We've got to regroup this Sunday. Again. But we do also have to find a way to get the energy back. The way we tried to play against Boro was new, but not good at all. Can we give some fringe players/youngsters a go against a team like Man C. I think we have to! Can this be it?

Neill - Tomkins/Kovac - Upson - Ilunga
Behrami - Parker - Lopez/Stanislas
- Collison -
Cole - Savio



It seems like we are extremely fragile at the moment. Not in the sense that we get injured, no, the Collins injury is normal for any club during this period of the season.
What I mean is that as soon as the starting lineup that turned out that winning streak is altered the machinery breaks down.

Yesterday Tomkins played in the center of defense. He is a good player and may turn out to be a great player and can certainly not be held responsible for the collapse of our defense. I think that what we saw yesterday, however, emphasizes the importance of Collins, or maybe the vital importance of a rock-solid pair of center backs.
The games Collins and Upson has played together has been a fine-tuning process and we have seen them getting better by the game.
Tomkins in the team creates 2 problems. One is of course that we field a lesser player, but the disruption of the center back harmony and the effect it has on Upson (who seems to be too aware of his young apprentice to be at his best) is a bigger problem.

This is amplified by the style of Ilunga and lack of speed of Neill. Both these “traits” require the other defenders to adapt.
When Ilunga is missing, after his attacking adventures, the central defenders, with the help of the defensive minded midfielders, need to fill his abandoned area. It takes a fine tuned defensive machine to avoid confusion and un-covered areas in the box in those situations.
Ilunga, one of my favorite players, abandoned his defensive duties and left it to be solved partly by a 19 year old, far too often last night!
The problem on the other side is of a more “structural” type. Neill just isn’t quick enough to keep up. Collins and Behrami have bailed him out a number of times, or rather they adapt their game to his lack of speed. Tomkins should not really have to cover for the shortcomings of our captain, but should (at worst) be left to take responsibility for his own game.

The midfield is also affected by the insecurity a new young player in a vital position creates. Kovacs with his defensive qualities was, I believe, fielded to cover for the loss of Collins. It seems however that this change also disrupted the game of the midfielders. On the left we had, I’m not sure, Parker? Or Ilunga maybe? The mid-field had no width what so ever (even though I am reluctant to bring this up as the pundit kept nagging about it until I screamed!) However, it meant that Neill was left without a midfielder in front of him - good luck with that...

The defense need to go back to basics, as it did to halt the last run of bad results! It will also be the best way to break in Tomkins.


Out of the Cup.

I couldn't see clearly as I saw the game on a streamer, but why was Curbishley in charge again??
We had very few ideas how to play and the only thing that kept the players together, gathered were that they all lacked confidence. It reminded me of the game against Tottenham in December, the last game we had where the team also lacked guts and ideas. So hopefully this loss is a new dawn... start this Sunday.
Well I doubt. As I hate to see thing totally in black and white I think we can change things again. But losing to Bolton and Middlesborough, the two most boring (not the worst though) teams in the PL drains my hope. Both games with two fast goals in the back. But all I can say; Middlesborough won because they were much better than us today!
As I saw the game on a streamer, it's unfair to rate the players. And I won't do that. Just a few reflections...
Green - affected by something. Can't fault him for any of the goal's but he is not at his best right now.
Neill - Zola should forbid him to (try to) cross. 
Tomkins - Made a few mistakes, and the second goal was crucial. And unlucky. Came wrong into the situation and had to chose between to bad choises. Played well thereafter.
Upson - Worst game of the season.
Ilunga - Worst game of the season. Some good thing goin forward though.
Behrami - I can't recognise him after his spell at the sidelines. May have more time to rebuild himself cause this was not good. Booked which was stupid as well, as he will be suspended.
Parker - One of our better players and fought really, really hard and also had our best chance of the game. Gave his all, but he needs to find a better understanding with his teammates and tries sometimes so much that he gives the ball away instead of make an easier choice.
Kovac - Rough start. Gave away the ball two times in the beginning where it's crucial not to and also gave away the freekcick that Downing handled so well (so bad....). But grew during his debut and I was quite pleased with him at the end (which lastes til the 70th minute)
Noble - Invisible. Started the game even if we heard that he had a knock against Bolton. Maybe he should have rested.
Sears - Back to the Gym!
Cole - Had a very ungrateful task. Not good, but one of our best players tonight.

Collison - Not good today.. no. Wasted some good opportunities.
Di Michele - Sad to say: Totally useless. And he had promised us two goals! And I certainly don't like his acting to get a spotkick. This is not Italian football! Gave away he ball far to much.
Tristan - Well, let's just say that he is pretty far away from starting a game for us.

So now Zola/Clarke is in deep sh*t again? Well... yes. Another game on Sunday and we do really have to rebuild the confidence again. Quick as hell. We do also have to find a way to rebuild our steem and a way to play football! Get the ideas, and then get them to work! Three days to go!

Our Eleven?

Can't say for sure. But it seems like the team tonight will look like:
Neill - Tomkins - Upson - Ilunga
Behrami - Kovac - Parker - Collison
Cole - Di Michele

We can also read that 4 000 West ham fans will go up north to sing "Forever blowing....". Happy for you! We may even dominate the terraces! Cause the home security can never stop an East ender from singing. Hopefully we'll dominate on the football ground as well.


Ups and downs

One of my major hang-ups is overreaction.
If this is because I'm a West Ham supporter, always preparing for the bubble to burst I don't know. I do think the drop just feels worse if the bubble bursts at a higher altitude, so that may be one reason. Anyway, unrealistic hopes as well as unfounded doom just irritates me.

We were on a streak of 8 games unbeaten when we lost to a superior ManUre side. For some reason, the memory of a lot of people is limited to scores. The games per se seem to be forgotten.
During that un-beaten run we got some great results out of some very decent performances, but for a few of those games we couldn’t have complained too much if the result had gone in another direction. With the same kind of logic we may lose to Boro, ManC, Wigan, WBA, Blackburn and Sunderland while still playing the football we did during that un-beaten run.

What exactly is my point and why do I use energy being a prophet of woe?

But I’m not really!
The point I’m trying to make is that all teams, or at least team results, go through ups and downs during a season, for no apparent reason. I think we are better off looking at the actual team performance than the score line when we judge. This goes for not getting carried away by a good run as well as for refusing to call for the managers head when the oppositions header finds its way to the back of the net rather than the goalpost a few games in a row.

The reason I bring this up now is that there is a lot of talk about a place in Europe. That is probably what the manager should try to focus on, to give the team a positive target, something important to play for, something they most certainly will work extremely hard to try to achieve. However, I hope we don’t think we have proven that we are better than most teams in the PL and to lose away to Bolton is something that really shouldn’t happen. We are still only 10 points clear of the drop zone, and even though I find it hard to believe that we will be overtaken by 9 teams, there is no use in getting too carried away.
On the same note (yes it is on the same note!) let’s not fall into desperation if we lose a few of the upcoming games. It’s all a part of the flow of a season really.

