One thing the club has done right is keep the price down of the home leg of the play-off. It's £15 for adults and £5 for kids which is very reasonable. I seem to remember we had to pay full whack for the 2004 and 2005 play-off semi-finals.
West Ham 2 Hull City 1 In Ken’s Cafe at 11.30aMatt’s feeling pleased with himself as he has discovered a new trivia question:
Which international footballer appeared on the same edition of Top of The Pops in 1982 singing two
different songs. There’s a good turnout in Ken’s of Lisa, Matt, Nigel and
Michael the Whovian, Jo, Mike and Iain, while Big Joe makes a late appearance
as young Billy reveals that he personally counted Sam Allardyce spit out 47 piece
of gum during the Brighton game.
While in the Sun Kevin Nolan reveals a fairly
unreconstructed view of marriage, when he says he can take moaning fans because
they’re blokes “who might be getting shit off their wives all week”.
We press with some
urgency at the start as Vaz Te glances wide an easy header from Lansbury’s
excellent cross. Taylor then hits the bar with a vicious cross.
But the game is
played in very strange near-silent atmosphere as soon as the news come through
that Southampton are one up after 16 minutes and then two up three minutes
Lansbury volleys a
good chance over the bar and it seems unlikely that we’ll get four even if
Coventry somehow score two. Still, we make the breakthrough when Carlton Cole
heads in Taylor’s corner after 39 minutes.
Just as we’re
saying that Cole couldn’t trap a bag of cement, Lansbury curls in a fine cross
behind the Hull defence and CC chests the ball down superbly to prod home the
second on 49 minutes for his 14th of the season.
Many people attack
Cole and he’s not the player he was two years ago, but they rather overlook the
fact that he’s had a bad knee injury and still tries his best. He’s shown some
bravery to play on and put himself about the way he has while never fully fit.
discussing if Carlton might get his first ever West Ham hat-trick when Allardyce
pulls him off to save him for the play-offs. As the Saints are only 2-0 up at
this stage it seems a premature decision as another 15 minutes to get a third
would have really boosted Cole’s confidence.
LET'S ALL DO THE CONGA!
The Saints go 4-0
up and with Baldock and Maynard on we fail woefully to play them any inviting
balls. A warning comes when Green has to smother an Evans chance. Matt gets
very cross about Noble playing the ball across his own penalty area and O’Neil’s
fumble into touch, provoking an angry glare from the woman in front, who wishes
she had a vicar’s son behind her. Sure enough, we concede a terrible goal as
Demel makes a woeful back header and Evans heads over Green.
brings a fantastic reaction save from Mannone, as two inflated condoms float on
to the pitch and the fans in the Chicken Run do the Conga. Our old boy Richard
Garcia thinks he’s equalized with a header only for it to be disallowed by the
narrowest of offside decisions.
We hold on to win
2-1 and finish third on 86 points, two points ahead of Norwich’s total in
second place last season. So it’s Cardiff in the play-offs now. Time to reboot
the side for knock-out football and build on four wins and two draws in the
final six games and one defeat in 18. In truth we never looked as convincing as
Reading and Southampton and now we have to do it the hard way.
Whatever happens tomorrow it's been a good year for Winston Reid. Nice to see him score his third goal of the campaign at Leicester and tomorrow will be his 25th appearance of the season. He's made a difference since he returned to the side after suffering concussion with New Zealand. Last season he looked a terrible buy at £2.5 million, was never trusted by Grant and scored a calamitous own goal at WBA. Yet he's proved quietly consistent since August and has proved he's a good player at Championship level. At 23 he offers us some hope for the future. And he's even got his own (not very PC) song after the Millwall game.
Some rumours have been going round that if West Ham and Southampton end up with identical goal differences then it goes to a play-off. Apparently this won't happen, it will go to a head to head on the games between the clubs meaning Southampton would go up having drawn at Upton Park and beaten us at St Mary's. Not that it is likely to come to that...
