Saturday 29 February 2020

Player Ratings: West Ham 3 Southampton 1

A big, big win for the Hammers today lifts them out of the bottom three and delivers upon their better form of late. More crucial game time for Ngakia and Bowen and no injuries. Happy days!

Here's how Bobby Bubbles rated the players individually:

Fabianski: Back to business as usual. Solid, good distribution. Helped by an excellent defence in front of him as we bossed the set pieces all day long! 8/10.

Ngakia: This lad looks like an experienced pro already. tenacious in defence, never out-paced and not bad with those longer clearances out of defence! 8.5/10. 

Ogbonna: Our best defender again. Solid and almost grabbed a goal towards the end! 9/10.

Diop: Looking more like his best. Solid throughout. 8/10.

Cresswell: Solid. Took an important yellow for the team with 20 minutes remaining. 8/10.

Rice: Provides a crucial presence in front of the defence and did that with excellent discipline all day. 8/10.

Noble: Typical Nobes. Grabbing free kicks at just the right time to frustrate the opposition. And he kept it up to the final whistle. 8/10.

Fornals: Has matured into a proper Premiership player. Starting to justify his transfer fee. 8/10.

Bowen: Brilliant performance. Great goal. Maybe needs to get to know the players around him as he could have done better with some decent breaks if he had laid the ball off more often. Keen,. Game-changing defensive intervention just before the hour to keep us ahead. 8.5/10.

Antonio: Looked superlively all day and took his goal well. MOTM. 9/10.

Haller: Looked happier with Antonio alongside and won heaps of aerial duels. Great skill for the goal. Slowly edging towards double figures in goals this season. 8.5/10. 


Snoddy: Usual committed self.  
Anderson: 60 seconds of a contribution. 

Ha-Ha-Haller! 2-1 to the Cockney boys!!!

Blimey, the goalkeeperitis that has characterised West Hm's season to date has started to infect their opponents as Seb Haller has hassled Southampton's Alex McCarthy into a dreadful error and restored the Hammers lead! In fairness, Haller showed fantastic skill to turn the ball in from an acute angle but the chance was caused by limp goalkeeping from McCarthy.

It's a real ding-dong battle out there with the Hammers creating plenty of chances despite having just 36% possession. The key to all of this has been the 4-4-2 formation and having players with speed. Jarrod Bowen has looked lively and opened his account with a nicely taken strike in the 15th minute.

Defensively, we look solid so far and have outmuscled Southampton at set pieces. Issa Diop missed with a free header from a corner in the 37th minute. SuperFab looks calm and confident and could do nothing to stop Michael Obafemi's strike for Southampton.

Othewise, Antonio has been a handful and, perhaps crucially, Jack Stephens is on a yellow and will have to be careful as he squares up to Michail in the second half.

Elsewhere, both Brighton and Bournemouth are losing.


B-B-B-Bowen!!!! 1-0 to West Ham

Yesss! The Hammers look hungry with intensity and bite and that's been rewarded with the opening goal in the crunch clash at the London Stadium against Southampton.

That's his 18th of the season, as he continues the fine form he had been enjoying at Hull.

We want more

We want more

We want more!!!


Moyes Gambles with Offensive Starting XI: Ngakia and Bowen start!

Feeling tense? If not, you should be! Remember when we whinged that mid table obscurity under Big Sam was too boring? Well, here's the alternative - a nasty, scary, ugly relegation dog fight to get our teeth into!
David Moyes has opted for a pretty aggressive starting XI with Antonio and Haller up top, Jeremy Ngakia speeding (hopefully) up and down the right wing and a first start for Jarrod Bowen. SuperFab will be hoping to avoid another howler while Oggy and Diop need to get their antennae working to avoid any Brighton-like muck ups. Pablo Fornals has gotten the nod over Anderson and Lanzini but they pose useful options to spring from the bench if we need to shake it up after an hour or so. Similarly, Snoddy will be ready to get stuck in if needed.

As expected, the impressive Tomas Soucek is out due to injury. 
One thing for sure is that compared with a few weeks back we now have plenty of pace in the side. West ham are 6/4, Southampton 13/8, and the draw is 5/2. Rory Nostradamus reckons it'll be a 3-0 triumph for Moyes men!!!

 West Ham XI: Fabianski, Ngakia, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble(C), Rice, Bowen, Fornals, Antonio, Haller
Subs: Masuaku, Randolph, Balbuena, Zabaleta, Anderson, Lanzini, Snodgrass, 

Storm Sabotages Hammers Revival Efforts

Ever since we moved to the London Stadium there has been much talk about so-called 'real' West Ham fans. Whatever way you cut it, dedication to the cause has to be a major determinant and for the VWH team, we make the arduous trip from the West of Ireland to our season ticket seats in the BM stand. It's an exciting adventure every fortnight but one that sometimes goes pear-shaped. 