Let’s put more emphasis on the performance than the result when rating the teams or the players.


Hampered by hamstring

James Collins look to miss a month of competitive football after he injured his hamstring at Reebok stadium. I'll miss the Ginger man - The 25 year old Welsh has been one of our best this season -  even if it is few parts of the field that has so much cover in the West Ham troop. The young Basildonborn James Tomkins did it more than well when he substituted Collins after twenty minutes this weekend and I guess he'll get the nod this Wednesday as well. 
But I hope to see Kovac soon too, and he is used to play CB as well. We do also have anoter youngster soon ready to take the step up to a PL-game: Bondz N'Gala is just 19 as well (the same age as Tomkins). 
Just wondered where Danny Gabbidon is? I remember he signed a twoyear extension to his contract in August 2007. We are not that far away from August 2009 now. Can someone in the club please tell us how far he is from ready? Will he ever play football again? Or shall we just remember him as a goast from his marvelous season 2006/07?


Another slipped opportunity

In many ways it was a terrific game at Reebok stadium with a lot of speed, ,determination, excellent British fighting and some nice touches as well. But if your a West Ham fan it's hard to sit and enjoy a game for it's own sake. It's impossible really when you loose. 
I was at Upton Park with my 8 year old son for his first game, when we lost to Bolton 1-3 in October. Sorry for him, but I chered him up, we will never lose to them again, they are an average team and we will not conceed such silly goals against those B***s again. 
It was hard to see us let two in yesterday, another free-kick by Taylor and Green to far from the ball once again. Another "to-easy "by Davies who slipped between Upson and Spector to score. But even then, it didn't look like West Ham was to give away, as they have been doin so much during the years. They fought hard, had the ball, the opportunities and the ideas. But was just able to score once. Frustrating. I wonder what Tristan thought back at the bench. Noble had one golden opportunity and Di Michele two. Sometimes we fell into their trap and the game was just "hard fighting", the way Bolton loves to play. We can hardly beat them with their own play. 
We should have had points, and after this loss I hate to see that we have to look more downwards the table than upwards. Still: It was not a bad game by West ham. It was just that we lost to Bolton. Once more. Bolton of all teams....

Green 6.5 - Maybe at fault for the first a beautiful free-kick, where hw was really far away from the ball - but not the other. Made som good saves during the game without being to much tested.
Spector 6.5 - A stand-in for Neill and he surprised us. Played safe and non-spectacular. Had not played for such a long time but did it well. The second goal? Hard to say, maybe....
Collins 6 - Played just 20 minutes before his hamstring snapped. Was running everywhere before that, as if Upson was able to be CB on his own. Maybe he has stopped smoking? I'll miss him even if his substitute was excellent.
Upson 6.5 - Was up in some "ultimate fighting" against Kevin Davies and Davies was to often on top of him. The Boton man is not easy to deal with though, especially a day when he (but Upson) can't be booked.
Ilunga 7.5 - My man of the first half. Played very solid defensively, and created so much when he flicked great passes, did runs and had clever ideas how to deal with their defence. After his first great 45 may have loosen some - but not much - of the energy. Great game.
Behrami 6 - May have been still affected a bit by his injury as I sometimes wondered where he was. You don't usually question that with Behrami. Grew during the game.
Noble 7 - Was more involved in the game than lately. Mr hardworkingman. May lack some confidence still. Becuase why shouldn't he shoot when he was totally free?
Parker 8.5 - Man of the match. Not mainly because he scored, but more for his contribution during the game. He really wants to have it all, and was the man that were harder than all those Bolton-boys together. Missed some unnecessary passes late on. But: Great game!
Collison 6 - Nope, to slow to often. Looks like he wants to prove himself to much sometimes. It's better to look up! Does he need a rest?
Cole 7.5 - We were all surprised to see him on the field already. But happy. And I liked what he did. Fought hard took control of the ball - which was not always easy against Cahill. Had some chances but they were saved on their line.
Di Michele 6.5 - What to say? Liked his running a lot, rued of course his missed chances. At least the first one, I think he did most thing right when he fooled Jaskelainen, but people seems to think that his second chance was harder to miss. Even if he did these misses, I can see him settle he game against M'borough on Wednesday.

James Tomkins 7.5 - Hallo, wasn't we to miss Collins? Tomkins came in and played very, very well. happy to see that.
Savio 6 - Learn's the game. We can see that he really loves to play though. Gets involved.
Sears - Had a decent shot but nothing more during his few minutes. 

I should have tried Tristan against Bolton though..... And I wonder if Kovac is there just to be a substitute for Parker. Then he won't play much. I do want to see him in our shirt now actually.

Nonused: Lastuvka, Lopez, Kovac, Tristan.

Two more games in a week now, could you see Zola whine like Harry? No, of course you can't.


Too generous?

I know "slow food" is the hottest trend around, but slow footballers?

Zola has just given the backbone of our team new contracts. That's good news. A few month's ago it was just a dream for us to keep players like Parker, Green and Upson. Now they have all signed  long-term contracts here. Or will. Good. But you can also state wih a cynical touch: "Good, if you are about to sell your team". But that doesn't actually matter. That's probably a fact, but we all want the best of our team to stick together. And give the best chances for Zola to cultivate our East end football culture. Which will take a number of years.
So just happy days then? Well, I got to stick to my guns and question a new contract for our Captain. Lucas Neill has been playin quite well recently, but I think it's time to find a more modern RB to take his place rather sooner than later. But according to many sources Zola says he wants to give the Australian a new contract. 
Zola has said that he wants a mix of experienced and young players to mature the younger ones in peace and quiet. So far so good. And I guess noone outside the team really know how much Lucas Neill actually means for the other players off the field. Hm. It must be very, very much. (Can someone tell us how much and in what way?)

But still, we need to have a stronger right side than we do now. 
So can Neill be given a contract for an additional year (as it ends this summer) to let some new talent growing up under his shadow? That would be an idea, but I doubt that's the point here. Neill is a very competitive man - it seems - and to stay here in his early 30's mainly to help a younger, faster and better player to take his place and put him on the bench? Would that be an option for him? I doubt it. Even if his wages are not what the media has said, he must be one of the better paid players who offer the least on the field. 

There is another problem though. We don't have a natural RB replacement at all as I can see. Do they think that the young talent Spence will be ready next year? Na, to early I guess. And Behrami seems to have found his place in midfield where I suggest he sticks.
So if we have problems up front at the moment, I think there is a even bigger problem to our right hand side. Maybe not right now, but very soon. Neill has experience, is doin well in the (doubtful) ACTIM index, and is a man with a good head (and he seems quite nice) but he is far to slow for modern football. I would let him move to support his Australian team, and find at least one, or probably two new RB:s next season. But maybe Clarke and Zola sees it differently? How could they? ; - )

Mr Cool

How should players behave in relation to their fans? 
Well, do you want them to be "expressive" like Cantona (nice kickins, heh?), totally ignorant like Bellamy (and like most...), or just cool like... Ilunga? 
The latest example from our LB is from his own blog, where he has a videoclip made by himself, or at least by someone next to him in his car. There he meets the West Ham fans, and lets them to take photos in a very friendly way. But all Ilunga wants to show us with this is that he has started to learn English, as he one time in the clip, which merely shows the fans, speaks out the word "Welcome!". How cool is not that! See for yourself. 


