Reasonably safe – but what next?



 by  eamoncurry123 

Football never sleeps. Just a few short weeks ago the Hammers were in the depths of relegation despair then four wins in a row following the heroic draw at Stamford Bridge put us right up the Premier League – things being as tight as they are. From fans calling for Big Sam’s head on a plate, it seems everything in the Upton Park garden is rosy all of a sudden – but what happens next?

That’s what fans always want to know because that’s the nature of football. We always want to “push on” and try and do that little bit better. But the truth is that West Ham can’t possibly compete with the really big guns in money terms and we’d have bitten the hand off anyone offering us mid table security a matter of a few weeks ago.

So perhaps we should be grateful for what we have – though it’s human nature to continually hope for something better.

When Sam Allardyce was at Bolton in what was, by far, his longest spell as a manager, he guided the Trotters into the UEFA Cup (now known as the Europa League) for the first time in the club’s history after finishing level on points with European Champions League winners Liverpool.

That was no mean feat for a small club that Sam had punching well above its weight for the best part of a decade. West Ham are a lot bigger than Bolton – and we have the potential to at least replicate what Sam achieved at Bolton – but we have to give the manager the time he needs to develop the club.

Where would Blackburn Rovers be now if the new owners there hadn’t acted hastily and given Sam the heave-ho? They’d very probably be a sold mid-table Premier League side enjoying the money the league brings in – instead of languishing in the Championship having been through three managers since Sam was pushed out.

If truth be told, Allardyce was probably one or two games away from the sack following the home defeat in January at home to Newcastle United – and in hindsight that would have been a terrible decision. But we all know the pressure the Premier League exerts on clubs today; the financial pressures to remain in the top flight of English football are enormous – which is why this season has seen no fewer than eight managers leave their posts already, with Fulham swapping their boss twice!

Looking forward, then, we can improve from here if everyone concerned is patient with the boss. The League Cup, FA Cup and, yes, maybe even Europa League qualification could be realistic aims – but we should keep our feet firmly planted on the ground and remember where we were a short time ago.

A few weeks ago, Sam Allardyce was favourite in the so-called “sack race”; the market for the next Premier League manager to leave his post for some reason. Now, he’s any price and Norwich City’s Chris Hughton is hot favourite. If you want a punt in this race, then join 32 Red and pick up the free bonus cash on offer at the casino – as the site also has a sports book.

Perhaps Cardiff City boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is an interesting proposition around the 12-1 mark. But it’s certainly not Sam Allardyce! Instead, how about a nice wager ion the Hammers lifting the FA Cup next year? Now that is a realistic target.

Noble Urges Hammers to Tighten up and Dig Deep

Mark Noble is sick of West Ham gifting the opposition goals, issuing a rallying cry ahead of crunch games against Fulham and Crystal Palace.

The Hammers have not won a Premier League match in almost two months and suffered their fourth home loss of the season at the hands of Chelsea last time out.

The 3-0 defeat left West Ham just one place above the drop zone, with only goal difference separating them from 18th-placed Fulham, who they face next at Upton Park on Saturday.

Sam Allardyce’s men then head to Selhurst Park for a midweek clash with one of the favourites for relegation in the Premier League betting odds, Crystal Palace.

Allardyce has used a 4-6-0 formation in recent weeks, which has not worked as his side have scored only once in three games and have leaked goals at the other end.

Modibo Maiga came on up front against Chelsea and Noble is hopeful Allardyce will start with a striker at the weekend.

“It seemed to work a bit better but Chelsea were 2-0 up by then and probably took their foot off the gas a little,” Noble told the Evening Standard.

He added on West Ham’s recent form: “I just can’t believe the way it’s going at the minute. We were holding Chelsea OK and then we give away another unbelievable goal.

“After the way things have been going this season, giving penalties away and the opposition scoring from free-kicks, this was another kick in the nether regions.”

