All is well that ends well

It had actually been a shame if we had let Middlesbrough stay in the PL this time. Not that I do mind them particulary - not at all actually. I even feel a bit sorry for them, and I think they will bounce back right away as they have a lot of young talent. But a team this lacklustre, and the way they failed to deliever any goods at all today - they should get punished. It was not our most sparky game either, but we did what we had to do, and you could see some glimpses of what Zola wants for next season. 

A sunny afternoon at Upton park! Could you ask for more? Well a win maybe, and after a very beautiful first goal with Stanislas, LBM, Ilunga and Cole involved most of us knew that we should win that 9th spot. Well, O'Neill had another shot under Upson's legs and all of a sudden the situation was 1-1, before our most vibrant player of the day, Stanislas got us our second with a shot that Jones should have saved. 

Green 6 - Not much to do at all, but bringing on the cap once in a while to protect him from the sun.
Spector 5 - Well, it looked a bit better when he was told to push forward. In defense he is - once again - more of a player for Swedish Allsvenskan than PL.
Neill 7,5 - Impressed again and even if he may be a bit to short for the CB-position, I think the position suits him - once again - better. Good powerful game! Will this mean another season?? Maybe.
Upson 7 - Really OK, won his headers, not troubled, but once: when the ball went through his legs (again!). So a bit unlucky at their goal.
Ilunga 6 - Had a bit tricky day defensively when Middlesbrough came with two men on his flank. On the other hand he impressed once again going forward, and his pass into the box when Cole scored was a real beauty.
LBM 8 - Yes! Our best player today! Even if he missed a couple of passes his workingrate and energy saved the day. Thanks! Have you seen that he can make crosses as well? And even dribble? Like he did when he won us aout 70 yards on his own once? Important contribution in Cole's goal. Hope to see you here next season as well! (Yep, mean it!)
Kovac 6 - Solid today as long as he play as the holding midfielder. Helped the defense a lot, but sometimes he misses the easiest of passes. Took the Parker role today and I doubt to see him here next season. But I wouldn't mind, as I think he grows from game to game and still learn this league. It depends on the clubs will to spend on good subs I guess.
Collison 6 - During some moments in the match he looked like Ronaldinho as best. Others we could all see that he recently has came back from injury. Subbed.
Noble 6,5 - Fought very well. Subbed with a niggling injury, probably as a precaution when U21 awaits him this summer.
Stanislas 8 - He may be young, he may be a bit over-optimistic - but what a game! Not only the goal but the way he handled the responsibility as well. Did you see when he (still) ran back in full speed two-three minutes from time? Great! Will play a big part next season even if Savio will be better and Behrami, Parker and two "fully trained" men in Collison and Dyer will be back. Wouldn't it be possible to see him in the middle of the park, as a creative midfielder?? Maybe a bit weak, but fast, two-footed and a good vision for the game.
Cole 6 - I was surprised to see him loose so many 50-50-situations today. But at the end of the day he made the difference. It's easy to forget that this was his first starting game since he went of playin for England. Today he received the good news: He's back in Capello's team. And for us, he scored 12 goals this season and played a huge part in our good run. Subbed. I may be one of few who always have liked him, and supported him, but he sure has grown under Zola/Clarke. With him fit all season we had been 7th! Promise!

Dyer 7 (on 53'd)- Good to see him back again. And even if he missed a good opportunity he looked fit and played a lively part in the game. For him preseason will start tomorrow.
Good to see the way Zola handled Di Michele (72'd) and Tristan (63'd). They were rightly on the bench from the start but had at last their chances to feel the good vibes at Upton Park for their last (it must be) games in claret and blue. Neither impressed me. But I think Tristan will have a Ok season next year. But not with us.

Over-all: Thanks for a season that gave us hope of a bright future again. And some really nice football too.


48 or 51?