Noble, Nobler, Noblest

Mark Noble, the home grown talent that broke into the first team at the age of 17, is still finding his legs in the PL. That doesn't mean that I think that our U-21 international is out of his depth here, but I think he has stagnated somewhat in his game.
Noble, I think, needs to be taken care of, nurtured and honed into the PL force he should be able to be.

The changes that has been in and around the team during this his early career, cannot have been the optimal situation for him. Three first team managers and a caretaker, not to mention the managers in the clubs he was loaned to, is not the stability I would like in an "upbringing".

The last 3 seasons have seen him play with NRC, Solano, Behrami, Dyer, Mullins, LBM, Faubert, Parker, Ljungberg, Spector, Benayoun, Etherington, Bowyer and Collison (did I forget someone?) just to list the midfielders. I don't know if that's an exceptional situation for a PL player, but stability it is not.

I was hoping that with the aid of Parker he would take that next step this season, but a new manager, the introduction of 433 (a system he went on record saying he didn't get), the "diamond", the testing of new boys Behrami and Faubert in different positions as well as the introduction of another youngster in the midfield, Collison, is not what builds a developing players feeling of security.
Some just grow in that kind of situation, seeing every new task as an opportunity, I have a feeling Mark may not. At least I think that when, if ever, the team will stabilize we will see a Mark Noble that will grow into a force to be reckoned with.

And there is still plenty of time for that, the boy is merely 21!

Noble free formation

Since I struggle to understand if Noble is serving a ban on Saturday or not, I've been mulling over how to play the midfield without him.
With the current squad he is, if not irreplaceable, so at least playing in a position where I see no natural stable alternative at the moment, and as you will understand from my next post, I hope we will not want one for a foreseeable future.

If Zola wants to keep the midfield diamond, and I don't mind as it has served us fine so far, I see 2 or 3 ways to do it.

1. Savio in as a straight swap.
Zola said in some interview that Savio would be suited to play slightly behind the the two top forwards in a 433 formation, and the top of the diamond spot can't be that far off. Savio has come on for Noble in the last 2 games, maybe indicating Zola's inclination.
However, that "top-diamond dog" is also the player that tries to make the opposition choose the kind of attack we prefer to defend against, putting the right kind of pressure on the right players, and that takes a good feeling for the game and the team. Savio may not be up to that side of the game quite yet.

2. Collison in for Noble and Savio in for Collison at the left.
Savio played most of his games in Brescia on the left in a 442 set up. It may be wise to keep as much as possible as familiar as possible for him. Collison will work well in that position I think, he shows that he is eager to help in the attack. Even as a winger he spends a lot of his time in the center and has played some sweet deep passes and gone for the break through as well. His work rate is brilliant and he may have the eye needed to cut off the right passing alternatives when they get possession. As a more or less trademark of a young player he does give the ball away a bit too much for my taste, but then so does Noble.

3. Zola chickens out and opts for stability considering the inexperienced team he has to choose from. So he plays Parker and Kovacs in the center of a non-diamond 4 man midfield. If the Swiss "pin-ball" Behrami (always working, always changing directions) is out this will be more likely.
As much as I want to see Kovacs, the two other versions feel more exciting. Kovacs may also have to be used as Neills understudy, making this a non starter.

Credit were the credit is due: what I now consider my own ideas were forged in discussions on the Swedish West Ham Fans forum. Dicks, if you are reading, you should have written this! :)


Chalkbord mania!

The Guardians CHALKBOARD is a wonderful, incredible, impressive and deceptive medicine against workplace productivity.
You just gotta try it (he said in his best street corner voice). The nice thing about it is that there is something for everybody.

Let's say you think Cole is good at the moment, or before the injury rather, but think he was useless in October. Just pick out a few recent games, and a few from back then and compare his stats!
Is his pass completion better? Is his shooting better or more accurate? Does the difference lie in his second halves? It's all there for you to find!
If you think Parker had a difficult time finding a forward pass, in the last PL game? Just analyse the arrows!

What it doesn't tell you, however, is what context the stats are taken from, what kind of a game it was, and every footballer is obviously dependent on what goes on around him.

Let's take a quick example.
Against ManU our passing stats were 428 attempts and out of those 63 were unsuccessful. In the same game the ManU stats were 484 and 54 . So they produced 60 odd correct passes more than we did. Significant?
If it is, it doesn't really say were the problem lies does it? Are the passers worse at passing or does the problem lie with the ones to receive them? Or rather, is it the opponents, not giving you any time to set up good passes? Maybe those extra passes are just useless side way passes?
For this, I'm afraid you still have to watch the game.

But does Collison produce more, but less accurate passes than Behrami and are they more attacking passes? Let's see...

Boro again - not what we needed.

I’m sure that Zola didn’t expect the mediocre display of last Saturday.
He fielded our best injury free players and the “take home message” (as lecturers used to be fond of saying), was that without Bellamy, there is no room for complications if we are to grind out a decent league position, or cup success either for that matter. That’s why we need to start fielding the subs a bit more.

To be able to field more or less the same team week in week out is a vital important part of most teams success, at least for the clubs outside the top 4. It can be the difference between top half security and relegation battle.
At this time of the season it can be easier said than done. Most players been problems of some sort (I’m talking physical problems here, leaving their mental status uncommented for now ;-) ) and it doesn’t take much to be side lined. At the moment 80 (!) PL players are out injured according to Physioroom. We are lucky to have only 3 on that list, but then they don’t have Tomkins, Behrami, LBM or Cole on there.
The Club argues that the medical staff has a big influence on the fitness of our team and I’m sure it has, but for a few players to pick up a knock that keeps them out isn’t exactly unheard of. So an extra mid week game came as an unwanted increase in the player workload.

In addition, Neill and Noble are to serve their one game bans for 5 yellowcards. One may think that Neill is not one of the best players in our starting lineup, but I can’t see anybody in our squad doing a better job at right back. Also, to keep that back 4 intact has a great value by itself.
Despite this, the bans may be as well actually, since I think Zola/Clarke needs to give some of the regulars a rest despite us being a few starters down already, just to make sure they are there for the majority of the remaining games. Against Boro we had Tristan, Lastuvka, Lopez, Kovac, Savio, Spector and Sears on the bench. Can’t say I’ve seen that much of the first 4 of them and I'd rather keep it that way. However, that’s why I think we should let some of them get off the bench and get significant playing time.
I'd rather see them doing one or two planned outings than to have them as starters for the reminder of the season.

Will Tristan have a go?

Cole had not broken his ankle and the club hope he will be ready in two weeks. So do not count Cole in against Bolton, Middlesbrough and Man C.
Three games without him. Probably. Who to play?

