Various snippets in the press over the last week, we seem to be linked with just about everyone including Liverpool's Fabio Borini. He had a decent spell at Sunderland but was deemed not good enough at a Liverpool side that could't score, so not sure about this one. Rickie Lambert would surely be a better squad player. Meanwhile Dicksy is back on the coaching staff and Mark Noble has caught an 11-foot shark (who promptly asked Nobes if he could represent him) while fishing in Florida. Oh and congratulations to Andy Carroll and Billi Mucklow who have had a baby son called Arlo. If they've followed the Brooklyn Beckham model, does this mean he was conceived in Harlow?
West Ham 3 FC Lusitans 0 (Europa League Qualifier)
Surely definitive proof that West Ham have the best fans in
the Premier League. What other club would get 34,000 on July 2 for a Europa
League Qualifier? Sadly I’m away in Norfolk for this one as my sister is
visiting from Australia and has foolishly booked her ten days in England
without considering the chance of West Ham qualifying for the Europa League via
the Fair Play league. Very poor planning indeed from the Antipodean section of the family. At least Matt is able to
report from Ken’s Café that Carol has the iced lattes ready and the air
conditioning is on (Billy waving a rolled up copy of the Standard).
Super Slaven Bilic is introduced to the crowd before the game and then takes a seat in the stand. Matt’s texts alleviate any nerves during our curry in Kings
Lynn. “Slowish start. No easy games at this level. At 40 mins I am getting
worried. Diafra then got a header, then a tap in, both made by Zarate.”
Tomkins adds a third in the second half, scored from a Matt
Jarvis cross (when did Matty last get an assist?) to complete the 3-0 win.
There’s also some nice crowd banter aimed at FC Lusitans’ porky coach and another debutant, sub Josh Cullen, hits the bar late on.
Looking at the line-up the Europa League seems a benefit at
this early stage. Sixteen-year-old Reece Oxford has become the youngest player
to ever play for the club, making his debut in midfield. Lewis Page, another
Academy graduate, makes his debut at left back too. Sakho and Tomkins are
returning from injury and need games while the rest of the side consists of
players who didn’t play much last season and should be fresh, in the likes of
Joey O’Brien, Jarvis, Poyet and Amalfitano. There’s also the intriguing
prospect of Mauro Zarate possibly resurrecting his career at the club under a
There’s a little manufactured controversy at the end when
the Lusitans gaffer criticises Slaven Bilic for not taking charge and letting
Academy coach Terry Westley sit on the touchline. In fairness, Westley did do
all the preparation while we were waiting to appoint a manager, so he surely
deserves his moment in the dugout. Now we just have to hope that WHU can survive
the away leg in front of 1000 fanatical Andorrans…
Plenty of rumours in the press that Stewart Downing might be sold, with Sunderland, Newcastle, and Leicester all interested and an apparent offer of £5m from Sunderland already turned down. Stewart might be keen on a return to the north-east for personal reasons, but it would surely be a mistake to sell him. Yes, Dimitri Payet might possibly take over his role as playmaker, but with the number of games West Ham are going to play this season Downing is still set to get a large number of games and can play in midfield, out wide and as an emergency left back. It might be tempting to get our money back for a 30-year-old, but with the amount of assists Downing made last season (eight) and his five goals we need to keep him.
West Ham have finally signed Dimitri Payet after a medical that seemed to take forever and the worrying news that Everton were trying to hijack the deal. But we've got him for £10 million plus on a five-year-deal. The downside is that he's 28 and won't have much resale value, but if he is the world class player David Sullivan promises then we may have someone who can propel us to the top eight. His departure has left some bitterness at Marseille and it sounds like his agent is the sort who will try to shift him on if he has a good season. But we've certainly missed a creator and it's intriguing to wonder where he'll fit into the side. He could play as a number ten behind Carroll or Sakho, as a midfielder perhaps replacing Downing in the diamond or out wide. And anyone who creates the number of goals he did last season — a whopping 21 plus seven himself — should be work watching. And all for the same price as Matt Jarvis.
Interesting piece on West Ham's pre-season in the Guardian today. It reveals that if we are to win the Europa League from the first qualifying round, which no team has ever done, West Ham will have to play an astounding 23 matches. There's a real danger of WHU getting into relegation trouble if that happens so the squad still needs more players. And we're so desperate for bodies that even Mauro Zarate — who fell out with Big Sam, Harry Redknapp and Chris Ramsey last season— has been welcomed back into the squad. Looks likes it will be mainly the kids and those returning from injury playing against the Andorrans, though the prices of £10 and £5 for kids are reasonable for the home leg. So here we go… who needs a close season anyway? Click on the link too read the full piece.
Get the Atlas out - we're going to FC Lusitans of Andorra in the qualifying round of the Europa League. Looks like the away leg will be on July 2 and the home leg on Thursday July 9, though this is not final. FC Lusitans have a capacity of all of 1000… Andorra is the sixth smallest nation in Europe and is on the French/Spanish border. Sounds easy on paper, but that's what West Ham once thought before playing Mansfield away in the FA Cup…
The Guardian reports that West Ham have offered £14 million for the Marseille striker Dimitri Payet, who has 15 caps for France. Sounds a versatile player who can play as an attacking midfielder/playmaker or winger and had the most assists (a very impressive 21) in the French league last season. Payet is 28, which means his resale value will be limited, but as a creator might well be the player we've been missing.