Hull has to loose, Newcastle has too. But Boro will anyway and in which case fight for their lives. And they need a couple of goals in the net as their goaldifference is worse than Hull's. So expect our last match for the season to be a hard contest. I still think we'll win. If Boro don't make a goal in the first half, and if they sees that either competing team (read: Newcastle) will take a point or three, it's hard to believe they will be able to stuck in every minute here. And having Carlton Cole back from the start will suit us well in this game. It'll probably look like an away game, letting the old cricket team to keep posession and us to be the team that makes the counterattacks with Collison, Stanislas and LBM fight forward.
The weakest link or at least the most unsecure one will be who to partner Upson as Collins is still out and Tomkins suspended. You could either have Neill or Spector. But I'll go with the future and give N'Gala even if I've hardly seen him play. But the other two will probably not have a bright future here - different reasons though! - but N'Gala will. So let him play! (Ok, Kovac may be an alternative as well, but if the rumour is true that Moscow wants 6 millions for him he won't be here next season, and then why play him now? Let's give him 10 minutes in the end to applaud him a bit).
Having Stuart Downing off - and seven (!) other players - (well, the clever Tuncay will be playin!) will of course help our cause, but every M'boro-man out there will fight as hard as ever and hopefully our team cames through unscratched. And with three points! Which will see us in front of "the world's richest club" Manchester City. Not a bad bait, if you ask me.
It would also be a revenge as we lost 2-0 last time, in a ridiculously weak game. Last time at Upton Park Ilunga scored though. I do not mind if he'll do that against Boro again.

I'll go with:
Neill, N'Gala, Upson, Ilunga
LBM, Noble, Collison, Stanislas
Cole, Savio

Bench: Lastuvka, Spector, Lopez, Payne, Kovac, Tristan, Sears


Good luck Joe

Young West Ham-academy player Joe Widdowson (born 1989) has put pen on a three year contract with Grimsby, after he was told he wasn't going to have a future at West ham. 
"I want to be a professional footballer, and I don't consider myself to be a Premier League player at the moment, so it was not a hard decision" he told Grimsby town's home site.
After seeing him play so good in the summer tour last year (against Beckham for instance) and knowing he has done very well in his loanspell at Grimsby this decision surprised me a bit. I thought he was one for the future, next term ready to make the bench. Who is there at LB if Ilunga get's injured? Or maybe that guy can't have any knocks?! Well, you can't have'em all. So good luck to Joe. Hopefully the West Ham product will see a better season to come for the whole Grimsby team.

The same morning Zola hinted that Sears needs to go out on loan the forthcoming season (at least a part of it) to grow. Looking at the few contributions he had this year I guess it would have been even better if Freddie already had done been out somewhere. Zola could have used Hines on the bench.


10'th place again?

So this was it. After a tremedous shot by Kovac I thought this could be the day to beat Everton at last. But they are a machine and have good strikers in Jo, Felliani, Saha, Cahill, Yobo, Pineaar... So a lot to choose from. Moyes put his money on Saha... a good choice - for the home team. We started with Di Michele and Tristan and once again they looked really out of order. I think it would be wrong to see any of them here next season. (If one of them would stay I'd go with Tristan, can explain why later.) 

In the second half we could see what a different Carlton Cole does, as he got his first 45 after the layoff. He won every (long) ball, but one, he had to deal with, he gave to home defenders hard work,  he fed LBM with a tremendous pass and he gave the midfield the opportunity to put some pressure on their counterparts at Everton. But it was too late as Tomkins was sent off - a very,very  harsh decision even if you're not a Hammer - when he (maybe) tripped Cahill. Penalty and Green went for once the wrong way. We came out with 1-1, but had hardly taken our seats (in front of the telly) as the second half begun with Everton scoring. And it looked "the old West Ham way". Noone attacked or was close to Yobo when a corner fell to him in the box and his shot went not just under Upson's legs (a bit deflected) but Noble's as well. Unlucky or poor defending? Both! It looked like an old game of Crocket. Why Spector also was given a go after the first 45' you can question. His lack of fundamental defending was exposed early. He sold himself very, very easy when Pienaar just ran away from Spector - maybe he was thinking what to buy for breakfast tomorrow - and served Saha for their third goal. 

It's not easy to play against Everton's midfield, but I want more from Noble and Collison. Even if the latter recently has come back from injury. 