There was an extraordinary piece from Liz Jones in the Mail on Sunday. Seems we're all Dickensian urchins down the Irons. "I was shocked at the level of poverty," she writes. "At West
Ham, there was hardly any claret and blue to be seen: I think the fans are too
poor to afford the official strip. But there were
many, many hoodies, throwing the pinched faces into shadow. These faces
used to be seen as the ‘salt of the earth’, the backbone of Britain, with the
tenacity to survive the Blitz. Now the faces
are the same, but instead of ancient tweed they are wearing jersey. Now there
aren’t deferential, gap-toothed grins, but, as Grayling says, scowls."
After rambling on about hoodies she returns to the match: "Back at West
Ham, I was peering through the railings at the shiny cars owned by the players:
a Ferrari, a Porsche, a huge black SUV.I asked the Oliver Twist character next to me whether
or not he was resentful of these young men with their expensive lifestyles.
‘Nah. I was too small to be a footballer. Me mum never fed me enough.” No resentment, no jealousy. But no
Strike a light, Guv! Obviously no-one wears claret and blue at West Ham. And there's no blokes working in the City among West Ham fans, no comedians, no journalists, no celebrities, no political bloggers, no lawyers, no plumbers, no office workers, in fact no-one with a job, just Oliver Twist-like oiks with hoods and sooty faces. Talking of Dickens, it's tempting to ask Ray Winstone, who played Magwitch in Great Expectations recently, to go to see Ms Jones and have a word about literary stereotypes.
It’s off to the
Lucky Pub somewhere in central London for this one, with Nigel, Gavin, Matt and
Lisa and Nigel’s mate Tom. The very pub where various Irons have seen WHU beat
Arsenal at Highbury, win a play-off semi-final at Ipswich and achieve several
other notable away victories. There’s some debate if we should be wasting the
pub’s karma on this game and if a draw would still count as lucky as we haven’t
actually lost but have blown any hope of the top two, or whether it would destroy the aura of the Lucky Pub – Matt thinks
WHERE'S OUR RUUD BOY GONE?
We discover in the Standard that shouty professor Ruud Boffin has left the club and that Matt, possibly drunk on blackcurrant and soda, announces that he has seen two thirds of his Hammers' appearances. It’s a surprise
that Lansbury is dropped but his replacement Collison looks fresh. While Carlton
Cole is playing while still suffering from his “troublesome knee”. Collison
goes close with a hard low shot that Schmeichel saves and Cole is put clear by
Noble but CC is not exactly pacey these days and is robbed by a last-ditch
tackle. Nolan flashes a volley just wide but then Leicester fire a warning, a
good headed chance being glanced wide.
We go behind when
Taylor sells himself and the unmarked Beckford heads home Marshall’s
cross on 34 minutes and any hope of automatic promotion looks to have gone.
“Taylor’s having a nightmare!” rages Matt. Almost inevitably Noble finds Taylor
who plays in a great low cross that is bundled into the net by Winston Reid. We
press before the break and Vaz Te has a shot deflected wide and fires a free
kick past the post.
WINSTON WILL NEVER SURRENDER
In the second half
we know we have to win. Nolan fires a great chance over when he could have controlled out and shot. Matt wonders what has gone wrong with Collison this season, and his anti-Midas football punditry works brilliantly. We score a second
when O’Neil’s shot is blocked and Collison shoots home a great 20-yarder that
Schmeichel gets a hand to but can’t keep out. We can hear Bubbles around the ground and despite ourselves start to get quite
We try hard to
boost our goal difference. Vaz Te and Collison try to pass to each other
instead of shooting, Collison has a good effort deflected wide by Bamba and
Nolan should score a third when he inexplicably dawdles in the box and hits the keeper.
WE LOVE YOU COVENTRY WE DO
Cole goes off to
be replaced by Collins and there’s a late header that is straight at Green and
we see the game out for our 13th away win of the season – the best
away record in the club’s history.
