Book Review: FA Confidential, Sex, Drugs and Penalties. The Inside Story of English Football by David Davies

David Davies presents himself as a passionate ManU supporter but that seems to be the only passionate thing about him, at least judging from this book. Once a BBC journo, Davies climbed the ladder to the top of the FA via the job as information person. Davies describes his many meetings with interesting, or at least well known, people and the work (?) behind the scenes at the FA.

The description of how the FA was (is?) run is depressing rather than hilarious, but is still the most interesting part of the book. It’s written in the vein of “all was f**ed up, but there was not much I could do about it”. As a matter of fact, the whole book is pretty much like that, leaving me with a feeling that he was either un-influential or lacked the skill to do much about things. The weird thing is that he ends up being the Executive Director and as far as one can tell major decisions are still taken more or less by two people in a cab or something.
There are several passages and situations that could have been quite entertaining to read about, but for some reason it is never engaging. It lacks a sense of presence and tensions are never built. When he describes a situation as breathtaking or very funny, we must take his word for it as the description itself is not.
I was hoping to get some behind the scene feeling for the people he meets and hires, especially the managers of course, but find that even though he is talking about situations that happen in places not many other have access to the description does not add any depth to, or understanding for, the persons. If this is because of how the story was told by Davies or how the story was written by Henry Winter (yes, the infamous Winter that was the so called expert in the Griffiths tribunal deciding that Tevez was worth at least 3 points…) I’m not sure.
Iain Dale of WestHamtilIDie writes in his review "If you’re interested in sport administration you will enjoy this book" And I can’t argue with that, but he goes on saying "It’s one of the best football books I have read, and I read a lot of them" and here he is wide off the mark, even though he seem to be a bit partial as he confesses to have persuaded Davies to write it (or rather have it written) and also sells the book through his “Iain Dale's Diary Political Store” within Amazon.

According to Amazon the people that buy FA-confidential also buy the Mamma Mia DVD, I should have been warned, but now at least you are.


Collins Calf Call

James Collins has been sidelined the last month after picking up a calf strain in the Bolton game and hasn't played a game for us since. He is now supposed to feature in the Welsh game against Holland on Saturday.

The knee jerk reflex is to start an outrage over this, we don't want him to come back injured from international duty do we? One does get a feeling that it may be a bit too early, considering he wasn't even fit for the bench last week.
I've seen people trying the argument that international games is easier on the body than a PL one, but a game against the attack minded Dutch will be no easy game for any Welsh defender.

We've seen bad things happen "recently" with Bellamy and also Freddie Ljungberg in similar situations, but maybe we should trust James and the Club on this one. I've decided to see it as an opportunity for West Ham to get a player in shape for the important game against Sunderland. And if things go from bad to worse, Tomkins display in the last outing was enough for me to consider him good cover. I think I have to accept that Collins call, assisted by our medical staff no doubt, may be better than my own.


Anil, consortium or the royal scam?

That Björgólfur Guðmundssons is going to sell West Ham has been a certain thing more or less since the collapse of the Icelandic financial system was first acknowledged in October. I for one was certain that BG would sell West Ham at first chance to be able to rescue his crumbling financial empire, and maybe he did start the sale-machinery early, we’ll never know for certain no matter how many autobiographies are written.
At least we know that when the bankrupt holding company Hansa ehf, applied for a moratorium in December BG stated that a sale process had been started, and it was said that 5 different parties had signed "non-disclosure agreements" meaning that they had asked to do a preliminary assessment of the clubs economy. If these interested parties were all BG’s friends just doing him a favour, claim owners checking the possibilities or genuinely interested buyers is anyone’s guess. Asgeir Fridgeirsson, vice president of the board of West Ham said on March 4th, in connection with the last (?) prolongation of the moratorium, that “There is interest from many investors…”. All of these statements are of course necessary to keep any investors from being overconfident in the bargaining process, or to keep the courts and the claim owners believing that there is still some gold at the end of the rainbow - if they are patient.

We can conclude that a sale was not imminent in December, but at that point there were so much uncertainty about the size of the payment to Sheffield about Tevez, Now at least that issue has cleared up, making an investment in the club a less insecure venture.

BG, or his errand boys, have recently said there will be no sale until the summer. Unfortunately he doesn’t tell us why. But a not too wild guess is that there is no one even closely meeting his selling criteria and he has no longer than june before he loses the control over Hansa.

Up to now there has of course been much speculation on who those interested parties are. If you, like myself, is an avid reader of the KUMB thread “West Ham for Sale” you know that an English consortium and an “Asian billionaire” has been mentioned more often than others.
The existence of that Consortium has been cast in doubt by some, but others claim, as did the Guardian, that there certainly is one and they are willing to invest £100 million in the club. In the ITK battle at KUMB one of the posters warned us against believing everything that was said in the newspapers the upcoming days as “all sides have their own people installed!!”, failing to issue the same warning about ITK people at KUMB. Am I only imagining things or has the language of some posters changed considerably?

The consortium is supposedly fronted by someone with West Ham connections. The ones claiming there is a consortium never mention any names themselves stating that their sources won’t give them any, confirming that the sources, or the sources’ sources, knows full well what will happen to the information and only “leak” what is in their best interest. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bollocks but one should beware. This consortium is supposed to have been interested all along, meaning from November/December, and still names have not been leaked! Very discreet indeed, or are there no names to leak?

The main suspect for being the“Asian billionaire” is Anil Ambani. Ambani was put forward as a potential buyer already in October, and resurfaced in December as one of the candidates to take over. In October he was listed by Forbes as the 6th richest man on the planet but now the financial crisis has taken three quarters of last years “biggest billionair gainer’s” assets, making Anil this years biggest loser, leaving the poor fellow with little more than $10 billion worth of assets.
According to some sources this doesn’t stop him from making huge investments though. And as Forbes states, maybe somewhat redundantly, "[Anil Ambani] remains quite wealthy... That is something many others can't claim".
I still have problems seeing that these, in their own eyes, struggling billionaires can bother buying a football club. One of the things that made Anil rise in last years Forbes index is efficient and enthusiastic building of an empire, and I can’t see this being a part of that. On the other hand, being voted the (EDITED, please see comments below, “happiest and healthiest man" has been deleted in this post) “number one role model for happiness and health in business" by India based magazine “Complete Wellbeing” (can one vote on anything?) he sounds like the business equivalent of Gianfranco Zola – a match made in heaven?