And once again we lost 3-1 but their were a few sparkles. To see Cole back was one of them. Kovac seems to grow from game to game and may be an alternative in the end, and Stanislas came on and looked sharp again. Despite a very very tame - for the 1056 time in a row - shot when totally free with Howard, I would also give LBM the thumb up. His contribution was not bad. Ilunga solid as always. Fought good as well. The man of the match though was Green. Once again. Nani better ask for his name on a new contract now! But in the end; the referee and two lapsuses spoilt the evening for us.

(no marks today as I was unable to watch the beginning of the game)


Feed the Cole and he will score ?

To get back into your old moves after a month (and more) of layoff is not that easy. Maybe especially not for Carlton. It took him plenty of opportunities (both games in the starting lineup and actual goal scoring chances) to be prolific this season, and I’m afraid that, in a sense, goal scoring does not really come naturally to him. This is just my gut feeling so I’d be more than pleased if this is not the case.

Cole may be fit enough to start against the Toffees, and even if my worries about him comes true Cole will nevertheless bring an enormous increase in fire power to our attack. However, I’m certain, bordering to resignation, that Di Michele will play alongside him. These two have started most games together since Bellamy left, and Cole has been able to score nonetheless. When it comes to Di Michele, that is the only tiny thread I’m hanging on to.
Zolas latest statement on Di Michele was that it was unfortunate that he didn’t score more (so far I agree) but that he was very important for our game (!).

I respect you Gianfranco, but don’t push it!

And so would I


Spend away?

A Spanish site have ”leaked” the new away kit.
Even though it doesn’t look like a football jersey I’m OK with it if it turns out to be the real thing. I like the colors and at least we won’t have the horrendous “covertheXL” plastic patch of shame any more.

Today the Mailonline ran a story on the kit prices and presented results from a Virgin Money survey that showed that an increasing number of fans will not be buying new kits for the next season. According to that survey West Ham fans are going to cut back on "matchday spending" more than most other PL fans (with the exception of Chelsea fans and who'd like their kit anyway). The “fad” to have a new kit shirt every season is not that old and may (as) well die young.
To me being a fan has got nothing to do with how much merchandise you buy.
It does bring in money to the Club, and that is of course a good thing, but still. To wear a Dagenham Motors kit from the early 90’s is far classier than any new kit.
A lot of us are feeling the squeeze at the moment and having to choose I’d rather go to an extra game for the money.



Frustration must have been the most common feeling at the Boleyn on Saturday. My feeling was that our chance to get something out of this game was to figth through the initial Liverpool siege, but after a minute and a half the frustration hit me for the first time in this game.

Their second goal was as frustrating as the first. Wiley made a mistake not to award LBM a free kick outside the Liverpool box. The following attack saw the frustrated LBM tugging Torres shirt, and I guess the penalty was a correct call but the fact that it followed on a mistake from Wiley made LBM and the rest of us fuming with frustration.

My frustration didn't stop there. When Di Michele blundered away the chance of the match it was the pinnacle of my frustration with Di Michele.
Running the risk of being blasphemic I think the frustration I have with Di Michele really is a frustration with Zola. Why on Goods green earth is he playing him? As this will be the topic of my next post (is Zola really the launcher of young talent?) I won’t go into that now.

I feel frustrated for Mark Noble as well. He is massive in this game, winning balls holding the ball when called for and passing the ball impressively throughout the game but didn’t have much help. I, as many others have been worried that he is not taking that last step in his development, but he showed on Saturday that he is well on his way.

Neill was a frustrating and sad mix of his new and old self. His attitude was the new Neill, wanting to be in the mix, trying to play the creative passes he has done so brilliantly lately. Unfortunately the quality of the passes was the old Neill.

Another unfortunate player was LBM, not just for the unlucky series of events leading up to the second goal. There is nothing wrong with his attitude, he works harder than most, but his passing was horrid and he lost possession just too many times. Behrami is desperately missed!

Tristan was as lively as I’ve seen him in Claret and Blue. Even though he faded badly in the second half, as we knew he would. But he looks like a footballer now and again and he sometimes even show some of the talent that made him a Spanish international. He needs more fitness but with Cole and/or Ashton fit I can’t see him being a starter. However, he may be a decent last 20 min sub next season.