Like Today. Storm Jorge has wrecked our efforts to get to Stratford for the game as he red alerts our skies and alas there will be three vacant seats in the BM today. Even worse, efforts to watch the game through a dodgy online stream are also sabotaged by poor internet as the storm moves across Ireland. Grrr.

So we will be reduced to going old school and listening to the radio. Although much less sophisticated, the radio has a way of really driving up your nervous system as you try to picture what's going on and gauge from the background crowd noise whether the action is meaningful. It's hard not to notice that radio commentators are much less adept in the modern era at communicating the action and often times you aren't even sure which half the ball is in!

as for the game, maybe it's time we introduced the concept of a relegation seven pointer! This is truly massive as we have a series of four tricky games after this and then that fascinating run in of six games that are all winnable. As fans we really need to be up for this one and we will be roaring the boys on as loud as we can. It's up to those fans who do make it to the ground to make up for the unlucky absentees - give it an additional roar for us boyz!

BTW congrats to Decky Rice on reaching a century of appearances for the club. 


Wednesday 5 February 2020

Hammers v Liverpool: is trans-fandom a thing?

After the stunning success of his last piece as a guest contributor, VERYWESTHAM have granted Mr Pool another slot to celebrate the West Ham vs Liverpool clash....Here goes

Match of the Day 2 from last Sunday night featured the highlights of Liverpool hosting Manchester United at Anfield. The BBC build-up included a clever montage of cultural and technological events and developments from the past three decades, since Liverpool’s last title win all the way back in 1990.
As a cautious, pessimistic and long suffering Liverpool fan, our current very healthy 16 point lead means that even I am now starting to feel comfortable with the term ‘champions elect’. However, the Match of the Day 2 montage was not pleasant viewing for me, as it highlighted just how long our title drought has been and how the world has changed since 1990, not to mention how Manchester United have prospered during our prolonged doldrums period. Interspersed with clips of The Spice Girls, Britney Spears, the evolution of mobile phone technology and the arrival of Facebook was the near constant clicking by of the title numbers for Manchester United, from 7 in 1990 steadily through to the current 20, while Liverpool’s total remained stubbornly stuck at their 1990 total of 18. At least the producers had the good grace to show Liverpool’s 18 turning irresistibly in the direction of 19 at the very end.
The long list of technological and cultural changes also got me thinking of more subtle and at times controversial societal changes of the past thirty years, which brings me to the issue of gender identity (strangely enough for a football related blog, but bear with me). Back in 1990, it was generally assumed (using a binary way of thinking) that people were almost invariably what we now term cis-gendered, i.e. having the gender that matched their biological sex. But over the past 30 years (and especially the past decade) we have seen a change in how we view gender identity, both scientifically and culturally.
A quick internet search reveals that, along with well established terms such as transsexual and transgender, there is now a long list of increasingly novel (and largely post 1990) concepts and terms to describe one’s gender, such as non-binary, genderfluid, agender, polygender, gender apathetic, demigender and intersex. To make it even more complex, you can add in sexual orientation (or lack thereof) into the mix. The bottom line is, you can’t simply assume (as you might have back in 1990) that everyone is (to use the modern lingo) a cis-gendered heterosexual. And so it seems that the traditional ‘binary’ view of gender has become a very 20th century and somewhat outdated kind of idea. The acronyms used to describe the different types of people who are not cis-gendered or heterosexual have also expanded gradually over the years, to now super-acronymic levels such as LGBTQIA, or even longer.   
And that (finally) brings me on to the topic of football and team fandom. Despite the fluid and spectrumal ways in which our society now views gender and sexuality, fandom of football clubs is pretty categorical and unchanging. The term ‘binary’ can still be accurately applied to football fandom, in that e.g. Liverpool fans are Liverpool fans only and can NEVER also be Manchester United or Everton fans, just as West Ham fans can NEVER also be fans of Millwall, Spurs or (especially) Sheffield United.
But I wonder if maybe we should start trying to apply 21st Century ideas on gender identity and sexuality to football fandom? Maybe we shouldn’t be so categorical and binary in how we define our most cherished (and most hated) clubs? And maybe we should ask ourselves if it is possible to identify as a fan of more than just one club. To put it simply: is it possible to be a trans-fan?