I fail to draw any conclusions out of this (not the” happy” part, the other stuff!). If there is one to draw it is that at least that there isn’t any cash rich buyer really interested in acquiring us at the moment, but you all knew this even before suffering though this post. Consider it a critical review.


Lesson to be learned

Against Blackburn we fielded 3 players I definitely think is not up to even being cover:
Spector – handed an extension of his contract this season and I sincerely hope this is the last time we decide to keep him.
DiMichele – I have waited with my verdict as he’s had the odd decent game. But this is it, I don’t want him being even close to a starter in West Ham.
Tristan – I may be a bit harsh here, he’s only got one start, but he shows me no promise.
With these on the pitch and another 2 that I don’t see as starting material (LBM, Kovac) it may be no surprise that we were totally outplayed by a side in 17th place (and mind you also having some important players missing).

So we had 6 (9?) players injured, and another was out due to suspension, but this is not exactly unheard of, most teams go thru spells like this (last year we had 12 sidelined players at one time). Let’s take a look at them one by one.
Ashton – is a player for the international stage when at his best and fit. I refuse to call him injury prone since it’s not repeated strains and that kind of injuries he has suffered. Upson – is a top central defender. Good enough to start in all but one or two sides in the PL.
Collins – has been great for us this season! Could keep his place in a top 5 side as far as I’m concerned.
Collison – is one for the future. I mean, he will be even better next season and may prove to be able to justify a starting position in a very good PL side. Being young he will hardly be consistent for a year or two, therefore we need a stable environment not to be dependent on Jack being on top of his game.
Behrami – has a work rate second to none. Could prove to be a even bigger asset if given a chance to play without covering for Neill. I think, however, that his passing game is not really what we need in that position if we are to “take the next step”.
Savio – could turn out to be just as good as we hope. Not a top team starter yet. Another that should be an addition to a good squad, not one that we should base the game on quite yet.
Dyer –We don’t even know if he still has it in him when fit. Hopefully he will be able to prove himself, or at least show what he’s got in the dying weeks of this season.
Gabbidon – if ever fit enough to manage a game he’s a good backup for starting defenders.
Dixon – I was unsure if I should list him here. Totally unproven even as fit and there are serious doubts that he can still make a career out of football due to his knee cap problems.

We were/are certainly unlucky to see both center halves out at the same time but with Tomkins this good and Neill doing a good job in the center as well means that we should be OK in the center of defense also next season (if Neill decides to stay).
Both strikers we were planning on as starters this season were also missing. Looking at the games lately it seems like they are the only decent strikers in our books, with nothing of PL quality to replace them. Sears may still prove to be great and performed well in some games alongside Bellamy, but to be dependent on Freddie (or God forbid Di Michele or Tristan) is not compatible with a “next step”, or maybe not even a top 15 position.
The rest of the injured, however, are players that are not (yet) exceptional, and thus should not be considered irreplaceable. But the team suffers greatly with Cover Kovac or LBM on the pitch. Kovac may want to win, his attitude is great, but he is not good enough to use in the kind of game plan Zola has in mind. The same goes for LBM, a great work rate but is too sloppy I the passing game. Spector… we need an improvement at the right back, not an inept cover.

The squad is vulnerable in the sense that there is a huge quality difference between the assumed starters and the cover in many positions. This is extra problematic considering that some in the optimal starting lineup are youngsters and cannot be asked to be consistent, control or even start each game.
We are to believe that Zola asked for this situation, but I refuse to believe that he is content with a squad where Spector, DiMichele and Tristan are being played. He may want a small squad to work with, but again I refuse to believe that he wants a squad were the youngsters, that he enjoys working with and developing, are completely necessary to field a decent side.
I don’t even care to imagine what would happen if Ilunga was out!

What our economical position will be in the summer is any ones guess, and therefore what is possible in terms of strengthening is impossible to say at the moment, but I think one of the major priorities in the summer should be to increase the quality of the cover.

Our forward will be back!

It's not because of Wigan's win against Hull that I now fear that we will never see that eagerly awaited 7th place at the end of the season. I would say that the last two games probably cost us the UEFA-spot.
Loosing four points against relegation candidates can be enough, as we have hard games in front of us. So why weren't we able to convert these two games to wins?
There are no easy games in the PL. West Brom plays ineffective football but better out on the field than most people think. Blackburn would be so much weaker without Samba. He is their engine and caused us problems at both ends of the field (even if Dyer could have had that penalty). And even though we could not play Collison or Behrami, our midfield looked much better against Blackburn than in the weak West Brom game, where both Noble and Parker were totally lost. I would say that the weakening of a midfield that has been crucial for us along the way was an important reason for the loss of points, but not the main factor.The main reason was the loss of Carlton Cole.
It was so - and too - obvious that it is his work-rate and ability to hold the ball up, in combination with his strength to keep the defenders at some distance, that makes the whole team able to move forward, that we missed soooo much. DiMichele was lost, our midfield was lost. Sears and our flanks were lost. I think it's a problem that we build our team so much around Cole. As we could see now. It would probably had been better if Collison had been in the team.
But the "funny" part of all this is that Carlton Cole never should have been given that red card. The referee lost it badly and it cost us.... But you can't only blame a referee, you do have to see that we do not have enough strength up front.

Capello has now released the names for England's next games and Carlton Cole is in the team, as is Upson and Green. Green is a lovely keeper, but will probably never be England’s number one. Upson is a really good defender but will not be able to remove a fit Terry or Ferdinand to the bench. Carlton Cole will never be the big goal-scorer, but he has something else that is very crucial to the game of football today. To many people's surprise - but not mine - it may be Cole who is the one of our boys who will get another chance in the England shirt.

