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Heads in the clouds and stars in our eyes




By CandH blogger Allen Cummings


Apparently, according to Saturday’s Match of the Day commentator, the last time West Ham were on a similar winless run, Slaven Bilic was sacked.

That was before the game and following the resultant 3-0 defeat, the calls have grown ever louder for Manuel Pellegrini to suffer the same fate. Should it happen? Could it happen? Only the two Davids know the real answer to that one, while the rest of us have to endure the constant, ill-informed speculation.

The one certain thing in all this is that our love-hate relationship with our recent managers continues. (Just five managers between 1902 and 1989 – 18 since.) But why? Some sections of our fan base are as ready as ever to point the finger at the owners.

There’s no doubt Sullivan and Gold hold the ultimate responsibility for hiring and firing but when the job’s up for grabs there’s no shortage of ‘experts’ ready to offer advice. Who they want to fill the vacancy, what they insist is needed, which direction they demand we go in.

But do we appreciate what is actually attainable for us in this day and age? When we demand the club reach for the stars – do we do it with our own heads in the clouds?

Let’s look back at our last four managerial appointments. Take Avram Grant as a starting point. He was a complete disaster – lasted just 11 months – and in that time managed to get us relegated. The cry “get rid” was answered.

We demanded a swift return to the Premier League. We weren’t very much bothered how – just get it done. Enter Sam Allardyce who did what was asked at the first attempt. No-one seemed too bothered then about his style being a million miles from the West Ham Way.

A creditable 10th place followed the next season, but the natives were already getting restless. We wanted more. We were better than what Sam gave us. We finally fell out of love with big Sam in May 2015  – but were quickly back in love again with a former hero, Slaven Bilic.

With the help of a certain Mr Payet ‘Super Slav’ was readily seen as the main man. Finishing seventh in the league and the promise of bigger and better to come as we moved into our new home.

It didn’t work out that way. We struggled, looked to be spiralling head first to relegation in the 2016-17 season and the knives were out again – old hero or not – now not-so Super Slav was hounded out the door. Enter David Moyes – the team needed shape, structure, organisation and be fit enough to run all day. Moyes provided all of those things and saved the club from the big drop.

Everyone was relieved – but not everyone was grateful. We were dreaming of bigger and better things again.  Think big, we urged the board. Dump Moyes and give us a big name with a big reputation to match our big ambition.

Enter Manuel Pellegrini. Most saw it as a positive move, and when the board eased the purse strings and Pellegrini began to splash the cash, we were rejoicing in a manager looking to create a team built on skill and flair.

The very qualities we see as being etched in our DNA – producing the kind of football some believe we have a right to expect!  But now all is not well again. Pellegrini is under threat.

There’s a call for more organisation, more method, more emphasis on fitness and work rate. The cynics might suggest we’re looking to go back to where we were under Allardyce and Moyes.

So maybe the question to us fans is, to paraphrase those immortal words of the Spice Girls,  “…what do we want, what do we really, really want…”

Score goals like Liverpool. Battle like Burnley. Play football like Manchester City. Defend like Sheffield United. Not a lot to ask is it???

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Blog: When our defending was at it’s best

An off the wall  explanation for the return of Fabian Balbuena has been offered by a ClaretandHugh follower. Dusty Miller may be charged with producing a conspiracy theory but his diagnosis of the thoroughly awful decision to drop Angelo Ogbonna certainly bears examination. 

By Dusty Miller

I believe the reason the manager decided to play The General was because – unluckily for the Hammers – both he and Roberto speak Spanish!

Maybe Pellegrini thought they could have a understanding at the back. Well, if so,  that theory was blown to bits  against Burnley.

Neither had a clue what the other was doing or what they were supposed to do. Communication my backside.

The best defence I’ve witnessed from our team came with David Moyes’s played three at the back in  Reid Collins and Cresswell in the middle with Masuaku left wing back and Antonio right wingback.