Stanislas is obviously still learning but I have no problem with that. He shows an enormous promise and has facets to his game that is not very common. In addition to a great work rate he really shows everybody that he wants to be involved and when he gets the ball he is pretty good one on one. He shows that he has a good eye for the game by running into interesting areas, but he does not always have the presence to find others doing the same. He needs to see when Ilunga goes forward so he can provide the ball Ilunga wants. Stanislas still wastes too many passes but he definitely contributes more to our game than 2 or 3 established players.

Collison got half an hour replacing Stanislas and immediately had an impact on the game. That boy can play! It’s unfortunate that both Stanislas and Collison seem to prefer the left hand side as we need both of them on the pitch and the central spot available for a creative player should be reserved for Noble.

Tomkins didn’t have an easy task. He did well to keep Torres goalless. His inclination to cover the area or trying to intercept a pass instead of marking the player is a bit too risky for my taste, and he was saved by others a few times. Still, he was up against Liverpool and did great!


Tomkins to tame Torres?

The last few games we have seen Tomkins produce some truly impressive performances, having kept Fuller, Anelka, Heskey and Bent more or less silent. Today he will be up against one of my favourite strikers - Fernando Torres. Torres extraordinary ability to be involved in building the game without loosing too much of his striker venom is ... extraordinary.
This is the "game in the game" that I truly look forward to today (the other is if our midfield can keep possession).
If Tomkins is up to this I can't see Collins getting in to that defensive line again.

There is a plan, how on earth can there be a plan?

In a recent interview Zola is saying that there is one transfer plan if we qualify for the Europa League and another if we don’t.
He has in previous interviews talked about adding 2-3 names to the squad, emphasizing that this should be names that would significantly increase the strength of the squad.

Last transfer window he "funded the Savio deal" by selling Bellamy and letting several players go out on loan. I doubt there is/are anyone in the current squad that he would like to part with that would bring in the kind of money it would take to get 2-3 decent players in. Unless, God forbid, there is some kind of pre-deal for selling Upson.

So where is the money coming from? How can, at this economically desperate time, anyone grant Zola any transfer funds?
It could be that the organization now, after cutting away some “dead wood” is actually making a profit and transfer funds can be granted by the sitting board (I find it unlikely).
However, there are rumors that some kind of preliminary takeove deal is already struck with an Asian buyer and that this future owner has given Dux/Zola a hint of what can be expected.

Having desperately waited for this change of ownership to go through since last October I confess to being inclined to wishful thinking about this.


On the stretcher

Dean Ashton The ankle injury he suffered in training is a serious one that will keep him out for the rest of the season. Now fit enough to run the treadmill.

Danny Gabbidon Abdominal injury (?), no date set for return. Is said to be running. When it comes to Gabbidon one has to be content with every tiny bit of progress.

Terry Dixon Oh how I wish the best for this kid! Dixon has according to some reports suffered lots of minor setbacks. His kneecap problem seem OK but, as is often the case, several other strains (groin, calf) appear when coming back from a lengthy layoff. Now the official word is that he is ”working hard on a personal program to return to full fitness”

Jack Collison suffered a nasty kneecap (dislocation) injury in the Wigan game (kneecap problems seem to be "the new black")! He played the last 15 minutes against Stoke and could be in the starting lineup agains Liverpool

James Collins. A calf strain picked up in the Bolton game keeps him sidelined. Maybe back for the “Everton game” says the official sources.

Valon Behrami suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury against Man C. He will be out until the beginning of next season as the knee needs an operation. This kind of injury is unpredictable and I hope that he will not suffer further setbacks.

Kieron Dyer played an hour against Villa and Chelsea but his body does not seem to like football. Can’t even remember what the last thing he picked up was but after such a lengthy layoff all kinds of stuff has to be rebuilt and Dyer is struggling with that.

Carlton Cole is recovering from the groin injury he “aggravated” in the England game against Slovakia. The official word is that he is “unlikely” for the Liverpool game, which is good news to me.

Scott Parkers groin injury still keeps him out of contention. I doubt we will see him anymore this season and that may well cost us that 7th spot!

Sweet memories!

And Happy Birthday Mark!


Who is the grouch now?

There is no mistaking Lucas Neill’s resolve when it comes to the “new” Europa League.
On the official site he talks about how we need to get 4 more points to get that desirable (?) 7th place that gets us into the prestigious (?) Europa league. Or rather, it gets us into the third of four qualification rounds that takes us, if successful, to the group stage.