I won't moan to much if we lose out on that UEFA place, cause we have achieved much this season anyway. But Zola is still hoping...
So should we have kept any of those players that we sold or lended in January? No, can't see any of those change our game now. (Well, Bellamy yes, but we had to let him go.) And therefore I'm also very happy to see some youngsters coming through. So even if we all know our team is a bit thin at the moment, it's in the attack that we have been hurt most in these games.
Our next game is against Sunderland the 4th of April and then Cole will be back, as will Upson and Savio and Dyer will be able to take another step towards a full 90 minutes. So we shall win that game and the troops will be more fit for the last 8 games of the season. But I think we should have had at least two more points in these last two games to nail that 7th spot.
Hopefully I'm wrong!


A point of relief

First: We were not the better team today. Second: We were far better than against West Brom. Third: Sam Allardyce may groan our goal and say LBM was offside. Cause he was. Not much but enough. On the other hand, I really think we deserved a penalty. So groan on Mr Big man...

One point against Blackbrun away from home with the players we do possess right now is not so bad. If we lose our seventh spot tomorrow (if Wigan wins at home against Hull) we can't complain too much. Cause I think we lost that spot the other day, against West Brom. But that's another story. Can't say we played so well today either, it seemed that we wanted Blackburn to have possession and to find Di Michele and Tristan on counterattacks. Well we didn't. Di Michele couldn't control the ball, Tristan neither, even if he rarely saw it at all. LBM started as Mr Invisible but grew stronger on his right hand side during the game. Blackburn lacked quality up front but had some chances. When we scored I thought we really would win this game. But the beginning of the second half was really like giddy geese from our side and no wonder Andrew scored when the whole team sat in Green's lap. Typical West Ham way... But after that Blackburn faded a bit and when Zola finally made some changes we could even have won the game.

Green 6.5 - Not so troubled.
Spector 5 - As we know he lacks quality it was OK. Not solid as a rock but hardly to blame for any of their best chances.
Tomkins 7 - Another splendid performance from the young Basildonborn defender.
Neill 7,5 - Well, one of his best games for us in a long time, even if he always walks on a thin tightrope - foul or no foul? Today he was really OK and seemed to like t play his old team and as a left CB too.
Ilunga 7,5 - There is noone in our team that can play as calm as Mr Herita and still produce the goods. Did not let anyone slip past him today. Seems to enjoy most situations on the field.
LBM 5.5 - Sometimes totally lost on the right hand side, sometimes involved and active. I've seen him better but OK.
Noble 6.5 - Very good effort defensively, and just when I was moaning about his lack to produce anything forward he scored that splendid goal with the outside of his foot. Seemed tired later on. Much better than against West Brom. And by the way his 100th performance for us: Congratulations!
Parker 6.5 - Yes a better performance from our General today, still not as those match winning performances seen earlier this year. Sometimes he had players to leave the ball to in better positions and to make our play flow, but he kept the ball and later on lost it...
Kovac 5 - He flies around and I wonder if he knows what to do on the field. Need to come much closer to "his" players and when he wins the ball be able to - at least sometmes - pass the ball to a teammate. You can see that he have talent and is experienced, but not t this game yet.
Tristan 5 - As much as I like Tristan for what he has done earlier in his career, I still see no use to prolong his contract.
Di Michele 5 - Nope, not today either. Looses the ball far to easy and even if we know that he can pass the ball neatly he too often do it blindly. At least he runs.... But I believe that he should stay with us another season.

Subs: Lopez (on 78 - LBM) Was not able to see much of his skills, but seems to do allright in front of Ilunga.
Dyer (on 81 - Di Michele) Hurrah! Dyer is back! And not hurt! Should actualy have a penalty and was during the eten minutes he was able to prove himself good and lively.
Payne - (on 90 - Tristan) On late for a debut! Congratulations to you too!

Non used Subs: Lastuvka, Sears, N'Gala, Stanislas.

Sorry not to see Stanislas play here. He had scored at least two and set up another three!


More changes.

Before the game last Monday I asked for Stanislas and a team built like THIS. I guess things had been better if Zola had played the way I wanted (;-D) as Stanislas was one of few causes of rejoicing in the boring 0-0 game.

Zola is now waiting to see if Savio and Upson will be able to play after their knocks. I hope to see them both. If not I hope to see a team shaped like this:

Neill - Tomkins - N'Gala - Ilunga
Stanislas - Noble - Parker - LBM
Sears - Tristan

I think Di Michele do have to be given a rest as he was awful againt West Brom, which did not help Sears. Sears did not impress in the box, but at least he ran and should be given another chance. His role, however, will differ depending on his surroundings, if he has the slow Noble behind him Freddie may be able help the team to push the right hand side a bit forward. If Stanislas is there Sears can be given a more free role. But could a right hand side with Neill and Noble cope with the energy of Gamst Pedersen? Well, at least I know Neill will tease him until he is begging for mercy. But I'd prefer Stanislas there on the right flank and hope he will be able to play good defensivly, cause we need that as well. I know he has the speed, the ideas and very good feet but can he help Neill at the back??
Blackburn may play five in the midfield so our hard men Noble-Parker have to be so much better than last game. Therefore I give them LBM. Kovac was never into the game last time, and I guess he'll be fine later on but I give him a rest and go for the hard fighter LBM. It is hard to find any alternativs at the moment. Savio is of course there if he will be fit.

I know it may seem stupid to play Bondz N'gala which would give us two 19 year old CB:s. But as we only have Spector as cover right now (and I still don't rate him), I would be delighted to see our captain of the reserves here. To see those 19 year olds fight with Roberts... and succeed. Tomkins has really impressed lately.
And I would give Tristan a last chance. We did really lack someone who could push the team forward last time and Tristan may not be Cole, but at least he is big and if he can't play now he will never be able to. This would be his opportunity to wear a West Ham shirt even after this summer.
This team means a lot of changes, which seldom is good. But we are now in a situation where we need to change the team. Even compared with the West Brom one. At least; I'd put Noble back to his old place on the field and if Upson will be able to play we have a good spine with Upson-Noble-Parker.