We beat a few good teams with that system and we had a dodgy keeper (Joe Hart) ! But Pellegrini sadly does not seem to sway from HIS ONE game plan and unfortunately the Hammers have been sussed. Shame.

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Parkesy: Put blame where it belongs for Irons slump

Phil Parkes cast his expert eye over the Hammers No 2 stopper Roberto and came to some pretty damning conclusion. In his second exclusive blog for ClaretandHugh he looks at the team’s decline and where we will go from here.

Phil Parkes is talking to Hugh Southon

I can’t  remember a team collapsing into such form as this so quickly…it’s alarming but I don’t agree with those who are calling for Manuel Pellegrini’s head.

I agreed with the appointment and one run of bad games does not justify some of the maulings I’ve seen him getting on social media and elsewhere. He’s a top manager and  there’s no doubts in my mind that he will sort it out so long as the players get their acts together.

(Photo by AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

For whatever reason the team has lost confidence together and as I said in yesterday’s blog a lot of that is down to the keeper’s form. I reckon Dave Martin is a good keeper and with him between the sticks against Spurs I think you will see a different West Ham.

Too often the manager takes the stick when things go wrong – the screams of ‘sack him’ start, panic sets in and the truth is it’s not down to him but the players.

It happened in teams under John Lyall and back then I had a back four of Ray Stewart, Alvin Martin, Bonzo and Frank. The problem was ours and we had to sort out so that’s what needs to happen now.

There’s a huge confidence crisis and that leads to mistakes on the pitch but these are good players who are going through a lousy spell of games but they WILL bounce back make no mistake.

None of them will need winding up for the game against Spurs and that is exactly the type of game in which you will see them respond. This is no time for panic, this is no time to sack anybody.

During this international break they have the chance to get right down to it and sort out the problems. They are good players but they really do need to take responsibility and stop hiding behind “it’s the manager’s fault” excuses.

They are highly paid professionals, they go out with their instructions and know exactly how the boss wants them to play. It’s down to them. So FOR NOW we need to get off the manager’s back.

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Roberto story the daftest of week so far

Now I know some of us live in an internet world of hits and clicks and we all work hard to cover the costs involved in covering our websites.

However, there are limits to the type of ‘stories’ that we can cover without losing credibility although the word ‘clickbait’ is of course pretty stupid as it is no different to newspapers running enticing headlines.

However, yesterday one story  emerged which frankly simply left me howling with laughter such was the absurdity of the suggestion that West Ham are looking to sell Roberto!

Never has a goalkeeper received such a round of criticism as the Spaniard yet apparently after two months  of abject failure the bloke is going to be sold – err…to whom exactly.

At a time when both the manager and director of football are defending him to the enth degree and refusing to blame him individually for the Irons problems it’s not gonna happen anyway.

And of course the reality is there’s not a club out there who would give two bob for this error strewn wreck of a stopper. Qualifier for the daftest story of the week!

Oh and there is no such plan anyway as according to a well placed insider talking to CandH on the phone this morning we were told: “He’s had a dreadful start but that’s not in our plans right now.”

One other little ‘story’ also emerged later in which it was claimed that David Sullivan’s phone has been red hot with phone calls from agents who have manager clients who they reckon could replace Manuel Pellegrini!

Err, well yeah, that’s what agents do! SIGH

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VAR – set up to fail

ClaretandHugh FB admin Carol Combes has definite views on most everything and explains here why we need to stick with VAR

By Carol Combes

I’ve seen enough ‘poor’ decisions to NOT be able to argue that VAR is working as it should be.

I am often accused of being way too positive, so what I am now suggesting might seem unusual- but try and stick with me!

I am suggesting a conspiracy theory!

When similar tech was suggested, then started, at tennis games there were similar outcries, saying it didn’t work and needed to be scrapped. They persevered and now it works, and is accepted, by all.

After many years of loud shouts about changes being needed, losing points unnecessarily etc, the FA seemed to reluctantly introduce VAR. They are hardly known for their forward-thinking!