The Europa League is, as you all know, a slightly altered UEFA Cup.
The main football related difference include a regular group stage with 48 teams in 12 groups with home and away games. However, maybe the biggest difference is that UEFA has centrally negotiated the TV deals. The money will be better and, maybe more importantly, the money will not depend on if you happen to play a high profile team (if there are any) or not, as was the case in the UEFA Cup.
If West Ham reaches the lucrative (?) group stage we will have played 10 games when it’s finished, and the following knockout stage will force the winners to play another 9 games. As the Guardian pointed out some month ago that’s half a PL season and will certainly take its toll on the squad.
But even if there are plenty of examples of teams that has been struggling in the league the season when they return to the international cup scene I think it would be great if we could have a go. Reading the Neill interview is almost all you need to understand why. The players want to do this! One of the things that drives people in general and footballers in particular is the possibility to go to the next level. Players can do that either by climbing a career ladder by changing clubs or they can hope to be part in a club that intends to take that next step. Even if we have quite a few internationals in the squad, the opportunity to play a bunch of competitive games in other countries will be a buzz for quite a few of them, and a dream come true for some of them, especially the youngsters!
It will also be another lure for the players we want to sign in the summer. I can’t count all the times I’ve heard players say that they joined a team for the chance to play on the international level. A lot of times that is pure bullshit as they tend to go to the team that pays the best, but at least it may prevent us from having to substantially overbid the competition.

It’s also interesting that Neill is the one fronting this. Even though he is the Captain and it could all be about leadership, it could also be a genuine desire for him to play in those games.
He is out of contract this summer and it is said that he will be forced to accept a pay cut if he wants to extend his stay with us. The way he plays at the moment is the best I’ve seen him play in our shirt and if he can keep that up he is more than welcome to Captain our side in Europa next season pay cut or not.

I’m the one usually being the grouch but I’ve seen quite a few negative posts and articles about the Europa League and us playing in it. I say go get that 7th place and let’s play in Europe next season.

Lousy technique?

Those of you who says Mark Noble has a lousy handling of the ball or technique should at least be able to raise their hands and do THIS.


FIFA/UEFA or just a dream?

I am instinctively in favor of increasing the “local” influence in the PL, but when I analyze my reasons for this I find myself a bit naïve.

I feel it would enhance the local support that I find extremely important. And as Keano, millions of viewers of televised games would hate a “prawnsandwichification”.
A lack of atmosphere at the stadiums would be an economic disaster as it’s an integral part of the football experience, even for the people watching from the couch (have you watched any Serie A games between teams placed below 7th? – I can’t be bothered to watch as the empty stadium provide no foundation for the battle).
Still Arsenal sell out most games with or without UK players in the squad, and with a decent atmosphere, so is it really as important as I want it to be?
Maybe most fans take success before a strong local bond (even when it comes to a new owner). After all, there are several local teams with strong local bonds but without success to choose from, but few do.

But let’s say, for the case of argument, that we embrace the thought of more “local” players in the PL and that the nurturing of local talent is a good thing, is the UEFA or the FIFA way the right way to go?

The 6+5 rule FIFA advocates is at first sight the more appealing. With a stroke of a wand we increase the number of English players fielded in the PL. However there are some points to consider.
1. The obstacle of EU legislation is one not easily overcome. Jan Figel, the European commissioner I mentioned in the 6+5 post below, mockfully urged FIFA to impose the 6+5 rule in the EU as it would provoke a Bosman-like lawsuit “And they would win". (In my eyes this all but kills the 6+5 rule but I’ll give you some additional thoughts just the same)
2. The high average of Spanish players in the Primera liga (and in Serie A) is said to be in part achieved by granting every player with even a remote ancestral connection with the respective countries citizenship. Thereby the 6+5 rule will be too easy to bypass.
3. It only concerns the starting lineup. Anyone but me that would expects an increase in mysterious and reoccurring injuries on UK players during the early part of the game?