I think we have another 0-0 here.


The season of youngsters!

This season has been a good one for the first team youngsters at the club!
Collison has made a BIG impact and is a regular starter when fit. Tomkins have put on some decent displays and seem not to be out of his depth in the PL. Sears have started a few games this season and even though he has failed to impress me that much at least some of that is due to the fact that he has played without a decent target player by his side. Now Stanislas has made his bow, a promising one, and is asking for a start. The bench has been full of this young talent for most of the games. Good for them! Probably good for the future.
The reason, of course, is not only that they are exceptional talents, but also forced by the way the squad was trimmed back in January. Zola, we are told, wanted a smaller squad and the so called fringe players were sold or loaned out. The inevitable result of that kind of trimming is the lack of back up. We all knew this was coming and I for one was (and still am) pretty happy with the transfer window considering everything.
We should be proud of the youngsters from our academy, but let’s do the right deductions. This does not automatically mean that the youngsters have yet developed into players we like to see in a starting lineup, so in a way I hope that we will not see as many bright prospects being played in important games next seasons.


Not politically correct

TEVEZ scores against ManU last game of 2006/2007

And the goal gets celebrated

I can dream can't I?

Independent: West Ham and T*ttenham striker Frederic Kanoute says he could be on the verge of return to the Premier League from Spanish club Sevilla...

Now that everything is settled :) splash the cash!


The most boring game of the decade!

Sometimes I wonder why we bother to show up at all. Cause you get the feeling that it's the sense of the players as well. I would say that this 0-0 at home against West Brom - was even a less funny experience than the boooring energy-less home game to Spurs. And that tells the story. To our defense I guess the counsel would say that we have lost too many players during the last weeks. But those who should show up... did not. On the contrary. It looked as they were still in Spain with an attitude of manana, manana...
It went so far that I had "bad thoughts" maybe West Brom deserved a winning goal? Yes, anything that could wake our players.... Happy I did not pay for this game but saw it on telly.... Did we really try to win this game??
One small positive note though: Our three youngest players that started were the best! And another teenager, Junior Stanislas came on as a substitute and showed, under his 20 minutes, that he will make it! Let him start next game!

Green 6 - No mistakes. When West Brom hit the crossbar Green should have had a freekick after an elbow from Jonas Olsson. Saved us att two times but did not have much to do.
Neill 5 - A slow player that can succeeed with things sometimes by determination and experience. But can't say he is our most refined player and could - once again - have cost us.
Tomkins 7 - My man of the match. Cause he did no mistakes! Not that he met PL:s most dangerous players, but still: Good and promising game from our 19 year old CB.
Upson - Was hurt early and had to be off with a stretcher. But according to the first reports nothing serious.
Ilunga 6 - OK game. You do recognise his play game from game, quite good goin forward and not easy to go past, but lost some unnecessary balls as well... so nothing special today. Still one of the best. Good understanding with Savio/Stanislas.
Noble 4 - Mr Invisible. And soooo slow! Time for the bench?
Kovac 3,5 - Mr Disservice.
Parker 5 - His worst game since his first game as a schoolboy at Lilleshall? He tried and was probably the man on the field with most possession, still nothing came out today. But missed passes. If it has been someone else I would have said he looked nervous...
Savio 6 - The first twenty minutes was awful and nothing seemed to work. But our 19 year old youngster took some kind of responsibilty, wanted things to happen and - even if he must learn that this passes must be much more quick in the English game - made some things actually function with some sort of elegance.
Di Michele 3,5 - Sorry to say this, but: Lousy and useless. Must take more responsibility.
Freddie Sears 5 - Wanted to play! Showed some nice glimpses of his talent but was never goin to score. But it was not easy to play together with Di Michele and that midfield today!

Spector 4,5 - (on for Upson) Took the RB place as Neill went to CB when Upson was injured after 28 minutes. Started totally awful (may have been a bug or lasagna??) but grew defensivley during the game. Still, don't understand his talent after 33 + 27 games for us.
Stanislas 6 - Debut!! (On for Savio) Did more with his 20 minutes than most of the others were unable to during 90. His last cross may have been worthless, but showed his talent: Looks quick and very good with the ball. Do have to play more for us now!
Boa Morte - (On for Noble) Just nine minutes but showed what it's all about (well maybe not all about): fighting spirit which he showed! A day like this, you should be really happy to see hom back on the field!

The midfield may have been our Achilles' heel today. But oh did we miss Carlton Cole!!!

The inevitable discussion

We have agreed on an out of court settlement with the Blades over the Tevez dispute.

As many have pointed out, the fact that we strike this deal make us look as we accept the guilt in this matter, in the eyes of some. A common (and condenced) comment on different forums have been “let’s not give those dubble standard mothers nothing, rather take a point reduction or even a relegation than accept that we did anything wrong”.
Let’s do a yes or no quiz and see.

1. I’d like to have the owner situation sorted before the end of the next transfer window.
2. I’d like to see the focus moved away from these kind of things and onto football
3. I think that knowing the economic frames within wich we can work increases the ability to perform a decent planning for the future.
4. I think the squad will feel at ease when they know they play for a club not under a threat to be hit by a huge economic blow.
5. I honestly don’t give a flying **** what the rest of the populistic w***’s say about us!

If you find yourself agreeing to most of the statements above I trust you agree with me that an out of court settlement is for the best, just as I said back in November.

Strangely enough I don’t have a big problem with the guilt part of it. The way this was handled back in the winter/spring of 2007 suggest that there were indeed some shady things going on. My biggest issues are how this has been handled by us (pleading guilty – what were we thinking) and the hypocritical theater that ex Blades boss McC***t had us take part of. The way the entire issue was let to be boiled down to – was Tevez worth 3 points or not – and placing this question in the lap of one (of my former (!) favourite) football journo (suddenly turned expert) in the Griffiths tribunal is truly a disgrace. Those things really are annoying, however I feel we must let this go.

