Sunday, November 19

Hammers miss chances as Watford make it a miserable start for Moyes

Watford 2 West Ham 0

It’s off to Watford Junction with Matt, where we trek across a sleepy Watford and home fans offer us directions rather than trying to attack us. Well, they say it;s a family club. We enjoy a cup of Rosie Lee in Domenic’s CafĂ©, before meeting my old school pal Mark at the stadium and taking our place among the Hornets’ nest in the Graham Taylor Stand.

The isolated Andy Carroll gets booked early on for using his elbow, much to the displeasure of the home fans. Arnautovic is playing wide right, which is mystifying when he’s left-footed, though Moyes is presumably stating that system comes before individuals. “Sack the board!” comes from the away end even when it’s 0-0.

Watford score with their first real attack after 11 minutes after Richarlison charges down the left, as Hughes lashes home a rebound after Gray’s blocked effort falls rather luckily in his path. We have a great view of mascot Harry The Hornet banging his bloody drum. Watford almost make it two when Hart parries the ball out only for the chance to be sliced wide. "You're nothing special we lose every week!" chant the Irons fans.

Generally Doucoure out-powers the disappointing trio of Kouyate, Noble and Obiang in central midfield. Though the Hammers do almost come back into it before half-time. Noble finds Kouyate who has an effort pushed wide by Gomis. Then Zabaleta gets in a great cross and Gomis makes a fantastic save from first Arnautovic's header and then a brilliant block with his foot. A key moment in the game.

Arnautovic is working much harder and pulls back a cross for Kouyate to blast over when he should score at the start of the second half. The Austrian later leaves the pitch after being inadvertently stamped on, writhing in agony in the turf and suffering what is suspected to be a broken thumb.

It’s over when Hughes controls with his hand and then finds Richarlison in lots of space, who bursts into the box to power a shot through Joe Hart, who seems to have developed “soft hands”. Though to be fair he has made a brilliant stop a few minutes earlier, but Hart is too much of a mixed bag at present. Watford frequently look like making it three and impress on the break against a slow West Ham side.

At least sub Arthur Masuaku has a go with some late runs and crosses. His low cross finds Lanzini, whose effort is cleared off the line with the aid of a hand.

The atmosphere turns pretty toxic in the away section towards the end with chants of “Sack the board!”, “Karren Brady you’ve f**ked up our club!”, “You’re not fit to wear the shirt!” and “Andy Carroll, we left ‘cos you’re s**t!” Followed by a ditty about Gold and Sullivan to the tune of Slade’s Cum On Feel The Noize. So at least something positive has come out of the game — a mini glam rock revival.

It’s disappointing, but West Ham have made four clear chances they should have scored, even if Watford have looked the better side. As for the chants, we’re all frustrated, but the old stadium isn’t coming back, the board backed Bilic with signings (though maybe the wrong ones) and whatever the fans think of Moyes, it’s time to get behind the manager and the team. Leicester becomes yet another must win game and things have to improve, but let’s go into it as a united club.

PLAYER RATINGS: Hart 5; Zabaleta 6, Reid 5, Ogbonna 5, Cresswell 5; Arnautovic 6, Noble 5, Obiang 5, Kouyate 4, Lanzini 5; Carroll 5.

Friday, November 17

Hungry like the Wolf

Congratulations to Andy Carroll and Billi Mucklow on the birth of their second child, who has been given the entirely sensible name of Wolf Nine Carroll. Is the lad's first name a tribute to Wolfie from Citizen Smith? Or a hint that he might go on to play for Wolves? His second name of Nine is thought to be a nod to the Beckhams, who named their daughter Harper Seven after David's shirt number. Which is all very well as a principle, but it does mean that if Declan Rice has a child he'll have to give it a middle name of Forty One.

Thursday, November 16

Hammers Home From Home at East Ham

Thanks to all the 40-odd punters who came to see Brian Wiliams and myself talk about our Goodybye To Boleyn and Home From Home and Nearly Reach The Sky books at East Ham Library on Tuesday night as part of the Newham Word Festival

Great to have readers arriving from as far afield as Southend and Benfleet. Enjoyed hearing Brian Williams' description of the fan behind him who divided the 1990s sides into two classifications of "has-beens" and "wankers." 

The audience seemed to appreciate our reminiscences about the Boleyn and there was still a palpable sense of anger about the stadium move. So good to have Cecilia from the Save Our Statue campaign there too. Let's keep the World Cup Statue at Upton Park. And enjoyed a post-gig drink in the Miller's Well with Brian, Di and Jackie, where we somehow got on to Peter Grotier's moustache, Johnny Ayris and Harry Redknpp's thighs. Here's a picture of the Newham Bookshop's display of our tomes and thanks to all who bought copies.

Wednesday, November 15

Psycho returns: plenty of experience in Moyes' back-up team

David Moyes has announced his back-up team and although it's the usual suspects, the positive is that there's a lot of managerial experience in there. Stuart Pearce is a good appointment because he was a popular figure at West Ham when he arrived in his late thirties and was utterly committed. He should improve motivation and has managerial experience with Nottingham Forest, Man City and the England Under-21 side. Maybe not a top-class manager but a good assistant to have. 