“Well, we’ve prolonged the agony,” says Nigel,
before he, Gav and myself head off to the non-lucky Harp pub for some post-match
analysis over Hopback ale. If Southampton draw at home to Coventry and we win by
4-0 we go up, or if the Saints lose and we win we go up. Easy. All we have to
do is ensure that Ricky Lambert injures himself by dropping a salad cream
bottle on his toe Dave Beasant-style, Southampton are laid low by an outbreak
of bubonic plague and that Coventry relax and play like footballing demi-gods
and we’re there. Possibly.
Well, Middlesbrough's win over Southampton means there's just that slight element of hope of making second place to keep Hammers' fans uncomfortable. A small irrational segment of my brain says what if West Ham won the last two games and the Southampton players, having all eaten dodgy lasagnes, underperformed against relegated Coventry, conceded a dodgy penalty and then couldn't get past an inspired goalkeeper. Of course this couldn't happen — could it?
At least the agony may be over today if Southampton get a draw at Middlesbrough, when all mathematical hope of the top two will have gone. A dilemma what sort of team to play at Leicester if the Saints do go up today - do we rest key players or try to get a confidence-boosting result with a full team? At least Lansbury looks to be running into some kind of form, twice going close against Bristol City. Will he finally come good in the play-offs? And at least O'Neil and Demel should be fresh having both been out for most of the season.
My old pal Diego Brown is writing personalised love songs to aid his London to Edinburgh bike ride for charidee, great mates. His latest effort is for a West Ham fan called Joshua entitled Josh U R which you can hear on this link. References to relegation, Brighton's Kezenga LuaLua, undersoil heating, Upton Park and Freddie Piquionne, all in one customised love song, though he deserves a good kicking for the libel on Robert Green. A nice chorus of "Papa Bouba Diop" at the end though.
In some ways West Ham have been a little unlucky in that 84 points took Norwich up in second place last season and we could yet make 86 points if we win the next two. While in a division where everyone was beating everyone else Reading suddenly couldn't stop winning.
But it's fair to say we should have made the top two with the players we signed last summer. Most of them were proven Premier League performers like Taylor, Nolan, Faye and McCartney, there was a solid existing core in Green, Tomkins, Noble, Collison and Cole and we also signed relatively expensive strikers in Maynard and Baldock. The advantage Reading and Southampton have had is they've been building teams over several seasons. In mitigation Sam Allardyce did have to rebuild nearly an entire squad over one summer and gave us a record number of away wins.
We defended well for most the season but in crucial games against Reading and Birmingham we made some catastrophic errors. But the biggest problem has been a lack of imagination in breaking down teams at home. We're hard to beat, having lost only one in 16, but can't win that many either. Allardyce seems to think that Plan B is an old record by Dexys Midnight Runners. When desperate, as at Bristol City, we lump the ball towards a big man in the form of Cole - who has worked hard but has lost his pace, can't play twice in a week and never scores 20 goals a season - or Carew, who has signed for a club too far and looks finished at the top level.
The strategy of playing a big man might have worked better if Baldock hadn't got injured when he had scored five goals early on. As it is we've had to rely on Vaz Te, a shrewd signing, who's scored ten while playing as a half winger/half striker. And we don't appear able to devise a formation where Maynard and Baldock can play together either.
There has been some good passing in midfield at times from Noble, Nolan and O'Neil in recent weeks, but we lack that creativity you might get from a Berkovic or Benayoun during their better seasons with us and also a winger who can beat players. Ravel Morrison might be the long-term answer next season if he's as good as people say. Do we have the quality to win the play-offs? Yes. Will we do so? Erm, remember this is West Ham. Momentum is crucial as they say, so it's important now we win our last two games. And on the small compensations front at least Blackpool away would be a new ground.
Bristol City 1 West Ham 1
Oh well. Knew it was all over once Carew came on... and according to the radio at least he missed a couple of passable chances. It was dropping points at home against Reading and Birmingham on top of five successive draws at home that did for us, not this result. Southampton will get at least one point from Middlesbrough away and Coventry at home so play-offs here we come.