The latest betting on the bet365 website suggests that the league table could look much brighter after the upcoming double-header. Noble is focused on helping the Hammers move away from the relegation zone and towards mid-table.

“The next two games, against Fulham and Crystal Palace, are vital for us now and we have to stand up and be counted. They will be tough but I’m looking forward to them,” he said.

Cole Ready to make Hammers Impact

West Ham fans were not pleased when Carlton Cole was released from the club during the summer after seven years, so the decision to re-sign the striker on a short-term deal has gone down pretty well among Hammers supporters around the world.

Cole made his second debut for the club in the goalless draw against Swansea, and Premier League betting pundits are expecting the striker to have a decent run in the team up until Christmas.

With Ricardo Vaz Te and Andy Carroll both sidelined through injury, West Ham manager, Sam Allardyce, will be hoping Cole can step up and prove he can have an impact for the team this season.

The 29-year old admitted he is pleased to be back in the claret and blue, making it clear he is ready to take his chance and get back to scoring some valuable goals for the Hammers.

“I’m chuffed to get back and to be involved in it again. Any footballer will tell you that have to work hard and the manager has noticed that I was working hard and has given me a new deal,” admitted the former England striker “Hopefully, I can push on from here and add to the team and play a significant role.”

West Ham definitely need someone to step up and start scoring some goals. Currently one of the Premier League’s lowest scorers, the latest betting odds suggest that the Hammers’ hopes of avoiding a relegation battle depend on one of the club’s strikers being able to score on a regular basis.

Allardyce had hoped Andy Carroll would be that striker but the 24-year old’s return to action is still no clearer than it was in the summer. Can Cole be the man to step up and produce the goods?

Bring Back Carlton Cole

Earlier this summer, we saw the departure of a true fan favourite at the Boleyn Ground as Carlton Cole decided to leave the club in search of regular team football.

Cole had fallen down the pecking order last season, following the permanent signing of former Newcastle man, Andy Carroll, in the summer, and the acquisition of Stewart Downing, two developments that saw us move up the betting as a possible outsider for the Europa League places.

During his time at the Hammers, Coley was always happy to plough a loan furrow up front, supply the likes of Craig Bellamy, Alessandro Diamanti, and Kevin Nolan, while never quite getting the goals his play deserved.

However, he was never short of recognition, being called-up to the England squad by Fabio Capello and was expected to be snapped-up by any number of clubs after leaving us.

This has not been the case though; despite being linked with Crystal Palace, Hull, and QPR, he is still to find a team, and looked set to return to West Ham, only to be deemed not fit enough to warrant a deal.

Interest from Big Sam has been renewed in recent days though, with the boss hinting that after training with the squad, Coley could be offered a short-term deal.

With Carroll still out, recent signing, Mladen Petric, is the only striker truly capable of holding the ball up for the side and Cole would certainly be a welcome addition to the squad.

At 29, he still has at least a good couple years left in him and I would rather have him with us than any of our rivals.

With Carroll set to be out for a few months yet, bringing back Carlton could prove to be a savvy signing and, if you like betting on soccer, it may just be worth putting a little wager on our beloved Hammers to make a run for the European places.

West Ham Academy

Is it time for West Ham to stop calling themselves the ‘Academy of Football’?

West Ham AcademyOne of the great virtues of supporting a club like West Ham is the history, culture and tradition that goes with it.

The bond that develops comes not only from the current crop of players who turn out on a Saturday, but from those who played in bygone eras, achieved success, and represented a brand that was entrenched in the community from which it grew.

It was back in the 1960s that West Ham was first termed the ‘Academy of Football’. Many accept that it was a tribute designed to praise the philosophy and overall culture of the club, developed at that time by Ron Greenwood.

Home-grown players included the greats such as Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst. But more than just the players, it was the style and artistry that went with the performances which won such affection from observers.

Over the years, ‘The Academy’ has referenced more the youth set-up at the club, which nurtures the best talent, capable of playing ‘the West Ham way’ at the very highest level.