Let's start with Savio and Tristan - one fast, one strong as Zola now wants to play - against Bolton and see if they can work it out. We do really need some goals in these three games....


Our hero is not ours - yet!


We can't be happy for the performance today.
With the exception of Hierta Ilunga and his goal that saved our asses.
His second goal in this years FA-cup. Great!

But there is still one problem:

Herita Ilunga has not signed yet!

He tells me so himself this weekend – even if he also want to make it clear: that he can't wait to sign for "this fantastic club".

But according to Duxbury (at whufc.com the second of Feb) West Ham has "excercised the option to keep Herita Ilunga at the club long-term".

So there is one who is not telling us the truth here!!

And we know that Herita Ilunga is a decent man – who is not only one of our best players week in and week out. There would be of no use for him to tell me something that was not correct in this matter.

So MR CEO Scott Duxbury, I'm asking you!
• Why are you in this case telling us a lie? If not, can you explain what you mean?
• And why on earth haven't you finished this important affair? Why haven't you given Ilunga what he so much deserves?
....It's these kind of things that give me creeps and that I had - a bit naive maybe - thought was over in our reign.
• Can this still give other teams an opportunity to solve their left-back crises? (hopefully this article won't help them).
• And if you Mr Duxbury is not totally truthful in this case, can we rely on You in other matters?
• Can you please explain what's goin on?

And once again: Thank you Mr Ilunga for your great contributions! I hope to see them in Claret & blue this season, next season and many years from now!
See previous entry on the subject HERE

Herita to the rescue!

I like our left side fullback. No less after today.
Today Herita came to the rescue of not only our FA cup hopes, but of DiMichele and Tristan.

This was about to be a game remembered for the lost chances and the gutless display of most of our players, especially our strikers, but now hopefully we can forget this quickly.

I thought this would be a game that would fit DiMichele - I was wrong in more than one way.
DiMichele had a horrible game, not just because of his wasted chances, but also because of the many turnovers he created. It was a kind of game I didn't anticipate. I was certain that we would dominate the midfield, letting DiMichele work in the last third of the pitch as he did so successfully in the Hull game. But our midfield didn't manage to control the game today.

An alternative heading to this post would be "Behrami - more important than I thought". The work rate of our Valon was missed today, may he be fit soon. Behrami is very good in keeping the pressure on the opposition when they are in possession giving them less time to pick out the best passes. Today, without his pestering the opposition, we let the Boro midfield look decent.

Also, before this game we have more or less fielded the same team for 10 games, making it possible for the players to learn to find each other and anticipating what the others are about to do. Today we had 2 very important changes from the start. Poor Ilunga was left with LBM in front of him (and LBM wasn't very useful defending or attacking, unfortunately). But also, Collison was moved to the less familiar right side. This probably made him feel just a bit less comfortable disturbing the chemistry of the midfield, but also changed the way the defenders could build the attack.

If one watched just the second half, one could have be led to believe that it was Cole that was terribly missed and that his limping off was the reason for a bleak performance, but I must say that for some reason he didn't look too bright either and he was also was guilty of loosing possession too easily. Having said that, I deeply hope that this was more a precaution than something that will keep him sidelined for long - we do depend on him being fit and working.

In the last 20 minutes of the game Boro were guilty of the same sin as we were 10 games ago - loosing the nerve when trying to hang on to a lead. Given their current league position and recent results it's not very strange that they have no confidence.
Fortunately this was all we needed. Parker finally found some good passes and Savio, coming in for Noble, showed some promise and that he has no problem with his self confidence. This is the best we've seen so far from this 19 year old and it was promising.

Tristan had 60 minutes to show his skills, and I think maybe, just maybe, there is something left in him after all, at least I was pleasantly surprised over some of his moves.
Considering the dozens of games that it took Cole to find his feet, it's only fair to give Diego the benefit of the doubt.

To have the left fullback score from right by the right hand goal post shows that we were really pushing for that goal, I am very very happy for him - and us!
I think we will go to Riverside and secure a place among the last 8!
Not a word on the other defenders... oh well Prince H needs something to do.


Scott Matthew Parker!

Yet another of our most important players sign a long term deal!

More on the impact and implications of his signing later.
The puzzle is starting to look good!

Project Managers for the future!

The last weeks there have been several persons in and around the team giving testament on the impact of Zola and Clark. Most every player but Davenport has spoken to the press about the trust they are given, how Zola and Clarke work on an individual basis with the development of the players while trying to get the individual fit into a game plan. Just what you would like to hear from inside your team.
The last example is Collison enjoying the impact of the new manager
A typical statement is the one by Noble in an interview in (or reiterated by) “Goal” - "I'm on my fifth manager now. I've seen Alan Pardew and Alan Curbishley and I also travelled a few times with Trevor Brooking and Glenn Roeder, but the way these two [Zola and Clarke] bounce off each other is brilliant. They complete each other and know exactly how they want us to play. The gaffer came in and he put so much belief into everyone that we go out and play freely. You listen to him when he talks to you and he builds that confidence inside you to go out, try your best for him and play with a smile on your face.”

What is the problem here, this is what we all want to hear, right?

The paranoical grouch in me also says that a cult of personality like the one starting to build around Zola is not always a good thing, for a few reasons.

Firstly the focus and hopes that are now on Zola and Clark is most likely a part of the pendulum movement that is a fundamental part of the media nature. What is inevitable is that the media pendulum, at the moment hailing the duo, will swing in the other direction, probably as soon as we go through a spell of less than good results. That will also be an opportunity for the players, not getting their chance under the current regime, to have their say on the problems with Zola/Clarke, at the moment nobody dares to do that. That will be a test of Zola’s leadership (admittedly he handled Davenport well), as well as that of the board. The board must give Zola all backing possible during the hard times that will come to make sure that he keeps wanting to work with his West Ham Project.
Secondly if really Zola/Clark succeeds in keeping the players thinking that the duo is the best thing that happened to their career, it will be very hard to keep the ones invited from following their mentors when they move on and I just can’t take another talent drain like the one we experienced at the turn of the century (allways wanted to write that).

What... moves on!?

Well, I do think he means it when he says he likes to build things. To the Times Zola said "A manager cannot do a job that easily in football," "You need to plan and work, you need to be allowed time to change players and shape of team. It took me a long time and maybe I would have been sacked at a different club after two months, so you definitely need time."
At the moment he is building our team and I am in no doubt that he enjoys this (a testament of this is found HERE). The duo will, I believe, be true to this project as long as it seems to be moving in the right direction and with the right pace, and also obviously if they get the right backing from the board.
Zola does, however, think of his West Ham job as a project, and that is showing through in most interviews. In the Telegraph article (linked above), for example, he says “My duty now is to improve this team so it gets better. So far I haven't given this club enough; this is just the beginning" to me that’s the words of a Project Manager.
Also, despite Zolas recently trying to deny it, he most certainly has a long term plan also for himself. Maybe not carved in stone or even written down in a .doc document, but somewhere deep inside I think he nourishes the dream of returning to Chelsea. It's only reasonable with his background and you can't really blame him can you? This obviously also goes for Clarke who must feel that Stamford bridge is more or less his second home after being in the west side club for I don’t know how many years.
If Zola and Clarke have the impact on our team and the success we all are longing for there will come a time when an offer from Chelski will be very hard to resist.