Our present economical situation is uncomfortable, so having to pay £15-25 million, or whatever the final figure turns out to be, is not an optimal situation. But I truly believe that to let this drag on, jeopardizing a takeover, would be much more costly. A solution to our economical problems can only be provided by a new owner. BG is economically cripled and must become part of our history. Maybe he (or rather the Hansa creditors) can be forced to take on some of the settlement money by reducing the asking price of the club and thereby leaving some more of the new owners money to invest.



Time for a new game and time to reshuffle again. As our midfield looks a bit thin without Collison and Behrami we need to find an answer to the offensive threat Collison can give us, as well as the defensive responsibility Behrami gives us - and specially Neill. We do also, which may be the hardest part, to replace our Carlton Goal. So how to do it against the lowkey team from Birmingham?
I think it is time to give Stanislas a go! One point or three tomorrow can rely on setpieces. And as we all heard we have a some saved capital in the young winger here. So:

Neill- Tomkins - Upson - Ilunga


Noble Stanislas

Di Michele - Savio

You may not see it on my sketch, but the midfield should be shaped like a diamond. A young team but with an experienced backbone, with Parker as a more offensive player than usual. Noble has to help Neill and Savio has to play as an attacker. Can't see an half-injured Tristan replace Cole. And if Stanislas is given a go, which I hope, it may be too many youngsters to play Sears or Hines as well.

West Brom on a Monday evening. Can it be more glamorous??


Moratorium extended

BG was granted an extension of the moratorium of Hansa today.
Read about the background and implications HERE.

Combat fatigue ended?

Accordning to The Independent and the trustworthy Jason Burt, West Ham will pay around 10 millions to Sheffield United during a period of five yeras to compensate their loss to Wigan in the match 13 May 2007. I don't understand why, but would be happy to see this mess sorted out once and for all. The amount is also far less than Sheffield have been trying to get. By acheiveing this compensation to be spread during several years it won't affect the club so much and to see an end to this would be nice - as it's the end to the "combat fatigue". I do still don't understand why they should have a penny.
The deal will also give some kind of assurement to the new owners and investigators that the "surprising" days are over. Cause even if the investigation from the PL/FA can and probably will continue, it should not affect the club as a whole, but "only" individuals, like Duxbury I guess.

Read the article by Burt HERE


Luxury problems

So we are going in to the last 10 games of the season.

West Brom, Blackburn, Sunderland, T*ttenham, Villa, Chelsea, Stoke, Liverpool, Everton, and M'boro.
Doesn't look that daunting really does it?

If this was mid season I'd be very pleased with the opposition, but coming into the last quarter it's another matter. Depending on the results up to each game the conditions can be very different and the outcome therefore very unpredictable.

Chelsea and Liverpool may have the title to play for (unrealistic, I know) or just games deciding who will end up second. That is a HUGE difference in player motivation. If these teams are still eying CL glory the home games against them will be quite a bit easier than had we the same games in December. If Carlton Cole can manage to stay on the pitch I won't be too surprised if we get some points out of these games.

Villa away is a tough one for any team and I doubt very much we'll get anything from that game. Especially if they still play for a place in the CL. Let's hope they don't.

Everton away is the second to last game. They have a terrific home record in the PL, their last loss was against Villa Dec. 7! This is the team that may have the least to play for, maybe giving us a chance to bring some points home.

T*tteham away, that's a tough one and not really dependent on where in the league table the teams are at. I fear another loss.

WBA and Stoke are teams we should be able to beat, but they will be in the relegation battle when we play them. This can be really tough games and may well be the deciders of our final league position. If they get the first goal we'll lose not only the game but the UEFA cup spot as well.

Blackburn won away at Craven Cottage in their last game but that aside their stats are unimpressive. They have been trying to stay clear of the last 3 spots for some time and still they seem not to be able to crank out the results, even at home. With a decent squad and game we should beat them.

Sunderland seem to mix results. The ex West Ham contingent will try to impress at the Boleyn but there is none of those I'd like back in our starting lineup at the moment. Sunderland will stay up, there are simply too many teams that need to overtake them and I think they have a better squad than most of those below them. I think they are subconsciously thinking that a loss away against us may still be OK, and that's all we need to win this game.

Middlesbrough at home wraps up the season. If we still have a decent squad to field this will be a win. Boro will by that game have nothing to play for (I sincerely hope) and if a UEFA cup place is depending on this result we'll be in Europe (don't you hate that expression) next season!

Contending that 7:th league place is primarily ManC and Wigan.
City have some pretty tough games still in their fixture list, but the ManC enigma is too hard for me to solve. Their performances seem to be "toss-ups" and I can't really predict if they will get their stuff together.
Wigan have a fixture list pretty much like ours - opposition team motivation will affect their reminder of the season too. That last game (our win at Wigan) may prove very important!

So will we play UEFA cup football next season?
I'm afraid not, the chance is certainly there but the lack of routine in the squad and a weak bench may prove costly. Some months ago we were doomed by quite a few to championship football next season (and we're still "only" 11 p ahead of the 18:th team at the moment).
In that light UEFA or not doesn't seem that important, but it would be so sweet to have a better go at it compared to the last try in 2006, when we had the bad luck of having to play Palermo at their all time high. But then we certainly cannot afford to lose any more players to injury!

One step at a time, let's start with a victory against WBA on Monday!
Come On You Irons and prove me wrong!

Important but nothing new

Today the "news" is that West Ham will dispute Sheffields compensation claim.
The Mirror (...) writes that "They want £46million, but West Ham's legal team aim to prove the cost of salaries in the top flight mean the Blades would not have been better off if they had stayed up."

I fail to find anything new in this. This was always going to happen. West Ham, will keep on disputing this until a settlement is done or a court decision is final.
Even though this appears to be a fight in the tribunal, it affects the forthcoming PL/FA hearing as well as a possible out of court settlement. A settlement will be cheaper if Sheffield are getting afraid that this is dragging on past the next transfer deadline and/or is threatening to leave them without compensation.

The day we stop disputing Sheffields claims is the day there are news to report!