Thanks for nothing Peterborough — 2-0 down to Southampton after ten minutes. Half-time now and been listening to the Radio London commentary from Bristol City. Sounds like we deservedly took the lead when Tomkins headed home Noble's free kick, but sadly a Green error allowed a long range shot from Skuse (Skuse me?) to creep in. What's more, Bristol City appear to have a Gherkin in goal, although I think it's actually spelt Gerkin. We need a goal in the second half or it's virtually all over barring a Posh fightback that doesn't look at all likely.
A lot of discussion about our biggest wins after Saturday's demolition of Brighton. There was the 8-1 against Newcastle in 1986 where Alvin Martin scored a hat-trick against there different keepers, the 6-0 at home to Barnsley when Abou got two and a 6-0 against Sunderland in 1992 on live TV in division one before it became the Championship. That game was watched by just 10,326 fans, the lowest crowd at Upton Park for 30 years.
Then there's Geoff Hurst scoring six in the 8-0 defeat of Sunderland in 1968. Not to mention 10-0 against Bury in the League Cup in the early 1980s. John Lyall immediately decided to buy Bury's centre half Paul 'Diego' Hilton after that one. And if you have the video footage the commentator is an Irish bloke who keeps referring to "Tony Coatee". There, all this talk of big wins should have well and truly jinxed us for tonight's game at Bristol City...
A big thank you to everyone who has viewed Hammers in the Heart as it's just passed the 200,000 views. It's written mainly for love - though the few pence that the blog gets every time someone clicks on an advert might pay for the odd cup of tea in Ken's Cafe - and as personal therapy for supporting West Ham United. Come on you Irons!
West Ham 6 (six) Brighton 0 Good news for
young Billy in Ken’s Café as Jo has found him a late spare ticket for the game
– he’s so excited he can barely shout out the lunch numbers.
from Uzbekistan and taking in Registron Samarkand v Yoshlik Kocon at the
Olympia Stadium; Big Joe is bemoaning the dodgy internet link from Sri Lanka
that cost him Bristol City tickets and then wanting to discuss Beckett plays in
French; Big Phill is enjoying a breakfast grill and anecdotes of Bas Vegas; while
Nigel’s there with CQ and basking in the light of being a proper groundhopper,
hoping that Fleetwood don’t go up and that AFC Wimbledon and the old Wimbledon
count as one club in his tally of 92 grounds.
We start the game
on fire. Nolan finds Lansbury in the first minute and his shot is deflected on
to the bar. Two minutes in and Vaz Te sends a long-range effort through the
hands of the kneeling Brezovan for the first goal. Brezovan then produces two
great saves from Nolan before O’Neil crosses and Vaz Te heads in at the far post
after eight minutes. Demel is looking strong and efficient at right back on his
home debut. We also appear to be playing 4-4-2 with Vaz Te and Cole up front.
There’s ten and a
half minutes gone when Tomkins heads Taylor’s free kick across goal and Nolan
prods home as the Seagulls’ defence goes missing again. Don’t they know we’re
supposed to always draw at home?
Fraser says that
he only has 20 cigars on him. Nigel suggests that if we win 10-0 we’ll better
Southampton on goal difference. Matt and myself counsel caution and cite the
Wimbledon and West Brom 3-0 up 4-3 down home games.
THE ONLY WAY IS SIX
Cole scuffs a
couple of good chances and as so often happens, West Ham relax a little and
Brighton come back into it, playing some nice midfield stuff with Gai Assulin,
on loan from Man City, prominent. But they lack penetration for all the pretty
football and their best and only chance is when Green palms a header from Greer
– who may feel his teammates are playing like female eunochs - off the line.
before the break for Nolan to send Lansbury clear with a superb ball, only for
Henri to slice his shot wide of goal when he should score.