So to sum it up: Zola and Clarke, if successful, will leave for Chelsea one day and we need to postpone this for as long as we can and make sure they don’t take our best boys with them.
Now that’s another tough one for the board.


Never straight!

The story that Deano was under the knife again was presented in the usual "all is well, go back to sleep" fashion.

The first thing we hear of this is that he is happy!
That's a bit odd to us fans since we were under the impression that he was progressing in his rehab.

But then, the official information about these things have been restricted to 3 lines in the match previews saying "Only Dean Ashton (ankle), Danny Gabbidon (stomach)....are not in full training". This however is repeated on a weekly basis.

I wonder when we will find out more about Collins injury, and what on earth is going on with Gabbidon.

"All is well, go back to sleep" seldom works with an adult audience.

This is something the Club could handle much better!

Three musketeers

Well, it may not have been like 1966, but it felt really, really good to have three West Ham players in the England shirts on the field at once. England lost to Spain 2-0 in a pretty competitive game. Upson and Green both came on in the second half, and Upson was impressive while Robert Green did not have much to do behind him. He could not do anything to save Spain's second goal. 
15 minutes left, Carlton Cole was ready to make his England debut and even if it was too short to make any outstandig impression he did well. On a pass from East end boy Beckham - in his 108'th cap - Cole ran with the ball and went to the left fooling Reina, but saw his shot towards goal cleared off the line by Pique. Cole did everything right in that move, just sorry not to score on his debut.
At least our three players did what they could do and Capello must have seen that Upson was better than Jagielka, Green more impressive than James and Cole more interesting to see than both Heskey and certainly the pale Crouch.

While Rio Ferdinand was out with a flu, there was time for former Hammers' like Glen Johnson (impressive, even if the second goal was on him), Lampard, James and Carrick.
Last time three West Ham players played at once in an England shirt was in 2002 (James, Cole, Sinclair), but I think last night showed that we have some kind of edge now.

Even if we left James and Rio on the bench in the second half we had seven players with connection to West Ham on the field. And Becks - which was at least raised in East end.


Terry Dixon - West Ham boy!

Terry Dixon, once a prodigy at White Hart Lane has signed a “long term contract” according to the OFFICIAL SITE.
Dixon, now 19, was called up for the Irish senior side at 16 (while still trying to establish himself at the T-ham academy!) and Republic of Ireland's Under-17 Player of the Year 2006, has been plagued with knee problems since the age of 14. A third dislocated knee (don’t worry, as most of us he only has 2) finally made T-ham release him about a year ago.
The official site makes a big deal of the fact that the medical team has resurrected a career that seemed over before it really took off. Let’s hope for Terry’s and our sake that the medical squad have found a way to keep him healthy.
I have never seen the kid play but he has been compared to his Rooney with a strong and technical game.
When people talk about him it’s always along the lines of “injury stopped a player destined to be not just a successful professional footballer but, potentially, a great one”.
Sean McCaffrey, Ireland’s under-age manager is said to describe him as the most talented player he has ever worked with at that age.

Let’s hope he gets an honest shot at proving himself at the PL level and that this is not another chapter of a sad football story!

EDIT: Read this post by a spuds fan HERE, truly encouraging!


They want Zola.

According to Daily Mail Zola & Clarke is the favourites to be the new leaders at Chelsea. If the Chelski players could choose. 

I'm grateful they can't. But it also reveals that our manager and his "sidekick" Clarke have made a great impact already. After just 24 games with us. Even if they are former Chelsea players, Drogba and the others could have chosen anyone from the whole world. But they did not! 


Zola to stay!

Sorry about the headline, but I'm as sure of this as if it was a joint official statement from both clubs.

1. It makes no sense for Zola
The job at Chelski is different from the one at West Ham. Their squad is filled with high earners that think they are on the top of the footballing world and at the peak of their career. To manage that kind of a "brat pack" is a different story also compared to Zolas previous experience with U-21 players. I think Zola really enjoys the prospect of building something here and working with the promising players in our team. Also, if he proves himself a great manager over a period of time the chance will come again.

2. It makes no sense for Chelski
They need to turn their ship around quick. There is no time for a new manager to grow into that job, they need someone that can come in and do that right away. Someone that the squad will accept as their leader. To bring in an unproven manager at this point is just too risky. Too much is at stake. To miss a champions league spot is the Abramovitch equivalent to go down.

If this happens again in a year or so I'll be worried, but at the moment I'm certain Zola will stay.

The chart is from the betting odds comparison (Zola – black, Grant – green, Hiddink – red, Rijkaard – blue). If you want to keep an eye on the development click HERE. But it seems like the betters/bookies are catching on.

The boat of Chelski rocks - stay calm!

So the window has just been closed for a week, and we thought we finally could stop to sweat when new speculations rise. This time it's not the players we have to worry about, it's our soul... sorry, Zola. And Clarke.
This monday Scolari was sacked, after just seven months in charge at Chelski. And as a parenthesis Adams was sacked as well at Pompey. 
Very few managers in the game looks happy nowadays. With one exception: Franco Zola!
So everyone can put two and two together. Zola was a hero at Chelsea, and now he seems to be a young, new... but anyway, top manager. Chelsea needs a new manager and West Ham is a selling club. Aren't we?
No, not anymore I would say. Zola will stay put, I don't doubt that. He has said so himself, and he seems seriously to be a man of his words. He has just started here, have unfinished business, and it would be obvious problems to restart with the Chelski not-so-humble-boys. It would be strange to hear Zola and Nani to assure there will be no big sell-out in the January window, just to see Zola leave the week after. And strange to see Clarke buy himself out of the Chelski contract, and then go back. Well, we've seen those things before, but that sorts of thing often include Harry R. Not our man. So stay calm! 
But it would not hurt if there would be an official statement from Dux - rather sooner than later, please.

At the moment there are more intense rumours on the net about a new buyer to be unvield soon. It may be nothing, it may still be our future! And Zola's!


Mighty Hammers now without luck

It is not often I wanna sing Rod Stewart songs a Sunday evening.
And even if we have had a tremendous campaign after the stupid Villa game, I all of a sudden begun to sing "Some people have all the luck". And I'm not thinking of the boys from East end this time. Individually we may have met a team better than us, but I would say that we matched Manchester United most of the time (as all the statistics also - but corners - tell us). And for us playing an even game against "The world champions" has to be stamped with more than an OK.
But it took just one second, a sea of space at Neill's right side and a very lucky goal (under too many feet to be satisfied) from the oldest teenager in the game: Ryan Giggs, to close a very tight game and let ManU go for another win.