The upcoming visit of Liverpool to the London Stadium next week has got me thinking of my one brief and inadvertent flirtation with trans-fandom, from the corresponding fixture in February of last year. Again, Liverpool were on top of the Premier League at that stage, but only by two points, and there was a nagging sense that the White Walkers of Manchester City were trudging grimly and steadily through the snow and ice to destroy our title dreams again.
My trans-fandom experience started off innocently enough. Travelling to the game with another Irish Liverpool fan and with Mr. Verywestham himself (who was our very kind and generous host and guide), the trans-fandom began with the seemingly innocent gift of a half-and-half scarf from him. I gladly accepted the scarf, not fully realising that such a scarf is surely the ultimate symbol of trans-fandom. But I didn’t give it much thought. In fact, I was somewhat trans-fan-curious.
I then considered eating a pre-match Eastend pie of some sort, with congealed gravy. However, I resisted this delicacy and went for a burger instead. Inside the stadium, I sat among the home supporters and, closeting my red-hot Liverpool fandom, sat on my hands with an expressionless face when Sadio Mané banged in the 22nd minute (admittedly offside) opener for Liverpool. I found it difficult and strange, but I managed to observe the Premier League protocol of keeping your mouth shut when your team scores and you’re in with the opposition fans. I fantasized briefly about being in the Anfield Kop at such a moment and getting carried away in uninhibited celebration.
The early goal, the plush surrounds of the London Stadium and the great company of Mr. Verywestham and the other Liverpool fan (also uncomfortably concealing his true identity) meant that I was really enjoying the experience. I almost joined in with a brief rendition of ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’. I felt a tug towards trans-fandom, and I have to admit that it felt alright. Besides, it was easy to have warm feelings towards the Hammers when we had just taken the lead and extended our ‘as it stands’ Premier League lead over Manchester City to 5 points.
But then, just six minutes after that Mané opener, I had the ultimate test of my emerging trans-fandom. In what would prove to be a season defining moment, Michail Antonio scored the Hammers’ equaliser after 28 minutes. Again, I kept the same expressionless posture and dememanour as I had after Mané’s goal. But inside I was crying. The enforced neutral expression made the pain even harder to deal with. And not a single fibre in my body could feel any joy at Antonio’s goal. Knowing deep down that the White Walkers were now going to get us and that this season was yet another false dawn, I texted a fellow long suffering Liverpool fan back in Ireland with the fatalistic words: ‘It’s happening again’. Unfortunately, I was to be proven right ultimately. Antonio’s goal away back in February was to be the difference between Liverpool winning and losing the 2018-2019 title.
So maybe trans-fandom is possible for some, but it certainly isn’t my cup of tea. I’m a binary Liverpool only fan. Ultimately, my brief experience of trans-fandom just felt strange. If I was truly a trans-fan, I could have cheered even a little for Antonio’s equaliser, instead of crying inside. And I could have done a bit of singing at the London Stadium or at least had a nibble of that gravy covered pie.
But if I was going to become a trans-fan, surely West Ham are an ideal other team to identify with, considering my friendship with the Verywestham team, the great football heritage of their club, the many players who have played for both Liverpool and West Ham over the years and (apart from the 2006 FA Cup Final) the fact that the two clubs have never really crossed swords in anger or in any way controversially. As a Liverpool/West Ham trans-fan, I could even take on a 21st Century acronymic descriptor combining the battle hymns of the two clubs, identifying as ‘YNWA-COYI’.
All that being said, while I could never be a trans-fan (and maybe the whole concept of trans-fandom is just crazy), you can always have a second favourite club, and West Ham is mine.
So I will end my pre-match musings with another dip back in to 1990s popular culture and the 1993 Tarantino classic film ‘True Romance’, by paraphrasing Clarence (played masterfully by Christian Slater) in that bar-room scene:
‘I ain’t no trans-fan…but if I had to identify with a second club…it would be West Ham’.
Henry 'Rushie' O'Connell

Saturday 1 February 2020

Bilderberg Group Behind VAR Conspiracy as Hammers Slump into Relegation Mire

Over the years Hammers fans have felt hard done by with dodgy refereeing decisions that have robbed us of the massive success that we undoubtedly deserve.

As such, the arrival of VAR was seen as the saviour. At last, a reliable and fair system to protect clubs from the injustice of refereeing bowlers.

But no, VAR has been a disaster. While pundits enjoy the opportunity to waffle on about VAR as it creates a distraction from having to actually tactically analyse games, fans who attend games have copped that VAR has ruined the joy of scoring (nothing is a goal until VAR says so), added an American football type stop start feel to proceedings, and still keeps getting it wrong.

