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West Ham Podcast: The winter break

Episode thirty of season nine of the popular West Ham podcast Moore Than Just A Podcast is now available to listen online or download.  Join Claret and Hugh Associate editor Sean Whetstone with fellow presenter Nigel Kahn as they chat about all things West Ham in the winter break with an absence of any actual Hammers football games to discuss.

Sean and Nigel also cover many questions from listeners from Facebook and Twitter during this one hour and thirty-eight-minute episode. We also give our predictions for the upcoming games against Manchester City and Liverpool away.

You can now download or listen online at www.moorethanjustapodcast.co.uk

The podcast was recorded on Monday evening of the 17th February. 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/


Defender finding life tough …but keep the faith



By CandH blogger Allen Cummings

One of the biggest mysteries of the season so far, and  there have been more than a few, is what’s happened to Issa Diop?

Obviously he hasn’t disappeared, gone missing without trace, Marco Boogers style. But his form has certainly deserted him and us this season. He’s become just a shadow of the talented young footballer who first arrived on the West Ham scene at the beginning of last season.

When Manuel Pellegrini paid what was then our record transfer fee of £23m for the young defender from Toulouse, most of us were left scratching our heads at who he was. We soon found out – and we loved what we saw. A 6’4” gangling but pacey, athletic and committed defender, with bags of energy and enthusiasm. Just what we needed.

Fast forward to this season and Diop has been a shadow of his former self. Hesitant in decision-making, uncertain in his tackling, poor with his distribution and seemingly all over the place in his communication with fellow defenders.

His error for Brighton’s second goal was a perfect example of the indecision that’s engulfed his game. So has Issa Diop suddenly become a bad player? Another Pellegrini big money flop? Some supporters seem to suggest “yes” but t I certainly don’t agree.

Sometimes I believe we are too quick to criticise, too hasty in jumping on someone’s back rather than looking for the reasons for the problem.

Issa is still a relatively young player – he was just 23 in January. His Premier League experience is still limited. The pressure of this league, and especially the pressure of playing in an important position, for a team going through a traumatic time, where your every move is under scrutiny, is immense.

Clearly Issa is finding all that extremely difficult to handle. This game is all about confidence. When that’s at a low ebb, even the best and most experienced players can struggle.

Last season he leaned heavily on the experience of Fabian Balbuena. The General has had his own problems this term, so Diop has had to forge a new partnership with Angelo Ogbonna. That clearly has some way to go.

A strong defensive spine is vital to any team. There’s a suggestion for maybe switching Declan Rice to a role alongside Angelo, at Issa’s expense. Personally I feel that would be a mistake.

We need to stick with Diop and keep Declan where he has been and will continue to be most influential. Diop cost £23m for a reason – he was young, talented with bags of potential. He was an investment for the future.

I seem to remember Jose Mourinho singling him out for exceptional praise after our 3-1 demolition of his Manchester United last season. The Spuds were reported to be ready to table a £50m bid for him last summer to replace Toby Alderweireld.

I recall that news meeting with uproar from West Ham fans accusing the club of being prepared to sell their biggest assets. I believe Issa Diop is still an asset we need to keep.

It’s no guide to quality I know, but Issa is regularly one of the last players to leave the field at the London Stadium, win, lose or draw. He’s happy to circle the pitch to show his appreciation to the fans.

He clearly feels connected to us and the club, ppreciates our support, even in the toughest of times. I firmly believe we should continue to support him in the same way. He’s quality and will come good again – of that I feel certain.

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London Stadium considers anti-terrorist protection

Plans to install a Hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM) system around the London Stadium is currently pending financial approval by the Mayor of London.

A HVM system is a generic term that covers a suite of anti-terrorist protective measures that are often employed around buildings or publicly accessible spaces/venues of particular significance.

The design of these vehicle security barriers and landscape treatments came about as security authorities across the globe seek to mitigate the effects of vehicle borne improvised explosive devices against key iconic buildings.

In minutes recently released by the London Stadium Safety Advisory Group (LS-SAG) reveal that the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) confirmed that a HVM plan is still in draft form and they are consulting with stadium operators LS185 who they also own.

At the last December meeting the LLDC said they are currently reviewing the business case and will have a more substantial update at the next SAG in February.


Concerns remain about persistent standing

The Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) have carried out risk assessments of all football grounds in the country. Due to the physical nature of the London stadium, persistent standing is still noted by the SGSA and they would like to know what further steps are being proposed to deal with the safety issue.

Members of the London Stadium Safety Advisory Group have ongoing detailed discussions reviewing various options and control measures for persistent standing. A viable physical solution and an action plan that is time limited needs to be submitted to the SGSA before the safety board meeting in February 2020 the December LS-SAG minutes say.

