Sunday, July 31

Is Andre Ayew the answer?

The latest press talk is that West Ham are preparing a £20million bid for Swansea City's Andre Ayew. He scored 12 goals in 35 games for the Swans last season, which is a decent return. Hammers fans might recall his crisp finish from a great cross for Swansea's second goal in the 4-1 home tonking by Swansea at the end of last season. 

It strikes me we've been too ambitious in our transfer targets so far. Without Champions League football to offer, the Irons have reportedly bid for the likes of Carlos Tevez, Lyon's Alaxandre Lacazette, Milan's Carlos Bacca and Michy Batshuayi, who ended up at mid-table no-hopers Chelsea. None of them fancied it at WHU.

So Ayew appears more our price range and type of signing. He's a decent player, but probably about the same standard as a fully-motivated Diafra Sakho. It still seems a shame we can't resolve whatever issues Sakho has, though Slaven has clearly had enough. A strike force of Ayew, Carroll, Fletcher and Valencia would lack a world class talent, but should still be good enough for another decent season.

Saturday, July 30

A week is a long time in football…

Returned from a week in the Lake District to find West Ham have got their injury crisis in early and we're 2-1 down in the Europa League. Our party managed to survive walking along Helvellyn's Striding Edge, but I'm not sure too many West Ham players would have completed the ascent without slipping into the abyss below. The most disastrous news is that Aaron Cresswell is out for at least four months with a knee injury obtained in the friendly against Karlsruher. We'll miss his magic hat and great partnership with Payet.

Bilic clearly has little faith in reserve left-back Stephen Hendrie who will not be recalled from his season-long loan at Blackburn. Against NK Domzale in the Europa League qualifier Bilic played Sam Byram at left-back, where he looked out of position and Antonio at right-back, who was caught out for the Slovakian side's winner. West Ham clearly need a new left-back and current rumours claim we're after Hull City's Andrew Robertson (who is a decent overlapping left back) and former Liverpool payer Jose Enrique. who would be a big gamble. 

Then Manuel Lanzini got crocked with Argentina and there was talk that he might be out for four months, though thankfully the latest news is that he should be back for the Watford home match. Another worry though is that new signing Gokhan Tore is now having a scan on his injured knee.

The Domzale game might have been a good game to play James Tomkins in had he still been at he club, though even he's got injured at Palace like the true Hammer he is. Nordveit was played as an emergency centre back on Thursday though the return to training of James Collins and Angelo Ogbonna after the Euros might help our defensive crisis. It's hard to read too much into our first competitive game of the season, though obviously we should do better against a Slovakian side making their debut in Europe. 

Feghouli had a promising first half claim my pals watching the game at the Water Poet near Liverpool Street, but Carroll and Valencia need more games to look sharper up front. For the return leg I'd play Byram at right back, stick Antonio back into midfield and consider playing Ogbonna (or even Lewis Page, Reece Burke or Reece Oxford?) at left back.

Meanwhile it's 50 years today since West Ham won the World Cup through Moore, Hurst and Peters. Irons!

Thursday, July 21

Respecting the English point

So it seems that England will now be respecting the point while needing to improve their game management and just be more clinical up front. Even if my pal Fraser wants him out already, Big Sam could still be good news for Mark Noble, Cressy and Big Andy. Though maybe Matt Jarvis and Freddie Sears shouldn't get their hopes up just yet…

Wednesday, July 20

One million views!

For those who have been keeping an eye on the total pageviews counter (it's on the right) Hammers in the Heart has just had its one millionth view since it started in 2008. Back then we played at somewhere called the Boleyn, had a fit Dean Ashton up front and Calum Davenport in defence and had just beaten Paul Ince's Blackburn 4-1. Thanks to everyone who has looked at my ramblings over he years and passed the odd comment or two. It's been emotional…

Souvenir Europa League ticket sorted (sort of)

Just ordered my ticket for the Europa League tie against someone I've never heard of (either Shakhtyor Soligorsk of Belarus or NK Domzale of Slovenia) on August 4 — thankfully Uefa agreed to switch the date of the home leg. Now I've got to wait for a printed ticket despite being a season ticket holder, though it is a reasonable price at £15. According to my fellow season-ticket holder Matt, West Ham are saying our new access cards will be sent out next week. For the Europa and Juventus games they are issuing paper tickets. 