Alan Irvine has managed Preston, Sheffield Wednesday, West Brom (very briefly) and been assistant manager at Norwich. While Billy McKinlay has coached extensively and has managed at Watford, Stabaek in Norway and Sunderland (as caretaker).

We never heard much from Slaven Bilic's assistant Nikola Jurcevic or the rest of his back-up team and he was reluctant to change them when it was suggested by the board. At least the new assistants should have enough managerial experience to be more than yes men. If Moyes is making mistakes they will hopefully tell him.

Sunday, November 12

Literary Irons at East Ham Library

It's the literary event of the year on Tuesday, Nov 14 at the East Ham Library where Brian Williams and myself take West Ham to the next level (possibly) while talking about our books Goodbye to Boleyn and Home From Home. As double acts go it should be somewhere between McAvennie and Cottee and Bonds and Brooking (or on a bad night Saint and Greavesie). Tickets — it's free! – from Newham Bookshop or Newham Word Festival websites. 

Friday, November 10

Moyes makes a decent start by emphasising fitness and player responsibility

The majority of West Ham fans might remain underwhelmed at the appointment of David Moyes, but he's made the right noises at his first press conference. He's declared West Ham a big club with a good squad and addressed the rumours about lack of intensity in training by organising double sessions — though you'd think injury-prone Andy Carroll might require a separate training regime. 

Moyes was careful not to criticise Bilic and his back room staff but he is is clearly worried by the fitness stats declaring: "Once they know they are running and sprinting the least, they need to take a bit of responsibility and stand up."

Will the players respect Moyes after his last three jobs ended in dismissal? We don't know yet, but a less lenient approach is needed after Slaven's friendly manner. Moyes wants the players to take responsibility and show they're good enough to play for West Ham. They have needed to hear words like this for a long time: "If you step out of line you won't play. if you don't run you won't play. if you're not fit enough you won't play… They will either do the work and get on with it, if they don't do the work then they are not playing. I am in a hurry and they need to be as well."

David Moyes has said the right things and looked to have some of his old Everton fire back. We have to hope he and the players will now deliver. 

Thursday, November 9

Six mistakes that cost Bilic his West Ham job

Slaven Bilic was a decent man let down by a lack of planning at boardroom level and most managers would have struggled after the stadium move. But he made a number of crucial mistakes too…

Antonio did a decent job of playing as an emergency right back at the end of the 2015-16 season. But it was always clear that he was one of WHU’s best players as an attacking right winger or striker. It started to go wrong from the first game of the season at Chelsea where Michail conceded a penalty. Yet Bilic seemed obsessed with converting him to right back. He then stockpiled the side with right-wingers he didn’t need like Feghouli and Tore and let Jenkinson return to Arsenal and Moses to Chelsea, leaving us with just the raw Sam Byram at right-back for a season.

The sale of James Tomkins to Crystal Palace in the summer of 2016 was baffling. The fans responded to having a local lad in the team and players like Mark Noble enjoyed having him around too. Bilic said he couldn’t guarantee Tonks first team football, but he would have had been almost permanently in the side as West Ham struggled to find a right back, Ogbonna got injured and lost form and the squad suffered its obligatory injuries. Tomkins wasn’t the best player in the world, but he could play across the back line and always put in a shift. Ultimately Bilic signed the much older Jose Fonte, who for much of his time has looked less impressive than Tomkins.

Bilic was badly let-down by Payet, but he replaced him with Robert Snodgrass, a right-sided player who didn’t play in the same position. Snoddy was only given 14 games and then loaned to Aston Villa. The January window is always difficult, so it might have been better to save £10 million and sign a new left-sided midfielder in the summer. Did Bilic even want Snodgrass?

Nordtveit, Feghouli, Calleri, Fletcher, Tore, Arbeloa… West Ham needed a couple of world-class players to consolidate after finishing seventh. Instead the summer signings were of quantity rather than quality and it went down as one of the worst windows in West Ham’s history. Maybe some of the signings were Sullivan’s, but Bilic clearly wanted the likes of Tore and Feghouli and he has to take much of the blame.

Ironically Simone Zaza is now scoring for fun at Valencia and looks one of the best strikers in Europe have scored nine goals this season in La Liga. The loan deal with a 14-game clause placed too much pressure on Zaza and the club — though this was probably more the board's doing than Slaven's. Had Zaza been successful early on it might even have persuaded Payet to stay all season. Zaza should have either been signed outright or on a season’s loan. And if Bilic really was sure Zaza is world class perhaps West Ham should have gone ahead and signed him at the end of the 14-game spell anyway?


Klopp has gegenpressing, Pochettino has pressing and promoting youth, Mourinho has tactical efficiency and a big striker, Wenger has pretty passing patterns, Big Sam plays the percentages and Tony Pulis has a team of massive centre-banks. But we always struggled to know what kind of team Slaven wanted. He wanted to sign pace last summer but ended up with a number of ageing stars and a pedestrian side. With Payet in the side we played flowing football, but since our one world-class player left, the West Ham Way has been unclear.