Glenn Murray's goal today was a prime example of how VAR is ruining footy. Not only did it cause a 5-6 stoppage while the VAR folk stumbled to a decision, but even then it was wrong as the ball clearly touched off the strikers arm before settling nicely for him to bag an unlikely equaliser at the London Stadium! Compared to Declan Rice's intervention at Sheffield united, Murray's was a stone cold handball.

Which leads us to only one possible explanation- there is s conspiracy afoot to relegate West Ham from the Premiership, probably overseen by the Bilderberg group who control other important World affairs.

Clearly the 12 foot high aliens have taken a dislike to West Ham and want us removed from top flight football. Seizing control of VAR has allowed these repulsive reptilian overlords to orchestrate the destruction of East London's finest club.

Murray's goal condemned the Hammers to the relegation zone and with Liverpool and Man City (both away) to come the aliens will have their evil way. At this stage it is abundantly clear that all resistance is useless and we can only pray that the monsters will be satisfied with forcing us into the Chumpionship as, with their infinitesimal power, this could end in League one purgatory.

In the words of John Lydon as he brought the greatest ever rock n roll band to a conclusion "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

Strong Hammers Starting XI as Soucek Starts

It's a debut start for new signing Tomas Soucek as David Moyes is able to field a strong starting XI against the visiting Seagulls. There's a tense atmosphere at the London Stadium and Dexy's Geno is on the stadium sound system as the teams are announced..."I could use some inspiration...". Indeed!

The Hammers have a bit of pace (for a change) and Soucek's aerial presence will hopefully help at set pieces. The bench has some genuine options if things don't go according to plan and perhaps Manny Lanzini can spring from the bench and back to his previous form, while Fornals and Masuaku can add a bit of spice. Ajeti willie hoping to get a chance to build on his recent efforts as a substitute. 

Either way, we can win this!


West Ham United: Fabianski, Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Snodgrass, Rice, Soucek, Noble (c), Antonio, Haller.
Substitutes: Balbuena, Zabaleta, Lanzini, Fornals, Masuaku, Ajeti, Randolph.

Double Trouble: Bad News for Hammers Ahead of Brighton Bash!

After three straight defeats on the road you would think that Brighton would be no hopes with the bookies but such is the malaise at the London Stadium that they are quoted at 7/4, just slight outsiders compared with the hosts who are 6/4 against the win.

West ham have never beaten Brighton in the Premiership despite 5 previous meetings. That hasn't stopped Charlie Nicholas from predicting a 2-1 home win, but the news that will worry West Ham fans is that Mystic Mark Lawrenson also reckons the Hammers will prevail, in his case by a 1-0 scoreline. Given Lawros remarkable talent for calling it wrong when it's anything Hammers, his hunch points to a disappointing draw or, even worse, what would be a totally shattering defeat.

In even worse news, match referee is the awful Michael Oliver. Oliver has presided over three Hammers games so far this season - all defeats. Tottenham, Palace and worst of all the VAR farce at Sheffield United.

The omens are doubly bad but...


Can You Feel It?

Whooah! Here we go. The battle for survival starts in earnest today with a must win clash with Brighton. Losing to Leicester and Liverpool was of no real consequence, but anything less than a win today and we are truly slipping towards the dreaded Chumpionship.

In fairness to Messrs Gold and Sullivsn, they have brought in what we appeared to need in a goalie, physical midfielder and a forward which should raise hopes of a revival but, as always, new players will take time to settle in.

The signing of Tomas Soucek looks really exciting as he is the stand out player in the Czech league as a big midfield presence and captain of mighty Slavia. His performance for the Czechs in their recent win over England suggests that he will adjust quickly and you've really got to be excited at the potential partnership with Declan Rice.

Wednesday was disappointing in terms of the result but you'd have to be encouraged by a decent and disciplined performance where, with a modicum of luck, we could have stolen a point. Just now, luck isn't bouncing in our favour but if we can keep up morale the final six games are all very winnable.

Brighton are a bit out of sorts of late. This is a great opportunity to grab 3 points. Their tippy tappy style will suit Moyes men as they look to assert dominance. As fans, we REALLY need to get behind the team today.

Special mention for young Ngakia - what a baptism of fire on Wednesday and he handled it very well. With a steady head and lots of pace he can team up with newbie Jared Bowen and restore a counterattacking dimension that has been sorely missing and that allows teams to push up against us. 

Antonio is fit. Soucek should come off the bench. Let's do this!