„Auknar líkur á þjóðargjaldþroti"

The other day we heard that one of Björgolfur Guðmundsson’s (yes, our owner) final assets (?) the Straumur-Burdaras investment bank was taken over by the Icelandic government.
(BG and his son has a 34 per cent stake in Straumur through their company Samson Global Holdings).
This has implications for the well being of Hansa ehf. since Hansa owe Straumur money (Hansa, if you’ve been out of town for half a year or so, is a BG controlled holding company on the verge of bankruptcy, only fighting off creditors by being placed under a “moratorium” to give it time to sort out business. Hansa is the company through which BG owns West Ham Holding that in turn is the owner of West Ham United plc – the holder of the Premiere league licence, and this means that “sort out business” in the case of Hansa is the equivalent of selling the Club at a decent price.)

As long as BG-influenced companies were owing each other, BG and his son had at least some influence over the handling of these debts. They were hardly going to force each other to do avoidable bad business. But now the Icelandic government has taken over Straumurs role as creditor of Hansa making this a bit more insecure.
However, the government does not seem inclined to force BG to sell at any price. If it had wanted that to happen they could have done so by opposing the moratorium now.

Today we hear from the Guardian that MP bank, the bank that has previously opposed a prolongation of the moratorium of Hansa, is now going along with a second 3 month extension of the moratorium (read HERE and HERE about the moratorium and the first prolongation). This means that BG will still have some influence over things at Hansa, meaning the sale of West Ham for another 3 months.

But the real news in this: the reason MP Bank dropped its opposition was that the ability of BG (or actually BG’s son) to have “first refusal” on the sale of the Club. As far as I understand, this weakens the position of the current owners and clears some obstacles on the road to a sale of the Club.

Do you find that too straight forward?
Well have no fear, it may become much more complicated!
According to Bloomberg News, players in the financial market is now speculating in the bankruptcy of the entire country of Iceland (and you thought you had problems…)! By taking the control over the last major bank of Iceland the country “is now assuming responsibility for more deposit guarantees, and the question is whether the Icelandic state is big enough to bear the burden.”
In the hands of the International Monetary Fund IMF the Icelandic government policies may be substantially tougher when it comes to collecting debts!

Hines - one year?

Zavon Hines has "committed his future" to the Club according to the official site. The future in this case is one (1!) year!

The other extensions have been long terms and to sign a young player on a short contract is a way of saying "we're giving you another chance son, make good use of it".

Let's hope that he gets the time he needs to fulfil his potential, and is given the chance to prove himself.

September song

I don't know if it's the right feeling to think of the old Kurt Weill's/Bryan Ferry's "September song" when you read about Valon Behramis cruciate ligament injury. And it's a long, long while from March to September (as well). Six month's out!?
It's sad mainly for Behrami himself, but also for the team, as the energetic player has been so important for our midfield - and for Lucas Neill. But, as said on KUMB, this will certainly keep the young Swiss - still just 23! - at Upton Park even next season since he will be working with the medical department all summer . Well... we got to find something positive here, don't we?
It may give, not only Savio, but Payne and Stanislas a chance as well.
Let's see if that is enough to keep us to join an European competition. I mean 7th.

Hope to see you back soon Valon! September latest! In the meantime... do Ashton play chess?


West Ham can win Premier League 2017!

A football player is statistically at his peak at 28-29. A keeper even later. At the moment we have so many talented players still too young to be in the first team, but – even if just teenagers – not that far from our top squad. Mainly strikers! So if West ham can continue to nourish this new generation and keep the best of’em and even to see which of the ”late bloomers” should survive, we may well find us tpo be in a top four in…. 8-10 years. Maybe even at the very top??
Let’s see what team we could have then. With just the players here already!

We all know that few teams has developed talent better than West Ham. Under Tony Carrs guarding eye, And it seems that Carr is nourishing a new generation right under our eyes. Together with Nani’s – for this club – new ideas, to develop the club by finding young talents in Europe as well, we are building a team for the future. We need to be be to keep this talent. And even ”allow” most of them to fail to take the last step, the hardest. Because just one, two or maybe baby three may make it in every class.

A team is of course not only it’s individual players. That is due to how the rest of the club is organized, salarys, the stadium, training facilities and our coaches of course. The possibilites to develop the team, and the feeling that our top players can stay here to reach their (individual) goals. Also the possibility to any individual to find his place in a team. Which of course is easier if you knows how the team play and is organized. Which you do if you are here already as a youngster.
Of course a team needs to have a varietys in ages as well, but that’s another story. Let’s stay with the possibilites. It really looks good. Not mainly because of the results lately (which has not only been good becuase many of them has played in other than their ”natural teams”) maybe more because we all can see: the talent is there. Together with Arsenal we may have the best youngsters in Britain right now. To blow the bubbles!

Already stars:
Mark Noble (may 1987, 21)
We should not forget that Mark Noble is just 21 and could be the teams captain by then, I mean to lead us in – let’s say 2017. Did his league debut as early as in 2005 and have captained the national U21. May not have developed so much during this last year, but do play in all our games.

Jack Collison (Oct 1988, 20).
Collison has been in the Welsh senoir squad since 19 and are – or very close to – in West Hams starting lineup for every game. A really good prospect that still can develop and become faster. Can play in many various positions and truly impresses everyone.

Savio Nsereko (July 1989, 19)
Yes, you have to say that he is a star already as it only took the german winger a few entries in our first team to make an impression. Came in January and was given the nr 10 shirt! Was the star of the tournament last summer when Germany won U19. Will develop further under Zola and probably play an important part in our last ten games this season. And hopefully for the next ten years!

Soon stars:
James Tomkins
(March 1989, soon 20)
This local boy did really impress against Wigan and Man City when he has played instead of Collins, who actually may find it hard to take his place back. Cause James Tomkins has really made a break-through lately. Played in last summers U19 (got injured late on) for England did some matches for the West Ham A-team last season, and have learned a lot since then.

Freddie Sears (nov 1989, 19)
This local boy scored on his debut after just 5 minutes and 16 seconds on the pitch, on March 2008, and he seemed to be a our new Tony Cottee story. But has failed since to make a big impression in the first team squad, though scoring regulary for the reserves. And scored for the National U19 as well. Has pace and knows where the goal is, but I think has to build some muscles and mature a bit under Zola’s wings.