Why they cannot keep things simple is beyond me. A system similar to the one that was on BT Sport would have been better. There was a quick review, by Howard Webb, who saw the different angles in seconds. Then he could’ve had an ear-piece’ chat to the ref-sorted! 

It did not need another three people to have a meeting about it, then bring in the ref, and on, and on, and on!

I honestly think that it has been made SO complicated and long-winded so as to fail, then the F.A. will say they tried!

What other reason would there be to introduce a system that hinders, not helps?

Most here will say that we ‘don’t need VAR’,and ‘it’s ruining the game’. Well many of them would be the same ones moaning that too many ref decisions are wrong and ‘something needs to be done’!

Well, we all know it’s not the game we all remember-everything changes-the players, grounds, rules, wages, memories! The fact is, that the game is always changing in one aspect or another and V.A.R. is part of that.

If it is to work, then we need to keep it simple, and not set it up to fail!

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West Ham Podcast: The wrong Claret and Blue

Episode sixteen of season nine of the popular West Ham podcast Moore Than Just A Podcast is now available to listen online or download. Claret and Hugh Associate editor Sean Whetstone is joined by Nigel Kahn and John Bucci to discuss another Hammers disappointing defeat, this at the hands of another Claret and Blue team at Turf Moor as the Hammers drop to sixteenth place in the Premier League table.

We discuss who is to blame as West Ham remain winless in seven games in all competitions and as normal we answer many questions from our listeners on Facebook and Twitter in this one-hour 42-minute episode.

Download or listen online at www.moorethanjustapodcast.co.uk

The podcast was recorded on Monday evening of 13th November. It is available on all popular platforms to listen online or download including Acast, TunedIn, Player.FM and ITunes

Now also on Spotify too at MOORETHANJUSTAPODCAST

Join the discussion on the MTJAP Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/moorethanjustapodcast/


Exclusive: Phil Parkes delivers Roberto verdict


Phil Parkes joins us exclusively today to give his views on the most discussed keeper to don a West  Ham sweater in many years – Roberto. 

Parkesy is talking to Hugh Southon

I haven’t seen a lot of Roberto but don’t think I need to have done because frankly it’s pretty obvious he’s not very good!

In fact I remarked to a mate when I watched him in the Oxford United game that he may have a clause in his contract which ensures he doesn’t have to dive for the ball!

Moment of horror as Roberto punches into his own net at Burnley

Let it be said, I don’t like him at all and to be honest he doesn’t even look like a goalkeeper to me – he looks like an outfield player who has somehow found his way between the sticks.

We might have got away with him over a couple of games but the idea of him being in there until January is a serious worry and it’s hardly any wonder the team is suffering a crisis of confidence.

The lads would have known what to expect when they saw him on the training ground and the worries will have been there for some time and it really is showing.

There can be no question  when that happens results are going to be affected – the back four and Roberto seem to have little in common and the defenders clearly have little faith in him!!!

After Saturday’s performance that can only get worse and I think the manager needs to make sure that Alvin’s son Dave Martin is between the posts against Spurs.

Ok, we know he had a bad game in a Cup match on television but before that he had performed impeccably and has to be a better bet than the Spanish lad.

It would be unfair on Roberto himself and the team to keep playing him and there has to be a change. It’s quite clear at the moment to me as a former keeper the bloke needs to drop to the bench.

These are worrying times and things need to change – the goalkeeping situation has to be addressed right away. End of.

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Hammers hunting a double

West Ham United’s development squad travel to Exeter tomorrow evening (Wed) for their final group stage match of the Leasing.com Trophy.

Exeter have won their two opening games against Cheltenham and Newport, whilst West Ham’s win against the latter means they are tied on points with the former, going into the final round of games.

Dmitri Halajko is insisting the League side will meet a Hammers outfit ready to attack them – a policy which has taken the Development squad to the top of Premier League 2 Division 2 unbeaten.