In the second half
we start off with renewed energy, a bit like the Birmingham game. Cole has a
one-on-one saved by the keeper and on 64 minutes we go 4-0 up. There’s a
certain penalty appeal as Lansbury is pushed in the box, but Vaz Te plays to
the whistle and scores with a brilliant bicycle kick to claim his hat-trick and
tenth goal in 12 games at WHU. Not bad for 500 grand.
through to score with a shot that is deflected in off Lansbury and then from a
West Ham corner the aptly-named Dicker scores a comedy own goal. Even
substitute Carew causes a few problems. It should be mentioned that the ref is
rubbish too, allowing Cole to be clattered whenever he gets the ball, but we’re
still 6-0 up.
WE WANT SEVEN!
There’s time for a
chant of “We want seven!” I wonder if we should boo them off anyway, just for
old time’s sake, but it’s Bubbles that resonates around the stadium. Nigel’s so
excited he tweets the score to his followers. The only quibble is that the
ground is half-empty at the final whistle, as numerous fans have rushed for the
Silverlink or to drink the Black Lion out of Doombar. We don’t score six very
often so why leave early?
We retreat to the
Black Lion to celebrate with a Broadside and some Adams Mild as the kids in the
garden whack footballs against our table.
We discuss our biggest ever scores. Mine is 10-0 versus Bury, who had the great Paul Hilton at centre back. Fraser remembers seeing Geoff Hurst get six goals in the 8-0 demolition of Sunderland when he was a kid (or possibly running Stirling Cooper or being Adam Faith) in the 1960s. Someone in the pub says he was at that Sunderland game with his son too. Does his son still go, asks Matt."No mate, he's banged up!"
It’s still in all
likelihood going to be too late to catch Southampton, but with a deficit of three points and only three goals behind on goal difference it’s now possible.
And having finally tonked someone we can go into the final games of the season
with some confidence.
Interesting that Edvard Munch's The Scream is up for sale in the UK just as West Ham look set to miss out on automatic promotion. I've always thought that Munch might have been one of those early Norway Irons who visited England to watch Thames Ironworks back in the 1890s. Could it be the owner is hoping to find a buyer who's a West Ham fan? Still, some hope after Southampton lost to Reading last night if we can only win a home match...
A small consolation for Reading defeating Brighton is that we've sneaked almost unnoticed into the play-offs. Brighton in seventh place are now 13 points behind us with four games left. Automatic promotion looks impossible which is all very disappointing, but perhaps we should remember that under Pardew we came fourth and then sixth, and this season look likely to finish third having made the play-offs with four games to go. The big problem has been Reading sneaking up like the bloody Terminator and winning 18 out of 24 games, while our lack of a goalscorer has meant we've drawn home games we should have won. And now it's lottery time...
We’ve never been served so fast it Ken’s
Café. It’s 4pm and brunch for my kids for a quid comes within five minutes. Then it’s
on to the Newham Bookshop where we buy Sugar Girls by Duncan Barrett and Nuala
Calvi, a history of the Tate & Lyall factory in Canning Town and two books
from The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. A good start to the day, it's just the football that might be the problem.
At the unlikely time of 5.20pm we join
groundhopper Nigel telling tales of “Stand up if talk bollocks!” chants at
Barnsley, Whovian Michael and Fraser, complete with cigars, in the East
Stand. Matt is still in Uzbekistan, and texts to say: ”Greetings from Bukhara
heart of the Silk Road.” "Is he at Macclesfield, home of the Silkmen?” I
My eleven-year-old daughter Nell asks why
the crowd groan when Carlton Cole’s name is read out and I explain the goal
ratio of CC compared to Ricky Lambert. There are early warning signs as Green
parries a Birmingham shot and then Davies heads wide. We go behind after 27 minutes
when McCartney plays a loose pass and Mutch surges past Faye to fire into the
corner. Robert Green is badly at fault. “Daddy, why didn’t
Robert Green move?” asks Nell.
It gets worse. Three minutes later a foul
in midfield goes undetected and then City play in ex-felon Marlon King, who has
found a Shard-size gap through our central defence and expertly shoots past
Green. Bugger. It’s just like Reading. Then McCartney goes off and is replaced
by Danny Collins after a clash of heads. Matt texts: "In Uzbekistan they know how to deal with those who fail dismally."