Matt comments "They claim these will provide a nice 'souvenir', but it is clearly a major cock-up, as the postage cost of two lots of 54,000 tickets will be considerable. The access cards will be used for the first time for Bournemouth. Clearly they don't think anyone wants a souvenir of the first league game!"

So having already bought a ticket for the Juventus game, I'll now be visiting the OS (when does it get a name?) on Thursday and Sunday and considering the important question of where's a decent pre-match cafe and where is a good pub to go afterwards. Any suggestions?

Monday, July 18

Half-price train travel for long-distance Hammers

It's good news that West Ham fans can now get half price train tickets from Abellio Greater Anglia (the train company which sounds like our latest flying winger). This means fans from Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire can all get half-price travel if they apply by August 31. You can either get a season ticket for all the home games or a flexi-ticket which covers ten matches. Fans in Germany's Bundesliga have long had cheaper public transport with a match ticket and it's a progressive sign that West Ham have teamed up with Abellio to make it possible here. Click on the link for details. With this news and a traditional-looking home kit things are looking good for the new season.

Friday, July 15

WHU drawn at home in Europa League

Unfortunately West Ham have been drawn at home in the first leg of the Europa League 3rd Round Qualifier on July 28, against either Shakhtyor Soligorsk of Belarus or Slovenia's NK Domzale. WHU have now made an official request to swap the two legs so the home leg is played on August 4, as the Olympic Stadium can't be converted from athletics in time for the July 28 date. So we still don't know when the first game at the Olympic Stadium will be played. If Uefa refuse to swap the dates we'll presumably have to play at a neutral ground. Though I think we can rule out Millwall or Spurs…

Thursday, July 14

Big Sam for England?

There must be a few West Ham fans rubbing their eyes in disbelief at the news that Sam Allardyce is being interviewed for the England job. He did a solid job at West Ham, but never fitted in because he was a results-at-all-costs manager and was too brash to acknowledge the West Ham way.

It should be acknowledged he's a decent Premier League manager with a lot of experience. Big Sam kept Sunderland up last season through instilling a system and making some astute signings and he's managed at Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn and West Ham without ever getting relegated and mainly improved those sides. Though if Allardyce is the best English candidate, I'd certainly prefer a foreign coach like Jurgen Klinsmann.

But if the England job did go to Big Sam, then concentrating on results might not be such a bad thing. We don't have to watch them play every week, and grinding out results and respecting points is what tournaments are all about. The team spirit certainly improved while he was at West Ham and players seem to want to play for him. A clear system and a slightly scary manager might improve things after the misery against Iceland, when Kane, Alli, Sterling, Rooney and co choked.

And at least Mark Noble might finally get a call-up from Big Sam, along with Aaron Cresswell and Andy Carroll. While Kevin Nolan will presumably be plucked from the Orient and installed as captain…

Wednesday, July 13

Ashley Fletcher looks a promising signing

West Ham have signed 20-year-old Ashley Fletcher from Manchester United. The youngster was on loan at Barnsley last season, scoring an impressive nine goals in 27 appearances for the League One side. One fact that will immediately endear him to Hammers' fans is that Fletcher scored Barnsley's first goal against Milwall in the Play-off Final at Wembley with a great turn and finish. Born in Keighley, Ashley was out of contract at United and has played for the England Under-20 side, so seems quite a prospect. He's also got 12 GCSEs which means he might be rivalling Trevor Brooking in the 'Professor' nickname stakes.

Meanwhile it's reported that the Irons have made a £26 million bid for AC Milan's Colombian striker Carlos Bacca. Wonder if we could adapt Dr Feelgood's hit Bacca in the Night… That's a lot of money for a player who is 30 in September, but should he arrive then presumably Sakho and Valencia might be on their bikes with Bacca, Carroll and Fletcher as our main strikers. 