Terry Dixon (Jan 1990, 19)
He does not only look like Rooney, but this Ireland youth international striker may actually have something in common with the ManU star. West Ham snapped him up when Tottscum had given up on him after three terrible knee injuries. The West Ham team gave him another chance, had him for six months saw that the knee was OK, and gave him the contract! After such a long time at the sidelines it may too early for him to play this season. But hopefully next. And hopefully fit! As he was just 16 years old when to make his debut for the senior national team (but failed as he got injured) he is something special. At least our Tottenham supporters tell us.

Marek Stech (Jan 1990, 19)
It’s hard to see Stech NOT make it, cause we know that the tall Czech will. Has already left the Academy to become a reserve keeper and also made the bench at some occasions in the PL behind Green. And played in two friendlies for the first team. I think Lastuvka will leave already next season and Stech will compete with the also new goalkeeping talent (on loan) Peter Kurucz (born 1988) who to be ”no 2”. In a couple of years we may have two or three (see: Street) of Europes best keepers.

Zavon Hines (Dec 1988, 20)
Started to play football very late, but had a good spell this summer by scoirng in every pre-season game he attended, including some first time friendlies. And scored in his first team debut against Macclesfield in the cup as well. Hurt his knee in August and the season has so far been hampered by this injury. Recently back and has already been in Jamaicas A-squad for the first time. Seems to have the right mentally to ”make it”.

Josh Payne (Nov 1990, 18)
Josh Payne was in the first team squad for the first time when they met Man City. A two-way-playing midfielder who reminds Tony Carr of a young Gerrard. Scored in his debut for Cheltenham on loan and has according to reports a great future. If we will see him on the field any time this year for our senoir team we can count him in. And probably anyway.

Junior Stanislas (nov 1989, 19)
Has played for the national team U19 – against Savio – and has also impressed against Chelsea when he was at loan at Southend. Have made the first team bench in a couple of games when he got back from Southend and I guess he will be on the field at least one time this season. May be the winger we’ve missed so much lately. Can score from freekicks and take beautiful corners like noone else in the squad (I’ve herd). May be the player Kyel Reid was thought to be.

Jordan Spence (May 1990, 18)
May be our biggest asset of all. Has captained the youth national team at every level so far. Has now a season long loan at Leyton Orient where he is one of the most important players. Has not played for West Ham senoirs yet, but when Lucas goes back to Australia, Spence will be the man to fill his gap. At least I say that. Maybe even as a Captain?? As a defender (mainly central, but very versatile and has played RB and midfielder as well) he can score as well, as he did for England against Brazil. An injury time winner! Has even played seven times for U19 so far.

Could be stars:

Bondz N’Gala (Sep 1989, 19)
Another youngster that have impressed recently and may have had the opportunity already to be on the field for the first team if not Tomkins had played so terrific. Impressed on loan at MK Dons as the strong center-half he is. Don’t want it to happen, but if we sold Collins, Gabbs and Upson tomorrow I wouldn’t worry too much. Can see Tomkins and N’Gala be our defensive block in three years time.

Joe Widdowson (March 1989, soon 20)
Well, if not Ilunga had came in in the last minute Widdowson may have been in the first team already. Played during the tour in the States against Beckham and did it well. Played calm and steady. Now at loan to Grimsby. I do think next season is pivotal to his development.

Coming Stars:
Matthew Fry
(Sep 1990)
…is another one goin through the ranks. The centrehalf has captained the U18-side and has recently taken the step up to the reserves.

Robert Hall (1993?)
Is just 15, and scored on his debut for the U18 team – when just 14 (!) when the team last year won against Chelsea. The leftfooted striker also scored the winner against Charlton 2-1. Played for the National team U16 when just 14. Clinical finisher. Very promising of course, but it’s impossible to say if such a young player ever will be the ”finished product”.

Anthony Edgar (Sep 1990, 18)
Scored for the Reserves when Tottscum beat us the other week. Still so young, this midfielder has taken a big step this year and may be ready to be in the starting line-up for all the Alex Dyer’s Reserve games this season.

Ryan O’Neill (Jan 1990, 19))
This Northern Irish boy has also contributed a lot as a defender for the U18 this year and stepped up to play for the reserves.

Balint Bajner (Nov 1990, 18)
Hungarian striker who came to West Ham this season and may have a great future at the club when he finds his style to meet the British way. Played a major part for his country in U19 last summer. Has been out injured as well.

Adam Street (July 1991, 17)
Anoher promising, and very young goalkeeper. The Canadian has made the U18 team his own and impressed all.

Well, some of the young players like the Northern Irish "Joe coleish" Daniel Kearns (-91), the Polack Filip Modelski, the Austrian midfielder Georg Grasser (-90), the Spanish defender Sergio Sanchez (born -93!), Conus Okus (Sep -91), Oliver Lee (midfielder – 91), Ahmed Abdulla (pacy, hardworking striker from Arsenal,scored on his debut -91), Tom Harvey (-90), the homegrown midfielder Oliver Lee (-91) and Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson (Icelandic promising youngster as well, -90 - REad more about him HERE) my be have a future in our first team as well. Or some of the other not mentioned youngsters. But most of them not. So let’s see…Who can take the step?

Which of the three keepers will take Green’s place? And of all the strikers, who can do it?

But with these youngsters on their way I think Carr, Dyer, Clarke and Zola may have a lot to build on. Promising times again!

HERE is another one who wants to be in our team 2017.


Who owns us next week?

Just back from Barcelona (Camp Nou is big!) I just had to throw in this short piece since this is a special day in West Ham history. More will be along shortly!
Another brief brush up:
Hansa holdings ehf, the company through which Björgolfur Guðmundsson owns West Ham (or rather owns West Ham Holding that owns West Ham, is under the threat of liquidation. As a result of that BG asked for Hansa to be put in a one month "moratorium" back in November.
A moratorium means that the legal system gives a company some time to sort out its business before those that the company owes money can force the company to sell its assets to pay back.