The UEFA “home-grown player” initiative has its upsides but struggles with other problems
1. Lack of impact as I outline in the last post
2. UEFA can implement this in their own tournaments, thereby can do something without the acceptance of national government bodies.
3. UEFA cannot implement too hard rules in their competitions as this would “force” the biggest European clubs to create their own competitions/shows...
4. Has more or less an OK from the EU
5. Some are worried that it would spark an increased signing of very young players of other nationalities. This young talent may benefit from being nurtured locally rather than being revamped into a home-grown player in a foreign country.

Home-grown players according to UEFA

It’s almost 5 years since the UEFA came up with the “home-grown player” concept. The reasoning behind the proposal is more or less the same as the ones FIFA use for their 6+5. A homegrown, player is, according to the UEFA, someone that has been registered with the club (club-trained) or has been with an club from the same association (association-trained) for at least 3 seasons between the age of 15 and 21. Thereby UEFA wants to give incentive to clubs to nurture young talent (and buying players within a country) and thereby increase the local identity of teams also on the highest level.

At a first glance this looks like it would give teams like West Ham, with a strong youth policy, an advantage but the UEFA proposal, at least the current version only, stipulates that 3 club-trained and 2 association-trained players to be in the 25 man squad submitted to UEFA at the start of the season to be used in UEFA club competitions. So 20 players with no home-grown talent what so ever will be eligible for the UEFA games. It doesn’t seem like much of an incentive to me.
Still last year Rafa Benitez famously blamed the UEFA rule for forcing him to leave Sami Hyypia out of his Champions League squad. With only Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher as first team members from their own Academy Rafa was forced to add Jay Spearing and Stephen Darby to their 'A' squad.
In contrast to the FIFA 6+5 rule the EU reckons that the “home-grown player” concept “seems to comply with the principle of free movement of workers while promoting the training of young European players”, so there might be less legal problems with this.


6+5 or any hired gun?

The All Parliament Football Group (APFG) that I bored you with some posts back, spoke in favour of the FIFA 5+6 rule in their REPORT.
The 6+5 rule proposes that 6 of the 11 football players on the pitch have to be of the nationality of the country of the football club, or rather qualify to play for the national team of that country. APFG urged the Minister of Sport and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to lobby the EU “to facilitate the adoption of FIFA’s 6+5 proposal by football associations in member states”.
The APFG seem to up against a pretty strong force here (even if they unsurprisingly lured Sepp Blatter out of the box as the 6+5 proposal was not only “red carded” by the EU commission a year ago but was again dismissed by Jan Figel, the European commissioner for culture and the EC's highest authority on sporting matters even before having had talks with FIFA people and before his own ordered analysis was ready. According to an article in the Guardian he said "The Commission cannot agree to an illegal system," and "So, as long as Fifa keeps on proposing the 6+5 rule as it is currently formulated, the Commission will not be able to endorse [it] within the European Union. It's as simple as that: the 6+5 rule cannot apply within the EU."
So good luck with that project, APFG!

APFG had this as part of their agenda to develop the national game, and even if I don’t care too much for the national team I think that it's important that the clubs have some kind of “local” connection. We all ridiculed l’Arse some years ago when they fielded the first “English” side in history not including a single UK or even Irish player, but this is not a Wenger phenomenon any more. In fact, on average only 4 of 11 starting PL players are English (Chelskij, Manure, l’Arse and ‘pool average 2.6!). Some say that this is the overshadowing reason for the discrepancy between international success at club and national level (and what are the deductions you make out of that?).

Against Stoke our starting XI saw 5 UK players (Green, Tomkins, Upson, Noble and Stanislas) and even if late substitutions saw Sears and Collison upping that average, we are an average PL side in this sense. What will our stats be when all our players are fit and what does the Zola/Nani connection mean in this sense?

Are there other ways to secure a high representation of “local” players in a top 5 PL side? Or is it at all desirable?
I’ll be back with a post on the UEFA “homegrown player” initiative shortly.


Delap signature series throw in gloves?

Far too late and when everyone’s focus has turned to the Liverpool game I still have to get some stuff off my chest about the Stoke game.