That youth mechanism working through the club has been somewhat maligned in recent years, and to some extent it is justified.

The summer departure of Rob Hall further pressed the question about when the next student is going to graduate from the East London schooling onto the World stage.

I wrote recently about the dearth of top class talent coming through the ranks. But it was pointed out to me that the classes of the 60s and early 00s cannot be expected to come through on a wholly regular basis.

Many clubs across the board are showing a shortage of high-class, young, talent. The reality can be seen in the majority of recent England international line-ups.

The fact West Ham is not currently quite the production machine and feeder club it has been in the past, does not detract from the glowing reports it has achieved in the past.

A reputation is forged from many years of dedication to a method, a way of thinking and playing, that is not wiped away by a few barren years. It is not something one manager, or one group of players, can change in just a few seasons of the modern game.

The honourable branding as the ‘Academy of Football’ should not be forgotten by wider football fans in general, as it has given so much to the sport.

Therefore, it is certainly not something the club should stop calling themselves. We as fans are rightly proud of our heritage, and here in Australia, it is that reputation which distinguishes our supporters from those apparent glory hunters with allegiances the ‘powerhouses’ of the modern game.

‘The Academy’ values are ingrained in the Claret and Blue, and there are enough true Hammers fans who remain associated with the club to never allow them to be forgotten.

Every generation remembers with fondness a different era of the club. But with a new generation facing the prospect of a move to the Olympic Stadium, we have the chance to establish ourselves once more as the pinnacle of footballing excellence.

West Ham's England links

West Ham flying the flag for the England cause

West Ham's England linksI recently read something I never expected to read.

It was a compliment from a Millwall fan to West Ham United. I am not sure if it was through gritted teeth or not, but it certainly gave the impression of sincerity.

His point was that his bitter rivals should be praised for their commitment to buying English players and supporting home grown talent.

Few of the big transfers during the English Premiership’s close season involved English players. Only a handful were English players moving to a top flight team. To West Ham’s credit, three of those were to the East End, with one of the other’s being Jonjo Shelvey, who was a junior at the club.

The above fact can be added to. Not only are we actively dipping into English talent, but we have the highest ranked English manager in Big Sam. Furthermore, which is a rarity these days, we have English owners.

This is something I am proud of, and as a Brit abroad in Australia, it got me thinking about a longer term trend around England and West Ham.

West Ham are the last team to win the FA Cup with an all English side. This was back in 1975 and the line-up is below.

The team sheet also shows we had an English manager back then. We beat the great Bobby Moore’s retirement club, Fulham, that day. To be fair to the opposition, if it was not for Jimmy Conway, they were within touching distance from having the same boast as us. Maybe this highlights how the times have changed.

Another more recent stat was published recently in the papers, and again gave reason to boost our boasting. This was that if the final league table was based on English players alone, West Ham would have been champions last season, with Liverpool second.

It’s a bit of a ‘what if’ stat, but there is more to this. If we look at the Bundesliga, and the relative success of the German national team, it’s a prominent example of how important home grown players are in the domestic league.

Two German clubs made this year’s Champions League final, and their national team seems to have one of the most consistent levels of success on the international stage. Is this a product of the high concentration of home grown players in their league?

What I do know is that West Ham has always flown the flag for England. Maybe it’s the Academy that gives us this edge? Just look at the quality that has come through under the watchful eye of Tony Carr. Maybe it’s a conscious decision by our owners and manager to move forward in this direction? One thing is for sure that the last time this type of involvement happened in England from our club, West Ham won the World Cup!

Click here to see the 1975 team line-up.

By Tom Hitchcock

Stuart Downing

Downing Could Give Hammers Extra Dimension

It has been an encouraging summer for Hammers fans, with Big Sam bringing in a number of strong looking signings but perhaps the most important will be his recent acquisition of Stewart Downing.