This moratorium was extended to march 6 (yes today!).

And now?
BG will file for a 3 month extension of the moratorium, but according to the Icelandic news site Newsfrettir , there is one company - MP Bank - , that will oppose an extension of the Hansa moratorium, obviously needing the money bad.
BG and his lawyers will try to convince the judge of the Reykjavik municipal court that a sale of the sole asset of Hansa – West Ham – is well on its way and a lift of the moratorium would jeopardize this sale, hence bring in less money to the company. This could convince the court to extend the moratorium with another 3 months. However, if you don’t believe in miracles, this can only postpone the sale of the club. If the court is not convinced, Hansa will, as far as I understand go into liquidation (here is were I should explain why West Ham probably is in no immediate danger - I'll be back on that topic..


Nice guys can't win games!

It's not easy to win at the JJB. It was not easy tonight either. But we did it! 0-1 after a glorious flowing attack in the 34th minute that ended with Cole scoring the winner again. Wigan's first loss at home since October! And now we are out of their reach! Happy times! But still hard times as Collison was to be taken off with a stretcher (described as a photocopy of Behrami's injury)  and Cole saw red just three minutes after he scored. But a referee (the inexperienced Stuart Attwell) that gives nine yellow cards (2 to Cole) and one straight red must have some huge problems. The Cole sending off changed the game a bit, but even Steve Bruce said that we deserved the win. And I don't doubt them!

After all the yellow cards yesterday we certainly will not win the fair-play-league. So we got to keep our momentum goin on the pitch to win a place in Europe. No - charity here. And even if the bookings sometimes were out of order, we know, and Parker knows: Nice guys canät win games. Neill should have gone, Cole? Not a chance!
As I said earlier, I wasn't able to see the whole game, so no player ratings from me today. Sorry. But I'm not sorry for our position: solid 7th place!

Not a game until the Monday 16th of March now (home against WBA). We could need this rest after this physical thrashing. Hope Parker is allright by then, hope Collison is not badly hurt, and hopefully we can retrieve Cole's red card (I heard now that we can't, and that Zola won't). And who will buy ur club? A lot of question marks. But anyway, our position now is better than in years!

See 8 minutes of the rough battling and the wonderful goal HERE!

Hard times?

I'm sorry to say that I'll miss the game today. Just cross my fingers and hope to see this team. Remember it is hard to play on the arable land called JJB. We lost last year and Wigan has not lost there since October. Still I am posiutive, still I want to see a creative team like this:

Neill- Tomkins - Upson- Ilunga
Collison - Kovac - Parker - Savio
DDM - Cole

I hope we go for three, but will not feel to swindled if we just come home with one.


Newborn West Ham wins again!

I was very nervous before this game. After our lousy game against Middlesborough it would be extra hard to take a loss to a team like Man City. Not mainly because of Bellamy's move, but he did not work as a tranquillizer either. To see him score today would have been to hard to handle. But the result was the opposite; he did not manage much at all today – placed as a midfield winger –  and was even subbed. To the joy of me and the home fans. It was actually hard to find any player that did really well in the guest's team. Mainly because we were so much better in midfield today. One sad thing though, as Behrami had to be taken off on a stretcher with a bottle of oxygen by his side. His ankle (or knee?) was so badly hurt it will be hard to see that he will play more this season.
Man City may have had the best chances of the game, but still: we won in a decent way, fought hard and had ideas again! Our first win in five games. But one of our most important victories in this year's PL. The goal came after 70 minutes when Savios good, curled shot was to hard to handle for Given. He could only punch it right out to Collison who lifted the ball into the net. Great moves from both of our youngsters.

Green 7.5 - What a wonderful save in the first half! Could, one or two times have taken control of his box, but overall a good performance. 
Neill 7 - Good game as he kept all their wingers quiet. Not fast, but played wise.
Tomkins 7 - Played very safe and did not try anything complicated during the whole game, which was the right way to do it.
Upson 6.5 - He dominated the air, but showed again that he may not be in his best form. Did two mistakes in the same ManC attack which nearly cost us. But apart from that: Good game!
Ilunga 7.5 - His first half was (again) more than excellent as he took control of everything defensively and had the time to be our only threat at his flank with clever passes and runs. Lost control of the situation once when he tried to block Bellamy and was more quiet after that. But we can see that he and Savio can become something real good down our left.
Behrami 6 - So sad to see him hurt so badly. After two mediocre games he really started this game well before he had to be taken off seriously injured.
Kovac 6.5 - This is a man we will see much more of after his home debut which was good. Not during all 90 minutes, but he has just started to find his place in an important role. Good defensive work. This is a man yu want to see live, because much of his work is done outside the tv-camera.
Scott Parker 8 - My man of the match. Well, not because he first forced Micah Richards and late on Robinho off, but the way he takes control of the whole field. Works so hard and with such accuracy. May sometimes be "too important" for us during the games...
Collison 7.5 - Young which means he sometimes drift out of the games and sometimes takes the wrong decision, but had a great game and made us the winner with a cool finish! Must be the young player that has grown most during this season.
Di Michele 7* - It's hard to rate his shots (I thought those Italians could shoot!) but worked hard, ran in all directions and proved that he is a starter for us, seems more and more comfortable with Cole. Did not loose the ball in stupid situations as he seems to do sometimes.
Carlton Cole 8 - Great work! Lost one header during all game. Took control of all the long passes he was given and even when he was injured he managed to continue and fight, often with two, sometimes with three men.

Subs: Savio 7 - On for Behrami and you can see that he is not a finished article. But also gives us hope for a bright future as he did his best game for us so far. His shot was deflected by Given to Collison. So an important contribution.
Spector - On late but did well during his few minutes.
Lopez- Had a couple of minutes which was his PL debut. Congratulations.

Nonused subs: Lastuvka, Sears, Stanislas (!), Payne (!).

*As I saw the game once again I have to give Di Michele credit for his workrate. It was great! So it's now 0.5 points better than in the original post.