One wonders what Stoke trials look like. Do they take place in the gym or on the pitch? I can appreciate a guy that can press 100 kgs on the bench as much as anybody but these upper bodies was Fuller than usually necessary. I understand that all teams must play according to their resources, and I can also appreciate the need for a team with a low budget to be physical but this is far too much for my taste.
Also, there are more than one team that focuses on set pieces as they know that’s where they can compete with a more technical side. I can’t say I enjoy that kind of football but so be it and there seems to be at least one such team in every league. Stoke, however, have taken this to the next level. By fielding a team with twice the weight of ours they made sure they could dominate the dead ball situations (including throw ins) by sheer force.
I’m sure that the opposition next season will be better prepared for the way Stoke focus on the throw ins. Even though one must admit that Delap’s throws are athletic achievements, I find it utterly depressing if this is a significant part of the future of football. To see teams push their center halves for every throw in will be extremely tedious. The towel people at Britannia must be banned before the game gets on its way rather than after 60 minutes of play. What will be next, throw in gloves?

Having bad mouthed their game plan I must give them credit for their work rate. It was like a freaking Cup tie! Stoke is all but safe this season and can’t hope to climb any significant amount in the table, still they fight like their life depended on it! Impressive!
Again we fail to keep possession during the late stages of the game. Kover Kovac did fairly well by his own standards but still the absence of Parker is painful. However, the inability of the strikers to offer the midfielders any viable passing alternatives is the real disaster. I'll get back to this in a future post.

Bubbleviews own Prince has already commented on the youngsters in the West Ham lineup, and I can only emphasize what he has already said.
The way Tomkins play is overwhelming. I watched the game a second time on video to take a closer look at the youngsters and the way Tomkins adapts to the situations he is faced with is nothing but top class. He does not look like a very physical player but had surprisingly few problems with the striped bodybuilders. Is this the 3rd game in a row he doesn’t do even one “youth-error”?

Talking about physical presence Junior Stanislas seems to me to be a complete package. Pace, technique, understanding of the game, he has a lot of all. I’m especially pleased with the fact that he is not another smallish player. Being 5’6” myself I enjoy small technical players but we have enough of short prodigies at the moment and need some physical presence in the mid field. He is of course still a bit off being a mature player and can develop several parts of his game substantially, maybe especially his passing game, but I am very impressed by the way he handles most situations, not intimidated the least by the fact that he is now facing seasoned PL proffessionals.
With another impressive youngster – Collison - back in the side it will be a delicate task to pick the starting lineup. Against Stoke Stanislas faded and I’m not sure if it had anything to do with him switching to the right hand side. I’m eager to see him start on that side to see what he can do there when he is fresh.


3 points at Britannia is class!

I do like Stoke a bit. Their fans (not their hooligans though). Their tradition. My first green goalkeeper's gloves had Gordon Banks name on'em. So they deserve to stay up. I like the way the fight. But I do not like the way they push everybody around - and don't get punished for it. Mr Shawcross seems to use his hands more than his feet during a game. And Delap certainly do. Even if I'm impressed by his throw-ins the game seems to be far to static during those long minutes he either do those "corner"-throws or using that towel to wipe the ball. West Ham stood up very well, but after our goal could not close the game- as we should have - and allowed Stoke to put pressure on us. A bit unnecessary, I think. Tristan has grown during his last games, so it was pretty fair that the slow Spaniard once again showed that he knows where the goal is, and gave us the three points. So now we are two points better off than I thought some weeks ago!

This was not of our better games, still we fought very well and our defence was very solid! Stoke was unbeaten for seven or eight games, and we won in the dungeon called Britannia Stadium. Not bad. Even if we miss so many players we do show so much energy - much thanks to Zola - and belief that we still can win these games. Which we should not have a year and a half ago.