Monday, July 11

Tore signs for Hammers

Gokhan Tore is West Ham's third signing of the summer, arriving on a season's loan from Besiktas with the option of a £10million deal. Slaven Bilic will know his character well from his time managing Tore at Besiktas. The Turkish international was raised in Germany and has just played in the title-winning Besiktas side, scoring six goals last season. He had a spell in the youth side at Chelsea when he was 17 before signing for Hamburg, Rubin Kazan on loan, and then Besiktas. Judging by this YouTube video he looks to be a pacy little player with an eye for goal who will excite the fans and provide competition for Antonio. And he's the first West Ham player to be called Gok, so might be able to give some fashion fixes to any players — as Jimmy Walker might put it — having themselves in dodgy gear.

Tough on Dimitri…

So Dimitri Payet only gets a runners-up medal in the European Championship Final. I thought he was unlucky to be subbed. While not at his best, he still created France's best chance in the first half with a great cross on to Griezemann's head. He was also starting to make inroads from a more central position at the start of the second half before being hooked for Coman. It was unfortunate that Payet's tackle rested in Ronaldo going off. He's not a natural tackler, though it was simply a hard challenge and a clash of knees, with Ronaldo's studs unfortunately getting stuck in the turf. 

With the game going into extra time you'd have backed Payet to find a bit of magic had he been on the pitch. Dimitri has only won two Reunion cups in his career, so this would have been his first really big medal — though a runners-up isn't that bad. But from a purely selfish West Ham perspective, had he set the final alight it might have made Real Madrid even more determined to sign him. Now we'll have to ensure he's fully rested and possibly leave him out of the Europa qualifiers. He's still had a great tournament and scored three goals, so well done Dimitri and remember that Stratford is much more scenic than Barcelona.

Saturday, July 9

Diafra Sakho: he leaves when he wants?

Seems like Diafra Sakho could be on his way. Several papers claim that he has handed in a transfer request and he's not on West Ham's pre-season tour of the United States. Sunderland and West Brom are said to be interested. 

Diafra clearly had problems last season, being arrested (but subsequently not charged) in August. In January he crashed his Lamborghini into another car and then the garden wall of a West Ham fan in Hornchurch, while there were press reports of a row with Slaven Bilic after being dropped against Arsenal in April and then a sweary Snapchat post. 

Which is a shame, as if he stayed and applied himself he has the ability to become the best striker at the club. He scored a very respectable ten league goals in 23 appearances in his first season and looked a great buy at £3.5m, but dropped to five goals in 20 games last season. He missed a couple of good chances in the vital last game at Stoke and seemingly wants to move on, with the Sun claiming that he is unhappy on £27k a week. 

Meanwhile there's also rumours that the club are trying to sell Enner Valencia to Lyon. If Enner and Sakho do go then my worry is that we might end up with only Andy Carroll up front again if we fail to sign Bacca, or any of the other upgrade strikers West Ham are rumoured to be after. Might have to get Carlton Cole back if that happens…

Thursday, July 7

Tough on Ginge

Good to see James Collins finally get a game with Wales last night. He was a bit lucky not to concede a penalty for some grappling in the box, but generally had a sound game getting in some good headers, before being subbed as Wales chased the game. Portugal's second goal took a lucky deflection and there was some confusion as Collins held back and Williams, trying to play offside, lost Nani, who scored. But Wales were certainly winners overall at this tournament and Collins is now a Welsh legend having played in a European Championship semi-final.

Wednesday, July 6

Antonio and Cresswell extend contracts

Some good news for West Ham is that Michail Antonio and Aaron Cresswell have signed extended contracts. Antonio has signed until 2020 and Cressie until 2021. It's a shrewd move to be tying down our young stars. Both players should have a future with England after our abject failure against Iceland. Cresswell, who wears a magic hat, deserves a chance as an alternative to Danny Rose and Antonio, if he maintains his current progress, could surely offer more goal threat from the flanks than Sterling or Lallana. And now Lanzini has signed permanently too we have the basis of a really promising side.

Tuesday, July 5

Farewell Tomka

Hope West Ham haven't made a mistake selling James Tomkins to Crystal Palace. Past seasons suggest we need four quality centre backs so presumably Reece Oxford or Reece Burke (who did well at Bradford) will become our fourth centre back alongside Ogbonna, Reid and Collins. But potential is one thing, Tomkins was a proven PL centre back who could play at right-back as well. Last season James played against Aston Villa after having 13 stitches in a head wound sustained at Anfield, which shows his commitment to the Hammers. He made 243 appearances for the Irons scoring 11 goals and also gave us a good chant after a big night out at Sugar Hut. He'll be missed. Mark Noble summed it up with his tweet: "Looked after @TomkinsOfficial for 16 years, been through everything together, sad day for me but that's football for ya, good luck geezer."