He said: “I think what we’ve shown in all our cup games is that we really go for it. We’ve played exciting, attacking football in all of the games, and we’ve been really good going forward.

“We’ve gone for the win – we haven’t been cautious or cagey, and we haven’t waited for the other team to make mistakes. We’ve tried to go on the attack and try to win the game from the first minute.

“We won’t change that against Exeter. We want to be a team that plays good and attacking football, and that’s what we’ll do.”

The young Hammers in fact now have a double in view with the championship and Leasing.com Trophy and such has been their brand of football that one or the other or both would be a just reward.

Nathan Holland and Tony Scully have been key men alonog with Joe Powell in the middle of the park and a top display tomorrow would surely put Nathan in the frame  for a first team spot against Spurs.

The first team may be deep in the doldrums but the excitement being generated by the Under 23s is really something to enjoy this season

Halajko added: “In younger age groups inconsistency can come and go, but now these lads are starting to mature, they’re starting to get to the age now where they need to churn out experienced performances and do it week after week after week. So far, they’ve done that brilliantly, so we’ll try and sustain it for as long as we can.”


Pelle pops up with his latest say on things

Well that’s different!

Rather than trot out yet another player claiming “we must stick together” the official site has decided it’s the manager’s turn which is something of a surprise given he is recognised as not the most publicity conscious manager in the business.

However, in a bid to reduce the heat perhaps he has called for cool heads in the current adverse situation and paraphrasing Cresswell and Fredericks recently by claiming we must work together adding the three words” more than ever.”

Quite what the point of this is may be hard to fathom but as we head towards the third day in of the international break I guess it fills a void.

Speaking @ https://www.whufc.com/news/articles/2019/november/12-november/manuel-pellegrini-we-need-recover-our-confidence-and-trust he said: “We need to work together more than ever. We will have five or six players who will go to their national squads but this work is more than to recover individual performances. We will try to recover the trust as a team, and I am sure the results will come.”

However, one player who again escaped criticism – and in fairness, that must be the right attitude – was Roberto with the manager only saying of his own goal and decent saves: “Of course, we need to work on the confidence of all the players.

Maybe, when he made the saves, we were losing the game 3-0 already and Burnley had a lot of chances in the way they played on the counter attack as we were trying to get back into the game.

“We need to play well as a team for 95 minutes and not just do different and important things just at one point.”

“For me, my pressure is always bigger than media pressure or the pressure of results,” he explained. “I think that, for me, it’s a challenge to be here in West Ham and winning or losing, the pressure is exactly the same.

“We need to keep a cool head and continue working the way we think we must do it better and after that we will see the results.”

I doubt whether that will be the end of the chat and we will wait and see whether all of these words from players and manager add up to anything on November 23.


Time to do the right thing – play the boy Pelle

Some of us have seen more than enough of Nathan Holland to know that he should be a long way in front of Pablo Fornals for first team selection.

We also know that he is clearly well ahead of Albien Ajeti  and with him receiving a big reference from his former mentor Terry Westley on these pages yesterday his time should be here.

Holland is a breath of fresh air. Yes, it a big jump from under 23s football to the first team but it’s one that he is ready to make – of that I’m sure.

Westley made a very valid point when saying that in circumstances where key players are missing the game in a fortnight’s time presents a perfect opportunity for the lad.

It could also demonstrate whether we have the answer to some of our problems or whether we should recall Grady Diangana in the window. Personally, given all the circumstances, should he not get his chance you begin to wonder whether he ever will!

We are at a stage in the Pellegrini managerial regime where if he decides to go again with the players who have been turning in a series of miserable performances he could well be standing in a bigger hole than the one he has been busily digging over the last seven games.

Nathan is likely to be involved at Exeter City tomorrow night in the Leasing.Com Trophy match where again he will banging on the door for his chance.

For me, given the appalling performances of our first team over recent weeks there’s not even a question to be asked.

Just play him Pelle! It’s not even a brave decision to make. His time is here.