I think we can be proud of the way we played. But losing is very dire, when you think you don not deserve to, against a team like ManU. A draw had been more in response to the game. Hopefully we can remember this game during the rest of the season. And even if ManC may catch us with ther game in hand, we are still fighting for a place better than last year.

Green 6 - Was as unemployed today as he was last weekend. Did one terrific save on Ronaldo's deflection, but I guess he actually did not have to.
Neill 6.5 - A weak link again, but it must have been a year or two since I saw him this much in our offence. With the help of Behrami he was better than expected, having the most silly player in the PL - Ronaldo on his share. Were lost when Giggs scored.
Collins 7.5 - Another good game, blocked well and took care of some important headers. Tried to make a mark in the offence as well, but... not today.
Upson 8 - Solid as a rock. But as I always state, want him to affect the team even more. Maybe just because we know how much we can expect from him. Marvelous block on Ronaldo's shot.
Ilunga 7.5 - Once again, one of our main weapons goin forward. Should hav had the ball even more when he so often is in a position on the left flank ready to deliver a cross. Solid at the back.
Behrami 7 - Some may call this a low mark for his maximum effort, but even if he is very important for our defence and sacrifices himself totally, I can get irritated when he has the ball to get forward and just stops to play. We know how much our favourite man can run sideways and backwards, why can't he do it forward?
Parker 7.5 - Instrumental in all his tackles. Our hub in the team. Were the best man in midfield, even compared with Carrick and Scoles. Missed some stupid passes though.
Noble 6.5 - Fought as the true hammer he is. But I'm still waiting for a game where he actually raises over the rest and affects the team's display with something extra. At least his corners could be topnotch? Is that naive? (well, all of our setpieces have to be something special a night like this).
Collison 7 - I love the way he plays, with absolutely no respect for the more famous name's of the opposition. Should have dared to shoot when free though. Leaves his flank a little bit to much, we lack width when Ilunga is our only player to go close to the white line.
Di Michele 5 - Can do some tricks but loses the ball far to easy. Should have been able to support Cole much more.
Cole 8 - My man of the match. Allright, one time in the box he turned the wrong direction, but otherwise very impressed with the way he gave everything, held the ball on his own against the world class opposition. For instance, the way he nearly closed down Ferdinand, the chip was maybe not world class, but still.. how he did it. So immense, strong... and (believe it or not) skilful!

Savio - Wanted too much, so tried too much, but we could see that he is a real footballer who just needs some time to grow into this league. Still; Having been here for just 14 days and already shown that he has no excessive respect towards teams like Arsenal or ManU is really good.
Tristan - Had just a blink.

Nonused subs: Lastuvka, Spector, Kovac, LBM, Sears.

With this team we should be able to win next Saturday, shouldn't we?
I'm proud to be a Hammer today, despite the loss. Last year we won, but we played better today!

DiMichele - untouchable?

It was a game that we could have won, but I can't complain too much, ManU was the slightly better team.
We were much better than against Arsenal. I'm not quite sure why, but I think Collison and Noble both were a bit better today. Cole was amazing in keeping the ball up. and even Neill wanted to take part in the offensive side of the game.
Finally it was an unfortunate string of individual errors that gave them the goal.

I'll get back to that in a later post, the fact that we were up there with the leaders of the table is quite a feat so it warrants a post of it's own. Now I just have to do just a little tiny bit of complaining.

All of you know that I am amazed by what Clarke/Zola has done, but I just have to get this off my chest - WHY DID DIMICHELE PLAY THE ENTIRE GAME?

DiMichele didn't have a good game and that is OK, everybody have bad games.
As I have said before, I don't think his game works against top 4 teams, and if we are to play someone that may come up a bit short against thiese teams we might as well play one with a future - Sears.
But that I can live with.

What really disturbs me is that when Zola tries to add to our attack, he takes out the very players that feed and support our strikers, without them there were 3 or 4 strikers, depending on what you call Savio, without the skills to build an attack!

DiMichele was never a threat today so why not take him off and give someone else a shot at it.
This is the second time - please Zola don't do it again!

Why should we be afraid?

A blog-friend, Hakan, but enemy today (as he is ManU) discovered something truly interesting:

In Capellos squad there are 3 West Ham players. But only 2 from ManU. 

The funny part is though that both of'em - Carrick & Ferdinand - are from West Ham as well.

We can't lose can we. Not today. Not on Wednesday!

The quote that gives me happy tears

"It's not my nature to walk out om something that has only just begun".

The words are Zolas, and he gave them when he was asked if he was to replace Scolari at the helm of Chelsea. The Brazilian coach seems doomed, but the old hero of Chelsea is now West Ham's.

It tells us that Zola and Nani - and hopefully Clarke – just have begun their journey, to make the team something special. It's a long-term trip and not just a stepping stone. We are all aware that Chelsea probably means something special for our Italian, but now we know that our biggest asset will stay here - unless the board goes folly - even if Chelsea and Abramovich jangle with their money. Because Zola is an intelligent man and a man to trust.

Quoting Mirror: "My main concern is to do well here and repay the faith West Ham and their
supporters have shown in me". 
We all knew that Franco is a special and trustworthy man, but it's always good to hear it from the horse's mouth. And he reminds us, which i think is very important, that what they are doin here is a long-term project. Springtime for West Ham... I hope.


Congratulations CC!

Congratulations Carlton Cole!

So at last, I'm not the only one any longer! The only one that likes Carlton Cole I mean.  

Fabio Capello have given him a place in the England squad to face Spain on Wednesday.
This will give his confidence a(nother) boost. Maybe he can use it against Vidic/Ferdinand/Saar!

"Cole gets better and better in every game. His movement and strength impress me. When he is in front of goal he has to be calmer. Sometimes he is too fast and he wants to shoot to quickly. But he is young - he is interesting" Capello said about Cole according to goal.com.

Matthew Upson and Robert Green were also called, while there was no room for Scott Parker. Perhaps a bit strange after what he has done lately. And as there are no Gerrard or Lampard in the team. On the other hand, I'm a bit happy for his exclusion as well, his style can need a rest in midweeks... And there are no time for injuries....


3 English internationals in our team to face ManU!

The most talked about call-up is undoubtedly Carlton Coles. Zola has, as the good manager he is, talked about Cole being ready for the international scene while still improving. The other strikers in the England squad - Agbonlahor, Crouch and Heskey - have all "lost the bounce in their bungee" to quote my favourite philosopher Walace. Cole does in no way look out of place in that group. Actually, if Capello plays more than one striker I cannot see how he can start without him.

Green is another one about to grab and keep hold of an England starter spot. James is not in his best form and Hart does not have the support of his own manager and a goalkeeper that does not play regularly is very seldom a good pick in internationals.

Upson is the most certain starter. He seems to have the trust of Capello and that goal he scored against Germany must have been a great boost for him. If you want to see him glow with delight and confidence just take a look at the post Germany game interview HERE. I can't say how delighted I am over his comments of late that he enjoys his time and that money will never motivate him. And even though that last statement must be a bit of an exaggeration, he seems fairly honest when saying it.