Green 8 - One very crucial save when he bravely, and like a Cobra, dived to Fuller's feet. Could have been punished when he dropped the ball once, but otherwise verty solid.
Lucas Neill 8 - I do not know what's happened, but during the last four games he has really played like a captain, he has not let anyone past him and he has pushed the pther's forward. OK, he spills a pass or two, but I'm very impressed to see his mentality and the way he cope with his opponents even without any pace at all.
James Tomkins 7 - Solid once more. Had some battles with Fuller but won most of em.
Matthew Upson 7,5 - Better off this time, after a few games without the stability you expect. Today he showed who controll the box.
Herita Illunga 8 - Probably our best player today! Solid as a rock, helped his teammates and kept his flank clear. He is also very smart when he goes forward. I'm sorry to say Di Michele too seldom sees it.
Luis Boa Morte 7 - Gave his all once more even if it was more of up's and down's this time- failed sometimes but showed ability other times. Still I think he - as the terrier he is - was very important for us.
Kovac 6,5 - Probably his best game with us. Replaced Dyer from the start and rightly so. Struggled somtimtes with the PL-bullies that are out there, but was still needed with his play.
Mark Noble 7 - Important, and to know he is still just 21... Is crucial to have when we shall calm down the game, not so effective in counterattack. Missed to many passes, and should choose easier opportunities sometimes. Saved on the goal-line!!
Junior Stanislas 6,5 - Will he be replaced when everyone is fit?? I think the young winger once more showed how mature his play is. One of the best players we have with the ball. Overhit some passes and looked a bit fatigued after an hour or so. Still always a threat and a good defensive display.
Tristan 7 - The free-kick that gave us three points was one of the best in PL this season!
Di Michele 5 - Nope! Not this time either!

Subs: Collison was back! Great. But he, Lopez and Sears played to short for be given any marks this time.

On Monday Carlton Cole starts his full training! Beware Liverpool!

Carr´s super youth

Tony Carr´s been working since 1973 and this summer he´ll be granted a well deserved testimonial. Here´s a list of the players he´s been involved in developing during the years. There can ofcourse be someone missing and some are more well known than the others but you get the general idea anyway. Pretty impressive.

West Ham United acacemy players 1973 - 2009

Full Internationals (21):

Alvin Martin - England International
Frank Lampard - England International
Glen Johnson - England International
Jermaine Defoe - England International
Joe Cole - England International
John Terry - England International
Kieran Richardson - England International
Paul Ince - England International
Ray Houghton - Rep of Ireland International
Richard Garcia - Australia International
Rio Ferdinand - England International
Tony Cottee - England International
Jack Collison - Wales International
Sol Campbell - England International
Paul Konchesky - England International
Freddy Eastwood - Wales International
Grant McCann - Northern Ireland International
Adam Newton - St Kitts and Nevis International
Chris Coyne - Australia International
Michael Carrick - England International
Daniel Sjölund - Finnish International

English Top Division (32):

Alan Curbishley - England U21 International
Alan Dickens - England U21 International
Anton Ferdinand - England U21 International
Bobby Barnes
Lee Hodges
Shaun Byrne - Rep of Ireland U21 International
Bobby Zamora - England U21 International
Eamonn Dolan - Rep of Ireland U21 International
Freddie Sears - England U20 International
Geoff Pike - FA Cup Winner
George Parris
James Tomkins - England U20 International
Junior Stanislas - England U19/U20 International
Kevin Keen
Kyle Reid - England U17/U18/U19 International
Mark Noble - England U21 International
Mervyn Day - FA Cup Winner
Paul Allen - FA Cup Winner
Paul Brush - FA Cup Winner
Steve Potts
Stuart Slater - England U21/B International
Danny Williamson
Jlloyd Samuel - England U21 International
Fitz Hall
Liam Ridgewell England U19/U21 International
Emmanuel Omoyinmi
Elliott Ward
Everald La Ronde
Greg Campbell
Keith McPherson
Matthew Rush
Josh Payne

England 2nd Tier or below or non English leagues (27):

Billy Lansdowne Jr
Dale Banton
Lee Boylan
Nicky Morgan
Paul Kelly
Paul Marquis
Phil Brignull
Simon Livett
Steve Banks
Steveland Angus
Trent McClenahan - Australia U20/U23 International
Chris Cohen
Michael Ferrante - Australia U17/U20 International
Anwar Uddin
Gary Alexander
Leon Britton
Jamie Victory
Joe Widdowson
Darryl McMahon
Hogan Ephraim
Mark Smith
Simon Clarke
Tony Stokes
Terrell Forbes
Stephen Purches
Billy Mehmet
Izzy Iriekpen

Latest graduates:

Bondz N´Gala
Jordan Spence - England U16/U17/U18/U19 International
Zavon Hines