - NOW!

I am not the kind of person that usually care that much about official statements but now one is overdue!

The board cannot be so totally without knowledge about the life of a supporter so they don't know what occupies the minds of one the last week of August.

I mean, Sky goes live the entire day with nothing but transfer deadline news!
The board obviously know what we feel, so if they really took us seriously - being the reason for their right to exist as a board - they should write something, VERY smoothly put, on the official site NOW!
The board took a day off?

The bubbly way of thinking is of course - could there still be good transfer deadline news?

BG - a keeper of club traditions!

For those of you that have not been supporters for very long - wellcome to West Ham United!

Maybe BG does have a feeling for the club traditions after all. I mean, life as a West Ham supporter should be full of broken bubbles.
I am incredibly frustrated and angry at the moment, but then again we did buy Behrami and only lost Ljungberg, Solano, Wright, Zamora, Paintsil, Ferdinand and McCartney!

The push for Europe goes on - unfortunately in another club.

I'm forever blowing bubbles.... and at the moment I'm hating it!


Daaah day?

This last day of the silly season surely needs a name of its own.
In the West Ham World it could be called Labour day, as we all feel the pain of being in labour. It comes in regular intervals and gets more painful as we close in on the end.
However, there is something slightly wrong with that since in the end nothing comes out of it!
No, we should, as I was saying in the last post, call it Christmas Day.
The reason now is that the true happiness lies in the giving rather than in receiving. And at the moment, with George McCartney on his way to Sunderland and nothing yet on its way in, it feelsmore appropriate than ever!

Ho, ho, ho

Unfortunately, this day, for a West Ham supporter, is like the day before christmas.

Unfortunately? That is surely one of the best days of the year - right?

No, not for a West Ham supporter, at least not this year.
See, the problem is that our parents are the type that run out in panic the day before christmas to do their shopping, and we all know what that can end up like.
At this time last year we sat down with the present in our knee, slowly removing the paper, heart pounding, and it almost stopped at the sight of - Henri Camara!

That is what happens when the people in charge lack the ability to plan. Or worse, if they really don't want to get you anything but suddenly realises that it would look bad if they didn't.

Is this how football transfers should be done?
Is this the sign of a hard working board of a premier leage club with funds and ambition?

It could turn out OK, the board could be lucky and find someting still in the store worth buying.
Then again it could turn up like - Henri Camara!