Friday, June 24

RIP Ken Lucas

Very sorry to hear that Ken Lucas, the owner of the legendary Ken's Cafe on Green Street, has died after a short illness. Ken's Cafe was an institution for generations of Hammers fans from the 1960s onwards. Ken and Carol did a great interview for my book Goodbye To Boleyn, revealing many of their amusing football stories over the years, including serving Frank Lampard Senior, among others. Hope there's a full breakfast and mug of strong tea waiting for you up above, mate. RIP Ken.

Monday, June 20

We've made a signing! Aguerd joins the Irons

Good news is that West Have finally made a signing with Nayef Aguerd arriving from Rennes for a reported £30 million (though quite a bit of that is add-ons). The Moroccan international seems to have been on the point of signing for weeks now. It all looks good on paper as he's a left-sided centre back, filling the position vacated by Ogbonna's cruciate ligament injury (and Oggy is now 34). One of the best defenders in Ligue 1 last season, Aguerd previously cut the mustard at Dijon. 

The 26-year-old looks to be a solid tackler and is a decent left foot passer, while his farewell announcement to Rennes' fans indicates he's a good character. He has valuable experience playing in the Champions League and the Africa Cup of Nations. 

Let's hope Moyes and Rob Newman have got this one right after the flops of Vlasic and Kral. Thanks to my pal Matt for pointing out that Aguerd is the third Moroccan to play for the Hammers, following Arsenal flop Marouane Chamakh's three appearances, while Manuel da Costa played 37 games for Morocco despite being born in France. Welcome to East London, Nayef.

Tuesday, June 14

Philosophy and Football review

Enjoyed attending the launch of the new book Philosophy and Football at the Owl Bookshop in Kentish Town. It's the story of Philosophy Football FC and, rather sadly, I was the oldest former-player to be there, having briefly appeared as a firm but fair James Collins-style centre back in the 1990s. It made me feel almost as old as Mark Noble.

Not many Sunday league sides have fielded players from 26 countries, toured 22 cities in Europe, and played on 31 obscure London pitches during their 30-odd years of existence. Philosophy Football FC started off as philosophers who were not very good at football
 and ended up as footballers who were not so good at philosophy. 

The team was an offshoot of the Philosophy Football t-shirt operation, birthchild of Mark Perryman and Hugh Tisdale, which began with a Camus t-shirt reading: “All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football.”
 
The side is managed by academic turned gaffer Geoff Andrews, assisted for a long time by Channel 4 Italian football pundit Filippo Ricci of Gazzetta dello Sport. Filippo initially shocked his teammates by bringing a hairdryer and wearing flip flops to avoid mud in the changing rooms. 

Philosophy Football FC have played in Camus, Cantona and Shankly shirts, among others, and inspired memorable cries of “mark Wilson!” when turning out in 11 Harold Wilson red shirts (maybe they really did have 11 left-wingers). The side disliked modern corporate football and attracted radical players, but sometimes came unstuck against more capitalistic rivals in the London leagues such as Warner Brothers, Air France and Inter Aztec. But they won three titles after their first few struggling seasons. 

Unlike Brian Clough (another PF t-shirt) they experimented with situationism and tried three-sided football (covered by the Guardian in 2013). On an Italian tour to celebrate murdered radical director Pasolini they played against actors from his films and appeared in Monty Python shirts bearing the words of the "philosophers' football match" sketch. They also printed a special Pasolini shirt with his quote, “After literature and sex, football is one of the great pleasures.” Surely a statement Big Sam and Tony Pulis would agree with. 

But sometimes high philosophy came up against the earthier charms of Sunday league football. This bunch of radicals almost sparked a mass arrest in their early days at Regent's Park when the showers were turned off at 4pm promptly by a jobsworth caretaker and the muddy players turned them on again. The parks police were called and one player commented, “We’ll go quietly but not cleanly.”

Sunday leaguers will also identify with the player who managed to get across Italy without a passport or money having been robbed, and still managed to make the side and score. And there can’t be many club secretaries who have been told they are “a liar who speaks with the corpse of Franco in his mouth” by anarchists when trying to organise a three-sided world cup tournament in a reclaimed Madrid bullring. All in a day's philosophising for the Camus-loving side. 

Philosophy and Football by Geoff Andrews and Filippo Ricci is published by Pitch, price £16.99.

Saturday, June 11

Jesse tries NFL

Let's hope West Ham aren't gazumped by LA Rams in the race for Jesse Lingard. The ex-loan star has been visiting the Super Bowl winners LA Rams and trying his arm at NFL. He caught up with linebacker Justin Hollins and tested his various NFL skills including throwing, catching and defending. Hopefully he might be perfecting his contract-signing skills too when his LA jaunt is over.

Friday, June 10

Too soon to give up on Benrahma

Several reports in the press claim that David Moyes is willing to listen to offers for Said Benrahma in order to free funds to get Jesse Lingard. This would be a mistake. West Ham surely need both players, and Lingard and Benrahma appeared to enjoy playing together during Lingard's great loan spell two seasons ago. Yes, Said can be very frustrating with his decision-making and didn't influence the big games as much as he should — but he still scored 11 goals last season and laid on a number of assists. He provides something different and on his day can change a game. If he was sold it would probably be at a loss on his £30m fee. It's too soon to give up on him — let's see how Benrahma develops next season. 

Monday, June 6

Bowen's England debut, Yarmy's mixed fortunes

Mixed fortunes for Hammers current and former in the international games of our never-ending season. Jarrod Bowen and Declan Rice both started for England against Hungary in the Nations League, the first time two West Ham players have started for England since Rob Green and Matthew Upson played together in 2010. Bowen worked hard during England's defeat and was a little unlucky not to score with a first time volley that went straight to the keeper. But England looked jaded and after the demands on Bowen this season it's surely asking too much of all the players to perform at this stage.

Meanwhile former Hammer Andriy Yarmolenko scored a great goal against Scotland for Ukraine, featuring some fine control and a clever lob. He then scored an unfortunate own goal against Wales nodding in Gareth Bale's free kick as Ukraine's World Cup dream ended. Yarmy always looks much better when playing for Ukraine and it's still a bit of a mystery how a top international could have flopped at West Ham. He clearly has class, but after a bad cruciate injury lacked the pace and intensity for the Premier League. But bearing in mind the horrific invasion of his country we all wish him well and will enjoy the memories of that crucial winner against Chelsea and Yarmy's emotional goals against Villa and Sevilla.

Monday, May 30

The summer signings West Ham need

The transfer window opens on June 10 and as Moyes has hinted, some major work is needed in the transfer market this summer. Number one priority as we all know is a striker to take the weight off Antonio and Bowen, particularly now Yarmolenko has been released. 

Next up has to be a defensive midfielder to replace the departed Noble and Kral and take the pressure off Rice and Soucek. With Fabianski being 37 a goalkeeper also has to be a priority — and signing Areola permanently would solve that problem, though Nick Pope could be another option after his Banks-like save against WHU. A left-sided centre back is another priority as Ogbonna is 34 and recovering from serious injury. The Standard reports that Issa Diop might be sold to help fund this. 

The Irons also need a long-term successor to the 32-year-old Aaron Cresswell at left-back. On top of that a creative midfielder who can produce the unexpected is another requirement — Jesse Lingard would do nicely. So that's six players in total. Yarmolenko, Fredericks and Noble are off the wage bill to free up some funds and possible sales might include Diop, Vlasic and Masuaku. But it's going to take money from the board and some proper scouting from Rob Newman (but not David Baddiel). And please no deadline day fiascos, let's get some deals done quickly.