Lost in France with Avram Grant

Sounds like my pal Big Joe had a painful time sitting with the Welsh fans against Belgium, having bought tickets thinking it would be England playing, and an even worse trip on the Eurostar, culminating in an appearance by Avram Grant. He writes: 

"I spent most of my day standing towards the front of a stationary 500-strong but semi-orderly column trying to board a train from Lille. I know, big mistake to think one could be so astute as to accurately predict the outcome of any group stage of a football tournament where England are concerned but I still say, incompetence aside, under normal circumstances we should have come out as eventual winners and then ended up participating in last night’s game (James Collins MOM btw) hence the advance purchase of match tickets.    

"Imagine our surprise when among the ensuing outbreak of barely concealed impatience and mass tutting who was to come waddling past posing for selfies than none other than Average Grant. While it took all my powers of persuasion to prevent Danny from thanking him for being the best thing that’s ever happened to Millwall this century and just as I’d composed myself to let him know he will always be highly regarded in E13 as the worst manager we’ve ever had, off he skulked, without a trace of shame, frowning and shrugging his way to join the press of French queue-jumpers gathering at the front of line!"

Monday, July 4

If France win the Euros will it make Payet more likely to stay at West Ham?

Another goal for Dimitri Payet last night for France against Iceland. While in the Daily Mail David Gold says: “We’ll fight tooth and nail to make sure Dimitri pulls on a claret and blue shirt next season. We want to improve our squad and Dimitri is an integral part of what we’re trying to do. But we also must be realistic. If Barcelona or Real Madrid made a bid and he wanted to move there, it would be difficult to keep him."

Thankfully the phone hasn't rung yet, but the thought occurs that it might be better for West Ham if France were to go on and win the European Championship. At least then Dimitri would, at 29, have a major medal under his belt and might be more likely to give West Ham another season and try to win a domestic trophy. If the Germans beat France (probably on penalties) it might all look different and he could be tempted to go for guaranteed trophies at Real Madrid or Barcelona. Another option would be to wait until the January transfer window before he weighs up West Ham's chances against any bids. In the meantime let's just be thankful that we've still got Payet.

Saturday, July 2

Tomkins set to move to Crystal Palace

The Daily Mail reports that Crystal Palace have agreed a £12.5 million fee for James Tomkins. I'd be really sad to see Tomka go. Being a Basildon lad he's one of our own and feels like part of the heartbeat of the club. He did a great job when playing out of position at right back last season and was a mainstay of our promotion side and then for the next four seasons in the Premier League. We also look much more threatening from corners when he's in the side. Perhaps a slight lack of pace left him exposed when the likes of Fernando Torres were at their peak, but he's surely as good as some of the centre-backs who have made it into the England side.

It's true that we have four centre backs vying for two spots and that Ogbonna and Reid appear to be Bilic's first choices, with Tomkins and Collins as back-up. Part of Slaven's thinking could also be that he wants to give Reece Oxford more games as a centre back, particularly with several clubs rumoured to be interested in Oxford. And at 27 perhaps Tomka wants a guaranteed place under Alan Pardew, a manager who knows him from the youth team at West Ham. But if he does go, then thanks for being a great servant to the club James.

Meanwhile it's gone a little under the radar that West Ham have signed Algerian winger Sofiane Feghouli from Valencia, who will presumably replace Victor Moses. He's got 40 caps and was the Algerian footballer of the year so could be promising. Let's hope he's the next Mahrez. Feghouli is our second sumer signing after Norwegian midfielder Harvard Nordtveit from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Ginger Pele in Euro glory

Good to see James Collins come on in the 90th minute of Wales' epic win over Belgium. James still looks a little like Gandalf helping his men defeat the forces of Mordor. England could certainly learn from the way the men in red played for each other and the way journeymen club players like Robson-Kanu, Gunter, Chester and Vokes raised their game and ended up giving Tintin's boys one hell of a beating. All set for a Wales versus Iceland final now.