Following a couple of years of mediocrity at Liverpool, where he was both cheered and derided by the Reds’ sometimes fickle support, the winger sealed his move to the Boleyn Ground last week, making his debut for the club off the bench in Saturday’s opening day win against Cardiff.

Downing’s arrival not only looks like it could be the end for the ridiculously frustrating Ricardo Vaz Te, it also means that, unlike last season, Andy Carroll will receive ammunition from both sides of the field.

Carroll thrived off balls from Matt Jarvis on the left last term and, having previously played with the new boy at Anfield, the striker should have no problems reading his deliveries into the box.

As a youngster, Downing was seen by fans who bet on football as the ideal man to fill the much discussed left midfield spot for England but his lack of pace has always seemed to hold him back on the international field, while his work rate has also been questioned.

However, there is no doubt that he is one of the best crossers in the game and his ability to whip the ball in with pace will only excite Carroll.

Also with him likely to play in front of Guy Demel on the right, he will be allowed to ignore some of his defensive responsibilities due to the Ivorian’s often frustrating preference for holding his position rather than attacking his opponents, meaning the winger will be able to get involved every time the Irons push forward.

Whatever way Big Sam chooses to use him, Downing has the ability to give the Hammers another genuine attacking threat and the latest live football betting suggests that he could be the man to add the extra quality needed to challenge for the Europa League places.


Riding the West Ham rollercoaster Down Under

By roller-coasterJake Bull

The day you become a supporter of West Ham United, is also the day you will receive a lifetime ticket to ride a big rollercoaster.

Highs and lows, twists and turns, excitement and nerves.

But just imagine riding this rollercoaster with a blindfold on – Well that’s kind of how I felt when I first started watching West Ham in the early hours of the morning here in Australia.

Roughly 17,000kms separates London from Sydney, or in my case, me from row EE seat number 60 in the Bobby Moore Lower.

Giving up your seat is always going to be a sacrifice. However the biggest challenge comes when you start to follow the Hammers on a weekly basis in a new country.

Most games kick off after midnight Australia time, so you have a couple of options. Soldier through with no sleep and attempt to last the duration, or get some sleep beforehand and set your alarm clock for just before kickoff.

The whole world hates alarm clocks. They usually wake you up when you don’t want to be woken.

But when that screeching bell wakes you up for a West Ham match, this changes. By the time you have turned your laptop on, spent ten minutes searching for the best possible stream, made a cup of tea and turned your pillow over, the game has started.

Lying in bed, watching West Ham can sound quite appealing and cosy. But when it’s 4.30am and you are trying your hardest to keep your eyes open in the 66th minute, as the match hangs on a knife-edge, it really isn’t that cosy at all.

And what makes it worse is you have nobody around you to vent your emotions too, as most sensible people are asleep. It’s only when, in the 80th minute, Kevin Nolan comes up with what looks like the winning goal that the whole occasion actually seems worthwhile.

You can now sleep a happy Hammer, but all you really want to do is go out and celebrate the win. When the team loses, the only consolation is that you can go to sleep and forget about the result instantly without having to sit in a traffic jam dwelling on it.

The Sydney Hammers supporters group provides the opportunity to feel a bit more at home when watching West Ham play in Australia.

It’s amazing what having a regular meeting point with fellow supporters can do to make following your team overseas that bit more enjoyable. An atmosphere is created and a togetherness formed. This is the next best thing after being in your seat at The Boleyn.

So when you are riding the rollercoaster and you are given the chance to ride it with the Sydney Hammers, who are just like you, the blindfold can be removed and you can see light again and enjoy the ride with a bit more comfort.

Come on you Irons!


Is this the season we find those hidden fortunes?

Sam-AllardyceWith the kick-off of the 2013-14 season upon us, there’s an unnerving and unfamiliar air of confidence around West Ham.

Enough time has passed, and we’ve enjoyed enough distractions away from football, that last year can be looked back on in a wholly positive light.