To play Spain will be a great experience for all of them but since Cole seems to be a player that needs his confidence boosted a goal against Spain could take him to the next step up the ladder.

Controlling the beast

Feelings for a football team is a strange beast. In some instances it's quite an asset, most politicians say they are fans of this or that team, just to make themselves look like one of us. Just look at the Brown/Rio article HERE, quite a publicity stunt.
It can also be a decent "icebreaker" at parties where you know no one.
At my last job (unfortunately not my present) being a West Ham supporter did me a lot of good. The "right" persons were also football supporters and to have your boss look you up for a chat on Monday morning is mostly a good thing.

Then there is the Hyde side of it.
I try not to watch televised games with friends supporting the other team. It brings out some less than impressive sides of me. Suddenly the friend has turned into the devils representative and I seem to treat him accordingly. In the stand "who are ya, who are ya" feels like an appropriate oral thrashing, but at a friends house it feels a bit awkward.
Not to mention the times we lose. Watching the away games against ManC the last 2 seasons with a friend has been a big test of our friendship!

But I am a grown man! I should be able to control this, right?
Believe me, I try.
I remember one time. I was sitting next to a friends 12 year old daughter at her first game. I had decided to behave, not to make it an unpleasant experience for her (or was I just afraid to make a fool of myself?). Ronaldo (very unfortunately her favourite player) is playing and no matter what he does I will NOT behave badly.
Let's put it this way: I failed.
Ronaldo has a bad game and is frustrated, he goes down 10 yards in front of us, totally untouched, making his best impression of "killed in combat".

Suddenly I find myself, on my feet, pointing at him and screaming "GET UP YOU ****ING **** AND ACT LIKE A MAN!
...Knee jerk reflex...

A good intention is a good thing, unfortunately it does not always suffice.
If I met Ronaldo, would I yell at him? No of course not. I'd be as polite as ever possible, probably wouldn't even bring his diving up at all (at least not the first minutes).
Does that make me a hypocrite? Yes, in some ways and certainly in the eyes of some people it does, but I think there are some facets of your personality that should be saved for matches.

Tomorrow I will watch the game at Hakans house and for you to appreciate what I will be going through I give you the link to his blog HERE.


What’s wrong with Herita’s deal?

One of the most important events of the transfer window passed suspiciously under commented. We apparently made a permanent deal with Herita Ilunga and Toulouse that will go into effect when the current loan deal is over. There are even figures flying around even if they differ a bit. But the only word about this on the official site is a sentence buried in a post called “Squad ready for a challenge” where Scott Duxbury says ”Having also exercised the option to keep Herita Ilunga at the club long-term, we are very happy with the business we have done”.
On Herita’s own blog there is not a word on the subject, bar the comments from West Ham fans congratulating him on the permanent deal, but not a word from the man himself.
Toulouse’s official site is also totally quiet about the deal, and even though my French is somewhat limited, Herita’s name should be the same and it’s nowhere to be found in posts from the last part of January and up till now.

I can’t find a good reason for this silence. This is a situation where Duxbury usually excels, he should have grabbed this opportunity to present himself as the “fixer of things” by at least a handshake pic on the homepage but a measly half a sentence is all he produced!

Is this some administrative nonsense or is the deal just almost finished or what gives?
A comment from the club is due!


Let's score one for Chris!

ManU is a team I enjoy watching. Actually my all time best sports experience has ManU in a backup role. It's the 2-2 home game in August 2000. I feel sorry for all West Ham supporters that missed that one!

It takes a team effort beyond the call of duty to get something out of Sundays game. A week ago we were helped by a toothless Arse attack but we will not get away with giving the ball away in the center of the pitch against this team.

I feel strengthened by the words of our defensive mastermind Clarke after last weeks game "I am a little bit disappointed if I can be honest that we didn't create enough going forward". That's exactly the attitude I want in a leadership and in the players as well. We go out on that pitch to play our game, not only to parry the opposition. Clarke says it all much better HERE. The way we fielded Savio at the expense of Noble in the 70's something minute with 0-0 on the scoreboard at Emirates says a lot about the "mindset" of the manager(s). This mindset will serve us well and it will guarantee a good game on Sunday.

Parker along with Upson and Collins will be key players in this game. If Parker ends up to close to the defence, letting Carrick and his mates (?) run the show centrally we are doomed. Against Arsenal Parker showed that he can resist the urge to rush down to defend and as a consequence our entire team looked a lot better.
Behrami also has a key role. Not only does he have to pester the red play makers with his tireless running, he must also be there for Neill. I fear this will be a game where Neill will struggle.
Collison must be at his best, and especially avoid the howlers he produces once in a while. He is young, and most young players are guilty of those things (Joe Cole was a defensive catastrophe some times while in our midfield) but Sunday we will meet a team that knows how to capitalize on it.
Obviously Green will be extremely important. My guess is that he has to perform some match winning stuff.
Last but not least, Cole with his newborn confidence will have to be efficient. We will not get many chances but we will get them, so please just put them away.
Unfortunately this will be another game that will not suit DiMichele. He doesn't have the speed or the stunning technique to produce chances on his own. Come to think of it Sears may be a better pick in this game, but that will not happen.

Hey I almost forgot my bet for MOTM - Ilunga given he runs and not jogs home (how many times have I said this?). He will be the initiator of some of our best attacks.

The papers are full of discussions if ManU goal keeper Van der Saar is close to breaking Chris Woods clean sheet record or not. Most of the time I couldn't care less but suddenly I feel that it's of vital importance that Woods keeps his record.

1-0, Collins 74' (stunning header).

10 reasons to stop buying a paper

It seems as it is the fad of the day in the media world to hail West Ham in general and Zola in particular. I guess that after spending a few months on telling everybody we were a doomed team on it's way to the Championship it feels like a fresh turn and a story with an alternative "hook".
I agree that complaining even over positive signs takes almost a PhD in grumpiness but I can’t help myself.

The latest lazy example is the piece in the Evening Standard that gives the not so educated reader an impression of an easily digested opportunity to fill in some gaps.
According to this investigative reporter there are 10 reasons to be happy that you are a West Ham supporter. Those are, according to the article, Carlton Cole, Zola, Clarke, Collins and Upson, Bellamy, youngsters, summer signings, Green Parker, and current form (as if it was not due to the points above…).
The article reiterates what has been said on most if not all West Ham related sites for quite some time but unfortunately in a less than initiated way, for instance saying that DiMichele fitted in seamlessly and “is acting as the team's creative fulcrum” – give me a break.

"... with the little Italian at the helm they've certainly shed their dislikable image" - I hate that celebrity column like condescending "little Italian" and what dislikable image? He ends up the part on Zola with an exhaustive 3 words on what he has brought to our side.

The part on Clark focuses on the problems at Chelski after he left...

