Monday, June 29

It would be a mistake to sell Stewart Downing

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.

Friday, June 26

Payet day!

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.

Tuesday, June 23

WHU's never-ending season

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.

Monday, June 22

We're all going on an Andorran tour!

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…

Payet day for Hammers?

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.

Friday, June 19

If the kits are United

Impressed with the new kit. It's fitting that out final season at the Boleyn should be marked by something traditional-looking (indeed James Tomkins looks ready to play in the 1923 FA Cup Final). It was inspired by the first kit worn at Upton Park in 1904. You could also imagine Billy Bonds, Alan Taylor and Graham Paddon playing in this. Like the fact it's got the dates 1904-2016 on the badge too.

Thursday, June 18

West Ham beat Posh

West Ham featured in the Evening Standard's poshness test this week (click on link to read). The quiz asked:

If asked what you will be doing during “the season” you say:
a) The usual, pitchside seats in the north stand at the Boleyn Ground, a pasty and a pint if the Hammers win, a right old dust-up if they lose.
b) Trying to pull some slappers in the Royal Enclosure on Ladies’ Day with your mates Biffo, Stinky and Trellis.
c) You’re looking forward to the Serpentine Gallery party and finally hearing Mozart’s Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail at Glyndebourne, but the rest of the so-called season is so crowded and corporate these days, isn’t it?

Obviously A is the posh answer. Isn't it?

Wednesday, June 17

Arsenal away!

An easy start to the fixture list with a trip to the Emirates to play Arsenal on Aug 8. The next two games look more promising though, with home matches against Leicester and Bournemouth. Sadly I'll be away for the Arsenal match as the season seems to start earlier than ever. The final game at the Boleyn Ground is the match against Swansea City on May 7.

Tuesday, June 16

Do West Ham fans turn on all gaffers?

Not sure about Sam Allardyce's claim in last week's Sun that West Ham fans have turned on all the club's managers when results have not been good. He claimed: "It wasn't just a Sam Allardyce thing. It's a natural thing that West Ham fans do. I know that having spoken to Alan Curbishley, Alan Pardew and Harry Redknapp."

It's true to some extent, and like all clubs we do have our share of moaners, but what was interesting about Alan Pardew was that he immediately made an effort to understand the culture of the club. If I can blow my own claret and blue trumpet here, to my great surprise, Pardew wrote in his first programme notes: "During my sabbatical one of the books I read was Pete May's West Ham: Irons in the Soul. Without doubt it is a true fan's view of recent events at the club. I'd like to thank Pete for writing the book because it's given me an honest insight into West Ham and if results go extremely well I might even try a pre-match breakfast in Ken's Cafe."

It was impressive that Pards was reading books by fans and shows his dedicated approach to the job (and thanks for the royalty, Pards). The fans did turn on Pardew at times during the two seasons in the Championship, but after the glory of the play-off win and FA Cup Final of 2006 he won them over and when Eggert the Eggman was about to sack him in late 2006, there were continual chants of "Alan Pardew's claret and blue army!" from the home fans throughout the home game against Sheffield United.

Big Sam achieved a lot results-wise during his four years at the Hammers and we should be grateful for that, but saying on his arrival that he didn't know what the West Ham way was a terrible way to start and he tended to lapse into confrontation rather than try to win over the fans with some positive PR. Had he studied the DNA of the club in the way that Pardew did and whenever possible praised the club's supporters and attacking traditions he might still have been in a job.

Friday, June 12

We've only got one Song?

David Sullivan has told the Evening Standard that West Ham have not given up hope of signing Alex Song for £5m from Barcelona. More than any other player Song seems to sum up the enigma of last season. He was absolutely brilliant before Christmas but then went from eight or nine out of ten performances to five out of ten. Was he carrying an injury? Had he fallen out with Big Sam? Was he disengaged because he wasn't going to move permanently? Is he such a confidence player that he was affected by the decline in form around him? Can anyone explain why his form slumped so badly? I'd take the player from before Christmas, though not the one in his later days at WHU.