The results against teams like Wigan and Reading can be forgotten, the away day failures count for nothing, and costly refereeing decisions are forgiven.

It has also been a great off-season to be a sports fan in Australia. The Lions tour and the Ashes have certainly done much to fill the football void. But the glory of a beaming summer of British sport is infectious, and has got many of us hoping the Hammers can ride on that high back home.

With a decent pre-season behind us, expectation levels around the club mount in parallel with the levels of excitement about the league starting.

This year, a strange optimism also appears to have descended amongst fans. One based not on a huge and varied recruitment effort, or a costly overhaul, but one based on a tweaking and fine tuning of an already well-functioning squad.

It does remain to be seen what we have decided to aim for though. If it’s simply a case of securing Premier League survival, then we certainly can be confident.

If we’re looking to build on last season’s tenth place finish and make Europe, there is still work to do before we get ahead of ourselves. By the club’s own admission, we are short of a couple of game changing players. As it stands, we basically have the same players that finished last season, with the addition of a decent left back and a goalkeeper who may or may not stake a claim for the number one shirt.

The fact is however, we have had seasons where we’ve splurged on squad players to boost numbers, with often underwhelming results.

Big Sam has said it is the first time in many years he has been able to go through pre-season with a core of players he is happy to take into the next ten months.

And the stability he and the board have brought to the club does bode well for our long term aspirations, as we can actually believe we are moving forward.

So is this the most positive time for West Ham? I don’t think many of us will let ourselves to get too carried away with thoughts of finding the hidden fortunes, we’ve all been through this too many times before, but there seems cause for cautious optimism.

It would be unWest Ham of us to totally let go of the pessimism, and any success should come to us as a surprise, not an expectation.

Follow West Ham Down Under with the Sydney Hammers. Find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Gold and Sullivan

Owners’ passion offers hope of brighter future

One thing that is assured of by being a West Ham fan is you will be put through the emotions.

The tears, the celeGold and Sullivanbrations, the frustrations, shared amongst supporters is the same way, whether in the Bobby Moore Lower, freezing cold on a winter’s afternoon, or huddled into a sweaty Sydney bar at 2am during a typically sweltering summer.

But whatever the score, or however the team is playing, one thing guaranteed to produce an equally polar response in the pub is a camera shot of co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan sat in the crowd.

The pair, popularly termed Gullivan, are hailed as heroes by some, or mocked as Statler and Waldorf muppets by others.

What is fair to say however, is the profile of the club has been increased under their stewardship.

Many fans will claim we have always been a big club in terms of status within the game. The reality is, the way things are with sponsorships and branding, the column inches in newspapers and TV air time is allocated to the Premiership clubs.

So when we were relegated soon after their arrival, many would expect the club to slide down the radar of recognition somewhat.

The co-owners saw it differently. They in fact did well to keep us in the news. There were stories circulating, linking the club to David Beckham, general talk of the Olympic stadium, and feature articles about ‘the owners who are fans’. They never missed an opportunity to get a quote in.

The appointment of Karen Brady brought its own publicity, and she too has leverage to publicise the brand through various multimedia channels.

On top of that, a dozen or so games were also scheduled for live broadcast, enabling fans around the world to properly follow the team outside of the top flight.

Messrs Gold and Sullivan have stuck to their guns, and garnered support by remaining commitment to an honest and open approach about many of the club’s operations.

Whether it be the finances, transfers, or the move away from the Boleyn, they have offered fans an insight into almost every aspect of West Ham United.

They have also embraced new ways to interact with the fans. Whether Jack Sullivan’s actions on Twitter are acceptable or not, his father certainly utilised it in recent weeks to great effect, answering direct questions posted to him.

Whatever your thoughts on the co-owners, they epitomise West Ham – passionate, at times infuriating, but ultimately a fond underdog success story.

Whether their actions can be considered right or wrong, what is surely unquestionable is the club is working towards a better future with them in place.

The longer they stick around, the better for our long term stability.