West Ham representatives told the December meeting added that the process currently in place is working and there has been a huge improvement over time of persistent standing at the London Stadium. The LS-SAG have requested SGSA to share video footage of a progressive collapse with partners.

Last year, Stadium owners E20 verified that there are barriers in the front of the upper tiers and there has been no review of any engineering solution similar to Spurs. E20 was supposed to be giving a demonstration to the certifying authority (Newham Council) of any new barriers they would like to trial. That action remains outstanding.


More details of London Stadium seating plans revealed

Minutes of the latest London Stadium Safety Advisory Group (LS-SAG) held in December have revealed further details about the new North and South seating re-design.

Minutes confirm that E20 have appointed a company (Arena Events Group) to do the work on the north and south seating system saying there is an intense period of detailed design and prototype between December and the end of January 2020.

They go to say the plan is to have them installed in the London Stadium after Athletics in July in 2020. The new seating will have no impact on the total 60,000 capacity in the stadium. The document reveals ‘Wet seats plan to be drafted by end of January 2020 to manage the 300 people in each stand outside the roof line, and a new manifest will go in at that time.’ Stadium owners E20 say they are committed to reviewing the side screenings and the segregation line will be redesigned as proposed earlier in the year. They are currently assessing the void treatment and what would happen on a progressive collapse.

Newham Council raised their concerns during the meeting about what information will go out on the wet seat and risk of seat migration if it rains. A new seating manifest from West Ham Football Club  must  be submitted to Newham Council.

The news that the design and prototype phase ended at the end of January means that the Official Supporters’ Board (OSB) due to meet nest week on 25th February can have little impact in changing any designs before the seating is installed in the July. It appears that the decisions have already been make before designs and plans will be shown to them by Karren Brady a week next Tuesday.

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Three may return for City plus Hammers team news

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola could recall Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy and John Stones  to the squad which meets the Hammers for Wednesday night’s re-arranged fixture with the Irons.

An according to the Manchester Evening News  Leroy Sane is continuing to step up his fitness whilst Raheem Sterling is definitely unavailable with a hamstring injury.

The report adds that the manager has been  tasked with keeping the focus on the game this week after the news that City have been banned from the Champions League for two years, subject to appeal.

UEFA ruled on Friday that City had been in ‘serious breach’ of Financial Fair Play and EFA Club Licensing regulations, as well as failing to cooperate in the investigation.

The Hammers, meanwhile, are likely to parade new signing Jarrod Bowen who will have had a long wait to make his debut for the club.

Mark Noble has revealed how excited he is at the former Hull City man’s training ground attitude and ability whilst on loan Tomas Soucek is set to make his second appearance.

However, it’s unlikely that we will see Felipe Anderson or Andriy Yarmolenko who, whilst having recovered from injury, are earmarked to become involved in the Southampton game.

However, there may be a remote chance of the Brazilian providing a cameo appearance against City according to   some sources.

The Hammers will be determined to try making an impact on the game after defeats for Villa,  Norwich and Bournemouth. U

nlikely though many feel it would be, a point would be sufficient for the team to leapfrog Aston Villa and out of the relegation zone.

Stranger things have been known but we have to go with the general view of the match and predict  a 2-0 City win.

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100 up – a ‘Bubbles’ success story

BB editor Dave Blackmore with a previous copy of Blowing Bubbles.

In life, people can be divided into those who think ‘something must be done’, and those who actually do something – and David Blackmore, editor of Blowing Bubbles, is definitely in the latter category.

The West Ham magazine he launched digitally and in print form in summer 2012 has just clocked up its 100th issue, during which time it has grown into a publication with hundreds of dedicated readers online and in print, giving Irons fans a platform to air their views, positive and negative, as well as speaking to many of the biggest names in Hammers history to create a significant archive of West Ham moments and memories.
ClaretandHugh is proud to partner with Dave and Blowing Bubbles which is a monthly must read!
Speaking to CandH Dave said: “We’d just won promotion to the Premier League and I was on the train home when I decided to fully commit to actioning the idea I’d had for a while.
“I used to read OLAS, which was the biggest magazine at the time, but it frustrated me because there were different voices all saying the same thing, and a lot of the content became dated very quickly. I thought “I could produce better than this,” so I gave it a go.”
Initially envisaged as a digital-only offering, Blackmore decided to produce a print edition as well, and launched the first issue at the first game of the 2012-13 season, with the pages being filled by content produced by himself and a team of journalists, initially recruited via Twitter.
“Searches on there helped me to recruit the likes of Lucy Woolford, Brian Williams and Geoff Hillyer who have written for us ever since. Once I had a band of merry writers on board, I needed to find a designer who had a track record of producing good quality magazines, which would have further separated us from your traditional fanzine.”
Since then, the magazine has grown and grown, recruiting Phil Parkes and George Parris as monthly columnists, and making sufficient impact to catch the attention of co-owner David Gold, who has given Blackmore several one-on-one sit down interviews, something for which he says he respects the often criticized Gold.
“I will always be grateful for the time Mr Gold gives to me each season and for answering the questions I know the fans want me to ask,” he said.
“Do I always get the answers I think supporters would like? No but he is always brutally honest with me – much to the dismay of the press team at West Ham!“
Blowing Bubbles has been shortlisted for fanzine of the year by the Football Supporters’ Federation – “another proud achievement” – and has ended up being a chronicle of West Ham’s ups and downs through one of the most turbulent decades in the club’s history.
“There are a few issues that have made me incredibly proud too. There was the special issue before the last game at Upton Park which even now I enjoy flicking through,” he said.
“It was such a huge period in the club’s history and this issue is still in demand even today with people wishing to have a copy. There was also the issue ahead of our first game at the Olympic Stadium where we gave away 10,000 copies for free. It was such a brilliant edition, the sun was shining and the amount of feedback we had was remarkable.
“Strangely, another proud achievement was reaching double figures. I remember another fanzine editor flicking through our first issue and telling me it was good but that we’d never make it to seven issues. It stayed with me for each and every issue until we got to10 and I felt like I’d got one over him.”