Wednesday, June 10

Hammers sign Pedro

As predicted, West Ham have signed the Spanish midfielder Pedro Obiang from Sampdoria — probably as a straight replacement for Alex Song. As this has been rumoured for weeks it's presumably the work of head of recruitment Tony Henry and David Sullivan. Which asks the question how much influence Slaven Bilic will have over future signings. But another midfielder, with Serie A experience has to be good with the Europa League coming up…

Heavy metal football with Slaven

Some interesting snippets about Slaven Bilic in the papers today. Like the fact he said he wanted Besiktas to be "as exciting as Iron Maiden" and when at West Ham, rather than visit Romford dog track, he preferred to fly to America to see Guns 'N' Roses. He also liked to hang out with the Besiktas Ultras and was carried shoulder high to the airport by them (my fellow season ticket holder Fraser did offer to personally carry Big Sam to London airport, though possibly not for the same reasons). Not sure who our Ultras are, maybe the Bobby Moore Stand, but Bilic knows how to keep the fan base happy and is unlikely to cup his ear to the crowd.

The Independent has a good summary of his time at Besiktas and points out that although he finished third in his two seasons, they looked like winning the league for a long period before blowing it at the end, possibly through fatigue. He also made a point of promoting young Turkish players, which would go down well at Upton Park.

So clearly Bilic has great charisma and beats Big Sam on connecting with the fans. Emotionally he seems a good fit, though applying cold logic it still has to be said that the board have failed to provide a clear upgrade on Allardyce, despite offering a salary of £3m a year. Benitez, Klopp, Ancelotti and Emery have trophies and experience and would have been a visible improvement. Whereas Bilic has only three years' experience of club management and has never won a trophy.

Although at 46 Slaven should be coming into his peak years and we should't discount his fine record as Croatia coach. He's clearly a good man manager and will not be under huge pressure at West Ham. With a possible five new signings he's been set the task of a top ten finish, which is hopefully achievable. It could be an interesting ride and if nothing else Slaven might be able to provide some new cds for our half-time entertainment.

Tuesday, June 9

Super Slaven Bilic

So West Ham finally have a manager and it's Slaven Bilic. He's already shown himself to be better at PR than Sam Allardyce, by producing a nice quote that, "I remember West Ham as a special club… this is a cult club." With a degree in law and the ability to speak four languages he's certainly an academic at the Academy. In other ways it's also a risky appointment, having let go a manager who would have kept us up next season.

Bilic starts knowing that he wasn't the board's first choice and  he probably ranked behind Benitez, Moyes, Ancelotti, Klopp, De Boer, Bielsa and 'Dick' Emery. Slaven undoubtedly has a fine record in his seven years managing Croatia, although that, of course, did not involve buying and selling players. His club record is more worrying. His year at Lokomotiv Moscow saw him sacked after the side's worst finish (ninth) since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 and he followed that by two seasons of finishing third at Besiktas in Turkey.

On a more positive note, he's played for West Ham (and was a great defender, though he did leave for the chance of more trophies at Everton) and nearly all the fans will be behind him, at least initially. We won't have a club at war with itself any longer. Another plus is that Bilic has played guitar in his own rock band, which makes him a little cooler than Big Sam. With the Europa League coming up we had to make an appointment quickly and let's hope Slaven is the right man. Irons!

Monday, June 8

That managerial short-list in full…

Nice image from Stop! Hammer Time podcast's Facebook page… though Russell Brand must be in with an outside chance too.

Sunday, June 7

Tevez and Mascherano versus Mullins and Harewood

Interesting to see Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano turning out in the Champions' League Final last night — both at one time kept out of the great West Ham side of 2006 by Marlon Harewood and Hayden Mullins.

Saturday, June 6

Irons miss out on Emery's hammer

Sevilla boss Unai Emery (no relation to Dick) is the latest gaffer to turn down the Hammers according to the Guardian, having committed himself to Sevilla until 2017. Seems like we've been in for Benitez, Moyes, Ancelotti and Klopp so far and it's all starting to seem worryingly like the summer of 2001 when we ended up with Glenn Roeder as the last man standing. Though better news is that Sepp Blatter is now available…