Another part that annoyed me somewhat is that on the youngsters. Half of it talks about the golden “generation” of Rio, Joe Cole, Lampard, Carrick, and Defoe. When finally getting to the new boys Collison, Tomkins and Sears he sums up the pice with “…as long as they can hold on to them the future looks bright”, that’s give me a break number two.

Then he suggests that the work of Scott Parker often goes without praise...

I don't care if they suddenly like us, the article is rubbish


Transfer window verdict - 7.5!

It's time to sum up the transfer window action so let's start with who left and who joined.

Permanent Outs: Etherington, Mullins, Bellamy
Loan Outs: Bowyer, Davenport, Faubert, Quashie, (Spence, Widdowson, Reid)
Permanent Ins: Savio, Ilunga
Loan Ins: Kovac, (Kurucz)

If you consider established players it’s a net move of minus one if you count the finalized deals, but a net loss of 5 players in the squad if you include the loanees.

Zola has said that he prefer a smaller squad with players that are actually in contention for a first team spot. In addition to that he likes a reserve team, mainly built with youngsters trying to take that last step. So this net loss of players may be in line with his and the Clubs aims.

One way of doing an evaluation of the transfer window activities is to compare them to what Duxbury told us was the intentions.
Duxbury put some serious effort into making us see the posibilities rather than the problems with the transfer window. In the famous Q and A post on the official site he lays down the lines for the january transfer window - “we are committed to improving the squad and it may be that Gianfranco will use any funds generated to do just that. Our fans should be concerned only with who we bring in rather than worried about who leves the club” and in a comment to Bellamy leaving the Club for ManC and Zola’s conclusion that it was for the best to let Bellars go he says ”…I agreed with this so that we could focus our energies on bringing in exciting players who want to play for the club and who will improve the squad”.
Let’s see if that is what the Club did.

With the exception of Bellamy, no player that has been considered essential to the team has left. If you think of the doomsday scenario that most papers presented in November and most of December, that is not bad, especially when it turned out that we got £14 million for him. Dux seem to have done a good deal there and as I said in a previous post HERE Bellamy was also kind enough to take any burden off Duxbury by trying to force a move to T-Ham. Talk about subtle intuition how to get every fan as your enemy. In comparison, even Duxbury seemed like a trustworthy bloke.
But how about improving and using funds?
The £14 million was used to buy Savio (undisclosed but said to be no more than £7.5 million up front, additional costs later) and to sign Ilunga on a permanent deal said to be worth around £1.4 million. So no more than £9 million of the Bellamy money was probably used in this transfer window. A pretty big publicity stunt was made of the fact that against common understanding (what was said in the tabloids), Zola was given any funds at all.
I do NOT mean that a spending of a lot of cash is always a good thing, all I’m trying to do is to compare the actual moves to Duxbury statements.

Anyway, we can conclude that the Bellars money was not re-invested in the squad (at this time).

But what happened to the quality of the squad then?
I have repeatedly said that the squad would be no worse after the transfer window, let’s see if I was right. First let’s consider the Bellamy out Savio in story.

A player that was a constant nuisance to our opponents for the last 10 games is suddenly gone, a newborn mature striker with a personality problem was replaced by a 19 year prodigy (can you see were this is going?).
Evaluated seperately both of these moves have a lot of things going for them. Bellamy has been injured a lot, has not really found a way to play with Cole until recently (or possibly the other way around), he has a personality that is hard to love, is in the late stage of his career, and was one of the high earners. Savio is about to make his mark in the game, has a potential that a lot of people describe as huge, and has proven that he is a decent player in senior settings. Definitely one for the not too far future.
However, I’d be extremely surprised if DiMichele or Savio can even closely resemble the impact that Bellamy has on the pitch.
Let’s face it, if you take a look at the team that will face ManUre on Sunday, it will not be as good as if Bellamy was still in the side. So in a way I was wrong, the squad is a bit worse now.

But then, was this a bad move by Zola/Nani/Duxbury? No I don’t think so. Our squad is good enough to avoid the drop with some margin, and our chance to get a European spot with this team was always slim so I think that they did the right thing.

That was all about Bellamy/Savio, how about the other moves then?
Loosing fringe players like Ethers, Mullins, Bowyer, Davenport, Faubert, and Quashie is a good idea if they take away resources from the rest of the team. To focus available funds to a smaller squad obviously makes sense, if the squad is still big enough to handle the PL reality (that’s one fat truism right there, but I hope you get my drift).
Now, 5 of those are midfield players and that leaves us with precious little cover if we get some injuries in that area so let’s take a closer look at that. Ethers and Faubert, 2 examples of outside midfielders that builds their game by rushing down their channels are gone, but Zola does not seem to fancy that kind of a game, so I doubt that he was ever interested in direct cover for that kind of footballer. LBM have come in for Collison late in games lately, so we do have some kind of cover there I guess. Beharami, however, is not easily replaced with anybody in the current squad. In an ideal world Dyer would be fit to fight for a place in that position (would Dyer even figure in an ideal world I wonder…) but that we can hardly rely on so we would need to field Kover-Kovacs, reshuffle the midfield and make do of what we’ve got. I think injuries on Noble and (God forbid) Parker would be handled in much the same way. No other midfielders in our books are ready to take on PL opposition.
Davenports departure does not worry me with Kovacs, Neill and Tomkins able to substitute in his position.
Taken together, it seems a bit risky, but given our current league position and ambition it may be a calculated risk that I can support.

This may be what Zola wants and a way to build a strong future. It does however include some moves that seem more financially driven than anything else. My overall impression is that Duxbury, Zola and Nani have done a decent job considering the situation, but I will still keep that “watchful eye” on Dux, he is in many ways a polititian.

So rated as Prince H does the players I give the transfer window a 7.5.


He is ours!

So after the door closed and Sunderland now have three of our former defenders (as Davenport went to them on loan) we could expect a replacement for the parting Faubert. But Duxbury wanted to wait, so no Moon and no young FB from Romania. That may be right, but also makes me a bit worried. Our right hand side is our weakest, and having Spector as the only replacement for Neill, and Behrami which is a fantastic player but not born to lick the line, in front of him makes you wonder. 

Well at the same time a very happy thing happened. Herita Ilunga has been given his contract! Congratulations to him - but even more to us! No worries on the left then! It is 3,5 years!

Real Ity

I was very impressed the day we bought Faubert. It looked very promising. And to see those thighs thick as logs from a virgin forest, see those crosses, and to see those goals on youtube made me drawl. (Hm. Just want to make it clear: this is not a beginning of a homoerotic piece... ) 

But youtube is not reality. The days at Upton Park has not been fun for Faubert. It looked like he never was to make it. Maybe one good cross in each game, and seldem a part of the team. Always somewhere else, running for himself. So we understood that he was to leave us. But to Real Madrid? Now we can see Alfredo Di Stefano (right) give the Real Madrid shirt to Julien Faubert. And I do still wonder: Is this reality? I got to look at the picture once more. Do it yourself!

Maybe the Spanish giants see that deep under his English failure, there is a player with potential. Maybe they have watched youtube! The old clips!