Hammer commits his future to West Ham

West Ham youngster Kai Corbett has committed his future to the Hammers despite strong interest from the Premier League and football league. On Sunday the 17-year-old confirmed his future himself by posting his own message.

He wrote “I have had a very positive meeting with West Ham, so I am delighted to say that I have chosen to stay with the club I have spent six years at. My goal is to play at the highest level of professional football so I am sure people will understand that it is important to me that I am given opportunities to progress. Although most don’t know I choose not to go and look a number of other Premier League clubs as I felt on reflection that West Ham United will help me develop my game and give me the chance to push and grow towards first-team football. I am looking forward to progressing with West Ham Utd and I will work hard and perform well to earn my opportunities to keep climbing closer to my goal of playing in the Premier League”

The player was reported to have trials with Bristol City and Manchester United in recent weeks but decided to return to East London.

Corbett, capable of leading the line as a striker or playing in the flanks or as an attacking midfielder, has scored almost 150 goals in three seasons for West Ham at youth level and is considered to be one of the best talents in the U18 ranks. In the 2018/19 season, he was a key player for the Hammers in the Generation Adidas Cup, where West Ham were beaten in the semi-final by the eventual winners, MLS franchise Seattle Sounders.

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Supporters’ split on big relegation question

Nearly 53% of 1,463 Claret and Hugh readers taking part in yesterday’s poll believe that West Ham will be relegated to the Championship this season with the remaining 47% saying we could still survive the drop.

West Ham have 24 points from 25 games with 13 games remaining. If they carry on a point average per game they will not reach the magic 40 points which usually guarantees safety in the Premier League.

The Hammers have been relegated twice since the Premier League was formed in 1992. Once in the 2002/2003 season, they famously finished 18th on 42 points with a good team when 44 points needed for safety that year and more recently in the 2010/2011 under Avram Grant when West Ham finished 20th on 33 points when 40 points was needed to be safe.

Outside the Premier League West Ham have been relegated a further four times from the top flight division.
1931/1932 finished 22nd in Division 1 (31 points) 1977/1978 finished 20th in Division 1 (32 points) 1988/1989 finished 19th in Division 1 (38 points) 1991/1992 finished 22nd in Division 1 (38 points)

Full Poll Results: West Ham will be relegated 52.77%  (772 votes) West Ham will survive 47.23% (691 votes)


Outrage at the Hammers but what about City?

Antonio’s form will be so important

The players are back…Man City have hit a few political problems which may or may not have very serious consequences, yet despite them  being found guilty of serious rule breaking, I don’t hear much outrage.

The London-based media – always close and watching the Irons – have been jumping on our back for days but apparently City’s aren’t really worth too much condemnation.

The club was found guilty by Uefa’s club financial control body (CFCB) of having falsely inflated their sponsorship revenues, when they made submissions for the FFP compliance process.

Hardly insignificant yet apparently a family war at West Ham is worthy of more  column inches than such scenarios at the Etihad.

It’s a pretty unbalanced situation and we will wait and see whether those top writers, generally so keen to give the Hammers a bashing on the back of a section of Hammers change wanting change,  reckon City are worth as much trouble.

I can only assume that people bashing is a much sexier pastime than understanding breaches of FIFA rules.

In the meantime we have the little job of taking something from a club which is clearly facing some big internal difficulties as they await the final outcome of their misdemeanour.

How Moyes decides to play this game will be interesting and there seems little point in going to defend. With Antonio fit and Jarrod Bowen hopefully set to strut his chance I refuse to rule out anything.

I’m not expecting the off field problems at City to be reflected on it but any edge we may get is better than none at all.