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY DEFENCE As both Lola and Nell have Harry
Potter books with them I ask them if there’s a spell to help us beat the blue
forces of Valdemort. Thirteen-year-old Lola comes with an incantation that will make the City
players die, but that seems a bit extreme, even for 2-0 down at home.
The crowd and West Ham are sparked into
life by the early calamities. Maynard curls an excellent shot against bar and
then from Noble’s corner Tomkins heads on and Vaz Te glances home another
header. Just the fillip we needed for half-time, all we have to do is keep it
at 2-1 for two minutes of added time.
Ah, but we fail to win the next tackle in
midfield and concede a corner, Nolan heads clear but Burke volleys into the
ground and the ball bounces horribly over our defenders and into the corner.
It’s slightly lucky but if we’d kept a man on the line it would surely have
Matt texts: “Tamerlane the Earth-Shaker massacred
five million in India – doubt if he would have forgiven Big Fat Sam for another
failure.” I text back to say we’re going to win 4-3.
CARLTON THE EARTH SHAKER
Allardyce has clearly done some earthshaking
at half time, having possibly thrown several tea urns, unread Olympic stadium
dossiers and a pile of Karren Brady books at the players. Lansbury
replaces Maynard and we start with new intent. Nothing to lose now. Nolan is
playing as a near-striker and looks much better further up the field. West Ham
bombard the Brum penalty area.
Lansbury has a good penalty appeal turned down
and then Cole is held back and the incensed Lansbury races back to remonstrate
with the referee and is booked. At least we’re playing with some spirit. The
crowd sense this and are the noisiest they’ve been all season with chants of
“Come on you Irons!” and “Claret and Blue Army!” Show some passion and the fans
will always get behind a West Ham team. Patronise them and pick fights with
them and it’s professional suicide.
Birmingham’s Zigic comes on to chants of
“Does the circus know you’re here?” Our vital second goal comes after 70 minutes
when Nolan is given space to feed the ball back to Cole who does well to swivel
and shoot into the corner. “I thought you said he wasn’t any good?”
says Nell accusingly.
WE ARE WEST HAM'S CLARET AND BLUE ARMY!
With the lights on it’s a proper game. Not
pretty, but at least this is what we thought we were buying into with the
Allardyce regime – unrelenting effort and never giving up. Collins balloons
several crosses in to the area, but we miss the accuracy of McCartney. "We just need a lucky pen,” says Mystic May and Nigel offers him a blue Biro. Vaz Te
looks a threat and Big Sam goes forward crazy, taking off Noble for Baldock. Cole
volleys just over. And then Collins fires wide.
The breakthrough comes a minute from time
when Lansbury’s shot hits the raised arm of Burke. Vaz Te puts the penalty
straight down the middle and scores in front of a heaving Bobby Moore Stand. We
almost win it when Lansbury miscues a late chance.
“That was the best atmosphere I’ve ever
heard at West Ham,” says 13-year-old Lola. It’s been a reminder of why we come
to West Ham, in the hope of six-goal thrillers and being entertained. Not much
use to our hopes of automatic promotion though, unless Reading lose to Brighton
and Southampton, and the first half saw some catastrophic defending. But in the second half a sign
there’s some spirit in the side that might take us though the play-offs.
Taking my daughters today in the hope that their 100 per cent record this season will result in a win for the Irons - and also because it's kids for a quid. This season they've seen us beat Portsmouth, Peterborough, Derby and Nottingham Forest, though obviously their appearances have to be rationed carefully as there's only so much good karma you can utilise in one season. Would really love us to beat Birmingham, particularly as their more neanderthal supporters tried to attack us West Ham fans leaving the ground in last season's Carling Cup semi-final, even through City had just got to Wembley.
Clearly the lads
are inspired by groundhopper Nigel completing his 92 league grounds in the
company of Whovian and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart biographer Michael McManus,
who has ordered “four goals rapid!”
In a desperate attempt
to make the blog Matt sends a text reporting dancing in the streets of Khiva in
Uzbekistan, where he’s on a mini-break with Lisa. He writes that he’s
celebrating by drinking 11.5% Qibray beer. Meanwhile I’m down in Margate with
all my family (insert Chas and Dave joke here) visiting the Shell Grotto and
miss Nolan’s first goal as I’m still looking round the Turner galleries. Middle-class
fans, eh? The half-time replays show that Nolan wins a corner with a clever
one-two and the Barnsley defence completely fails to deal with it allowing
Kevin to prod home from a foot out for his eleventh of the season.
I’m in the Wig and
Pen drinking Spitfire in time to witness the second as Maynard plays a one two
with Nolan and in acres of space fires home a fine low shot from outside the
area. It gets better. The ground appears bereft of Barnsley fans and the home
side are in freefall. Their keeper Button bungles a clearance under pressure from
Maynard, slices the ball out to Noble who chips a clever goal into the top of
the net – his first from open play this season. In the second half Nolan finds
McCartney, who fires a dipping shot at goal. It’s saved by Button but Vaz Te is on hand to
volley a sharp fourth. We’re playing some good stuff and Maynard strikes the bar
with a 30-yard screamer and then has a goal disallowed for offside. Hopefully scoring today is the boost his confidence needed.
Nigel texts to say
that he’s celebrating the biggest away win he’s ever seen in the Manx Arms, but
bets we blow it against the Blues. We’ve also broken the club record by wining
12 away games – some achievement. Barnsley were poor, but still had to be
beaten and hopefully giving someone a tonking will inspire the lads to win the
final five. Irons!
Congratulations to my groundhopping pal Nigel Morris, who barring disasters on the way to Barnsley becomes a member of the 92-club this evening. His colleagues in the East Stand are thinking of presenting him with a claret and blue anorak to mark the occasion at Monday's game. Whisper it gently though, but if Fleeetwood go up he's back down to 91 grounds... Irons!
Big Sam seems remarkably thin-skinned for someone who claimed to have "the skin of a rhino" when he joined the club. The Daily Mirror reports his comments: "You get opinions about our results like, 'James Tomkins shouldn't be playing in midfield because he is a centre-half.' You get that b***ocks that goes round. What happens is I look at the performance of every player and say to everyone who says that, 'You're talking b***ocks.' He played in that holding role for three games with ten men, so that is how short memories people have. That is how much b***ocks is talked about in football. I don't listen to that drivel because what bothers me is that James Tomkins plays well."
No-one disputes that Tomkins did well when we had ten men, but that was because he was often augmenting a back five. Against a really swift passing team such as Reading he looked out of position and not mobile enough in midfield: far better to have a specialist in there when you're chasing a game and not defending a lead. That's a fair footballing analysis and not bollocks. Patronising the fans is really not going to help anyone.
James Tomkins is not a midfielder. A great
defender, but not mobile enough to play midfield against top class opposition
Abdoulaye Faye was rushed back too quickly
after suffering concussion and had a rare poor game.
We go to pieces when Mark Noble is not in
Julien Faubert is not a right back, as we
saw under Zola. Better going forward than O’Brien, but still not a natural
Kevin Nolan is showing signs of
improvement, setting up the first goal and late on almost creating one for
Maynard. But he would be better played further forward.
Three games in a week looked too much for
Gary O’Neil, who has done well to recover from a career-threatening injury.
Carlton Cole can still threaten for 45
minutes, scoring and having one off the line in the first half, but isn’t fit
enough or trusted enough to play 90 minutes consistently for us. And we need a one-time England forward to score more than ten goals a season.
Sam Baldock needs to complete 90 minutes. Today’s
Sun points out he hasn’t completed 90 minutes since November. Play him until he
gets a goal and then his confidence will return.
Henri Lansbury or Jack Collison should
replace the injured Mark Noble and not James Tomkins.
We lack a leader when we are chasing games.
Southampton would surely have battered a team if they had pulled it back to 3-2.